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Future knowledge

14 April 2014
4 scenarios for the future of Dutch universities.
In a great deal of strategic discussions about universities the topic is either student finance, number of students, societal challenges, MOOC’s (massively open online courses) or innovation policy. However these driving forces are all connected. The four scenarios in this publication demonstrate how these connections may develop in the future.




Universities will play a key role in an international knowledge community. And that community is changing fast. New educational technologies are challenging universities to modernise. Urbanisation, the rise of European areas for research, education and innovation, and the increasing international mobility of knowledge workers offer new chances. Optimists see opportunities everywhere. At the same time there are doom scenarios, in which Dutch universities falter under the pressure of international competition, the rise of Asia and the financial crisis.

The future of the university is strongly influenced by external developments. This increases uncertainty and the importance of the development of strategies for the future. Therefore in February 2013 the VSNU association of universities and the Rathenau Institute started up the project Future Strategy for Dutch Universities. The goal is to arrive at a long term vision regarding the university itself, in terms of its scientific knowledge function and its relationship with stakeholders. The key question is how universities can optimally fulfill their scientific knowledge function in the future.

This publication is the result of the fourth phase of the process: the development of future scenarios.

Scenario 1: National solidarity

  • Fortress Europe
  • education institutions
  • large social challenges

Scenario 2: Regional power

  • regions dominant
  • large variety
  • economic opportunities

Scenario 4: European variation  

  • North West Europe
  • many levels
  • public and private funds

Scenario 3: International selection

  • global competition
  • quality and choice
  • volatile