I was just reading some analysts research - which sadly I can't share because of copyright issues - and it hit me that over the next decade every university in Australia is going to have a smaller share of the global student body than in the past decade. And that is going to impact on the University CIO Strategic Priorities for 2012 and beyond.

The reason for this is the phenomenal growth rate of Higher Education students in countries such as China and India. Today's students from Asia are critical to the continuing financial model of many Australian universities. And in the future, even if the absolute numbers increase, the proportion that get education at a university in Australia will reduce - as hundreds of new universities are constructed in their home countries.

imageDon't underestimate that task - the chart to the right shows the exponential historical growth in tertiary students from the UNESCO Global Education Digest for 2009. The number of tertiary students increased globally by 50% between 2000 and 2007.

Currently Australia sits fourth in the global league table for inbound tertiary students, as it hosts approximately 7.5% of international tertiary students (just over 200,000, out of a total of 2.8m).

As this growth in tertiary students has continued, and specifically with international students, the focus of CIOs in universities in Australia and worldwide has dramatically shifted over the last five years.

Surveys show that attracting and retaining new students and researchers has moved into their top three priorities, as has activities which increase the growth of their organisation. And core IT tasks have gone down in their strategic priority lists.

I think that to keep up with the growth in student numbers, even more shift has got to happen. CIOs are going to be a valuable asset to helping their university deliver learning channels that don't rely on physical buildings and students sitting in lectures. I know that this is already happening, but we're only seeing the thin end of the wedge. If a university wants to keep it's share of international students in the future, then it is going to have to find ways to teach them remotely - and to deliver a fully immersive, fully supportive learning environment to do it.

So here's my prediction of the issues that will rise up the CIO's priority lists, to create the University CIO Strategic Priorities for 2012:

Business Priorities

IT Priorities

1. Student recruitment and management support

1. Integration of processes and systems

2. Flexible learning delivery on campus

2. Migration to the cloud

3. Flexible learning delivery off campus

3. Connecting learning technologies into core systems

4. Reducing university infrastructure costs

4. Removing and replacing legacy systems

IT has to become an enabler for the growth in the future, and the IT team in the university will be making the same journey that IT teams in businesses are making too - to connect what they do to the strategic value of their business. And to be able to do that, they'll need to have a good grasp of the macroeconomic issues, the strategic university priorities, and the business benefits that their IT investments deliver in that context.