Gradually, then Suddenly


Change happens gradually, then suddenly. Like an ice cube melting, far more is going on out of site as we watch it gradually start to change, and then all of a sudden its gone.

Universities have that feel about them. Like all large organisation they want to manage change, and do so on their own terms. Trouble is, change isn’t listening.

When I went to University, admittedly and long time ago, around 2% of us did. It was free. You got a good education, and provided you behaved you got a degree which gave you a choice of jobs.

A few decades later, more than half of young people go to University. It costs them an arm and half a leg to get a degree that is not guaranteed to get them a job. Along the way, we have industrialised education, measured it out of experience and joy and created a whole new class of tenured, highly paid CEO equivalents who have liitle to do with the spirit of education.

When I went to Uni, what we learned had a decent half life – at least enough to get started on a career. Now, by the time students get to third year much of what they learned in first year is obsolete. They are running up a down escalator burning money they have to borrow to take part.


Google has announced that it is treating Coursera’s six month professonal career certificates as seriously as a four year degree. Coursera doesn’t require entry qualifications. The course costs $300.

There are much better way to get the sort of education outside of my degree that I got that doesn’t involve expensive underperforming bureaucracies, and much better ways of getting relevant qualifications for a good job than sausage machine courses.

The best Universities still do what Universities always did, but the majority do not and they suddenly find themselves obsolescent, and too big to change in any reasonable timescale.


Our careers for good or ill are determined by the time after University by things that have little to do with what we learned there. Our sense of purpose, determination, ability to work with others, creativity , the people we know and a whole host of other things.

We are all unique human beings, and have everything we need. We do not need others people’s permission to succeed, only our own.

We do not have to tread the paths other people direct us to, we can walk our own.


Universites, and their support teams trot out statistics to show that in a career lifetime graduates earn more than non graduates – but those figures are based on history, the state of things as the ice cube was starting to melt, not what it’s likely to be now its melted.

Today, we can connect to anybody, anywhere. We can access information and the courses we need to make sense of that information on our own terms. We have all the elements that Universites provide – knowledge, contacts, and learning, and a choice of how to access them.

For the price of an average degree we can now do 100 Coursera specialist, immediately relevant courses over the first twenty years of our career, whilst earning, and still have enough left over to get the non academic education Universities used to provide.

We can do it at any age.

Great Universities will always be a good investment, but financially exclusive.

The people who deserve to be there often can’t access them, and the ones who can access them often don’t need them. There are other ways to farm privilege.

Average Universites have suddenly become irrelevant. There are better ways for those who choose.

The ice cube has melted.

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