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University in the age of disruption

For almost a decade, the problem of managing higher education institutions has changed. This change is not only a logical consequence of changes that occur in society but is also caused by so many 'pressures' faced by university institutions. Welcome to the disruption era! The era is marked by Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguity (VUCA) environment.

University in the Age of Disruption
Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

When we back through the history of university development, we knew many universities that exist today—formerly—were founded by social institutions. Even in the Middle Ages, at first, most universities were founded by church institutions. And then, after the Enlightenment era, many university institutions were established by the government and non-governmental organizations or what we often refer to as 'civic government'. In modern times like today, universities are founded and developed by companies or corporations. That is why the world of higher education has undergone a very dramatic change. The question then is, what exactly do we call the university today?

Questions like the above appear because, in many parts of the country, universities are undergoing a 'metamorphosis'. The university administration system has changed. The recruitment system is changing. The service system for students is changing. The education system, teaching, and learning process have also changed. The administrative system has also changed. The technology system used is also changing. In other words, there is nothing that does not change. All the components that exist and are involved in the "university" change as if the university institution has become 'new' altogether.

Then We get acquainted with what is called “Macdonald University”, “Humberger University”, “Corporate University”, “Research University”, “Entrepreneurial University”, “Collaborative University”, “Global University”, “Multimedia University”, and so on. On the other hand, we are also witnessing the emergence of new campuses based on 'franchising' or 'cooperation'. New campuses are established by overseas universities in our country. Then we also know the city and regional campuses. We experience the central campus and the 'branch' campus.

The condition and situations above have made us all aware that at this time there is no such thing as a uniform university form. In a more assertive language, I can state that there is no blueprint of the university. Universities always make adjustments in responding demand (the market) of society. Thus, there is a tendency for many people, experts, and even university presidents, who no longer know what kind of institution a university is? What kind of institution is a university exactly? Is it an educational institution? Is it an educational institution as well as a corporate institution? Is it a corporate institution? Or is it an industrial institution that produces various "goods" (outcomes) that will be offered to the public? Is a university also a 'grocery store' that provides various needs of the community? Or is it an exclusive institution inhabited by an elite group of people?

Or is the university a plural institution that provides a place for everyone to 'inhabit'?

In my opinion, such a situation causes our university institutions—perhaps not only in the emerging market countries, but also experienced by university institutions in other developed countries—to experience and be in a stressful situation. Our university is under pressure. The question is why are our universities under pressure? I see several things that put our universities under pressure.

First, we often—as university administrators—do not fully understand the principles of university institutions. Universities are not ordinary institutions. It is also not a trading agency. Universities are educational institutions, civilizations. That's why, our negligence in understanding university principles will change the face of universities from institutions that maintain and develop human civilization, into practical institutions that want to meet the practical needs of society.

Second, the situation that develops outside the university institution demands various things. There is a change in the demands of society because people are faced with a situation where they must be able to get along and enter into that change. Some of our society is now starting to be in a 'knowledge-based society’, which results in university institutions that are managed traditionally (as they are now) already considered 'out of date', unsold, and even abandoned by people. Thus, there is tremendous pressure on our university institutions.

Anticipation of such pressures is pursued by the university. Then, universities try to adapt or even integrate with the demands of the education market. Many universities began to be interested in improving themselves in almost all sectors within the institution. Quality has begun to be improved, both in terms of teaching staff and supporting staff. Qualification improved. Professionalism has become an interesting and growing discourse among members of the academic community. Infrastructure also received considerable attention. Educational facilities and infrastructure can no longer be ignored because they will support quality improvement in the teaching and learning process. The laboratory was repaired and even increased its status from a 'teaching lab' to a 'research lab'. The library is perfected. Education financing is the main discourse of university administrators. The collection of books and journals is equipped with the latest scientific developments. The way of interaction between teaching staff must also be improved from a bank-style education method to a participatory-critical education. Academic interactions are moving from patron-client to collegial interactions.

University management has also undergone adjustments, which previously only managed students who came to the institution, then have to change to a management system that is 'market oriented'. Universities market their institutions through advertisements in various electronic media, mass media by promising various incentives.

Likewise, universities are now experiencing with leadership changes. There are new demands for models, styles, forms of leadership that are completely different from what has been or is being practiced today. University leadership is one of the main keys that will determine the success or failure of a university to make changes to anticipate the demands of the education market.


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