Timothy Burke, Planning for Contraction, Inside Higher Ed, September 29, 2008. Excerpt:
…So, the party’s over. However, I’m not hearing a lot of preparation for what higher education will look like if growth is over….
Here are some of the shifts in thinking needed….
3) Where higher education is exposed to cost increases which are potentially within its control, universities and colleges need to band together comprehensively as buyers and dictate terms to their own advantage. There’s not much that can be done about energy costs or insurance: any big employer is exposed to those at an equal base, and then to whatever extent they consume those above and beyond that base. On the other hand, libraries and information services are areas of unique exposure. There are reasons for academia to completely rethink its production and consumption of publication and knowledge that have nothing to do with cost. Open access publication is a good idea that enhances the mission of academia, regardless of its financial implications. However, it’s also insane to be exposed to escalating costs when we potentially have such massive collective leverage over the sellers. We are not only the main buyers of many forms of publication and information, we are also the main producers, and we typically give away what we produce for free and then buy it back from the people we gave it to….