There are over 200 million higher education students in the world who are enrolled in universities and colleges (World Bank, 2018). Higher education, anywhere around the globe, is considered sacrosanct, and deeply regarded among the most vital factors that influence the development of an economy and skilled workforce.
“Education brings upward social mobility to enable people to change their socio-economic conditions.”
“There is no greater ladder into the middle class than education.”
“The way to move up from middle class is investing in education.”
And several such proverbs dominate the cause of education for both parents and students. But that is changing.
“Going Pro Early” – Rendering universities redundant
Leadership in higher education faces a great challenge today. There were times when completing even basic education allowed people to lead successful professional careers. Soon, the path of going first to college, and then to work, became pervasive and common. That path now has become a maze – full of twists, turns and roadblocks – taking loans, paying tuition fees, shifting workplace, reskilling, reeducating, and it goes on.
This comes as no surprise that many graduates today never even get to use their degrees in their workplace. That said, taking this data at its face value isn’t as useful since professionals are using their higher education experience, irrespective of their profession, in many other ways. Nevertheless, relevant hard skills are often absent in college education. This trend is leading a rebellion, which might soon turn into a revolution.
As many as one-third of all traditional students in the next decade will “Go Pro Early” in work directly out of high school with the chance to earn a college degree as part of the package, shows a 2019 report from Kaplan University Partners.
Students’ preference for “studying while working” (mind you, NOT “working while studying”) is because it would help high school pass outs figure out the industry requirements while working, and based on their findings, they can gain the required skills. This would be cost-effective in a manner it optimizes the intangible returns from loans taken for higher education; but it would also hinder students’ learning curves and hasten their “initialization” time – not just for industry but life.
Higher education leaders need to bring innovation and the spirit of entrepreneurship to the table. Higher education management programs can help them transform their organizations. It is said, in times of crisis or economic hardship, the opportunities for innovation increase. This is a crisis in higher education management and reinventing direction is its medicine.
What is leading this disruption?
The idea of irrelevancy of college education has been in discussions for some time now. Peter Cappelli, a management professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, stirred a similar conversation with this book “Will College Pay Off?” The idea captured audiences of all ages and professions, and the question was raised, “Does going to college make any economic sense?”
All this is not to suggest that this is the end of traditional colleges and universities, but to signal that jumpstarting a broader conversation among higher education leaders is urgent! Leadership learning programs are being curated to aid leaders to survive these disruptions.
These disruptions are being driven by several forces:
- The constant rise in college tuition
- Changing industry space
- Extreme negativity about work readiness of students
- Confusion around what makes college effective
Implications for higher education leaders – Become Ernest Shackleton!
Whenever education is talked about, the discussions often shift to academics and it becomes commonplace to overlook the role played by top-level educational administrators. Higher education management programs are coming to the rescue.
Effective leadership in education management is the direct key to counter the challenges faced by university and college education. People in the position of provosts, chancellors, vice-chancellors, directors, presidents, and deans can steer this change by giving new direction, leading teachers, providing managerial support and guidance, and monitoring, to make their universities relevant again.
Innovative, not just slow, incremental changes are required. In higher education, it can result from a conscious, purposeful search for innovation opportunities by its heads and leaders.
Leaders can acquire new tools and techniques of headship through leadership learning programs. It is time for education leaders to imbibe the spirit of Ernest Shackleton and maintain optimism in the face of extreme challenges.
Helping leaders make a successful university – Marrying administration with academics
Challenges galore, the higher education will continue to be relevant for advancing knowledge. Beating these challenges means for heads of higher education institutions to learn and train themselves for leading 21st-century universities.
One way of bringing innovation is by initiating a dialogue with fellow higher education leaders around the world and education administration thinkers. Such platforms are being provided with executive education leadership learning programs, curated especially for people in management, to learn and develop them as leaders. Some popular programs offered by the world’s top higher education institutions for heads of institutions are:
- The Wharton School, Education Management Research Centre and Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania: Global Fellow in Higher Education Program (Exclusively for education leaders)
- Harvard Business School: Executive Education Program in Leading Change and Organizational Renewal
- University of Norte Dame: Executive Education Leadership and Management Course
- University of Chicago Booth School of Business: Leading Organizational Change
Re-branding of higher education and bringing relevance to it requires a deep integration of administration with pedagogical areas. While the academic area is concerned with creating new courses, the administration is responsible for striking a financial and sustainable balance of successful operations. Both should be integrated to guide decision-making. Are you an education leader who can meet new age education needs?