Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Pretty much everything I’ve read recently about education points to one thing: the industry is set for major disruption. One of the biggest predicted changes will be how – and how often –  students engage with learning. Rather than enrolling in a course for two to four years, in the future we’ll see training consumed in a focused way, with shorter courses taken more often to acquire and refresh specific skills. 

That trend will be driven by a combination of factors. People living and working longer will have multiple careers. They’ll also be increasingly mobile. Cost is already becoming a major influence with students beginning to question whether the economics of a traditional degree really stack up. 

The current education system was set up to cater to the needs of an industrial model that’s losing its relevance in the digital age. AI is set to shape a very different future for the range and types of skills that people will need. In an already competitive market, we are yet to see the level of disruption that will be caused when the tech giants start to focus on education. 

In this future, individual education providers will no longer be able to have an end-to-end view of any single student’s journey. With a workforce needing to train on a shorter, more rapid basis across a range of providers, having a complete view of a student’s history and tailoring specific offers to them will become very difficult with the current model for managing student data.  

Globally, many universities are currently considering making significant investments in new student management and marketing systems based on that model. But with the changes I’ve described, those systems will only be able to provide a partial view of each student.  Consequently, there’s a question mark over whether the scale of investment in complex student management systems can be justified.   

We’ve already seen very similar developments in another sector: healthcare. Over the last 10-15 years the control and ownership of health records has changed dramatically. Mobile populations and greater choice of health providers have resulted in centralised record systems that share information with a wide range of providers. I think there is room for a similar approach in education. There’s a clear opportunity to reimagine how people store their training history and how that information can be made available to education providers.  

Imagine a global training record that enables universities and others to access a complete view of a student’s history – with the relevant permissions and controls in place – enabling relevant and tailored offers to those students. What’s more, access to these potentially huge amounts of data would enable insight into global trends and demand that could help universities to compete more successfully. Rather than having to invest in and maintain complex systems as they do today, universities would be able to adopt data-driven strategies that could provide better outcomes at lower cost.  

Who’s likely to take up the challenge? It could be a sharp-eyed entrepreneur or an established player. I think there’s a sizeable prize on offer for the first to make a bold move. It’s a space on which everyone in education should keep a watchful eye. What’s your view? Please leave a comment below and visit www.accenture.com/digitalstudentAU. 

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