What is the future of universities?

| February 19, 2016

For universities the future holds particular challenges. Universities hold a unique position in society, working for social good through education, creating and sharing knowledge.

But in maintaining and developing this unique contribution to society, universities face tensions between economic viability, a growth in numbers, digital disruption, government policy and changing student and employer expectations.

While universities have a very clear vision of their core business less clear is how to maintain this focus in a changing environment.

A recent report calls for change across the sector in Australia. The AHEIA Australian higher education workforce of the future report, discusses how universities can compete in a globally competitive market.

The report argues that there is an urgent need for change if universities are to stay competitive.

In particular, major changes to the higher education workforce are needed, and are needed now. It sets out a roadmap for implementation of changes relating to capability, engagement and structure – these will differ from university to university.

According to the report, the diversity of universities will increase in the future. Their differentiation will be strongly influenced by how they choose to respond to external drivers of change. They need to adopt business models that fit their future needs – not a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Like most businesses, universities will need a flexible, agile workforce. The university workforce of the future will need better technology skills to optimise digital potential. University roles will shift from traditional knowledge creation and dissemination to facilitating student discovery and learning through application, requiring a different expertise to that held by many academics.

The report also highlights the need to invest in leadership, and a need to look at the design of performance management and reward systems.

Education is central to all the conversations I’ve had about the future. This latest report is no different, highlighting that pressure on the higher education sector is pressure on “Australia’s future workforce and economic prosperity”.


This article was originally published by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand.