[T]he whole teaching structure of a university is based upon the medieval expense of books. No individual student could possibly hope to afford even one book directly, let alone the small library required to read all around a subject. Thus the form of tuition of the lecture, where the Master reads to the assembled from the text.

This lives on in our current universities in the lecture: almost wholly a waste of time as far as I can see.  Reading the set text is faster for each of the individual 500 students entrapped and the Master (now the Professor) probably wrote the text and she really doesn’t need to read it out loud again. Even a video of a decent lecturer would work better than insisting that everyone turn up at the same time in the same place.

Further, with books now at $2.99 each, heck, almost all of the canon of literature is available in e-book format for nothing, we really have got past that scarcity problem that led to this form of instruction in the first place. Given that we are not so technologically limited then perhaps we really shouldn’t be using this technology any more.

I can see two places left for universities. The first is for graduate degrees. This is when you actually do get the individual attention of your professors and when it’s actually important to do so. Plus of course those professors who do research will need to have somewhere to research from plus a paycheck to do so on. But colleges as factories for teaching what anyone can now get out of a book seem archaic enough that we should probably stop using them to do such.

The second is that some subjects require a much more hands on approach. No one’s going to learn much chemistry without a lab, astronomy requires a rather better telescope than WalMart sells and so on. So there’s still a point to collective endeavour on one site for some subjects.

via Should We Abolish Liberal Arts Degrees? Quite Possibly, Yes - Forbes.