The changing of the calendar year offers the perfect opportunity to reflect on the past and look ahead to the coming year. Here are our picks for five of 2014’s top trends from the world of higher education, along with predictions for what to expect in 2015.
A Look Back
2014 represented a breadth and depth of higher education change around the globe, including these five stand-out stories:
1. The Tuition Fee Tango
In 2014, Europe remained in a state of flux with some countries eliminating tuition fees while others were adding them.
Germany made headlines this past fall with the news that it would become entirely tuition-free following hold-out Lower Saxony’s announcement that it would join the rest of the country in abolishing tuition fees — even for international students. Not only will this news allow equal access to Germany’s high quality educational system, but it is also expected to bolster Germany’s status as a top international study destination.
Finland, meanwhile, reversed its seemingly inevitable trajectory toward the implementation of tuition fees and instead tabled the issue for further evaluation, while Denmark not only drew closer to implementing domestic tuition fees and more rigorous admissions requirements, but also announced enrollment limits which will significantly restrict access to international students in 2015.
2. The Era of the In-Demand International Student
Many nations have made importing international talent a key part of their strategies.
One of 2014’s most notable examples? Spain announced that entering international students would no longer need to pass a national entrance exam beginning in 2015. Instead, universities will assume responsibility for their own admissions processes.
This change represents a major step toward internationalization in the Spanish university system and is expected to be accompanied by a corresponding leap in competitiveness on the international stage.
3. The Rise of Asia’s Star
Both East Asian and Central Asian countries earned headlines this year thanks to their increasing promise in the international higher education market. Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia made strides in their attempts to establish themselves as hubs for transnational students while Central Asian countries, which have typically garnered less of the spotlight, drew attention for their status as up and comers.
4. Globalization Meets Universities’ Own Backyards
While “internationalization,” may be the ongoing buzzword in academia, 2014 was also marked by a very different trend: the identification of civic involvement as a critical core strategy.
While universities have typically focused on wooing students with the promise of an engaged and vibrant campus life, today’s students no longer want to view the world below from an ivory tower. This growing initiative seeks to bridge the gap between campuses and their surrounding communities. The ultimate goal? Fuse classroom learning, academic research and community projects to make real change in the immediate settings in which universities reside.
No longer will community service exist as an extracurricular activity or add-on; instead, it’s positioned to become a core component of the university experience.
5. The Rise of Non-European International Study Destinations
Students are studying abroad more than ever before, according to “Open Doors,” a report from the Institute of International Education. And while it’s no surprise that Europe remained a premier destination for foreign students last year, a rising trend saw non-European destinations coming on strong. South Africa, South Korea, Peru and Denmark all distinguished themselves as new players on the international higher education scene in 2014.
Read more about the 12 Unique Destinations to Study Abroad
A Look Ahead
The events of 2014 hardly existed in a vacuum. In fact, these trends will continue to have repercussions in 2015 and beyond. Here are three changes international higher education experts say we can expect to see in 2015.
1. A Job-Forward Approach
Conventional methods alone no longer meet the increasing demand for real-world skills — particularly in key technical sectors. A growing focus on student employability means that learning alone is not enough; this knowledge must also be applicable.
In 2015 look for universities to continue to adopt curricula — including everything from industry partnerships to prioritization of enterprise and entrepreneurial skills — geared to produce not just graduates, but members of a talented workforce. This is marked by a dynamic spirit of collaboration, and stands in alignment with the ongoing blurring of boundaries between academic and non-academic sectors.
2. Universities Will Go It Alone…Sort Of
Following in the footsteps of Spain, Poland, Finland, Austria and Italy, more and more countries are expected to move toward increasingly autonomous higher education systems in 2015. And while this may mean deciding their own rules and regulations about administrative topics as diverse as staff management, grant utilization, tuition fees, and student admissions, it also means more quality control measures in the form of independent evaluations of both academic and research spheres.
3. New Players Continue to Change the Game
The rise of non-European international study destinations far from topped out with the countdown to midnight this past December 31. In fact, a variety of factors, including globalization, increased competition, and the rise of English as a lingua franca, mean students looking to study abroad will have more choices than ever in the form of alternative paths. Branch campuses, franchising agreements, and online universities and MOOCs represent a brave new world, and are expected to continue to cut a swath through the higher education landscape.
One thing is for certain: the higher education sector will continue to change and evolve in 2015. As the year ahead unfurls, we look forward to keeping you updated and informed about the latest news and what’s coming next.