Experts of the University of the Future Network contribute with re-visions of Higher Education on the futures of education
The University of the Future Network contributes perspectives on the futures of education by focussing on re-visioning the future of higher education post Covid-19 pandemic and in addressing two of the four core areas “Knowledge Production, Access and Governance” and “Citizenship and Participation” identified by the International Commission on the Futures of Education.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only disrupted the current education system, but it has also redefined the landscape of higher education and the need to come up with new ways of teaching and learning in the future. Higher education institutions are on the cusp of major disruption that is created in part by globalisation, digitalisation and recently the pandemic caused by Covid-19. Never before has the education sector being challenged the way it has been in the last few months. This has accelerated the urgent need to think about possible future requirements from teaching and learning as well as from an organisational perspective to ensure broadening of access and equity. For this reason, higher education is expected to respond to these needs and to re-vision on articulating the aspirations for the future.
To address this need, experts of the University of the Future Network who are working as researchers, lecturers and managers in higher education institutions around the globe participated in the visioning exercise in May and June 2020, were they discussed issues pertaining to the visionary paths, conditions for accessibility and inclusivity, and visioning post Covid-19. In responding to the following questions on:
Visionary Paths: Which visionary paths can be seen with regard to teaching and learning in higher education in the future and which key challenges and opportunities are related to these visionary paths? What emerged prominently from the discussions was that higher education in future is likely to be blended and online. In addition, higher education will be more personalised by offering flexible learning opportunities. The flexible movement of students and lecturers is seen as key to opening up higher education as well as supporting professional collaboration. There was a general consensus amongst experts that the digitalisation is key to catapulting higher education to the future. However, challenges concern students’ capabilities to move online and online teaching competencies as well as resistance to change may undermine progress.
Conditions for Accessibility and Inclusivity: What are the significant conditions that need to be in place to ensure accessibility and inclusivity in higher education? One issue that was brought to the fore by the Covid-19 pandemic is the digital divide that manifests in different types of inequalities. The lack of technical equipment, internet access and connectivity, and the lack of relevant skills to use technology for learning contributed to the exclusion of many. To ensure broadening access and participation by higher education institutions should be diversified and allow students to choose between different types of higher education institutions. Another critical component that was raised is the need to support online and autonomous learning.
Visioning Post Covid-19: How will visioning of teaching and learning in higher education will look like post Covid-19? To equip students with competencies to deal with the challenges of the 21st century and to promote social justice is perceived as major task of higher education. Post Covid-19 teaching is envisioned as a hybrid system actively engaging with the respective context and explicitly quality-driven. Some experts visualise a new normal with more attention and strategy to teaching and learning in higher education. At the same time they see the risk of reverting to traditional ways of doing things if change is not managed well. Ground-breaking changes depend on political will on the part of the government, higher education stakeholders including university management.