The Educause conference, aimed at the education sector, took place this year from 30 October to 2 November in Denver. The around 8,000 participants took the opportunity to exchange ideas and share their experiences in lectures, working groups and other meetings.
The key findings of the Educause conference were as follows:
The conference clearly demonstrated that only shared and open exchange, collaboration and working together on solutions leads to sustainable success and finally also to cost savings for universities. This approach was very much in use here.
Problems with Adobe, Microsoft, SPSS and Oracle were openly and intensively discussed here. There is evidently a Higher Education Advisory Board for Microsoft; the same is now planned for Adobe.
There was also an open and intensive discussion here, conducted partly via a Slack channel. The focus was on budget planning: for cloud applications in particular, various services such as security and firewalls must be included, which would previously not have been specifically listed as they would have been available in-house anyway. It is also clear that universities want to or must cover budget cuts using cloud applications. Many universities are concentrating for the moment on a single provider, depending on the application, as otherwise support and training become difficult. The importance of training for cloud applications was also emphasised here. Furthermore, the question of how existing licenses can be transferred into the cloud was discussed. Contacts with the senior leadership team have been established here.
The trend is clear: education is a private affair and must therefore be self-financed. Time and time again, it was emphasised just how much budget cuts (even during the last year) are causing problems and how people are constantly looking for solutions. Universities and colleges are therefore merging, and it is predicted that within the next 5 to 10 years, 50% of all universities will either merge or close. There are also staff shortages, as wages cannot be kept in line with market conditions; this has the consequence that existing staff are cultivated and trained internally. Course fees are also increasing. Previously, universities were 40% funded by the state and 60% by the students; in many cases, it is now 9% by the state and 91% by the students.
The cost spiral is causing many to question whether a four-year study programme is worth it, as by the end, you may be faced with USD 150,000 of debt and must first pay this off. This is leading people to look for alternatives, such as courses and a corresponding portfolio of certificates and references – without a university degree. This is partly why Microsoft has taken over LinkedIn Learning (Lynda). This education market will grow rapidly. A blockchain model was also outlined.
Universities are also looking to increase collaborations with companies in order to finance research. It appears that ever more Chinese companies are getting involved, apparently increasingly using this route to spy on research results. The government would now like to prohibit this.
Marian Gorbis gave an interesting talk on this topic, making the following remarks:
Security has been THE major topic for all universities in both 2018 and 2019. Training, implementation and awareness-raising are essential here.
Here, it was emphasised that the rapidly increasing amounts of data from IoT, smart cities, etc., will encourage corresponding analysis by AI. It was also mentioned that AI will have a huge influence on lawyers and doctors, as these occupations create large amounts of data that can be retrieved much more quickly and purposefully by AI.
Microsoft was evidently focused on encouraging specific universities here. These three areas were mentioned by Microsoft as particularly important for the future: mixed reality – artificial intelligence – quantum computing. Cybersecurity is also an important topic here.