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The Rector of the Berlin campus and newly-appointed Dean of the Paris campus calls his book “a call for action for the university of the 21st century, most likely having to fight to stay relevant and not give in to its possible progressive, steady dismantling.”

Higher education’s digital transformation has the same reputation as the sector itself: rigid and reluctant to change. The unprecedented worldwide health crisis of Covid-19 has radically changed this rigidity, with thousands of universities and business schools compelled to go 100 percent digital, often overnight. Threatened by EdTech (educational technology) start-ups, big tech corporations increasingly interested in higher education, as well as venture capitalists attracted by the sector's potential high profit margins, universities need to change their way of doing business to permanently stay in business. “To a certain degree, this book marks my ten-year anniversary in leadership positions in higher education. So it is based on my experience as Dean of ESCP Business School in Berlin, now in Paris, but also on what I learned before as the school’s Dean for Academic Affairs or its Brand and Communications Director,” professor Andreas Kaplan explains. “Over the last decade, I here and there have written a couple of articles on higher education's transformation and digitalization. This topic has somehow become one of my more pronounced publication areas over the years and in this book, I just wanted to bring it all together. All the more so since the current Covid-19 crisis and pandemic definitely accelerates and accentuates the sector's transformative powers.”

Based on his experience, a couple of real-world case studies (e.g., Aalto Business School, Georgia Tech, ESCP Business School) and several interviews the author led with experts within the sector, Higher Education at the Crossroads of Disruption: The University of the 21st Century (to be released on 6 April) looks at the various areas of higher education that will likely undergo radical changes. Teaching and learning approaches will increasingly move into the digital sphere; progress in AI (artificial intelligence) as well as (big) data availability, will alter the way academia works. This book further examines how teaching formats will vary, and how course content and curricula will evolve. Higher education will most likely focus on skills development, with a stronger emphasis on multi- and interdisciplinary study content, and a steady turn toward society's well-being and sustainability.

As the book’s title indicates, the question of potential disruption is asked. “A significant claim is that universities can vigorously protect themselves from potential disruption if they focus on community and relationship building,” professor Kaplan adds. “To a certain degree, academic content can be commodified, especially in times of digitalization. However, relationships are much harder to replace. Therefore, if you ask me, the stronger the relationships between a university and its various stakeholders, that is alumni, students, professors, staff, external partners, and beyond, the more protected a university is against future disruptive developments…”

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