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MOR's Top Trends

by Brian McDonald

For the 2015 MOR Leaders Conference held May 27-28 in Indianapolis Brian McDonald and Jim Bruce collaborated on the following top trends impacting our clients:

1. Globalization of Education

Education is global. Increased numbers of international students, US campuses abroad, countries creating new universities some of which are world-class and attract US students. The list of top universities in the world will change dramatically in the next two decades.

2. Teaching and Learning

The revolution in teaching and learning is slowly building into a wave that will wash over universities. Optimizing the use of technology in teaching and learning in collaboration with academic leadership, including the appropriate level of technology to use may well determine the relevancy of your institutions offerings against a more competitive landscape.

3. Increasing Cost of Higher Education, Raises Questions About the Value Proposition

Increased tuitions have already put college out of reach for many. In addition, decreased need-based scholarship grants often lead to significant loans to fund college costs. This, coupled with relatively stagnant starting salaries upon graduation, leads to the questioning of higher education’s value proposition.

4. Mounting Financial Pressure on Revenue Sources

All college and university revenue streams are facing increasing pressure. Lower cost structures are necessary for long-term financial sustainability and to fund new initiatives.

5. New Providers Offering Alternative Pathways to Education

Online offerings by elite universities, for-profit vendors, trade associations, corporate education programs, etc. provide new options to increase one’s knowledge for general development, to meet a specific need, or to fulfill a college requirement in a certificate or degree program, either online or at a traditional institution.

6. Demographic Shifts, Increasing Competition for the Best Students

The numbers of high school graduates will trend lower in the coming decade, although an increased fraction of all high school graduates will seek a college education. At the same time demographics are shifting with increased numbers of traditional “minority” students expected. Research suggests this demographic will be less prepared. Competition will increase for the most highly qualified students.

7. Device Technology and Applications

Computing performance will continue to double (from today’s microprocessor of ~1.5 billion transistors) at a constant price every 18-24 months enabling a continuous stream of disruptive products including smart machines and services.

8. Cyber Risks

Universities need to carefully devise and deploy policies and processes to mitigate cyber security risks and to minimize unacceptable physical security risks to IT systems and data, including risks from natural disasters.

9. Consumerization/Commercialization

The cost of building a suite of campus applications will continue to be too great for a single university. This means that campus IT application development staff will write less code and do more work collaborating with faculty, students, and research and administrative staff to understand their needs and then work to configure commercial software or software developed by consortia. Central IT staff need to partner with their clients to identify applications that would add value for the university’s staff and students and find ways to make them available.

10. Staff

Hiring and retaining qualified staff, as well as updating the knowledge and skills of existing technology staff, while paying particular attention to the softer skills, including building relationships, cooperation, and col- laboration, will continue to be a challenge for IT organizations.

11. Organizational Change


University IT organizations are in transition – new technology with new application tool sets, new application needs broadly distributed across the university, the desire to more rapidly meet these needs – are all part of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) times we are in. To do this most effectively will require a university’s IT organizations to work more closely together, make decisions more readily and adapt more quickly. Not an easy challenge for higher education.