By Diana El-Azar and Ben Nelson

29 May 2020 - 10:06

'Universities that view Covid-19 as a temporary blip, and revert to traditional ways when it’s over, are unlikely to survive.' ©

Wes Hicks used under licence and adapted from the original.

Ben Nelson and Diana El-Azar from the Minerva Project tell us how the changes we see during the Covid-19 pandemic will change the future of higher education. 

Higher education will be based on blended learning

The future of higher education will combine a mixture of in-person, location-based programmes, experiential teaching, and the flexibility of both synchronous and asynchronous virtual learning.

A model in which students live together on campus, but still take part in virtual classrooms, will lend itself to the more flexible – and resilient – economic structure of the future.

Historically, higher education institutes and universities have a physical campus with a high cost. If the cost of running universities were lower, that could mean more flexible fees for students

Institutions that don't embrace change will be left behind

Many universities are taking this opportunity to innovate and rethink their strategies.

But those that view Covid-19 as a temporary blip, and revert to traditional ways when it’s over, are unlikely to survive. They won't be able to withstand financial pressures as enrollment rates drop.

Many universities are dependent upon student fees, and international students often pay a higher premium to attend. With Covid-19 affecting student mobility decisions, institutions without deep financial reserves will run the risk of insolvency.

However, University of Cambridge and others recently announced they will make all lectures available online next academic year. They can still sell their degree courses without people having to fly to their countries.

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Investment in student-centric learning outcomes will be more important than technological innovation

Poor teaching cannot be improved by technology; if anything, it is made worse by distractions from the digital world.

Institutions must instead improve student learning outcomes, by updating their curricula and pedagogy.

Technological solutions can help in this process. For example, digital learning platforms can measure talk time per student. That allows a professor to evaluate participation objectively and find new ways to improve it.

This pandemic has given students (and their parents) a chance to make their voices heard when it comes to the education they value. That is an education with flexible delivery, location and the opportunity to work on live briefs in project teams. It also allows students to work from cities and campuses around the world while still achieving an undergraduate degree.

It’s important that universities listen up.

There will be a rise in public-private partnerships 

Governments, higher education institutions, and the private sector will create learning ecosystems that extend beyond the traditional university campus and three- or four-year course.

These alternative models will be more efficient both in the cost of delivery and efficacy of learning outcomes.

A public-private partnership typically comes with financial sponsorship as well as industry alignment. This allows cost reduction of course overheads, and better outcomes for students because of more contact with industry.

An early example of this is the Hong Kong-based forum, a consortium of over 60 educational organisations, publishers, media, and entertainment industry professionals. It provides more than 900 free educational assets, including videos, books, assessment tools, and counselling services.

Benefits include pooling academic resources to create the 900+ strong assets for free access.

The class of 2025 will face one of the most competitive job markets in history

It’ll be made up of students who were meant to matriculate in 2021, and those who deferred their enrollment in 2020.

Employers and recruiters will be able to choose students who stand out, with an education that gives students real world experiences, cultural immersion and an innovative curriculum.

Join Ben’s live event on Monday.

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