It’s been a little while since I have posted any material. …..Don’t ask!!
As my sabbatical year begins I want to post more regulary, especially about the list of “to-do” tasks i have set for myself for the year, but also to get back into the habit of writing regularly about topics of interest. At the moment I have three things on the go that turn out to be interconnected….a bit:
- review and overview of MOOCs
- What are universities for?
- What is happening to academia inside UC?
As far as #1 goes I have been collecting a number of interesting papers and web resources. First and foremost is Daphne Kholler’s talk at Columbia in mid 2013 about Coursera , but also the review panel videos about the history and development of MIT’s open courseware experiment. here on Youtube, here and here at the 2007 conference . (there is a video on youtube from 2001 and a later 2011 video, both conferences on open courseware initiatives that i need to locate FOUND IT HERE) .From my participation in UC’s e-learning group I have compiled a number of interesting working papers from Nikki Davis, but as importantly I am an active consumer (and producer) of MOOC content – as an economist I wish to reflect on and interact with arguments being made about “business models”. So I began to ask – what are universities all about? – and, to answer this question am currently reading two intersting papers and an e-book :
- What are universities for? by Geoffrey Boulton and Colin Lucas (September 2008 )
- Scott Masten- Authority and Committment: Why Universities like Legislatures are not organized as firms –
- and a recent (2012) by What are Universities for? by Stefan Collini
Naturally there is a personal issue here as well…connected with all this reading on the purpose and nature of universities, and MOOCS,…..and moi! a professional academic economist entering autumn years of his career….
As you may know there are remarkable, and draconian, human capital disinvestments happening at my home University. At first I ignored what was happening in surrounding Departments and kept myself only vaguely informed about proposed reductions – but when my friends and former colleagues (Don, Terry) in Management Science got the axe – well their “department” was nuked – some said submarined – with only a few survivors I began to prick up my ears. Of course what really got my attention was a further planned reduction in numbers in the Econ department from current 13 EFTs down by at least another one full time staff member. As I took initiative to check out the possibilities for phased retirement and/or fractional continuing academic appointment I discovered much about how the current management regime works. I don’t like it. Then, when with a group of 7 other experienced academics I was selectively targeted for termination I learned even more…and I like it – the current administration policies and objectives – even less.
In the last two years we in Econ have gone from 18 to 13 , and from 21 to 13 in the last 7 years, yet another body is required for sacrifice. Although I am sure you will find the official record saying that most staff reductions were “voluntary” exits, and the necessity for such reductions due to post earthquake problems with student numbers and finances, don’t you believe it. The centrally determined, internal inter departmental wealth redistributions that are going on and have been going on inside UC for the last few years are draconian – but perhaps not even as bad as the proposals to be implemented across the Arts faculty.
We are over staffed according to central admin senior managers, and so have to shed bodies. That is rubbish claim – in fact we are understaffed as a department even using just current enrolments of students and we are massively over taxed by a centralised managerial bureaucracy hell bent of reshaping the University of Canterbury in its managers and outside funders (all non academics) own vision. The over taxing isn’t new. The review of the Economics Department in 1999 (review panel ) headed by Professors Les Oxley and Peter Kennedy recorded that for decades central