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IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000
                                   11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future
                                                                                 Plenary Panel II


Kenneth Edwards
President, Association of European Universities

Introduction
I notice that the title given to the second theme of this Conference Universities and the 'Knowledge
Society' includes the words 'Knowledge Society' within quotation marks, implying that it is not a well
defined topic or idea and, in fact, Professor Dr. Dhanarajan yesterday referred to several
interpretations. No doubt, we could spend a whole day by discussing what we mean by 'Knowledge
Society'. For practical purposes, I am going to use an all-embracing definition, which I think is
concerned, with the total economic and social effects - and with 'social' as well as 'economic' - of the
very rapid developments within information and communication technologies. Alongside this, parallel
to it, and very much influenced by it, is the move towards global economy and a global world of
higher education. The Knowledge Society and its rise is creating greater expectations by societies and
by the governments, which represent those societies, of what universities can contribute to the
development of successful and coherent social groups.
Great Expectations
In the traditional activities of universities, are very largely the education of the young and of an elite
group of the young in the part, alongside research carried out for its own sake, because it appealed to
the professors. In addition to those activities, societies now look to us to educate a much larger
proportion of the young age group, to educate people throughout life. In particular, of course, societies
look to the field of continuing professional education; to do more applied research, whether
technological or social; to have a direct economic impact particularly on the local economy as
Professor Dhanarajan mentioned yesterday.
Universities are now important economic players and agents. Most importantly, the universities should
contribute towards social inclusion. This is a matter of great concern, as many people have said. The
risks that in an information age and in a knowledge society the difference and insecurity between those
who can manage the information age, be successful in the knowledge society, and those who cannot,
will become very great.
Delivery and Preparation of Pedagogy and Students
Now, I want to concentrate, in a few moments, as a President of a Regional
Association, on some aspects of the significance of information and communication technology
development on teaching and learning in universities. And, there are two aspects to this I just want to
mention. One is the delivery of education to students, the effects on pedagogy. The second is the
preparation of students when they graduate for life and work in a knowledge society. The greater
demands make greater range of expectations of what universities should do. Inexorably, this is leading
to greater diversification between universities, so that they are attempting to do a different range of
activities. Traditionally, of course, we have been largely campus-based. In recent years Open
Universities and others have developed distance education. Increasingly, now traditional universities
are themselves developing distance education for some students. And, I think, that the needs of those
two kinds of students, those on campus, who are entering higher education for the first time, and those
who are receiving higher education later in life, having already had higher education, are really quite
different. Universities, therefore, are faced with very different issues about managing the development
of these technologies for these different groups of students.
Experimentation, Enthusiasm and Cost
Because of this diversity, which is apparent in Europe, and no doubt elsewhere, the Association of
European Universities, of which I have the honour to be the President, decided, some years ago, to
conduct a study on the extent to which universities were now using new technologies in teaching and
learning. We did a survey of about fifty universities, some by questionnaires, some by visits and some
by meetings of small groups, and there were a number of general conclusions that came out of that
study. First of all, there was a great deal of experimentation going on in universities, usually
uncoordinated, entirely dependent on enthusiastic groups, who wanted to develop the techniques.
These range from video conferencing between universities to share teaching programmes, the
production of CD ROMS, the preparation of material within the campus network, the extensive use of
e-mail and, to some extent, of web-based material for learning. This is developing rapidly, but out of
all those experiments it was very clear that alongside them rather there were a number of also general
features. One is that in all cases the costs of doing this had been underestimated initially. The
hardware costs had been looked at, which are, of course, coming down. However, no account had been
taken of the costs of developing or upgrading the software. No account had been taken of the costs of
individuals', of the training and for developing materials for staff and for the necessary training, very
often, of students in the use of materials.
Hostility Unalloyed
A third feature that came out, a third general conclusion, was that in all cases there was hostility within
universities, not only from professors. It is feared that these changes might, in the extreme case, put
their jobs at risk, at the very least would require them to rethink the way they taught. But, also there
were fears in administrative staff, which was worried about the difficulties of managing these new
techniques, particularly in the form of assessment of student performance.
And the fourth conclusion, the final one, was that no university we looked at had a coherent
university-wide institutional strategy for developing the use of new technologies.
These studies have been published. They are available on the web site of the Association of European
Universities, which is known generally by many people at CRE, because those were the initials of the
former title of the Association.
General Conclusions
Out of those studies came a number of other very general conclusions. Firstly, there was clearly a
great need felt by universities for advice and help in how best to develop and take advantage of the
new technologies in teaching, of the need to identify good practice and of some mechanism to
disseminate that good practice.
Secondly, there is a considerable concern at the costs of producing material of this kind electronically
available. It was once argued that the use of the new technologies would make teaching and learning
in higher education much cheaper. That is clearly not the case. It is, in reality, a very expensive
process because of the time necessary and the number of people that have to be involved if they are to
produce really good material.
Thirdly, it has been recognized now that universities must be very pro-active. Student expectations are
rising rapidly and that students come to universities expecting the universities to be able to provide
very good networks, very high quality material, easy access to the web, and so on. The second reason
why we have to be pro-active is because several people have mentioned the potential competition.
Professor Gourley said that at the beginning with reference to Microsoft degrees being accredited in at
least one country and the potential for a very large market here, which could be exploited by non-
university activities, is a real threat.
I think we have to be aware of it. We have to make universities more generally attractive to students.
Not only the quality of the provision we make in IT, but obviously the quality and excitement of the
whole education experience under social life, under social development which are such an important
part of the university.
And the fourth general conclusion is a very specific practical one. Systems developed for teaching
must be linked to other uses in the university, student administration and student information. In fact,
some of the experiences in the United States suggest that the education networks provided on campus
for are in effect used at least as much by students to gather information and to organize their practical
and social lives.
Preparation for Life
The second element I just want to say a word or two about is the preparation of students for life and
work in a knowledge-based society. Obviously, we owe it to students that, when they leave the
university, they are IT literate and have up-to-date information. Although, of course, that will, with a
rapid rate of technological development, go out of date in due course. I think we also owe it to them to
prepare them for lives and careers, which will be quite different from the expectation a decade or so
ago. The idea of portfolio careers, of people changing jobs, of having to be re-skilled and re-educated
to some extent frequently, means that we have to think about their long-term careers. This puts
emphasis on both what is sometimes called course skills or general skills and problem solving of team
work and communication skills. But, I think it can be summed up in one phrase, which is 'students
should leave as having learned how to learn, how to become self-motivated, self-managing learners
throughout life'. And, it is also important, of course, that they develop the social skills to survive in the
knowledge-based society, in an information age to adapt individually to social changes, especially
those resulting from new technologies. And, very importantly, and this is a really significant role of
the universities, that our students, when they leave, should feel and should be able to contribute to
social changes, to improve the coherence of society and the well-being of everybody in those societies.
So, the general conclusions from this work of CRE, is that universities will need to change rapidly.
There will be internal cultural changes. Individual universities need help and advice. They need the
benefits of experience elsewhere. They need access to this. And, there is a hugely important role for
network organizations, such as the Association of European Universities (CRE) and the IAU to
develop mechanisms and networks to provide this.

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IAU Durban Conference Plenary Panel II

  • 1. IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000 11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future Plenary Panel II Kenneth Edwards President, Association of European Universities Introduction I notice that the title given to the second theme of this Conference Universities and the 'Knowledge Society' includes the words 'Knowledge Society' within quotation marks, implying that it is not a well defined topic or idea and, in fact, Professor Dr. Dhanarajan yesterday referred to several interpretations. No doubt, we could spend a whole day by discussing what we mean by 'Knowledge Society'. For practical purposes, I am going to use an all-embracing definition, which I think is concerned, with the total economic and social effects - and with 'social' as well as 'economic' - of the very rapid developments within information and communication technologies. Alongside this, parallel to it, and very much influenced by it, is the move towards global economy and a global world of higher education. The Knowledge Society and its rise is creating greater expectations by societies and by the governments, which represent those societies, of what universities can contribute to the development of successful and coherent social groups. Great Expectations In the traditional activities of universities, are very largely the education of the young and of an elite group of the young in the part, alongside research carried out for its own sake, because it appealed to the professors. In addition to those activities, societies now look to us to educate a much larger proportion of the young age group, to educate people throughout life. In particular, of course, societies look to the field of continuing professional education; to do more applied research, whether technological or social; to have a direct economic impact particularly on the local economy as Professor Dhanarajan mentioned yesterday. Universities are now important economic players and agents. Most importantly, the universities should contribute towards social inclusion. This is a matter of great concern, as many people have said. The risks that in an information age and in a knowledge society the difference and insecurity between those who can manage the information age, be successful in the knowledge society, and those who cannot, will become very great. Delivery and Preparation of Pedagogy and Students Now, I want to concentrate, in a few moments, as a President of a Regional Association, on some aspects of the significance of information and communication technology development on teaching and learning in universities. And, there are two aspects to this I just want to mention. One is the delivery of education to students, the effects on pedagogy. The second is the preparation of students when they graduate for life and work in a knowledge society. The greater demands make greater range of expectations of what universities should do. Inexorably, this is leading to greater diversification between universities, so that they are attempting to do a different range of activities. Traditionally, of course, we have been largely campus-based. In recent years Open Universities and others have developed distance education. Increasingly, now traditional universities are themselves developing distance education for some students. And, I think, that the needs of those two kinds of students, those on campus, who are entering higher education for the first time, and those who are receiving higher education later in life, having already had higher education, are really quite different. Universities, therefore, are faced with very different issues about managing the development of these technologies for these different groups of students. Experimentation, Enthusiasm and Cost Because of this diversity, which is apparent in Europe, and no doubt elsewhere, the Association of European Universities, of which I have the honour to be the President, decided, some years ago, to conduct a study on the extent to which universities were now using new technologies in teaching and learning. We did a survey of about fifty universities, some by questionnaires, some by visits and some by meetings of small groups, and there were a number of general conclusions that came out of that
  • 2. study. First of all, there was a great deal of experimentation going on in universities, usually uncoordinated, entirely dependent on enthusiastic groups, who wanted to develop the techniques. These range from video conferencing between universities to share teaching programmes, the production of CD ROMS, the preparation of material within the campus network, the extensive use of e-mail and, to some extent, of web-based material for learning. This is developing rapidly, but out of all those experiments it was very clear that alongside them rather there were a number of also general features. One is that in all cases the costs of doing this had been underestimated initially. The hardware costs had been looked at, which are, of course, coming down. However, no account had been taken of the costs of developing or upgrading the software. No account had been taken of the costs of individuals', of the training and for developing materials for staff and for the necessary training, very often, of students in the use of materials. Hostility Unalloyed A third feature that came out, a third general conclusion, was that in all cases there was hostility within universities, not only from professors. It is feared that these changes might, in the extreme case, put their jobs at risk, at the very least would require them to rethink the way they taught. But, also there were fears in administrative staff, which was worried about the difficulties of managing these new techniques, particularly in the form of assessment of student performance. And the fourth conclusion, the final one, was that no university we looked at had a coherent university-wide institutional strategy for developing the use of new technologies. These studies have been published. They are available on the web site of the Association of European Universities, which is known generally by many people at CRE, because those were the initials of the former title of the Association. General Conclusions Out of those studies came a number of other very general conclusions. Firstly, there was clearly a great need felt by universities for advice and help in how best to develop and take advantage of the new technologies in teaching, of the need to identify good practice and of some mechanism to disseminate that good practice. Secondly, there is a considerable concern at the costs of producing material of this kind electronically available. It was once argued that the use of the new technologies would make teaching and learning in higher education much cheaper. That is clearly not the case. It is, in reality, a very expensive process because of the time necessary and the number of people that have to be involved if they are to produce really good material. Thirdly, it has been recognized now that universities must be very pro-active. Student expectations are rising rapidly and that students come to universities expecting the universities to be able to provide very good networks, very high quality material, easy access to the web, and so on. The second reason why we have to be pro-active is because several people have mentioned the potential competition. Professor Gourley said that at the beginning with reference to Microsoft degrees being accredited in at least one country and the potential for a very large market here, which could be exploited by non- university activities, is a real threat. I think we have to be aware of it. We have to make universities more generally attractive to students. Not only the quality of the provision we make in IT, but obviously the quality and excitement of the whole education experience under social life, under social development which are such an important part of the university. And the fourth general conclusion is a very specific practical one. Systems developed for teaching must be linked to other uses in the university, student administration and student information. In fact, some of the experiences in the United States suggest that the education networks provided on campus for are in effect used at least as much by students to gather information and to organize their practical and social lives. Preparation for Life The second element I just want to say a word or two about is the preparation of students for life and work in a knowledge-based society. Obviously, we owe it to students that, when they leave the university, they are IT literate and have up-to-date information. Although, of course, that will, with a rapid rate of technological development, go out of date in due course. I think we also owe it to them to prepare them for lives and careers, which will be quite different from the expectation a decade or so ago. The idea of portfolio careers, of people changing jobs, of having to be re-skilled and re-educated
  • 3. to some extent frequently, means that we have to think about their long-term careers. This puts emphasis on both what is sometimes called course skills or general skills and problem solving of team work and communication skills. But, I think it can be summed up in one phrase, which is 'students should leave as having learned how to learn, how to become self-motivated, self-managing learners throughout life'. And, it is also important, of course, that they develop the social skills to survive in the knowledge-based society, in an information age to adapt individually to social changes, especially those resulting from new technologies. And, very importantly, and this is a really significant role of the universities, that our students, when they leave, should feel and should be able to contribute to social changes, to improve the coherence of society and the well-being of everybody in those societies. So, the general conclusions from this work of CRE, is that universities will need to change rapidly. There will be internal cultural changes. Individual universities need help and advice. They need the benefits of experience elsewhere. They need access to this. And, there is a hugely important role for network organizations, such as the Association of European Universities (CRE) and the IAU to develop mechanisms and networks to provide this.