Plenary Panel Introduction
Will universities become
extinct in the networked
ICDE 21st World Conference
Hong Kong, 2004
The Networked World:
Internet Access Population (millions)
South Korea 25.6
Total global population estimated at 655 million
Source: A C Nielsen, Sept 2003
Joseph Schumpeter (1934) predicted
that every 50 years or so, technological
revolutions would cause
"gales of creative destruction”
in which old industries would be swept
away and replaced by new ones.
Driver for Change
'The death of distance as a
determinant of the cost of
communications will probably be the
single most important economic
force shaping society in the first half
of the 21st century'.
The Knowledge Explosion
Over 90% of the relevant literature in many
technical fields, such as biotechnology,
astronomy, computers and software, and
environmental sciences, has been produced
Traditional programmatic approaches to
education simply cannot keep up………...
J B Quinn (2001)
Explosion in Demand
A recent IBM report forecasts a threefold
(US$4.5 trillion) jump in global education
expenditure during the next 13 years.
The World Bank expects the number of
higher education students will more than
double from 70 million to 160 million by
(Source: Richard Gluyas, New Nabs e-School Deal
http://finance.news.com.au, 22 April 2000).
Leadership Challenge: From
Elite to Mass Higher Education
In 1946: 8 Australian universities
teaching about 26,000 students.
In 2003: 38 Australian universities
teaching about 890,000 students.
By 2005, e-learning will be the single most
used application on the web.
Corporate investment in e-learning will
grow from US$2.1 billion in 2001 to
US$33.4 billion in 2005.
(Source: Harris, Logan & Lundy, Gartner Research,
There are increasing signs that our current
paradigms for higher education, the nature of
our academic programs, the organization of
our colleges and universities, and the way
that we finance, conduct and distribute the
services of higher education may not be able
to adapt to the demands of our time.
J J Duderstadt (2001)
“Any new technology environment
eventually creates a totally new
The fact that the present traditional
approaches based on conventional
classroom-based teaching and learning will
not be capable of meeting the escalating
demand for higher education in the
knowledge society has apparently failed to
register in the minds of many executive
Stepping onto many a university
campus in 2004 - as the information
economy gains momentum – a visitor
from 1950 would feel quite at home.
“Technology is the key variable making
possible, and imperative, the
reinvention of the corporation”.
Stace & Dunphy (2001)
Institutional Capacity for
While there is a great deal of business literature
on companies that have “restructured” and re-
engineered” to respond to new competitive
threats and rapidly changing market conditions,
universities are generally regarded as being
stubbornly resistant to change as a result of the
typically conservative and reactionary pressures
both internal and external to the organization.
The problems faced by mass higher education
today come from a system which has become
mass in its size but remains elite in its values.
The recent external changes of numbers,
structures, finance, and governance have not
been matched by appropriate internal changes
of values, purpose and activities.
Source: Wagner (1995) p.21
Trying to change a university
is like trying to move a
it is extremely difficult
and you don’t get much
Fast, Flexible and Fluid
The transition from the Industrial to the
Information Age was encapsulated by
Dolence and Norris (1995), who argued
that to survive organisations would
need to change from rigid, formula
driven entities to organisations that are
“fast, flexible and fluid”.
Random Acts of Innovation
The potential benefits of e-learning will
not be achieved in the present vertical
academic silos, which are typified by
the “random acts of innovation” of
individual academics rather than by
systemic strategic planning.
Fast, flexible and fluid organizations
that can provide: customized, high
quality, value added services that
satisfy customer needs with speed
and accuracy at the appropriate price
point , are the only institutions that will
survive and thrive in the 21st century.
Is this “fantasyland” for universities typified
by the hierarchical, bureaucratic academic
structure in which the provision of effective
services to students is significantly
inhibited by personal agendas and
dependence on management via multiple
layers of committees that move with
“The greatest danger in times of
turbulence, is not the turbulence……..
it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”
Peter Drucker (1991)
In 1803 the British deployed a military
attachment to stand on the Cliffs of
Dover to watch for Napoleon.
• It was not until 1927 that the
detachment was disbanded.
• Napoleon Bonaparte died in 1821.
Source: Stace & Dunphy (2001)
Will universities become
extinct in the networked
Within the next decade, the view
that universities, like dinosaurs,
may be unable to adapt to the
increasing pressures of
technological development and
globalization is likely to gather