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 largerFutures of Education initiative.

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 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.

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?

Expert consultations

UNESCO IESALC collaborated with higher education experts from every part of the world. Our global team of experts are highly distinguished figures with extensive experience in teaching, researching and/or enacting higher education. Resulting from the expert consultation, we have published a series of concept notes on the futures of higher education (in English, French and Spanish), the report Thinking Higher and Beyond: Perspectives on the Futures of Higher Education to 2050 (in English, en français, en español.), and a webinar recording (in English and Spanish).

Public consultation

What are you hopeful about when you think ahead to 2050 and beyond? What are you concerned about? What do you think higher education should be like in the future? This public consultation was organized for members of the public to have their say on these important questions. The public consultation was open to everyone, anywhere in the world, of any age, and was completed by 1,200 people in almost 100 countries. The results of the public consultation are being published 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 where you can explore the data from the consultation. The dataset from the public consultation is also being made available as an open access research and learning tool.

Youth consultation

The futures of higher education project is placing a 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. Through a series of interactive workshops, UNESCO IESALC together with UNESCO teams around the world, are bringing in voices from current secondary (high) school students to reimagine higher education.

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

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