Is University Becoming Obsolete?


Written by Amanda Longhenry

Certain individuals hold the belief that the significance of a university degree is diminishing, no longer serving as a definitive marker of expertise in one's field. Tom Nichols, a renowned author of the thought-provoking book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, 2017 (more information here), delves into this alarming decline of trust in expert knowledge. Nichols provides a multitude of sources for this decline, one of which is the eroding quality of the higher education system.

Additionally, with the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI), there is a growing concern among people that higher education may become obsolete. Worries stem from the notion that AI could automate many aspects of teaching, such as content delivery, assessment, and personalized learning.

Is University Losing Its Meaning?

Too Many Students, Professors, Etc.

Nichols uses the chapter “Higher Education: The Customer Is Always Right” to argue the decreasing validity of a college education. In particular, he contends that the growing prevalence of college degrees no longer ensures individuals possess expertise in their respective fields. Furthermore, he reinforces his position by referencing Bernie Sanders' statement that a college degree in the present day holds a comparable value to a high school diploma half a century ago. Nichols proposes that the current state of affairs is a result of universities adopting a more corporate approach, neglecting their commitment to intellectual excellence.

Business Or School?

Tom Nichols theorizes that because the demand for a post-secondary education continues to climb, educational institutions have assumed a more business-oriented stance. Nichols continues by showing how universities are treating the college experience as a mere commodity through their advertising. In particular, his contention is that universities have relinquished the notion that higher education should be arduous and intellectually demanding for students. Instead, contemporary universities have transformed into profit-driven enterprises, where students essentially purchase degrees rather than earning them. Consequently, a considerable number of incoming students lack the qualifications necessary for college enrollment.

Nichols asserts that in order to accommodate these underprepared students in higher education, many universities adopt the practice of including filler courses that artificially inflate GPAs, with the intention of ensuring the success of these inadequately prepared students. This leads to graduates who possess noticeably diminished knowledge in their respective fields, thereby bolstering his position that a college degree is now comparable to a high school diploma further arguing his belief in the decline in trust in expert knowledge.

Is Artificial Intelligence Taking Over?

There is a growing concern among individuals that the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) will eventually render traditional universities obsolete. As AI continues to enhance its capabilities in various fields, some believe that it may surpass the need for conventional higher education. Supporters of this notion argue that AI-powered platforms and intelligent systems can provide personalized learning experiences, tailored to individual needs and delivered at a fraction of the cost. 

Many agree that AI is not nearly advanced enough to compete directly with traditional higher education. Although, as AI continues to evolve, some become concerned of how AI will negatively impact the education industry. Despite this concern, there is a widespread consensus that AI has significantly improved the field of education.


There is widespread disagreement regarding the notion that universities are becoming obsolete, as they provide numerous opportunities that are not accessible to individuals who have not pursued higher education. However, pursuing post-secondary education has become objectively more popular over the years which may have led to the decrease of the significance of a college degree. Nevertheless, higher education continues to be widely regarded as one of the most effective avenues to establish a prosperous future for oneself and TUEX is dedicated to providing assistance to students who choose to pursue higher education (and even those who don’t).