Report: The Future of Higher Education

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We presented a report on the Future of Higher Education in collaboration with Mobile World Capital at the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference 2022. You can read the introduction to the report here and download the full report below.

As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, the world has become more complex and more interconnected. 

The abundance of knowledge and the scarcity of known paths for solutions to a different set of challenges will drive existing models of Higher Education (hereafter HE) towards an accelerated and permanent transformation by introducing greater flexibility, innovative learning and teaching methods, alongside new forms of credentialism and the imperative need to nurture a broader ecosystem.

Innovation is a much more fragmented and varied endeavor today than ever before. As a consequence of falling barriers, more young companies in unsuspected places are pursuing many new avenues of invention, and a number of these involve new technological advances.

Deep technologies — innovations based on scientific research — will be a key part of the answer to many of today’s global challenges. Solving the global challenges of this century — and driving local economic success — depends on the prompt and effective commercialization of new technologies. 

To accomplish these goals, government, industry, community, educational institutions, investors and entrepreneurs will have to collaborate closer together to build solutions and enter into the market quickly and at scale.

In 2021, according to the data provided by the International Association of Universities, there were approximately 20,000 universities globally. Every institution is immersed in a more global, diversified and complex environment. For learners and their families, learning choices become harder as the criteria for relevance and competitive advantages become increasingly  more personal and contextual. The selection of paths to (and the weight of) potential returns will not conform to the traditional values of benchmarks among options.

Our signals clearly call for the end of the isomorphism path that has driven most Higher Education institutions (HEI) to preserve and emulate traditional structures of long-lasting perceptions of prestige and admittance value. Furthermore, these trends are forcing institutions to acknowledge the increasing gaps between their own self-perception and external criteria of excellence.

Scarcity has driven demand, has increased costs, and has created a strong correlation between selectivity and institutional wealth. Universities are moving from accepting the elite for a limited time to gaining subscribers from a diversified base of learners, for life.

The quality of teaching and learning — the main functions of any institution — are virtually impossible to measure and quantify. Especially as they are a direct result of each interaction and each individual. This is the main reason why we currently operate by using proxies, which include teacher reputation, teacher- learner ratios and many other factors as measures of quality. Technology will transform these challenges as it becomes prevalent in most  learning experiences; it is generating vast amounts of data around learner engagement and the quality of each individual journey.

The global dimension is becoming more integrated into an institution’s purpose. A new focus on quality, inclusion and sustainability is emerging in contrast to the traditional views of exclusivity, quantitative and competitive approach that are still prevalent, while learners from every corner of the world are able to be subscribed to many institutions at many stages of their life.

The main transformation occurs at the end of the era of dissemination of knowledge — which does not require a university anymore — to refocus on cognitive tools, active, experiential and social learning in an engaging learning environment by which learners and experts actively struggle together to find solutions to meaningful problems.

The role of all stakeholders has a profound impact as learners’ commitment, determination and perseverance have to be emphatically supported by a diverse set of interventions to navigate risks, time, vulnerabilities, emotions, growth and downturns in a different balance between time vs. mastery. 

Employers determine the real value of certifications and become an integral part of the learning ecosystem as work experience becomes a trusted signal and institutions permanently validate and expand learning and competencies.

The path to the future requires from institutions to act as Hubs for a diversity of services, products, experiences, technologies, partnerships, and signals that disaggregate, democratize, decentralize, support, validate, augment and expand their impact beyond boundaries of time, space, discipline, sector and age. 

Technology is an enabler of coherence for an always-connected, adaptive, holistic experience that starts where the learner is and continues for a lifetime on an augmented omnichannel flexible journey. 

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