Centre for Educational Research and Innovation - CERI

Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) - University Futures


The University Futures project aims to inform and facilitate strategic change to be made by government decision-makers and other key stakeholders in higher education. Future choices often depend upon decisions taken today as the passage of time narrows the room for manœuvre of different players in higher education, hence the importance of factoring the long term into decision-making.

In the framework of this project, CERI/OECD and France have jointly organised an international conference "Higher Education to 2030: What Futures for Quality Access in the Era of Globalisation?" on 8-9 December 2008 in Paris, France. The conference was the occasion of launching the first volume of a new OECD book series entitled Higher Education to 2030.



The project aims:
- to highlight recent changes in higher education and underline the opportunities offered to countries by new trends in higher education and related social fields.
- to analyse key trends from an international standpoint and look at developments in a disinterested way.
- to offer avenues for strategic reflection on the major questions to be confronted in higher education in coming years.
- to create future scenarios with a 15-20 year time-line to link complex trends in separate areas and engage stakeholders in strategic thinking


The project is based on two types of activity: an analytical and thematic study of the major relevant trends and dialogue with the stakeholders and experts in higher education.  Both activities are contributing to the development of the future scenarios. The scenarios are developed as results of discussions held within in various expert meetings and stakeholder seminars, building on the trend analysis conducted by the Secretariat. They are tested and incrementally improved.

Thematic analyses

The project undertakes an in-depth thematic review on six major and inter-related themes:

  • How will demographic changes affect the future of higher education? Will countries have to face a difficult restructuring of their tertiary education system, because of a mounting budget pressure or of a shrinking student population?
  • Information and Communication technology
    How could Information and Communication Technology (ICT) transform old ways of teaching, learning, researching in higher education? Could they contribute to broader access to tertiary education and to the reduction of its cost?
  • Globalisation
    How is the cross-border mobility of students, academics, educational programmes and institutions changing the higher education landscape and affecting country policies? And how will countries cope domestically with the mounting international pressures and competition? This strand of the work builds on CERI work on internationalisation and trade in higher education.

  • What kind of influence will market and quasi-market forces have on post-secondary education in the future? Will they become prevalent, as it is now the case in many other activities formerly provided by the public sector? Will tertiary education institutions become more clearly demand-driven, leading to changes in their internal management and teaching practices as well as in a shift in they core missions?
  • University research
    Will the division of labour between the academic sector and other sectors for innovation and science be transformed in a "knowledge economy"? Will (and should) academic research be concentrated in the future in a few higher education institutions? Will the "traditional" link between research and teaching continue to exist in the future? How does the evolution (and revolution) of science thanks to the computing revolution affect university research? And how does the growing internationalisation of science and research transform academic research?
  • Labour market demand
    Changes in the economy and the labour market might affect the organisation of tertiary education, notably the division of labour between different types of institutions, and raise issues for equity, access, teaching, etc. Labour market changes can be envisaged from both quantitative and qualitative viewpoints: on the quantitative side, there are possible labour and skill shortages or oversupply, leading to changes in educational returns, etc.; on the qualitative side, future stakes are the kinds of skills that workers will need in the future and how tertiary education should contribute to their development. The competition from emerging economies in highly skilled labour can also have a qualitative and quantitative impact on labour markets and tertiary education demand and supply in OECD countries.


What plays out in the future often depends upon decisions taken today, particularly as the passage of time narrows the room for manoeuvre of different players. Hence the importance of factoring the long term into decision-making in higher education. Four scenarios for higher education systems have been developed by the OECD Secretariat as part of its ongoing project on the future of higher education. They were presented and discussed at the  of the  in Athens in 2006. In addition, the background document Conferences Speakers: Biographies and Forward-looking Perspectives on Higher Education prepared for the Higher Education to 2030 conference  aims to glance the challenges and the opportunities for the future higher education via presentation of a wide range of personalised and forward-looking perspectives on higher education.


See also