Top trends in higher education heading into 2023

The challenges and priorities of higher education institutions have changed significantly over the last couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, they are likely to continue to change quickly.

Universities and colleges must adapt quickly to keep up with this ever-changing higher education landscape. Students are choosing less traditional routes when it comes to pursuing education.

One look at the employment rates of college graduates is enough to tell you that higher education attainment is one of the major deciding factors for employers hiring new employees.

Statista conducted a study on the Canadian employment rate by educational attainment, revealing that the employment rate among people with a post-secondary certificate or diploma was 64.7% and those with a university degree at 73.9%. In comparison, employment rates for high school graduates fell to 51.7%.

This is why 2.18 million postsecondary students in Canada were pursuing higher education in 2020 alone.

While this explains why students continue to pursue higher education, institutions must adapt and address the wants and needs of today’s prospective students to ensure healthy enrolments. This starts with the top higher education trends that will enable you to get and stay ahead of the quickly changing higher education landscape.

Online education

One of the most challenging developments over the last few years has been its accelerated shift to online education.

Online education is one of the fastest-growing areas in education technology trends. With steady growth rates, online education remains the main driver of growth in post-secondary enrolments.

According to a 2018 national study from the Canadian Digital Learning Research Association, there were more than 1.3 million online course registrations at Canadian post-secondary institutions in 2016 and 2017. That number is expected to rise in the coming years.

In their recently released 2021 national study, the findings showed that nearly all institutions (93%) expected growth in hybrid learning and just over three-quarters of institutions (78%) anticipated growth in fully online learning.

Affordability of tuition

Cost is an important factor that matters to many students pursuing higher education. The rising inflation rates in Canada have impacted not just the higher education sector but every sector.

At the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, the inflation rate was 2.4% compared to today, where the inflation rate is 8.1% increasing 5.7% in just two years, the highest it’s been in 39 years.

Increased tuition results from inflation coupled with increased demand and lack of funding. According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate students paid $5,581 in tuition fees in 2012/2013 compared to $6,693 in 2021/2022.

As inflation skyrockets, tuition isn’t the only weight students feel. High inflation raises the costs of students’ necessities, such as housing, food and transportation.

International student recruitment

Canada is seeing a surge of international student applications for post-secondary education after enrollment declined during the pandemic.

Higher education institutions play a vital role in the labour supply market and economy by aiming to train and guide international students into the workforce.

An aging workforce that sees 73.4% of workers set to retire in the next five to seven years will lead to an influx of new hires.

In 2018, international students contributed $22.3 billion to the Canadian economy. On average, each student who comes into the country spends $32,000 on tuition and living expenses.

The number of international students coming to Canada to study has steadily grown over the years. Between 2015 and 2021, the number of international students holding study permits in Canada increased by 43%, from 353,330 to 621,565.

Student well-being

Students with good mental well-being will thrive in higher education. They are more likely to succeed with their education and enjoy themselves.

Research indicates that 70% of students are suffering with their mental health while at university, a figure that has risen since the beginning of the pandemic.

According to a study by the Healthy Minds Network and the American College Health Association, student anxiety in higher education institutions jumped from 17% to 31% in just six years. While in 2020, college students reported rapid spikes in anxiety and depression, with 60% of students saying the pandemic made it harder to access mental health care.

Fundamental to student success, student well-being needs to be a top priority of all education providers for years to come. This is especially important given the new digital landscape where students spend less time on campus and more time online.

Climate change and sustainability

Higher education institutions increasingly recognize their responsibility to actively prepare students and society to contribute to mitigating and adopting climate change. This role sees institutions adopting and promoting carbon-neutral goals and practices.

Always an important challenge for global industries, the higher education sector has its agenda to meet when it comes to improving sustainability, reducing emissions and minimizing costs.

Post-secondary institutions must invest appropriately to remain financially viable and ensure their campuses are sustainable.

Institutions should look to technology that enables environmentally friendly estate management, space utilization and improved campus efficiency.

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