The Purpose and Future of Higher Education

This project aims to open up new conversations about the future of Higher Education (HE) in Scotland and beyond. It feeds into a wider YAS/RSE project on this topic.

We live in a rapidly changing world, where future challenges and the knowledge and skills we will need to address them are difficult to predict. In response to this, there has been a lot of discussion about the ways in which our current education systems may need to adapt, to serve the needs of future generations. While policy-makers, funding bodies and HE managers regularly come together to debate future paths for HE in Scotland, there are few opportunities for those at the coalface to join the conversation; as a result, change tends to be led by top-down reforms and initiatives, leaving the creativity and concerns of Higher Education practitioners under-represented.

One of YAS’s main goals is to amplify the voices of those who deliver Higher Education on a daily basis: the tutors, lecturers, researchers and technicians whose first-hand experience gives them unique insights into the opportunities and barriers ahead of us. We seek to provide a constructive, collaborative space for everyone to share ideas about their aspirations for the future of Scottish Higher Education.

Our central question is simple: ‘What is Higher Education for?’ In asking that, we hope to touch on a range of issues, including but not limited to:

  • curricula of the future
  • future teaching, learning and assessment methodologies
  • HE structures/organisation
  • staff workloads
  • diversity and inclusivity in Higher Education
  • the impact of changing student demographics
  • the marketisation of HE
  • the internationalisation of HE
  • public opinion and media coverage of HE
  • metrics for measuring what HE contributes to society

Our events so far

This first event of the projectbrought together Higher Education  practitioners to discuss the purpose and future of HE in a post-Covid worldto discuss the question ‘What is Higher Education for?’

In addressing this, we touched on a range of issues, including: curricula of the future, future teaching, learning and assessment methodologies, student demographics and internationalisation.

This event discussed how we might re-think HE and TE curricula to meet rapidly-changing societal needs. Our aim wasto give practitioners a space to share ideas, concerns and aspirations about their future role and educational mission.

Topics discussed included decolonising The Curriculum, interdisciplinary, student involvement in curriculum development, and creative bravery.

The involvement of students in curriculum design for Higher and Further Education presents exciting opportunities; but we also want to explore the limits of this approach. This event challenged participants to consider the the pay-offs, barriers, and and implications of co-production for both students and staff.

Have your say

Please fill out the below form to feed back on this project and help us decide what to investigate next.

Open Form

    Please tick above to confirm you are happy for the RSE Young Academy of Scotland to contact you about this project in the future. Personal data submitted will be treated in accordance with the RSE’s Privacy Policy. This is available by request, or at