Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Presented at the Higher Education in Transformation Symposium November 2 - 4, 2016 in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada


The complexity and uncertainty of today’s global environment has created a bewildering array of interactions and interdependencies across all societal sectors including the educational sector. While many believe that modern communication and information technology reduces uncertainty and complexity, paradoxically, the "real effect is the opposite: information overload leads to a "poverty of attention" (Nye, 2002, p. 43) that complicates the process of filtering out the critical signals from the distracting noise" (Habegger, 2010, p. 49). Past methods for examining and understating this environment have proven to be ineffective in this fast-moving environment and sector leaders are now required to systematically assess their environment "in order to reduce surprises, to increase the room for manoeuvre, and to improve the overall flexibility of governance" (Habegger, 2010, p. 49). Increasingly, strategic foresight is used to respond to this new environment. “Foresight is the ability to see developments before they become trends, to recognize patterns before they emerge, and to grasp the features of social currents that are likely to have an impact; it is not the ability to make predictions” (Rohrbeck & Schwarz, 2013, p. 1593). Strategic foresight begins with an environmental scan of the contextual environment, “that part of the environment which has important repercussions for the organization but in which it has little or no influence” (van der Heijden, 2010, p. 115). Within the contextual environment, PSE institutions do not have direct influence but must understand economic developments, demographics, politics, technological developments and social developments in order proactively respond to the rapidly changing PSE environment.