Our arrogant universities must embrace innovation

Universities have a reputation for being hotbeds of innovation, but they’ve never been very good at innovating in providing undergraduate education. There’s a dinosaur-like tendency to do things the way they’ve always been done.

 

Harold Wilson found this in the 1960s when he developed plans for a University of the Air. It was to be a different sort of university, based on distance learning, opening up undergraduate study to people who would never have otherwise had the chance. Wilson faced scathing opposition from the higher education establishment, but refused to back down. The Open University opened its doors in 1969, immediately swelling student ranks by one-fifth, and remains the UK’s largest academic institution. If universities had had their way, it wouldn’t exist.

 

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