Goodbye Mr Chips

One of the UK’s leading head teachers has predicted a new dawn for education within 10 years, where teachers’ roles are replaced by technology, opening up ‘the possibility of an Eton or Wellington education for all’. And why not? As both a service, and vehicle for the dissemination of knowledge, education is susceptible to the same digitisation affecting other industries. Even less stretching is the potential for the rapid scaling of university course sizes. At present course numbers are limited by physical and human constraints such as the size of lecture halls. This also creates exclusivity, as not all students can be in the lectures of the best academics. However, the marginal cost of an additional student on an online course is virtually zero and, as technology ameliorates the challenges of remoteness, the differential in experience between online and offline will become less pronounced. Accordingly, our universities of the future may be more about R&D facilities and innovation and less about lecture theatres and education.