Around the world traditional, campus-based universities are facing headwinds as they try to expand student enrolment. The challenge is especially acute in more advanced developing countries where the college-age population is shrinking for the first time due to decreasing birth rates. In addition, the rise of the gig economy and the decline of lifelong professions are leading some young people to wonder if the classic four-year campus college degree is still worth it.
Meanwhile, the appetite for digitally delivered higher education continues to grow.

Brazil saw a 16% yearly decrease in enrolment in face-to-face higher education from 2014 to 2016, according to Hoper Business Consultancy – a decline driven by reduced government subsidies for students, demographic shifts and a sluggish economy. By contrast, enrolment in online education and blended online or in-person education grew by 13% annually from 2012 to 2016, while 37% of new university students in Brazil opted for distance learning.

Faced with these trends, universities are coming to the realisation that they must create more quality online and blended programmes to survive in a more complex environment.

Globally, the higher education market is worth US$2.2 trillion, according to education intelligence analysts HolonIQ. While traditional face-to-face institutions still capture the lion’s share – with the online market valued at US$30 billion – online and blended segments are forecast to grow faster than face-to-face education in the future.

Indeed, expanding enrolment in distance learning is becoming a do-or-die in higher education.

We see this already in Colombia, where many traditional universities are struggling to grow or even maintain historical student intake levels. In less advanced countries like Ghana and Kenya, where youth populations are still growing and higher education institutions might benefit from a demographic dividend, there is a great opportunity to expand the pool of distance learning students to increase coverage levels.

In all markets, there is enormous potential to tap into the pool of working adults, who are increasingly interested in upskilling and lifelong learning. Online education’s big selling point to this demographic is the increased flexibility it provides.

Read more : Alejandro Caballero : University World News : 30 November 2019