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Higher education reforms suggestions Higher education reforms suggestions
by Joseph Gatt
2020-09-21 09:30:21
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Reforming the university system.

-Right now the university system works like this.

-You have professors who went through 8 to 15 years of formal higher education (BA+MA+Ph.D) and who over the years were trained as RESEARCHERS (not teachers, not administrators).

-Those “researchers” then get jobs at universities. They get the “professor” title. They teach kids specialized courses in specialized disciplines. Those specialized disciplines often have good research value, but zero market value when it comes to employment prospects.

acade01_400-Young adults attending universities are taught by researchers how to do research. They read books, and are assigned research papers.

-Those kids are trying to get jobs at corporations or in public service or in areas that involve zero research.

-So you kids who know research doesn't amount to much with their job prospects. In college, most of them tend to be “slack” with their research papers. And because research papers and tests (testing research knowledge) is all they do, they arrive to the job market incapable of performing basic tasks.

-That is, when college graduates get jobs at corporations, especially this coming generation, they don't know how to use email (true story!). They can't use MS Word or Excel applications. They can't write a commercial letter or letter of complaint. Much less help run a project. They can't teach either, nor can they work in media productions. They are left with two options: jobs in the service sector (waiting tables, cooking, cleaning, holding a cash register) or with jobs in entertainment creation (YouTube channels, street performances, working as camp monitors and so on). Or small business ownership.

-So you have researchers teaching research to kids who want to get jobs in project management, and those kids end up waiting tables.

-Professors are also expected to do research, while teaching research, and to run research labs.

-This system worked when you had 5% of any given age population attending college. This system can't work when you have 30%, 50% or 80% of any given age population attending college.

-In the 5% days, college was seen as a “brain development” exercise. In fact, the entire education system was seen as a “brain development” exercise. That is kids went to school, developed their brains. Then those with a good intellectual bent spent 4 years interacting and networking in universities around the theme of “research” in some specialized area. Those workers were valuable, because they often wrote clearly, thought clearly, and were rare on the job market.

-In the 50% days or 80% days it's hard to weed out which ones have fully developed brains and which ones spent 4 years binge drinking and partying and improvising research papers.

-Last time, I discussed the idea that we should get rid of the liberal arts (because they have no job market value) and focus on 5 majors:

-Project Management/Business Ownership

-Media, journalism and communication



-Entertainment content creation

-Of course, some majors like foreign languages should be maintained, but paired up with one of the above majors that lead to employment.

-Then I get asked: what about economics? What about anthropology? What about sociology? What about archeology? What about history?

-My answer is, I'll add a sixth major to the list: theoretical and applied research.

-That is rather than major in economics or sociology, you're going to major in “research.”

-When you major in research, you learn about a little bit of everything (I would separate scientific and liberal arts research) and research methods.

-More importantly, as a student majoring in research, you will be aiming for those research jobs.

-You can stop when you get a BA in research. Quite a few research institutions will want to employ you, be it in the private sector or at universities or in the public sector.

-You can go on and get an MA and a Ph.D. in research. That's when you specialize a bit, while still using a big picture approach.

-Should M.A.s and Ph.D.s only be for researchers?

-Here's what I'd do. I'd abolish the full time M.A. And Ph.D. and I'd encourage students to get their M.A. And Ph.D. during evenings and weekends.

-The MA should be about training researchers and producing a medium-size independent research project. I wouldn't teach too many courses other than research methodology in the MA program. I'd encourage students to do their own readings, and perhaps hold “open forum” type seminars where students discuss their readings in an open forum, without professors lecturing on topics students would otherwise find boring.

-The Ph.D. should be a “big” research project and students should figure out whether they should carry out that big research project full time, or during weekends while they work a full-time job.

-I'd abolish MA and Ph.D. “slavery” where professors use MA and Ph.D students in administrative and research projects without paying them a dime. Ph.D.s and M.A.s should have students exclusively focusing on their research projects, guided by a group of senior researchers.

-I'd encourage MA and Ph.D. students to rely on a group of advisers rather than a single adviser, to prevent corruption (in the form of gifts, money, or sexual favors). And that would improve the quality of theses and dissertations a great deal.

-Final questions: who should teach college classes? Ph.D.s of course could teach college classes.

-But I would use a flexible system. Universities will have research units where researchers can be invited to teach a class or two. Then you would have full-time teachers who focus exclusively on teaching. I wouldn't use Ph.D. students to teach classes, unless they get a separate employment contract where their position as a Ph.D. candidate is independent of their position as a teacher, tutor or lecturer.

-What about foreign students? How do they do their Ph.D. part-time (visa issues etc.).

-I'd invite foreign M.A. And Ph.D. students in the capacity of research assistants or teachers (they would be employed and paid for that) and those students will spend their free time and weekends studying research methodology and working on their thesis or dissertation.

-What about theoretical courses at the M.A. Or Ph.D level? I'd get the advisers to recommend books or MOOCs is students need to refresh their theoretical knowledge. I'd hold conferences and seminars where students can discuss, debate or present their readings or areas of interest.

-In sum, college is no longer about brain development. These days, most kids go to college so they can get a job, not so they can reflect about life.

-Since college is no longer about intellectual development but about professional training, universities need to become professional training grounds.

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