The New Challenges
Much will change in the coming decade. Internationally higher education is now being reshaped by globalisation and the digital revolution, while at home familiar patterns in the university sector are being remade by many pressures, including farreaching intervention by government.
The landscape for higher education will be more challenging: with enrolment caps for universities removed there will be heightened competition for students from both local universities and emerging international providers, public and for-profit. Prospective students will be increasingly consumeroriented, influenced by university rankings and with greater expectations of a focus on graduate careerreadiness in their study. Many will be working already, and their interest in flexible delivery outside the traditional academic calendar will grow. And Commonwealth government intervention in university standards and programs will continue, through mechanisms like the Tertiary Education Qualifications and Standards Agency and the Australian Qualifications Framework, yet the security of government funding for universities will be destabilised by mixed economic prospects and the examples of worrying funding declines in the UK, USA and Europe.
Abroad, Europe and the USA now compete aggressively for a larger share of the global student market, and with its high dollar and reputation for visa difficulties and student security problems, Australia will soon be outpaced. Meanwhile, Asian universities advance rapidly in quality and capacity, diminishing the reasons for their students to study abroad. International student numbers will continue ebbing across Australia, while in South Australia projections for the domestic school-leaver pool over the decade are static. University costs will continue to rise, but student expansion will no longer be reliable as a key budget driver.
For researchers it will be a time of expanding equipment costs and escalating pressures from grant agencies and the international ranking environment. High-quality computational and communications infrastructure will increasingly underpin a number of research disciplines, and the growing volume and complexity of research data will become an even more dominant driver of change. Governments around the world will increasingly tie public funding to achieving research outcomes in areas of societal and technological need and inter-disciplinary approaches will accompany a new focus on addressing global challenges.
Finally, there will be the unending digital transformation of educational delivery, of which the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are merely the latest example. Students already conduct their lives through Facebook, Twitter, the World Wide Web and online services: they will expect universities to deal with them online too.
The University of Adelaide’s new Strategic Plan must be attuned to all these shifts in the environment, the student market and the technological means of delivery.