‘To get the most out of a highly connected digitalised world, you need platforms that emphasise personal interconnectivity…..In 2016 I believe the education world will embrace this fundamental lesson..’
We asked Ben Grech, Co founder of fast growing Uniplaces, to talk about the future of student accommodation, raising almost $30m in funding and using education as an online platform for other services!
Three trends are very likely to shape the future of education. We have seen them gain momentum the last few years, and they’re set to keep getting stronger: the number of students will keep increasing, they will use social media networks more and more, and will be increasingly mobile.
1. There will be more students. 200 million students enrolled in higher education in 2015 – up from 47 million in 1980. With the world’s middle-classes growing, this number will keep growing too.
2. Students will not be the exception as social media networks take on larger roles in the life of the general population. According to some estimates1, students spend at least twice as long on social networks as the average user.
3. More students will be mobile, leaving their home country to study. Organisations like the EU, as well as countries and universities vying to attract top talent from abroad are the kind of players across the board that are working to make this come true.
How each university reacts to these trends, and the challenge that they represent, is up to them, of course. But it’s easy to see how much they could learn from social networks.
Successful social networks have a tendency to be easily scalable, taking in rapidly growing number of users smoothly. Most universities don’t have that kind of flexibility. As the numbers of students keep increasing, unless the numbers of universities start multiplying, each university will need to find ways to absorb larger numbers of students.
Similarly, social networks are really universal: a student from any country, culture, or socio-economic background, from Seattle to Southchurch uses them with the same ease, without needing preparation, classes, or explanations. As the classroom becomes more international, it’ll be critical for universities to become more and more international, lowering the potential for culture clash and alienation.
Uniplaces has been betting on this new digitalised and internationally mobile future for student life. We consider it a sign that times really are changing that a booking platform like Uniplaces raised $30 million from top investors in Europe. It shows that top investors recognise the trends and believe in what the company and the business model can achieve. Five, ten years ago, the potential of this market would never have been recognised like this.
The investment will allow us to keep expanding our services, to go beyond being just a booking platform. We’re already running projects such as the Uniplaces Guarantee, which allows Uniplaces to act as a guarantor to students, and the Uniplaces Scholarship, which gives 10 promising students an entire semester of rent-free accommodation. But they’re just the beginning of our aspirations to become a major part of students’ lives.
1 ‘Impact of Online Social Network on American College Students’ Reading Practices’, Huang and Capps and GlobalWebIndex’s quarterly report. http://insight.globalwebindex.net/social (q3 2015).