I just finished reading A University for the 21st Century. The author is James Duderstadt, President Emeritus at the University of Michigan. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the challenges and opportunities for higher education in the new millennium.

I was particularly interested in the last two chapters which addressed many of the issues we discussed at my presentation at HighEdWedDev 2007. Here are some quotes from the book:

  • The system of higher education that emerges in the century ahead will almost certainly be far different from today’s. Higher Education will either transform itself or be transformed as financial imperatives, changing societal demands, emerging technologies, and new competitors reshape the knowledge enterprise.
  • Most colleges and universities are now looking for ways to control costs and increase productivity.
  • In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the number of new competitors in the higher education marketplace. It is estimated that in 1998 the revenues of for-profit and proprietary educational providers were in excess of $3.5 billion and growing rapidly.
  • Higher education is an industry ripe for the unbundling of activities. Universities will have to come to terms with what their true strengths are and how those strengths support their strategies – and then be willing to outsource needed capabilities in areas where they do not have a unique advantage.
  • Universities are under increasing pressure to spin off or sell or close down parts of their traditional operations in the face of new competition. They may well find it necessary to unbundle their many functions, ranging from admissions to counseling to instruction and certification.

I would add web development to that last list.

Many people who hear my presentation on “Higher Ed Web Development Gets Flattened” leave thinking that none of us will have jobs five years from now. That is not my intention and I don’t believe that will be the case. In fact, I think the opposite is true. The role the web plays on college campuses is undervalued. When the time comes to disaggregate the functions of the university, the forensic accountants will quickly see that the web provides true value and should get more resources, not less. That being said, I do think our jobs will change dramatically. The best approach is to think about this proactively not reactively. To quote Will Rogers – “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”