Alejandro Chafuen, board member of the Acton Institute and a contributor to Forbes.com, has recently written an op/ed asking, “Will think tanks become the universities of the 21st century?” He says that “think tanks and the academy in all likelihood, were united at birth.” and that “Massive Online Open Courses, or MOOCs, are affecting universities as few other developments in the history of education. [He] would not be surprised if taking advantage of this technology some of the major think tanks, especially those with outstanding scholars on their staff, will soon develop into small boutique universities.” Chafuen also lists several U.S. think tanks that are working on university type programs, including Acton University:

  • The Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, has been hosting their Mises University since 1986.  The one week course focuses on Austrian economics.
  • Cato Institute has its Cato University, usually taking place at the end of July.
  • A recent entrant to this market, the Acton University, organized by the Acton Institute, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Last year it attracted close to 800 students and professors from approximately 80 countries.   It is the most international free society educational program in history.
  • The Atlas Network hosts a Think Tank MBA course for talented intellectual entrepreneurs, as well as a “leadership academy”  as an online course to help enhance think tank talent.

He concludes with this thought:

The new global scene and the new technologies are changing the optimum size of educational institutions.   The lessons from Plato’s Academy, which took place in a garden grove near Athens, had an enormous impact on civilization.  The evolving scene in higher education and the growth of think tanks will lead to new educational offerings that will have a major impact on the quality and quantity of policy studies and public policy education.

Unfortunately registration for Acton University is closed, but you can check out AU Online.  The foundational courses are free!