A post-secondary education system with no arbitrage

The British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education surprised local post-secondary educators this month when it declared a six-month moratorium, starting Sept. 1, on new degree programs, saying it wants to take time to assess the province’s educational needs.

People are starting to wonder whether the staff at AdvEd have caught the British Bug, and more precisely whether they have been reading the Browne report, “Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education”, which was released on Oct. 12, 2010? A report submitted to the British government that seems to welcome it.

Actually, it is surprising that this report hasn’t generated much ink in Canada. It has just started to get some attention in the US, now that Stanley Fish has taken notice.

Here are some of the “nuggets”  he uncovered:

The report proposes that government support of higher education in the form of block grants to universities (which are normally free to allocate funds as they see fit) would be replaced by monies given directly to matriculating students, who would then vote with their pocketbooks by choosing which courses to “invest” in.

“Invest” is the right word because the cost of courses will be indexed to the likelihood of financial rewards down the line. A course’s “key selling point” will be “that it provides improved employability” and students will be asked to pay “higher charges” for a course only “if there is a proven path to higher earnings.”

The result, anticipated and welcomed by the report’s authors, will be that courses of study that “deliver improved employability will prosper,” while those that don’t “will disappear.” This will hold also for universities, which will either prosper or wither on the vine depending on the agility they display in adapting themselves to student-consumer demands. “Institutions will have to persuade students that the charges they put on their courses represents [sic] value for money.” (Adapt or die.)

A post-secondary education with no-arbitrage? With all the crashes that go with it?

… and here go the arts, the humanities and most of the social sciences. After all, this “model of rational economic (as opposed to educational) choice does not encourage investment in medieval allegory or modern poetry or Greek history”.

You’ve got to love some of the comments.

“They’re on to something. But it occurs to me that it might be more cost effective to send students to martial arts classes and firing ranges so they can learn to pillage and plunder what they want more directly and efficiently.”

Here is another.

“Let’s move this privatization of education a little further. Students should be taught only what they want to pay to learn. Free markets. If you want to pay to be taught creationism, you’re taught that. If you want to be taught the geocentric theory –fine. Flat earth, sure. American history without any unpleasantness about slavery or ethnic cleansing of native Americans. Certainly. Want to learn how it was legal to drive the Mexicans off their land? Okay. America was intended to be a theocracy? Whatever, if you got the bucks.”

But let’s don’t forget Renaud: “Car aucune femme sur la planète n’s’ra jamais plus con que son frère, ni plus fière ni plus malhonnête à part, peut-être, Madame Thatcher”


This entry was posted in Op-eds, R&D Policy. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A post-secondary education system with no arbitrage

  1. Pingback: Empowering knowledge and informed consent (I) | Piece of Mind

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