2012: The Year of Technology, Innovation and Regulations in Higher Education

2012 was a year when higher education sector faced increasing regulation but gained energy from technology and innovation.

In the US, rising debt-level and default rates, continued to increase the scrutiny of the for-profit sector and more recently there are still reports of emerging malpractices in the sector. One clear indicator of the pessimism around the sector is the stock prices of two leading for-profit companies–Apollo Group and DeVry–which are hovering close to their 52-week low. Earlier this year, both Apollo and DeVry announced job cuts and Apollo is shutting down some campuses to manage cost and switch students to online education.

The most “buzzing” technology-enabled educational innovation of the year was the concept free online education or MOOCs. It is putting pressure not only on traditional universities but also on for-profit institutions to assess their value offering and how to respond to MOOCs. As the Economist states “MOOCs clearly mean upheaval for the cosseted and incompetent. But for those who most want it, education will be transformed.” Coursera which started only in April 2012, has crossed 2 million student signed up for its courses.  Most recent entrant in this frenzy is Future Learn–a partnership of 12 UK universities led by the Open University (OU).

Likewise, in the world of international higher education, leading destinations became more vigilant about the student visa abuses have been putting different regulatory measures in place. For example, in The UK 100,000 prospective students will be interviewed as a a part of the plan to stop “bogus students” from entering the country. Likewise, for Australia, the visa refusal rate of 50% for India also indicates not just the issue of higher degree of fraud but also the rate at which not the fraud is being caught due to higher scrutiny. In the US, earlier announcement about accreditation of Intensive English Programs and subsequent announcement about conditional admissions requirements, also indicated tightening of the student visa related polices in the US.

Overall, increasing competition in times of economic uncertainties is toughening regulatory environment and at the same time technological innovations are offering more value within the constraints.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha