Higher education is next on the line for ‘creative destruction’. Just as economist Joseph Schumpeter’s idea of ‘creative destruction’ leveled old industries, Mitch Daniels, the twelfth president of Purdue University, believes that higher education is next in line. “I do believe that with the right use of technology plus working hard to control the cost of education schools can add value. Sitting in complacency is very dangerous,” he told Financial Chronicle, during a recent visit to India.
Very much like the Fortune 500 companies that turn every decade, higher education will move more quickly now because of technology and new businesses or a combination of both.
Mitchell alias ‘Mitch’ Daniels jr, joined as president of Purdue in January 2013 at the conclusion of his two terms as republican governor of Indiana, from 2005 to 2013. Fortune magazine named Daniels in its list of top 50 leaders in March 2015.
When Purdue trustees named him to head the 145-year-old institution, known best for its engineering, agriculture and veterinary schools, faculty leaders questioned picking a politician with a law degree as a university president. But in his two years as president, Daniels has brought in refreshingly new ideas, that challenge institutionalised orthodoxies of higher education.
In his recent visit here, he spoke about his goals, his visit to India and vision of education. Several concerns like the escalating cost of higher education, challenges of new technology, the need to produce rounded individuals with better job prospects resonates with India’s own concerns in higher education.
Soft-spoken and unassuming, Daniels has enormous clarity and steadiness of purpose in pursuing a reform agenda focused on students. “For a land-grant university like Purdue, affordability is especially important. We have to open the gates of higher education to people of all income levels. Most colleges cost too much and deliver very little. Many students have to forego their first choice of top schools for lesser ones, because of high fees,” Daniels explains.
On March 1, 2013, under his leadership, Purdue announced for the first time in 37 years of fee increases, that it would forgo a tuition increase. Room and board costs were cut by 5 per cent and have remained steady since 2013, resulting in an overall decrease in the cost of attending Purdue.
“We worked on text books with a first-of-its-kind partnership with online retailer Amazon.com. Amazon has a digital distribution facility by which students and faculty can order textbooks on line up to 9 pm and by next morning they get their books, saving time and money. This is saving Purdue students an average of 30 per cent on their textbooks each year, ” says Daniel.
Thanks to these and other efforts to reduce student costs where feasible, Purdue student borrowing has dropped 23 per cent, leaving graduates and their families with some $50 million to invest in other dreams. He points out: “I want to see that my ‘class of students’, those who started their education at Purdue along with my tenure graduates, without a fee hike.”
Daniels recalls with some amusement that there was an apprehension that tuition fee reduction would send out the message that the university’s quality would be compromised, that there would be confidence loss if Purdue did not raise fees.
But allaying such fears, he offered the Purdue formula: ‘highest education at the highest proven value.’ Value implies both quality and cost. Purdue has a rigorous evaluation system and produces world-class graduates. To be able to maintain and further raise levels of excellence at affordable costs — that is the real value of higher education,” he explains. He declares in the same vein: ‘higher sticker price does not tell anything by itself.’’
Daniels reveals that there has been a 52 per cent increase in industry engagement with the institute and alumni contribution has also gone up.
He believes that universities have to ‘pass the pajamas test’ convincing students why they should attend a residential university when high-profile entrepreneurs are encouraging students to get their education from world-class professors in their living rooms. With the advent of inexpensive and credible online learning, why would anyone want to leave the comfort of home to attend a costly traditional college?
Daniels believes that the benefits of residential education such as the availability of undergraduate research, opportunities of organisational leadership and campus experiences cannot be replicated online. A ‘hybrid’ model would be most effective, blending traditional and on-line learning.
In this changed scenario, students watch lectures on their own and then professors lead in a classroom with structured exercises to apply the lectures. “Such flipped class rooms in Purdue, are proving to be more effective than just lectures and labs,” Daniels asserts. His aim, after all, is ‘to make Purdue the world’s capital in active learning.’
Purdue is the third-most STEM-centric university in the country, focused on science, technology, engineering and math. The US News & World Report ranked Purdue’s College of Engineering as number ninth in the country. In 2015, the college’s graduate programme was ranked sixth. The Academic Ranking of World Universities has put its engineering programme as number 10 globally in engineering/technology and computer sciences rankings.
In science, Purdue has produced Nobel Prize–winning physicists in Edward Mills Purcell and Ben Roy Mottelson, as well as Nobel Prize–winning chemist Akira Suzuki. Purdue alumni who have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the United States, include Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.
Daniels feels that ‘a good grasp of liberal arts is necessary. With just STEM skills, you can’t communicate effectively and that won’t work between business and customer. Every student must have some sense of economics, history, and communication.”
Daniels teaches history at Purdue, and has many engineers in his class, who enjoys his history course.
He also spoke about the new Polytechnic Institute that integrates humanities with sound technical skills in a hand on educational environment, encouraging internships and immersive learning. The aim is to ‘create a T shaped individual, the one who has breadth and range of knowledge with depth of expertise’, he states.
Daniels has introduced a new metric called the Gallup-Purdue Index, through which researchers will collect data over the next several years from thousands of college graduates from Purdue and elsewhere. Beyond measuring what alumni earn, it will ask graduates about their well-being and workplace engagement to see how a college education impacts later happiness in life.
Talking about the India connection, he offers: “Purdue has longstanding, close relationships with India. Nearly 1,700 students from India are currently enrolled at Purdue, a 15 per cent increase over the last year. The university has the second-largest international student population among US public universities. Students from India comprise the second-largest international student population at Purdue.”
Indians hold two of the top three administrative offices in Purdue, Daniels says. He adds: “We want to work with India on addressing 21st century grand challenges like food security, climate change, smart cities, breakthrough manufacturing and inclusive entrepreneurship. These issues require pioneering research and the Purdue-India relationship can help provide solutions. Purdue has a strong alumni network in India”
Eminent Indians who are Purdue alumni include chemist CNR Rao, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna, Habil Khorakiwala, founder chairman and group CEO of Wockhardt limited and G V Sanjay Reddy, vice chairman of GVK Industries.
During his trip to India last year in November 2014, Daniels met with several university and corporate partners and announced a Purdue Alumni Network in the country and an India-Purdue Collaborative Lecture Series.
Purdue currently has several partnerships involving engineering, agriculture, business, science, technology, pharmacy, veterinary medicine and liberal arts with other institutions in India.
Last year it signed a partnership agreement with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras. Purdue also has a strategic partnership memorandum of understanding with Dr Reddy’s Laboratories to strengthen pharmaceutical research and development.
Daniels hopes to further encourage collaborative research and partnerships and stronger ties with alumni and to create more international internship and engagement opportunities for current Purdue students.
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Sign me up for the newsletter!
Notify me of follow-up comments by email.
Notify me of new posts by email.
2014 The Global Indian New Network (TGINN)