Scanning Retrospective, No. 33

‘From the pages of prospect’ – No. 8

[Originally published] Issue 7, March 2002

  • From The Herman Trend Alert:
    • Metamorphosis of University Education
    • Internationalisation of Education
    • Upheaval in Education?
  • The Futures of Universities
  • Higher Education in the 21st Century
  • Foresight Snippets, No. 22


WELCOME TO THE NEW LOOK for prospect, the Foresight Bulletin. With the merger of the Foresight & Planning Unit, the Information and Statistics Office and the Office for Quality Education into the new department of Foresight, Planning & Review (FPR), it was time to re-think the manner by which foresight-related information is made available to the wider Swinburne community. It was also time to bring the look and feel of prospect more into line with the corporate style guidelines in operation at Swinburne.

As was foreshadowed in an earlier Foresight Snippets email, the Snippets will no longer be sent out separately via email. Some of the feedback we have received in the past suggested that people felt overwhelmed by the amount of information they were receiving through Official mail. Instead, and as a way to try to do our bit to stem the rising tide of ‘infoglut’ at Swinburne, FPR is consolidating its delivery of foresight-related information to the broader Swinburne community into a single source, namely, the Foresight Bulletin, prospect. From now on you will find the Snippets on the back page of prospect. The web links are ‘active’ so that, if you are reading prospect via the Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can click on the link and be taken to the web page given.

In this issue, I have chosen three recent education-related alerts from The Herman Trend Alert, and two journal articles which look toward the future of tertiary education in the 21st century.

We shall be experimenting with the mix of articles over the rest of the year, so please let us know what you think of what you read here. We always welcome feedback.

And, as ever, I hope you find these articles (and the Snippets) interesting and thought-provoking.

From The Herman Trend Alert

Metamorphosis of University Education

A college degree is now an educational achievement comparable to what a high school diploma once was. To position oneself for stronger income and opportunity in the future, a university education — or the equivalent — may be necessary. Some suggest 10 years ahead; others say now. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has a goal of getting fifty percent of all young people in his country into higher education by 2010.

Several problems arise. The first is the supply of qualified students. Universities now seek and accept students who have completed college preparatory courses. There are questions about whether students who followed other high school learning curricula can handle the rigours of university experiences. To meet Britain’s targets, new routes will emerge combining apprenticeships and employer-provided training with academic programs at colleges and universities. Similar approaches under consideration in the United States and elsewhere seem to be moving in the same direction. More emphasis will be focused on students in their twenties, described as “non-traditional” in the US. These people have gained 5-10 years of work experience before returning to school as full-time or part-time university students.

A second issue is the colleges and universities. These institutions, particularly the faculties, have jealously guarded their standards — for students and for curricula. These dedicated educators will be forced, by social circumstances, to create new courses of instruction — less oriented to theory and more focused on helping people prepare practically for careers that await them.

Who will drive the changes? Educators? Employers? Students? Government? Our view is that impetus will come from all these groups, creating challenges and opportunities for them to somehow collaborate. The solutions, and there will certainly be many, will flow from the need to satisfy all stakeholders.

Expect educators to be bound by tradition, though forward-looking liberals are gaining ground. Employers demanding better preparation of graduates will increase involvement in design and implementation. Students want more individualised learning opportunities. Great Britain is increasing the number of 14-year-olds who give up two school days a week to attend college or gain work experience; US secondary school-college programs are expanding.

Internationalisation of Education

Although some people will remain fearful of travel in the near-term [this is just post Sept.11], recent economic and political events have stimulated renewed interest in international education. There is an increasing attention to what happens in other countries, in other cultures, and why.

First indications are among university students. Appreciating the increasing globalisation of just about everything, they are eager to learn about cultures, languages, and different approaches to life and business. American students seek opportunities to study abroad, at both graduate and undergraduate levels. We may even see more activity in secondary school exchange programs. Students from other countries indicate even more interest in studying at American colleges and universities; many of those institutions are anxious to have them. Multi-cultural learning environments are healthy for all involved, regardless of their location.

Multinational employers are excited about the increase in students studying abroad. These students will become proficient in other languages and cultures, making them valuable human resources in work environments increasingly hungry for people with international communications and management tools. The relatively short supply of multi-lingual graduates hinders global commerce.

Interest in international issues is growing also in the non-university population. People in many countries, encountering Americans, marvel at their astonishing lack of knowledge of other languages, cultures, geography, customs, and current events. American schools have not insisted students learn other languages, placing Americans at a linguistic disadvantage when compared to ‘foreign’ citizens with multi-lingual proficiency. World events have not been emphasised in America’s educational system. If Americans are to remain competitive in the world — intellectually, as well as culturally and socially — part of our educational reform must produce substantial change.

Adults have a lot to learn. Too many Americans are deficient in international knowledge. As we travel in other countries, we notice something that may account for some of this ignorance. Television news shows like CNN in the United States do not show anywhere near the amount of world news shown on similar news shows, including CNN, shown in other countries. Editorially, perhaps it’s time for CNN to give Americans the quality of international programming available in other countries.

Upheaval in Education?

We’ve seen a number of studies, commentaries, and articles asserting that our high schools are not doing a satisfactory job preparing young people for the jobs that will be available today and tomorrow. Business leaders, ultimately the consumers of the products of our educational system, are tired of the mediocrity they perceive. They argue that some radical changes must occur.

A number of interesting recommendations are being made. As controversial as testing is today, employers urge mandatory high school exit exams. They also advocate yearly math and reading tests for students in the third through eighth grades. Teachers, already challenged with heavy curricula, complain that such testing relegates them to ‘teach to the test’. They suggest that students will learn less and that government should not dictate educational standards. It’s an interesting conflict.

Employers also propose mandatory internships for high school students in real-work environments. While fraught with complexities, this concept certainly has advantages to help students acquire real-world experience. Hopefully, interns would learn good work habits and obtain some valuable career advice, but these outcomes would be subjective, at best. Students in urban or suburban high schools would have some good opportunities for internship experiences, but high schools in rural areas may not have enough local employers to support such a program. This disparity throws us back into unequal opportunity.

Many corporate leaders feel strongly that business should be involved in shaping school curriculum. They believe they know best what knowledge and skills the graduates they hire will need. Unfortunately, while corporate involvement is valuable, we cannot allow business people to have overdue influence over what children learn. Although their perspectives may be broader than those held by some educators, they don’t have all the answers either.

Others challenge why students are only in school for three seasons, and not all day long. Questions are raised about why kids go to school for twelve years. Would ten be enough before starting some sort of post-graduate process-college, work, military, public service? There are no easy answers, but these issues will be on the front burner in the immediate future.

Copyright © 2001, 2002 by The Herman Group. [Reproduction for publication is encouraged, with the following attribution:] From “The Herman Trend Alert,” by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurists. http://www.herman.net

The Futures of Universities

The Futures of Universities is an entertaining, slightly subversive and thought-provoking piece by an academic futurist who has been consciously watching and thinking professionally about what has been happening to universities for at least the last three decades; and about their futures. The author is one of the world’s leading futurists in academia, so this is a subject close to his heart (and ours, too!).

Dator, James A. 1998. ‘The Futures of Universities: Ivied Halls, Virtual Malls, or Theme Parks?’ Futures 30(7):615–23. doi:10.1016/S0016-3287(98)00069-X.

Higher Education in the 21st Century

Higher Education in the 21st Century has a rather more serious tone. This article tries to summarise the major themes in the body of writing which purports to describe what higher education will look like in the 21st century. While it is a few years old, it nevertheless is very useful because it takes a very wide view of the major concerns which anyone involved in higher education might try to seek clarity around. I include it for those people who would like to get a broad overview of some recent thinking about the shape of tertiary-level education in this new century.

Skolnik, Michael L. 1998. ‘Higher Education in the 21st Century: Perspectives on an Emerging Body of Literature’. Futures 30(7):635–50. doi:10.1016/S0016-3287(98)00071-8.

Foresight Snippets, No. 22

[published in Retrospective No.22]


prospect is a quarterly publication of the department of Foresight, Planning & Review, Swinburne University of Technology.

Futura tenaciter in prospectu tenemus

This publication is intended to serve the broader Swinburne community, by highlighting areas of interest and concern to Swinburne stakeholders, by helping us take a long-term foresight view, and to expand our perceptions of our strategic options as we move forward together into our common future.

This collection is © 2002 FPR and Swinburne University of Technology. Copyright for the individual articles resides with the original authors and/or the original sources as listed. All articles have been used either with express permission or, where express permission is not required, following stipulated re-use guidelines.


NOTE: In all the posts in this series, the original source URLs are left exactly as they were when published 20-odd years ago. This means they will almost certainly be dead links (or good ol’ 404 errors). I do not have the patience or inclination to follow-up or find any archived or re-located versions of those web pages (because, well, life is too short). But, if it really bugs you, I invite you to see if you can find archived or relocated versions of those dead-link pages. And if you do, let me know, and I’ll update these posts with due credit to your detective work.

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