Virtual Learning and Higher Education

By David Seth Preston | Go to book overview

C.P. Snow Revisited: The Two Cultures of Faculty and
Administration
James Wood
Abstract
Over forty years ago, C.P. Snow warned that the gulf between two academic cultures was getting so wide that they could not easily communicate with each other, to the detriment of public interest (Snow, 1959). The two cultures he described were those of the “literary intellectuals” and the scientists. Today there is a similar gulf, but this time between the faculty, including both literary intellectuals as well as scientists, and the university administration. It will be argued in this chapter that the faculty has maintained a commitment to outstanding teaching and scholarship, along with community service, whereas the university administration has increasingly devised ‘strategic plans’ for the university stressing other, often quite different, goals, particularly stressing the financial bottom line and more generally the business model as a central goal for the university.With administrators increasingly focused on cutting costs and the faculty remaining interested in providing quality higher education, a tension, or dialectic, was built into university relationships during the 1990s that continues today and does not augur well for higher education and the public it serves. This chapter will outline a series of these strategic university plans that I feel, if continued in their present form, will greatly undermine this most pivotal of social institutions.Higher education in the 1990s was characterised by multiple crises, difficulties, and strategic planning schemes created by administrators often quite removed from university classrooms and sites of research. Distance learning schemes have become prototypical of other kinds of controversial, bottom-line-oriented, strategic plans. ‘Strategic planning’ is a term, borrowed from business and lately used by university administrators, which refers to broad-scale future plans for organisations and often entailing anticipated large changes, similar to the major downsizing of corporations in the 1990s. ‘Leadership teams’ in organisations are often assigned the duties of initiating these strategic plans, usually guided by top-down assumptions involving little or no consultation with the groups most affected by these changes.This chapter will address three related questions:
1. What were the strategic plans that affect higher education in the 1990s?
2. What are the problems for higher education they are creating?

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