Our world is full of new challenges and new opportunities. Change is now part of everyday university life.

So, we looked at the latest higher education and wider global trends that will make a big impact on our university over the next 15 years. We built them into our UEA2030 Vision to future-proof our strategy and make sure nothing knocks us off course.


Higher education trends

We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved together over the last five decades. Our students and colleagues have done remarkable things from winning Nobel Prizes to tackling climate change. But before we could start shaping our vision and future learning and research experience, we needed to take a closer look at the changing higher education landscape.


Here are just a few of the education trends that we think will make a big impact over the next 15 years:

Students are increasingly likely to demand the best choice, value and quality. Good or bad they will review and share their learning experiences with the world.

Research funding is increasingly scarce while competition has intensified. Teaching and research also need greater synergy with research firmly embedded into the curriculum.

Global student mobility will continue to deliver benefits and new competitive pressures. New opportunities and challenges will emerge as China and other nations invest in their universities.

Fees and caps will continue to change while funding will be increasingly linked to performance with incentives focused on the most in-demand subjects and challenges. The size of the student market will also fluctuate. More students will design their own education portfolios, mixing institutions and online and offline learning courses. While others will take different learning paths, as they discover new opportunities with employers, take advantage of social and business networks, and make the most of a new wave of internships and global experiences.

Global trends 

We started our vision by looking into the future. Before we could create a clear, competitive advantage, we needed to fully understand the key global trends and drivers that are set to transform our world. But what are these drivers? What is the best way to develop the skills of students in these areas? How can our research impact the issues that really matter? These are the questions we needed to answer before shaping our future direction.


Here are just a few of the drivers that we think will make a big impact over the next 15 years:

In just 90 years the global population has exploded from two billion to seven billion. A further one billion people are predicted to live on the planet by 2030. More people are going hungry. We’ve less agricultural land than ever before. The world needs new ideas to cope with the growing pressures on food production, agriculture and supply chains.

Improvements in healthcare, diet, lifestyle and personal medicine mean people are now living longer. 10 million people aged over 65 currently live in the UK. This is set to grow by 50 per cent over the next 20 years. The implications are massive, not only for healthcare, public services, spending, taxation and pensions - but also for education.

The move from carbon-based energy to renewable energy sources and low-carbon living is at the heart of economic and technological change. Our climate is changing. We need to play a major role in technological innovation, helping people to adapt to social change and new ways of living.

Globalisation. Megacities. New forms of connectivity and mobility. The world is getting smaller and more interconnected. How and where people work is changing. Some work at home. Some move from country to country. We need to prepare our students for a new world of work. 

We live in an increasingly connected world where the ‘Internet of Things’ creates seamless streams of data about everything. Understanding and making the most of this data is the key to transforming businesses, public services, healthcare, and even learning.

The number of 18-year-olds is in flux. In 2019 there will be less. In 2030 there will be 140,000 more. A new, more socially conscious, digitally connected and entrepreneurial generation is emerging. They learn things online. They want to develop self-confidence. They also want to improve lives and enjoy a very different learning experience.

When you look at the bigger picture, the demand for higher education is unlikely to fall over the next 15 years. But the actual provision will change dramatically. We need to transform the way we teach and carry out research during this time. Our pioneering approach and strong vision for the future give us an advantage. We’re already thinking ahead to seize new opportunities. But now is not the time to wait to see what happens.

We need to respond to new threats, identify new opportunities and innovate – from the courses we offer to the way we attract funding. We must meet the expectations of new generations of students with different attitudes and outlooks. We also need the agility to adapt to new challenges. Our UEA2030 Vision will see us redefine our student experience, embrace future innovations and enhance our international reputation for the benefit of staff and students – past, present and future.

Read more about our vision that is based on the four pillars of student, research, staff and global success.

Trends UEA will capitalise upon

  • New technologies. New funding. New ways of doing things. The world of higher education is changing faster than ever before. Doing ‘more of the same’ is not an option. We must innovate, adapt and meet constantly changing needs.

  • “Sustainability is not about surviving or standing still, which allows competitors to overtake and students to become disenchanted. A sustainable sector will need agile and responsive leadership from the whole university and management who are comfortable working with a more commercial, higher-risk, and higher-investment model of the university, while still respecting core academic values. This will require creativity and innovation, and probably some rethinking of the ways that Higher Education has been delivered in the past.” – Higher Education Funding Council for England, Financial Sustainability Strategy Group, The Sustainability of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in England, March 2015.

  • Internationally renowned for delivering an exceptional student experience, we’re proud of our strengths, such as the Norwich Research Park, the Sainsbury Centre, and expertise in sectors like the environment, food and health, and the arts and humanities.