Forbes. June 9, 2014.
Numerous authors and scholars point to a deep crisis facing universities and their stakeholders, and countless summits have been held both in the United States and worldwide on how best to deal with unsustainable models of higher education, too much debt for both institutions and consumers; outdated courses and programs, and an overabundance of administration. Yet throughout this process, there has not been any consistent effort to understand from students how they believe that the higher education experience will change, and how they believe that it should change.
Laureate Education, Inc., the world’s largest higher education network with more than 850,000 students worldwide in 29 countries, has been a leader adopting innovations to try to address the challenges facing higher education. To make sure its educational model is and will remain relevant to the students who attend its network of 74 institutions worldwide, Laureate commissioned Zogby Analytics to survey students in 21 countries who presently attend post-secondary institutions who are part of the Laureate network. Zogby engaged 20,876 students in the survey and asked a series of questions on their vision of the optimum model for their university 15 years from now and how it would best meet student needs.
Based on survey results, the students polled have a positive vision for the university of the future – it is accessible, flexible, innovative, and job-focused.
Accessible – A plurality (43%) of Laureate students believe that the university of the future will provide content online for free for most courses and more than half believe that students will utilize social media platforms to learn and in turn to teach other students (59%). In addition, nearly seven in ten (68%) believe that future universities will maintain free online libraries where students can access course materials and books and other reference tools.
Flexible – A majority of students believe that most courses will be offered at all times of the day or night (52%) and a plurality believe that most courses will be offered without fixed schedules (44%) to accommodate students who work or just prefer learning at different times. Just over two in five (41%) students believe university students in the future will be able to earn specialized certificates throughout their academic career allowing them to take courses at their own pace instead of concentrating academic careers into 2- or 4-year spans culminating in a degree.
Innovative – More than half (54%) expect that the university of the future will provide courses that are a collaboration between students with an emphasis on group projects. Additionally, 43% believe that students will be able to access personalized instruction or tutoring online perhaps rendering the traditional classroom experience less important.
Job-Focused – The day of the Medieval Studies student may soon be over. Laureate students see a university of the future as one clearly focused on producing students who are prepared to excel in jobs that are needed by industry and society. Sixty-one percent believe that most courses offered by future universities will be designed by industry experts and 64% expect that courses will be offered in multiple languages to facilitate employability. Finally, more than seven in ten think that career-oriented skills (not just subject matter) will be taught in future universities.
Today, huge numbers of college students are enrolled worldwide, particularly in the developing countries, and they increasingly want and expect to be enabled by both technologies that are available and with which they have special facility. The results of this survey demand that Laureate Education continue its mission of meeting the aspirations of today’s students for an education that is more direct, personal, practical, convenient, affordable, and more attuned to a lifetime of changes. While the results of the survey reveal nuanced differences from country to country in degrees of agreement on the vision of the future, a clear picture of the student vision of the university of the future emerges. These results provide both a mandate for Laureate to continue its mission of relevance, change, and excellence – and, at the same time, offer a blueprint of the shape of the change to come for higher education institutions as a whole.