No place for education sentimentality

View From the Paddock: No place for education sentimentality


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As the world heads for a continuous state of disruption, there is no room for sentimentality in the debate around the future of the Emerald and Longreach Agricultural and Pastoral Colleges, according to View From the Paddock columnist, Ben Lyons.

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Ass Prof Ben Lyons, director, Rural Economies Centre of Excellence, USQ.

Ass Prof Ben Lyons, director, Rural Economies Centre of Excellence, USQ.

Actor James Dean is reputed to have said: “I cannot change the direction of the wind but I can adjust my sails to reach my destination”.

As the world heads for a continuous state of disruption to be changed by the winds of tech companies Apple, Amazon and Tencent, which have supplanted traditional blue chip that made money making physical things, there is no room for sentimentality in the debate around the future of the Emerald and Longreach Agricultural and Pastoral Colleges. 

The key to success for any education venture is to focus on what their student outcomes will be.  

Whoever controls the assets, in this case their campuses, is not the debate the sector should focus upon.

A case in point: the brave new tech dominated world shuns physical assets and in education the business models that work best are asset “lite” and instead invest in delivering more nimble customer value.

AirBnb, Uber and Alibaba are all dominant owing to them not being tied to specific physical assets.  

So what is the outcome that a contemporary student of agribusiness and agriculture will require? And does it have to be delivered in a physical location?

I believe these are the questions that need to be answered in the coming months. 

We are fortunate that the sector of food production has never had more of a focus from investors and the like in over a generation.  

We are also fortunate that perhaps the trend in non-physical, ie virtual work and non-traditional work hours, distance or dislocated education could work in favour of a modern high quality education set in a physical space that these campuses occupy.

Perhaps it is time to look at how we deliver meaningful and valuable person-to-person teaching again.   

There are some fine examples of education thriving in resource stressed situations.

Duke University’s medical school in Singapore opened in 2005 far away from its traditional campus setting in the US and where a blend of technology and student teamwork is harnessed to deliver one of the best medical educations in the world with a faculty a fraction of the size of more vaunted med schools.

 – Ass Prof Ben Lyons, director, Rural Economies Centre of Excellence, USQ

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