Trends from 2013: education

I’d like to wrap up 2013 by reflecting on this year’s trends in education and technology.

Why trendlines?  Because they help us get a big-picture view of the year, and also point to possible ways 2014 might play out.

To do this I’ll draw on a FTTE report I issued recently, including references which appeared in FTTE reports over the year.

This will be a series of three, maybe four blog posts.

FTTE logo1. To begin with, what education trends loom largest from 2013?

Demographics. The decline of the American 1-18 population drove traditional-age campuses to compete more fiercely for a dwindling market.  Recruiters have turned to or enhanced their focus on new geographical areas, including parts of the American west and a growing amount of east Asia.

Enrollment decline.  In addition to the demographic problem of a shrinking pool of available students, the actual number of enrolled students has declined, overall, across the past three years.

Enrollment 2010-2013

This combination of stresses led to my “peak education” hypothesis.

Alternative certification.   The drive to develop new forms of certifying learning continued, from badges to registering lifelong learning.

Adjunctification.  The majority of American college and university instruction was done by adjuncts, perhaps to an increasing degree.  Labor organization occurred in urban area, and seems likely to continue in 2014, given adjuncts’ status and media stories of abuse.

Changes in international education.  Many countries continued to develop their higher education sectors, while sending large numbers of students abroad.  At the same time American institutions continued to build or develop campuses in other nations.

2. In contrast, which trends turned out to be minor or were simply very quiet?

Executive compensation controversy. While several cases of faculty and public outrage occurred, colleges and universities generally seem committed to high compensation levels.

Athletic budgets doing well.  Despite financial stresses to higher education, institutions remain committed to supporting student athletics programs.

Internship reform. Internships are still perceived as vital career steps for graduating students.

Library budgets. Most institutions have apparently maintained their library budgets at levels consistent with recent years, despite overall financial pressures and ever-rising journal prices.

Intergenerational tensions. Possible labor tensions between young and senior faculty seem not to be expressed in generational terms, or with acrimony.

Which of these trends looks most likely to impact your work and/or studies in 2014?

Coming up: 2013 trends in technology.

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5 Responses to Trends from 2013: education

  1. Bryan, one possible shortcoming of your analysis is it tends to paint higher ed with a broad brush (Fig 1, notwithstanding). Much of what you find doesn’t fit my school (a sm-medium, public, regional univ.). R1s in particular may bias your results. Similarly, discussion of athletics probably needs to differentiate between D1 and D3 programs. I’d love to hear more by sector, or by region. Looking forward to hearing more in 2014!

  2. That’s a very good point, Steve. FTTE is definitely aimed at higher ed as a whole, treating the complex, sprawling pile of 4500+ institutions as a single field.
    I’d like to break things out, but fear being overrun by complexity. Consider institutional typology: R1s, state schools, liberal arts colleges, CCs. That’s conceivable, but already capable of quadrupling analysis. Let’s take one of your qualifiers, public, and give each of those strata a public/private designation, and the category number ascends to eight. By region?

    When I launched FTTE I kept one eye on liberal education, and still maintain that perspective.

    Perhaps crowdsourcing would help.

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