Navigating the Digital Transformation: Higher Education Trends in the 21st Century

Employ-ability is a crucial aspect that students take into account while evaluating a course or university. In addition to wanting to be more marketable to companies once they graduate, students want to get value out of the education they devote time and resources to.

Consequently, higher education is evolving. In 2023, the education sector must comprehend what is valuable to pupils and what they are looking for. Understanding how educators are adjusting to help students become more marketable in a cutthroat and rapidly evolving job market is also crucial.


Take a look at the major developments in higher education that our experts predict will occur in 2023 and beyond.

  •  Schooling is a commodity.
  •  Student personalization
  • Qualifications and soft skills are desired by employers
  • The benefits of micro-internships
  • The most in-demand skill is data analytics.
  • Research the market & respond

Let’s Start!

1) Education is a commodity

Higher education has become more commercialized. This has significantly increased during the previous ten years, and it was the situation prior to the COVID epidemic.

An increasing percentage of pupils today aspire to be the best. They have an interest in the course of study that they want to take. The very first indication of commercialization is whether you have it or not. Do you think you have what they want? If not, they will go on, according to Charles Ramos, Vice President of Ruffalo Noel Levitz’s Graduate and Online Enrollment Management.

Realizing that your programme is a product is now necessary. Is your product meeting the requirements and needs of both students and employers seeking to hire recent graduates? The next point is, if you have those programmes, how can you provide someone an advantage over a peer who could be considering the same programme?It is Ramos’ opinion that the education sector needs to improve its ability to articulate its value offer. For a long time, the higher education industry has struggled to effectively communicate value propositions. Instead of connecting the dots and outlining how those features translate into benefits that the market is focused on, it frequently conveys procedure and features.

2) Students demand personalization

There are no two alike students. Every person is unique in their demands, learning styles, and environments. Some students may be able to study whenever they want, but others may need to take care of their families or work full-time. This is why it’s crucial for education to be personalised.

“We live in a one-to-one environment now that we have the ability to personalize everything. According to Dave Smith, a professor, entrepreneur, and higher education innovator at University Canada West, organizations like ours must begin moving quickly towards learning how to establish that one-to-one relationship.

One component of the solution may be technology. Technology such as artificial intelligence could be used in higher education to drive personalization and assist in forming people’s learning. Additionally, it’s about fostering adaptability and providing a hybrid model that complements people’s lifestyles. Consider how Kreighton feels that rather than avoiding technology like Chat GPT, we should embrace it head-on. Another tool for determining student preferences and programme tailoring is the survey. When an activity is offered in the classroom and only 60 percent of the students participate, you are not fulfilling the values that those children hold dear. I continuously give students surveys to complete in order to get a sense of where they are and what kind of value they are seeking.

3) Employers want qualifications & soft skills

Early career professionals and recent graduates should have a more well-rounded resume when applying for jobs, especially in the area of digital skills and knowledge.

Today’s graduates are “much more up to date with the latest trends and have strong points of view,” according to Tom Kendall, Head of Digital Marketing at IBM for EMEA. Additionally, the most recent innovation testing that IBM has been conducting has been supplied by our recent hires.

Alongside this new skill set, there is an emphasis on credentials. As companies look for individuals who can enter their organization and push improvements or new ways of thinking, relevant certifications are essential. Certifications pertinent to the field of digital marketing, in Kendall’s opinion, make applicants stand out. Further competencies like familiarity with the newest tools or analytical platforms, such Google Analytics or a content management system like Marketo, can then be linked to this. An eagerness to learn and work together are examples of soft skills that are also crucial. Kendall says, “One thing I definitely look for is somebody who is looking to innovate, to put new ideas forward-looking to test things.”

4) Micro-internships are beneficial

when receiving knowledge in the classroom is important, a graduate’s ability to put that knowledge to use when working for a company really sets them apart.

It is therefore possible for an organization to establish an excellent method for teaching problem-solving. So how can an institution of higher learning use those abilities to assist in resolving business issues?

Students are arranged to meet with a small business client of mine. I conduct live podcasts with companies and discuss some of the difficulties they encounter,” says Kreighton. Then I arrange for them to work on projects to assist in resolving those customers’ issues, as well as business case studies, tests, and other assignments.

With the help of these micro-internships, individual students are able to apply all they have learned in the classroom and obtain micro-credentials from DMI or another supplier. “Every course they should be working with a client or working with someone in that element,” says Kreighton. This makes it possible for them to test it out immediately and see if it works.

5) Data analytics is the most in-demand skill

The amount of customer data generated by the internet world is extraordinary. One issue with the internet is the abundance of material; it can be difficult to distinguish between what is and is not valuable.

Because of this, in 2023 employers will value data analytics as one of the most sought-after competencies.

“In our talks with firms and organizations, the two biggest topics that come up are technology and data analytics, which they really need. This is what they’re considering when it comes to investing in upskilling, even as they examine their workforce, says Ramos. The higher education sector has an opportunity because of this gap or demand. This implies that businesses in all sectors require assistance with employee development. Even though this might be a new vertical for a teacher, there is still a chance to collaborate with these organizations to create something that meets their requirements right now.

6) Know the market & respond

According to our experts, educational institutions ought to be flexible. In addition, planning needs to consider not just the present student intake but also four or five years from now.

It is imperative that you keep a close eye on the market. It’s a major blind spot otherwise. Undertake market study to comprehend businesses’ requirements as well as those of potential students, advises Kendall.

In order to guarantee they have the skills available to capitalise on the next big thing, businesses are constantly striving to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate the demands of the digital world, as the job market develops quickly. Businesses won’t want to wait six or seven months after an agreement has been reached. If you can assist us with X, that’s fantastic. When can you begin? It’s probably too late if you speak out after six weeks. What’s the fix? In order to avoid your institution having to be significantly more responsive, Kendall advises being open to collaborations like DMI to fill in the gaps.


There will be a lot of opportunities for the industry in 2023, as our experts made clear when they spoke on a recent webinar titled “Higher Education Trends to Watch Out For in 2023.” Over the past ten years, there has been a rise in the commodification of education, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

  • Students are examining the programme as the product and the result, or their potential post-graduation.
  • Speed, personalization, adaptability, and authenticity are what students demand.
  • Institutions must establish personal connections with students and use technology to help them.
  • Use surveys in the classroom to learn more about the values and purposes that students are seeking as well as to boost engagement.
  • Early career workers have strong opinions, are more well-rounded digitally, stay current on trends, and participate in the newest experiments and developments.
  • Experience with the newest analytical tools, platform expertise, pertinent certifications, and critical soft skills are all sought for by marketing firms.
  •  While institutions educate problem-solving techniques, they also need to teach students how to use these techniques in the workplace.
  • When it comes to the knowledge that graduates should have before entering the workforce, IT and data analytics stand out.
  • To upskill and develop employees, workplaces should collaborate with institutes of higher learning.
  • Developing professionally is essential.

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