'Off the curve' in higher education

Published on December 31, 2019   31 min

Other Talks in the Series: Online Learning for Business Education

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Hello, I'm Wendy Purcell and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share with you some thoughts about higher education in the 21st century and beyond.
Higher education matters. Our world is changing rapidly. Its problems are more difficult to predict, understand, and handle, and are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before. The strategy reflected in the sustainable development goals is a global response to the disruptive and transformative forces acting upon us, such as technology and globalization. In this knowledge economy, there's a growing societal premium on an educated population in terms of sustaining economic competitiveness, well-being, and inclusion. Higher education plays a key role in enabling talent to express itself in society, but the need for lifelong learning and upskilling is challenging more traditional university models. Global higher education is going through a transformative age with rising costs, activist stakeholders, digitization, new competitors, massive open online courses, so-called MOOCS, competition for students, demographic changes, shifting student needs and demands, disruptions all familiar to people in business. Indeed, the central value of higher education is being challenged in some quarters.
We've called this talk 'off the curve', and this is why. When we look at higher education now, we see an inverse relationship between access and quality in the main, using quality as a proxy measure for reputation, elitism, and return on investment. Yes, there will be exceptions, of course. But we tend to see those institutions that are high when it comes to access being lower in terms of outcomes. While elite institutions that are low when it comes to being open to talent wherever it exists, being higher when it comes to reputation. What we need in higher education is for it to be opened to all with the talent and drive to succeed. One that is high on access but also high on quality, impact, and return to the individual and society at large. As innovation and technology progress rapidly in most sectors, it's difficult for many academic institutions entrenched with traditional subjects, teaching methods, policy and practices to respond to the new reality of what's needed by students, those in the workforce, and wider society. There's an urgent need to articulate a new university offer differentiated through its intellectual and impactful contribution to economic prosperity and social justice. Distinctive features would include supporting learning throughout life, co-creating evidence-based solutions with business in the community, and driving an innovation ecosystem, scaling local inventions for global reach. This is the context in which the university of the future is situated, it's off the curve. Representing a radical departure from the traditional higher education model.