Trachtenberg addressed the obstacles faced by universities today, such as the difficulties between balancing operational costs versus inclusivity. He explained that a "consumer mentality" is having an impact on higher education—“the notion that students are customers and that in exchange for tuition dollars, they will be armed with the ability to deal with the world, pay back loans and afford to buy a house or car”—which has resulted in a decline in the number of students enrolling, for example, in humanitarian studies, versus subjects that offer economic rewards. Trachtenberg concluded that our model of education is changing. Students are now consumers of education, the funding models for large campuses and their faculties are unsustainable and the development of online learning platforms promote a move towards some form of hybrid education system.  

The discussion was moderated by Sian Hansen, Executive Director at the Legatum Institute.

About the Speaker

Professor Stephen Trachtenberg was the 15th president of The George Washington University, serving the university between 1988 and 2007. He then became President Emeritus and University Professor of Public Service. He combines this role as a consultant with the Global Education Practice at Korn/Ferry International. Stephen arrived at GW in 1988 from the University of Hartford, where he served as president for 11 years. Prior to that, he was at Boston University for 8 years, as Dean of Arts and Sciences and Vice President. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.