Authored by Rick Huijbregts

This blog is the first in a two-part series from our Global Leaders Forum #EducationNow track. Stay tuned for Part II next week.

Navigating a New World

The education sector is facing a time of unparalleled digital transformation. Learners are counting on us to reimagine relevant physical, digital, and experiential learning environments, experiences, and campuses – and we must deliver. 

Meet George Brown College

I lead Strategy & Innovation at George Brown College, a Canadian public institution of applied learning and sciences in downtown Toronto. Across two million square feet in our three urban campuses we serve 34,000 full- and part-time students through post-secondary programming and another 64,000 through continuing and distance education. Our team consists of 5,300 full-time and part-time faculty and staff.

As a public institution, we receive approximately 33% of our annual operation budget from our provincial government, with the rest coming from student fees, tuition, limited federal funding and international revenues. Over the past decade, our operating costs increased by 62% while government funding went up 19%, widening our funding gap significantly.

Growing student demands, limited space at our urban campuses, increasing costs, decreased funding, a massive need to modernize and transform our digital infrastructure… This is our reality.

Like every other educational institution, we feel the pressures of our changing environment every day. Digital, environmental, demographic, competitive, and pandemic-driven factors are reshaping our landscape at a staggering pace, forcing us to evolve and transform.

The Rapidly Evolving Landscape

We need to deliver cutting-edge experiences to a student body that is evolving faster than we can comprehend. Today’s learners are digital natives – and as such, they expect new, innovative, and personalized services. But the average age of our faculty and leadership is significantly higher than the millennial generation. 

We ask ourselves: are we really connected with what our learners want and need, and how they learn? Are we ready for the next generation of learners? 

Reimagining Relevance

Competition is increasing, not only among colleges and universities, but the bootcamps, incubators and accelerators, online learning services, private career colleges, and an increasingly sophisticated private sector that is investing heavily in their own employee training and development. The ongoing democratization of knowledge is removing higher education institutions from the centre of learning.

Employers are looking for agile, cutting-edge talent to aid them in their transformation journeys. The business of education is continuously disrupted, transformed, empowered, and enabled by digital innovation.

Together, as a higher education sector, we have a huge task at hand: to embrace and shepherd disruption to chart the path to a new future that keeps us relevant.

Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for next week’s blog from Rick, “Imagining Education in 2031.”

>> Learn how to build institutional resiliency


Heather Keleher

Marketing Coordinator

Cross-Industries Marketing