We reached out to Dr. Rahul Choudaha and asked him about megatrends and higher education.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha is a global higher education strategist and analyst focusing on future-oriented, data-informed internationalization and global engagement strategies. He is a keen observer and commentator of trends and insights related to international student mobility, institutional partnerships, online and digital learning, cross-border/transnational education, world-class university initiatives, and quality assurance.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha (@DrEducationBlog) will be moderating a panel on creating capacity for global pos-secondary education at The Saylor Academy Summit: Closing the Global Skills Gap. #SaylorSummit19 Click To Tweet

Jacqueline Arnold, Director of Strategic Relationships and Communications at Saylor Academy: What is a megatrend?  Why do they matter for the future of higher education?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha: I borrowed the definition of megatrends from John Naisbitt as “a long-term, transformational process with global reach, broad scope, and a dramatic impact.” When we think of higher education on a daily or even yearly basis, we often miss out on the more substantial external shifts which take place over several years and transform the fundamentals. Megatrends have the power to make us pause, think, and act in the interest of long-term changes. Among the key megatrends is the intersection of demographics, employment, and technological shifts, which are resulting in capacity and skills mismatch.  

JA: Where do you see possible shifts in growth opportunities and demand for higher education?

RC: From my viewpoint, the keyword for the future of global higher education is “blended.” Here I use blended in a broader sense than just blending online and offline learning. I am advocating for the potential of blended offerings in terms of disciplines, countries, and institutions. In other words, bridging capacity and skills gaps is about interdisciplinary learning options that span geographic and institutional boundaries. For example, between 2007 and 2017, High-income countries added 4.3 million students in tertiary education, according to UNESCO. During the same period, Lower middle-income countries (e.g., India, Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Kenya, Ghana, and Nigeria with per capita income of between ~$1,000 to ~$4,000) added 29.2 million–seven times as many students as High-income countries. However, this dramatic growth does not mean that everyone has access to quality education at an affordable cost. Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) of the addressable college-age population in these Lower middle-income countries can range from 20% to 40%, leaving a majority of potential learners still out of tertiary education. We know that our most significant defense for a future impacted by automation is an educated and skilled workforce. This is where blended offerings with flexibility and affordability for lifelong learning are crucial for addressing skills and capacity gaps. 

JA: Why should higher education administrators pay attention to these trends?  If you were a university president, what next steps would you take?

RC: Higher education institutions are at its core social institutions grounded in communities and economies of the region. Ignoring these megatrends will result in a failure to achieve the public good mission of the institutions. It not just about failure; now, we are at the onset of talking about the survival of institutions and mass unemployment unless institutions proactively respond to these megatrends. I would focus on blended as the core philosophy and strategy where partnerships with institutions, experiments with learning modalities, and synthesis of disciplines will guide the future.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha will be moderating a panel at The Saylor Academy Summit: Closing the Global Skills Gap taking place on November 14-15, 2019 in Washington, DC.   Register today and join us!

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