Time to Re-think Higher Education


Higher Education is never out of the news is it?   Mergers and acquisitions, feuds, accusations of dumbing down or elitism, and increasing pressure from government on recruitment, retention, and revenues – sounds like the kind of wrangling that goes on in a highly competitive marketplace doesn’t it?

The fact is that this is true, and yet somewhere amongst all the politics and economics surely there should still be a focus on that thing we’re all here to bring about?

A little thing called learning…?

A Factory Approach?

Have we become so myopic in our thinking about Higher Education that we’ve resorted to Fordist principles (or perhaps we should say Primark principles these days) and a factory approach?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s fantastic work going on at ground level in teaching, learning and research – we know this from experience – but when the rhetoric from our politicians and leaders is more about numbers than people, more about finance than fascination, more about bringing in cash than creativity and innovation, we worry.

Quasi-Commercial Models Aren’t Working

To me, the quasi-commercial model on which our Universities is run does not seem to be working.  Research we did five years ago on University missions suggested then that Universities were shaping themselves to ‘chase the funding’, and it seems that this situation is only getting worse.

Competitive recruitment may be seen as one way of driving up quality, but with so much pressure to gain money through recruiting ever more students, and particularly students from outside the EU, it’s easy to see how standards could be put at risk.

The Role of Universities in Pushing the Boundaries of Human Knowledge

We rely on our Universities to seek the knowledge the private sector cannot or will not fund, to push the boundaries of human knowledge, and to develop and nurture the minds of the generations who will take this work and humanity forward.

But can all our Universities deliver on these promises in our current system?

The simple answer is no.

The Need for Personalised Education

We need differentiation, focus, and a holistic, personalised view of education that does not seek to churn graduates out on a conveyor belt, but that recognises the unique skills and abilities of each individual and provides them with the support and opportunities to make the best choices for them.

We need to provide opportunities for them to continue to learn throughout their lives in a way that suits them and in ways that are relevant to a world that seems to transform itself every second week.

Rethinking the System

To do this, we need to have a complete rethink of the system.  Instead of focusing on long term developments of education programmes that are obsolete before they even start, we need to collaborate and share.

We see a future where students learn throughout their lifetime by accessing bite-sized chunks of education, available to all and constantly and collaboratively updated by a network of experts; by collaborating in project teams and gaining a portfolio of skills that are demonstrated to employers through tangible results not through the abstraction of qualifications and certificates.

Would you rather be able to create your own package of learning that suits you and generates a valued and valuable set of demonstrable skills and abilities, or learn the same obsolete facts as everyone else in a class of 500?   Would you rather study the things you’re passionate about, that interest and engage you, or study what you think you might need to in order to get a job? Thought so.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The fact is, just like with clothing, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning, but you need to know your measurements before you can find something that fits. We need to bring back a culture of tailored education, not just for the few, but for everyone whatever their age or background, and to do this we need to radically rethink our systems for developing and distributing learning opportunities.

The Power of Technology

We need to use technology and the human brain to their fullest capacities to create new collaborative learning models that are open, accessible, and above all human-centred.  This is not impossible – all the tools are there – we just need to let go of old systems and have the confidence and ambition to create something new, something better, something amazing.

What Do You Think?

What do you think? At Lucky we’re determined to offer people the opportunity to experience learning in this way, and we can’t wait to get started.  If you too are ready to make a change, get in touch – we’d love to work with you.

The Lucky Team