The education sector is in a constant state of slow evolution. Thanks to the changes brought on by the global pandemic the pace of that change is accelerating. And there is data to suggest that the nature of students’ relationships to higher education is changing around the world.

This week, we’re zooming in on the changes currently happening in the education sector that are worth keeping an eye on. If you don’t keep abreast of them, you could soon find the higher education sector to be an unfamiliar place.

International demand for courses is growing

The British Council believes that demand for higher education is likely to continue on its current growth trajectory of 6.2% per year – a relatively large growth rate for such an established industry. In the meantime, digitisation means that more students will have the opportunity to apply to more courses across the world. Statistics in the U.S. show that the number of universities students typically apply to is growing year-on-year. 

When demand grows, markets adapt to capture the diversifying needs of their audiences. We’re seeing that exact mechanism play out in the education sector today. This paper by the OECD explores the different ways prospect demographics are changing. Universities are responding to that new demand with courses that help to differentiate their brand proposition. The number of courses that cross traditional discipline boundaries, target specific career outcomes, merge teaching modes and explore new research areas are increasing. All this points to offerings that could look very different in five to ten years.

Short courses are increasingly popular

The pandemic caused many students to rethink their education plans in 2020. Some decided to go ahead with an on-campus application, whilst others opted for 100% online courses instead. However, a surprisingly high number of students opted for a third option – deferring their education entirely. And although a sharp increase in applications is expected after the pandemic, this isn’t set in stone. 

Interest in short courses and non-degree options has increased in the past couple of years, begging the question of whether universities will react to the new demand. Short online courses have already penetrated the mainstream of higher education provision, with leading institutions like Oxford and Cambridge including them in their offerings. Could they be the future of education for all of us?

Degree apprenticeships are growing across the UK

Introduced in 2014, degree apprenticeships give students the chance to earn their degree whilst getting valuable work experience. They’re designed to get students skilled up quickly and off to a flying start in industry at the cost of providing the research entry points of a traditional degree. For students intending to go straight into a job after university, they’re proving an increasingly popular choice.

Degree apprenticeships are emblematic of the ways in which higher education is evolving. Students today are more aware of just how competitive the world of employment can be. They’re turning to courses, in whatever form, that equip them with industry-ready skills for a competitive edge in the market. They also want solutions to the chicken and egg problem faced by many graduates without job experience. 

The universities that provide solutions to these challenges are the ones that will increase their market share over the coming few years. It’s also likely that the institutions that don’t evolve and adapt will lose out. 

If you’d like to learn how to align your content strategy with an evolving higher education market, get in touch with us here at The Brand Education. We’re always happy to hear from you.