Student Demographic Changes in HE

Universities UK (2008 ), in their paper Demographic Changes and its Impact on the Higher Education Sector in England, recognizes one of the groups who participate in higher education are in the age groups of 20-29 and 30-39, and are part-time undergraduate students.  They expect of these age groups, students between 30 and 39 years old will initially decline but increase substantially until 2027. As well, students aged between 22 and 29 will increase until 2019 and then subside. This implies a constant future enrolment of older students in UK higher education and assumes continuous growth in postgraduate enrolment. However, the population likely to decline is the 18-20 year old group, which has a future impact on postgraduate studies.

In the UK, full-time postgraduates account for 10% of the student population, with ¼ studying for research-based degrees and the remainder in master programs. They also predict a slight decline in students from home or other European countries but see an increase in international students, who will pay premium fees. As well, for universities it is important to attract research students to sustain research activities.

Also, 11.7% of students are part-time postgraduates taking course-based programs. An increase is seen in this population least affecting the market as part-time students have a wide range of ages. The demand for part-time studies is driven in part by demands for skills in the workplace. However, these students need financial support as the tuition fee for part-time studies is usually high. The studies tend to be in programs in the area of education, nursing, social studies and business.

Some solutions to manage the risks:

  • Find a strong market where the demand for the education is needed, such as a niche market.
  • Find and exploit new markets, such as those who have retired wanting non-credit education; and the part-time student.
  • Collaborate with other universities in subject areas under pressure, such as languages. Join market, share facilities and provide flexible studies.
  • Finding ways to work with public regulations in order to be more autonomous and flexible.
  • Working with the demographic structure of academic professionals whereas 15% are over 55 and increased global competition for academic staff. Try to retain staff of the highest quality in light of the prospective bulge of retirements.
  • Allow “universities to increase their teaching incomes from sources other than public funds” (p.29).
  • Manage the decrease in government support due to lower economic growth and increased competition for other public services. Consider collaboration with non-traditional providers, and potential investors.
  • Explore the level of investment needed for online learning and wireless technologies.
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