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AU-Watson Institute
Source: Watson Institute

The ‘Intel Inside’ of Higher Education

This article originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review

After pioneering the first personal computer in 1981—a clunky machine by today’s standards, but a quantum leap forward for computing—IBM realized that designing and building the entire computer themselves would quickly become too expensive. When specialists like Intel arose to build the microprocessors (and other elements of the computer) that delivered higher performance at a lower price, computers took quantum leaps forward in speed, efficiency, and adoption.

What if higher education, as we know it today, were at the same stage of development as IBM’s first PC? What would it take to go from the first personal computer to the advanced machines we use today? As we ask ourselves at Watson Institute: what would it take to become the “Intel Inside” of a university?

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Ashoka insight

When IBM pioneered the personal computer, the entire machine was built by one company. Now, the days when computers were a vertically integrated industry are long gone.

If we do not find a way to similarly unbundle our higher education system to develop a generation of changemakers, problem solvers, and entrepreneurial leaders with the skills, experience, and courage to solve the toughest challenges of our time, then we will miss a crucial inflection point with damaging consequences for society, our young generation and the potential they hold. However, when higher education institutions and specialized innovators work in partnership to develop interdisciplinary programs embedded on university campuses, the result is systemic change that prepares the next generation to lead successful careers, impactful lives and solve the challenges of our time.