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.