Predictions And Possibilities For A Jolly Academic New Year

As we come around the corner of 2023, here are ten predictions for higher education. Maybe these are really more like possibilities, or wishes, or something akin to New Year’s Resolutions.

And yes, some of these already exist as green shoots on various campuses, but they have yet to swell into major trends.

In no particular order:

  1. The end of legacy admissions. Some university is going to get out ahead of the Supreme Court decision against affirmative action and declare an end to legacy admissions. At some university, the dean of admissions is already busily figuring out new ways to appease the office of advancement and alumni affairs.
  2. The apotheosis of advisement. Some university will obliterate the distinction between academic and career advising, understanding that their smooth integration has become an essential ingredient in retention and graduation. Where career success goes, enrollment and endowment will follow.
  3. Unlocking the black box of how we learn how to learn. Some university will answer the question of why some students arrived on campus with the makings of lifelong learners and some did not. Some university will accept its responsibility for inspiring that essential characteristic in all students. Cognitive science has much to teach us here, especially about how students acquire the skills of creativity, communication, and critical thinking.
  4. Embracing the next wave of technology. Some university will react with delight to a new generation of tools and services instead of proclaiming them as one more signal of the death of the humanities and academic integrity. Once it was Wikipedia that aroused the ire of academia, now it is ChatGBT.
  5. The end of majors. Some university is going to act on the knowledge that majors are anachronistic. Postgraduate learning is mostly experiential, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. College needs to prepare students with a scaffolding for general education that ends the tyranny of departments and elevates teamwork, research, and capstone projects.
  6. Creating higher education clusters. Some university will fling open the door to neighboring institutions to build networks that share faculty, facilities, and other resources, with the goal of reducing costs while still being able to offer a comprehensive range of courses and experiences.
  7. Redefining the professoriate. Some university will reject the institutional shame of relying on overworked and underpaid adjunct faculty and on graduate students who are headed for those same dead-end adjunct positions. Some university will evolve the tenure process into one that celebrates and supports faculty as innovative teachers and rewards their critical role in student career development and service to the university.
  8. Partnering with the private sector. Some university will have a clear strategy and adequate staff to develop strategic partnerships with key regional economic players. These would include internship/apprenticeship student opportunities and curricular initiatives including part-time teaching roles for professors of practice in rapidly changing technologies.
  9. Looking for presidential talent in new places. Some university will vet its new president for skills and experience as leaders of complex organizations in an era of disruption, with a Ph.D. as a optional nice-to-have. There just aren’t enough good ex-provosts and deans to go around.
  10. An educated board of trustees. Some university will provide its trustees with a realistic understanding of the highly competitive and complex world of higher education today. Nostalgia for the good old days and a roomful of well-meaning financial experts can strangle innovation at a time when the university should be the leader in solving the world’s challenges, starting with the exploding need for advanced, scalable, affordable education.

And just remember, I didn’t say WHEN any of these these might happen, only that I WISH they would.