2022 Higher Education Trend Watch

2022 Higher Education Trend Watch


For the past several years, as part of our annual IT Issues survey efforts, EDUCAUSE has collected data on the technologies and trends shaping higher ed IT. Whereas in previous years these data have tended to focus narrowly on the technologies and trends taking shape within higher education and higher ed IT specifically, the data collected for this year's report broaden our view to focus on the larger landscape of macro trends emerging around higher education that institutions will need to contend with and adapt to. How are IT professionals and their institutions adapting, for example, to the increasing awareness around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)? How will the widespread migration to remote modes of living and working, seemingly across all sectors of life, persist and transform higher education? This report situates higher ed technology and IT within this larger shifting landscape of social, cultural, political, and other trends affecting higher education.

Also new this year, we wanted the report to include a stronger focus on the steps institutions are actually taking or planning to take in response to the trends they're observing. More than just asking for a rating of potentially important trends, for this year's report we asked respondents to tell us about the ways in which their institutions are shifting and to reflect on the impacts, if any, they may be seeing from their institutions' efforts. While we were limited in the depth and breadth of the stories we could gather from all of our respondents about their institutions, we were able to observe common themes in the sorts of shifts institutions have been making to respond to the trends emerging around them. Organizing these institutional shifts along the categories of workforce, culture, and technology, for each of the major trends we identified for this year's report we can begin to chart paths forward for institutions in the year ahead.

2022 Top Trends

Respondents to this year's Top IT Issues survey were provided a list of 20 trends emerging around the higher ed landscape and asked to rate the level of impact each trend is having on their institution's IT strategy, policies, or practice. The interactive table below summarizes the trends' impacts as rated by the respondents and includes dropdown menus for exploring how the trends and their impacts differ across institution sizes and types.


1Data-informed decision-making
2Awareness of campus health
3Complexity of compliance
4Hybrid learning
5Government funding
6Remote work
7DEI awareness
8Racial justice
9Institutional collaboration
10Threats to privacy

Trend Strategies

In this section of the report, we take a closer look at the overall Top 10 Trends as selected by the general respondent sample, with summaries of the planning and actions respondents told us they're exploring or implementing at their institutions in response to each trend. Responses have been categorized along three primary areas of institutional shifts: workforce, culture, and technology.

How are institutions responding to the higher demand for data-informed decision-making?

Shifts in Workforce: Institutions are increasing their budgets for supporting analytics, resulting in the hiring of additional staff, more robust data and analytics teams, and new roles in higher ed for data architects and data engineers. Even non-data staff, from administrative roles up to institutional leadership and across every functional unit, are experiencing new expectations around data training and literacy.

Shifts in Culture: For some institutions, the standard of "data-informed decision-making" is becoming more deeply ingrained in strategic planning processes and normal operational functioning and tracking. These shifts in culture are felt most profoundly at institutions where leadership—from presidents to boards to department chairs—are proactively asking for data and advocating for the value of engaging with data.

Shifts in Technology: Institutions are tearing down their siloed data repositories and individualized solutions, moving toward more centralized data reporting systems and integrated ERPs. Data users are recognizing the benefits of aligning and standardizing data across functional units and analyzing data more holistically, and their increasing engagement with larger amounts of data is necessitating investments in software and other infrastructure assets that support the data pipeline.

How are institutions responding to the post-COVID recovery and increased awareness of campus health and safety?

Shifts in Workforce: Staff are having to shore up their knowledge of campus policy design, as well as their ability to navigate state and local regulatory environments related to health and safety. Both the physical and digital footprints of campus health have increased, requiring investments in additional staff and facilities and a shift of public health responsibilities to the campus and its leadership.

Shifts in Culture: The world has been changed forever, and so too have our institutions of higher education. Some institutions are considering extending their more stringent health and safety policies well into the future, as staff and students may continue to feel more cautious about infection and disease in general for some time to come. Institutions are talking about and supporting student and staff mental health more openly than before the pandemic, and attention to stress and well-being is increasingly becoming a critical part of institutional strategy.

Shifts in Technology: Institutions are continuing to invest in remote services and data systems for health monitoring and screening, with some campuses planning to acquire an electronic healthcare records system for streamlining institutional testing and vaccine management. Many institutions are reevaluating the relationship between technology and student and staff mental health, with technology potentially offering solutions for helping improve health, while also recognizing the strain an overuse of technology may cause to the individual's health.

How are institutions responding to the increasing complexity of the compliance environment?

Shifts in Workforce: Some institutions are investing in new compliance-focused staff roles, including compliance officers, to properly address the increased requirements of GLBA, GDPR, EITA and NIST, and other compliance regulations, as well as building up their cybersecurity units more generally to support their CIOs and other IT leaders in maintining necessary security controls and practices. Institutions are also focused on providing ongoing training for staff who need to stay up-to-date on frequent policy changes and legal frameworks.

Shifts in Culture: Institutions are increasingly recognizing that cybersecurity and compliance touches all aspects of IT operations and is relevant to many aspects of institutional operations and functioning. Cybersecurity and IT staff at some of these institutions are engaging in more frequent and broader conversations with institutional leadership, including the institution's board, to help normalize the increased efforts that successful compliance requires. As IT staff are responding to more demands for data and analytics from their leadership, they are in the position of needing to navigate increased audits and more data security requirements for federally funded projects in particular, as well as the need for more standards and controls in higher ed more generally.

Shifts in Technology: Some institutions are having to invest in new compliance-monitoring software and services. As more institutions migrate their data, systems, and services to the cloud, they are having to contend with the added compliance issues these migrations introduce. Some institutions are mandating the use of the EDUCAUSE Higher Education Community Vendor Assessment Toolkit (HECVAT) in the procurement of any services or systems using institutional data.

How are institutions responding to the widespread adoption of hybrid learning models?

Shifts in Workforce: Institutions are offering more training opportunities for both IT and faculty, focused not only on technical skills but also on effective curriculum redesign. While the demand for hybrid learning solutions is growing faster than many institutions can grow their staff and resources, investments are being made in areas such as hiring full-time and part-time academic technologists and building up professional development for faculty.

Shifts in Culture: For some institutions, all learning models are now on the table, and most faculty are now experienced in using technology to create a new kind of classroom experience. Many faculty are now more open to exploring and experimenting with new learning models, and learners' expectations have become more flexible and adaptable to fully online or integrated online learning experiences.

Shifts in Technology: Institutions are refurbishing classrooms for supporting online and/or hybrid learning, with investments in technologies such as tracking cameras, student and presenter microphones, and videoconferencing capabilities. Institutions need the equipment and network capacity for supporting hybrid learning models and are exploring technology solutions including LMS "bolt ons" for immediate implementation.

How are institutions responding to government funding for higher education?

Shifts in Workforce: Some institutions are focused on adding staff positions that can help provide active advocacy through government relations, as well as help manage relief funds across the organization. In many cases, one-time disbursements of federal money do not result in promotions or increased compensation among key staff, putting those institutions in the position of having to manage decreased morale among an already overloaded workforce.

Shifts in Culture: One-time disbursements of federal money may lead institutions to make sweeping strategic or operational changes that will continue to need to be supported well after those funds have been used. Some institutions are putting intentional focus on avoiding over-dependence on one-time funds and committing as an institution not to undertake major changes that cannot receive ongoing funding. Other institutions are focused longer-term on how they can tell a better story about their value and impact in order to maintain higher levels of government funding.

Shifts in Technology: Recent government support for institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic has enabled many campuses to make sizable investments in their technology infrastructure. Nationwide technology supply shortages, however, have led to project delays or adjustments, and some institutions are responding by revisiting their technology investments and assessing whether those investments are sustainable and critical to the next academic year.

How are institutions responding to the long-term adoption of remote work models?

Shifts in Workforce: HR units at many institutions have had to adapt quickly through the COVID-19 pandemic to develop new remote work policies and assess individual departments' capabilities for supporting remote work and remote student services. Some institutions are viewing the 2021–22 academic year as a pilot year for testing and evaluating new work configurations that blend remote, hybrid, and/or in-person arrangements. Where some level of remote work is being maintained, institutions are increasing their cybersecurity defenses and on training leaders in effective practices for managing remote employees.

Shifts in Culture: Many institutional staff are expressing new expectations and demands to their leadership around the ability to have flexible and remote work arrangements, viewing those arrangements as more accommodating to personal needs and circumstances. Some institutions are exploring new policies and practices around remote staff recruitment and retention, with an interest in maintaining a competitive hiring advantage in the job market.

Shifts in Technology: Institutions are having to make increased investments in staff laptops and other remote equipment; they are also focusing on renewed efforts to eliminate paper processes and stand up digital solutions that meet all staff needs, regardless of physical work location. Security is a focus for some institutions, with enhanced capabilities for VPN access and accelerated implementation of mobile device management and other controls for protecting institutional data.

How are institutions responding to an increasing awareness of the importance of DEI in the higher education workforce?

Shifts in Workforce: Some institutions have recently hired new leadership positions—chief diversity officers, vice presidents of DEI—focused on improving DEI at their institution. Hiring staff from diverse backgrounds continues to be a challenge for many institutions, and some have started offering local or regional workforce development initiatives to help build a more diverse talent pipeline from the ground-up and/or are explicitly incorporating DEI concerns into their hiring processes and hiring committee practices.

Shifts in Culture: Many respondents indicated that their institution has mandated diversity training for their staff in an effort to improve attitudes and perceptions of DEI across the campus. Some institutions have also taken additional steps such as conducting workplace climate surveys, establishing formal DEI committees or advisory councils, or nurturing informal campus groups focused on advocating for DEI.

Shifts in Technology: At many institutions, improved analytics capabilities and more transparent data reporting can help highlight gaps and opportunities in the institution's hiring practices and staff benefits, and some institutions reported developing these analytics capabilities and data practices in partnership with their institution's DEI committee. Respondents reported other potential uses for technology in advancing DEI, such as LMS-based tracking and reporting for staff participation in DEI training.

How are institutions responding to a new and profound awareness of racial injustice?

Shifts in Workforce: Beyond the more common, widespread institutional engagement in mandatory DEI trainings for staff and leaders, some institutions are engaging their staff more specifically with anti-racist resources (e.g., Ibram Kendi's anti-racism research and resources) and fostering anti-racism discussions at both the staff and student levels.

Shifts in Culture: Respondents reflected on the shift of focus from national headlines to the local injustices that may be occuring on their own campuses and to the connections staff and students may be able to make between their local concerns and larger societal issues. Many institutions are emphasizing the need for creating safe spaces on campus, as well as the importance of advocacy coming from the highest levels of leadership in initiating town halls, hosting webinars, and facilitating campus-wide discussions.

Shifts in Technology: Some aspects of the IT profession—particularly some of the language and terminology common within the industry—may be rooted in racist histories and ideologies. Some respondents indicated that their IT units were undertaking a review of their technology- and IT-related terms, making efforts to change or do away with problematic language. Other respondents reflected on their institutions' uses of social media and other digital communications, some of which could be problematic and racist.

How are institutions responding to increased collaboration and partnerships across institutions?

Shifts in Workforce: Some respondents reported that their institution is actively hiring positions to help manage and focus on institutional partnerships and collaborations. Recognizing the risk that these new positions and demands for collaboration could diminish current leaders' roles both in operational oversight and in managing cross-functional relationships, some institutions are also providing training and support for cross-functional leadership as a core competency for their existing staff.

Shifts in Culture: Though higher education has always fostered a culture of collaboration to some extent, the COVID-19 pandemic has encouraged an even higher degree of collaboration, fostering a sense of shared experiences and community among higher education professionals and opening up new avenues for external partnerships. Some respondents reported experiencing more opportunities for partnership across the higher ed landscape, with new opportunities in areas including collaborative research and multi-institutional partnerships for research computing.

Shifts in Technology: Increases in partnerships have necessitated increased investments in collaboration technologies and tools, as well as the need for institutional sharing of security and accessibility reviews for various products and services. Leveraging new partnerships across functional areas like HR, IT, and finance is allowing for more economies of scale for new technologies, including electronic signatures, security risk assessments, and enterprise information systems.

How are institutions responding to increased surveillance and threats to personal privacy?

Shifts in Workforce: Some respondents reported the need for a dedicated cybersecurity officer or leader at their institution to manage functions previously managed by a committee or across multiple units or staff. Other institutions appear to recognize privacy as an institution-wide concern and are focused on offering training and awareness initiatives to both their staff and students.

Shifts in Culture: As campuses increasingly become targets for spammers and ransomware attacks, institutional leadership is becoming more aware of privacy risks and is making privacy a focus of their planning and operations. In some instances, with this increased awareness at the top levels of leadership comes a commitment to developing the institution's privacy-related policies and promoting staff- and student-focused awareness campaigns.

Shifts in Technology: A number of respondents highlighted the importance of data—and the proper management and securing of data—as a primary step for improving their institution's privacy posture. Practices like inventorying and securely storing all private data at the institution and effectively navigating the transition of data to the cloud are chief among institutions' areas of focus. Respondents also reflected on more practical solutions to help protect personal privacy at the institution, such as guidelines for the use of cameras and personal settings during video calls and policies around video recording during meetings.

Next Steps

While each institution's next steps must be carefully charted out according to its own unique context, mission, resources, and needs, the following resources and professional learning opportunities may provide leaders and practitioners with general guidance on where to begin, strategies to consider, and peer communities to connect with:

  • For professional learning support in data-informed decision-making, consider registering for one of the Data Literacy Institutes that EDUCAUSE will be offering next year (January 24–March 18, 2022, and June 20–August 12, 2022). Each institute is designed to provide participants with a comprehensive view into the information life cycle and hands-on practice with each step from data creation to leading change through data storytelling and data governance.
  • For guidance on post-COVID recovery and increased awareness of campus health and safety, EDUCAUSE has curated an extensive list of links, case studies, and resources designed to help institutions think through their own health and safety response and strategy.
  • To learn more about navigating the increasing complexity of the compliance environment, consider registering for the EDUCAUSE New Managers Institute for Cybersecurity Professionals next year (September 19–November 11, 2022). This institute is designed to provide participants with a comprehensive view of the role of manager as well as specific skills development in key management areas, including interpersonal communication, project management, cost management, performance management, and leadership.
  • For support in adopting hybrid learning models, consider registering for the EDUCAUSE Learning Lab Designing Hybrid-Flexible (HyFlex) Courses to Support Multimodal Learning Environment, February 1–17, 2022). In this Learning Lab, participants will learn how to identify HyFlex course needs and opportunities, develop a framework and process for building HyFlex courses, and evaluate the impact of the HyFlex model on student learning outcomes and other important metrics.
  • For additional information on government funding for higher education and other government-related higher ed IT issues, visit the EDUCAUSE Review Policy channel for articles, videos, and other related content.
  • EDUCAUSE offers a wealth of resources focused on the adoption of remote work models, including examples of institutional remote work continuity plans and resources promoting increased security awareness for remote work.
  • In an effort to help increase awareness of both DEI in the higher education workforce and the racial injustices that continue to plague our communities, institutional leadership should consider signing the EDUCAUSE CIO's Commitment on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and exploring our other resources on the topic of DEI.
  • To learn effective strategies for collaboration and partnerships across institutions, senior leaders at the institution should consider registering for one of the EDUCAUSE Senior Director Institutes next year (January 31–April 15, 2022, and August 29–November 11, 2022). Each institute is designed to help participants develop their skills to effectively communicate, motivate and engage employees, spearhead strategies for institutional change, exercise strategic decision making, and lead the way in overcoming enterprise-level challenges.
  • The new EDUCAUSE Horizon Action Plan: Privacy can help guide institutions through important goal setting and action roadmapping steps toward improving their privacy capabilities.

More IT Issues Resources

Visit the IT Issues web page for additional resources.

© 2021 Jamie Reeves and Mark McCormack. The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.

Citation for this work
Jamie Reeves and Mark McCormack. 2022 Higher Education Trend Watch. Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE Research, November 2021.


EDUCAUSE is a higher education technology association and the largest community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education. Technology, IT roles and responsibilities, and higher education are dynamically changing. Formed in 1998, EDUCAUSE supports those who lead, manage, and use information technology to anticipate and adapt to these changes, advancing strategic IT decision-making at every level within higher education. EDUCAUSE is a global nonprofit organization whose members include US and international higher education institutions, corporations, not-for-profit organizations, and K–12 institutions. With a community of more than 99,000 individuals at member organizations located around the world, EDUCAUSE encourages diversity in perspective, opinion, and representation. For more information, please visit educause.edu.