COVID-19 Brings Forward Demise Of University Campus
- A new EY Australia report predicts COVID-19 will significantly change the university experience for would-be students as on-campus learning increasingly goes digital, on-demand and close to free.
- EY predicts that student numbers at Australia’s universities are unlikely to return to the highwater mark of 2019, as COVID-19 forces ‘Peak Higher Education’ in Australia.
- As part of ongoing disruption to the university sector, EY believes that universities will need to learn to be less reliant on government funding for undergraduate places, as well as international students to pay the bills as student levels decline.
- The EY report also predicts that tertiary education will be increasingly tied to employers as graduates with on-the-job learning and micro-credentials are increasingly in favour with employers when making hiring decisions.
- The new report is based on 32 in-depth interviews with leading university vice chancellors and experts from around Australia and New Zealand, and data points from EY market research.
Sydney, Embargoed August 16, 2021: A new report released today by EY (formerly Ernst & Young) predicts further disruption for universities in the wake of COVID-19 as students and employers increasingly demand flexible and job ready training that will set them up for future prosperity.
In order to survive the disruption imposed by COVID-19, the new EY report titled The peak of higher education – a new world for the university of the future.
The report predicts the higher education sector will need to reposition itself as the Knowledge Services sector to attract students. The challenges and bold changes required to meet them are:
- The campus is dead: Rather than sitting in a classroom at a set time, students are seeking on-demand access to personalised and high-quality learning materials from a digital platform;
- Work is the new University: employer-licensed accreditation courses take on universities for workplace relevance and students will seek out credentials that will best position them for guaranteed employment;
- Learners are empowered by choice and aided AI: Spotify-style platforms recommending courses based on student interests and aptitude;
- Commercialised research to fund University operations: Corporates, governments, venture capitalists and foundations post business issues and research topics to an ‘innovation marketplace’.
The report’s author EY Global Head of Education Catherine Friday said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed how far universities have to go when it comes to finding their place in the future of education.
“Our universities cannot rely on ever increasing inflows of domestic and international students to pay the bills, with student levels unlikely to return to 2019 levels as the sector continues to reel from the pandemic,” Ms Friday said.
“COVID-19 completely exposed the over-reliance on on-campus learning and international students in Australia’s higher education system.
“The traditional drawcards and revenue streams of universities around Australia were completely exposed by the pandemic, as campuses became off limits and international students were not allowed to enter the country due to public health restrictions associated with COVID-19.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, our research shows that 65 per cent of Australians [looking to study] would consider enrolling themselves in online learning anywhere in the world. At the same time, one-third of Gen Z (people born between 1997-2012) respondents said the pandemic will change the way they study over the long term. This is particularly insightful as they leave high school and consider their options for work and education.
“With fewer students, the traditional university campus is dead and the higher education sector must adapt by offering more digital and on-demand courses to attract future students.
“In 2018, EY predicted that Australia’s higher education system needed radical reform by 2030 to guarantee its future. However, COVID-19 brought forward the need for systemic reform to now.
“The traditional university degree, once a ticket for lifelong employment, continues to fall out of favour with employers and students. Instead, there is increasing demand for learning that is continual, flexible, customisable, and close to free.
“At the same time as changing preferences, cost and delivery models for universities are in crisis. Traditional degree courses are spiralling out of reach of more learners, while the Federal Government is failing to recover a higher proportion of traditional degree loans.
“Despite the challenges, there is still a pathway to success for the higher education system. However, it will require systemic reform from the sector and government to meet the converging challenges of changing preferences, ongoing public health restrictions and competition from upstart and international education providers,” Ms Friday concluded.
The latest EY report is based on 32 in-depth interviews with leading university vice chancellors and experts from around Australia and New Zealand, and data points from EY market research.