Higher Education Webinar. 3 Scenarios for Higher Education.

Explore the spectrum of possible futures for Higher Education, drawing on analysis of emerging underlying trends and key drivers.

Education Intelligence Unit

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April 22, 2021

While COVID-19 has accelerated change, most leaders in higher education have expected substantial disruption to the traditional model for some time. Analysis of how key drivers might progress and interact suggest a range of possible future scenarios for higher education.

Our Q1 Higher Education Digital Transformation series concludes with an overview of three scenarios for Higher Education in 2025 and discussion of the drivers and signals that lead in each direction. Explore highlights below and as always, we invite you to listen in to the webinar recording for further insights and expert commentary.

Formulating Scenarios: Methodology

Scenarios represent snapshots of a range of possible futures. They paint a picture of ‘what could be’ with enough depth to be plausible, but not too precise. Scenarios are not intended to be compared to each other, but rather to represent different ways in which key drivers might develop and interact. There are common aspects across all scenarios, however, which help to explain underlying thinking that supported their construct.

A 3-step, iterative process is used to build scenarios, identifying ‘top-down’ factors which then inform the development of ‘bottom up’ drivers. These are evaluated on potential impact and level of uncertainty to formulate a set of scenarios.

This methodology was applied in pre-COVID scenarios such as the Education in 2030 Project, which identified 5 scenarios across the global education landscape. Download the full report to understand more about the key drivers and explore the research in more detail.

3 Scenarios for Higher Education

COVID-19 has impacted the four mega-drivers of global economics, population, the future of work and advanced technology, and will continue to do so for some time. Government stimulus packages, population shifts, changes in how we work and continual innovation in technology are just a few of the early signals indicating future changes to the way Higher Education is structured and delivered.

The 3 Scenarios presented are intended to provoke and encourage debate about what we might expect for Higher Education in the coming years:

  1. ‘Education State’ (Scenario 1) considers a future where universities are given a state-sponsored mandate for vocational and community upskilling, in addition to Higher Education; qualification frameworks incorporate micro credential options, with local qualifications prioritized.
  2. ‘Practicum Pivot’ (Scenario 2) imagines a future where universities retain a research role, but no longer have a place in the broader post secondary education, which is taken over by vocational and community college systems; 3-month to 2-year competency-based credentials dominate in this scenario, with strong links to industry and work-learning models.
  3. ‘Learning Market’ (Scenario 3) puts forward a consumer-regulated, public/private ‘free market’, which looks to effective job performance and labor outcomes as incentives; consumers are agnostic to public/private in a hyper-competitive environment with vast efficiencies and cost reductions.

When we asked webinar participants to vote on the likelihood of each scenario, a mixed picture emerged, with ‘Practicum Pivot’ and ‘Learning Market’ thought to be more likely overall than ‘Education State’. In terms of personal preference, the trend was clearer: 46% would prefer to see the ‘Practicum Pivot’ and 42% the ‘Learning Market’ scenario, with just 13% opting for the ‘Education State’.

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Digital Capabilities in Higher Education: Q2 Global Benchmarking

Throughout this Higher Education series, the Higher Education Digital Capability framework has served as a guiding structure and learner-focussed lens to apply across themes including micro-credentials, MOOCs, university partnerships and international education. We’ve explored the role of digital capabilities across the four Dimensions of Demand and Discovery, Learning Design, Learner Experience and Work & Lifelong Learning from an institutional perspective, taking in the huge diversity of contexts our global Higher Education network brings.

We now invite you to participate in a global benchmarking study as a member of the network, where you can explore capability descriptors for each Domain in more depth and contribute your own perspective. The online self-assessment takes 15 minutes, and you’ll receive a full report showing benchmarking across the global cohort once the assessment period closes.

If you haven’t already, join the network to make sure you receive your invitation to participate.

What's Next?

If you’ve missed any of the webinars in this Higher Education series, you can catch up on the recordings for all 6 sessions on our YouTube channel and read highlights on our website.

As we continue to focus on Higher Education and digital transformation in 2021, look out for our Global Digital Leaders series, where we pick up some key themes from our deep dives and explore global perspectives in practice. You can be first to find out what’s coming by joining the Global Higher Education Network – we’ll see you there!

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