The brand of academic institutions is something we all look forward to when we are choosing graduate school or med school or any knowledge+certification granting authority, because its talent, time and financial resources put into a degree. Most of us-humble souls go to college for ‘Shahada’ or certificate in Arabic to make us marketable enough to earn a living. But the question is- Are we adopting a reductionist approach towards the hallowed institutions that we respect if not revere? Commoditizing something as valued as intellect into a product? I do understand that a structured learning framework is limited in its mandate, that its ultimately fellow humans who are running these organizations and a organization by essence is a network of conversations that people engage in because we all love stories and not raw data…
An Academic institution is a platform to connect with like minded peers, expand our horizons of thought processes and have access as invaluable as the library and the academic treasure trove called a professor…. College is also a place to learn more about life as a process- relationships, fights, ego tussles and a place to pursue our non academic interests as well… Knowledge is infinite, its a super-set that human understanding has not comprehended it, academia only acts an intermediary to channelize a triple distilled version of knowledge.
Academic value can be created outside structured learning domains as well- Einstein and others did not learn from academia, but created knowledge not attained inside the system… People learn from you tube, MIT OPEN COURSEWARE and other Web 2.0 platforms without attending full time school… The process of learning is accelerated in real world offices, on the job training, internships and real world skill sets are not learnt in conventional college or graduate school…Infosys and Vale have their own corporate universities to train their staff… only 10% of India’s burgeoning engineering talent pool are market ready… More people are taking online degrees while working, giving them the flexibility to learn as they earn
Scientific Research in fundamental sciences is still the exclusive domain of academia and will be for a long time to come… Open source solutioneering such as Linux and websites such as Innocentive are creating value outside the system.
Academia will be relevant for quality control and the brand of the institution is like the face value of a stock…but creation of academic value outside universities will the norm rather than a exception as handheld devices and web progresses to the next level, technology is going to be the great leveler, elitism of the high table of academia have to adapt to keep pace with the times.