D. Gallacher

Higher education in northern America is witnessing an unprecedented level of innovation, epitomized loosely through massive open online courses (MOOCs). The Australian Trade Commission has stated that the world's higher education system is disaggregating, with strong implications for the international student market. A United Kingdom White Paper agrees that MOOCs fit the classification of a disruptive technology. To make a dangerous prediction, new educational models will become internationally entrenched by approximately 2022. By then, a handful of global brands will be awarding degrees, including several Ivy League, Oxbridge, and Chinese namesakes, along with a scattering of other successful institutions. Universities and colleges outside this network will remain independent only if they have a niche market.

Disaggregation will see the emergence of five subsectors, which might reaggregate in unpredictable ways:
• The global University brand, of which 15-20 will be successful
• Thousands of curriculum managers, operating individual MOOCs within the parameters of their global University brand.
• The MOOC host, providing technological infrastructure, and big data solutions to generic problems of assessment and accreditation
• The campus, providing a physical location for infrastructure, student socialization, and learning communities
• Miscellaneous third-party services

Change will initially be driven partly to reduce costs, and partly to improve student access. As a new structure emerges, the combination of revenue, data mining, and global branding will facilitate improvements in the way education is delivered. It will be far easier for employer groups to influence undergraduate curriculum to suit their particular needs, and to blend employment with study. Automated assessment tools will save labor and produce new metrics of student learning, thus tracking student progress throughout their study. Consequently, MOOC hosts will become the accreditors of courses and institutions, putting further pressure on institutions to opt in. Institutions will be judged more by their effectiveness at facilitating student progress. Fears of widespread job losses among educators are therefore unfounded. For those who love educating, change may bring greater job satisfaction through more stimulating student-instructor interactions.

How should the United Arab Emirates prepare for and benefit from this readjustment? This paper differentiates between immediate adaptive responses, and unbundling responses that require significant investment and good timing. Examples of the former include creating MOOCs for which the country has a competitive advantage, and blending MOOCs into existing programs. Examples of the latter involve the launch of new businesses, such as a translation/cultural adaptation service, and specialized campuses. Existing universities will need to adapt to changing market conditions to remain relevant, requiring them to redefine how they add value for their clients. They will need to choose between a niche or a global brand of education, and to modify their physical spaces and policies accordingly. All aspects of the current education model will be questioned; the graduate qualification, the credit hour, the educator/researcher paradigm, the measure of student success, and the medium of learning.