Global Higher Education and VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

Global Higher Education and VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity

Pamela A. Lemoine, P. Thomas Hackett, Michael D. Richardson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0672-0.ch022
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VUCA describes today's chaotic, turbulent, and rapidly changing education environment, which is the new educational normal. VUCA; volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, terms coined for the military world also describes today's education world. As a result, educational leaders face the uncertainty of workforce reductions and budget cuts affecting the process of increasing student performance. In addition, rapid changes in technology are constant and ambiguity reigns as mandates for change increase In today's education world VUCA, the chaotic “new normal” is real. The financial crisis of 2008-2009, for example, rendered many businesses obsolete, and organizations throughout the world were plunged into turbulent economic environments. At the same time, rapid changes marched forward as technological developments like social media exploded, the world's population continued to simultaneously grow and age, and global disasters disrupted lives, economies, and businesses. In the new normal, higher education institutions are caught in a critically demanding and increasing unknown present and future characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
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In 2016, as the new normal unfolds; “geopolitical tensions, conflicts around the world”, as well as unprecedented issues with immigration to Europe and in the United States are effecting globalization and economic stability. International economic concerns along with past recessions have left nations providing decreasing resources for higher education while demanding increases in productivity (Sala-i-Martin, Crotti, Battista, Hanouz, Galvan, Geiger, & Marti, 2015, p. 3).

Higher education institutions, once place-bound, are no longer confined to traditional “brick and mortar” buildings; access to technology has facilitated access to education (Ball, Dworkin & Vryonides, 2010; Glenn, 2008). Anytime/anywhere access to education provides a significant instrument for permitting enhanced economic prosperity as well as social participation of people, demonstrating both the function of democracy and a learning society (Asia Society, 2012). Across international borders, education is viewed as a crucial economic outcome of globalization. Important international decision makers, policy-makers and politicians consider education to be a tradable commodity (Bosworth & Collins, 2008; Tsiligris, 2014).

Economic considerations related to international competitiveness have become a significant driving strength behind the internationalization of learning (Chan & Dimmock, 2008; Cooper, Hersch, & O’Leary, 2012). Along with the movement of goods and general services, the movement of educational services and products has improved significantly in the last decade (Lane & Maznevski, 2014). Education is increasingly seen not only as an export commodity, but also as a key national brand for a nation’s knowledge proficiency (Tsiligris, 2014). Knowledge institutions, whether private or public, are regarded as significant stakeholders in a country’s global and local competitiveness (Levey & Levey, 2013; Sahlberg, 2006; Schwab & Sala-i-Martin, 2015).

As learning becomes increasingly borderless, education ranks increasingly higher on national agendas (Etzkowitz, 2014). Developing countries view increasing education participation as crucial to their transition to developed country standing (Bashir, 2007; Wade, 2008, 2009). The argument that education is a major driver of economic competitiveness in an increasingly knowledge-driven global economy is now widely accepted (David & Halvert, 2015; Wilkinson, 2013). Education drives the economy, but what drives educational productivity?

Globalization with changes in the world’s economy, increasing diversity, and the ubiquitous use of technology is affecting education (Xu, 2007). In a push to be globally competitive, every country, large or small, is tackling educational reform (Jandhvala, 2015). Countries wish to prepare their citizens, who are increasingly diverse in national origin, language, religion, ethnicity, educational background, gender and race, to be globally workforce ready (Skiba, 2015; Lawson, Sanders & Smith, 2015; Zhao, 2012).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Knowledge-Based: Link between knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workplace.

Digital Economy: An economy based on access and use of the internet.

Resilience: Ability to respond and adapt to change.

VUCA: Acronym for volatility, uncertainty, chaos, and ambiguity.

Globalization: Changes made as populations move throughout the world.

Global Market Place: Competition faced by higher education institutions in a digital economy.

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