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The OECD Institutional Management of Higher Education (IMHE) conference September 13-15 explores how higher education institutions are managing in a changed economy



While browsing through a bookstore this weekend I noticed several self-help books with similar themes: Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less and Be Thrifty: How to Live Better with Less. Keeping with the trends of the times, the OECD IMHE General Conference, “Higher Education in World Changed Utterly: Doing More with Less”, will address how governments, institutions and individuals can lead the way to a sustainable recovery in world that became “suddenly frugal” nearly two years after the financial crisis.



The conference will feature some of the world’s leading experts in higher education policy including Luc Montagnier, Nobel Prize Laureate for Medicine 2008, and President of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and Malcom Grant, Provost and President, University College London, UK. Experts will be analyzing national policies, discussing institutional case studies and presenting the latest (and greatest) OECD research. It’s The Event for higher education policy makers, institutional leaders and academic experts.



Whether you’re a provider or a consumer of higher education (or just plain interested), the conference will address some of the burning questions about higher education. How will technology and innovation help universities decrease costs? With tight national budgets, will students have to pay more tuition? What is the role of higher education in social policy? Will people ever stop obsessing over college rankings?



So stick around and stay tuned. The IMHE conference is just around the corner.

It’s even better than a self-help book.

Can’t make it to Paris for the conference? Follow us online. We’ll be featuring guest bloggers here at the blog spot, “tweeting” all the juicy news through our twitter account, OECD_Edu, and posting presentations from the conference at educationtoday.



Share your thoughts on doing more with less in higher education?

Tomorrow’s school buildings could be very different from those of today. The reason? Education could be very different and since the role of school buildings is to support the needs of learning and teaching, it follows that they could be different too.


Just how different, is the question that underpins the OECD’s conference “IMAGINE! Exploring radical visions for tomorrow's schools ... and how to make them work( being held in Vienna 20-22 September and organised by the OECD’s Centre for Effective Learning Environments and the Technical University of Vienna.


There are many things that are impacting on education. The recession, changing needs of society and the relentless march of information and computer technology. Take technology as an example and you get a sense of the extent of change that could be just around the corner.


Recently, Ian Yorsten, director of IT Strategy at Radley College, UK provided a startling reminder of the phenomenal rate of technological growth. Speaking at a recent conference organised by the Council for Education Facility Planners in Australia,Yorsten pointed out that in effect computing power will continue to double every two years. ( It was Gordon Moore, founder of Intel, who predicted back in 1965 that the amount of memory that can inexpensively be placed on a silicon chip would double every year. So far he has been proven correct. If this continues, ten years from now computers will be one million times more powerful than today, and 30 years from now, that is when today’s fifteen year olds are forty-five, computers will be a billion times more powerful. What a staggering thought.


But could even this be an underestimation? Researchers have just managed to create a transistor from just seven atoms. The promise now is even smaller, more powerful ‘intelligent’ devices. Couple this with the growing capability of students to use technologies in new and different ways and the learning landscape in the near future could be very different.


Imagine, therefore, a world where schools do not have walls and much of teaching and learning take place outside conventional school buildings. Further still, imagine a world where there are no schools at all. Vienna in late September promises to be fascinating and itself educational.

With persistent achievement gaps being exacerbated by the “summer learning loss,” some policymakers are wondering if summer holidays are too long.

I might be the first one at the OECD to invoke the lyrics of the 1970s rock star Alice Cooper, but “School’s Out”, illustrates an important issue in education policy: out for summer/out till fall/we might not come back at all. Following the summer holiday, many students don’t come back with the same knowledge they left with in the spring and often lose academic focus that can take months to regain.


The phenomenon, the “summer learning loss” has become an important issue for policymakers, including President Barack Obama, who claims students need to spend more time in school to remain internationally competitive. In the US, students spend an average of 180 days in school whereas in Japan the average is 200 and South Korea the number is 204 (see OECD Education at a Glance indicator D4.1).


What’s wrong with a bit of a summer break? The possibilities of the summer holiday are endless for some families. Kids can explore the outdoors, attend summer camp, or even start reviewing for the coming year. In France for example, revision classes for the baccaluréat, are increasingly popular during the summer to help kids maintain their level or catch up. These varied summer experiences can be an important complement to the yearlong academic grind.

Many recent studies have shown, however, that the gap between students from different socio-economic levels is widened over the summer. Kids who don’t go on vacations or participate in camps might end up watching TV all day. Furthermore, summer can be a financial hardship for families who can’t afford quality programs or care for kids during the long time off.


Some schools are taking action against the long summer. A secondary school in the UK recently introduced a five-term year with four equal breaks of two weeks and a four-week summer holiday. Under the new system, the number of students receiving good test scores increased.


There’s no easy answer. Extending the school year might not go over well with teachers, who value the 8- to 12-week reprieve. With education budgets stretched, it will be hard to justify spending on keeping facilities open longer, especially during the hot summer months when air conditioning might be necessary. Nevertheless, kids are losing as much as a two-month’s equivalent of skills they learned during the school year every time they come back in the fall. The benefits of funding a longer academic year or even more accessible quality summer programming might outweigh the costs.


With policymakers focusing on staying internationally competitive through improving education, school may be out for a shorter summer in the future.


Tell us what you think: Will a longer school year improve education outcomes?


See: OECD Education at a Glance, 2009

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