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Behind the Scenes: Global Higher Education Research

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Posted By Katharine Bierce

Tableau Study Hall invites data-impacted influencers in higher education and K12 to share best practices, editorials and stories. This week’s guest is Katharine Bierce, Senior Lead, Research Content at

Higher Education Trends Research: Summary of Findings in Tableau

In order to better understand higher education trends during the pandemic, worked with Ipsos and the Chronicle of Higher Education to survey 2,200 students and staff. We collected responses from 1,125 students and 1,075 staff from August 10, 2020 to September 9, 2020 via an online quantitative survey in 10 countries in North America and Europe. 

While in the past, we’ve focused primarily on creating a PDF to summarize the research, this Fall, we decided to expand our research materials to include a Tableau page to give education leaders the ability to explore more detail in their areas of interest. 

Launched in November 2020, the research includes this Tableau page here.

All in all, we found five key themes:

1. Staying Connected While Apart 

Consistent connections are key to maintaining students’ feelings of belonging. As you can see in the Tableau dashboard, one thing that universities provided during pandemic-imposed restrictions were online communities to connect with faculty and staff. Also, the majority (75%) of students surveyed said that they would like weekly (or more frequent) pandemic-related communications.

The Global Higher Education Research Snapshot - a screenshot of the Connection page in the Tableau dashboard

2. Widening Trust Gaps Within Institutions

There are existing trust gaps to bridge, which have been somewhat worsened by the pandemic. 48% of students and 51% of staff think the pandemic has widened the trust gap between leadership and students. 

The Global Higher Education Research Snapshot - a screenshot of the Trust page in the Tableau dashboard

3. Holistic Wellbeing is Top of Mind

As students navigate an ever-changing university experience, the trust trend is trickling into their personal safety and holistic wellbeing. 73% of students said maintaining their wellbeing has been a key challenge during the pandemic. Check out the Tableau dashboard for more on how many students in which countries said “I feel safe returning to campus.” 

The Global Higher Education Research Snapshot - a screenshot of the Wellbeing page in the Tableau dashboard

4. Students Expect More Flexible Learning Options

Faced with increased challenges, many students are seeking more flexible learning options. When asked how their institution could improve its response to the pandemic, 33% of students said to provide more flexible academic options for students (online, hybrid, in-person). You may also be interested to see the trends on what institutions are doing to attract new students. Not surprisingly, one of the top responses was “more online learning options,” followed by “more part-time classes.”

The Global Higher Education Research Snapshot - a screenshot of the Flexibility page in the Tableau dashboard

5. Revising Career and Academic Goals

Economic changes are causing a shift in how students view their academic and career goals. 51% of students are reconsidering their education plans during the pandemic. Additionally, 60% of students are concerned about finding employment after graduation. This is an opportunity area for universities to step up. Our research found that a majority of staff anticipate an increase in adult learners who are looking to reskill or upskill. 

The Global Higher Education Research Snapshot - a screenshot of the Career page in the Tableau dashboard

The Future is Now

A crisis makes the future happen faster: many institutions are seeing years of change happen in just months. Now is the time to accelerate digital transformation, because many of the pandemic-induced digital changes may be here to stay. For more inspiration, check out the Global Higher Education Research Snapshot page on the website as well as the Tableau dashboards about the research.

Katharine Bierce works on thought leadership research content on the marketing team. She oversees trends research reports on higher education and nonprofit topics as well as qualitative research and knowledge management. Projects she manages run from a few weeks to over six months, with 3 to 50 stakeholders involved. Prior to her work in research, she managed the blog and oversaw the editing and publication of 250+ articles per year as well as e-books on AI for social good and more. She holds Agile Scrum Master and PMP certifications. *Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer*

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