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From higher education to longer, fuller, further education: the coming metamorphosis of the university

David Pearce Snyder (The Snyder Family Enterprise, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 April 2006




This article aims to present a synopsis of inertially‐driven future demographic, economic and technologic realities that will predictably alter the marketplace operating environment for post‐secondary education during the next 10 to 15 years. The article also seeks to explore a detailed scenario speculating on multiple implications for the university as it simultaneously confronts all of the predictably changing elements of its operating environment.


A convergence of published long‐term demographic, economic and technologic trends and forecasts is examined that has begun to produce structural and operational changes throughout the business world, setting in motion five fundamental transformations in the context of all enterprises: the globalization of the economy; the information of work; the disaggregation of organizations; the maturation of the workforce; and the reconfiguration of employment. The practical implications of these long‐term realities for industrial era universities are described, and a scenario for the future evolution of the “post‐industrial university” is presented, modeled on – and in consonance with – transformations already under way throughout corporate enterprise.


Reliably forecastable aspects of the University's operating environment, including a shortage of qualified faculty, stagnant personal income and baccalaureate markets, mounting competition from for‐profit schools and an explosion in new applied knowledge in every field and discipline are likely to coerce innovation and change in higher education in spite of institutional intransigence, necessity being the mother of invention.


A scenario based on multiple statistically valid forecasts does not constitute an infallible prediction of the future, but it does present decision makers and strategic planners with sound benchmarks for the pace and scale of change that may reasonably be expected, as well as raising issues and posing options that routine linear extrapolations are unlikely to have revealed.



Pearce Snyder, D. (2006), "From higher education to longer, fuller, further education: the coming metamorphosis of the university", On the Horizon, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 43-61.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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