Higher Education trends in 2021


By Dr. Lakshmi Mohan
Director – ITM Business School

Tomorrow is always hopeful and 2021 is like moving out of teens, maturing in all ways, and transforming education to new heights. Challenges will be many, but we will witness new initiatives in the education arena. Raising quality standards, attaching relevance to the global borderless economy, elevating the knowledge reservoir through research and diverse learning opportunities, creating attraction for the best of students and quality-conscious teachers, and generating sustainability are challenges that educational institutions will have to cope with.

The National Education Policy (NEP) introduced in 2019 is promising to bring drastic changes to the education system and we can expect some action in this regard. The policy covers all education levels from school to higher education. It proposes to reform the assessment system and restructure the education framework. Providing high-quality education has been the focused essence of NEP. Transformation, sustainability and equitable and vibrant knowledge creation is its vision. We are likely to witness three levels of multi-disciplinary institutions:

  • Teaching Universities which will have teaching as their focus.
  • Research Universities focusing on research coupled with teaching.
  • Autonomous colleges will cater to undergraduate studies.

We can foresee the setting up of the Indian Institute of Liberal Arts which will be a model multidisciplinary liberal arts school providing four years of liberal arts education with appropriate certifications and multiple exit options.

Accreditors will continue to be important; NAAC will acquire more prominence and NHERA (National Higher Education Regulatory Authority) will govern the HEI (Higher Education Institutions) charter. Rashtriya Shiksha Ayog or National Education Commission will become the apex body under the chairmanship of the Education Minister. RSA shall develop, articulate, implement, evaluate, and revise the vision of education in India. We are likely to move from outcome-based education to competency-based education.

Technology will reign over 2021, more so because business models today are technology-enabled. This makes it pertinent for educational institutions to adopt industry 4.0 in their teaching-learning systems to make job-ready students. High-speed internet, social media platforms and mobile technology will accelerate personalized learning. Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Adaptive Learning, Universal Accessibility and Virtual Reality will be buzz words. Teachers will have to match with the changing technological advancements. Training and continuous learning are the mantras for teachers to match with the speedy transformation taking place around them.

Digital learning will acquire further prominence with accessible and flexible learning opportunities. AICTE encourages colleges to make use of its digital portal Swayam for providing online certification courses to students. Professional certifications, short learning programs, just in time learning like “boot camps” will be trendy. We will have more companies like Google, Ernst & Young, etc. removing the degree barrier and hiring competent, skill-ready people in their organizations, to be precise unbundling will provide alternate pathways to learning, thus enhancing competence and relevance to ace up employment opportunities. Businesses will integrate with Massive Open Online Courses to add purpose and effectiveness to learning.

The Student-centric teaching model is catching pace and educational institutions will have to gear up to make their systems robust. The paradigm shift to student-centeredness is sure to place a huge challenge on educational institutions’ processes and systems. They must match with students’ demands of great service or they lose prospective students to their competitors. Quality will have to be a priority for schools to be recognized and counted among the best.

More than content or curriculum, schools will be evaluated based on how they put diverse complex learning into useful offerings for their students. Diversity in learning mode will take form and holistic development of students will be a priority in times to come.

2021 will see more focused learners empowered to structure their learning journey. Flexibility and personalization will be the learning approach. Innovation in pedagogy will be essential, considering the demands of the learners. Education 4.0 is an evolution catering to broader learning opportunities with the rampant use of technology. 2021 is just the beginning, technological progress and NEP will continue molding and making massive transformations a reality in the education ecosystem.


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