Higher education in a VUCA world?

It has become a common thing to say that we life in a complex, fast-changing world. But educators have been slow to adapt their programmes to meet the demands of the new age. VUCA is a world defined by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In this world, decision-making and strategic thinking are contextual driven. Instead, the operating context is dynamic, volatile and constantly changing. Thus, historical relativities are no longer valid. This kind of uncertainty brings with it a lack of predictability, an absence of familiarity and increased prospects for surprise. It demands a high sense of awareness and alertness.


The new time condition are complex and unavoidable. The art of complexity management becomes a hallmark of leadership. Decision-makers are confronted with a multiplicity of conflicting forces in which their organisations must recognise and overcome varying degrees of contextual confusion. That is a tough job. And all of this is overshadowed by ambiguity. The reality is clouded or distorted and the potential for misinterpretation is high. So, let’s have impact.

is higher education ready?

In the ‘new normal’ global environment where VUCA is the norm, education should focus on those who can best understand such complexity and develop expertise in decision-making. This raises the question if our higher education programmes are attuned to the VUCA world?

Does higher education possess the vision, the competence and the confidence to deliver the globally competitive leaders and influencers that this country needs in the coming decades? And will higher education allow the schools to adjust continuously to the competitive conditions of the ‘new normal’ with the speed and agility required? And will the majority of the professionals be ready to educate in a VUCA world?

wrong paradigm

My view on change is that schools have been slow to react to this new reality, in general. The prevailing value proposition continues to be academically-centric (knowledge) and inwardly-focused (knowers), emphasising research, publication and rankings.

empowering learning

I would argues that in the VUCA environment higher education faces a constant shakedown of programmes as competitors emerge. We will see a continuing growth of alliances and constant productivity improvements. Also the emphasis on establishing core competencies coupled with a regular refocusing of those core competencies will grow rapidly. What an interesting time in higher education and complex work to do to be meaningful in the future.

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