By Lena Miele
Welcome to the Millennial era! In this era information, technology, personal expression, and freedom have more importance than ever before, especially in education. Prodigies and university drop-outs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have changed the way people communicate (and function) today, but they have also made us question what valued does post-secondary education hold in today’s society? In 2003, Kompf also posed this question by stating, “at some point in the near distant future serious questions will be raised about whether or not institution-based education will continue to be seen as a useful public service for advancing the causes of information, knowledge, and knowing” (p. 9). It appears that we have reached the distant future. Fellowships like Thiel established by Pay Pal co-founder offer students $ 100,000 USD to top undergraduate students to drop out of school to pursue technical projects to provide digital services for the public to make daily tasks easier (Metro News, 2016). Students of this fellowship demonstrate a no-regrets approach to leaving university because unlike past generations, a university degree is no longer a guarantee for job security (Metro News, 2016).
There are examples of prodigies and drops-outs to many debt-ridden, inexperienced, and unemployed university graduates who are concerned and frankly bitter about how the institution of higher education has failed them. University degrees and college diplomas are still required in the workplace, but there appears to be a disconnection between the academic world and the real life-work world. Many people are continuing with post-secondary education by enrolling in college or polytech programs (Coates, 2014) and post-graduate studies in hopes of gaining more skills in order to get permanent-full time employment. Taking this topic from the general public to the academy where graduate students are discussing the future of post-secondary education and how it can serve the needs and wants of students and the greater good of society, the following suggestions/issues surfaced.
- Governments have cut funding for post-secondary education (Shanahan & Jones, 2007) which increases student debt
- Universities that focus/ produce more research obtain more grant money. As a result, graduate students in any stream of graduate studies should be eligible for funding to help with education costs.
Experiential learning is of greatest value:
- Students want more hands on experience in their field of study.
- Co-op placements should be a compulsory component and credit granting.
Considering these suggestions, researchers in higher education have offered various alternatives for universities; however, an option exists and is flourishing today in academia which appears to be the current solution: private funding from corporations. This funding can and is doing the following:
- Re-invent the university and provide space for teaching experiential learning. Professors in collaboration with corporations provide students theory with hands on This can be done through curriculum writing, in-class instruction, and co-op placements (CAUT, 2013; Hepburn, 2009). Students gain transferable work place skills because they are learning from the people who will potentially hire them in the near future.
- Provide funding. Universities and students no longer have to rely only on the government for money. Corporations can expand the campus infrastructure, facilities, and research materials for students. They can also provide part time employment to students who wish to work for them (Bradshaw, 2012).
- Keep the greater good of society with future generations at the core of education. Corporations working with universities (and students) are taking current ideas and concerns to make things better for the general public such as global affairs, environmental sustainability projects, and technology (CAUT, 2013).
Seems too good to be true…you are right it is… for some people such as those who value the university being an educational institution rather than a “training arm” for corporations (Brown, 2013, para. 7). For those that value ” teaching and […]research based on scholarly criteria, not on third party interests” (Bradshaw, 2012 para. 12), and having academic freedom of one’s own research ideas rather than simply “patenting” and “packaging” (Hepburn, 2009 para. 8) with a price tag, it is too good to be true, and frankly not worth it. For other people however, they see it as just another ends to justify the means– students still graduate with a degree and potential job offers.
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Brown, L. (2013). Corporate deals seen as dangerous for Canadian universities. The Star. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2013/11/20/corporate_deals_seen_as_dangerous_for_canadian_universities.html
Canadian Association of University Teachers. (2013). Open for business on what terms: An analysis of 12 collaborations between Canadian universities and corporations, donors, and governments. Retrieved from http://www.caut.ca/docs/default-source/academic-freedom/open-for-business-%28nov-2013%29.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Coates, K. (2014) University vs. college: Why pressuring your kid to go to university is a big mistake. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/university-vs-college-why-pressuring-your-kid-to-go-to-university-is-a-big-mistake-1.2755051.
Editorial (2012, Monday October 10). Canadian universities must reform or perish. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/editorials/canadian-universities-must-reform-or-perish/article556676/
Editorial (2016, Sunday February 07). Meet the Waterloo dropouts living the digital dream. Metro news. Retrieved from http://www.metronews.ca/news/toronto/2016/02/07/meet-the-waterloo-dropouts-living-the-digital-dream.html?cq_ck=1454874451396
Hepburn, N.C. (2009 May 8). The entrepreneurial university. Academic Matters OCUFA Journal of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.academicmatters.ca/2009/05/the-entrepreneurial-university/
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Shanahan, T., & Jones, G.A. (2007). Shifting roles and approaches: government coordination of post-secondary education in Canada 1995-2006. Higher Education Research and Development, 26 (1), 31-43.