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Since we started developing our Data Science Apprenticeship, we've been thinking a bit about the future of higher education. Here is a summary of our thoughts:

The new degree

  • Takes much less time to earn, 6 months rather than years
  • Classes and material delivered online, on demand
  • Focus on applied, modern technology
  • Obsolete content eliminated (differential equations or eigenvalues in our case)
  • Rules of thumb, tricks of the trade, craftmanship, real implementations, practical advice integrated into training material
  • Cost little or is free, no need to take on large loans
  • Possibly sponsored or co-organised by corporations or forward thinking universities 
  • No more knowledge silos (e.g. operations research vs. statistics vs. business analytics)
  • Requires working on actual, real-world projects (collaboration encouraged) rather than passing exams
  • Highly compact, well summarized training material, pointing to selected free online resources as necessary
  • Apprenticeship replaces Ph.D. programs
  • Substantial help in finding a good, well paid relevant job (fee and successful completion of program required; no fee if program sponsored by a corporation: they will hire you)
  • Open to everyone regardless of prior education, language, age, immigration status, wealth or country of residence
  • Yet more rigorous than current programs
  • Cheating or plagiarism not a concern anymore, as emphasis is NOT on regurgitating book content

Stanford computer science students on a trip in the Sierra Nevada, for character and team building

The new professor

  • Not tenured, not adjunct either
  • In many cases, not employed by a traditional University
  • Cross-discipline expert who constantly adapts to change, and indeed brings meaningful change
  • Well connected with industry leaders
  • More respected and known than many tenured full professors
  • Works in corporate world, or independently (consultant, modern digital publisher)
  • Publishes research results and other material in online blogs (much faster way to make scientific progress)
  • Does not waste time writing grant proposals
  • Faces little if any bureaucracy
  • Does not waste time publishing in traditional journals
  • Works from home in some cases, eliminating the dual-career penalty faced by PhD married couples
  • Has lot of freedom in research activities, although might favor lucrative projects which help him earn revenue
  • Develops open, publicly shared knowledge rather than patents; widely disseminates knowledge
  • In some cases, has direct access to market 
  • Earns more money than tenured full professors
  • Might not have a Ph.D.

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Comment by Dr S Kotrappa on April 26, 2017 at 6:15am

Is there any undated start-up list after April ' 2013, and this list is old one i think.

Comment by Michael Wojcik on May 2, 2013 at 9:29am
This is a fine idea, but it's not a degree, the organization providing it isn't a university, and the people facilitating it aren't professors. It's (apprenticeship in) a trade or craft; the organization providing it is a trade organization (or something like a guild hall, without the gatekeeping aspects of the guild); and the facilitators are master craftspeople. There's nothing wrong with any of that - trades are necessary and can require just as much skill and expertise as any degree. But they're quite different from both the traditional degree (in European-derived universities) and from what the degree can be and is in the better contemporary universities.

While universities have had various goals and roles over the course of their history - mutual scholarly work, citizen-building, and, yes, training, nearly all of their incarnations (aside from the degenerate pure-profit and ideology-hive ones) have emphasized breadth of knowledge; a mix of pure research, applied research, contextual knowledge, and practice; and various modes of student and scholarly work. The criteria above define a very specific sort of program that deliberately excludes much of this. Calling it a "new degree" (or "new university", etc) makes about as much sense as calling a motorcycle a "new car". It's a different thing for a different, albeit related, purpose.

The university model in the US today is problematic - but mostly because the undergraduate degree has become the primary funding source for most universities (due to various factors, not least the state's retreat from educational funding), and because an undergraduate degree has become a requirement for the vast majority of skilled positions, even for positions and workers it's not well-suited for. The university system is still a hugely productive intellectual endeavor. Apprenticeships are an excellent alternative in many cases but they don't supersede the university, any more than the university superseded apprenticeships.
Comment by Brian Fisher on April 12, 2013 at 9:25am

I think it would be a great program, and universities may well learn from it if it is implemented. I wonder though about calling this "The Face of the New University". It may be an aspect of some future university but certainly it is not intended to replace or compete with a formal education. I'd predict that most of the people who would be interested in this would consider it after or concurrently with a university education. 

Comment by Dorothy Hewitt-Sanchez on April 10, 2013 at 10:24am

I think it would be a great program.

Comment by John J. Wood on April 9, 2013 at 2:53am

I think this is a great alternative.

Comment by Vincent Granville on April 7, 2013 at 3:30pm
Two other interesting points:

1. I read the story of an adjunct paid $2,000 to teach a class, but based on the fee for the course and the number of students, the University was earning $50,000 on average, from that class. So where does the $48,000 profit go? Apparently, to pay a bunch of expensive administrators.

2. My wife applied for a graduate program (one year) to become director in education. The program costs $22,000. She then received a letter from the university, saying that she was awarded a $35,000 loan to pay for the program. This is absurd, if she needed a loan she would not do the program in the first place. So high fees for graduate and undergraduate programs seem to be fueled by tons of money loaned to accepted students, no questions asked. It reminds me the housing bubble in 2007.
Comment by Philip Best on April 7, 2013 at 2:20pm

Even though I occasionally participate in academia (as an adjunct), I think an apprenticeship is much more applicable to a 'horizontally oriented' practice like data science.

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