21 September 2020
by Trevor Treharne

Changing higher education to serve the changing world

The move of higher education into a central role in societies all over the world has been a slow burn that has changed everything without making headlines. Now the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating the pace of transformation.

The rise and rise of higher education has been a three-decades-long process. It is a longer time span than the 10 years of the smartphone, the six months of the pandemic or a two-day event like a Donald Trump twitter storm, yet the transformation of higher-educated societies has mostly slipped under the radar.

In historical terms the pace of change has been rapid. Since 1990, the proportion of young people across the world entering some form of tertiary education has jumped from 14% to 38%, almost two people in every five, taking all countries – rich, middle income and poor – into calculation.

At the present pace of growth of education, by 2030, or soon after, half of all young people everywhere will enter tertiary education, with at least half of them finishing a full degree. In some countries, graduates will constitute two-thirds of the workforce. That’s a different world.

By reducing income-earning opportunities for young people, the pandemic is further encouraging them to stay in education, while strengthening the emphasis on online provision – a mode that is highly flexible, but one that requires access to internet-oriented resources distributed on an unequal basis.

You can read the remainder of this blog on the University World News website.