Skills beyond school

CERI - University Futures Meeting "Demography and the Future of Higher Education" (5-6 December 2005)


As part of the OECD/CERI “University Futures” project this meeting set out to discuss the possible future impacts of qualitative and quantitative demographic trends (and changes) that may affect tertiary education within the OECD area. Demography is understood as encompassing quantitative aspects, like changes in the number and composition of population, but also their social impacts, for example how they affect social relations, politics, economics, etc. It both drives and reflects social changes.

Higher education refers to general and vocational tertiary education (ISCED 5a, 5b and 6). It goes beyond the university sector (for countries whose system is not unified). Given the topic, the discussion will touch on issues like lifelong learning and the relationship between the formal tertiary education sector (possibly leading to awarding degrees) and the informal training sector (generally not leading to awarding degrees).

The main focus was nonetheless be the formal tertiary education sector.

Throughout the meeting, the discussion was shaped as follows: (a) identifying and understanding past and future key demographic changes; (b) speculating on their effect on the future demand for and supply of higher education (in qualitative and possibly quantitative terms); (c) imagining what the associated benefits and challenges could be.

The meeting formed part of a series of thematic meetings that explore key drivers of change for the future of higher education. The other themes are: technology; globalisation; academic research and labour market demand. The purpose of the meeting being to deepen our understanding of the possible impact of demographic changes on higher education, to identify the key demographic drivers and generate new ideas for CERI’s futures scenarios for higher education.