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Employer collaboration key to universities’ future


Employers may find themselves in the driving seat when it comes to designing and awarding degrees, according to new reports by Universities UK.

The umbrella group has released two new reports, the first revealing that the number of 18 to 20 year-olds, who make up more than 70% of entrants to full-time undergraduate programmes, is projected to fall sharply from 2009 to 2019 before rising again during the following decade to 2027.

The second report analyses the potential impact of known and readily foreseeable policy developments on higher education institutions (HEIs) and outlines three potential scenarios:

  • Slow adaptation to change – little investment in elearning, some institutions become unviable, others reduce entry qualifications, which has a knock-on impact on standards

  • Market-driven and competitive – sees non-traditional suppliers competing with HEIs, more smaller or niche market institutions, greater investment in elearning – often in conjunction with private sector organisations, staff required to provide more flexible academic support for students and more demand for employer-supported postgraduate provision

  • Employer-driven flexible learning – most students study part-time on a virtual basis while working, triumph of employer-led part qualifications, credit and accumulation system, strategic alliances between HIEs and employers.
  • Professor Rick Trainor, president, Universities UK, said: “Universities UK commissioned this report to help universities consider the potential impact of longer-term trends and prospective demographic changes in demand.

    “It gives institutions advance notice of the challenges that lie ahead so that they are well placed to anticipate these changes. Universities will be best placed to meet these challenges if the sector remains lightly regulated and is free to respond flexibly to changing student markets.”

    The report, The future size and shape of the HE sector: threats and opportunities is available here.


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