The ideal university

Orange Arches by slight clutter

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In the wake of AC Grayling’s setting up of the New College of the Humanities the Guardian newspaper has asked for submissions from readers for their vision of the ideal university in under 250 words. Of course I cant’ resist having a go so here is the entry that I’m about to submit to the Guardian. It wasn’t particularly easy, especially if you start to think about Clark Kerr’s multiversity and Newman’s idea of the university, but I think I’ve captured the things that are important to me. I’d love to here your visions too.

The ideal university…

The ideal university is open, flexible and everywhere.

It is open in that it provides high quality open content for students and other institutions to use for free and uses the best open content from others. It also provides its publically funded research datasets and outcomes for anyone to use easily and for free. The research is, of course, valid and meaningful.

It is flexible in that students can enrol in courses at any time and from anywhere for free through things like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Learning at the ideal university is facilitated in the best way for the individual course including online and appropriate place based learning be that on campus, in the workplace or elsewhere. Self-directed learning is encouraged but those that wish to receive instruction and guidance can receive that as well. It is also an agile organisation that is innovative and responsive.

Degree programs are not the default, one off, experiences that most people have within the university. Instead single courses taken over a lifetime at many ideal universities will form a pattern for lifelong engagement with higher education.

It is everywhere in that the university recognises that higher learning occurs everywhere and not just on campus or within the boundaries of the university. The ideal university is as at home in the workplace as it is on campus.

Academic standards are ensured through rigorous, consistent and innovative assessment of learning for which universities charge a reasonable fee.

Above all, the ideal university is a community of learners that is constantly growing, changing and evolving and that is pervasive throughout society.

6 Comments On “The ideal university”

  1. Mark, this is bunkem.

    You have made no mention whatsoever of academics using the university institution as a platform for personal gain, and your notions of rigorous, consistent and innovative assessment astound me. Next you’ll probably blog about accountability.

    Not to mention the fact that if students have the audacity to learn outside the boundaries of the university, how on Earth are we going to book them for parking illegally in poorly lit, far flung corners of the campus?

    You obviously haven’t thought this through.


  2. Excellent Ryan.

    I am, of course, reminded of what Clark Kerr said about the purposes of the university:

    “The three purposes of the University?–To provide sex for the students, sports for the alumni, and parking for the faculty.”

    Much more succinct than my effort.


  3. Hi Mark, Very interesting and Agreeable. My thought comes from a conversation I had with workshop participants just yesterday – the bit about good teaching and learning comes from building relationships. I think your proposed university focuses a lot on learning, and the notion of community of learnING is quickly thrown in at the end. While you use the word “community of learners “, how would the university as you propose actually attend to the learner, the relationships that inspire a number of students to continue and engage with their studies and their university?


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