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A Harvard Professor Says Half of All Colleges Won’t Exist in 10 Years (and Why a New Model Might Provide a Better Path to Career Success)

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If you’ve ever used the word “disruption” to refer to innovations that create new markets and displace long-established companies and products, you might have Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen and his best-selling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, to thank.

More recently, Christensen has predicted traditional colleges and universities are ripe for disruption, arguing online education will undermine their business models(because education is, ultimately, a business) to such a degree that many won’t survive.


A principle of Christensen’s theory of disruption is that technology itself is not the disruptor. For example, Netflix created a new business model; streaming video made that business model possible. As Christensen says, “Technology enables the new business model to coalesce.” Technology is the tool — not the end result.

Which is exactly what he feels is occurring in higher education. As online and “hybrid” learning continues to grow — and as the cost of a traditional education continues to increase — many institutions will struggle to stay in business under their current model.  

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