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Abstract

The Future of Higher Education Research Centre at Budapest Business School started a Horizon Scanning Report Series which aims to find answers to the question ‘What trends can be identified affecting the future of higher education (HE) based on academic and semi-academic discourses?’. The abrupt change in HE (just as in any other spheres of our lives) due to the COVID19 global pandemic made this exercise more urgent and topical. Therefore, we decided to publish our initial collections to help orienting the different stakeholders in HE. As the opening part of this series, we introduced the project and our research group with a short summary of our methodology
Future of Higher
Education
Budapest Business School
April 2020
DECLINE OR RENEWAL
OF HIGHER EDUCATION?
Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation
2020
Zsuzsanna GÉRING – Gábor KIRÁLY – Réka TAMÁSSY – Péter MISKOLCZI – Beatrix FŰZI – Eszter SZENDREI-PÁL
ABOUT THE PROJECT: HORIZON SCANNING IN THE MIDDLE OF A STORM
This horizon scanning exercise is part of a 4-year long research project titled ‘The future of business
education’.¹ That research project aims to find answers to the question ‘What trends can be identified
affecting the future of higher education (henceforth: HE), based on academic and semi-academic
discourses?’. Besides finding these trends, we also look at the ways they are related to each other,
highlighting synergies and conflicts. Interestingly enough, while at the beginning of this horizon scanning
exercise we set out to look for threats, opportunities, forecasts and prophecies, one of the possible 'wild
card'² events we identified was that of a global pandemic.
Since then, this highly unlikely event has become our everyday, lived reality. During our data collection and
analysis, we narrowed our focus to the changes in learning and teaching and its immediate (institutional and
sectoral) and broader (economic and social) context. Furthermore, we attempted to keep technological
changes and digital transformation particularly in our focus. The abrupt change in higher education (just as
in many other spheres of our lives) due to the COVID-19 global pandemic made this exercise more urgent and
topical. Presently, higher education institutions, lecturers, students, staff, educational leaders and managers
all struggle with the sudden and unexpected number of tasks, questions, new problems and responsibilities
while trying to provide some form of digital education. Because of this sudden ’shock to the system’ due to
the emergence of this wild card from the deck of events, we decided to publish our initial findings to help
different stakeholders in HE find their way by mapping the terrain in this labyrinth of challenges.
Accordingly, our reports are openly accessible through digital channels. In the following weeks, we plan to
publish a series of brief reports related to the future of HE.
ABOUT THE RESEARCH GROUP: FUTURE OF HIGHER EDUCATION RESEARCH CENTRE
The Future of Higher Education Research Centre is a research and knowledge sharing centre at Budapest
Business School (BBS). We are committed to discovering the challenges and opportunities related to the
future of HE and to delivering this knowledge to the academic community, the economic and business
sector, all higher education actors, future students and to the whole society.
More about us, our projects and publications: https://future-higher-education.com/
¹This report was prepared as part of the project ‘The future of business education’ funded by National Research, Development and
Innovation Office, Hungary (FK127972).
²An event which has a very low probability, yet if it should happen, it may have a disproportionately high impact.
CONCEPT
ABOUT THE METHODOLOGY
Horizon scanning as a method aims to uncover the possible future changes in a given field from the
perspective of stakeholders. Possible participants, sources of data and method of analysis are all defined in
close relation with the desired outcome. In the following chapter, the stages of decision-making and
analysis will be presented, emphasising the ways the decisions affected the outcomes, and the reasons
behind them.
As we mentioned above, our general research question is about the main trends which affect the future of
HE. Such wide research questions are typical of horizon scanning as it is fundamentally interested in
mapping the academic and semi-academic discourses for the signs of possible shifts, with the specific aim
of not excluding neither weak signs nor unexpected themes.
The steps and decisions of our process:
First, we identified the main stakeholders and prospective audience
of our report. This decision deeply affects the outcomes of such a
study, since sources, estimated effects and importance of themes
found are neither determinable nor interpretable without reflecting
on the stakeholders as context. In this case, Central and Eastern
European universities and their leaders are the main target audience.
In contrast with some horizon scanning projects, we did not rely on
a widespread network of experts for the data gathering phase.
Instead, we applied an analytic and evaluative method in which
scanning, data-gathering and interpretation took place collectively
and simultaneously. The study was carried out by a research group of
six members covering a wide range of academic fields, such as
sociology, psychology, economics, communication and media
studies, organisational studies and education research.
Horizon scanning tends to look beyond academic publications as
sources of data. Firstly, since academic publishing can take a long
time, findings and predictions in them are often already a few years
old when published. Secondly, horizon scanning as a method is aiming
for a wider spectrum of sources, in order to unveil all sorts of possible
futures. With this goal in mind, we decided to include academic
publications, educational journals, educators’ materials (videos,
articles), general news sources and professional blogs in the inquiry.
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At the beginning of the study, we applied a wide and open data
gathering approach. Although we have identified some preliminary
themes in a kick-off research workshop, the process of
data-gathering revolved around systematically collecting every sign
of possible changes, the effects of these changes, as well as their
present causes (interpreted as ‘problems’ in some cases).
Subsequently, the team developed a systematic scheme to record the
identified trends and their direct and indirect effects and/or
consequences for higher education.
As the next step, we applied a coding system to categorise the identified
trends. This approach ensured that specific weak signs having
different causes or outcomes were not missed out or blended
together.
By coding our data, we have identified the main themes for
delineating possible futures of higher education. These series of
reports aim to present our findings along the main themes.
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05
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Published by: Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary
April 2020
Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, 2020
Géring et al., 2020
How to cite: GÉRING, Z. – KIRÁLY, G. – TAMÁSSY, R. – MISKOLCZI, P. – FŰZI, B. – PÁL, E. (2020)
DECLINE OR RENEWAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION?
Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation. Horizon Scanning Report Series, Future of Higher
Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, Budapest
This report was prepared as part of the project ‘The future of business education’ funded by National Research,
Development and Innovation Office, Hungary (FK127972).
Future of Higher
Education
Budapest Business School
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Based on related academic and semi-academic discourse, this paper aims to investigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on important actors and their expectations in the higher education (HE) sector. As open organisations, higher education institutions (HEIs) are influenced and shaped by different stakeholders' numerous and often controversial demands. While HEIs strive to meet key actors' needs, these expectations have a determinative role in the future of HEIs. Therefore, the future-oriented horizon scanning method was used for mapping the explicit demands of actors and for analysing alterations in expectations due to the pandemic. The horizon scanning showed that one of the most pressing expectations of HEIs in Central-Eastern Europe (CEE) was digitalisation even before the pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the awaited digitalisation in HE was realised within a few weeks, and it affected all actors. The tangible daily experience of the digital mode of education changed the priorities and expectations of the actors. In addition, this unexpected situation brought to the surface HEIs' hidden potentials, resources and responsibilities. Although the role of digitalisation in the future of HE is clearly manifested, the impacts of social restrictions as well as the effects of the digitalisation of learning and life in general were perceived primarily in the field of socialisation. As a result, the need for socialisation has increased. The article highlights the dynamic interconnection between digitalisation and socialisation, and the changing expectations and voices of stakeholders, which should be considered when HEIs choose their future paths in the post-COVID-19 era.
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