Looking at the External
Demographic shifts. Political changes. Social movements. The evolution of technology. These all affect your institution. SCUP's Trends for Higher Education returns, new and improved, to help you and your institution stay on top of the major changes in the world around you. How?
We scan a wide range of media sources and identify significant trends and movements outside of higher education.
We help you anticipate how these trends might affect your institution.
Trends is a leader in pushing conversations beyond the boundaries of campus and an indispensable tool in demonstrating relevance in a fast-changing world.
How can you use Trends?
We've organized Trends Fall 2015 using STEEP:
Social: How people work internally (psychology) and with each other (sociology)
Technology: How people use technology (including hardware and software), how society relies on technology, and how technology affects society
Economic: Macro- or micro-economics, including global trends, anything related to jobs and skills needed for jobs, and industry shifts
Environmental: Our external surroundings, including sustainability and our evolving workplaces, cities, and living spaces
Political: Public policy, governmental systems, the people within them, and the effects of government decisions on our citizens and communities
Each trend includes a brief summary, a footnoted source, and discussion questions to help you analyze and act on the trend.
Join the Conversation
It's impossible for us to identify every issue you may need to consider. What did we miss? What did we get wrong? Tell us!
As institutions of higher learning, colleges and universities may have a deeper responsibility to help society find answers to the questions that persist around social issues. This section takes a look at some key challenges.
Every organization needs to be vigilant about equal opportunity. In 2015, for example, Apple announced that in one year it had increased hiring of women by 65 percent, hired 50 percent more Black employees, and increased Hispanic hiring by 66 percent. Noting that some people would see progress in Apple’s track record while others would see room for further improvement, CEO Tim Cook said, “We see both.”1 Intel recently committed $300 million to “reengineer the face of technology” by increasing diversity in its staff, supply chain, and business as a whole.2
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 50.8 percent of the United States’ population is female and 49.2 percent is male. In terms of race, 16.3 percent of the population is Hispanic, 12.6 percent African American, and 4.5 percent Asian.3 How well does your institution’s staff reflect that diversity? How diverse are your institution’s vendors and suppliers? What more could your institution do to advance equal opportunities?
Polling from the Pew Research Center shows that 55 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. That contrasts sharply with 2001, when that figure was roughly reversed and 57 percent of Americans opposed same-sex marriage.4 Similarly, Gallup tracks greater public approval for gay or lesbian relationships, with 68 percent of those surveyed in 2015 saying single-sex relations should be legal versus 43 percent in 1977.5
In addition to complying with local, state, and federal laws in offering equal opportunity for all, most colleges and universities strive to maintain an inclusive, open, and safe environment that acknowledges the perspectives and individual differences of the LGBTQ community. (Some institutions, including some faith-based colleges, may have unique challenges in those regards.) How well do your institution’s policies, practices, and facilities meet the needs of an increasingly more diverse and ever-evolving campus community?
Gallup reports that “Americans’ satisfaction with the way Black people are treated has declined to a new low.”6 Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center finds that 59 percent of Americans believe that the United States needs to continue making changes to achieve racial equality, while 32 percent believe the changes necessary for equality have already been made. In past research, the public was much less divided on this issue.7
In this era of heightened racial tensions, universities may have to do more to foment inclusivity. How can universities best develop inclusive campus environments? How can we ensure acceptance of diverse people, backgrounds, and perspectives? More specifically, what must universities do to ensure safety for every student, employee, and visitor? Campus employees may need additional training and tools for integrating diversity into the campus culture.
So much of our culture focuses on youth, but the Pew Research Center reports that the percentage of people in the United States aged 65 and older is expected to reach 16.6 percent by 2020, double that of 1950. Among many other implications, government programs like Medicare and Social Security will become more important. In the social fabric, more families may have to care for older relatives.8
On the upside, might this trend suggest new markets for colleges and universities—in terms, for example, of a yet-untapped market of potential students, a broader pool of alumni to tap for support, or even a larger market for elder housing on campus? On the downside, might the need for more government support for the aging population divert fiscal resources away from higher education?
The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology says that greater use of mobile technology for employee assessment is its top workplace trend for 2015. A related trend is increased reliance on data analysis for improving business and HR decisions. Other top trends include the need for vigilance in managing the effects of new technologies on work–life balance, the importance of understanding technology’s increasing impact on how work is performed, and the need to increase organizational efficiency.9
Have your institution’s HR practices, policies, and training programs been updated to reflect changing workforce trends? For example, in this era when technology makes staff available 24/7, how does your institution encourage the right work–life balance? How well does your institution apply technology to improve work life and organizational productivity? How well does the curriculum prepare undergraduates for the evolving new ways of working?
Polling by the Pew Research Center shows that nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) believe undocumented immigrants in the United States should be allowed to stay in the country legally if certain requirements are met.10 But an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll in July 2015 shows more divided opinion, with 47 percent favoring a path to citizenship for “foreigners staying illegally in the United States,” but 32 percent favoring a “find and deport” approach.11
Should and could your university be doing more to enroll undocumented students and support them financially? What new or amended policies and practices would your institution need to serve this population? More generally, is the community in which your university resides home to immigrant populations, and how is your institution serving those groups?
Topping the consulting firm Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2015 is the need for business and HR leaders to “gain a clear understanding of their organization’s culture and reexamine every HR and talent program as a way to better engage and empower people.” Also among the top trends: the importance of building leadership capacity, the need to “transform and accelerate” corporate learning, and the need to be prepared to deliver “workforce on demand.”12
Deloitte’s four major themes for HR in 2015 are leading, engaging, reinventing, and reimagining. As you assess your institution’s personnel, HR operations, and staff training, how might you apply each of those themes to add new value to current practices? How well does your institution support staff learning to help advance institutional goals? How flexible is your institution in terms of being able to apply staff talent to emerging and unexpected opportunities?
Millennials are now 35 percent of the U.S. civilian workforce versus Baby Boomers and Gen Xers at 31 percent each. Trends expert Mary Meeker says there are big divides between what Millennials want from work versus what managers—presumably mostly Boomers—want. Nearly a third (30 percent) of Millennials say “meaningful work” is a major factor in career success, versus just 11 percent of managers. Just 27 percent of Millennials say high pay is a top factor.13
If much of your institution’s workforce consists of Baby Boomers, what steps are you taking to recruit Millennials and Gen Xers? How competitive are you in the market for younger talent? Is your institution adapting its policies and practices to ensure success in recruiting next-generation workers? Have you thought about what you might need to do differently to ensure that Millennials contribute productively to the institution?
Anticipating a 2016 edition of its Trends Shaping Education publication, a team from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development is exploring some truly interesting questions: Will robots replace teachers? Will fertility technologies allow for designer babies? Will online relationships replace groups of friends? Such trends might seem radical, the report’s authors say, but they are supported by science. And while such trends could impact education, they say that “most of our education systems still do not address them.”14
In the spirit of innovation, does your institution invest sufficient time in looking beyond the immediate horizon to consider some of the more extreme changes that may be coming and how they might affect higher education? How could your institution push its thinking a bit and have regular and productive conversations about more speculative trends?