What Universities Can Learn From Start-Ups

In today’s business world, start-ups are all the rage. They’re lauded for their innovation, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking. So what can universities learn from these nimble organizations?

Plenty, it turns out. From rethinking the traditional academic calendar to encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, universities would do well to emulate some of the best practices of start-ups. Here are a few areas where they could make some changes:

  1. Rethink the academic calendar

The typical university calendar is based on a centuries-old model that doesn’t make a lot of sense in today’s world. The long summer break, for example, was originally implemented so that farmers could have time off to tend to their crops. But in today’s 24/7 economy, there’s no reason why students shouldn’t be able to take classes year-round.

2. Encourage interdisciplinary collaboration

In the real world, businesses don’t operate in silos; employees from different departments need to work together to get things done. Universities should foster this type of collaboration by creating more opportunities for students from different disciplines to interact with each other.

3. Make use of technology

Start-ups use technology to be more efficient and productive, so why shouldn’t universities? Classrooms are now filled with laptops and mobile devices. On-campus Wi-Fi is ubiquitous. Online education is booming. All of this creates a much greater opportunity for the exchange of information, which would help students better understand the interconnecting nature of society.

4. Stop teaching useless information

Businesses don’t hire people with degrees in basket weaving or Renaissance literature, so why do colleges insist on including such classes in their curriculums? The focus should be on providing students with the skills they’ll need to succeed after graduation — not how to decipher literary symbolism or how to build a basket out of twigs and bark that can hold more than 20 pounds of oranges but can’t be used to hold more than 20 pounds of anything else. The basket-weaving class might be an interesting course but it is irrelevant to a business major.

5. Rely on market forces

A for-profit school that consistently fails to provide its students with the skills they’ll need to find jobs after graduation should go out of business just as easily as a restaurant that consistently serves bad food or a grocery store that consistently overcharges consumers. By relying on market forces, colleges will be forced to cut out the nonsense and focus their energies on providing useful education.

6. Require that all college faculty and staff make at a decent living

It seems like every day you read about another university administrator making obscene amounts of money while paying its faculty members a pittance. These administrators are nothing more than leeches that suck the life out of education. They should all be fired and replaced by hard working teachers who actually care about their students.

7. Limit tuition increases to one percent per year

Tuition has been consistently growing at an unacceptable rate. In order to keep college affordable, we must limit the amount schools can raise their tuition to one percent each year. This will guarantee that the price of college remains relatively stable while still giving schools the flexibility they need to operate effectively.

Start-ups and Universities: A Relationship

There is no question that universities and start-ups are two very different entities. Universities are large, established institutions with a long history while start-ups are small, nimble companies that are often just getting started. But despite their differences, there is a lot that universities could learn from start-ups.

For one thing, start-ups are much more focused on innovation and creativity. They are constantly looking for new and better ways to do things, which is something that universities could definitely benefit from. Start-ups are also much more open to change than universities. They are willing to try new things and experiment, even if it means making some mistakes along the way.

Another area where start-ups excel is in customer service. They understand that their customers are their most important asset and they work hard to make sure they are happy and satisfied. Universities, on the other hand, often treat their students as second-class citizens. Start-ups also tend to be much more efficient than universities, since they don’t have the same bureaucracy to deal with.

Finally, start-ups understand the importance of marketing and branding. They know that they need to stand out from the crowd in order to attract attention and grow their business. Companies around the world are investing huge sums in marketing, yet universities can barely afford to hire a marketing director. The result is that most universities look much the same as one another. It is hard for students to distinguish between good and bad institutions and employers find it hard to make informed choices about where they place their graduates.

Start-ups have a unique way of looking at the world which helps them succeed where others might fail. They are willing to try new things even if it means making some mistakes along the way.

Another area where start-ups excel is in customer service. They understand that their customers are their most important asset and they work hard to make sure they are happy and satisfied. Universities, on the other hand, are run by academics who are detached from the reality of their customers. If your professors give you bad grades, it doesn’t matter because you only have to pass their course and they don’t deal directly with employers.

With technology advancing at a rate faster than ever before, we need to embrace change in our education system. Time is too important to waste on something that is not working.

The Failures of Universities

We all know that the traditional university system is far from perfect. In fact, it’s become increasingly clear that universities could learn a lot from start-ups. Start-ups are known for their innovation, creativity, and risk-taking. They’re also known for their failures. And while universities may not be accustomed to failure, it’s something that they need to start embracing if they want to stay relevant in the 21st century.

Universities need to start taking risks if they want to keep up with the rapidly changing world around them. They need to be willing to try new things and experiment with new ideas. And most importantly, they need to be okay with failing. Because it’s through failure that we learn and grow.

So what can universities do to start embracing failure? For starters, they can create an environment that is more conducive to risk-taking. They can give students the space to experiment and fail without fear of judgement or repercussions. They can also create more opportunities for collaboration and cross-disciplinary work. And finally, they can start viewing failure not as a negative but as a positive learning experience.

It’s time for universities to start thinking like start-ups. Only then will they be able to truly meet the needs of their students.

How start-up culture could benefit universities

In recent years, the start-up culture has taken the business world by storm. Start-ups are known for their innovative thinking, creativity and outside-the-box approaches to problem solving — all traits that could be extremely beneficial to the university setting.

There are a number of ways in which start-up culture could benefit universities. For one, start-ups tend to be very open and collaborative environments, which could encourage more cross-disciplinary collaboration between university departments. Additionally, the focus on innovation and creativity in start-ups could lead to more groundbreaking research coming out of universities.

Of course, there are also potential downsides to introducing start-up culture into the university setting. For example, the fast-paced and high-pressure environment of a start-up may not be conducive to learning, and could end up causing burnout among students and faculty alike. Additionally, the free-flowing nature of start-up culture may not be compatible with the more structured environment of a university.

Overall, there are both potential benefits and drawbacks to incorporating start-up culture into universities. It remains to be seen whether universities will embrace this new way of thinking — but if they do, it could lead to a more innovative, better-educated future generation of professionals.


There are a lot of things that universities could learn from start-ups, including how to be more nimble and adaptable, how to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and how to better meet the needs of their students. While it may not be possible for every university to completely transform itself into a start-up, there is certainly room for improvement in many areas. By taking some cues from the start-up world, universities could become even more innovative and successful in educating the next generation of leaders.



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Sascha Funk

Uni lecturer in #BKK. New Media & ED #Volleyball, #MuayThai. https://saschafunk.com — @mythaiorg, hosting @FunkItPod| it’s not rain, it’s liquid sunshine