Future of Higher
Budapest Business School
DECLINE OR RENEWAL
OF HIGHER EDUCATION?
Threats and possibilities amidst a global epidemic situation
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Published by: Future of Higher Education Research Centre, Budapest Business School, Budapest, Hungary
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
Budapest Business School