tobes wrote:Funding follows consumer demand; the strongest demand is for the courses which generate the best future incomes.
I was in Hong Kong last month and reading the paper I found a special section on education. It was mostly made up of advertisements and articles showcasing all the courses available that provide "skills employers demand" and "career development opportunities". It occurred to me that this is more or less a trans-national issue. In India I saw the same thing, likewise in Japan, and of course in Canada as well. Universities are just diploma mills that are expected to produce trained employees to be put to work in the market economy. The whole system caters to big business.
This is why universities compete with each other for international rankings. It isn't like before when they competed on the football pitch. No, they compete now for rankings and sponsorship.
I think where universities went wrong was having business as a field one could major in. Advertising and marketing are not academic fields. If you want to study the manipulative effect of advertising on human populations, that makes a good study in sociology or psychology, but there shouldn't be business schools in universities.
Therefore, as we all know, economics departments are flush with funds, philosophy departments are graveyards and sinking ships.
Religious studies are getting the short end of the stick, too. With the exception maybe of Islamic Studies for obvious reasons, there is less and less funding for anything related to the study of religion. In my old university they shut down the Religious Studies department and tossed it all in with "Interdisciplinary Studies".
Modern academic institutions are Hobbesian worlds: intense competition for very scarce resources. Genuinely educating people is becoming harder and harder.
I don't think this was always so. This is unfortunate. I speak to older fellows and they tell me "back in their day" they just worked during the summer and could afford tuition, room and board for the following eight months of classes. Nowadays, at least where I come from, even if you work full-time in the summer, you don't have even half what you need (a lot less if you pay for your living expenses out of your earnings). That's why people go into debt, sometimes in the six-digit range. That's another big business: student loans.
But then universities are competitive and falling prey to big business. They insist on having huge computer labs with the latest technology, meanwhile most undergrads just go in there to screw around on Facebook in-between classes. The administrators want to "attract the best talent" and give themselves pay raises. A quarter of a million dollars or a lot more is not unheard of if you're an administrator in a university. Meanwhile the faculty budget gets slashed and they increase tuition for the students.
One glimmer of hope though are these up and coming Buddhist colleges, at least here in Taiwan. If you study Buddhism you don't pay tuition, or if you do your scholarship covers your tuition AND boarding.