Education Sciences (Dec 2022)

The Future of Higher Education: Identifying Current Educational Problems and Proposed Solutions

  • Haya Halabieh,
  • Sasha Hawkins,
  • Alexandra E. Bernstein,
  • Sarah Lewkowict,
  • Bukle Unaldi Kamel,
  • Lindsay Fleming,
  • Daniel Levitin

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 12
p. 888


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It is widely acknowledged that higher education is failing to meet the needs of students and employers, while educational costs and student debt are rapidly increasing. Our aim was to address these issues in an innovative fashion through a structured review combined with recommendations for best practices. Specifically, we aimed to identify and systemize failings of higher ed based on current scholarship, propose solutions, and identify institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have begun to successfully put these solutions in practice. Based on our literature review, this is the first time such a study has been conducted. We performed a structured literature review and identified four key failings in higher education: quality, relevance, access, and cost. From the reviewed literature we extracted a rubric to identify and evaluate twelve IHEs that are effectively applying new and innovative models that address these four problems. We conclude by recommending best practices for the successful redesign of IHEs. The overarching problem we identified was lack of student preparedness to succeed in a highly complex, competitive, and increasingly global, digital world—curricula lack relevance. IHEs are failing to teach the skills and tools needed for sustained success in the workplace: critical and creative thinking, problem-solving, co-operation, tolerance, and collaboration (which incidentally align with the skills and tools needed for effective citizenship) and when they do, they are not using evidence-based pedagogical strategies drawn from research on the science of learning. Additionally, IHEs are failing to provide accessible, high-quality, affordable postsecondary education. Financial and geographic inaccessibility, opaque admissions processes, attrition, poor attention to student health and well-being, lack of Indigenous inclusion, weak utilization of technology, and outmoded teaching methods and content contribute to the barriers to student success. The twelve IHEs we identified are geographically, economically, and pedagogically diverse, each serving as a model for the future of higher education. The novel contributions offered here are (i) a systematic review of higher education’s failings as they impact students and employers, (ii) identification of specific programs and initiatives that can ameliorate these failings, and (iii) identification of IHEs that are engaging in best practices with respect to (i) and (ii).