Trends in Higher Education

Article excerpt

The lack of a substantial increase in employment continues to affect higher education in the US and around the globe. Even the brightest economic predictions see only modest gains, and again the promise of 'it's never going back the way it was'. Some higher education givens erode--tenure for one. Some schools are so overwhelmed with students that little else can be done but cope. Distance education has proven more effective for students than face-to-face. Is online education mostly an expansion of access and not a zero sum game, as many have assumed? Our overriding question is whether the series of incremental changes we've seen in the last 15 or so years will finally cause a paradigm shift in the way higher education conceptualizes itself.

Demographics

Observation

In the past, demographics were destiny for higher education--if birthrates increased, then enrollment could be predicted to increase 18 years later. The global market for education has done more than simply provide nuances to that predictability; it's made global demographics and economics a driver everywhere.

* The result of China's family-planning policy has consequences for its long- term economic viability. The number of people between 20 and 24 will drop by one-fourth in the next decade and by 2050 there will be only 2.1 working-age adults for each retiree (China Daily eClips, www.cdeclips.com/en/opinion/fullstory.html?id=28044).

* During the last decade, the number of American students at Canadian universities more than doubled to nearly 10,000. They now represent the second-largest group of international students in Canada, after China (Philadelphia Inquirer, September 28, 2009, www.philly.com/inquirer/local/20090928_More_U_S_students_picking_Canadian_ universities.html?viewAll=y&c=y; Globe and Mail, May 18, 2009, v1.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/ RTGAM.20090518.wrecruitingl8art2234/BNStory/National/home).

* The estimate of the number of students studying outside their nation of origin for 2009-2010 is close to 3 million, with an estimated value to receiving countries of US$60 billion (University World News, September 27, 2009, Issue 0094, www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090925022811395).

Our Thoughts

The dominance of English-speaking tertiary providers, the US, Australia, and the UK, is no longer assured when students seek a portable, prestigious degree.

* The US share of world college students dropped from 29 percent in 1970 to about 12 percent in 2006 (Inside HigherEd, October 6, 2009, www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/05/global).

* More than 8 percent of the total income of UK universities comes from overseas students' fees (The Guardian, October 14, 2009, www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/oct/l4/international-students-pay-20000). But the UK may lose a significant number of them due to a serious visa backlog that has resulted in over 14,000 Pakistani students alone being barred (The Guardian, October 14, 2009, www.guardian.co.uk/global/2009/oct/14/overseas-students-fees-visas).

* The US issued 25 percent fewer visas to Indians for study at US institutions this year. Although the drop is attributed to the economic slowdown and a drop in aid from US colleges, it may be more permanent than some wish (The Economic Times, October 11, 2009, /economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/5111035.cms).

Observation

The economy is likely to have a long-term effect on enrollments. The mix of students will remain in flux and differ among publics, privates, and for-profit institutions. The "job-less recovery" is predicted to continue for at least five years (The New York Times, October 2, 2009, www.nytimes.com/2009/10/03/business/ economy/03jobs.html?_r=1).

* Increased enrollment in virtually all types of institutions, particularly those in regions with high unemployment, is likely to persist (Bloomberg.com, March 5, 2009, www. …