Writing on the web site MarginalRevolution, Alex Tabarrok ruminates on the idea that Apple should use some of its $200+ billion cash hoard to buy a university and rebuild it from the ground up. Although Alex sees an opportunity for Apple to export its technology to colleges and universities around the world, I think the concept has all sorts of additional merit — for those students who know what they want in life, are serious about learning, and want to link themselves to one of the world’s leading technology companies. For Apple, it provides an opportunity to identify, educate, and attract the best and the brightest of the next generation — the intellectual capital that is the lifeblood of any organization.
Of course, this “Apple College” would be much more than a place to learn computer coding, as Apple has need for talent in all sorts of disciplines. Global companies are not the rapacious marauders imagined by many. They are sound organizations, developing useful products and trying to operate in our complex society as a useful engine of development.
At Apple College, there would be a major in software development, of course, along with a concentration in computer hardware and systems. A design major would focus on the integration of the hardware and software, but expanded to also include the design of print and electronic media displays and advertising. Business majors at Apple College would be studying all manner of international marketing, sales, supply chain, procurement, accounting, and finance.
Liberal arts would not be forgotten. Apple operates across diverse cultures, so a broad core curriculum in history, anthropology, politics and government systems would be included for all students.
Internships and study abroad? Built right in, at Apple locations around the world.
Faculty would be drawn from the best that the world has to offer — distance learning with Apple products, reaching out for content from high performing faculty around the world. In-person classroom instruction facilitated by Apple and industry partner executives. No tenure track here; these executives are cutting-edge, devoting a few years to Apple College and then returning to their corporate roles, to be replaced by the next generation of talented executives.
Sports, performing arts, Greek life? Nope. As I said, this concept is not for everybody. But there would be state-of-the-art learning centers, functional residential accommodations, and a zero tolerance policy for misbehavior of any kind. Students are selected carefully, and there is no hesitancy to expel those who don’t take the program seriously. My guess is that there will be plenty of others more than willing to take their places.
Apple College would not be designed as a for-profit entity, and tuition would be affordable. Using corporate best practices, costs are contained to a minimum. No bloated administration and facilities maintenance here — just what is necessary for instruction and an appropriate level of residential living. No government subsidies accepted here, of any type. Apple philanthropies can help to cover the legitimate financial needs of students with limited means.
An Apple College, once fully dimensioned, could serve as a model for the type of break-through thinking that is clearly needed in higher education. Chiseling around the edges of the existing model is painfully tedious — so let that model operate as it is, but offer a radically different approach that breaks the mold, gets back to basics, and provides students with not only an education but a solid career.