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So what comes after USC’s strategic plan in 2020? What’s in store for universities and education globally to 2030? Radical change is envisaged by Sohail Inayatullah, an international futurist who has had a home by the beach on the Sunshine Coast for 17 years and joined USC as an adjunct professor in 2001. The study of futures analyses patterns of change and stability in an attempt to map possible, probable and preferred future scenarios. (USC offers a Graduate Certificate in Futures Studies, coordinated by Senior Lecturer in History and Futures Dr Marcus Bussey.)

Professor Inayatullah's full commentary can be found the final chapter of Visions, USC's celebration book. Here is an an excerpt...

“The result for education has been a shift from education as an investment to education as an expense. Governments throughout the world have been reducing their expenditures in education, as they deal with increased social security costs and security costs (from the reality and the imagination of international terrorism).

“To deal with the new reality of decreased government subsidies, universities in 2015 found themselves moving towards virtual learning with the intention of having more students with less labour costs, and continuing to expand to new areas – the emerging markets where the demand for education is insatiable. There was also continued ‘casualisation’ of the workforce, with more being demanded for less. In Australia, ‘casualisation’ comprised 60 percent of the higher education workforce.

“These trends are unlikely to stop in the next 10 years. The number of students enrolled in higher education, for example, is likely to double to 262 million by 2025, with most of the growth in developing nations such as India and China. More than eight million of these students will travel to other countries. The market size for global education was US$2.5 trillion dollars in 2011 and is now US$4.4 trillion. Its growth is expected to continue as e-learning is projected to grow by 23 percent.

“We can thus expect more digitalisation and virtualisation, with holograms and virtual technology, and far more high-tech, soft- touch experiences. We can expect the continued globalisation of education, with providers at high school and university levels coming from all over the world, competing for the student dollar.

“Disruptions are likely. Perhaps, as with uber, airbnb, snapgoods and other aspects of the sharing economy, universities as formal providers may be disrupted by peer-to-peer, app-based networks. This means a world where learning is where you want it, when you want it, how you want it, and at cheaper costs. Education may also be disrupted by major players such as Alibaba, Google and Facebook, who could offer courses not just for employees or training but for degrees and doctorates. Of course, national accreditation remains the barrier. While this barrier may be feudal, the debate in the next 10 years will be: Can it be broken? Can the castle walls of the university be broached by the new tech ‘bedouins’? They may be innovators or barbarians – but the castle will be challenged.

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