Press Release  | 

Mobile World Capital Barcelona presents a roadmap for the transformation of higher education

The Barcelona Mobile World Capital Foundation took part in the UNESCO World Higher Education Conference 2022 (WCHE22) where it released "The Future of Higher Education" #HED2030 report, which features the insights of more than 30 world experts.

The report overviews the need to rethink higher education and the 7 key pillars through which technology can help: increased outreach, multidiversity, ecosystemic, skill-based learning itineraries, hyper-personalization, Augmented Learning Experience and thriving within a context of uncertainty.

Barcelona, May 19th 2022.- The UNESCO 2022 World Higher Education Conference saw Mobile World Capital Barcelona present its "The Future of Higher Education" Report #HED2030. The conference that takes place every ten years was for the first time held in Barcelona and in a city other than Paris, where it’s based.

The paper, written in collaboration with EDT&Partners and more than 30 global experts, aims at serving as a roadmap to the higher education of the future and the 7 key pillars through which technology can help achieve the most important goals in this context: increased outreach, multidiversity, ecosystemic, skill-based learning itineraries, hyper-personalization, Augmented Learning Experience and thriving within a context of uncertainty.

One of the reports main takeaways points at digitalization as the main driver for the transformation of higher education - albeit still incipient, the former already hints to what is to come. The presentation featured a roundtable where the report's authors Jordi Arrufí, Digital Talent Program Director at Mobile World Capital Barcelona, and Fernando Valenzuela, LATAM Partner at EDT & Partners, shared their thoughts with Daniel Burgos, Vice-Rector for International Research and Director of the Research Institute UNIR iTED at the Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR); Mirko Widenhorn, Senior Director at Anthology; Marta Fernández, Executive Director at RMIT Europe and Paulo Falcón, university teaching specialist and former Argentina’s National Director of University Management. The roundtable identified trends based on which alternative scenarios for the future of higher education (HE) were outlined, the acceleration of digitalization underlying all of them. 

Platform learning models, for instance, are gaining traction as new training channels which also universalize access to learning content. These same models enable the decentralization of the generation of knowledge. As content becomes abundant, training specializes thus becoming more competitive, as it is the case of bootcamp models. The industry’s volatility and uncertainty is accelerating the implementation of agile methodologies and the adoption of open innovation by universities. The latter are becoming data-driven: data allows them to personalize the student’s experience via AI models or to understand market needs to improve the employability of degrees.

The roundtable also highlighted that, in the future, universities should focus on teaching technologies that enable the transformation of education, such as enhanced Virtual Reality learning, Artificial Intelligence or blockchain personalization. Extended reality technologies (VR, AR, MR) enhance students' learning capabilities and are platform models for the democratization of content. The question is not technological, only the tool is.

During the presentation, Jordi Arrufí explained that "the aim of this study is to rethink how universities and colleges operate, to draw a roadmap with 7 clear pillars for universities and the educational community to become modern uptodate institutions which match the students’ talent with the needs of the job market. The shift in the skills employers demand accelerates life-long-learning and opens the door to micro-credentialing models and interoperability between training centers which come about via technologies such as blockchain". 

According to data provided by the International Association of Universities, as of 2021 there are approximately 20,000 universities worldwide which navigate a more global, diversified and complex environment. For students and their families, learning choices become more difficult, as the criteria for relevance and competitive advantages are increasingly personal and contextual. Itinerary consideration and selection will no longer be based on traditional values. 

The report also emphasizes the need of institutions with greater diversity and easier access, for more people, for longer periods and with more options and possibilities. It is about using digitization as a tool to democratize access, leaving no one behind. The higher education system should ensure internet and hardware access and offer different methodologies to adapt learning without undermining quality and integrity, always evaluating results, focusing on universal learning.

The higher education of the future should also have more financial alternatives and different funding options, since financial support for students guarantees access to higher education and hence better opportunities. The report proposes new models such as employee sponsoring or payment on completion of studies. It also outlines new sources of revenue for universities such as monetizing space, research, talent, etc.

Introducing the University of the Future, the multilayered University

The event came to an end by outlining the Universities of the Future. According to the experts, their value proposition should be based on different layers with different degrees of digitalization of university community interaction, from campus offline participation at one end to the virtual experience in the metaverse at the other; similarly, these layers are associated with target groups: from students enrolled on campus at one end to courses or micro-credentials offered to the mass market. Likewise, some universities should offer a multilayered proposition while others would specialize in a few layers only. 

As for the physical campus layer, the experts pointed this out to be an experience which can not be replicated online and is collaboration and co-creation oriented. This concept is linked to the fact that the digital revolution meets human evolution: the greatest benefits will come when we incorporate the human element. Beyond delivering content and passing exams, educational institutions with integrity care about what students will become.

About Mobile World Capital Barcelona

Mobile World Capital Barcelona is an initiative that drives the digital development of society and helps improve people's lives globally. With public and private support, MWCapital focuses its activity in four areas: accelerating innovation through digital entrepreneurship; transforming industry through digital technology; growing digital talent among new generations and professionals; and reflecting on the impact of technology in our society. Together, our programs are positively transforming the economy, education and society. MWCapital hosts MWC Barcelona and founded 4 Years From Now [4YFN], the business platform for the startup community present at all MWC events worldwide.

About Barcelona Digital Talent

Barcelona Digital Talent fights the current digital talent gap to promote market competitiveness. With the aim of positioning Barcelona as a talent capital, the program promotes the digital reskilling of professionals and the national and international attraction of new professionals in the market. This alliance is driven by Mobile World Capital Barcelona, Círculo Tecnológico de Cataluña, 22@Network, Tech Barcelona, Fomento del Trabajo Nacional, Barcelona Global, PIMEC, Barcelona City Council and Generalitat de Catalunya.