The world is increasingly interdependent, interconnected, and turbulent, and higher education must move away from the "ivory tower" model to reinvent higher education.
That's according to Francisco Marmolejo, Global Coordinator of Tertiary Education and Lead Education Specialist for India, The World Bank Group, and opening speaker at the 2018 AACRAO Annual Meeting in March.
Equality and access issues, demographic trends, and technological changes are all affecting the way colleges and universities deliver education. To grapple with these changes and better meet student and employer needs, higher education must transition to more flexible access and retention models.
Higher education must evolve
A few years ago, Peter Drucker made the unlikely prediction that that universities were in crisis and would disappear. However, in India alone, there has been a 106% growth in higher education in just 10 years, Marmolejo observed. This represents an average of 6.3 new institutions opening every day between 2008 and 2016 (including Saturdays and Sundays).
Higher education is a still a good investment. In addition to having a measurable economic value, higher education is a key enabler of social development and engine of democracy and tolerance. Although universities deliver real value, they also must address challenges facing students and society, Marmolejo said, because in many countries, the returns from higher education are declining due to an over-supply of graduates in specific disciplines and a mismatch between skills of graduates and the skills demanded by employers.
"Higher education must connect more effectively with employers, governments, graduates, community-based organizations, and even internally."
Higher education systems must diversify
To succeed in the professions of the future, graduates will need strong technical skills, but they also will need other attributes, like communication and IT skills, the ability to work in teams, and the capacity to understand and work in a global, multicultural context. Most importantly, Marmolejo noted, successful graduates will be those who acquired the curiosity and skills to become lifelong learners.
A more diversified system of higher education is needed to make this vision a reality. Colleges and universities must be more internationally connected, while at the same time strongly connected to local communities. They must be flexible, innovative, entrepreneurial, less risk averse, and more collaborative.
“Higher education must connect more effectively with employers, governments,
graduates, community-based organizations, and even internally," Marmolejo said. "Often colleges and universities create silos that don’t connect well.”