"Disruptive because many in the higher ed community worry that unless they're careful, universities will go the way of newspapers and the music industry: give their product away for free online and lose customers in the process," from Ida Lieszkovsky in MOOCS and the Future of Technology in Higher Education.
Indeed, this prophetic yet a stark reality may sound alarming now. Yes, in an era of innovation, entrepreneurship and disruption, the future of Higher Education and the Universities as we know is at stake, lest we forget the report of the first University Education Commission of independent India (1948-49), as much relevant today as it was then, chaired by the educationist, philosopher and scholar S Radhakrishnan, who went on to become the first vice-president and second President of Independent India. It reads: "Freedom of individual development is the basis of democracy. Intellectual progress demands the maintenance of the spirit of free inquiry. The pursuit and practice of truth regardless of consequences has been the ambition of universities. An atmosphere of freedom is essential for developing this 'morality of the mind'."
Universities of the Future, a Tsunami in the Making, where values, morals and ethics do matter:
Welcome to the Universities of Future in times of VUCA, now a popular acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity for developing transformational and sustainable models of student centric, industry aligned, data driven and scalable mantras for personalised higher education. In this age of innovation, quintessential and timeless human values are being challenged in an age of disruption on the anvil of emerging technologies and innovation. Yes, in times of stability, we only require incremental adjustment and fine-tuning but the Universities today confront radical change that requires bold innovation. Steve Jobs once famously observed that in a time of crisis 'The cure for Apple is to innovate its way out of its current predicament.' Perhaps, it is here that entrepreneurs will guide the course of evolution for the universities of tomorrow.
Knowledge coupled with creativity and innovation is the most powerful currency that Universities create and contribute to society and the humankind and define higher education's purpose, as we address problems that have no borders in an increasingly flat world. In 2017, 5 million students travelled abroad in pursuit of higher education while international students abroad have been increasing by roughly 12 percent each year in the 21st century in terms of UNESCO. At the same time, international research collaborations have flourished with more than three-quarters of scientific articles published in journals were the product of at least two institutions, and one in three articles was authored by a global team.
A significant driver for educational change is population growth and the demographic profile in our country. More than 50 percent of India's population is under the age of 25 and by 2020, India will have one of the youngest populations in the world, with an average age of 29 years, and India will outpace China in the next ten years as the country with the largest tertiary-age in 2020. The OECD predicts that in 2020, 200 million of the world's 25-34-year olds will be university graduates and 40 percent of these will be from China and India representing a huge proportion of the global talent pool. India has much at stake as the much-touted demographic dividend may well turn out to be a demographic disaster if we fail to integrate values, morality and spiritualism into the sciences, humanities, arts, technical and the technological.
Changing Paradigms in International Higher Education and the 4th Industrial Revolution:
The World Conference on Higher Education, was a watershed as it came up with the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century: Vision and Action, 9 October 1998, However since then there has been a paradigm shift in Higher Education with the digital revolution, the 4th revolution sweeping the higher education landscape that is causing disruptions across the globe.
The evolution and internationalisation of the curriculum and the teaching and learning process has become as relevant as the traditional focus on mobility. Perhaps, everything has changed over the past decade with regard to the internationalisation of higher education, and that this change is primarily from a more cooperative model to a more competitive model.
Trends Driving Future Change and the Higher Education landscape:
It is in this backdrop that it may be interesting to take note that in a report for Australia as early as in 2012 by Ernst & Young, captioned, 'University of the future: A thousand-year-old industry on the cusp of profound change'. It was perceived that in the brave new world of the universities of tomorrow, five key trends would drive future change. These are:
1) Democratisation of knowledge and access;
2) Contestability of markets and funding where universities will need to compete as never before;
3) Digital technologies will transform higher education delivery and access to create value;
4) Global mobility will grow for students, academics, and university brands to intensify competition and create opportunities;
5) Integration with industry by the universities will be imperative as drivers of innovation and growth.
Surely not much has changed since the report, except that now some of these very technologies particularly block chain, internet of things and artificial intelligence has turned from enablers to be major disruptors, the end result is a revolutionary change than ever before in centuries.
No wonder Higher Education generates economic growth as well as individual success. Studies reveal that universities do contribute billions to the economy of developed world but in no less a measure to the evolving growth story of the developing world. UNESCO reports a 57 percent increase in the numbers of those studying outside their home countries in just the past decade. The digital age aspirations are not bound by boundaries anymore, as the new knowledge, economy is already global, and so is the reach of universities. Let us consider some examples of this growth, collaboration and the opportunities in a rapidly globalising world:
1. The European Union's recently expanded study abroad program, Erasmus, sends hundreds of thousands of students and faculty to 4,000 institutions in 33 countries each year.
2. The international branch campuses with investments in millions of dollars are already happening Education City in Doha has six American universities.
3. New York University's new Abu Dhabi campus has students from 39 countries.
4. There are 162 branch campuses of Western universities in Asia and the Middle East- a 43 percent increase in just three years.
5. Singapore has 90,000 international students as well as a campus of INSEAD, the global business school, and programs with at least 4 American universities.
6. China has pioneered the most dramatic Higher Education revolution between 1999 and 2005 that engineered its economic miracle making waves in human history, as the number of degree earners quadrupled to more than 3 million. China has become the world's largest producer of Ph.D. scientists and engineers.
7. In India, the numbers attending universities doubled in the 1990s, and the demand continues to surge. India's rich demographic dividend may soon be a disaster if the need of at least 800 new institutions of higher education is not met by 2020 in order to raise the age participation rate from 12.4 percent to 30 percent by then.
Future Imperative: Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Disruption and Human Spirituality and Values
The higher education landscape will change more than ever in the next ten years than it has in the previous one hundred. Internet revolution and Technology has challenged traditional assumptions about learning, not only the proliferation of MOOCs and vocational training programs but also Virtual Reality and BYOD has led to new choices for aspiring students. Educational disruption, innovation and emergence of entrepreneurial mindsets due to loss of traditional employment opportunities is now a global phenomenon, with vast numbers of students seeking to go abroad for further study. These shifts all point to one truth: rapid globalisation and enormous flood of knowledge across the world and an increasing number of choices about what, how, and where to study.
It is in this backdrop in an era of innovation, entrepreneurship and disruptive technology that I have five future prepositions:
1) Spiritualism in the ascent humans has been critical in the past, however now for our collective future disruption does present tremendous challenges as we have outpaced our technological progress without commensurate development of our values, ethics and the spiritual heritage.
2) The conventional, closed and proprietary model of knowledge dissemination is being replaced, by an open modular approach making knowledge dissemination outsourced and easily accessible;
3) Human values that have steered the ascent of our civilisation through centuries are now challenged as never before for a cross-cultural tsunami and it is the Universities of the future that may be the last defence for a declining value-based education;
4) As global standards of living rise and education is democratised and mass enabled there will be a universalisation of higher education that may move away from a degree based to a skill based and creativity and innovation led world.
5) Disruption is going to be bottom up, as high-end traditional classes will in long run, be unable to compete with cutting edge, specialised and economic online courses.
Thus, as in case of Tesla or for that matter Uber or OYO in an age of Google and the internet of things, in higher education sector also, innovators will become disruptors who will take up technology and artificial intelligence to beg, borrow or steal to make their own offerings better as also reach the unreached. In fact, many start-ups such as tutor.com, global knowledge alliance and others are already doing the same thing and making the argument of reduced costs with promises of more money through outsourced teaching and learning. As the prediction goes, almost half the universities as we know may disappear in the next ten years if they do not adapt and evolve. Are we future ready?
Well no wonder, the best way to forecast the future is to create it and 'creatical' thinking is the way forward.
Dr. Anoop Swarup
Dr. Anoop Swarup is Vice Chancellor Jagran Lakecity University and Chairman Center for Global Nonkilling, Hawaii; having been Vice Chancellor Shobhit University; United Nations Representative with the UNSC; Founder Chairman Global Knowledge Alliance, GEO Reviewer with the IPCCUNEP; as an officer of Indian Revenue Service and Commissioner at the Government of India. He has authored many books notably, Regional Economics Engagement and the Free Trade Agreements - Analytical Insights and Policy Options (2010) and The World of Money Laundering Financial Crimes and Commercial Frauds (2006). He has been a visitor with Monash University, a speaker and resource person with Universities and Think Tanks in India and abroad. Recipient of Presidential Award, Republic of India (2003), he has over 35 years of distinguished professional experience in diverse roles as a poet, peace activist, life scientist, futurist, social entrepreneur, civil servant and an educationist.