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Will education become more or less similar across countries?

Shelf of Gradient Mono vs Multi Futures


When articles discuss the future directions and trends of education, most of the time authors speak of the future in the singular. It is THE future of education we need to shape and the ONE path we have to head towards to thrive. This is not only expressed through global norms and standards, like the SDG 4 agenda, but also through the way in which the future is framed in the publications. Often authors talk about education as something homogenous which will look similar across different regions and communities. That notion is not always explicitly pronounced but the lack of consideration of regional differences, varying pathways or even diverse educational aspirations suggests this mono-future view on education. Only few publications clearly express the possibility of variation in future pathways. These can relate to different, regional needs or to contingencies in planning and implementation.

However, authors do not ignore the possibility that with the rise of populistic governments across the world, policies are redirected towards national interests, presumably leading to different futures of education under various regional and national norms. Balancing the internationalization of higher education with national needs might be the way forward to multiple futures under an umbrella of globally recognized norms.


Excerpts from the literature

“While there are a few other external forces in play, we identify eight megatrends which are likely to interact in a manner to transform the future of global higher education and international student mobility.

The world is getting older which will encourage institutions to find new ways to educating and employing the aging population throughout their career and beyond. Increasing pace of automation and skills mismatch will create new expectations for market-relevant skills and retraining of talent. Rapid urbanization will result in more people moving towards cities which in turn will drive demand for accessible and flexible learning models. Despite demographic challenges, stricter immigration policies in high-income countries may make it more difficult for finding migration pathways. Economic growth in emerging markets will drive demand for expanding access to higher education. It will also fuel aspirations and capacities to afford studying abroad. Imbalance in demand for higher education among youth population in emerging economies and large supply of institutions in high-income economies will provide opportunities for engaging through international recruitment and transnational education. Public defunding of higher education will continue with increasing expectations of self-funding through enrolment growth and academic innovation.

In sum, these megatrends will disrupt the higher education sector (especially in high-income countries) as well as international student mobility patterns.”


“There are always multiple versions of the future – some are assumptions, others hopes and fears. To prepare, we have to consider not only the changes that appear most probable, but also the ones that we are not expecting.”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “Back to the Future of Education: Four OECD Scenarios for Schooling” written by OECD and published in 2020. The report is a tool to support long-term strategic thinking in education. Inspired by the ground-breaking 2001 OECD Schooling for Tomorrow scenarios, these scenarios can help identify potential opportunities and challenges and stress-test against unexpected shocks.


“Countries all over the world seem to be striving to increase internationalization and global engagement, yet in many cases, the escalating trend towards isolationism and inward-looking nationalism results in a growing disconnection between the local and the global, thus fragmenting and indeed troubling developments in interuniversity cooperation; While one may see an increase in academic credit and degree mobility around the world, only a small student elite is benefiting from it. There has been a shift from a more collaborative approach to internationalization towards a more competitive focus.”

  • This quote is extracted from a report titled “European Higher Education Area: The Impact of Past and Future Policies” written by Curaj and published in 2018.This volume presents the major outcomes of the third edition of the Future of Higher Education – Bologna Process Researchers Conference (FOHE-BPRC 3) which was held on 27-29 November 2017.


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