The Star Alliance model of higher education


I read a great piece, Jailbreaking the Degree, in TechCrunch the other day (courtesy of Meetali Mukherjee).

In essence the author — @davidblake, founder of Degreed — makes the point that a university degree continues to be the most meaningful ‘unit’ of education in the eyes of employers, notwithstanding its inherent inefficiencies (e.g. compulsion to study courses irrelevant to one’s interests or, indeed, those of a prospective employer), yet it need not be so, or at least not in its present form. Sadly, online education providers have yet to make any serious inroads into the higher education monopoly controlled by universities because, as @kevincarey points out, while the business models of these institutions may be different, ‘their product — traditional credentials in the form of a degree — is not’.

But what if you could accumulate credits (courses) towards a degree a bit like you buy music on iTunes? As the Blake article observes, people tend to buy songs not albums. In the same way, it is not possible for an individual to collect different courses from different institutions from around the world, rather than spend three of four years stuck in one place taking what’s on offer from a monopoly provider?

The problem here, of course — as some of the commenters on the Blake piece point out — it’s all about recognition of the qualification. Who would be the awarding body and would employers accept its validity? The solution — with due credit to @gsiemens (see here) — may be the ‘Star Alliance’ model, in which there is a common currency (air miles/ course credits) and all the brands are recognisable in their own right. This may have been what Universitas 21 had in mind ten years ago when U21Global was launched. But this, of course, is history.

Maybe it’s time for a ‘U21Global 2.0’.