HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE 21ST CENTURY is caught between democratization and corporatization. Initially designed to produce a select elite, the university has pivoted to embrace the goal of mass education. But the ensuing mass enrolment soon exposed the university’s potential to turn impressive profits—or incur serious losses. As a result, the university became straddled with the twin dilemmas we know all too well—the quality of education is dropping while its price is rising.
This trajectory has deeply affected teaching and learning alike. Throughout the 20th century, most university educators were on the tenure track—meaning their freedom of thought, research, and expression was safeguarded by stable employment and a comfortable middle-class existence. But rising enrolment and financial pressure have meant that in the 21st century, most university educators work as adjuncts—freelancers who get paid per course, have no job security, and must often piece together gigs on different campuses just to make ends meet.
Students are similarly affected. In-depth seminars with intensive participation are being replaced by undemanding survey courses. The pressure to pass more students is leading to grade inflation. Absent the stimulation and passion engendered by creative and critical thinking, it is little wonder that students increasingly view universities simply as gatekeepers to the job market or, even more crassly, as diploma factories. And learners with no need for a diploma—especially working adults—face a system that leaves them out in the cold.
PICT reimagines the academy as a venue of learning for its own sake rather than as a means to an end. We do not believe in standardized courses, grades, or diplomas: only self-motivated students with passionate interests should enrol in courses, and these courses should be tailor-made by equally passionate educators. We do not believe in education at the cost of exploitation: the majority of enrolment fees should be directly passed on to the instructor. We do not believe in a massive institutional infrastructure that mediates between teacher and student: after getting the two parties together, the institution should get out of the way. And we do not believe in mass courses: creative and critical thinking is only possible in a personal setting of intensive intellectual exchange.
PICT proudly boasts its location of Paris, France, as an exceptional setting of cultural, intellectual, and linguistic convergence. We take full advantage of this setting, combining our courses with the city’s best cultural offerings and locations. We also recognize that Paris has a deep need for more activities in the English language. We acknowledge that Paris is home to a large and growing Anglophone community, but equally importantly, we know that all Parisians with an advanced command of English lack sufficient opportunities to employ the language in contexts of sophisticated reading, intellectual reflection, and critical conversation. We aim to provide exactly this context: a space for English-speaking Parisians of all backgrounds to combine the best of the city with the best of critical thinking.