Dominic Orr

Dominic Orr

Dominic Orr

Kiron Open Higher Education


Keynote title:
New learning pathways in an open and digital world – What might the education landscape look like in 2030?

Have you noticed that we see many creative ideas on how artificial intelligence can be harnessed in education and indeed on how open educational resources can enable more equal access to higher education and to better learning materials – but we are often less creative when we think of the resulting higher education landscape! Most foresight studies centre their ideas on how the university as an institution will look in the future. I will argue that we should start by re-envisioning people’s learning pathways. I will also argue that it makes sense to be bolder in our ideas of the role of higher education.

I will suggest that a leading vision for higher (or tertiary) education should be: To ensure that all members of society participate in higher education at some point in their lifetime.

This might sound unrealistic, but with it I hope that we might achieve an important change in perspective. This vision might help us avoid the continuing exclusivity of higher education – which tends to privilege a certain age group (the young) and people of certain backgrounds (what we call in German education-proximal populations, e.g. those people, whose parents attended higher education).

This vision is also appropriate for the learning society we need, which will necessitate new phases of learning throughout everyone’s lifetime. Ignoring this in the case of higher education will only lead to a digital divide along the age groups, with older persons being left out of strategies to help them acquire the skills necessary to a better life in a digital world.

Of course, this vision can only be achieved if we can evolve a more differentiated approach to higher education that is more individualised and more closely linked to people’s learning pathways throughout their life and which takes account of informal and non-formal learning – and not just formal learning periods as ‘registered’ or ‘enrolled’ learner. I look forward to the discussion.


Dr. Dominic Orr has dual citizenship in Britain and Germany. He has a doctorate in comparative education from the Technical University of Dresden and was recently appointed Adjunct Professor for Management in Education at the University of Nova Gorica, Slovenia.

Dominic currently works for the Kiron educational platform and NGO as Research Lead. Previous to this appointment, he worked as senior researcher at FiBS-Research Institute for the Economics of Education and Social Affairs in Berlin, and as international project leader at the German Centre for Higher Education Research (DZHW) in Hannover. He has also worked as external consultant for the OECD, UNESCO and the World Bank.

His area of work spans questions of access to higher education, educational governance, quality assurance and funding to – more recently – issues related to education in a Digital World, including the topics Open Educational Resources, Open Badges and future skills. He has just completed an international foresight study on the future of higher education for the German government (in press), and in 2018 he completed a study in collaboration with the Open University UK on digital transformation of higher education provisions by universities across the globe, which was commissioned by the International Council on Open and Distance Education (ICDE). Two other projects he has worked on with UNESCO’s Unit ICT in Education – the OER Global Monitoring Initiative and the National Guidelines for OER Policy – will also be published in 2019.

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