NCSEHE Focus: The future of Australian higher education: a synthesis of recent research and policy reports with implications for student equity

9 Oct 2018

There have been growing concerns within Australia and overseas about the way in which economic globalisation and developments in technology are disrupting the economy and society—for both better and worse—often in unpredictable ways.

Within this context, higher education is experiencing significant and rapid changes, the outcomes of which are equally uncertain.

This has raised major challenges in public policy: the role of education and training in a world where the nature of work and skills are changing; the shift of education to a continuous process of lifelong learning rather than focusing on careers that may be obsolete within a decade; whether current educational institutions are capable of adapting to the changes required; the public versus the private costs and benefits of education; and the changing role and character of equity in higher education.

While equity in higher education has seen unprecedented advances over the last decade, there is now less certainty as to whether past trends are any guide to future directions.

In recent years, a number of reports have examined the strategic challenges facing the higher education sector. Some have focused on equity, others have incorporated it to a lesser degree. The reports differ in the scope of their focus and preferred solutions to challenges. As change in higher education unfolds rapidly, we need to ensure that equity issues are understood, communicated and incorporated into change processes.

This publication presents a synthesised review of 14 reports with implications for student equity which illustrate these challenges and issues, and comprises three sections:

  • A synthesis of the drivers of change in equity in higher education based on high-level findings from the reports.
  • Summaries of 14 reports with a focus on key trends, facts, ideas and recommendations.
  • A synthesis of the ways in which higher education may need to evolve to accommodate and resolve the sometimes conflicting pressures for change.
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