NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 30, 2009

If American higher education is to thrive in the 21st century, colleges and universities must be rigorously regulated and completely restructured, says Mark Taylor, author of the forthcoming "Field Notes From Elsewhere: Reflections on Dying and Living." 

The long process to make higher learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative can begin by:

  • Restructuring the curriculum, beginning with graduate programs and proceeding quickly to undergraduate programs.
  • Abolishing permanent departments, even for undergraduate education, and create problem-focused programs; these constantly evolving programs would have sunset clauses, and every seven years each one should be evaluated and either abolished, continued or significantly changed.

Other steps include increasing collaboration among institutions and transforming the traditional dissertation:

  • The average university press print run of a dissertation that has been converted into a book is less than 500, and sales are usually considerably lower.
  • Graduate student should be encouraged to produce "theses" in alternative formats.

We should expand the range of professional options for graduate students:

  • The exposure to new approaches and different cultures and the consideration of real-life issues will prepare students for jobs at businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  • Moreover, the knowledge and skills they will cultivate in the new universities will enable them to adapt to a constantly changing world.

Most importantly, we should impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure:

  • Tenure should be replaced with seven-year contracts, which, like the programs in which faculty teach, can be terminated or renewed.
  • This policy would enable colleges and universities to reward researchers, scholars and teachers who continue to evolve and remain productive while also making room for young people with new ideas and skills.

Source: Mark C. Taylor, "End the University as We Know It," New York Times, April 27, 2009.

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