University places are increasing more and more as the years go by, whilst e-learning and "in-house training" becomes the norm within business. Universities UK has reported that 70% of all incoming undergraduate students make up of 18-20 year olds, and is expected to drop dramatically from the beginning of the 2009 academic year and continuing to drop for the next 20 years.
According to the BBC, not only are self-funding, entry requirements, and other problems for failing numbers, but it's also an issue with alternatives to university. Nowadays, a university degree or doctorate doesn't guarantee you a job at the end of your course, whereas "learning as you work" is becoming more and more popular. It makes sense, considering you are being trained to do a specific role and this subsequently earns a qualification at the end of it.
The report brought out by Universities UK runs through three potential scenarios which predict how academic institutions can carry on, taking into consideration many variables such as changing demographics, courses, resources and this "credit crunch" (which I only found out last week that it wasn't a type of breakfast cereal).
E-learning is something catching up with campus universities. The Open University the only institution with university-accredited status which is dedicated to distance learning, allowing those to study part time but also work and keep an income; an ideal scenario for those with families or for mature students. This is a classic example of e-learning, supported by the BBC:
In this scenario, damage to the education system is predicted as private providers gain degree awarding powers and a small number of elite institutions seek to leave the publicly funded sector. In the third scenario, the university sector becomes more employer-driven and flexible and there is full development of technology-based learning thanks to public and private investment. Most students end up studying part-time on a virtual basis while they continue to work, but full-time undergraduate study does remain part of the system.
Where virtual studying and e-learning could take hold of higher education, universities in the near future could face closure because they can't offer what they used to - what used to matter before changing times. The report titled: "The future size and shape of the higher education sector in the UK: threats and opportunities" can be downloaded in PDF format.