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Future of Higher Education

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Higher Education Trends: It will no longer be about what you learn, but rather how and where you learn

In the disruptive century, education – like every other aspect of our day-to-day lives – will change. Traditional Higher Education institutions are being challenged by a wave of low cost alternatives models, such as the Khan Academy and other educational disruptor models across the globe.

No longer are we bound by geography when it comes to education. Like all other industries, education manufacturers need to re-invent themselves and justify their existence in this new economy.  Universities (which have traditionally been the incubators of change, disruption and innovation themselves) need to rethink how, where and what students learn. They can no longer be slow to move bureaucratic and highly political organisations if they want to survive and flourish in this century.

So within this evolving landscape, what will education look like over the coming years? Here are a few of our future-forecasts on education.


Apple’s new campus kindly dubbed the ‘Fruit Bowl’ after Steve Jobs’ fruitarian diet.


Apple model showcasing an urban city environment.




Higher education providers will become the smart cities of the future. They will be a city within a city, such as Google and Apple’s new cities. These facilities will contain hubs for learning and student interaction, however will also house students in villages within the university complete with shopping centres, wellness centres, medical facilities and entertainment complexes. In terms of education, they will have the latest facilities for students to engage with lecturers, students and the wider business community. The cities within a city will encourage the students to connect, interact and become part of university life, while also being connected to cutting edge businesses and technologies.



Google’s new smart city created by Bjarke Ingels Group and Thomas Heatherwick




Within these smart communities, technology and the Internet of Things (iOT) will allow education providers to better understand students’ needs, learning styles, and their general wellbeing. This will allow the tertiary providers to in turn provide the students with support, student-specific tailored learning environments and teaching styles to maximize the students’ potential to learn, be engaged and complete their courses.



Traditional education models of departmental based curriculum development (which is both independent of the university and the student’s potential employer market) will need to change. Smart education providers will begin to create industry based advisory boards, which sit outside the faculty. It will be these business and industry bodies that will be the governors of the curriculum in the future, resulting in students being educated with a future focus. They will access a curriculum which will allow them to enter the workforce “work ready” not only for today’s business requirements, but also for tomorrows.


Tertiary education providers will move towards cross-industry and cross-disciplinary learning and thinking. Universities will develop future labs, entrepreneurial hubs, co-funded industry and business research facilities which focus on connecting the creative minds of universities, students and businesses together. These spaces will be where students live, work and learn within state-of-the art facilities that challenge, empower and grow students allowing them to be job ready when they complete their courses.



Universities will need to be student focused in coming years. Student experience will be the focus. If tomorrow’s students enjoy their time in the university environment and feel that the course meets their needs and more importantly industries current and future needs, they will be able to recruit and retain more students. It’s no longer just the universities name that will attract students, but the experience that the institution can provide. From the campus and its facilities (its accommodation, learning, curriculum and its relevance to industry), right through to wellness, the universities of the future need to offer so much more than they have done in the past.

This trend will push universities to find creative ways to fund new spaces and programming for students. The key here is to strategically provide students with key resources that give them more opportunity to make the most of their collegiate experience.

Education will just be a part of what higher educational facilities will offer in the future. Education and learning in a 24/7 connected world will mean that learning that extends well beyond the classroom and covers far more than just learning.



Imagine in five year’s time, ‘attending’ a lecture from anywhere in the world. The development of wearable devices such as Google Glass or Facebook’s Oculus, as well as the use of holographic telepresence will bring digital participants from even the most remote locations in the world right into the classroom of the future – all in 3D.


With holographic technology, a lecturer will be able to present to multiple students in lecture theatres across the world in real time. Imagine studying medicine and seeing an operation live using holographic telepresence, or studying Roman History and taking a virtual, live trip to the Colosseum.

All this and more will be possible in the coming years. Higher education providers need to use the emergence of augmented reality devices from Google Glass and Oculus to understand how this will transform campuses and the education experience of students.



As part of the student educational experience, we will see universities working together allowing students to travel the world and complete subjects in different universities across the globe. Students will choose a subject being offered based on the lecturer and school, versus just the school. In the future we may see students getting a global perspective by enrolling in various universities across their three to four year degree. They will travel the world, completing each semester in a different university across the globe – resulting in a global degree.




  • Sandstone universities will become less relevant in the minds of generation i and millennials
  • Students will be looking for a more complete educational experience that covers education, wellness, and connectedness, and will complete their study with a degree which is relevant and allows them to be work and job ready
  • Modern well-equipped education facilities that provide students with access to global lecturers versus local based lecturers will gain traction.
  • Students will demand more than ever before from their tertiary provider;
  • Universities will need to find ways to keep the i and generation and millennial generation connected while studying. This may involve having student support services that keep them connected and motivated to complete their course, or apps that monitor the students’ progress and engagement, linking them to mentors who help them uncover or overcome any issues being experienced
  • Universities need to change their internal structure from being internally focused to customer focused in order to survive




  • Shift in the mindsets of students in terms of what tertiary providers need to be;
  • Universities need to adapt quickly to the changing environment
  • Universities and traditional tertiary education providers will continue to be challenged and threatened by the new educational disruptors
  • University professors and lecturer’s need to be able to better connect to their customer (the students) in order to keep relevant in the future
  • Universities need to transform themselves into customer focused education or face diminishing student numbers as students seek out the best universities, with the best local and international lecturers that given the student the ability to be future ready and job fit.
  • Poor performing lecturers, professors and academic staff will disappear from universities as students get the ability to rank and report on the performance of the education providers themselves.