A report has revealed potential future for universities in the UK, where employers gain increased powers to design and award more types of degrees.
The review by umbrella body Universities UK has warned some higher education establishments may have to close or merge as they struggle to compete for students in the coming decades.
The number of 18-year-olds will drop markedly between 2009 and 2027, reducing demand for places and, consequently, leading to a drop in public funding, the report says.
It goes on to predict three possible future scenarios, bearing in mind the changing demographics and a harsher economic climate.
One scenario sees non-traditional private providers gaining powers to award degrees by ‘cherry picking’ course areas with low entry costs.
An alternative scenario sees employers driving the university sector, with students studying part-time via the web while continuing to work.
The third prediction was of a bleak future for higher education, with universities struggling to survive without employer input.
The full report can be read here.