The Golden Age of universities in the developed world is passing and life is becoming tougher. Rising costs are no longer matched by a willingness of governments and students to pay for them. And yet the traditional operating model of a university cannot produce sufficient productivity gains to cover the gap.

Soaring costs and chronic funding challenges are nothing new. But today’s universities are being buffeted by game-changing technology, disruptive competition from bold new online players, evolving demographics, and heightened expectations for personalized service amid spiraling tuition fees, crippling student debt and emerging doubts about higher education’s return on investment. The ‘age of the customer’ has arrived and students have higher expectations about the experience and what it will lead to.

Traditional universities are approaching a crossroads: Do they transform into new kinds of entities? Optimize existing operations to enhance efficiencies and capabilities? Do nothing in the hope that if no rescue appears, they will have time to decide what to do later? Or do nothing in the belief that they are invulnerable?

KPMG International’s The future of higher education in a disruptive world provides a timely and insightful analysis of the current state of the sector and maps out four ‘building blocks’ designed to foster innovation, competitiveness and survival in a new era. In support of this campaign, KPMG International also commissioned Forrester Consulting to survey university leaders in the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia and India on their self-reported investment in eight critical consumer-centric capabilities.1 This research shows that universities are still struggling amid barriers to progress that include expertise and technology limitations, security and privacy issues, and outdated processes.

Ultimately, today’s university leaders must face critical questions requiring timely and strategic responses that will likely define their future in a hyper-competitive new world.

About us

KPMG professionals work across the education sector – serving clients in K-12, vocational education and training, and higher education, as well as the strategic planners, funders and influencers of educational services – to help governments respond to the growing demand for education. Their mission is to support the planning, development and delivery of cost effective and quality education, training and research.

Together with KPMG's network of firms, the Global Education practice provides Tax, Audit (internal and external) and Advisory services in business transformation, new models of delivery and quality improvement, and cost reduction and efficiency improvement reviews.

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1 A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of KPMG, February 2020.