Tribal’s predictions for the higher education market in 2016


As we enter a new year with new opportunities and new challenges, it’s time for Tribal to make some predictions on what will happen in HE during 2016.

Tribal’s foresights come with over 15 years of knowledge in the education market as well as analysis into the current external circumstances such as political changes and economics out of public control.

We expect the following to have an impact on higher education in 2016:


There’s no getting away from the fact that student debt is on the rise due to decreasing levels of funding. These financial constraints will result in longer decision-making processes. Education Managers need to find a way of reducing costs but still operating efficiently to balance these constraints against the increasing expectations. They may look to only focus on economically viable activities, but they must have a clear view of their institutions performance across a range of measures. In effect, the needs of Education Managers will be no different from managers of commercial enterprises.

Student acquisition

Optimising student recruitment and retention is key to institutions’ financial well-being and can be difficult in an increasingly globalised and competitive market. The pull of international study will prove to be important and not only because of the higher UK fees. Students will look to travel and enrich their lives with new cultures, learning techniques and to gain insight into the issues that affect their studies. ‘Pathways’ may become a more popular route for prospective students to study abroad.

This will mean UK universities will need to look at streamlining the admissions process and use effective multi-channel marketing and recruitment tools, including student satisfaction as a key message.

It is important to focus on the right candidates at an early stage, including matching them to the right courses and removing barriers for applicants.

TEF evolvement

The TEF may not have had the impact the government initially expected. It will have to evolve to include better measures of a university’s worth to a student in terms of engagement. If institutions simply increase their contact hours with students – this doesn’t automatically mean that the students will achieve more. Using more employment data may be a better measure of a university’s success than reputation and research alone.

Delivery models

With the digital world ever-changing, technology presents new teaching and learning methods which can be deployed across multiple media. This will lead to an increase in distance learning and the creation of the virtual campus. Students have far more choice in the components that make up a qualification, and institutions can collaborate to build courses which span education sectors or cross borders. Institutions must demonstrate continual improvement, not only in their offer, but also educational outcomes. There is also increasing automation of administrative processes. Student support, welfare and experience will be linked closer to outcomes and achievement. High achieving students who have been nurtured and looked after by their university will ultimately perform better.


Security for universities when enrolling students will be improved with the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD). The candidate verification will be used for university degree programmes and for employers to check the person they are hiring has been to an accredited institution. Many of Tribal’s customers are signed up to use this service already.

Finally, we spoke to Tribal’s Managing Director of Market Development Jon Baldwin about his thoughts on HE in 2016. He asked the following:

‘Will 2016 be a year of innovation or emulation? Will TEF and the Office for Students drive real change or will the protection of position and status prevail? Informed consumers who are properly supported are about to have centre stage as competitive forces truly emerge in HE. Will they seize the opportunity?’

What do you think 2016 has in store? Join in the conversation and let us know your thoughts @tribalgroup on Twitter.


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