Universities are said to be workshops of the future. What should they do to fulfill their mission?

Universities of the future will all be different. With free online courses from all sorts highly regarded universities, not only the world, people will be able to participate in higher education at their own time and without paying huge college fees.

Online education can be mainstream in just a couple of years. Harvard and MIT are already operational with free online courses. Platforms for interaction with college experience highly interactive. Massive, open, online courses will forever change the educational landscape.

Professional service company Ernst & Young recognized this exact thing in their report “University of the future: a thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound changes” (2014). They see the expansion of online resources and the way courses will be delivered will also have consequences for the funding of universities, and the global mobility of students and staff. The residential student life will remain in the future, but there will also be a great deal of students who choose for the online experience. The benefits are attractive, e. g. not having to move to a university town, pick the best education globally at very low costs and being able to do other work aside of studying which makes it also easier to study later on in life. And maybe students in the future won’t miss the traditional campus based student life.
The access that online education provides to higher education allows students to choose for the best curriculum available. The popular vote will also show which ones are the less popular teachers, which will obviously have consequences and announces a shake out for schools.

Ernst & Young see three ways of evolution in the universities landscape:
- A “streamlined status quo”, with established schools progressively changing the way they deliver courses;
- “Niche dominators”, targeting particular customer segments with tailored education, research and related services;
- “Transformers” – new entrants carving out new positions and create new market space.

The report identifies the main drivers of change it says will inevitably bring about a transformation of higher education. These are:
1. The democratization of knowledge as a consequence of massive expansion of online resources;
2. Digital technologies changing the way courses are delivered;
3. Global mobility of students and stuff;
4. Integration with industry to differentiate programmes (through work-integrated learning) and to support and fund applied research

Current university models are living on borrowed times. WHILE THEY ARE NOT EXACTLY BUSINESSES, THEY WILL HAVE TO RUN LIKE BUSINESSESS, said CEO of EY Justin Bokor. One of our interviewees said: “Our number one competitor in 10 years time will be Google – if we are still in business”, Bokor said.

The changes from classroom teaching to online education is definitely coming. The internet is just there to make it happen. With obvious advantages for students globally and opportunities for highly regarded universities to confirm their established names, this seems an unstoppable trend. So look forward to the universities of the future.


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