Category Research: Higher Education Trends

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Category Research: Higher Education Trends

Several trends are currently impacting the higher education sector in Canada as a whole, including an increase in enrollment of international students, higher expectations among the new generation of students, and continued technological developments that are changing the way students learn.

I - An Increase in International Students

Trend Description

  • The number of international students studying in Canada grew from 184,155 in 2008 to 353,000 in 2015 (a 92% increase), according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE).
  • By 2016, Canada was ranked the 7th most popular destination in the world for international students, according to the Institute of International Education's (IIE) Project Atlas.
  • Additionally, analysts expected Canada's importance as an international study destination to continue to increase substantially in 2018 and beyond.
  • One factor driving this trend is that Canada actively seeks out immigrants, utilizing a first-of-its-kind points-based immigration system. The country has also implemented new policies that make permanent residency easier to obtain for international students.
  • Recent changes to the political landscape in the U.S. and U.K.—which were traditionally the leaders in English-language higher education destinations—is another factor driving this trend.
  • Low tuition fees are yet another driving force behind this trend, as tuition in Canada is the lowest among the top English-speaking study destinations (U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada).
  • A CBIE survey also cited Canada's multicultural society, educational quality and perceptions of safety as key drivers for international enrollment in Canadian universities.

How/Why It Impacts the Industry

  • International students are seen as attractive because they add diversity to classrooms and because they may improve a university's standings in world rankings (due to the presence of international students being seen as an indicator of quality).
  • Despite Canada's low tuition fees being a driving factor for this trend, international students still pay higher tuition than domestic students, which helps offset stagnant government funding.
  • As the number of international students entering the Canadian higher education system rises, so will the demand for more international content and a curriculum that reflects this new type of student body.
  • Additionally, more programs may need to be offered in additional languages (particularly online programs). Currently, Canadian higher education courses are typically taught in English and French, but this may need to shift by 2030 as more international students flood into Canada.

School(s) at the Forefront

  • In 2017, the University of Alberta had an 82% increase in graduate school applications from international applicants and a 27% increase in acceptance of admissions offers from international undergraduate students.
  • At the University of Toronto, acceptances of admissions by international students was up 22% during the same time period.
  • Reports also suggest that most international students choose just a few destinations in Canada, with 86% of international students enrolled at universities in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec as of 2015.

Consumer Groups Driving the Trend

II - Higher Expectations Among Students

Trend Description

  • As students increasingly become responsible for more of their higher education costs, they are in turn demanding more from institutions in regard to quality of education, relevance and engagement.
  • Specifically, students are demanding higher-quality, work-relevant and engaging programs and courses with flexible options.
  • This generation of Canadian higher education seekers tend to be much more critical of the quality of their education than past generations.
  • As governments continue to reduce spending on higher education, these expectations can only be expected to increase.

How/Why It Impacts the Industry

  • As students demonstrate what they expect through their decision-making and behaviors, colleges and universities are forced to adapt to meet these expectations. This influence increases along with the student's financial contributions towards higher education.
  • Because this new generation of students expects flexible options and personalized learning that spans the boundaries between college and university courses, by 2030 more joint/seamless college/university integrated programs are expected to be in place.
  • As students are also seeking shorter programs that accept work-based learning credit or credit transfer, the industry is expected to respond with shorter courses, "micro-credits" and accelerated degree programs.

School(s) at the Forefront

  • According to U.S. News & World Report, the University of Toronto was named the number one university in Canada in 2019.
  • The University of Toronto also ranked 20th in the 2020 QS World University Ranking and 18th on U.S. News & World Report's list of the Best Global Universities for 2020.
  • These quality rankings took into account the University's large number of undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as it's library system, which is one of the largest in North America.

Consumer Groups Driving the Trend

III - Continued Technological Developments

Trend Description

  • Technological developments continue to be a trend in the higher education sector in Canada as they change the way students access information, knowledge, support and services.
  • As of 2015, roughly 1.5 million of the courses for credit taken by Canadian college/university students were online courses.
  • Additional expected trends throughout 2030 include an increase in use of artificial intelligence (AI), machine intelligence and robotic technologies.
  • Enhanced simulations and games that utilize augmented reality are another trending technological development.
  • Advancements in voice and gesture recognition are another significant technological development affecting higher education.

How/Why It Impacts the Industry

  • Overall, new technologies make higher education more effective, accessible, personal and affordable, and the industry must rapidly adopt such technologies in order to meet student needs/demands.
  • An increase in the use of AI is expected to create new ways of assessing and supporting students, including automated assessment and adaptive learning processes.
  • The trend toward enhanced simulations helps create more life-like laboratories for students studying disciplines like science, engineering, art and music, and also helps with the teaching process for struggling learners.
  • Advancements in voice/gesture recognition (coupled with increased computing power) leads to more visual/aural learning (vs. text and graphics) and means more students are combining video, audio, graphics, gesture and 3D imaging in their assignments.

School(s) at the Forefront

  • The University of Toronto in Ontario is one example of a school that is at the forefront of embracing these technology trends, particularly in regard to artificial intelligence.
  • Professor Geoffrey Hinton created an AI company incubated at the University, whereas University of Toronoto Professor Steve Mann has become well-known for his work on smart devices or "wearable technology."
  • The University of Toronto has also produced 10 Nobel Laureates, helping to cement its reputation as a leader in innovation.

Consumer Groups Driving the Trend

  • This trend is closely related to the trend of higher quality expectations among students in that it is being driven by student behavior. Unlike in the past, when adopting new technologies was primarily based on whether faculty/staff was willing to utilize them, keeping up with technological trends is now a matter of survival in order to meet the demands of the new generation of students.
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