New research paints a future for students from a bleak picture of them struggling to survive in a competitive individualistic society, connected to everything but each other and surviving on concentration pills in order to stay ahead of the game, to a utopian vision that sees students in an affluent and caring society, highly connected to their community.
UNITE, the UK’s leading operator of purpose built student accommodation, together with University Alliance, the voice of the UK’s Innovative and entrepreneurial universities, have launched ‘Living and Learning 2034’, the first UK research to focus on how students might live and learn in the future, including the wider, non-academic student experience.
The report provides an understanding of what the future might hold for students 20 years from now. Conducted as a scenario planning exercise over a period of several months, the study draws on a wide range of data and commentary, broad global trends and recent changes within the UK’s higher education sector. The research takes a holistic view of the student experience to help higher education institutions and organisations working in the sector, gain a deeper understanding of how students’ needs and preferences, and universities may change in the future.
It also draws together narratives from current students who have created future scenarios on how their counterparts might live and learn in 2034.
The report finds that change is not only affecting the way students make choices about which university they go to but how they will learn and live once they get there. It takes known uncertainties such as the state of the economy, changes to public funding, the impact of the financial crisis; and society’s inclination towards co-operation or competition, and unpicks in detail how they might change the student experience and the HE sector, fundamentally.
Mark Allan, chief executive of The UNITE Group commented: “A successful experience at university means different things to different people – it might be academic achievement, gaining independence, meeting new people from different walks of life and making lifelong friendships, enhancing career prospects or learning to be a responsible citizen. At UNITE, we hope to provide an environment where students can flourish in any of these ways and this research is important in helping us gain a better understanding of what students will want and need from the HE experience in the future.”
Professor Steve West, chair of the University Alliance added: “The world is changing rapidly and the way people live and learn in the future will alter in ways we cannot foresee today. It is important that universities are constantly reviewing their understanding of the world around them and what the future might hold. This project, which we’ve been delighted to work on with Unite, helps paint a helpful picture of the impact these changes might have on students. Students are at the heart of everything we do, so having them at the centre of our thinking about the future is critical.”
Jenny Shaw, Head of Higher Education Engagement at UNITE said: “We embarked on this project because we wanted to cast a fresh eye on what the future might hold for students – both in their academic and non-academic life. We hope the research will stimulate debate and invite comment on the various themes it touches on including funding, digital futures and student living.”