Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Restructuring the University

Mark Taylor offers some precriptions for redesigning higher education. Some of these, like dissolving departments, are unlikely to succeed politically and would result in the reduction or elimination of departments that are low revenue producers (e.g., religion, languages) in favor of the money makers (hard sciences, economics, professional schools). Others are very good, and mirror recommendations made elsewhere:

  1. Transform the traditional dissertation. In the arts and humanities, where looming cutbacks will be most devastating, there is no longer a market for books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text. As financial pressures on university presses continue to mount, publication of dissertations, and with it scholarly certification, is almost impossible. (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.) For many years, I have taught undergraduate courses in which students do not write traditional papers but develop analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games. Graduate students should likewise be encouraged to produce “theses” in alternative formats.
  2. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students. Most graduate students will never hold the kind of job for which they are being trained. It is, therefore, necessary to help them prepare for work in fields other than higher education. 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.

    Previously: Grad School Thoughts, Grad School and the Military.

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