Magazine article Times Higher Education

V-C Warns of Massive Threat Posed by Moocs

Magazine article Times Higher Education

V-C Warns of Massive Threat Posed by Moocs

Article excerpt

Universities face a serious threat from free online degree courses, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge has warned.

Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said the rise of massive open online courses - known as Moocs - offered by world-class institutions such as Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology "will challenge the nature of higher education".

Speaking at a conference titled We Don't Need No Education? Visions of Higher Education for the 21st Century, organised by student thinktank the Wilberforce Society, Sir Leszek said that less prestigious universities that focused on teaching rather than research could struggle in the face of new online courses.

"For those in the knowledge-transfer system, there are troubled times ahead," he told an audience at the Cambridge Union Society on 18 January. "Why do a course costing Pounds 9,000 when you could sit the Mooc offered by MIT?" he asked.

However, online courses did not pose a threat to Cambridge because they could not replicate the debate and discussion central to the university's tutorial system, he added.

"Will they change what happens at Cambridge? No," he asserted.

Lord Rees of Ludlow, Astronomer Royal and former president of the Royal Society, also doubted whether Moocs would affect teaching methods at Cambridge. …

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