The Business of Knowledge

Hot on the trail of the Browne Report, Philip Dodd hosted a wide-ranging debate with a group of educational policy makers as part of the BBC’s Free Thinking series, in association with the University of Sunderland. The Business of Knowledge: What do we really want from universities and graduates in the 21st century? was held at the National Glass Centre and broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Night Waves on 28 October. Here’s a summary of the key arguments:

HE Funding

James Tooley (Professor of Education Policy, Newcastle University)

  • State funding is stifling innovation
  • Liberate universities from the state – let them be independent and autonomous
  • Many universities were founded from private initiatives
  • Welfare state model ‘crowds out’ philanthropy
  • Promote a mix of learner-, private- and business-driven investment

Bahram Bekhradnia (Director, Higher Education Policy Institute)

  • State withdrawal of funding is unacceptable
  • US public investment (based on GDP) is 50% greater than UK

Nicola Dandridge (Chief Executive, Universities UK)

  • Public funding for public good
  • Underfunding (whether private or public) is the key concern

Paul Callaghan (University of Sunderland Board of Governors)

  • Cannot let the market decide – develop strategies based on balanced funding between public and private sector
  • Recognise the role of the university in the region and society as a whole
  • Traditional philanthropic contributions in the UK have concentrated on university infrastructure not scholarship

Learning Practices

Nicola Dandridge

  • Liberal arts education – challenge the increasing polarity of arts and sciences
  • Promote the criticality of humanities education

Bahram Bekhradnia

  • Changes in learning practices difficult in a pressurised 3-year degree model

Paul Callaghan

  • Promote skillsets primarily related to employment

James Tooley

  • Exposure to a university environment leads to voluntary learning in a wide range of contexts

Learning Equality

Nicola Dandridge

  • Universities are committed to equality – the key problem is a poverty of aspiration in schools
  • Social division – 3-year traditional course will become the privileged route of the elite

Paul Callaghan

  • Withdrawal of public funding will lead to 2-tier system

Nature of Knowledge

Nicola Dandridge

  • Knowledge will be everywhere and fragmented
  • Universities need to become less the purveyors of knowledge – more the facilitators enabling critical learning
  • Greater reliance on IT / e-learning
  • But students still require the physical learning community of a campus environment

Bahram Bekhradnia

  • Investment in training skilled staff to facilitate new knowledge appropriation

James Tooley

  • Liberate the learner from the teacher

Educational Systems

James Tooley

  • Maintaining the status quo will leave UK universities behind overseas universities

Paul Callaghan

  • Shift way from the 3-year model towards more part time and modular education
  • University reputation based on curriculum and accreditation
  • Greater numbers of students at universities are required to compete on a global scale

Bahram Bekhradnia

  • Part time students suffer greater failure rates

Nicola Dandridge

  • We are a knowledge economy – expansion in HE is critical

International Students

Nicola Dandridge

  • Greater investment in universities overseas will lead to less international students physically moving to UK

Paul Callaghan

  • Develop more collaborative partnerships

James Tooley

  • Increased investment overseas will diminish UK universities reputation and ability to attract international students


7 Responses to “The Business of Knowledge”

  1. Tweets that mention The Business of Knowledge | PhD Blog (dot) Net -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by University of Venus, Andy Coverdale. Andy Coverdale said: New blog post – The Business of Knowledge […]

  2. fred garnett Says:

    hi Andy,
    an interesting mix of points from the educational policy discussion. In the Learner-Generated Contexts Research Group we think educational policy should emerge iteratively from professional practice. We gave a talk in this called (sadly) Policy 2.0, based on our practice, O’Reilly & some LGC vision.
    We think you can use any collaborative gathering like The Business of Knowledge to crowd source policy statements using our Policy Forest framework. We have an example on Sustaining Innovation here;

  3. Andy Coverdale Says:

    Thanks for the link Fred – an interesting read and framework. It seems to me that many of the most progressive (and encouraging) ideas in the current debate revolve around some form of empowering participatory practice at faculty level, some of which engage in aspects of Web 2.0 and open education.

  4. virginia Yonkers Says:

    I find that most of the discussion of HE is based on an outdated model of economics in which “knowledge” is a thing that can be traded like any other commodity. This means that intellectual property is a source of income which can be withheld or distributed as part of a national policy.

    However, “knowledge” is commercial or non-commercial. Much of the non-commercial knowledge may be very important for the future, but not today. I was just telling my daughter how I visited Montreal’s expo ’67 (yes, I’m that old…although I was a young child and remember getting sick on the car ride back more than anything else). The one thing that I remember vividly is the ability to see the person you were talking to on the telephone. It was such a “science fiction” thought, but there was the technology 40 years ago to create the video phones we have now. It just was not commercial back then. So if we rely on just commercial research to be done (the research was a joint project by the government-partially through NASA, Bell Laboratories, and some University research centers) we would not have the foundation that allowed researchers to develop video phones.

    I find the current intellectual property laws privatizing thoughts and knowledge, as the greatest threat to the Western world. The American educational system is a mess today because we redefined the purpose of education from enlightenment and creating an educated citizenry to participate in our society to a commercial venture in which the next generation of workers need to be trained (not to think, but to do work). We even call workers “capital” now to justify efficiency models, who gets educated to what level, and where people should work.

    We need a new working model to explain the economics of the knowledge economy that does not rely on the beliefs that created the industrial revolution. This may mean HE and its structure may need to change.

  5. imp Says:

    •But students still require the physical learning community of a campus environment
    Nicola is right abt this. Even postgrads need a supportive community to keep them going in their journey.

  6. Andy Coverdale Says:

    Highlighting a number of the themes discussed here, Paul Marshall describes the complexity of the private sector’s relationship with Higher Education in the UK.

  7. virginia Yonkers Says:

    Unfortunately, Marshall has fallen into the same trap as many families and students have over the last 10 years. In the US, we have public universities (still tuition based, but much higher tuitions than in the UK), private (often receiving government support through competitive grants with public universities and through tuition support that goes directly to the student who then passes that on the the college or university).

    However, during the Bush years, a new type of school began to pop up, the for profit private school. The purpose of these schools are to make money, purely and simply. Some, such as Phoenix, do a pretty good job. But most do not. (PBS’s Frontline did a great piece on this called College Inc. If you can’t access PBS, there is a YouTube link broken up into 4 segments. Look at report especially starting at 6:45). These for profit schools are definitely different than non-for profit private schools. My guess is the reason they are moving into the UK market is not because the US market is saturated (as Marshal claims) but rather the government is willing to deregulate to let these schools come into the market. The US is taking a closer look and more closely regulating the for profit schools after the number of student complaints and load defaults.

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