Although the panel is not in a position to prove its arguments beyond all doubt, we note that a significant number of experts, both panel members and others of diverse outlooks, predict that higher education will undergo significant change as a result of information-technology advances (Collis, 2000; Duderstadt, 2000a; Gilbert, 1995; Katz, 1999; Newman and Scurry, 2000; Noble, 2001).
In addition, Chapter 3 discussed several trends affecting higher education that may not trace their origins to digital technology but that the panel expects will be catalyzed by technological change to further transform institutions and educational processes. For example, there is a growing demand for universal, lower-cost, lifelong education tailored to the needs of learners, as contrasted with the more exclusive, expensive, traditionally structured approaches that the research university and other elite institutions have been accustomed to determining themselves and uniquely providing. The panel expects this growing demand will be met in part, perhaps in large part, through the expansion of current for-profit educational providers or the success of new entrants. In any case, technology is helping to enable this shift.
Another trend that has spurred some controversy is the growing linkage between the research university and the commercial world. Concerns raised about this linkage generally focus on the potential compromising of academic research activities (Press and Washburn, 2000). But some critics worry that the recent rush by universities to establish for-profit subsidiaries specializing in distance education is a mechanism for “deprofessionalizing” the faculty (Noble, 2001). This movement, they suggest, could presage a future in which education is “delivered” by information technology and courses are created by teams of adjunct faculty, contract lecturers, and technical helpers rather than by tenured professors, with the courses owned by the university (Noble, 2001).
Whether or not one shares these particular concerns, it is clear that a range of futures is possible for the research university. The panel believes that institutions, working with their constituents, can develop and fulfill a vision for the future in which information technology is a vehicle for sustaining and expanding their core values and missions. The research university can be more effective in education, teach in entirely new ways, reach a wider segment of the U.S. population, and meet