Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Universities must adapt or perish: report

Australian universities will not survive the next 10 to 15 years unless they radically overhaul their current business models…

Universities should boost industry partnerships to address funding shortfalls, the report found. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

Australian universities will not survive the next 10 to 15 years unless they radically overhaul their current business models, according to a report released today.

The Ernst & Young report, titled University of the future: A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change, called on universities to specialise by targeting certain student groups, use their assets more efficiently and partner more closely with industry or be left behind.

“Current university models are living on borrowed time in Australia. Government funding is tight and is going to be tighter still in the next couple of political cycles,” said report author Justin Bokor, Executive Director in Ernst & Young’s Education practice.

“While they are not exactly businesses, they will have to run like businesses. They need to be lean and mean.”

The six month study, based on interviews with more than 40 leaders from universities, private providers and policy makers, predicted fierce competition for students and staff in future. The Internet will transform universities in the same way it has the media, entertainment and retail markets, the study found.

“One of our interviewees said, ‘Our number one competitor in 10 years time will be Google - if we are still in business’,” Mr Bokor said.

Universities should abandon the model of a broad-based teaching institution and pick a student segment to focus on, he said.

“Most universities at present have significantly more support staff than academic staff — this ratio will have to change,” the report said.

Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, said the report correctly observed some key drivers of change but that the discussion around adaptation was already underway.

“Universities have been around since the ninth century and have survived any number of catastrophic changes,” she said.

“The challenge though, will be to ensure that we have the policy, regulatory and funding frameworks in place that will enable each and every institution to find their place of best fit in this brand new world.”

Vicki Thomson, Executive Director of the Australian Technology Network of universities, said the report was a wake-up call for government, industry and universities “that to prosper, grow and support our national economy, universities must be front and centre of that game change.”

“The report reinforces the role of universities as educators, export revenue earners and leaders in research but we can’t do that in isolation. We must have a system that is well supported by Government and industry,” she said.

“The ATN applauds the findings that universities need to develop significantly deeper relationships with industry to develop a competitive advantage.”

Sign in to Favourite

Join the conversation

22 Comments sorted by

  1. Walter Adamson

    logged in via Twitter

    Having followed and commented on the MOOC series it set me thinking about the future shape of the University ecosystem. I have no expertise there but I do follow the trends such as the ones outlined in the report, and I came to roughly the same conclusion. So I agree with their "three broad lines of evolution". (I don't agree with all their "drivers" as being the key ones but that's a different story.)

    It seems "clear" that in the face of all things digital that 36 universities will not be sustainable…

    Read more
  2. Adam Suess

    logged in via Twitter

    Universities must adapt or perish. What's news about that? The scarier thought would be if this report is a wake up call to any university.

    report
    1. Walter Adamson

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Adam Suess

      That's true, especially since it's a reduction of information collected from university staff. But on the other hand it probably does not represent a consensus and it also adds to the discussion of the role of MOOCs in reshaping the evolution of universities and the structural outcome. That's a big debate. Having given themselves a 10 - 15 year horizon then the authors are pretty much playing it safe.

      report
    2. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Adam Suess

      17000 graduates of what has become a vanity course and only 2000 jobs at best

      http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/teachers-face-jobs-struggle/story-e6freoof-1226502721506

      ""However, there remains a demand for teacher applicants in rural and remote areas, and for the specialist secondary subjects of mathematics, science, industrial design and technology "

      Unfortunately, the women choosing teaching as a vanity subject (and they're almost exclusively young women) have such poor skills in literacy and numeracy that asking them to teach anything at all is pretty damned unkind to both them and the poor children.

      Why are they so poorly educated? Because the previous generation of teachers is more interested in feminism than pedagogery and their output is accordingly woeful. We're eagaged in a race to produce as many completely useless graduates as possible, all at enormous expense to the taxpayer.

      report
    3. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Misrepresenting even the Courier Mail Craig, that is low. 17,000 is the stock of teachers with their names on the books for jobs in QLD. Some of them are actually working there as casuals, on contract or looking only for relief work. And that 17,000 most likely includes teachers from anywhere in Australia who want to work in QLD, some of them are also working in their home states. And there goes your usual line of drivel, again, like a stuck record.

      report
    4. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Yeah right, I gave the quote from the article, the link to the article and you try to claim misrepresentation...

      And there are still 17,000 teachers looking for jobs in a market that can take just 2000 of them. Sheer madness.

      report
  3. Craig Minns

    Self-employed

    The university sector needs to decide whether its role is to give girls something to do while they wait to have children, or if it is to produce the next generation of thinkers and professionals.

    At present it teaches vanity studies to women at about the same rate as it teaches men and a few women to do things that will actually be wanted by industries that don't rely on Government for funding.

    The sector could be usefully halved in size with very little impact on the capacity to service genuinely needful training.

    report
    1. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Craig Minns

      So, Craig, anything other than IT, Engineering and Architecture are vanity subjects? Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants, Nurses, Economists, or Psychologists are not needed (Broad Field of Education Stats)?

      report
    2. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Dear me Dennis, that's a terribly amateurish attempt to put words in my mouth. If it wasn't so risible I might have been offended.

      report
    3. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Craig Minns

      Not putting any words in your mouth. Have a look at http://www.highereducationstatistics.deewr.gov.au/ where with a little bit of work on the data cube, that's the direct interpretation of your comment "At present it teaches vanity studies to women at about the same rate as it teaches men and a few women to do things that will actually be wanted by industries that don't rely on Government for funding." But then, you probably spouted your usual rubbish line in "women aren't as good as men" without checking didn't you.

      report
    4. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      See, there you go again. I've never said "women aren't as good as men" except in terms of productivity in paid work, which is supported by factual data and sound reasoning. Either is up for refutation any time you feel like giving it a go.

      It's amazing to me that someone who is so obviously intelligent has to do that sort of thing. Quite perplexing.

      report
    5. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Craig Minns

      See there you go again, tacit admission and all assertion and misrepresentation. No evidence or reasoning offered that stands up to scrutiny anywhere anytime: when you do, I might bother. An education as opposed to what ever credential you acquired whenever might be a suitable prescription.

      report
    6. Craig Minns

      Self-employed

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Tacit admission of what, Dennis? My post was specifically about your efforts to misrepresent my expressed opinions. I can hold a view about one aspect of gender without hating that gender or even generalising to all members of the gender. Let's face it, you appear to be a male of some kind and I don't hate men because you're a member of that gender, although there are some men I don't think much of as people.

      Now do try to avoid putting words in my mouth, there's a good chap.

      report
  4. Dennis Alexander

    logged in via LinkedIn

    This so-called report is advertising poorly dressed as research. It is, frankly, risible. It is a hodge-podge of opaque data, shallow research methodology, indefensible assumptions (really, academics are the only direct service personnel in a university, not to mention the false equation of higher education with professional service organisations), cookie-cutter solutions (nothing much that wasn't in Drucker in the 60s) and generally shallow (and callow) thinking. The truly sad thing is that it carries on the myth of the hegemony of the "customer" in the kind of platitude and cliche-ridden prose that dominates most business journalism. No wonder Australian business has an innovation problem with these people and similar advising them. I'm surprised we haven't had forty Vice-Chancellors denying they were among the fifteen consulted.

    report
    1. Catherine McDonald

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Absolutely agree! Why would any serious scholar believe anything that is said by Ernst & Young? These people are hired to produce PR spin for whatever organization pays them or to make a case for whatever business interest that services their interest. They are a money making organization. Their loyalty is to profit generation. Yet, did anyone notice them predict the GFC? No? Funny about that.

      And no this is not just an ad hominem attack. The university sector does really need to start rejecting the whole 'business model' crap.

      report
    2. Andrew Smith

      Education Consultant at Australian & International Education Centre

      In reply to Catherine McDonald

      That's quite a generalisation especially when universities themselves are masters of spin, income maximisation directly or indirectly (and associated waste we observe in international activity) and it has nothing to do with belief.

      Universities need to survive in a more competitive environment where they no longer have monopolies domestic or international, need to deliver quality learning through various channels, and maintain income.

      According to the observations of many, Australian universities must change their culture and employ personnel, teaching, research, administration etc. with skill sets to match future needs.

      They are not jobs shops for personnel wanting to work in a university (only) with an outlook informed from some years ago......

      In future smaller independent institutes or faculties plus VET providers will be nimble and adaptable, while universities may go the way of mammoths.....

      report
  5. Daniel Teghe

    Sociologist

    I am not so sure that universities need disappear because of the omnipresence of the digital and web.3. technologies. Only those that fail to adapt in time might perhaps do so. The problem is that the authors make some false analogies. For instance, I heard one of them on the 7:30 Report tonight likening universities with the print media, the latter being in the process of transitioning to online delivery in order to survive. However, reporting news and writing current affairs articles is not, as…

    Read more
  6. Robert Coffey

    logged in via LinkedIn

    While the tertiary sector in Australia faces significant challenges, the prediction that most institutions won't survive the next fifteen years absent dramatic change is an overreach. It's old wine in new bottles, I'm afraid: even casual observers of the sector won't find anything terribly new (e.g., increased competition for international students) to consider. With its economy and population, Australia should have no difficulty sustaining 36 institutions. In comparison, the state of Michigan, USA (population 10 m) sponsors 15 public HEIs. The call for HEIs to consider how they might specialise rather than attempt to maintain broad-based excellence is intriguing but anti-democratic and may inhibit access.

    report
    1. david henry

      Electrician

      In reply to Robert Coffey

      Incredible!

      Manuscripts, books, encyclopaedias, newspapers, televisions, television stations, radios, records, cassettes, floppy discs, CDs, DVDs, USBs, Hard Drives, libraries, video libraries, how long will it take for people to recognise the trend!

      They all have two things in common. They were all mechanisms for concentration and distribution of information and they have all been super seeded by the internet.

      A University generates and controls a flow of knowledge and information in exchange…

      Read more
  7. John C Smith

    Auditor

    Face to face contact education will survive for ever as long as people are mobile and they will use the latest methods available with the old.

    To suggest that currenet coomunication methods will make old methods obsolete; what can I say politely.

    A report from Ernst & Young on education is a joke.

    report
    1. david henry

      Electrician

      In reply to John C Smith

      Face to Face education has value and will most likely always exist.
      However absent government subsidy and the certainty of employment on completion, it may be too expensive an option for the masses.
      Online education would be a viable cheaper alternative.

      report
  8. Gil Hardwick

    anthropologist, historian, novelist, editor and publisher at eBooks West

    In this article the 'university' construct is a bit too bare to pass muster.

    The bulk of those post-compulsory schools being called universities these days are really only old Teachers Colleges AKA 'Colleges of Advanced Education', transformed under the Dawkins Reforms during the 1980s into 'universities', where by contrast the newly found independence of secondary education has seen that sector fill the resulting gap with its 'senior colleges'.

    It cannot reasonably be said that these post-compulsory schools under scrutiny are 1,000 year old institutions, in any way challenging the role of the university proper in civil society, as an essential part of the distribution of powers in a democracy alongside policing and jurisprudence.

    Hedge schools, more like it, stop-gaps while governments try to sort out what next to do with the unemployed.

    report