The PIE: Why would a student choose higher education when they can get cheaper, on-the-job training or VET in less time?
FM: Well, that’s why we are making the case that we need diversified systems of tertiary education and to dignify more the technical and vocational education, because still in many countries it’s being seen as second class education.
“Not only education for the job but also many more components of the integral preparation of the individual should not be forgotten – because otherwise we are going to be creating our own monsters”
I should say that certainly employability is a key component and a key driving force for higher education, but we need to not mistake the fact that institutions are preparing the next generation of our leaders. That requires institutions to recognise that not only education for the job but also many more components of the integral preparation of the individual should not be forgotten – because otherwise we are going to be creating our own monsters.
The PIE: So what sort of trends do you expect to see in the next five or ten years?
FM: A good number of those. First one is that there’s going to be furious competition for talent in the world.
The PIE: Between countries?
FM: Absolutely, in terms of chasing where the talent is. I see a dramatic shift in the future of higher education in terms of demographics. Very soon most of the enrolment in higher education will be in the developing world, not in the developed world.
“Very soon most of the enrolment in higher education will be in the developing world, not in the developed world”
I see another very significant trend in terms of the generational shift that is going to happen in academia. Lots of people retiring in higher education – I’m a little bit concerned about that. No proper replacement strategy has been established and so that’s going to be a significant challenge. At the same time it’s a great opportunity to change a little bit the paradigm of traditional position of what a professor is in higher education
The PIE: How effective do you think programmes like the 100,000 strong initiative between the US and Latin America and the US and China are?
FM: I think it’s too early to measure. I think those strategies are good if they are part of a comprehensive higher education improvement strategy. There has been significant failure in terms of lots of investment pushing a lot of people going abroad, but with no clear strategy in how to capitalise that for the benefit of the higher education system in the country.
Many of those are initiatives that are just one-way mobility programmes, with no proper incentives to become truly two-way. Some countries have invested a lot of money in sending people abroad and then not many return, or they return and there are no proper conditions to give them.