The University in a few years: some predictions

A few years from now, there will be two kinds of faculty member. Researchers will be hired, retained, and promoted based on a formula combining external funding amounts and bibliometrics. Instructors will be hired on a casual basis.

A few years from now, faculty hires will be not only set and approved but also designed by administrators, with reference to strategic plans that will have been written chiefly by administrators, with the assistance of external consultants.

Lectures will be recorded and sold online in course packages supervised by staff and assessed by the temporary labor of graduates or undergraduates paying their way. Courses will be owned by the university, or by private companies.

In a few years, the dissertation will be replaced by a series of articles, publication of which will be required to graduate. The requirements for an initial, junior hire will meet or exceed the requirements current senior administrators struggled to meet for tenure.

The number of academic articles published, both in total and per full-time faculty member, will far exceed what it is now. Quantitative measures of impact will multiply and become the subject of excited comparison. Readership will shrink.

A few years from now, undergraduate courses will routinely be designed to provide unremunerated student labor to private companies. This will be presented to media as “engagement” or “outreach”, and to students as “real-world training”.

In a few years, it will not be a scandal for an industry figure hired by the university to write an academic report that falsely attacks that industry’s critics, all under the university’s imprimatur. Or: it will be even less scandalous.

It will not be against the rules, a few years from now, to turn academic research units headed by scholarly experts into think tanks headed by non-academic facilitators. This will be evidence that the university is “relevant” and has a “public profile”.

And faculty members who watched it all happen while “building up goodwill” by “going with the flow” and “speaking their language” will wonder, in anguished tones: “Where is the union?” “What about governance?” “When did we decide on this?”

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