Sector traditions can survive ‘digital avalanche’

UUK head dismisses warning over technological change

April 24, 2014

Pundits predicting that an “avalanche” of technological and competitive change will sweep away “traditional” higher education are wrong and often have a commercial motive for making such comments, according to the chief executive of Universities UK.

Nicola Dandridge did not specify who her comments were aimed at, but she could have been referring to Pearson, the multibillion-pound firm whose senior employees, including Sir Michael Barber, the chief education adviser, penned a report last year called An Avalanche Is Coming, which urged a “radical and urgent” transformation of universities.

At the Association of University Administrators conference on 15 April, she said: “Those who often talk about the merits of the avalanche – be it a digital avalanche or an unbundling avalanche – it’s those who tend to have a commercial interest in promoting its existence”.

She was speaking in a debate in favour of the motion that “traditional higher education will withstand any revolution and grow stronger”.

“If we abandon those traditions and embrace the faddish, the Moocish [referring to massive open online courses], the new, we are at risk of losing something profound and valuable,” she said.

Universities’ “monopoly” over degree awarding powers is coming to an end as students are able to obtain degrees from global online providers, the report predicts.

A spokeswoman for Pearson said that the report “actually argues that the next 50 years could see a golden age for higher education, but only if all players seize the initiative and act ambitiously”.

“Pearson takes no commercial position on any of this – we already work with traditional universities, providing books, software and services, and equally we are beginning to partner with Moocs in some circumstances,” she added.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham