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Its time for a new type of university

Universities have become driven by profit, not driven by the will to offer the best education. I'm sure the founders of the universities had a different thought than profit when they founded their university many years ago. For example, in Ireland, 180 people in higher education earn more than €150,000, of which half earn over €200,000. So, what can be done to change this?

In my opinion, Universities have become outdated. While I have been studying engineering at UCD, I found that the lecturers were terrible. Very hard to listen to someone who reading off slides word for word and expects you to write it all down and listen to him simultaneously (its also a lot quicker to read than write). When I went home I found tutorial videos online which explain the whole lecture in less than 10 minutes. I don't believe my tuition fees should pay for lecturers that cant/wont teach.

Since there is a vast amount of information readily available from home, why pay for a campus, or lecturers at all? All the people require to do all the studying at home is a laptop, Internet connection, dates for exams and maybe labs(depending on the subject). So, one could slash the cost of getting a degree by publishing a list of topics one has to cover for a subject, and give them dates for exams and labs. All one needs is a hall for the exams, and a few supervisors. For the labs, one could use university campuses in the holidays, while they are closed, until a university without lecture halls is opened. One could set 4 dates for exams each year, and hold multiple labs every year. So, one could progress at his own rate, and sit the exams when one feels ready. You could even finish in a shorter time than a conventional university, which will appeal more to some.

Since the costs for this university would be down tremendously, free higher education would finally be viable.

  • Dec 8 2011: Absolutely. Yes. Diminish the "authoritarian" model and increase the love of learning. Cut out the high cost of tuition and allow people to learn in accordance with their desire for knowledge instead of their ability to afford the high cost of tuition. Let students define courses that are of interest to them in addition to having the top-down course establishment approach. Try to shift education from the competitive model to a more cooperative model. So much can be done! Let's do it. Allow for creativity instead of having every generation of student spit back answers they need to memorize. I have noticed that those who studied history seem to repeat the mistakes. Let's do something about that. The present model pushes people into thought patterns that curb creativity and are based upon assumptions about reality that may be incorrect. Let's get real. Using the assumption that reality is neutral or positive would, in itself, cause radical positive changes in university educations.
  • Dec 12 2011: I have no objections to your using my saying of "When in doubt, assume positive." I wish all the world would join us. Oh, what a wonderful world we would be co-creating!
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    Dec 10 2011: Well, Aindreas, I am working on it. I promise. I am working on a data standard that will allow anyone in the world to get a complete (and far more thorough) education, anywhere in the world (even where there is no internet connection or behind firewalls), all for free. If I am successful I envision a change in the university system similar to what you are looking for. I would expect universities to sell access on a subscription basis. Students will study using this system and only come into the university to ask particularly difficult or timely questions, participate in group activities, use lab facilities, and to take qualification exams. The system will even allow employers to easily generate tests that test for the exact qualifications desired so reliance on degrees will be diminished.

    I call my system the Distributable Educational Material Markup Language (tm). Take a look at and tell me what you think.
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      Dec 14 2011: You'll be our time's Francis Bacon if you succeed. You say, "all for free" and then that you "expect universities to sell access on a subscription basis." The latter doesn't quite sound "free."
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        Dec 14 2011: Ah, the DEMML content will be free. Because all of the content will be free, people won't have as much need for going to class. Therefore, the only things that universities will have left to offer is access to mentors and use of facilities. Those are outside of the DEMML system. I am sure many other organizations and ad hoc groups of people will offer many, if not all, of those services for free. So, a person will be able to learn all they want for free. Some of the methods that may make that learning a little bit easier for some people may cost some money but that money will not go to DEMML.

        Think of it this way: I can go to the library and check out books for free. But, if I want a computer program to help me keep track of all the books I have read and my notes on them, then I MAY have to pay some money for that program, depending on my needs and desires, but that is not the library's fault.

        P.S. I certainly FEEL as if I may die of pneumonia this week. But I'm sure that's not what you meant. (Oh, and would I have to wear the hat?)
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    Dec 9 2011: As I live in Sweden where education is free, I'm having trouble to understand how an education system with fees can work. How can there be diversity among the students at college if only the richest can study?

    I agree with you that it is possible to study higher education from home (such programmes exits in Sweden) but i don't think it's the solution for everyone. And some courses can't be studied from home, I had for example a course in measurement techniques this spring with more than ten labs. :-)

    (If your about to study a master programme you are welcome to Sweden, education is free if you live within the EU.)
    • Dec 9 2011: Well, I now know not to try and convince Swedish people ;-)

      This is also for people who work. It is not designed to close the current universities, rather create a new one. Theres the Open University in Ireland and UK, but this is not only expensive, it is not practical. One has to attend at certain preset dates with very little flexibility, and anyone who has a job will find that life loses a lot of its flexibility.

      Doing all the studies at home after work, under tight time constraints is not feasible for most, and affording university without a job is also not possible. Catch 22.

      In this type of university enrolment would be free, and there would be no great time constraints. Meaning one can take eight years to get a degree or two, depending on the amount of time you have, without costing you a cent more.

      This is obviously not intended for countries which have free higher education, but I would not necessarily exclude them. And yes, you are right, not every course can be studied at home. I was thinking of medicine in particular. But there is no University that offers every course.
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        Dec 10 2011: Then if the open universities would be free, they could also have unlimited finish time of the courses and a number of exam dates each year to choose from. With that kind of system you would be able to study at your own pace.

        The dream would be a world wide and free University founded by the rich countries. Talk about well invested aid for poorer countries. Obviously the lack of Internet connection would be an issue but if printing and transport were founded by the University, I'm sure there would be local organizations willing to administer.

        And one more thing, is there an organization that you can give old course material to? Course books are expensive and I'm sure there are a lot of books that could be better used in an Universuty library in for example Uganda than unused in a bookshelf. And if there doesn't exist such organization, it should. :)
        • Dec 10 2011: The course books will not be required. Im studying Engineering, and out of a class of 270, I could count the amount of people who use books on my hand. All the information one needs is on the Internet. Have a look at - and there are many more websites just like it. Between the lot of them, they give every topic one needs. And anything that is'nt there can be requested and they will usually respond.

          PS: The Open University exists, but is not free. I want to make one that is (or at least a fraction of the cost).
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      Dec 14 2011: "Sweden where education is free." Meaning, of course, that someone else pays for it.

      Fabian, you say you're "having trouble to understand how an education system with fees can work. How can there be diversity among the students at college if only the richest can study? "

      First, there's not necessarily connection between fees and popular availability. A system with fees does not suggest that only the richest can study. I checked a recent summary of world university attendance
      (, and the per capita frequency of attendance shows this order (only the top ten countries were listed):
      Canada, S.Korea, Australia, USA, N.Zealand, Finland, Norway, Spain, Ireland, France.

      I don't know where Sweden falls on this list (probably pretty high), but clearly not higher than some countries that use a fee system for university attendance. In the U.S., for example, private universities are indeed expensive, though scholarships are available. The state universities, which are excellent, get considerable support from the state budgets, so that fees are manageable for most. Loans and stipends are available for needy students. There are also community colleges that cover the first two years of university courses. These are also tax-supported and are much less expensive and quite popular. The overall result of the mix is that most students who wish to go to university and who are properly prepared can do so.
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    Dec 8 2011: Thats a very good idea and a very valid point. We have gotten to the stage in society where the entire world is at our fingertips and we invariably want to access it. However unfortunetly the entire system was designed as a means to an end. Using Ireland again as an example, you sit your Junior Cert exams so that you can sit your Leaving Cert. You sit your Leaving Cert so that you can get points to go to college. You spend years in college to get a degree. You use a degree to get work. Nowhere in that system are they teaching you to truly think, to be analytical. Yet all the while they are charging you for it.
    As for your boring lecturers, the fact that someone has all the knowledge you need to be able to lechture in a subject is there reading off a projector word for word just proves how the system is flawed. We all know people who are considered brilliant because they can learn things off and regurgitate them come exam time. However they have next to no social skills, which I think is essential in public speaking/lecturing. They were never taught it and your ears pay the price!
    • Dec 8 2011: I admit the social aspect is a major flaw in this idea, however it isnt a problem that cannot be solved.
      One way would be to have project work that has to be done in groups. People would see who else is online and what they are studying, and they can get in touch with each other and organise a group to work on this project. Doing this could teach more skills in communication and social skills as you do not get put into groups, you have to find and form your own. The labs may also have a social element to it.
      There is still a lot of work to be done on this Idea, but I am not going to let it go.
  • Dec 8 2011: It's all very true! But work demands degrees! that is a world where we can publish stuff in an instance, the companies should recruit in a project-based fashion, and only then will the crowd follow this type of model.