Blended futures


Where to now? Blended futures

Higher education for a changed world

In August 2020 Deloitte Australia supported by Wallis Group surveyed 500 recent and current domestic postgraduate students, seeking views of buyer behaviour, their needs and preferences during study and the different ways the pandemic has altered perceptions, perspectives and preferences concerning online and digital learning. The findings provide higher education providers with a clear evidence base to inform the design of offerings, the prioritisation of investments, and the development of strategies to respond to the needs of a growing domestic postgraduate market.

These findings are also applicable to the New Zealand market. The survey’s executive summary and key findings is set out below, along with a link to the full article here.

Post-pandemic opportunities: what’s your position?

COVID-19 has created profound challenges for the higher education sector. Deloitte Access Economics Australia estimates that international student revenue losses set to total around $3 billion in 2020. These losses will increase in 2021 as the effects of reduced international student commencements in 2020 flow through to subsequent academic years. There has never been more uncertainty in the outlook, but the best current projections suggest it will be 2023 before international student numbers return to pre-COVID levels. This means that many higher education providers must prepare for a future with less financial capacity to invest, and less financial capacity to fund research.

Despite the challenges raised by the pandemic, there are a number of teaching and learning opportunities for higher education providers to evaluate. These range from the delivery of online degrees and diversification into new markets, to short courses and micro-credentials. One of the bright spots is the domestic postgraduate market.

Over the last decade, domestic postgraduate student enrolments have increased at an average of four percent per annum1. Prior to COVID-19, the economy was bracing for Industry 4.0 and the digitisation of the economy. This was fuelling workers’ appetite for lifelong learning – particularly among those with at least a bachelor’s degree – whose interest in formal learning spans the entire range of postgraduate qualifications2.

Demand for postgraduate learning is likely to accelerate as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – with more undergraduate students choosing to continue their studies rather than enter a highly competitive labour market, and with degree-qualified professionals returning to formal learning due to reduced employment prospects as a result of economic conditions. In response to this postgraduate demand, higher education providers may consider investment to enhance their postgraduate offerings. Given that the delivery of postgraduate qualifications sits firmly in the ‘core business’ of higher education providers today, these investments are unlikely to be greenfield. Investments are more likely to be targeted towards the augmentation or refinement of existing capabilities.

Importantly, in responding to the needs of postgraduate learners, higher education providers will also be making a significant contribution to the reskilling of our workforce and, in turn, to our economic recovery from COVID-19.

The key question for higher education providers now is, if domestic postgraduate students hold promise for higher education providers as they navigate and overcome the challenges of COVID-19, how can they position themselves to respond to the needs of these students, and make the right investments accordingly?


1. Australian Government Department of Education, Skills, and Employment, Higher Education Statistics Collection, 2020

2. Deloitte, Higher education for a changing world: Where to next? Beyond the skills gap, 2019

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