For more than a century, US higher education institutions have joined together in cooperative associations. Some have come about because of geography or similar mission. Others have been formed by state governments looking to build systems of institutions.
While a few have been successful at producing breakthrough innovations and cost savings that individual institutions couldn’t achieve on their own, for the most part the associations have simply created groups of campuses working side by side rather than together.
These historic collaborations in higher education will likely endure. However, a new and potentially more dynamic version of partnerships focused on common problems is emerging, bringing with it the opportunity to forge deeper alliances among institutions and remake higher education for the demands of the 21st century.
These new alliances are less about shared purchasing or exchanging best practices, and more about developing strategic solutions, many leveraging technology, to solve some of higher education’s toughest problems related to access, retention, completion, and making good on the promise of digital education tools.
This new type of collaboration is The Networked University. This paper is about the ways that institutions could, and the reasons why they should, move toward a more networked model to build strength through partnership and as a result bolster the individuality they hold dear.