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Higher education 2040

Feb 22,2018 - Last updated at Feb 22,2018

As a professor and scholar in my own field of human knowledge, I am — as I assume the rest of us in the field are — concerned about the future of higher education learning and teaching institutions. How would they be like in 2040? Will their purpose still be the same as the long-established purpose we all know? Will universities restructure their form and role? If they will, in what way or ways? What will the prospective university students be like? Will there be a strong need, still, for the conventional classroom and the common “sage” on the stage? And what will the role of the forthcoming professor be like?

As challenging as they may be, these and other similar queries are worth sorting out to see where we will be heading up to in the near future and know, before it is long overdue, whether or not “studentship” will still be a relevant issue amidst this perplexing and confounding situation! 

In fact, the customary way universities provide education is changing fast. I have been meditating the pertinent alarming challenges ahead of us. For many, there seems to be no pleasant situation down the road: the ever-rising financial costs, high enrollment and graduation rates, student skills and the market needs all make the situation even more intricate. Universities, in turn, are trying hard to spare no effort to respond in a number of ways, including creating new degrees, entering the business world and commercialising research.

Will the social media and online mediums, with the massive number of discussion threads, replace commonplace classes? Will thousands of students still be able to meet their “guides” to learn how to transform knowledge into work experience and employment skills?

Indeed, the time has come to think of alternatives to/within higher education, as it is commonly known to be. The way students will be learning is an important subject that needs to be urgently, but fulsomely, addressed.

I do not think that students are going to profit from an education system that was initially intended for a diminutive number of learners. There has to be a different, more radical and more efficient kind of education to help them benefit from economically. The common eighteen-year-old teenager finishing high school, in high hopes of joining university to pursue a full-time, four-year undergrad degree, is rapidly becoming distinct.

It is undisputable that higher education worldwide is in a state of fluctuation: Academic institutions are overloaded, many bewail its commercialisation, despite appeals to broaden their access to build linkages with the industry and the local communities. And we have not even considered restructuring internationalisation, the potential of frontline, cutting-edge technology and social media, or the need to further prove research effect(s).

The areas which need to be rigorously focused upon for this purpose include, but by no means are they limited to, the following: Institutional consolidation, double-minor undergrad degrees, slimmer — yet more focused and more economical — one-semester, fifteen-hour, higher degrees such as “graduate certificates”, finance and funding, uniqueness and diversity of specialisations, student market involvement, and proficient, specialised growth and progress.

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