This report, published by the British Council, sparks the beginning of a discussion – an important discussion to consider the direction we are taking, the likely future scenarios we will face, and how to prepare for these situations. This is not a definite prediction of the future, but picture of what we are likely to face. We present three scenarios: a core, central scenario that is, from our current position, the most likely outcome, as well as two alternative scenarios that describe less likely but equally impactful futures.

These scenarios each describe at a global level how the landscape for international tertiary education will develop over the next 15 years, as well as trends in geopolitics, demographics, economics, technology and other factors will change international tertiary education in 2037.

These scenarios reflect a global picture – we recognise that not all trends will be felt in the same way in different parts of the world, and locally certain aspects of each scenario may be amplified or diminished. Each scenario is described from the point of view of 2037, reflecting back on the ‘last 15 years’ since 2022.

We invite you to consider each scenario: do the features of these seem likely to you? As a global community, are we heading in the direction of the scenario you see as most desirable? Will your institution, your country, your region be prepared for this likely future? What steps do we need to take to ensure we are on track to a more desirable future, and better prepared for the most likely future?


About the research

These scenarios were created following a programme of trends analysis, horizon scanning and scenario planning conducted by the Trajectory team in between October 2021 and March 2022. It was important also that the study benefited from the British Council’s unique global network of experts in international education, alongside connections with prospective and recently graduated international students and TNE students.

Consequently, the research included interviews with experts and British Council stakeholders, qualitative research with recent and current international students, and regional roundtables with sector and policy experts around the world.

The scenarios are not predictions of what the future will look like, but possible, plausible descriptions of what the future could look like. These scenarios are presented to start a discussion amongst the international tertiary education community globally, and to support colleagues in the community to anticipate, plan and develop strategic priorities for action today.