Over at the “Confessions of a Community College College Dean” blog at Inside Higher Education, blogger Matt Reed has some interesting speculations on how the current period of austerity may be affecting public higher education:
The hidden injuries of austerity aren’t just psychological. They find their way into the workings of institutions. IT solutions that cost too much don’t happen, so the austere institution makes do with patches, and then with patches of patches, and then with workarounds for failed patches. At each step of that process, the immediate decision makes short-term sense. But the effects snowball. Over the years, third-derivative workarounds outlive their creators and take on lives of their own.
Austerity can become self-reinforcing. When resources are too tight for failure to be an option, it becomes harder to take the kinds of risks that lead to real growth. When there’s no slack left to cut, there’s no room to experiment.
What makes this particularly interesting is that public higher education is in the midst of a pretty serious Schumpeterian disruption. If austerity is serving as a brake on innovation (cf, Victor Thompson),it couldn’t come at a worse time for those who believe in the need for a vibrant and innovative public higher education sector to re-invent itself to meet the challenges and opportunities of the current age. The full post is here.