World Access to Higher Education Day

Today (28.11.18) is World Access to Higher Education Day. It will be accompanied by conferences in the UK and Australia, initiatives in Germany from our colleagues (first generation students), and by a lot of social media events emphasising educational stories. See #WAHED2018.

A key to making higher education more accessible is to recognise and support different learning pathways into and through higher education.

In the AHEAD project, which was commissioned by the German government to look into the future of higher education, we are certain that the landscape in 2030 will have changed. Based on research and expert discussions, we have developed 4 pathways -named after toys to make them more memorable. They are Tamagotchi, Jenga, Lego and Transformer. Each of them exist to some extent already, but in the future they will take advantage of digital technologies and new constellations on teaching and learning to provide a higher education for all.

What we now want to know is how important these respective pathways might be in 2030. So we are turning to experts, stakeholders, students and parents to ask for your opinion.

We therefore kindly request your help. Could you help us by filling out our short questionnaire? In it, the 4 pathways will be described and we ask you about which type of student each one might be best for. We also ask you to quantify the importance of these pathways in the higher education landscape of 2030.

The link to the anonymous survey is here:

We have taken the decision not just to ask experts – which would be typical for this type of study, because we want to have ‚an ear to the ground‘. We would love to hear from those currently in higher education as students, teachers, academics, but also from people considering higher education in the future for themselves or their children. So, please help us to reach very diverse respondents. Thank you.

If you would like to blog or Twitter about this, please mention @AHEAD2030 or #AHEAD2030

Wie könnte die Zukunft der Hochschulbildung aussehen – laut internationaler Literatur?

As part of our project, we are currently trawling through the international literature to see what has been the focus of the debate in the context of „the future of higher education“. Here is a first impression of the data from the web of science. As you see – the student is at the centre of dicussions and skills evidently an emerging topic! More to come…

Zentrale Herausforderungen für die AHEAD-Studie

What will higher education look like in 2030?

The NMC Horizon Report 2017 defines two ‘wicked problems’ for the future of higher education, which are “complex to even define, much less address”. These are:

  • Managing Knowledge Obsolescence
  • Rethinking the Roles of Educators

Knowledge is important to enable people to understand and reflect on connections between objects, between physical and between social phenomena; to gain insights into them for understanding and perhaps in order to change them. The economist might want to change them for greater economic impact, the engineer for more efficient and new technical processes, the medical doctor or nurse for greater health and the social scientist to improve societal processes of participation and fairness. The  educator’s task is to facilitate these processes through supporting knowledge and skills acquisition – didactics is about activating such acquisition. This challenge is not really changing at all, but it is becoming more important that more people in society become active and continual learners, constantly reflecting on what they know and can do, but also on the value and the sustainability of what they know and can do.

Dissolving boundary between being ‚in‘ and ‚out‘ of higher education?

Even with the advent of distance and online modes of learning, higher education is broadly shaped by two limitations: (1) the difference between being ‘in’ and being ‘out’ of a higher education institution, i.e. mainstream higher education erects high administrative hurdles to entering a full learning programme (e.g. enrolling for a full programme of study, calling for standard entry qualifications, and only recognising learning ‘in’ higher education, not non-formal or informal learning); (2) the linearity of learning, i.e. the general idea that the foundational blocks of learning post-secondary education continue sequentially until a full programme of a Bachelor and perhaps even a Master course is completed, after that learning can be additive in smaller blocks, but generally does not increase the value of a person’s formal educational profile. This makes higher education exclusive to certain population groups (there are no higher education systems in the world, which fully reflect population diversity of the country they are based in) and leads to the increasing criticism that what is being learnt is outdated as soon as the graduate leaves the ‘institution’ higher education.

Flexibility of provision of learning which is not based on a common path of linearity (like climbing a ladder), but spiral shaped (interchanging spheres of depth) and which is not based on fixed content (‘knowledge canons’) is a challenge for higher education. However, openness of provision, unbundling of higher education programmes and closer, more individualised support of learners by educators are all being facilitated through digital solutions.

The future is already visible

It will be a major challenge for the AHEAD study to make predictions on what forms of higher education provision are most likely in 2030. But in our research we are already able to look to existing innovative practices across the world and to statistical and qualitative trends in skills and knowledge demand, learning theory and digital learning innovations, which will shape these processes on route to the year 2030.

This may seem a long time in the future, but the 8-year olds of today will be in tertiary education in 2030 (many of them undertaking some form of Bachelor course?) and the 18-year olds will possibly be their instructors. But also the 30 year-old across the road could be a Bachelor student in 2030. We are, then, surrounded by our future, which just have to recognise it.



Picture of process of osmosis from