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Research Report

How to compete in today’s higher ed enrollment, research, and talent landscapes

August 1, 2022

Key Insights

Higher education leaders have long been attuned to disruption—the demographic cliff, the threat of widespread closures, and the “unbundling” of the degree, to name a few—and its role in shaping the market. And the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent events have certainly demonstrated the wide-ranging impact that disruption can have on institutions.

While bracing for disruption, it’s easy to overlook how much competition has fundamentally reshaped the higher education landscape. In particular, the emergence of three competitive market forces is already raising the stakes for institutions and altering what it means to “win” in key markets:

  1. Winner-take-most dynamics are concentrating certain markets as a small number of institutions capture a disproportionate share of graduate enrollments, talent and funding.
  2. The competitive set—for both students and employees—is rapidly expanding. Institutions are no longer only competing with each other, but with the private sector and off-campus obligations.
  3. The pool of higher education consumers is shrinking, as demographic declines reshape the enrollment and labor landscapes.

In a July 2022 roundtable, Cracking the Code on Competition: How to Win in New Enrollment, Research, and Talent Landscapes, EAB experts discussed this year’s State of the Sector research and explored how these competitive forces are redefining three key terrains, as well as what market leaders must do to distinguish themselves in the years to come.

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