What’s the future of the University?

University of Urbino signs MOU with Nature Seychelles

Its really a no-brainer – higher education and research are fundamental to our work in conservation and environmental management. Only by underpinning conservation with science, both social and natural, can we save biodiversity.

But higher education around the world is undergoing a huge transformation in terms of its role, mode of operation, and economic structure and value.

Ernst & Young, Australia, conducted an industry-wide study of the main forces impacting the higher education industry globally and locally in Australia, as well as the opportunities, challenges and implications for universities. The report – University of the Future – is of relevance to universities in our region, especially to nascent and young universities like the University of Seychelles.

The hypothesis is that the dominant university model, which is a broad-based teaching and research institution, supported by large assets and a large, in-house back office , will not be viable in all but a few cases over the next 10-15 years.

At the very least, universities will need to greatly streamline their operations and asset s, at the same time as incorporating new teaching and learning delivery. At its extreme, private universities and possibly some public universities will create new products and markets that merge parts of the education sector with other sectors, such as media, technology, innovation, and venture capital.

The report says that exciting times are ahead , and challenges too. The are several drivers of change of this brave new world:

Democratization of knowledge and access: The massive increase in online ‘knowledge’ and the mass expansion of access to university education in developed and developing countries means a real change in the role of universities as originators and keepers of knowledge.

Markets and funding: Competition for student is reaching new levels of intensity, at the same time as governments globally face tight budgets.

‘Transformers’: Private providers will carve out new positions in the ‘traditional’ sector and also create new markets that merge parts of the higher education sector with other sectors, such as media, technology, innovation, venture capital and the like. Universities that go with the right new partners will create new business for revenue to invest in the core business which is internationally competitive teaching and research.

Digital technologies: Digital technologies have transformed media, retail, entertainment and many other industries —higher education is next. Campuses will remain, but digital technologies will transform the way education is delivered and accessed, and the way ‘value’ is created by higher education providers, public and private alike.

Global mobility: Global mobility will grow for students, academics, and university brands. This will not only intensify competition, but also create opportunities for much deeper global partnerships and broader access to student and academic talent.

Integration with industry : Universities will need to build deeper relationships with industry in the decade ahead . This will differentiate teaching and learning programs, support the funding and application of research, and reinforce the role of universities as drivers of innovation and growth.

Faced with this dynamic industry landscape, the report says that universities should critically assess the viability of their institution’s current business model, develop a vision of what a future model might look like, and develop a broad transition plan.

Ernst & Young, University of the Future: http://goo.gl/T8d8M


Author: Dr. Nirmal Shah

Nirmal is a well-known and a passionate personality in the Seychelles environmental and sustainability scene having an encyclopedic knowledge of Seychelles biodiversity as well as a wealth of experience in environment management. He has worked in senior positions in the parastatal, government, private and NGO sectors and consulted for international organizations such as the World Bank, IUCN, UNEP, Sida and UNESCO. He has appeared on CNN, BBC, Radio France, PBS, NBC, ABC, SABC and others

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