Future Trends in Postgraduate Education
The development of postgraduate education confronts numerous challenges as well as new opportunities which may have a considerable impact on postgraduate education programs which have to take into consideration future trends which are likely to shape the future postgraduate education. At the moment, the analysis of existing studies and current trends in the development of postgraduate education reveals multiple trends in the development of postgraduate programmes and how they are likely to change in the future. The mainstream trends are driven by changes in economy, technology and demographics that have the impact on the future education and postgraduate education in particular. These trends include the rise of the international postgraduate education and the increase share of international postgraduate students; the development of distance and e-learning; the growing demand on postgraduate education; the focus on skill-oriented postgraduate education; and the lifelong education which makes the postgraduate education particularly important. Multiple trends may have a considerable impact on the postgraduate education programme and the programme should address possible issues associated with emerging trends, such as training international students requires the enhancement of multiculturalism of educators to make them capable to work in a very diverse environment. Anyway, the postgraduate education programme should take into consideration emerging trends that will define the future of postgraduate education and the programme should meet needs and expectations of postgraduate students to the full extent. The internationalisation of the postgraduate education becomes the mainstream future trend that is likely to shape the postgraduate education in the future.
Background of the problem
The problem of the postgraduate education is the growing demand on the postgraduate education internationally and the persisting focus of educational institutions on their autonomy and their curricula and training programs which are not harmonized and balanced with regard to standards and needs of the postgraduate education at the international level. The development of the postgraduate education attracts more and more students, while the share of international students increases, because of the growing demand on the postgraduate education internationally due to the economic progress, technology development and other factors. The postgraduate education becomes more and more oriented on international students in such countries as the UK because international students become more and more concerned about their postgraduate education and they need education of the high quality. This is why educational institutions have to come prepared to provide postgraduate programmes that meet not only their own curricula and plans and needs of domestic students but also meet needs of international students. Moreover, their postgraduate training programmes have to be adapted to needs of international students and the quality of education should be measured with the help of some international standards which are non-existent so far.
Another issue that emerges with regard to the growing internationalization of the postgraduate education is the growing diversity and the need of adaptation of training programmes and educators to that diversity. What is meant here is the fact that the growing diversity raises the problem of different needs of students, their different learning style and academic experiences and many other differences and related issues. For example, students from Asia will be different from students from Latin America or Africa. They have different learning style, cultural traditions, and so on, but they may get in the same classroom and the postgraduate programme has to work equally well for all of those students. However, this is exactly, where the problem may and often does emerge in postgraduate education programmes which rather use the standardised approach to their students and teaching rather than pay a lot of attention to the diversity of students, their needs, background, culture, etc.
Frame the trend
One of the main trends in the further development of the postgraduate education is the growth of the share of international students along with the overall growth of the international student mobility as students from different countries can move freely and obtain their education in any country of the world they like or obtain their postgraduate education online or remotely. Economic and demographic development of the world will determine the high outbound mobility of international postgraduate students who are likely to look for their postgraduate education in well-developed countries like the UK, where they can choose from a variety of high quality postgraduate education programmes. Outbound postgraduate student mobility is another trend that will influence the future education and postgraduate programmes. The number of international postgraduate students doubled from 2000 to 2012 from two millions to four millions (Bayan, Osama, & Sulaiman, 2018). This trend is likely to continue in the future as the demographic situation in developing countries tends to remain positive as the share of the younger population remains high and keeps growing. China, Malaysia, Pakistan, India, and Nigeria are among the most prospective countries which may become suppliers of postgraduate students for educational institutions in the UK as well as other countries of the EU, the US, Canada, and other well-developed countries (Eley, 2016). The trend to the increase share of international students is likely to become one of the mainstream trends in the future of the postgraduate education.
The rise of the demand on postgraduate education is the result of the elimination of boundaries and the rise of the share of international students, while in a long-run future this trend is likely to result in the elimination of national boundaries and the development of international education, where students will learn at any university of the world they like. At the same time, this trend is driven by multiple factors such as economic processes, especially globalization, and elimination of cultural boundaries and the rise of the new, globalized world. In addition, the fast progress of technology also stimulates the rise of the interest of international students to postgraduate education along with the large share of young professionals and postgraduate students from developing countries along with aging population in developed countries like the UK which is an important demographic issue that also influences the development of postgraduate education as international education. Technology facilitates the elimination of boundaries between educators and students that contributes even more to the elimination of international boundaries and stimulates the rise of postgraduate education for international students.
At the same time, the growing demand on the postgraduate education is likely to be not only the popular trend among international students but also one of the main trends among domestic students that stimulates the high inbound postgraduate mobility of students in the UK and other well-developed countries. Inbound postgraduate student mobility is another trend because students, who have obtained their education in the UK and other well-developed countries, tend to continue their education on and on as their educational needs become more challenging. This is why they need postgraduate training programmes to enhance their competitive position in the labour market. The growth of the demand on the postgraduate education emerges on the ground of the ongoing progress of technology and science that set high demand in face of professionals, who have to come prepared to do the highly qualified job. Professionals, who have the higher qualification, hold the stronger competitive position in the labour market. This is why domestic students in the UK and other well-developed countries will look for the further postgraduate education. They will need to obtain the further postgraduate education because they need to keep progressing and to get better education to stay competitive and gain better career opportunities.
The development of distance and e-learning is likely to become the mainstream trend in the future. At the same time, e-learning has some distinct features with the postgraduate programme has to take into consideration. Distance learning is another important trend in the development of postgraduate education. Developers of the postgraduate education programme should take into consideration the fact that e-learning is not just a passing fad (Harden, 2002). On the contrary, the development of e-learning is a long-run, persisting trend that is likely to grow stronger in the future. In such a way, postgraduate education programme should focus on the development of the e-learning aspect and to provide the high quality education online.
At the same time, e-learning is not only about knowledge transfer (Harden, 2002). Instead, e-learning is also the matter of the development of learning skills which help postgraduate students to continue their education autonomously even without the involvement of educators. However, in spite of a widely spread belief that e- learning can be effective and efficient, it is not always the case (Harden, 2002). Developers of postgraduate education programmes should focus on the high effectiveness and efficiency of e-learning. Students need not learn in isolation but can be part of an on-line community (Harden, 2002). They interact with each other and develop effective relations online. The development of internet, information technologies and digital technologies expand opportunities to develop effective social relations online. Teachers and trainers have important but different roles and they have to take into consideration specificities of online education and adapt their teaching to online teaching (Harden, 2002). The online education is different from the conventional education and they need to develop effective postgraduate programme available online. In this regard, educators should remember that technology may be queen but pedagogy is king (Harden, 2002). They should use technology as a tool that helps to develop their teaching strategy and methods that can maximize the effectiveness of e-learning and bring positive outcomes. Technology is just a tool, while educators should use teaching methods and strategies to develop effective and reliable postgraduate education programme.
The development of international postgraduate education is driven by economic and demographic factors mainly. Economic factors include the process of globalisation and related issues which encourage closer cooperation between countries and their integration at all levels. The economic integration facilitates obtaining postgraduate education by international students, especially if they work in multinational corporations which often support training of their employees and can help them to obtain postgraduate education internationally. Employees may get transferred internationally and obtain their postgraduate education at the place, where they work. The process of globalisation has also contributed to the consistent rise of the mobility of the population, especially labour force, while postgraduate students mirror general trends in the movement of the labour force globally. Moreover, postgraduate students tend to move to well-developed countries or obtain their education their because professionals with the higher education level have better employment and career opportunities in well-developed countries such as the UK rather than in developed countries. Well-developed economies have diverse knowledge-based industries, while developing countries suffer from technological backwardness that determines such trends as brain drain in developing countries as postgraduate students move to developed countries, especially if they obtain their higher education in those countries. At the same time, many developing countries focus on the development and enhancement of their higher education because they view it as a chance to make a breakthrough in their socioeconomic development. The development of education in developing countries will also stimulate the rise of the number of postgraduate students, who are likely to obtain their postgraduate education in well-developed countries due to the higher level of the development of education in those countries and better educational and scientific ground.
As for the demographic situation, it is also favourable for the rise of the share of international students. The UK as well as many other European and well-developed countries face the problem of the aging population, while many developing countries face the problem of the fast population growth and overpopulation. The share of the young population is high and the birth rate grows too. The growth of the young population leads to the growing number of students and increasing education needs of the population. Moreover, the growth of the share of the young population and steady improvement of the quality of basic education open wider opportunities for the further learning of students from developing countries in educational institutions based in well-developed ones. Postgraduate students are particularly interested in the continuation of their education in well-developed countries, such as the UK, because they can obtain better quality education there, while often they just do not have quality postgraduate education programmes in their home countries. As a result, educational institutions of the UK and other well-developed countries should develop their postgraduate programmes to meet needs of international students and come prepared to train international postgraduate students.
One of important drivers to the emergence of the trend to the growing internationalization of postgraduate education is the persisting focus on the skill-based postgraduate education. Skills will still remain the priority even for postgraduate education programmes. Trends in the postgraduate education curriculum are the move to an outcome based educational model and recognition of the need for greater integration between the different phases of education (Harden, 2006). The development of postgraduate programme involves the development of specific skills that can help postgraduate students to improve their performance and to reach success in their professional development.
The trend to the increase of the share of international students and internationalisation of postgraduate education manifests through the simple rise of the share of international students in the total postgraduate student population. The increase of the share of international students shows that there is the obvious trend to the growing internationalisation of the postgraduate education as international students look for postgraduate education. The rise of the share of international students is accompanied with certain decrease of the share of domestic students which is often the result of demographic factors. Nevertheless, steadily the boundary between domestic and international students disappears and this is another example of the impact of the internationalisation of postgraduate education as students from different countries get the same education programme and educators have the same plan and curricula for domestic and international students.
Furthermore, the impact of the new trend to the internationalisation of the postgraduate education is the growing competition between educational institutions in their struggle for international students. They attempt to attract more international students and to take their share in the global educational market. In this regard, the globalisation or internationalisation of the education market is another manifestation of the internationalisation of the postgraduate education. As a result, the postgraduate education tends to change and encourages the growing collaboration at the international level to develop common standards and principles of the postgraduate education.
Today, postgraduate education is highly theorized, but the future development of the postgraduate education will experience the shift toward the deeper focus on practice as international students will look for specific practical skills and ways to apply their knowledge. The growth of theory-practice nexus contributes to growing focus of theory on the practical application of knowledge and skills acquired by postgraduate students in the course of their postgraduate training (Byng-Maddick & Walker-Bone, 2016). The future focus on skill-oriented postgraduate education is the result of the growing demand on the high qualification of professionals, who need to have very complicated skills. At the same time, postgraduate education was traditionally oriented on the theoretical development. Theory comprised the core of postgraduate education because students have well-developed skills and come prepared to postgraduate training programs to expand their knowledge rather than practical skills. The growing complexity of technology and overall progress of science will raise the need for the development of more practical skills at the postgraduate level in the future. Overall, the development of the postgraduate education will tend to the further internationalization and development of lifelong learning that will include the development of international standards oriented on the ongoing, lifelong learning of postgraduate students. Therefore, the internationalization of postgraduate students will become the most obvious consequence of the new trend.
The development of postgraduate education becomes diverse and it will become more diverse in the future. This is why another trend is the expansion of postgraduate pathways that means that postgraduate students will get wider opportunities to continue their competition. This also means that the competition between postgraduate education programmes will grow stiffer in the future (Campos, et al., 2018). The diversity of postgraduate education and postgraduate programmes is the result of the growing demand on postgraduate education and increasing offer educational institutions have. The development of new postgraduate education programme leads to offering more attractive programme for students. At the same time, the postgraduate education programme should offer the emerging diversity of postgraduate education and to provide students with more attractive educational product. The diversity of education will be the direct consequences of the internationalization of postgraduate education.
The development of postgraduate education is likely to become the development of the more homogeneous international postgraduate education with educational centres in the UK and other well-developed countries which attract international students and can provide them with high quality postgraduate education. Therefore, the future postgraduate education is likely to become more homogeneous and skills-oriented as international students will have similar needs, while the location of the specific educational institution will become less significant, while the quality of education will become prior for postgraduate students.
One of the main trends in the future development of postgraduate education is the emergence of the trend to the lifelong learning which is likely to become the distinct feature of postgraduate education internationally. The progress of technology and economy requires the development of lifelong learning because professionals, even postgraduate students, need to develop their professional skills and continue their education after they obtain their degree. The lifelong learning is the key trend that will persist and grow stronger in the future as the need in education will grow stronger too, including postgraduate students because they will need to keep progressing to stay competitive in the labour market and to continue their professional development successfully (Hagemeier & Murawski, 2014). The lifelong learning is essential, especially for postgraduate students and highly qualified professionals because they need to keep pace with the development of new technologies and science. Otherwise, they will be unable to perform successfully in the highly competitive environment. Knowledge is the key to success now, while the progress of science and technology will urge the further expansion of knowledge and postgraduate students cannot learn once. Instead, learning will become the lifelong need and professionals will need to continue their education throughout their career.
Thus, the future postgraduate education is likely to continue and expand current trends that have already started to emerge and are likely to grow stronger in the future, including the increase of the share of international postgraduate students, the expansion of e-learning, the skill-oriented postgraduate education, the further diversification of education, and others. All these trends will shape the future of postgraduate education and the postgraduate education programme should take into consideration and meet those trends to the full extent. Otherwise, the postgraduate education programme will be ineffective. For example, the ignorance of the high demand on postgraduate education among international students will deprive the programme of a large number of international postgraduate students that are likely to get interested in the programme in the future. The future postgraduate programme should focus be skill-oriented and provide wide opportunities for distance and e-learning for students in the UK as well as international students. International postgraduate students will comprise a large part of the postgraduate education programme in the future. This is why educators should also come prepared to work with the diverse student population. Moreover, the postgraduate education programme should help postgraduate students to shift toward the lifelong learning that means that post-graduate education programmes should be long-lasting and oriented on needs of different students with the different level of the academic development and different professional experience. The ability of faculty and developers of the postgraduate education programme to address future trends will define the overall effectiveness and competitiveness of the postgraduate education programme. Overall, the development of the postgraduate education will tend to the further internationalization and development of lifelong learning that will include the development of international standards oriented on the ongoing, lifelong learning of postgraduate students. Therefore, the internationalization of postgraduate students will become the most obvious consequence of the new trend.
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