Redesigning Higher Education: Expanding Access During a Pandemic and Beyond


  • Lyn R. Keith


It is undisputed that higher education, both regionally and internationally, has faced severe disruption in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. This disruption affected aspects of university life such as admissions and enrolment, the operations of teaching and research laboratories, university accommodation, sporting activities, and students’ overall well-being – all resulting in financial implications for these institutions. While higher education institutions (HEIs) in the Caribbean have weathered the COVID-19 storm’s initial phase, unfortunately this transition to online learning is not enough for the continued survival of higher education institutions. This conceptual paper cautions higher education leaders against investing an inordinate amount of time responding to the immediate challenges of COVID-19 at the expense of planning for the long term. While the effects of the disruption are uncontested, the current crisis also creates opportunities for these institutions to redesign themselves (agility) and reconsider their business strategies as they contemplate the question of access. More critically, these institutions must now consider how they can provide for the new customer market segments, the changing nature of work, and resultant workforce development requirements in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) (alignment). University leaders should use what they are learning in crisis to position their institutions for the most significant impact in the decades to come. A systematic review of the literature informs this writing as it examines the re-imagination of higher education in a post-COVID-19 dispensation.