Decades ago, the focus of universities was on education. Today things are different. Universities are now more focused on attracting customers.
From learning institutions to businesses
The job of a university to impart knowledge and help students apply this knowledge. This is why for decades universities have focused on educating students. But this seems to be changing. Universities are longer paying great attention to educating students. Their concern is improving their financial wellbeing. Universities no longer care about the type of graduates they produce. All they want is more and more money.
Signs that universities are now more business-driven
Universities are using commercial courses to turn higher institutions into businesses. These are classes offered at private universities, diplomas, and evening classes. Universities are very serious about these commercial classes. Little attention is given to regular courses. Commercial courses come with cash benefits. This benefits the teachers. It is not clear how students benefit from these courses.
During the commercial courses, teachers focus on just imparting knowledge. This is part of the job of universities. But the real job is helping students to apply the knowledge. Most commercial courses do not have time to learn about the application of knowledge.
Online courses also serve as a great source of revenue for universities. Students are charged good money to access online education. These classes sound like a good deal. You don’t have to go to school to learn. You can do it in your bedroom. But at what cost? First, you get to pay expensive fees. Second, there are no networking opportunities. Third, you don’t get to learn how to apply the acquired knowledge. Some people say online courses produce ‘half-baked’ graduates. We are not opposed to online learning. With proper planning, students can benefit from it. But universities should not take this opportunity to make money.
Facilities make a university attractive. Students and donors find universities with modern facilities more attractive. Some argue that buildings can promote innovation and creativity. We agree that universities should have good facilities to promote learning. But some constructions are excessive and unnecessary. You will find a university will residence halls looking like hotels. Others have super athletic stadiums. You will find a university with amenities put in country-club style. Others have climbing walls and lazy rivers.
Birmingham University is one of the universities that have heavily invested in infrastructure. For example, the university has a superb sports club with several facilities. First, it has a climbing wall. Second, it has a big multi-sports stadium. Third, it has several activity studios. Fourth, it has a 50m swimming pool. Fifth, it has a gym with many pieces of equipment. This sports center is great for people interested in sports.
Other universities across the world have a similar trend. They are investing huge money in modern buildings. But what is the real motivation behind such investments? The real motivation is to improve the appeal to potential customers. All signs show that this trend will not slow down. Universities continue to invest in prime plots in capital cities. Others continue to invest in luxurious buildings.
Preference of international students
Most universities are increasingly preferring international students. This is because international students are a source of great revenue. Their tuition fees are higher compared to local students. They also boost the real estate sector where universities have invested. So, the more international students the more money universities get. This also happens with out-of-state students. They also pay more than locals.
Universities leaders are now more inclined to the business side. You will hear more executive directors. These new positions do not focus on promoting learning. They focus on strategic planning, human resource management, and quality assurance. While these roles may aid learning, they sound more of business than education. Also, the new positions come with big salaries and meetings. This shifts universities into businesses.
Do you still doubt that universities are turning into businesses? Traditionally, university deans were elected. Specific faculties elect the deans. The role of these deans includes defending academic projects, managing students, representing staff needs, and offering academic leadership. But gone are these days. Today deans are appointed. The major qualification is management skills. They are required to achieve performance targets. They must be good at management decisions.
Some universities are still focused on educating students. They do not just impart knowledge. They also ensure that students can apply that knowledge in real life. Congratulations to such universities. They are making society a better place. But other universities are losing direction. They are becoming more business-driven. They are more focused on making money. As discussed, several signs show that universities are now more business-driven. First, universities are now more focused on excessive construction. Second, universities are more attentive to commercial courses. Third, universities are preferring international students. Fourth, universities are no longer having elected leaders. They are having appointed executive directors.
Why is this a concern? When universities turn into businesses several problems will occur. First, universities will not deliver quality education. This is because the focus is shifting from learning to consumers. Second, students will be unable to apply the acquired knowledge in real life. Third, education will become more expensive. This means that less privileged students will not access higher learning. In short, it will promote inequality in higher learning.