Why universities don’t work anymore

The longer I teach, the more I have become to understand that the problem with universities is that they are too big, and that they were never designed for teaching the amount of students they do.

In 1910, the US had a population of 92,228,496 people, at that time its universities and colleges graduated 37,200 bachelor degrees, 2,100 masters, and 440 PhDs. Now consider the population 100 years on: 308,745,538, an increase of 3.35 times. Degrees have changed in the same way right? Well, no. The number of undergraduate degrees received per year have increased 43-fold. Masters and PhD degrees have increased an amazing 312 and 152 times respectively. Yes, I get that we have transitioned to a “thinking economy”… oh wait have we?

Now these stats are for the US, but is it any different in Canada? I doubt it. We have created large degree mills, basically teaching the same way we have for the past 100 years. The only difference is class sizes are huge. First year class sizes are often 500-1000 students, crammed in lecture theatres like sardines. The only thing missing? VIP classes. You know, like Cineplex… small theatres, reclining seats, food service to your seat. Pay extra fees, get a “small-class” feel. Actually now that I’m talking about it, I’m wondering why they haven’t done this yet. Food service included.

Look, overall the university model doesn’t work anymore. It needs shorter degrees, more hands-on experience, less lectures, and smaller classes. And not everyone needs to go to university to get a good job. We have spent years removing shop-classes from highschools and now have too few trades. Something has to change, but will it?

You can’t learn the really hard things in universities.
– Ivar Jacobsen, (Masterminds of Programming, 2009, O’Reilly and Associates, p.320).




One thought on “Why universities don’t work anymore

  1. jonathanvanderhout says:

    Hello! I am a student at the University of Guelph and am taking the Legacy Systems course. As suggested I checked out your blog. I am thrilled to read this post as it addresses a topic which has been on my mind for quite some time.

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