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Phoenix Forward

5 predictions for the future of higher education

Higher education is a lifelong pursuit

In the future, getting a college degree will be even more important than it is today. And lifelong learning will increasingly become a necessity for staying employed, says Tracey Wilen-Daugenti, PhD, vice president and managing director of Apollo Research Institute℠.

In her new book, "Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work, and Society, (Lang, 2012)," Wilen-Daugenti, currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s MediaX program, predicts where higher education is headed. Here are the top five trends she foresees:


Higher education will rule the resumé.

“The percentage of jobs that require college degrees has doubled in the past 40 years and will continue to increase,” Wilen-Daugenti says. Based on her research, she says that by 2018, 637,000 more low-skill jobs will disappear or go offshore. “Millions of Americans could miss out on entering the middle class if they don’t obtain a degree, because our workforce will require 22 million degree-equipped employees for new high-skill jobs created by 2018.”


The workforce of today may not be employable tomorrow.

Wilen-Daugenti sees a divide between the skills workers possess today and those they will need in the future. “Workers will need radical new skills to thrive in the data-driven, interconnected workplace of tomorrow,” she says. Because of this, higher education institutions must launch new types of programs that teach these new skills — such as dual majors that include both a creative and technical background. “This would mean, for example, coupling a computer science degree with a history degree, or an engineering degree with an MBA,” she says.


Education and work are converging as a lifelong pursuit.

“I tell my students to learn how to learn because their education won’t ever stop,” Wilen-Daugenti says. Higher education is no longer strictly for that post–high school period — already, the majority of today’s college students are nontraditional learners, including those older than 23.

Additionally, because human life expectancy is increasing, people will continue working later in life, her research shows. To remain relevant, workers will need additional education. “If we are expected to live to 100,” she says, “you have to ask yourself, ‘Will my one degree last long enough?'”


Students will choose where and when to learn.

“As an instructor, I can now bring my students guest speakers, real time from around the globe,” Wilen-Daugenti says. And multimedia from a variety of education sites, including news and art history programs and even YouTube™, will enhance the students’ classroom experience.


Businesses and universities will unite to create a talent pipeline.

Corporations will no longer wait around for the college curriculum to evolve to meet their complex needs. Instead, private businesses will take the initiative to partner with universities. Wilen-Daugenti predicts this increased collaboration will make higher education more customizable, enabling students and companies to create programs that help employees acquire the skills they need to meet the goals of a specific organization.


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