I’m Helping to Start a New College Because Higher Ed Is Broken

Niall Ferguson
Bloomberg News (originally published November 8, 2021)

Editor's Note, November 26, 2021

When notable articles come to our attention weeks after they were published, we sometimes precede them with an editor’s note dated when written, as above, to get them onto our homepage. The below commentary is notable because it details the thinking of a group of distinguished scholars -- much reviled by many other academics -- who plan to create a new college because “something is rotten in the state of academia.”

Excerpt: Something is rotten in the state of academia and it’s no laughing matter. Grade inflation. Spiraling costs. Corruption and racial discrimination in admissions. Junk content (“Grievance Studies”) published in risible journals. Above all, the erosion of academic freedom and the ascendancy of an illiberal “successor ideology” known to its critics as wokeism, which manifests itself as career-ending “cancelations” and speaker disinvitations, but less visibly generates a pervasive climate of anxiety and self-censorship.
Some say that universities are so rotten that the institution itself should simply be abandoned and replaced with an online alternative — a metaversity perhaps, to go with the metaverse. I disagree. I have long been skeptical that online courses and content can be anything other than supplementary to the traditional real-time, real-space college experience.

However, having taught at several, including Cambridge, Oxford, New York University and Harvard, I have also come to doubt that the existing universities can be swiftly cured of their current pathologies. That is why I am one of a group of people announcing the founding of a new university — indeed, a new kind of university: the University of Austin.