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global higher education in the midwest

Wednesday 27 April, 2011

President Emeritus of the University of Michigan James Duderstadt has written a Heartland Paper entitled A Master Plan for Higher Education in the Midwest for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, which hosted an event Reforming Higher Education to Compete in the Global Economy to introduce it, which featured a panel discussion with Michael Hogan, Pres. of the University of Illinois, & Jerry Sue Thornton, Pres. of Cuyahoga Community College.  The discussion was moderated by Donald Stewart, former Pres./CEO of the Chicago Community Trust.  Marshall Bouton opened by noting that education is the single biggest variable in how economies compete, & that despite American spending 2X as much per student as other countries, achievement gaps persist.  McKinsey ranked the US educational system 18th out of 24 countries.

Duderstadt put forth 4 new conditions in higher education

  1. new knowledge, innovation, & transformation are required
  2. these imperatives will only intensify
  3. our diverse population requires public & private investment in infrastructure & new public policies
  4. urbanization & the breakdown of geographical boundaries no longer serves manufacturing-we need brains now, so our most valuable assets are our schools, but higher education can’t be decoupled from primary education

From these, he draws 3 conclusions

  1. geographic boundaries are irrelevant
  2. we must shift from a competitive mindset to collaborative relationships
  3. we need a systematic & strategic approach to create a new knowledge ecology

K-12 recommendations:  We need to require all high school students earn diplomas, but we’ll need to restructure this level of education & provide the resources to do this well.  Universities need to get more engaged in K-12 education.

Higher education recommendations:  we need to;

  • change policies to increase participation & funding
  • make others aware of the importance of higher education
  • challenge ourselves to demand 0 defects results in schools
  • gather best practices from around the country & world
  • make learning a lifelong activity
  • renegotiate social contracts
  • find alternative funding options, i.e. graduation taxes, Kalamazoo promise, etc.
  • encourage diverse missions, i.e. research to drive innovation, for-profit schools for adults, etc.
  • make success in college lead to success in life
  • look at new institutions like German gymnasiums, EU Polytechnics, & British Open Universities
  • simplify intellectual property policies to encourage faculty to spin off new technologies, perhaps by getting them to invest their own assets
  • create a highly skilled workforce with a firm public purpose, not short-term fixes

panel Q&A

  • Community colleges are local entities-85% of graduates stay locally, but we need to change the culture of communication & rather than waiting for manufacturing to return, become a part of the innovation supply chain to export more
  • The University of Illinois is a national/international institution which has 7.2% foreign students & the curriculum has been globalized.  Our challenge is to convince citizens that our economy can’t do well unless we fund education.  Research universities have been the hubs of rebirth in Pittsburgh & Cleveland.
  • The Bologna Process in Europe has involved Ministers of Education, faculty & others which has resulted in a transformation which serves as an example of how to achieve change-the opportunity costs are great.
  • Community colleges must create better transitions to other schools & careers.
  • California’s Plan created a highly differentiated educational system-now we need to re-differentiate.  We need to put institutions together:  UI is fragmented on 3 campuses, so we need to integrate & consolidate
  • Societal leadership is required at all levels to bring about change.  We need to bring $ back to states in new social contracts.  Schools should have fewer regulations & greater control of their own revenues.
  • State funding has dropped from 70% to 4% for UM, so it’s now only a state located school.  We must build a culture of public engagement & collaboration like the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, the longest standing organization of research universities.

Open Q&A

Since we don’t have extra $ lying around for education, we have to challenge our institutions to streamline & collaborate.  We have no national strategy for higher education.  We need to make a cultural change to increase its importance.  On 1 hand, UI’s purchasing power is the same as it was in 1970 & it’s now serving 75K students, so they’re highly productive.  On the other hand, we can all still do a better job, for example, UI has the lowest non-resident student population of 21%.  The Big 10 average is 33%, so UI suffers from a lost revenue deficit.  Different student populations create better learning environments.

Education itself doesn’t create jobs: innovation & entrepreneurship do.  But a college education is now required to reach the middle class, & the % of the population earning bachelors degrees is falling.  We need to train more educated people for global positions, not fewer.  It’s not always appropriate to make a direct link from higher education to job skills.  College teaches you how to think & solve problems, so it’s a preparation for your last job, not your 1st.

Unions of university workers impact upon the flexibility of work rules, but are usually not a detriment & are not for faculty.

To better engage K-12 schools, we should

  • place college faculty in high schools to create better awareness, visibility, & collegiality
  • extend the school year to year-round
  • help students see the possibilities
  • make teaching a higher status occupation like it is in Europe-it’s part of our culture that our teachers earn the lowest SAT scores in the world

my $.02-1 thing they missed:  To compete in the global economy, you have to engage in it.  We enculture our students to be insular & parochial when we require them to learn state rather than world history & discourage the learning of other languages.  We need to create curricula which educate students about the rest of the world as much or more than we trumpet how great America is.  We need to learn more about the Chinese, Indians, Europeans, Latins, & Africans if we’re going to compete with them.

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