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Higher Education’s Biggest Challenge: Rethinking Ingrained Assumptions

April 27, 2021

Seven years, ago, Clay Shirky, who is now NYU’s Vice Provost of Educational Technologies, wrote a provocative and prescient blog post, which argued that higher education’s biggest challenges – especially its increasing reliance on non-tenure track instructors – arose from the attempt “to preserve a set of practices that have outlived the economics that made them possible.”

Entitled “The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age,” Shirky wrote that colleges and universities clung to assumptions and expectations that arose during the period of rapid growth that stretched from the end of World War II to the early 1970s, when “the number of undergraduates increased five-fold, and graduate students nine-fold” and when states more than doubled their higher education appropriations and federal research grants quadrupled.

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