22 January 2020

Just 20 years into the 21st Century, we have already seen remarkable changes that we could never have anticipated. We’ve come up with 20 predictions that explore what the next 20 years may have in store for your organisation.

Prediction 3

The universities of the future will bear little resemblance to today’s education institutions: rather than traditional tertiary qualifications, they will offer extended programs into which students can dip in and out to secure ‘micro-credentials’ as their careers evolve.

Personalisation will be vital, as providers move towards more flexible and modular curriculums and learning tools will have evolved to adapt to the capabilities of the student, adjusting for different learning styles and preferences.

New technology from robots in the classroom to holographic technologies and augmented and virtual reality will enhance the education experience and be commonplace in classrooms and workplace learning – from taking students on history tours in Rome to guiding staff through new processes.

However, while the education system will embrace technology, digital skills alone will not be enough for the workforce of the future to prosper: soft skills such as emotional intelligence, empathy, creative problem-solving, adaptability and the ability to deal with ambiguity will also be crucial. Students of all ages will become more independent learners, accessing mentoring and flexible support when needed. There will also be a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing in classrooms.

The changing nature of work, ageing population, immigration and the differing values and priorities of millennials require education providers to reassess the needs of their students. Educators will need to work together, as inter-disciplinary collaboration will be a necessity to address the complex challenges of the future.

Trends in education and lifelong learning


Individuals will have many more choices about how and when they access education, increasing engagement and supporting ongoing learning throughout people’s lives. This can be hugely positive for society, stimulating economic growth through benefits such as improved productivity and greater innovation.

Corporates will play a key role in facilitating ongoing learning, offering employees training to ensure they can build their skills and learn new ones to meet economic and business needs.

We will also see a reduced requirement for formal education as an entry criteria to many jobs – there are already large firms waiving this requirement today.

For education institutions, the opportunity is to redefine how they deliver learning – they will support a much broader range of students, including people returning to education throughout their lives, and exploit many more technologies as they deliver courses.

Governments will need to focus on how to align the education agenda and curriculum with the skills, values and priorities required as society changes.

Curious to find out what else could happen between now and 2040? Read our other predictions


  1. Upskilled, Education statistics around the globe, May 2019
  2. Pearson, How digital are Australian Schools?
  3. Studies in Australia, Study costs in Australia, December 2019

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