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Higher Education; what’s in store for 2024

Dr Rohan Carr | Feb. 13, 2024

Higher education is undergoing profound transformations, shaped by economic, health, technological and social influences. Despite the anticipation of a return to normalcy in 2023, the past year posed challenges; necessitating heightened adaptability and resilience.

As we embark upon 2024, we face uncertainties that prompt a reflection on the trends, especially those influencing talent attraction and retention, within the sector. Insights from our colleagues around the globe provide valuable perspectives on this evolving landscape.



Value and Affordability

Amid escalating costs and inflation, Western universities, in particular, face scrutiny regarding the enduring value of traditional degrees. A Melbourne Institute survey revealed that 52% of respondents questioned the assumption of improved job outcomes resulting from a university degree and expressing disquiet about the high cost of education. Globally, concerns regarding the affordability echo with our colleagues at Kestria New Zealand who noted: “Addressing living costs has become the paramount issue for tertiary students in our country”.



Student Experience and Well-being

Universities are being compelled to prioritise innovative student experiences to counter declining enrolments, a key challenge in the U.S., according to our Kestria USA colleagues. Simultaneously, demands for holistic well-being and safety measures are intensifying, with mental health and issues like sexual harassment gaining increased attention from stakeholders, necessitating a proactive response from institutions.


Talent Competition

The revival of global mobility will further increase competition for top academic and professional staff. This will multiply challenges within specific disciplines. For example, health faculties in Australia grapple with the pressures of program expansion and increased healthcare sector demands, intensifying competition, especially for candidates with a clinical orientation. Our colleagues in Kestria Canada also observe increased competition as industries including technology, professional services, and healthcare compete directly with universities for academic and professional talent.


Artificial Intelligence

Beyond driving change in teaching and learning, artificial intelligence is starting to impact individual disciplines. Academics and researchers experienced in AI, especially in real-world applications, are in high demand. Some private providers are starting to explore ways they can use AI and digital platforms to personalise the learning experience and compete with more established institutions, further increasing the focus on curriculum and program development.


Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI)

DEI is increasingly becoming a core part of the strategy of educational institutions. Kestria Canada noted: “this underscores a commitment to provide students with a diverse and enriching academic experience, where exposure to varied perspectives is not just encouraged but embedded in the institution's leadership and ethos”. Our UK colleagues noted an increasing number of strategic leadership appointments with DEI-specific responsibilities across Europe.

The aforementioned trends suggest that in building leadership teams, be they at department, school, faculty, centre or whole of organisation level, there should be a focus on capabilities and expertise involving:

  • Genuinely student-centred, fit for purpose and innovative offerings
  • Deep industry understanding and increasingly, experience
  • Enterprise-wide technological awareness, from a risk and opportunity perspective
  • Capacity to deliver transdisciplinary solution (both teaching and research)

Changing demands also suggest that universities continually review their long-term talent needs and be open to profiles that may not fit traditional descriptions in order to ensure genuine diversity in all its forms.

Navigating the challenges ahead may be formidable, but as an African proverb wisely notes, 'Smooth seas do not make for skilful sailors‘.

Article by Dr. Rohan Carr, Director, Kestria Australia.

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