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Diplomacy in Action

Release of Global Survey of Student Opinions on the Future of Higher Education


John Zogby, Pollster and Founder, Zogby Analytics; Jonathan Zogby, President and CEO, Zogby Analytics; and Doug Becker, Chairman and CEO, Laureate Education, Inc.
Washington, DC
June 9, 2014




1:00 P.M.

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. I would also like to welcome our journalists from the New York Foreign Press Center who are joining us via DVC. Today we’re going to have a briefing with Mr. John Zogby, who is a pollster and founder of Zogby Analytics, and Jonathan Zogby, President and CEO,  Zogby Analytics, and Doug Becker, Chairman and CEO of Laureate Education International.

They will release and discuss a report of the Global Survey of Student Opinions on the Future of Higher Education. We’re going to start with an introduction with Doug Becker.

MR. BECKER: Thank you very much, and thanks, everyone, for attending. This was a very exciting initiative for us and we were very pleased to partner with Zogby Analytics on it. Laureate is a family of universities, a global network of 70 different universities in 29 countries around the world. And because our focus is on preparing students for successful careers and ensuring that our universities adapt to what students and employers need, we wanted to understand and ask students directly as to what they see as the future of higher education. And that’s really the genesis of this survey was to understand students’ expectations for the future of higher education.

There is a tremendous global debate on the proper role of higher education and how higher education can adapt to the changing needs of society in the world, and yet I don’t think in that debate that the voice of the student has been heard. So I believe that this survey will really contribute important data to let the world hear from active current students all over the world in large numbers, so with reliable statistics to understand what they expect of a university in the distant future – in this case, 15 years from now.

So with that, maybe Jonathan, you could talk a little bit about the survey itself.

JONATHAN ZOGBY: Sure. Thank you, Doug. I’d like to take a moment to discuss the methodological process that we employed. Zogby Analytics was commissioned by Laureate to survey students across their international network that included 37 institutions and 21 countries. The survey was active between April 23rd and May 23rd. We sent each student one email follow-up reminder.

Ultimately, we surveyed over 20,000 students with an overall response rate of 5.4 percent. The response rate varied from schools between 5 and 38 percent, and the average time of completion for the survey was 20 minutes. And just to give some industry perspective on that, to be able to pull off something like this in one month’s time and survey this many students across this many countries in 10 different languages, and then also on top of that get verbiage in a few questions, is quite an accomplishment. And Laureate should be very proud and there are some very fascinating data points here.

In order to get the survey responses, we were given an email list of 378,000 email addresses. We also set up a few student portal pages for the schools that were not able to supply us email addresses. All invitations were password coded and secure, and we also tracked IP addresses to make sure one student could only take the survey once.

As far as the confidence interval, it has a 95 percent confidence interval. And the margin of error for the sample size of 20,876 students is plus or minus .69 percentage points, which is really good as far as a poll goes.

And now I’d like to turn it over to the founder of the Zogby Poll, John Zogby, to talk about some specific statistics in the survey.

JOHN ZOGBY: Thank you. He’s the president and CEO, incidentally, and I’m the old guy that he keeps on.

This is a very robust survey, and we need to understand that and understand that because it was done online it was done among a tech-savvy, technology-savvy group of students. To be able to hold their attention for 20 to 30 minutes to answer 40 questions was an enormous challenge but also speaks to this millennial generation, because frankly, that’s pretty much who they were – between 18 and 34 years of age – 35 years of age.

Let me just make a few comments about millennials worldwide before then I get into the survey results. What we know about them worldwide is that they are different. They have a much more global perspective that’s been technology driven. The whole world has been opened up to them. Secondly, they’re accustomed to working in teams and to achieving in teams. And so they appreciate more being measured in terms of success as to how much they contributed to their team much more so than individual achievement.

It has been said about them, in many ways unfairly, that they’re not prepared for the world of business, which we define as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And a lot of that is true, because in many respects these tech-savvy young people are 7 and 24. They’re accustomed to being on all the time, and when their social networks reach around the globe, it’s understandable that they don’t define their working lives, their studying lives, or their social lives in terms of old-fashioned narrow timeframes. And above all, they are living in a world, whether it’s emerging nations or highly developed nations, where there is – they’re experiencing the passing of an old order, where they’re seeing traditional institutions that have served for hundreds of years or scores of years beginning to not be as efficient and as rewarding to them as previous generations have. And so they’re not as married, as wedded to older institutions as other age cohorts might be.

So what is it that we found about these students? Number one, as far as education is concerned, as technology savvy – and this is all over the world – they expect that a majority of the courses in the university of the future will not have set schedules, will not be set at certain times, and either the student must adjust to those times or not have the opportunity to take courses. They expect that courses will be offered multiple times, multiple parts of the day to actually serve the kind of world that they expect to live in. They also expect, not only in terms of no set hourly schedule, they also expect that they’ll be offered on different multiple days of the week to accommodate their needs. In addition to that, they expect a majority of materials that will be used will be free. Whether those are course materials, they don’t expect, in a world where already so much information is available on the internet, to be paying large prices for textbooks and technical tools, and so on.

In terms of how they want to be measured, as I alluded to in my little introduction, they think that universities will place less of an emphasis on individual academic achievement, and much more emphasis on how the student functioned on the team, and what the skills that collaboration and the success of the team ultimately produced.

They also – while they don’t reject traditional education in the arts and in the sciences, they see a future where there is a linkage between the university and the practical world of business from the outset. So, meaning they think that the universities will supply internships – that is the thing that is most valuable to them – and that they think that the world of business is looking from them more than their scores on tests or their grades. How well did they do in a practical situation in an internship? They expect that more of their courses will be developed and actually taught by industry experts and less so, as far as business and engineering and so on, much more so than by professional academics. They also expect entrepreneurs will be engaged in teaching and developing courses as well.

So I’m not going to belabor the point. The data is available. It’s at laureate.net. The full survey is there. For those of you who are looking for exact, granular data for your country, that is something that we can produce for you. We already produced Brazil on demand. And I think we produced Italy.

QUESTION: China and Turkey.

JOHN ZOGBY: And China and Turkey as well. So those will be available. But this is the broad sweep. Students are looking for practical, useful, a return on their investment more immediately, and expecting that the university of the future will be open and have much less time limits and considerations than currently what exists.

The other thing, and final point, is that they sense that they don’t live in a world of permanence – that you graduate with a degree, you enter a job, the job becomes your career for the next whatever, three, four, five decades. They sense a world where, as one university – Princeton University economist has referred to it, a world of gigs: temporary, individual, independent contracts that will last shorter in duration. And that as this professor, Alan Blinder, points out, today’s 20-somethings, by way of age, will have had four gigs by the age of 30 and 10 gigs by the age of 40. And so they place, these students, a much higher value on a university that understands lifelong education. Students who come back looking a certification in certain skills so that they can move on to their next independent contract, their next gig.

There’s an awful lot in this survey, but that’s by way of an overview. There are differences in countries and in regions, but there are no game-changing differences. In terms of the broad themes, you might have differences by way of percentages, but those are themes that I just related that are common in regions and countries throughout the world.

So thanks.

MODERATOR: Any questions? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Li Ping from China Radio International. You mentioned that there are no sharp differences among students surveyed, there’s no game-changing difference. But still there’s – I believe there should be some differences. Can you point out some of them?

JOHN ZOGBY: Yeah, sure. For example, the notion of industry experts teaching is much more popular in China than it is, say, in Europe. Should I speculate? Yeah, you’ve got a very robust and growing economy and a burgeoning group of Millennials filled with hope – the turtles in China; they’ve come out of their shell into a wondrous and growing economy – versus, say, in Italy, where not only has traditional education taken hold, but young people are not hopeful in a place like Italy. That’s one prime example. China placing a greater emphasis – the Chinese students, I should say – on the role of entrepreneurs because they have – they are emerging in a world of entrepreneurs and of excitement.

Those are just two that come to mind.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you for doing this. My name is Zhang Hong from China’s Caixin Media. I was wondering – so it seems that the two Chinese institutions participating in this survey are these Hunan International Economics University and the other one is (inaudible) – I can’t pronounce this --

JOHN ZOGBY: Oh, I’ll help you with the pronunciation. No, I’m kidding.

QUESTION: It’s a French word? Is it a French word?

MR. BECKER: Yeah, it’s Swiss. Yeah.

QUESTION: Oh, Swiss. And (inaudible), what’s the other one then? Is it also a private university?

MR. BECKER: Les Roches, it’s a hotel management and tourism institute that’s affiliated with the Xinjiang hotel company in China, but also with the Les Roches hotel school in Switzerland, which is a globally famous institute for hotel and tourism, whereas the Hunan International Economics University is a broad-scale university teaching many, many subjects.

QUESTION: So I see that these two institutions tend to be more profession-oriented. They are quite unlike a more general concept of a university where you have liberal arts education and, yeah, basically arts and sciences and so on. So does it mean that there’s a certain bias in your sample, and so that the outcome of your survey, the result, the finding of your survey might be also biased towards more industrial learning and entrepreneurship, as you mentioned? Thank you.

JOHN ZOGBY: Yeah. Let me deal with that. That – this survey should not be misrepresented as global students as a whole. These were 21 countries, 28 institutions that are all affiliated with the Laureate network of institutions that tilt – and Doug can represent that better than I can – that do tilt towards the practical. Nonetheless, it is a good representation of where students who fall within Laureate, within that network, where they see the future of their university, and reasonable I think to extrapolate that they’re providing a model that may be a model for all of the universities.

MR. BECKER: I think the question of bias, it would be read differently from one country to the next. In some countries, for example in Brazil, the majority of universities are private universities, and in that respect the Laureate universities would be emblematic of the majority of universities that would be more like us. In a place like China, private universities are much newer, much younger, less established, and represent a smaller percentage of the overall university population, and so in that respect might be a little bit more of an outlier of the type of students and their expectations. So I think it really would be a question country by country as to whether this is really emblematic of students in that country or whether it’s a little bit different.

MODERATOR: Any questions from New York?

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow the question. I’m Zheng, from Xinhua News Agency. Just now, you talked about the sample, and the sample for Brazil maybe have a wide representative, but for China maybe it’s less representative. Then how about for the U.S.?

MR. BECKER: Did we include the U.S. in our survey?

JOHN ZOGBY: Yeah. There was a smaller sample in the U.S. China had a representation of about 8,500.

PARTICIPANT: Sixty-five.

MR. ZOGBY: Sixty-five hundred of the total. Brazil was --

PARTICIPANT: Forty-five hundred.

MR. ZOGBY: -- 4,500. The U.S. was in the hundreds.

PARTICIPANT: Two hundred forty.

MR. ZOGBY: Two hundred and forty. And so our emphasis is on the representation of the Laureate network, and to be taken as a whole, as a global network of Laureate – of students, as opposed to emphasizing any individual countries. The individual countries are useful, but they have a higher margin of error.

In terms of the representation in China, I think we got a fair representation from the three universities of the Laureate network. The same with Brazil and Turkey and whatever. But I don’t think we should – I think what we need to do is emphasize the fact that this was almost 21,000 students worldwide. And it was a random sampling.

MR. BECKER: I was going to also mention, I do think that generally speaking, students from private universities in these countries will have more similar views, that these universities would be – these would be major private universities in each country. The Laureate university in Mexico is the biggest private university in Mexico. Laureate’s university affiliate in Hunan is the largest private university in Hunan province. The universities themselves tend to be very large and emblematic, very typical private universities. If I were to guess, I think the difference in mindset or orientation might be a difference between those in public universities versus those in private universities. And it makes sense that students who have to pay to go to a private university are going to expect or even demand that they should have a good outcome, that they should be able to graduate and get a job. Of course, students in public universities would also demand, but maybe in a different way with a little bit of a different set of questions.

And then the Laureate universities globally – we have over 800,000 students enrolled. And so again, that doesn’t make us emblematic of all students, but it means that students find the idea of what we’re doing very appealing, because there are so many students that have chosen these types of universities. So I think it’s valid. I was excited to think that in a 30-day period we could make over 300,000 potential students available. It shows the power of this type of network. And then with your polling to reach the 20,000 and have this data really was a great accomplishment.

QUESTION: How do you think the results of this – they would impact the education sectors, the people in the education area? Educators, I mean.

MR. BECKER: I think that there are many educators who are already feeling very uneasy about the future of higher education, because there is a global questioning of whether it’s practical. It tends to be – universities tend to be a little bit insular and old-fashioned, and yet society is demanding that they change and move and open up to the outside world. So I think that this survey will come at a time when most higher education leaders are already struggling with this question: What will the university look like 15 or 30 years from now?

And I think that you’ll find people divide between those who would be very much embracing that this is the direction, as the students described here – practical, linked with the employers, et cetera – and those who might really prefer a more traditional academic environment. But even those who would prefer the traditional academic environment would acknowledge that this is an important question and that there’s a lot of debate at this moment as to what a university needs to be in order to serve society.

JOHN ZOGBY: And I would only say the same thing but in a different sort of way, that in the midst of all of this discussion and the sense that – by university officials that something is wrong and something needs to be changed, we’ve provided a first-ever look at this many students, and not only their views responding by way of majorities here or pluralities there, but their actual words and sentences. We asked them open-ended questions and actually got from them what it was they needed, what it was they expected, what it was that they hoped for in a university. This now I think automatically makes it part of a discussion – obviously not only within the Laureate network, but among university officials. Largest survey ever done globally on the future of the university.

QUESTION: Hi, my name is Sanna Bjorling. I come from the Swedish newspaper. I wonder – the millennials, they seem to be very self-centered in one way, that they want the universities to adapt to them rather than the other way around. Is that the case? And the other question I have is what – did you ask any questions about their thoughts about access to education? Because I mean, not everybody can afford to pay for education or – and how they see that in the future.

JOHN ZOGBY: In terms of millennials, let’s understand that – first of all, that’s an essential part of being 20-something, is to focus on one’s self, and as – less so than, say, a community orientation. What makes today’s millennials worldwide so different is that they have as much of a global orientation as they do, and they want to change the world and be part of helping their community or global charities, or whatever. So that’s number one.

I think number two about millennials is that – these millennials – is that there’s so many of them. So just here in the United States alone, they almost rival in size the numbers of baby boomers. And so much was made out of baby boomers; we were 78 million in the U.S. There are already 76 million millennials. But if you go worldwide, what you find is that half the world are people in their low 30s or younger. So they’re just important by sheer size.

And then thirdly, there is a global sense not only that so many things are changing, but so many things are falling apart as well, and that these millennials are indeed different, have a different set of expectations; are so technology-driven that they’re accustomed to dealing and adapting to change, more so than any other age cohort in the past. And so, yeah, they have to be paid attention to.

MR. BECKER: Just on your question, did they expect the university to adapt to them, I don’t read it that way. I don’t think that they were – we asked them, what will the university be like in the future. I don’t think that they thought of it in the sense of adapting to them. I think they believe that this is what’s going to happen. And I think in that sense, it’s – I think it’s intended to be very constructive.

QUESTION: So you didn’t ask, what do you want, but you ask, what do you --

MR. BECKER: What do you think is going to happen. And then the question of how to pay – I think the Scandinavian countries are a pretty unique situation in the generous provision of higher education by the government. I think in many, many other countries, it’s either – there tends to be a much greater provision by private sector and a much greater reliance upon the contribution of family, parents, and students to the cost of education. I don’t believe we really asked any specific questions on that in the survey.

QUESTION: Here in the United States – because here in the United States, the prices for college have, like, doubled in --

MR. BECKER: Yes.

QUESTION: -- in quite short time.

MR. BECKER: And it’s a serious problem. I think it’s more a question of the – of the funding policy, which is that because the government pays in the U.S. through loans, and the students take responsibility for those loans, the value to the student was so high that universities were able to raise their prices faster than at a rate that was probably healthy or sustainable, and there was no policy intervention to prevent that. I don’t think that – I think students just didn’t really notice until it finally became too warm in the room, and so they notice.

But I think in other countries, there is much less use of student loans. So there’s still – the only countries where there’s a very heavy use of student loans for funding – the U.S., the UK, Australia, although it’s still a relatively small component there; Chile has a large student loan program; Brazil, small but growing very fast. Most other countries, it’s either a private pay with no government loan, or it’s the government charges and it would tend to be very inexpensive or free to the students. So I think the issue you describe of a very, very high rate of escalation of price is linked to the concept of student loan.

In some other countries, the government has used student loan policy to prevent that escalation of price. For example, holding universities responsible in some way for students who do not repay their loans. And that keeps a healthy damper on the price expectations of universities. So it’s a complicated, important question that you asked.

MODERATOR: New York, please. New York.

QUESTION: My name is Andrzej Dobrowolski. I’m with the Polish Press Agency. I’m wondering whether your questions included fields of study. I know a lot of people who graduate – who completed undergraduate studies, and they still cannot find work. Which fields of study would be most helpful for them?

JOHN ZOGBY: We included the questions, but I don’t know that we got to that analysis yet. That is something that we can provide and – so if we get your coordinates, we’ll be happy to create a special analysis for you on that.

Miriam, you have them here.

MODERATOR: Yes.

JOHN ZOGBY: Okay.

MR. BECKER: I think we also would just note that answer to his question of which fields provide the best employment tends to be a little bit country specific. So on the one hand you would see that, for example, for skilled engineers and students with STEM – with science, technology, engineering, and mathematic skills – those tend to be highly demanded all over the world. But in a place like India, for example, they graduate very many students with engineering degrees, but maybe because the education wasn’t sufficient, those students aren’t hired by the employers because they don’t feel that the students were good enough.

So it really depends on the country. There can be countries where they would say they are awash in excess demand for a particular field, or other countries – it depends on the unique circumstances of each country.

MODERATOR: We have time for one more question.

QUESTION: Was there something that surprised you more than anything else?

JOHN ZOGBY: I’ve done a lot of work on millennials, and so no. No. I think this – I think that maybe the global consensus --

MR. BECKER: Yeah, me too.

JOHN ZOGBY: -- more than anything else. Again, the percentages may have varied and at some points varied 10 or 12 points, but there was still a lot of people who were expecting these changes to take place.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming today.

JOHN ZOGBY: Thank you.

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