Document Type

Research Report

Publication Date



"Stay the course?"

"Steady as she goes" is the wrong prescription for charting the future of public higher education in the Commonwealth. A major course correction is in order if the coalition vital to the system's well-being is to hang together and be strengthened. With sharply divergent views being held by the public at large, political and business leaders, faculties and students--all groups essential to continuing educational progress--mutual accommodations and adjustments are the order of the day. Major changes in finance, institutional missions, curricula, and academic standards for faculty and students alike are imperatives.

The classic academic model that has shaped the structure, content, and direction of American higher education for a century and a half--the research university--is no longer sufficient to meet today's economic and social needs in Massachusetts. In some respects it may no longer be necessary. Discovering, defining, and putting in place a new model that commands the support of the key coalition and fits the character of the times should be our overriding aim. Aspiring to a dated model--to be a world-class university--may lift spirits but the ambition lacks content.

Specifically, the new priorities for most of the public colleges and universities are to put teaching first, to take service to community and economic development seriously, to focus research investments programmatically, and to be prepared to move increasingly to a technologically-intensive rather than a labor-intensive enterprise.

Making this course correction--this turnabout--will require change in the way the state finances education, in the organization and structure of the programs and the curricula offered, in the technology developed, in the criteria applied to evaluate and reward faculty, in the standards used to judge student progress, and in the patterns of collaboration among the public campuses and between the public campuses and those in the private sector.



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