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Universities and the emerging new players: building futures for higher education

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Universities are long-established organisations, and although they have reinvented themselves several times, major reforms are needed again, underpinned by systematic prospective analyses. A novel method is needed to take into account the wide-ranging and complex factors, shaping the future of the higher education system. 'Futures' should be devised in a multi-level structure as the bulk of trends and driving forces are international in their nature and universities are embedded in broader socio-economic systems. This new approach is demonstrated here by devising 'cascading' futures for the European Union (EU), the European Research and Innovation Area (ERIA) and universities. Several advantages can be expected from this type of prospective analysis: (i) the potential changes of these broader settings, in which universities operate, as well as their impacts on higher education can be explored; (ii) the huge diversity of higher education systems and individual universities can be reflected; and (iii) the likely impacts of different policy options can also be explored. It is also proposed to select foresight programmes from the 'prospective toolkit', given their specific features and benefits compared to other prospective methods.
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Keywords: foresight; higher education; multiple futures in a multi-level structure; prospective analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Economics, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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