Futures of Higher Education

This project on the Futures of Higher Education will stimulate creative and imaginative thinking and ideas about the futures of higher education to 2050. The project takes a global perspective, nurturing discussions around the role of higher education as part of UNESCO’s larger Futures of Education initiative.

Learn more about the futures of higher education project.

Project phases

The project is innovatively generating a range of new perspectives on the futures of higher education based on consultations with higher education experts, the general public, and youth.

Expert consultation

UNESCO IESALC collaborated with higher education experts from every part of the world. They are highly distinguished figures with extensive experience in higher education. Find out more about the expert consultation in a series of concept notes, the report Thinking Higher and Beyond: Perspectives on the Futures of Higher Education to 2050, and a webinar recording.

Public consultation

The results of a global public consultation with 1,2000 people from almost 100 countries are shared in the report Pathways to 2050 and beyond: Findings from a public consultation on the futures of higher education, a webinar recording, and an interactive website. The full dataset from the public consultation is available as an open access research and learning tool.

Youth consultation

UNESCO IESALC’s future of higher education is placing special focus on young people as the next generation of higher education students and as the people who will contribute to societal development in the years to come. Together with UNESCO teams around the world, we are consulting current secondary (high) school students as they reimagine the futures of higher education.

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Project rationale

Recent years have seen phenomena such as the growth of private providers and privatization of publicly funded higher education, the development of accreditation systems, increased access, and shifts in how higher education is funded. Challenges and opportunities external to higher education systems include demographic shifts, political change, economic crisis, war and conflict, and, as we have seen recently, global pandemics.

The project is guided on the one hand by how higher education has been shaped up until now, revisiting what in the recent past has already been proposed as desirable or plausible futures for higher education. On the other hand, we seek to find ways to remove the constraints of starting from the past and present on our future visioning. This is particularly important in relation to notions of higher education that have become dominant, but which do not reflect the plurality of knowledge traditions that exist.

The two guiding questions for the project are: How would you like higher education to be in 2050? How could higher education contribute to better futures for all in 2050?

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Youth Engagement Toolkit

This Youth Engagement Toolkit hopes to address this by involving youths into the conversation of futures of higher education and sending a signal that their futures are in their hands! Combined with questionnaires and in-depth guided discussions, youths have the opportunity to express their perceptions of their understanding of current education system including higher education, share their thoughts on the role of higher education in their future and go beyond to identify challenges or improvements and opportunities for the futures of higher education in a broader societal setting.


Explore the latest news, events, reports and other resources relating to UNESCO IESALC’s Futures of Higher Education project.

For more information about IESALC’s Futures of Higher Education project, please contact Emma Sabzalieva at e.sabzalieva@unesco.org.