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Press Releases

‘Higher education facing climate change, not a passing storm’
Indian universities in for demand uncertainty

11 Mar 2022

Press release – Vice Chancellors Conference

Dr Fernando Leon Garcia, President, International Association of University Presidents, and President, CETYS University, Mexico predicts major disruptions in the global higher education business. “We are not talking about a storm that will pass, we are talking about climate change in higher education,” he says.

India’s higher education industry can no longer take market growth for granted, according to Dr Rajan Saxena, Former Vice Chancellor, NMIMS, and Chairman, AIMA Vice Chancellors Council. He says that during the past two years, the demand for higher education in India has shown signs of increasing price sensitivity and growing competition from edtech startups and technology companies. “The demand for university education is no longer certain,” he says.

The New Education Policy has added another layer of uncertainty to the higher education sector, according to Dr Saxena, as it has introduced flexibility of credits. With many students moving between job and education and between universities for completing their credits, the universities need to rework their operations and finances, he says.

The eminent academics expressed these views at AIMA’s Vice Chancellors Council’s international conference on ‘Global disruption and transformation in higher education’.

Many leading universities and research institutes, business schools, edtech startups and technology companies are participating in the conference. These include IIM-Bangalore, ISB, Indian Institute of Science, Warwick Business School UK, California State University USA, Bentley University USA, Coursera, L&T EduTech, Microsoft, GitHub India, and National Institute of Educational Planning & Administration.

Addressing the conference, Mr D Shivakumar, Group Executive President- Corporate Strategy & Business Development, Aditya Birla Group, who has served on the boards of many business schools, argued that higher education institutes are not moving with the time and they are delivering 19th century education in the 21st century. “Most universities and institutes are at least 20 years behind,” he said. He pointed out that India has about 17% of all universities in the world and it should be leading in shaping higher education.

Mr Shivakumar pointed out that student loans now form nearly 2% of the global economy and students want clear benefits from the education in terms of salaries. “The higher education institutes must recognize this outcome mentality,” he said. Talking about industry's expectations from higher education, he said that though the industry wants finished product from universities, the universities leave it to the industry to finish their product.

Forecasting the skill and job trends leading up to 2025, Mr Shivakumar said that problem solving, self-management, working with people, and technology and design would be the primary skills required three years from now and 7 out of 10 emerging jobs would be technology-based. He regretted that universities were still not teaching according to these trends.

Dr Garcia argued that though the face-to-face education will continue in the future, universities need to incorporate tech in education delivery. They also need to ensure ready and wider acceptability of their education by creating a short, laser-focused, accessible curriculum that relates to the workplace and that is international and intercultural, he said.

Dr Garcia said that the world is moving from the age of universities to multi-versities and higher education needs to cater to multiple types of learners and offer multi-disciplinary courses using multiple modes of delivery.

Mr C K Ranganathan, President AIMA, and Chairman & Managing Director, CavinKare, argued that a digital tsunami is coming and there is a need to develop foresight and adapt quickly. He pointed out that digitalization and hybridization are changing higher education’s business model and the role of real estate, location, infrastructure, and faculty are changing. “A lot of teaching, testing and evaluation is getting automated and algorithmic education would become essential component of mass education,” he said. He argued for use of AR and VR technologies to give students virtual tours of factories to give them a practical understanding of business.

Mr Ranganathan said that it was critical that the education regulators took note of the seismic changes and adapt. “Education is often crippled by regulations,” he said. Dr Saxena said that the AIMA Vice Chancellors Council will form recommendations for both the educators and the regulators based on the deliberations during the international conference on higher education.

Mr Ranganathan added to Mr Shivakumar’s point on industry-readiness of university students saying that it often takes six months to a year for a company to get any meaningful output from a fresh graduate. He said that the industry has started taking internships seriously and now companies are using internships to hire fresh graduates. He asked universities to develop curriculum based on attitude and skills meant for winning in the marketplace.

Ms Rekha Sethi, Director General, AIMA pointed out that while technology prevented a total washout of two academic years, the switch to digital has diminished the revenues of higher education providers and left the students feeling unfulfilled. She also pointed to the growing uncertainty for international students because of abrupt border closures during the pandemic earlier and now an outbreak of sanctions by the west following the war in Ukraine.

AIMA released its research report on ‘Changing Job Profiles of Management Graduates and Future of Management Education’ during the conference.

The international conference on higher education is attended by more than a thousand delegates from all over the world.

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