Student Needs 2025+ in APF Compass

Those of you who’ve been following our work on Student Needs 2025+ might be interested to know that our work was featured as part of the APF’s latest Special Issue on Education. Kudos to editor Andrew Curry for assembling this great material.

Contents list, in page order:

* Hardin Tibbs, on the changing university learning system: beyond the “industrial” university

* Sara Robinson, on the trends shaping the context of (US) higher education

* Bryan Alexander, who started this particular hare running, on the trends in US higher education

* David Birch, on degrees, badges, and the rise of “social hacking”

* Katie King on the Student Needs 2025 project

* Andrew Curry on using the Long Now’s pace layer as a tool to imagine the future of the university

* Cindy Frewen on visions of the future campus

* Wendy Schultz and Richard Lum on a unique schools’ scenarios project that built scenarios from theories of social change

* Anne Boysen reviews a book on parenting and learning in the digital age.

Here’s our piece, amazingly crafted by Katie King.

Cultivate personal brands. Ask questions that artificial intelligence can understand. Hack your way into effective activism. In the year 2025, students will need to be skillful in these areas, according to an assembly of researchers in the University of Houston Foresight program who, on behalf of the Lumina Foundation, are working to answer a simple question: could changes in student needs alter what higher education will provide by 2025 and beyond?

Student Needs 2025+ is a six-month project in which twenty University of Houston faculty, alumni, and students are using Houston’s Framework Foresight[1] process to produce forecasts of future student needs and identify the implications and issues they suggest for higher education. The teams are exploring how students will be living, learning, working, playing, connecting, and participating in the future.

Andy Hines, coordinator of the Masters in Foresight program and project lead, says most studies about the future of higher education have a limited focus just on learning. He believes that looking at all aspects of student life and using the team’s expertise in foresight and futures tools will uncover connections and trends that higher education doesn’t normally see.

“We know that Lumina has a handle on the future of higher education, especially from the point of view of the institutions,” he says. “But what about the students and their needs? Could they be much different a dozen years from now? That’s the question we’re exploring, and, unlike most studies looking at higher education, we’re 100% focused on the student rather than the institution.”

Lumina is a leading higher education foundation with a goal of raising higher educational attainment levels from 40% today to 60% in 2025. They commissioned the Houston Foresight program to conduct this research because “Strategic foresight is what leaders should spend most of their time doing,” says Kiko Suarez, the foundation’s Vice President of Communications and Innovation.

“Lumina is determined to help the United States reach Goal 2025, and firmly believes in providing thought leadership in the field of post-secondary education attainment through strategic foresight.”

The research teams recently presented at the Foresight program’s Spring Gathering, and shared preliminary findings to about 30 alumni and students.

After seeing the scenarios, Hines was struck by how lines between the six categories will blur in the future. For instance, “Play is a recurring theme in all six domains. It’s changing from a stand-alone, structured activity to being a part of everything.” He says the trends show that “we don’t go play a game, because it’s all a game.”

He also noted the emergence of a strong recurring theme: “Technology is moving from an accessory to being an essential component woven in the fabric of student life,” he says. “It will be so integrated that students will have a hard time imagining life without it.”

Scan hits, analysis, and interviews with the researchers can be found on the Houston Foresight blog (, Twitter feed (@houstonforesight), and at #studentneeds2025.


[1] A. Hines & P. Bishop, “Framework foresight: Exploring futures the Houston way,” Futures, Volume 51, July 2013, Pages 31–49.

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