Universities Evolving – Students Voting With Their Feet and Their Attention

Fundamental change is beginning to ripple through universities worldwide…  students and faculty are beginning to vote with their feet and their attention.

For example, online …. Paul LeBlanc, the President of Southern New Hampshire University is a colleague of mine – and his university was recently honored by Fast Company in their top 50 list:

For example, new KPIs such as number of startup and jobs created …. a big surprise to many is how University of Utah has managed to beat MIT, Stanford, and many others two years in a row now in the US:

For example, making use of the most under-utilized resource in schools – the students is also having an increasing impact as illustrated by Open Study (http://www.openstudy.com) and a recent TED Talk about how Coursera is utilizing students in peer teaching and even peer and self grading… http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education.html

Many say the biggest changes are still ahead in the next ten years – and I agree.

Here is a recent publication in the Journal of Service Science that begins to explore the nested, networked nature of service systems like universities and cities in the world… http://servsci.journal.informs.org/content/4/2/147

It is interesting how many universities have medical centers and research hospitals associated with them as well as conference hotels.  This is one reason, why looking at universities and cities as tightly-couple holistic service systems is so interesting… http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/isss-service-science-reframing-skeleton-and-progress-20120717-v3

In summary, there are a number of factors driving the evolution of universities – a small sampling include:

(1) reduction in government support for faculty labor for teaching: In some places the cuts are about 5% per year… this is about the rate the on-line shift is happening.

(2) urge to merge – shared service (regionally):  many approaches to deal with reductions, including shared service, so some higher education institutes within regions are under pressure to merge.  Others are merging to improve cross-silo interactions and innovation, for example see Aalto Helsinki Finland
another approach is to increase out of state or out of country enrollment – since those students often pay more tuition and fees…  winners and losers are often determined when students vote with their feet and their parents wallets/their own student loan debts.

(3) first mover advantage for some:   some smaller schools are aggressively jumping online, growing revenue, and getting a poker chip for the upcoming game… establishing new brands…

(4) major brands uniting in their on-line:  You cannot miss EDx (MIT, Harvard) and Coursera (Stanford, Princeton, Duke, etc.) … uniting brands

(5) some universities setting up remote campuses: CMU, NYU, MIT, etc. – again leveraging brand…

(6) and so much more — but with a focus on brand enhancements and productivity increases – and as noted leveraging student labor more to produce faculty productivity, and enhance student resumes and online reputations  see http://www.openstudy.com and this TED Talk about students grading each other and their own work — http://www.ted.com/talks/daphne_koller_what_we_re_learning_from_online_education.html

(7) some universities are trying to jump to the next game — which is governors, mayors, and locally business and community support of universities as startup and job creators…

(8) more and more universities are commissioning economic impact studies to win favor with governors, mayors, communities, etc.

(9) all the while, national academies of nations, especially US, are becoming vocal about research universities as critically important to innovation, economic well-being, and national security – still budgets get cut…
and this is seen by some as the larger crisis in service innovation rippling through finance, health, education, and government simultaneously (see slide #3) in http://www.slideshare.net/spohrer/hsse-and-smarter-planet-201200722-v4

(10) and more studies are commissioned to come up with better measures of universities effectiveness, and ranking universities in terms of student success…
ROI of a university degree are becoming more common in rankings: http://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/
As well as shifts in Key National Education Indicators:  Workshop Summary http://tinyurl.com/8g9r7lp

All in all,  the future of universities and their regions are becoming more and more closely linked…  quality-of-life matters when people vote with their feet and their attention.  http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherskroupa/2012/03/05/reindustrialize-the-u-s-yes-and-heres-how/

At IBM we have been trying to shape our programs to help universities and cities co-evolve, and improve innovativeness, equity (competitive parity), sustainability, and resilience. http://wildervoices.com/future-of-work-interview-with-jim-spohrer-director-global-university-progams-at-ibm-service-as-a-science/

IBM UPward (University Programs worldwide accelerating regional development) concise summary…

Our  2012 Programs (the 6 R’s) include:
1. Research (ibm.com/university/awards)
2. Readiness (ibm.com/developerworks/university/academicinitiative/)
3. Recruiting (ibm.com/jobs)
4. Revenue (ibm.com/education and ibm.com/systems)
5. Responsibility (ibm.com/responsibility)
6. Regions (ibm.com/isv/startup)
Local “On Campus IBMers” help with the above…

Our 2012 Priorities (run-transform-innovate) include:
1. Smarter Cities & Service Innovation
2. Cloud & Analytics, including High Performance Systems & Cybersecurity
3. Growth Markets universities linked to Developed Markets universities to accelerate regional innovation
Doing more with less is the theme throughout business and societal systems, and to do this sustainably year over year…

Our 2012 View of University Priorities (run-transform-innovate) include:
1. Knowledge transfer (teaching)
2. Knowledge creation (research)
3. Knowledge application (entrepreneurship/service)
4. Knowledge integration (progress to overcome silos)
University business model to fund the above, and continuously renew physical infrastructure, is evolving…


  1. Boston Consulting Group Has an Education Strength Index

    How far do they have to go? At the Boston Consulting Group, we have developed a new ranking to determine the educational competitiveness of countries: the BCG E4 Index. It is based on four Es: Expenditure (the level of investment in education by government and private households); enrollment (the number of students in the educational system); engineers (the number of qualified engineers entering the workforce), and elite institutions (the number of top global higher-education institutions).

    The U.S. and the U.K. are ranked first and second, driven by raw spending, their dominance in globally ranked universities and engineering graduation rates. China ranks third and India fifth, largely on enrollment (Germany is fourth). The reasons for U.S. supremacy are clear: For one, it spends the most money on education, disbursing $980 billion annually, or twice as much as China and five times as much as India. It is also the most engineer-intensive country, with 981 engineering degrees per million citizens, compared with 553 for China and 197 for India.

Leave a Reply