My Gartner Symposium Experience: Higher Education

One of the best things about a conference like Gartner Symposium is the opportunity to compare trends across multiple industries.

Unfortunately for higher education, the comparison isn’t flattering. When measuring digital progress across industries, one view of the chart below is that higher education is in the middle of the pack. But when looking at the types of industries ranked it’s clear education is almost last among information industries and is only really ahead of industries dealing with physical resources like manufacturing, utilities, transportation, etc.

And, it’s easy to see why education trails those other industries: we don’t invest in digitalization.

Instead, too many in higher education prefer to just add a sprinkling of technology on top of our traditional processes rather than fundamentally rethinking how we can best serve our students with all the resources now available.

This is further evidenced by education ranking dead last in the percentage of institutions that have a digital transformation team. I’m pleased I’ve been able to start building a small team like this in my organization, but it’s only the very beginning of what needs to become a much higher and better resourced priority across the entire institution and across the industry.

There are some great examples of universities making real commitments to digitalization (Southern New Hampshire, Arizona State, and Purdue among them), but if we don’t get busy making real commitments across the industry to embrace digitalization and disrupt our own business model, the next 20 years in higher education will look like the last 20 years in the newspaper industry. Several titans will remain (The Ivies, state flagships, well endowed elite privates, and some others with well defined niches), but the vast majority of institutions will struggle, shrink in size & net revenue, and eventually close.

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