Identifying value in free Higher Education

Posted on October 28, 2009


IMG_0564It makes me somewhat uneasy reading Seth Godin’s thoughts on the future of education, especially when his conclusion is that an education system that tends towards the free doesn’t necessarily negate the possibility of making money.

What he seems to have overlooked is not the concept of cost but of value in the kind of free system he advocates. 

I would not argue for scarcity in education, nor for expensive schooling.  But I wonder what such ubiquity would do for the perceived value of degrees and what likely knock-on effect that might have on effort?

Nobody could argue that the global education system as it stands is close to ideal.  And yet the exclusivity of establishments such as Harvard and Oxford cannot be said to act as a disincentive for hard work.  How many students aim for one of these, fall short and yet go on to a university that might otherwise have been out of their reach had they not aimed so high?


Nobody could argue that the global education system as it stands is close to ideal.

Indeed, Godin seems to have confused learning and schooling when he suggests that school is merely accredited tests.  It is not.  The schools he refers to are brands that have been built on a (albeit socially exclusive) basis of consistent performance to the extent that their brands are now associated with that value.

I agree that some late comers now twist the value such that “university education” as a concept has lost the clear association it once had, but that is not to say, as he suggests, that removing all brands/established institutions from the equation would resolve the issue.  Far from it, removing competition in higher education is to devalue what is left of a path whereby people can achieve their best.