The April ProVisions session is nearly here and the topic will be Academically Adrift? Conversation & Reflections on the Futures of Higher Education; which has been a hot topic in the world of higher education lately.

Nigel Thrift, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education blog World Wise, recently posted an article on the future of British Higher Education. Thrift wrote of concerns on the major changes that are occurring in the British higher education system right now. Although there have been major modifications over the past several decades, the current changes are causing worries based on the amount of them that are occurring. The post, appropriately titled “The Future of British Higher Education,” focuses mainly on the worry that the British Higher Education will fail to focus on the proper things and will fall behind its fellow European Countries Higher Education programs. As Britain’s higher education Program is currently number one this is a very valid concern. Other countries are comparing their programs to Britain’s and saying what can we do better, while Britain has to look at their own program and ask how they can top themselves.

Another blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog Wired Campus, suggests a solution to Britain’s problem: technology. Although, it does not go into detail, the post, “A Future Without Courses?, mentions a future where online learning becomes international. Students would be learning from people across the world instead of just from their own countries. While some people are already trying to get this concept to work, it is still far from being a reality and is just in the beginning stages of design.

Thrift’s post is not the only mention of the future of higher education from the Chronicle. There have been several other documents discussing it, including a podcast entitled “Why College Matters – and Why It’s in Peril.” The podcast starts out by making the distinction between College and University. The purpose of a college is mainly to obtain that has previously been known and then share it with other people. Two major factors were mentioned in the reasons colleges are in peril. The first is of course the poor economy in the United States. The second factor is the change in the positions of professors. Many professors are spread too thin by working on too many campuses or working another profession other than being a professor. These factors are contributing to the loss of the college experience and are making it harder to show people the value of a college education.

For more information on this subject read Andrew Delbanco’s book College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be or listen to the podcast.

The Professor Hacker blog also joined in on discussing the future of higher education in the post “How to Join the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education (and Why You Want To).” In this post, Jason B. Jones also mentions the impact the current economy is having on higher education. Jones talks about the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education which has a goal of making sure students have a way of obtaining affordable, quality education.(this is of course only one of several goals of the campaign). The campaign is worried about those students that are have been severely affected by the major budget cuts for higher education. Unfortunately many of these students are the ones who need the most help accessing affordable education.

For more information on the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education visit: http://futureofhighered.org/

Kevin Carey recently wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education on the book, Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa. In the article, Carey discusses the surprising popularity of the book with people outside of the world of higher education. One of the reasons the book may have reached such a high level of popularity could be due to the research on colleges reported by the book. It seems that for the amount of money students are spending on college they may not be getting their money’s worth with the amount they are actually learning. However, Carey also states that the popularity of this specific book/research may be because it is the only book/research currently available to the public. Arum and Roska have also recently released new research in which they discuss two groups of college students; those who are financially and academically prepared for college and those who are not. It is not surprising to find that the later group of students often ends up in colleges where they will not be prepared for the future. Carey further asserts that the reason Arum and Roska are the first to research this topic is because the results were already known to those in higher education and that many of these people were reluctant to share the information with the world.

Npr.org also covered Roska and Arum’s book in an article titled “A Lack of Rigor Leaves Students ‘Adrift’ in College.” This article explains the worsening academics in higher education as a result of a lack of proper student responses on professor evaluations. Students don’t necessarily evaluate their professors on whether or not they actually taught well but rather they evaluate on how much they enjoyed the classes and how much they liked their professors. Furthermore, those students who do properly evaluate their professors are often attending those colleges that succeeding in teaching their students.

For more information read Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa or visit http://www.educationnews.org/higher-education/academically-adrift-follow-up-questions-value-of-higher-ed/

At the moment, it seems the future of Higher Education definitely looks bleak. However, one good thing can be learned from all of these sources –people know that something is wrong and they are digging into the root of the problem to try to find a solution. We may be ‘academically adrift’ but at least we know that we are. As long as people are taking notice there is always hope for the future.

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