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4 Global Higher Education Trends for 2022

A student taking notes at a desk in class

We’ve just made it through two years of a global pandemic — arguably the most disruptive and transformative period for modern society globally. If 2020 was about the initial COVID-19 shock and our emergency responses, and 2021 was about trying to understand the implications of all the unprecedented events going on and appointing new leaders to lead us out of this crisis, then 2022 will be about bold actions and investments that will result in long-term impact and success in the era ahead.

For example, looking at trends in the higher education sector, 23 out of 43 Australian universities have appointed a new vice chancellor in the last two years. This trend, combined with the many subsequent senior executive changes, offers the necessary leadership foundations to accelerate enterprise transformation. So what does this opportunity mean for global university leaders? How can they enable their institutions to reach the next level of student success, community engagement, and research impact? Below are for global trends to consider for 2022 and beyond.

1. Business model innovation

Universities are learning from other industries and accelerating business model innovation, with a focus on hybrid learning and teaching. As learners, faculty and staff shift from a campus-centric, pre-pandemic way of learning and working to a learn-and-work-from-anywhere world, technology is increasingly seen as a critical enabler of new business and operating models.

New digital platforms and tools enable universities to operate efficiently, manage risks effectively, and coordinate resources effectively on and off campus, while reducing costs and helping the institution scale beyond traditional boundaries.

2. Learner-centric impact

More and more universities are adopting a “customer mindset” from other industries, and implementing learner-centric operating models. Universities are embracing learners as their primary customers, and exploring how to provide a more personalized and tailored experience to support learners’ educational experiences and outcomes. This means universities are optimizing their offerings to meet learner needs, including offering more proactive support and digital services geared towards meeting the changing expectations of students.

Educational institutions are increasingly bringing together departments and operating divisions along a shared vision and driving enterprise-wide collaboration to improve the learner experience. A significant area of focus is around holistic learner support — spanning health and wellbeing, studies, and community life — which requires personalized engagement at scale to offer inclusive education and create a sense of belonging.

3. Lifelong learning to lifelong relationships

In order for institutions to thrive, they will need to foster learner relationships for life. Students and alumni become lifelong learners and universities have the opportunity to foster a continuous relationship with each of them. With the pandemic leading to new skills needed, being able to attract alumni for their own career development and upskilling opportunities is a strategic growth area.

Alumni — as well as students — are increasingly looking for practical work/skills-based experience to better prepare them for the workforce. With that, alumni engagement to support the growth of corporate partnerships is becoming increasingly important as work experience expectations from learners increase. Furthermore, corporate partnerships to generate workforce development, consulting engagements, and research projects are also on the rise as schools hunt for new revenue streams.

A focus on strengthening lifelong relationships is a global trend across all types of education institutions — from public and private universities to community and technical colleges, business schools, executive education programs, and more. This means institutions are building new capabilities in customer relationship management, loyalty management, personalized marketing, and the development of new subscription service offerings and operating models.

4. Greater competition for students

With the pandemic proving that learning can be effectively delivered remotely and at scale, and increasing numbers of online learners exploring new education offerings from providers globally, higher ed institutions everywhere have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into a new global marketplace with millions of new learners.

However, this also means increased competition for students from new and existing types of competitors globally across a range of new business models. For example, more than half of U.S. colleges said they are prioritising student outreach in India and China, the two primary markets for international students for Australian universities.

Innovative education leaders are focusing on their key strengths, investing in technology to create differentiating learner experiences at their institutions, and developing new marketing capabilities using data and analytics to engage with specific audiences and remain at the top of the competition.


As the saying goes, “never waste a crisis,” and 2022 looks set to be another busy year for higher education leaders everywhere. The sector has gone through an incredibly difficult two years, with a lot of sacrifices and painful choices made to strengthen our institutions. Now is the time for our educational institutions to invest and boldly move forward.

Technology decisions will play a crucial role in the ability of institutions to differentiate themselves, unlock new opportunities to educate new learners via innovative business models, and pursue their strategic business imperatives. A critical ingredient for success will be flexible and scalable digital platforms built on trust that bring together data and intelligence in a way that is learner centric, and supported by a vibrant global ecosystem of service providers and skilled higher education users. A new era is emerging and the stage is set for universities to become “impact centres of the future” for learners, communities, and research.

Learn more about global trends in higher education by downloading our Connected Student report.

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