This is my last blog of the academic year. I may post once or twice during the summer, if something big happens or if someone important says something titanically stupid and I need to vent, but otherwise I’ll keep your inboxes unsullied for a couple of months. For those of you who have trouble drinking your 7AM (EST) coffee without reading this blog, my apologies, but it’s time for batteries to re-charge.
When I return on August 28th, it will be in a new format, with advertising. I know, I know, but six years of doing this thing every day for free is probably enough. If you have something – a conference or a service or a product – that you want to promote to a large and attentive higher education audience, do get in touch at email@example.com.
This was a below-par year for higher education, globally. Brexit and Trump (and Xi, and Erdogan) called into question some of the basic ideas underpinning internationalization. No major government (to my knowledge, anyway) did anything particularly new or exciting in terms of investing in research and core funding, though there are some US states which seem to be upgrading their investments a bit. We seem to be at the end of a long cycle of global higher education expansion and – Africa excepted, maybe – the focus is instead moving to efficiency and value for money.
In Canada, government support to institutions hummed along just below inflation while staff pay settlements kept growing at above inflation. Cue more international students to fill the fiscal gap. We’re so far into this cycle it seems impossible to ever stop. But at some point, governments will call a stop to it and this ride is going to come to an end. The fact that Agent May has been busted (three years ahead of schedule) in London and UK universities might once again be free to swing for the fences where international students are concerned should be a source of concern for everyone. We’re about to have competition again, folks. You ready?
Are things going to get better? Well, on research the answer is probably yes. It seems like the Government of Canada, in response to the Naylor Report, is going to spend more money on fundamental research, which is good. The questions for next year are really: i) do the feds have the intellectual capacity to hold two thoughts in head at same time and invest both in fundamental and applied research at the same time and ii) how crazy is the super-cluster competition going to be? But on the fundamental question of core funding for institutions, I think the answer is no. Governments across the country and the political spectrum are wedded to the idea of starving institutions and giving more money to students. Newfoundland is only the most egregious example.
But I’m optimistic. I see more and more universities and colleges being increasingly strategic about their budgeting and operations. I see money coming open internally as that long-delayed wave of retirements slowly starts to happen. I see faculty associations (mostly – there are exceptions) moderating financial demands in light of prolonged financial difficulties. And as always, I am constantly amazed at the dedication, brilliance and inventiveness of the tens of thousands of people who work in our post-secondary institutions.
And with those happy thoughts, I bid you all a good vacation. And if you have any comments about the blog and how it’s been over the last year – what I should change, write more/less about – please do get in touch with me at alex at higheredstrategy dot com. I am always eager for feedback.
Now, go play in the sun.