From evolving student needs to societal pressures, colleges and universities are facing a range of challenges and opportunities
Greater emphasis on career-focused learning, financial challenges for students and institutions, and student well-being are some of the trends seen in higher education at the moment.
Amid geopolitical and societal shifts as well as technological innovations, higher education institutions are continuing to face an array of opportunities and challenges. As we enter 2024, we took a look at some of the issues affecting the sector.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, higher education institutions are still finding the right balance between in-person and online learning. Although some institutions are moving back to mostly in-person teaching, online learning is here to stay, with the global e-learning market expected to grow from $245.5 billion in 2022 to $462.6 billion in 2027. Remote and online learning has been instrumental in opening up educational opportunities for larger parts of the world’s population. Throughout 2024, colleges and universities will therefore continue to improve hybrid online teaching and supporting students’ online preferences.
Hybrid options are not only sought after by students, but by faculty and staff as well. A lot of higher education employees are pushing back against having to fully return to in-person operations. Some institutions may therefore need to continue to offer hybrid remote work options, especially with the sector continuing to experience large numbers of employees leaving higher education.
Evolving student requirements
As the need for lifelong learning grows, more adults at later life stages will join the student population in years to come. At the same time, institutions need to create and nurture a self-development mindset in their current students. Self-learning skills will be essential in the workplace of the future and the schools that master these skills could benefit from alumni returning to their classrooms throughout their careers to keep up with new developments in their field.
Another trend that’s set to grow over the coming years are microcredentials. In the U.S., 36 million adults have completed some college but did not earn a degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Centre. However, employers are more likely to hire candidates with a finished degree. Due to this disconnect, some higher education institutions have achieved higher rates of enrolment and retention by offering microcredentials: short-term, skills-focused training that can be ‘stacked’ to earn a larger certificate or degree.
Meeting business needs
As digital and data literacy is a prized skill in job applicants, higher education institutions are adapting their programs to meet the shifting demands of industries. This includes skills to keep up with growth in big data and analytics, but also a need for information literacy to equip students with the means to recognise misinformation and propaganda such as deep-fake videos and weaponized social media.
Soft skills such as people management and problem solving are also highly valued in today’s workplace. However, these skills are harder to develop and nurture through online teaching, giving institutions another reason why it is vital to find the right balance in hybrid learning.
Navigating the geopolitical landscape
Higher education plays an important part in society, and it is therefore unsurprising that issues in the wider world impact these institutions as well. Colleges and universities must demonstrate commitment and efforts in sustainability, as well as create equitable and inclusive working and learning environments. Furthermore, with an increasing number of students and staff reporting anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, schools are focusing more on wellbeing and mental health.
At the same time, the debate on the role of higher education in addressing social issues is intensifying, while the rise in nationalism and tensions between socio-political worldviews have led to increasingly heated debates and conflicts on campuses. In the U.S., rising costs and uncertainty about public funding for higher education are adding to the challenges faced by colleges and universities.
Looking into 2024, we will be partnering with our sister company Alphix Solutions to better understand how prospective students are interacting and engaging with university websites to gain insights into their journey and priorities.
To speak more about this, and how your university could benefit please reach out to Robyn Davidson, [email protected]