4 Future Scenarios for Higher Education

future-hei.jpg29 – March 2019 :: The Delphi survey on „
Future Skills – Future Learning and future Higher Education“ analyzed and validated a set of 16 future skills, consulted with experts on the key drivers of higher education development and formulated  scenarios for  future higher education. The 50 international Delphi experts were consulted on their views on four  scenarios of future higher education: (1) the future skill university scenario, (2) the networked multi-institutional study scenario, (3) the my-university scenario, (4) the lifelong higher learning scenario that diverge from a baseline scenario exemplifying today’s model of higher education.

Background: Next Skills Study

www.nextskills.org   published a study on “Future Skills – future learning and future higher education”. The study is outlining expert validated model of 16 future skill profiles for future graduates. It follows the rational that higher education as a system is standing at a breaking point of development challenges and outlines drivers and four future scenarios. Amongst the questions experts were asked to rate and comment on higher education institutions‘ readiness to support future skill development. The study resulted into a number of issues related to future learning concepts in higher education, strategies for future profiles and future skills for future graduates (full report and executive summary here: https://nextskills.org/future-skills-report-2019/).

Please find the key drivers of change here

Building on identified key drivers for change (future skills, multi-institutional approaches, personalization, and lifelong learning), four potential scenarios have been envisioned and subjected to the experts’ evaluation:

2_FS1 – The ‘future skill’ university: The ‘future skill’ scenario suggests that higher education institutions would leave the current model that focusses on knowledge acquisition. Instead, new profiles would be developed that emphasize graduates’ future skill development. In this scenario, HE would mainly be organized around one key objective: to enable the development of graduates’ future skills, i.e. complex problem solving, dealing with uncertainty or developing a sense of responsibility, etc. This would not replace but go beyond the current emphasis of knowledge acquisition and studying based on defined curricula for fixed professions. This scenario received an overall level of agreement of 63% from the international expert sample.

2_MI2 – The networked, university: This scenario views higher education as a networked study experience. It will not be down to a single institution providing a student with a certain program, but that this role would be split among multiple institutions. This means that ‘digital import’ and ‘digital export’ of parts of the curriculum would play a significant role. The standard HE study structure and experience would shift from a “one-institution” model to a “multi-institutional” model. The multi-institutional scenario reached agreement levels of 46% in terms of its likelihood to be part of the organization of future higher education.


2_PERs3 – The “My-University” scenario: This scenario describes HEIs as spaces where the elements of choices enlarge, and students can build their own curricula based on their personal interests. The curriculum of academic programs in this scenario would move from a fully predefined and ‘up-front’ given structure to a more flexible, personalized and participatory model in which students actively cooperate with professors/ teachers/ advisors in curriculum building of HE programs. Almost 60% of the international expert sample agreed with this scenario.


2_LLL4 – The lifelong higher learning scenario: In this scenario, seamless lifelong higher learning would be as important as initial higher education. Learners in the workplace would be the main type of student, choosing their portfolio of modules according to their personal skill needs and competence demands with high autonomy throughout their lifetime. Institutions thus would offer micro-credentials, which students assemble individually based on their own interests. Recognition of prior study achievements and practical experience would enable permeable shifting between different providers, which offer to bundle prior learning experience into larger certifications. This scenario received the highest level of agreement, with almost three quarters of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with it.

Übersicht_ScenariosIn terms of the estimates on time of adoption, three out of four scenarios score with a time of adoption of more than 10 years from today. Only the lifelong higher learning scenario scored for a time of adoption within the next 5 years according to the majority of experts.

Read the report on „Future Skills – Future Learning and Future Higher Education“ to find out what experts suggest in order to turn higher education institutions into future skill ready organizations – chapter 7.



Prof. Dr. Ulf-Daniel Ehlers, 29 March 2019 

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