21st Century Challenges for 21st Century Universities

By Leslie Wilder


From Nelson Mandela to Malala Yousafzai – eminent and revered personalities from various fields and professions have always advocated the fact that education is the one and only weapon that is capable of changing the world, and can bring about growth and productivity in all domains including politics, business, social structure and more.

As time progresses, the trail of education for individuals also changes.  We are no longer dependent on hefty textbooks and long classroom lectures to gather the knowledge we seek. The digital world gives us various platforms to educate ourselves, walk the extra mile and break all barriers. Also, the students of this era are more ambitious than ever, which has subsequently led to the sprouting of modern and innovative universities.

Just as discerning individuals choose to dine at exotic restaurants, live in exceptional villas and wear the trendiest of outfits, they also lookout for universities that are leading edge, and at par with the contemporary world.

But, as they say, no good thing comes easy in life. Hence, although these modernized universities have made their own glorious place in the education domain, they are facing their own sets of challenges on a regular basis too.

Here’s a little glimpse into the primary challenges that a 21st Century university is likely to face.

  • Students’ expectations are rising exponentially

It is no unknown news that with each passing day the job market is getting more and more competitive. This teamed up with the increasing expenses when it comes to quality higher education is giving the universities a hard time to zero in on a suitable plan for the students. In many countries, the university boards are introducing specialized initiatives to build a direct connection between the employment and income results with their graduation degree. Measures are being taken to entitle each student to the opportunity to be able to quantify the profits or losses with respect to their choice of undergraduate degrees, and the authority or board which provides it. The model of business for universities is being revamped with a more student-centric approach.


  • Keeping up with digital innovations and technology advancements

As we all know, that teaching infrastructures and models are rigorously making a shift to the digital platforms in order to provide a more smart and innovative teaching and learning experience. This is the era when artificial intelligence and big data are ruling, and are opted for to improve the operation of educational businesses against the set performance objectives. Contemporary universities are making huge investments on cutting edge software, tools and analytical principles so as to make data-driven and robust decisions. Customer relationship processes are also being automated and digitized in order to improve the support structure of the back offices.


  • Maintaining a global approach in terms of operation

As modern educational approaches are all about increasing the mobility of students and offering them an expansive educational marketplace, universities are bound to work towards building a compelling and highly competitive curriculum that stands true and valid even beyond their local context. When talking about expanding on global lines, one can’t deny the many hurdles in the way. Starting from the ever-changing immigration policies, currency exchange valuations, stability in terms of geopolitics and varying needs in terms of preference in terms of process and location of learning. In such a scenario, universities which can boast of strong international connections which subsequently lead to opening opportunities for students and faculty to study and work overseas are getting a great deal of additional brownie points, and are being chosen over others.


  • Convincing the best talent to join and stay

If you analyze the most successful colleges or universities in today’s market, you will find one thing common in all – giving high importance to a competent and diverse workforce. Building a staff that has the right amount of expertise and show potentials of offering the basic cookie cutter services is the smartest thing universities can do to attract and retain the best students. Then again, with so many universities and disciplines across the globe, universities need to formulate smart strategies to offer competitive rewards to their staff, so as to lure in the finest of them. When it comes to rewarding your teaching staff, it doesn’t always imply towards monetary perks. Studies have shown that benefits like giving the staff the flexibility and freedom to incorporate their unique methods, supporting them in terms of their research work and publications and offering them a respectful position derive greater results than monetary benefits.


  • The cost and funding issues

Going back to from where we started, with increasing expectations and competition, there is a significant increase in the cost of successfully running an educational institution in today’s times. Hence, colleges and universities are constantly battling with the pressure of offering the best of services a new age student seeks, while keeping the cost of their education affordable for their families. Programs that are extremely expensive and lead to creating a massive debt for the students, is not something that’s well appreciated in the market. Educational bodies are thus working towards making use of technology to reduce the expenses of delivering expected results.


  • Funding and sharing research outputs

With the increasing number of educational institutions and their subsequent student intake, government bodies have started to extensively scrutinize the amount of funding approved for a research, and the duration of the funding. On the other hand, as issues of climate, population, energy and security are rising, government programs are especially encouraging innovations on these domains. This is thus fueling the need for educational bodies to closely collaborate and build robust partnerships with relevant businesses.

As we can see, the structure and functionality of educational institutions in the 21st century is changing at a high pace. This rise is subsequently intensifying the competition between existing universities, keeping their status and positioning at risk constantly. Thus, this is the time when universities need to brace up and work harder than ever to keep its place secured.

Leslie Wilder a creative writer & blogger, who is residing in Nashville the capital of U.S. state of Tennessee, I’m also a self-proclaimed happiness junkie, and someone you would generally consider confident and well balanced.




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