Trends for Higher Education 2015-2020

Innovation, Entrepreneurialism & Academic-Industrial Collaboration

Higher education is the fifth largest export for Australia. It will continue to play a huge role in the cultural and social life as well as economic growth of the country. Over the next five years, with increasing investment, the higher education sector in Australia will be set to grow and there are a number of key trends that we are likely to see deepen over the period.

The main areas of growth over the next five years will be fuelled by the move towards more information-based economies. The emergence of information societies (see work of Manuel Castells) and the rapid growth of computer technologies, broadband and mobile technologies has fuelled a greater dependence upon data transfer and analysis in our globally connected societies.

Universities are in a particularly good position to capitalise on this move to information economies as they are already major metropolitan and regional generators of intellectual property (IP), are international research centres and provide tertiary education and training for 47-70% of our school leaving students aged 17+ as well as educating large numbers of mature age lifelong learners aged 24+.

However modern society is fast changing (see work of Paul Virilio) and today’s problems are very different from yesterdays. Students want to learn in different ways and can gain much of the traditionally taught information from the web. Universities need to adapt to this fast changing environment and better prepare students for the different challenges and opportunities they find themselves in.

This means that as societies grow and develop in ever faster paces the university sector has to be more proactive to changes and adapt to give students the best experience we can and invest in innovation and applied research to help fuel metropolitan and regional development and growth to ensure that students can walk into a range of employment opportunities in a vibrant local economy. In order for the university sector to be more proactive, a greater focus upon leading metropolitan and regional areas in innovation, entrepreneurialism and greater interconnection between public and private sectors of the economy, is required.

To achieve more of a leadership role in the city or region requires planning and foresight, areas of specialism need to be selected carefully and invested into over a number of years. Links between State-wide start-ups and incubators need to be fostered and aligned by State government priorities as well as through universities and industry initiatives. Above all a dialogue between academic-industrial and government partners needs to be nurtured and made to underpin all investment planning. Through this alignment of focus and investment, greater returns can be achieved for students, industry, the academy and government.

Our new societies are above all about collaboration not competition. It is critical that this is acknowledged as we build our 21st century communities.

The next blog post will consider ‘STEM, STEAM and impact’.

Link to book:

de Freitas, S. Education in Computer Generated Environments. London & New York: Routledge

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