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2021 trends in higher education

By Asomi College of Sciences

Higher education is, whether constricted by the outside factors or not, changing, and so are the trends in this sector. Higher education is now undergoing a crucial period in which the ongoing actions are caused by Covid-19 and in part by the technological revolution. These actions are the input for the key elements in defining both kinds of trends in higher education: the current and future ones.

Trends in higher education are greatly influenced by the crisis caused by the Covid-19 worldwide pandemic. The first thing to consider is the financial difficulties in higher education; since the entire world is undergoing a crisis, several countries decided to adopt politics that foresaw budget-cutting in the educational field. Moreover, universities had to put up unexpected costs of going online, which included IT staffing, software, and much more. Besides, as long as online learning is concerned, some students may not have a personal computer, free access to Wi-Fi, or the possibility to concentrate studying in their homes. On the other hand, after more-than-a-year-long online learning, students find it difficult to re-establish their lives as they used to be, and this brings the discourse to the birth of a new trend in higher education: the need for students mental support. Even if some colleges and universities have adopted student tutoring methods by specialized coaches, the enrolling rates have still seen a significant drop.

There are some key trends in the current higher education scenario; for instance, the international student rate has gone through a significant drop in number.  Even if in China – one of the countries with most international students globally – the overseas destinations, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, are still quite popular, the overall number of international students is still going through a decrease. The beforementioned rate will continue decreasing, and some experts believe that the regionalization of mobility of international students in higher education might occur, meaning that they will be more likely to pursue blended on-camp and online degrees or even fully online taught programs without leaving their country of origin. Besides that, other key topics, such as international research collaborations, are already going through changes. It is believed that academic events such as conferences that usually give researchers the chance to communicate with other researchers will most probably be all held entirely online. And the last but not the least trend is one of the preprints published before-time because their trend was already rising, but, when the pandemics erupted, many scientists and academics showed up with their studies and theories on the subject by using preprints. In any case, some important Covid-caused key trends are already taking hold in the current higher education scenario all over the world.

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There are, although, some trends that are predictable for the future of higher education.  The health protocols for students’ enrollment will be undoubtedly stricter as before, and they are most probably going to attend fully online taught or semi-online blended courses. Moreover, more and more companies will most probably sponsor their employees’ education, including higher education. This implies establishing specific career-based programs and career counselling before enrollment for both students, young ones and adult learners. Vision planning will be part of universities and colleges’ strategies since it will complement strategic planning. The old-fashioned business strategies will not be valid anymore. Vision planning is one of the key elements to stay up-to-date and secure in this fluidly changing world influenced by technological innovations. Besides, if the technological and especially the digital side is concerned, data analytics will be more and more often used in higher education to observe consumer behaviour and to engage more students in the enrolling process. Competencies will be earned along with the grades for what we traditionally call “subjects” because skills are currently more highly evaluated than job candidates’ degree(s) or grades. Moreover, students have to have done at least one internship to maximize their degrees and be more attractive to employers.

Today’s world has been influenced by two main factors, Covid-19 pandemics and the technological revolution. Some factors have inducted a crisis in higher education, but from there, some emerging key trends arise, which help us predict the future of higher education.

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