Higher education is going through a tough and uncertain time. The industry is continuously being disrupted, with the past decade seeing shifts in nearly every aspect of higher education.
Students are asking for their return on investment more than ever, as tuition fees continue to skyrocket. More and more members of the younger generation are looking towards alternatives to “traditional” college pathways such as apprenticeships and part-time study.
Universities are striving to offer students more bang for their buck, with innovation being the hot buzzword in education circles. Experiential and practical learning opportunities are increasingly offered across all degree programmes, with the aim of creating employable graduates.
Meanwhile, online learning and MOOCs have become more popular as technology becomes more affordable and accessible around the world.
The Varsity Blues scandal also threw unfair college admissions processes into the spotlight, as well as contract cheating by international students.
So what does the future look like for higher education as we head into the 2020s? Here are four predictions according to multiple experts.
We’re already seeing this happening and it is predicted that small colleges – particularly liberal arts colleges – will close due to declining enrolment and financial constraints.
Many national university systems are also struggling financially, choosing to merge and consolidate their colleges and universities.
According to EducationDive, the University of Wisconsin system is set to consolidate 13 two-year colleges into seven four-year colleges, while the University of Georgia system has been consolidating campuses for several years now. Similarly, Alabama’s community colleges are in the process of consolidating into a single entity.
UK’s universities are also facing financial trouble. The Guardian reported last year that figures from UCAS show that institutions such as London Metropolitan University, the University of Cumbria, Kingston University and the University of Wolverhampton have seen a steady enrollment decline over the past few years.
Technology will disrupt education even further
Education technology is a booming industry and as technology gets even more advanced, it will continue to pervade higher education worldwide.
There has been much talk about 5G, but it’s predicted that this year will be the year that it finally takes off. This means that internet connections will operate at blazing speeds, making video conferencing, streaming and immersive technology more seamless.
Some experts have even predicted that by 2027, artificial intelligence and robots will replace teachers altogether.
Industry links will gain traction
More than ever, universities are working closely with industry. According to EducationDive, tech companies like Amazon, Google and Facebook are actively working with colleges to design curriculum that teaches students how to use their services and products.
Learning strategy consultant for D2LKiara Graham told HR Dive: “More than ever we’re seeing educators reaching out to workforce partners to identify the skills that employers need and then working in collaboration to develop and deliver programmes that create a reliable stream of qualified candidates.”
Specialist graduate certificates will become more popular
According to chief research officer at higher education research firm Eduventures Richard Garrett, more students will be choosing to study for specialist certificates instead of Master’s programmes.
Data is showing that there is a significant increase in the number of graduate certificates awarded over the past year, a trend that’s predicted to continue.
Why are more students choosing graduate certificates over Master’s programmes? In a nutshell, they are shorter, cheaper and offer specialised knowledge or training in a specific area.