In May 1897 the American novelist Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, was in London where he fell gravely ill.  Reports of his death were widely reported in the press, where an obituary was published, to which the author famously respeonded: “the report of my death was an exaggeration”.

There are similarly exaggerated reports of the death of the College campus due to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), mobile devices, distance learning – all driving educational content and student engagement to the online and social world.

In fact, the College campus is bigger and better than ever with all the typical features of a thriving city – they have Starbucks, bars, restaurants, Large Hedron Colliders, shops, museums, more Starbucks, theaters, sports arenas, hospitals, roads, traffic, parking, police, and of course the occasional classroom and laboratory.

And like cities they face the transformative challenges faced by the world at large.  As we look at trends that will transform Universities ove the next decade, we need to recognize the unavoidable impact of global climate change on the University environment.

So what changes can we expect?

First of all, the whole University ranking process will change.  Current lists of “Hottest Colleges” will be expanded to include potentially all Colleges.  Conversely, a whole category of “Coolest Campuses” which emerge, consisting of campuses which are, well, just cool.   Universities in the Nordics and Canada will benefit from a huge rise in student applications.

As our climate changes, scientists predict a progessive rise in sea levels, so coastal Universities will be dramatically affected – including some of our most prestigious US Universities on the Eastern and Western coasts.  Turns out the College campus will not be killed by MOOC but, close enough, by MOC – Meridional Overturning Circulation.

Transformation will look like this –

  • Digitization.  SAP “Digital Lighthouse” customers close to sea level will become . . . actual Lighthouses.
  • Re-imagined Business Models.  MIT. for example, will become a marine research facility, running on the SAP underwater HANA platform.
  • Re-imagined Academic Models.  “Surfing for Nerds” will become the only course offered by the University of Southern California.
  • Business Consolidation. The University of the Lesser Antilles will become The University of the Even Fewer Antilles (proposed by the English Department who argued that Fewer, rather than Lesser, was gramtically correct anyway)
  • Re-imagined Branding.  Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, will become “Wine Dark University” (proposed by the Classics Department).

So, seriously, what is Higher Education doing to prepare for this tsunami of change?

Exactly ten years ago, in late 2006, twelve visonary College and University Presidents initiated the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment (ACUPCC).  This core group has become the Climate Leadership Network, which leaders are invited to join by signing the Climate Commitment at http://secondnature.org/ .

There is a self-imposed deadline.  The Charter Signatory period for the Climate and Resilience Commitment is open until April 22, 2016.

Pretty soon we will know if Higher Education is taking the lead in ensuring this issue is no laughing matter.

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