Arrows indicating a separate path illustrate the idea that the U.S. could one day see national universities.

Are national universities on higher ed’s horizon?

A new report takes a look at the future of higher education--a future could include national universities and increased artificial intelligence

Higher education’s future could include national universities–at least, that’s what a new report proposes.

Grant Thornton’s The State of Higher Education in 2019 identifies a handful of trends and issues that are either emerging or expected to emerge in the coming year–and the biggest of those is the idea of national universities.

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The report urges those in higher ed to “consider the inevitability of national universities.” Those institutions would, logically, operate on a national scale in order to reach more students and meet their needs.

While state-funded higher education has established the colleges and universities we know today (and along with it, academic freedoms, innovation, and diverse offerings), it also has resulted in what Grant Thornton principal Matt Unterman notes are institutional inefficiencies, such as a lack of economies of scale and a siloed delivery on educational mission.

In his section of the report, Unterman says national universities would do more than simply require students to log into online courses from their homes or travel to a single physical location. National universities would operate across all states in a consistent manner, akin to the way retail stores and supermarkets operate. They would serve constituents where they’re located and where they want to be served.

“On the other hand, most consumer-oriented, commercial enterprises already operate on a national scale,” Unterman observes. “As one of the last ‘local’ industries standing, siloed campuses are artifacts of the past, on the road to consolidation and a very different future.”

Laura Ascione