Aerial view of Finney Chapel, Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, United States (

The idea of a university (updated)

Reda SadkiQuotes

So I’m reading John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University, which begins by asserting that the university “is a place of teaching universal knowledge”. I’m fascinated by the historical context (Catholicism in Protestant England), by the strength and substance of the ideas, and by the narrative style of carefully-constructed arguments. I’m also struck, however, by the centrality of learning as transmission, the line of demarcation between invention and teaching, and the belief that it is possible to know by disconnecting from society (although I acknowledge that concentration and flow tend to require quiet, in a pragmatic sense): To discover and to teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person. […] He, too, who spends his day in dispensing his existing knowledge to all comers is unlikely to have either leisure or energy to acquire new. The common sense of mankind has associated the search …

The Longest Carpet Fringe (Theen Moy/

Formal learning of the past

Reda SadkiLearning strategy

Formal learning in the past includes formal education and qualifications obtained. They serve as credentials of value to establish that we know – part of building relationships of trust – and provide frameworks of reference (“shelves”) to make sense of new knowledge. From the past, we also draw on personal experience, attitudes, and values acquired or developed in formal education but also from personal life, family and community. As working professionals, we may think of higher education as a “thing of the past”. Nevertheless, formal qualifications matter for our personal brand and remain the prevailing currency in hiring practices. We draw on frameworks, tools and methods we learned in formal study. Foundational elements obtained through formal qualifications may be mobilized as fall-back or to drawn on an “overarching discipline of thought and the rigor of thinking” to help “navigate informal learning”. “We learn foundational elements through courses,” explains George Siemens, “but we innovate through our own learning” (Siemens 2006:131). Photo: The Longest …

Hamburger University

Accreditation in higher education is based primarily on inputs rather than outcomes

Reda SadkiEducation business models, Learning strategy

Burck Smith describes how accreditation is based primarily on a higher education institution’s inputs rather than its outcomes, and creates an “iron triangle” to maintain high prices, keep out new entrants, and resist change. To be accredited, a college must meet a variety of criteria, but most of these deal with a college’s inputs rather than its outcomes [emphasis mine]. Furthermore, only providers of entire degree programs (rather than individual courses) can be accredited. And even though they are accredited by the same organizations, colleges have complete discretion over their “articulation” policies—the agreements that stipulate the credits that they will honor or deny when transferred from somewhere else. This inherent conflict of interest between the provision of courses and the certification of other’s courses is a powerful tool to keep competition out. Articulation agreements, like API’s for computer operating systems, are the standards that enable or deny integration. In short, …