A NEW report by a leading analyst company has found higher education institutions will need to fundamentally transform their business models to survive.
University of New England chancellor Richard Torbay says the Ernst and Young report released this week, “University of the future: a thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change,” vindicates the university’s strategy launched nearly two years ago.
The report predicts that only a handful of elite Australian universities would still exist in 15 years as international competition absorbed Australian students into online courses provided by some of the world’s very finest universities.
Mr Torbay says it proves UNE is better positioned than many other Australian universities and ready to tackle the competitive international online onslaught as predicted in its strategy.
Since launching its Strategic Plan, UNE has focused on growing its market share, reinvigorating its online courses and restructuring its academic calendar in response to student demand.
Mr Torbay said, as a result, UNE has emerged as one of the most successful universities in the country, growing its student numbers by almost 20 per cent over the last two years and employing an additional 25 equivalent full-time staff with a further 45 to come on board next year.
“We knew the university had to prepare itself for unprecedented levels of competition, particularly in our main market – distance education – and that’s precisely what we’ve been doing,” Mr Torbay said.
UNE vice-chancellor Professor Jim Barber said not everyone wanted to hear how important the internet was to the future of Australian universities.
“But Ernst and Young have warned us, correctly in my view, that we must adapt or die,” he said.
Professor Barber said cyberspace knew no geographic boundaries and anyone with an internet connection could enrol in a massive online open course as was happening in the United States.
Professor Barber confirmed the next frontier for UNE was to meet cut-throat competition online from universities like Harvard, Princeton and MIT.
“They are employing revolutionary business models such as giving away their academic content for free and charging students only to sit the exam or to pay for tuition and other services as they need them,” he said.
“There’s a juggernaut on its way and we are determined not to be one of the universities that Ernst and Young earmarks for extinction.”
The industry wide study of Australia’s higher education sector included interviews with more than 40 leaders from public universities, private universities, policy makers and sector representative groups.