Financial pressures and falling student numbers are threatening the future of British universities according to Anna Fazackerley who asked the question in yesterday's Guardian newspaper: "Could a university be the next HMV?". She writes that some third-level institutions (especially the "ex-polys") are suffering up to 20% drop in student numbers and that "some institutions, especially smaller ones" are "looking quite vulnerable". It is "shocking" to think that student numbers at the London Metropolitan University were down "a huge 43%", and that this institution has undergone some "serious subject cutbacks". Tough times indeed ahead for the third-level sector in the UK, and lessons for us too here in Ireland.
|His Master's Voice.|
Image source: Wikipedia.
However, I can't help thinking that when I saw The Guardian's headline that I was wondering if it would be about how universities are losing out to the Internet and on-line courses. There is no doubt that traditional university campuses are vulnerable to the widespread availability of on-line courses. The likes of Hibernia College here in Ireland, the University of Phoenix in the USA, and the Open University in the UK have been offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses for years. More recently Udacity are offering courses to third-level students. It could be that universities and colleges will lose out to these institutions and go the way of record shops, travel agents, and book sellers as students increasingly move to an on-line experience for education.
Time to take our heads out of the sand?