In the context of the new knowledge economy, several historical, economic, social and technological events have triggered a strong urgency for public and private education institutions to transform the way they create and deliver content, and respond to social and economic expectations. This provides universities with set of opportunities and challenges to address when facing an uncertain future. It is in the framework of these huge challenges for higher education in general, and for colleges and universities in particular.

On April 2016, twelve academics and researchers from Europe, North America and South America met in Barcelona at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) to discuss and debate the tasks that universities currently need to face from educational and organizational perspectives, to respond to the opportunities that the digital economy is offering to post secondary institutions around the world. The analysis was centred around topics such as access, equality and inclusion in universities; curriculum development, teaching and quality; business models and sustainability; research, policy and practice; and linking universities, industries and graduate employment.

Academics and researchers agreed to formally establish and grow a global network for the discussion and application of policies and strategies that will have a direct impact on the shape and transformations that current universities need to have in order to respond to the new learners’ needs and expectations. That was the beginning of the University of the Future Network.

Scope and topics

The debate and analysis focus of the University of the Future Network is the creation of “university of the future” models for integrative, boundary-crossing and collaborative institutions within the wider context of:

  • Current dual-mode university models and the evolution of university business models.
  • Fostering truly trans-disciplinary teaching, learning, and knowledge creation.
  • The role of information technology in the university of the future models.
  • The role of a liberal arts education in the universities of the future.
  • Management opportunities and challenges: new registration procedures for students, library access, interaction with instructors, etc.
  • The problem of access to programmes and courses by geographically remote and non-traditional students.
  • Access to higher education for students with disabilities.
  • The workplace as an extension of the classroom: radical changes financial and organisational operations.
  • Creating alliances with industry and non-profit organisations: future university entrepreneurship models.