A new EY Australia report predicts the pandemic will significantly change the university experience as digital learning brings fees 'close to zero'.
EY's latest report is based on 32 in-depth interviews with leading university vice chancellors and experts from around Australia and New Zealand, and data points from EY market research.
It found the cost of tuition will drop 'dramatically' as the cost of learning is 'driven down to zero' with easily accessible content.
Under the modelling, tertiary education will be more tied to employers with 'on the job' learning in favour with employers are making hiring decisions.
Students are 'unlikely' to ever return to pre-COVID levels, and that universities need to become less reliant on international students and government funding to pay the bills.
The report also emphasised the end of 'the campus' as students need to be able to access content on-demand.
EY research estimates that 65% of Australians looking to study would consider enrolling themselves in online learning anywhere in the world.
At the same time, one-third of Gen Z (people born between 1997-2012) respondents said the pandemic will change the way they study over the long term.
The report’s author and EY's Global Head of Education, Catherine Friday, said the pandemic exposed how far universities have to go when it comes to finding their place in the future of education.
"With fewer students, the traditional university campus is dead and the higher education sector must adapt by offering more digital and on-demand courses to attract future students," Ms Friday said.
"Our universities cannot rely on ever increasing inflows of domestic and international students to pay the bills, with student levels unlikely to return to 2019 levels as the sector continues to reel from the pandemic."
Professor Ian Wright from the University of Canterbury said that "The future for universities is to both stream like Spotify and offer experiential learning like a Crowded House concert."
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