The need for lifelong learning in the reimagined university
Every institution of higher education aspires to create lifelong learners, but at present, the life of learning that graduates go on to is largely separate from their college institutions.
University System of Georgia, College 2025 Initiative
In Wikipedia, lifelong learning is defined as “the ongoing, voluntary, and self- motivated pursuit of knowledge either for personal or professional reasons.” The definition recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or to the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations.
The Oxford dictionary defines lifelong learning as the practice of continuing to learn throughout one’s life to foster the continuous development and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment.
Both definitions recognize the need for continuous learning throughout one’s life.
I have defined the reimagined university as the by-product of the new higher education world post COVID-19. Reimagined universities are led by chief executives who have both the vision and ability to champion new ways of leading their institutions. These chief executives think from the end and are open to retiring outdated business models and entrenched administrative silos. These chief executives know how the world works and know that their connection to their students should not end at graduation.
This article will connect the intersection of lifelong learning with the reimagined university.
Need for lifelong learning
Continuous skilling will be required of college and university graduates. Employees will need to continually upgrade their skills through short-term programs and stackable credentials.
Peter Cohen, president, University of Phoenix
In a World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs, one of the forum’s conclusions is that the primary driver of change in global business is the evolution of flexible working environments populated with employees with critical thinking, adaptable, and flexible skills.
In their report, the State of Workforce Transformation, Udacity conducted a survey of more than 600 learning and innovation leaders across institutions in North America. The survey revealed that business leaders are united in the belief that their organizations must reskill employees to master new technologies. An astonishing 87% of respondents believe workforce development is critical. 83% also concluded that they have a troubling skills gap in their organizations.
Key findings from the QS Global Employer Survey and the QS Applicant Survey 2018 report reveals that the skills gap of college and university students is a global and widespread issue and exists across regions and countries posing a challenge to employers around the world.
Apart from alumni who return to pursue post-graduate study at the masters and doctoral level, most college and university graduates have little educational interaction with their alma mater throughout the rest of their lives.
In the May 14, 2020 issue of Forbes magazine, Ann Kirschner makes the case that the road to recovery for colleges and universities after the pandemic lies through change and innovation. She suggests that instead of having a narrow interpretation and mission for a school’s career services department, a new department headed by a Dean-of-the Rest-of Your-Life be created. Ms. Kirschner recommends that the new dean should be charged with building strategic employment partnerships and with tracking changing job markets.
The shift will require institutions to transform from a single educational time period model to a lifelong educational journey.
University System of Georgia College 2025 Initiative
Lifelong learning in the reimagined university
In the reimagined university the importance of career counseling and lifelong learning shifts from the end of a student’s academic career to the beginning. Admission acceptance packets include information from the career services staff, including the types of available internships, career counseling seminars, and a list of career counselors.
Information on lifelong learning services are also included in the acceptance packet setting the stage for the accepted student to realize that learning begins from the time of acceptance and continues through enrollment, to graduation, and after graduation.
Accepted applicants who decide to defer enrollment for a semester or a year are offered credit-bearing projects to complete before enrollment.
Current students are offered, on a regular basis, seminars designed to enhance job readiness.
A dean of career counseling and lifelong learning is appointed by an institution’s president or vice-chancellor and holds a seat on the cabinet.
In the reimagined university a career counseling and lifelong learning committee includes the director of career counseling, the director of lifelong learning, academic deans, representatives from the admission, research and alumni offices, the registrar, faculty with industry experience, and an outside representative from industry.
The committee, in concert with academic deans, develops lists of lifelong learning courses available to graduates and also provides information on courses offered in partnership with alternative educational providers, like Udacity, Google, and Coursera.
The committee works with the registrar to design a transcript listing not just the courses taken during a student’s academic career, but the competencies learned in each course. J. Philipp Schmidt, director of learning rethinking at the MIT Media Lab put it best: The purpose of credentials is changing. They are moving from a sorting mechanism to a representation of a person’s competency.
Example of lifelong learning
College and university students want to leave college with relevant and transferable skills needed for employment success after graduation. The following is one example of how this goal can be achieved.
The Nexus Degree at the University of Georgia is a 60-credit-hour degree, consisting of 42 credit hours in general education courses and 18 credit hours of coursework focusing on the skills and knowledge requirements of a major industry. The 18 credits create an apprenticeship-internship aspect that must include at least six credit hours of experiential learning and at least 12 credits hours of upper division coursework.
This is an example of an educational curriculum that lends itself to lifelong learning and earning stackable credentials.
After the pandemic, a revolution in education and work awaits. No job, no K-12 school, no university will be spared. The nature of work, workplace, and the workforce will be transformed.
Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, Op Ed, October 20, 2020
While COVID-19 has disrupted many aspects of higher education, it has also created many opportunities, including the opportunity for institutions of higher education to create an environment for lifelong learning as an integral part of the college and university experience, from acceptance to enrollment, to graduation, to alumni engagement.
By making lifelong learning, or according to Ravi Kumar, president of the Indian tech company, Infosys, “radical reskilling,” an essential component of the reimagined university, university officials are making it possible not only to increase enrollment but also increase ongoing alumni engagement.
Higher education predictions: 2005 2014 2021
In 2005, my whitepaper, Ten Trends in Higher Education was published and I
predicted the following for U.S. colleges and universities:
Higher education providers will become more numerous and diverse.
Part-time college attendance will increase and colleges and universities will offer
classes in the evening and on the weekend.
An increasing number of schools will work in partnership with employers to meet
Telecommunications options will become standard practice, with students taking
classes at home, on campus, everywhere, all the time.
Women, minorities, and adult learners will dominate future higher education
Federal and state funding for colleges and universities will decrease.
Technological capabilities will encourage the rise of global universities.
International students will continue to come to the U. S. but the mix of students
will change with more students coming from Asia and fewer from Europe.
The U.S. will compete with several other countries for the internationally mobile
Traditional colleges and universities will not disappear in the future but they will
change organizationally and will be managed differently. Administrative positions
will be added as will athletic programs and extracurricular “comforts,” i.e. food
courts, rock climbing facilities.
I think you would agree that without exception, the predictions I made in 2005
are today’s higher education realities.
In 2014, I wrote another white paper on worldwide trends in higher education for
students worldwide and made the following predictions:
Technology will be the greatest disruptor of higher education over the next five
A diverse student body will demand a more flexible educational delivery system,
including when and where courses are taught, how students register for classes,
and how much tuition is charged.
Incoming students will bring accepted credits from IB and AP courses and certain
The fall and spring semester system will become a thing of the past. Students will
attend classes throughout the year and will create a “third” semester during the
Most students will have transcripts from more than one college and university.
Colleges and universities will “buy” online courses from each other.
Strategic enrolment plans will include input from the directors of career
counseling and alumni affairs.
Accreditation criteria will change with more focus on outcomes.
Again, I think we can agree that these predictions have come to pass.
My predictions for higher education worldwide in 2021 and beyond are:
Students, faculty, and staff will travel with Digital Health passports, verifying
COVID-19 test results.
Students will enroll in colleges and universities with well-established health
Students will attend school year round in some combination of online and in
Credit bearing, GAP year programs, will increase worldwide.
Students will be admitted year round and will be notified of admission decisions
as soon as their applications are complete.
An increasing proportion of higher education enrollments will come from
company sponsored, short-term certificate programs and boot camps.
Enrollments in Google Career Certificates and Microsoft’s global skills initiative,
among others, will increase.
Vision planning will co-exist and complement strategic planning.
Schools will hire chief innovation officers charged with implementing vision plans.
Consumer behavior will be incorporated into all future strategic plans.
Career counseling will begin before enrollment, throughout enrollment, and after
graduation. Colleges and universities will embrace a ten- year acceptance,
matriculation, and graduation plan for students.
Graduation counselors (formerly called registrars) will map out all of the multi-
year courses necessary for graduation prior to a student’s matriculation.
Financial aid and debt counselors will provide estimates of costs and debt prior to
Transcripts will list competencies earned in courses along with grades.
Students will graduate with at least one internship.
Antiquated higher education business models will be replaced with differential
Virtual recruitment and admitted student events, as well as faculty and staff
conferences, and faculty and staff meetings, will supplement in-person
Some colleges and universities will cease operations. Others will merge with both
national and international partners.
International student mobility will become more localized, within regions and
Geopolitical rivalry between the U. S. and China will impact future international
It would be simplistic to blame these 19 predictions on the pandemic. Many of
these predictions were already trending. COVID-19 accelerated, but did not cause,
many of the changes and disruptions higher education is likely to experience in
2021 and beyond.
And this list of predictions is by no means complete, and reflect more
administrative disruptions, than academic ones.
But let’s check in at the end of the year and assess which of these predictions
were accurate and which were not.
You should worry less about Latin America’s short-term economic downturn, and more about its long-term educational decline.
Andres Oppenheimer, The Miami Herald
FALL ENROLLMENT DATA – PRELIMINARY REPORTS
The information in this section is preliminary data on student enrollment numbers for the fall 2020 semester. I will update in future bulletins.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported this week that enrollment in the United States declined by 2.5% for undergraduate students. Community college enrollment declined 7.5% and enrollment of international students decreased by 11.2%.
The Australian Department of Education, Skills, and, Employment Report published figures for the fall term this week. Total enrollments declined 3.2% and new student commencements decreased 18.4%.
I predict that these preliminary figures will, in the weeks to come, reveal declining student enrollment in many countries, including many countries in Europe, and Latin America. I also predict that student enrollment numbers will register increases in many countries in Asia, Southeast Asia, and China.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT MOBILITY TRENDS
Data on 123,309 Indian students by Yocker revealed that interest for the 2021 academic year has shifted slightly from the United States to Canada, the UK, and Germany.
A World Education Services survey of 615 prospective international students revealed that 67% did not believe the pandemic will impact their intention to study in the United States. 20% were less interested in pursuing a degree in the US.
COVID -19 AND THE ECONOMY
The United Nations’ World Tourism Organization’s report, World Tourism Barometer, reported that international travel worldwide decreased 65% in the first six months of 2020 and $460 billion has been lost in export revenue derived from cross-border tourism.
60% of Asia is still closed to tourists. In Europe the figure is 17%.
COLLEGE LIFE ON US CAMPUSES
College is open, but life is shut down.
Paul Moakley, Katie Reilly, Time
As of September 22nd, more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported on US colleges and universities.
Over 800,000 Chinese students who studied in the US, UK, and Australia returned to China this year in search of employment in an already crowded domestic job market. This number increased 70% from 2019 and these returning students are competing for jobs with 8.74 million new graduates from Chinese colleges and universities, the largest number ever reported.
The implications for Chinese internal stability and future Chinese international mobility are obvious.
As the real world knocks on our door, we crave nothing more than a little direction.
Kristine E. Guillaume and Jeremy Tsal, Time
Higher education administrators are struggling with the unfamiliar and as the quote suggests, crave direction. But no prediction can guarantee when the virus will end, when a safe vaccine will be distributed, and when “normal” life, including college life, will resume.
No forecast is better than a random guess. So much can, and probably will, change before life returns to whatever it will be. That is why I believe it is so important for college and university chief executives to begin to reimagine now what their schools will “look like” after COVID-19 ceases to dominate our lives.
You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something,
build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
A REIMAGINED CAREER SERVICES FUNCTION
In the May 14, 2020 issue of Forbes magazine, Ann Kirschner makes the case that
the road to recovery for colleges and universities after the pandemic lies through
change and innovation. She suggests that instead of having a narrow
interpretation and mission for a school’s career services department, a new
organization headed by a new Dean-of- the-Rest-of-Your-Life be created. Ms.
Kirschner recommends that this new dean should be charged with building
strategic employment partnerships and with tracking the changing job market and
should have a seat on the president’s cabinet.
In the Reimagined University, career counseling would begin at the accepted
applicant stage and continue through all four or three years of enrollment. Robust
internship programs and alumni involvement would also be part of the career
I participated in a webinar on June 10 th , and learned that only 6% of trustees in
the United States believe students leave college ready to be employed.
The idea of bringing career services out of the shadows was reinforced when I
read that David Green, president of Colby College in Maine, announced in May
that the college has pledged to find jobs for all of its students after graduation.
Alumni involvement is key to the success of this program.
GEOPOLITICS AND FUTURE INTERNATIONAL STUDENT ENROLLMENT
On September 15 th , the U.S. State Department issued a sweeping advisory
warning against travel to mainland China and Hong Kong, citing the risk of
“arbitrary detention” as the reason for the warning.
One of the residuals of COVID-19 will be the fundamental re-ordering of political
and economic alliances. Research and data suggests that with regard to
international student mobility, there is evidence of a shift in the preferences of
students either to remain close to home or enroll in Asian or African colleges and
Margaret Gardner, vice-chancellor of Monash University, wrote: Geopolitical
uncertainty will disrupt international education more lastingly than the current
The Consumer Price Index for United States’ college tuition and fees posted a
significant decline from July to August 2020, according to the Department of
Labor statistics. The CPI slid by 0.7%, the biggest drop since 1978, according to
China’s industrial output rose in August 2020 and retail sales expanded for the
first time this year. This would suggest that China’s economic recovery is gaining
Gattopardesco means everything needs to change, so everything can stay the
Giuseppe de Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo (The Leopard)
Many aspects of higher education need to change and in the post COVID-19
higher education world, not much will be the same. Just saying.
I don’t think there are two universities that have the same protocol. It’s national chaos.
Irwin Redlener, director of the Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative at Columbia University
US COLLEGES -OPENINGS AND CLOSINGS, STARTS AND STOPS
A majority of colleges and universities in the United States began the fall semester in the past two weeks. The following are some of the reported results:
Colleges in all 50 states have reported COVID-19 cased among students.
To date, there are more than 88,000 American college and university students infected with the virus.
The Ohio State University issued 225 interim suspensions to students who attended off-campus parties.
Several students, attending Northeastern University in Massachusetts, were suspended after attending a party in a Boston hotel. None of their $36,000 tuition and fee charges are refundable.
The University of North Carolina sent a letter to students saying the school would cancel in-person instruction for undergraduates after 130 students tested positive for the virus one week after the start of classes.
Illinois University has quarantined the entire student body after several cases of the virus were reported.
You may draw your own conclusions about the wisdom of not having a national protocol of policies and procedures for college and university semester openings.
55 million elementary and secondary school students in the United States went back to school this week and already 500,000 children tested positive for COVID-19.
The United States has revoked the visas of more than 1,000 Chinese nationals since June 2020. The decision is aimed at graduate students and researchers believed to have ties to the Chinese military. Another ruling requires any Chinese diplomat to get permission before setting foot on any college or university in the United States.
The Australian government is seeking power to veto or scrap agreements that universities have with foreign countries. The veto, if approved, would affect many of the arrangements Australian schools have with colleges and universities in China.
In the future the Indian government will require all Chinese academics in India to go through additional screening. The government is also reviewing dozens of MOUs between Indian schools and Chinese colleges and universities.
China’s National Security Law, in place since July 2020, identifies a wide range of campus activities that can be considered, by the Chinese government, as collusion with a foreign country against China. Although originally intended for schools in Hong Kong, this can potentially extend to colleges and universities worldwide.
Zoom authorities admitted they had been pressured by the Chinese government to suspend Zoom conferences that were deemed sensitive to China.
Last week I shared with you that students in certain courses, taught at Princeton and Harvard universities, will submit work using a code instead of their names.
There can be no unbundling of the political tensions between China and the United States, Australia, and India and higher education. I predict this will only increase in the future and will negatively impact Chinese and international student mobility as well as research collaboration between universities worldwide.
China has established educational cooperation and exchange agreements with 188 countries and this week announced the recognition of the higher education degrees of 54 countries and 46 international organizations. This decision will undoubtedly increase the number of graduate students and researchers seeking admission to Chinese institutions.
On September 4th, the 2020 China International Fair for Trade and Services opened. In the middle of this pandemic, 100,000 people, 18,000 corporations, organizations, and institutions from 148, countries registered to attend.
Chinese higher education policies have been marching steadily toward making China the number one importer of international students. I am more than curious to learn the number of international students who will enroll in China for the fall semester.
The University of Arizona announced that it will partner with WeWork to allow international students access to workspace in their home countries. There are 500 WeWork locations in 80 cities across 37 countries. This collaboration will allow international students, who cannot attend the University of Arizona because of the pandemic, to continue studying at the university.
I learned a new word this week: logomachy, or an argument about words. There can be no logomachy about the words I used in this week’s bulletin to describe the chaos and confusion in higher education at the beginning of the fall semester.u