Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seth Godin on the Demise of Higher Education

Seth Godin has a tremendous blog post today on the "coming meltdown in higher education." This is a must-read for all university administrators, faculty, parents, and students. Godin makes a number of interesting points, and I think he's right about rankings and accreditation. Rankings and accreditation bodies have actually contributed to an increasing homogenization of higher education, while costs continue to rise faster than wages. As Godin writes, there's an increasing "sameness" to the education offered at universities. Everyone is focused on the same small set of variables in the rankings, and they are all trying to meet accreditation standards that often leave little room for truly breakthrough, innovative strategies. Standards and rankings have reduced differentiation in the marketplace of higher education, which cannot be a good thing. I'm not suggesting that we abolish rankings or accreditation bodies... we need both, but at the same time, universities need to think more creatively about how to break away from the pack. Herd behavior is everywhere in higher education, and that does not benefit anyone.


Keith B Murray said...


I'm appreciative you called our attention to Seth's blog on this topic. However, I think the biggest criticism I have of higher ed--which is far from perfect or above criticism--is it's smugness to feel no need to publicly grapple with the accusations he--Godin--and others make frequently, and with impunity. Take the cost matter for example...What specialized professional services in a modern society haven't increased at a rapid rate...Legal services? Healthcare? Big pharma? That many have a Wal-Mart expectation of higher ed for what never can--when done properly--can be delivered in that way...that is a dangerous climate to ignore.

Then, there's the cost-benefit charge. The data over a long period of time are very clear and unambiguous--even when measured in only in monetary terms. It's clearly a costly deal, but a good deal nonetheless.

When higher ed fails to make the case for itself when superficial charges are leveled against it is really a lazy, short-sighted, and potentially dangerous way to go. It lets an increasing number of people think that the objections have merit. --Keith.

Michael Roberto said...

I think you are right about the fact that some of the criticisms are not valid. However, the herd behavior and competitive convergence in higher ed is a concern. More on that in today's blog post about HBS marketing professor Youngme Moon's new book titled Different.