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The Future of Universities: Universities 25 years down the road

Professor Mark Taylor, Dean of Warwick Business School (WBS)

Published in June 2013

What's next for universities? With the sector diversifying into online learning, not to mention the many varied opportunities offered by further and higher education colleges, it's become harder to say what a university will look like in the future. In March 2013, leading academics and experts, organisations, and international student leaders at Warwick Universities Summit 2013 tackled the issue of universities in 2025. Speakers from across the sector discussed topics such as funding and widening access, and what the value of the global public university should be in a rapidly developing world. Here, Mark Taylor, Dean of Warwick Business School (WBS) offers his views.
What do you think is currently the most under-hyped, yet significant, change universities in the UK will undergo within the next decade?

I think one aspect is the impact of the e-learning agenda and how that will change the way we think about universities. Already with the advent of MOOCs we are seeing an ‘unbundling’ of what universities offer. Universities offer knowledge production, knowledge dissemination, and a qualification and student experience; singularly if you like. Top universities offer all four of those. A MOOC offers you what? It doesn’t offer you knowledge production, doesn’t really offer you a qualification after completion; it doesn’t offer you a student experience. So it is just taking out all of those aspects. Its main purpose is knowledge dissemination.

The Delorean

We may see the development of universities, over the next twenty-five years, that offer one or more but not all of those aspects of university life. So that may lead to a richness in university education. It may even lead to the development of different areas and niches within the higher education sector. People often like to refer to the ‘Napster moment’ in music, where people thought it would be the end of the universe. What the impact led to was an enrichment of the music industry because it forced the music industry to orientate itself more towards live performances for example, so it actually increased the quality of the provision of the music industry. In the same way I’d have thought e-learning, distance learning and the MOOC agenda will influence universities in a positive way over the next twenty-five years.

Another aspect that is interesting is so called ‘big data’; huge and complex data sets where, for years now, people have been bombarded with huge amounts of information and we are only just getting to grips with how we can actually analyse these data sets in meaningful ways. I think analysing those within institutions seeing how we can improve how we provide some of those elements universities provide like knowledge production, knowledge dissemination and student experience will be very important.

How can university business schools ‘bridge the valley of death’ between academia and industry?

A business school that doesn’t reach out and interact with business is just a school. So it is central to what a business school does and we have a central mission in the Business School. Our mission is to produce world class research, which is capable of influencing the way organisations operate and the way business is conducted. We are here to produce world class business leaders and managers; we are here to provide a return in investment for our students for our alumni during their entire careers as they go out into industry. So we are thinking of ourselves as always trying to integrate within the business industry. Already in the way the government assesses research, in the forthcoming Research Excellence Framework in 2014, is an important impact element which will measure the significance of research done in business schools and in universities in general, on society and the environment, as well as in business schools and business industry.

I think that will be an increasingly important element of the metrics of higher education going forward; it’s not good enough just to publish a paper in a top rate academic journal, there has to be the impact that flows from that. I for one welcome the metrics. The use of metrics in the past twenty or thirty years often had a distorting effect. I think that in this case, it will have a positive impact. At Warwick Business School, there are a number of initiatives we have undertaken in order to interface with business; we are, for example, appointing Professors of Practice. So we now have several professors within the school of the rank of professor who are not academics, who have spent their career within industry and business and achieved a very high level of distinction and been very successful. We have hired them and given them the rank of professor to teach on our MBA programme. They want to impart some of that knowledge, some of that experience to our MBA students and to our researchers as well.

If you could get one commitment from the G8 summit of world leaders, related to higher education, that would benefit the global sector, what would that be?

Quite simply it would be a commitment from world leaders to utilise the knowledge and skills within universities. Universities will generally provide a politically independent source of advice from a range of ideas. Going back to a previous question on how we bridge the gap between academia and industry, I think it’s also important how we bridge the gaps between academia and governments and policy. So really just utilising the skills, and experience and knowledge that exist within universities will go a long way towards benefiting the global economy and global society.


For more from the Knowledge Centre's Global Universities Summit blog, which focussed on the issues in higher education ahead of the 2013 Global University Summit, please click here.

The Global University Summit 2013 was hosted by the University of Warwick in Whitehall, London.

Image: Model Delorean. Source: Flickr.


Mark TaylorProfessor Mark P Taylor is Dean of Warwick Business School (WBS). Professor Taylor has outstanding credentials both in academia and in the business and policy worlds. He has held a professorship in international finance at Warwick since 1999. From 2006, on partial leave, he worked as a managing director at BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager, where he led the European arm of the Global Market Strategies Group, a large global macro investment fund.

 

Professor Taylor's research on exchange rates and international financial markets has been published extensively in many of the leading academic and practitioner journals and he is one of the most highly cited researchers in finance and economics in the world.