Higher Education in the 21st Century: Relevance, Sufficiency, Challenges and Remedies from Graduates’ Perspective

Main Article Content

Wangui Patrick Mwangi
Diana Ingado


Changes in life are ever bound to take place and as a result, what was important yesterday may be obsolete tomorrow, and education is not an exception. Prior to the 21st century, necessity of changes in education had been identified by many researchers and international organizations concerned with education. This had been brought about by the fact that things were changing and education had to keep the pace. In light to this fact, this study was carried out in Eldoret town, Kenya, in order to investigate whether education was up-to-date in the 21st century. It targeted university and college graduates. It was guided by four objectives namely: the relevance of education in this century, the sufficiency, the challenges facing the education in the century and the solutions to the challenges. 300 graduates from 28 different higher learning institutions were considered and data collected using questionnaires. Purposive sampling method was employed. Data analysis was performed in R software and Microsoft Excel for both descriptive and inferential statistics. The results show that, the rate of unemployment among graduates in Eldoret stands at 56.3% (p=0.0163) and 83.4% (p<0.0001) of these unemployed graduates are seeking employment. Among the employed, 59.5% (p=0.0180) are in non-self-employment. At higher learning institutions, majority (74.3%) of the graduates feel that they only gained knowledge while only 3.7% gained both skills and knowledge. Those who don’t find higher education in the 21st century useful in preparing graduates for 21st century’s life are 93.0% (p<0.0001), which is the same as those who don’t find what they gained from higher education useful in their life. The need for reforms in higher education in 21st century for the sake of meeting modern expectations and realization of developments was supported by 98.7% (p<0.0001). 99.7% (p<0.0001) admitted to have faced challenges when studying, which is the same as those with remedies to the challenges. The conclusions are: the higher education in the 21st is not useful, sufficient and relevant for modern life, it is full of challenges and reforms are necessary to help realize developments and modern expectations, and graduates can be useful in finding solutions to the challenges. Recommendations are: the stakeholders should embrace these findings and make necessary reforms to ensure that higher education in 21st century meets the 21st century’s expectations in transforming the modern society, and more research to be done involving wider scope.

Higher education, sufficiency, relevance, challenges, graduates

Article Details

How to Cite
Mwangi, W. P., & Ingado, D. (2020). Higher Education in the 21st Century: Relevance, Sufficiency, Challenges and Remedies from Graduates’ Perspective. Journal of Education, Society and Behavioural Science, 33(8), 23-37. https://doi.org/10.9734/jesbs/2020/v33i830248
Original Research Article


Gupta T. The perils of commercialization of higher education. International Journal of Research in Engineering, IT and Social Sciences. 2015;5(10).
ISSN: 2250-0558.

Wigger BU, Weizsa ̈cker K. Risk, resources, and education- public versus private financing of higher education. International Monetary Fund. IMF Working Paper. WP/99/174; 1999.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Higher education in developing countries: Peril and Promise. The task force on higher education and society. Washington, DC: World Bank; 2000.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The human development report 1990. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1990.

Singh JD. Higher education in the 21st century: Issues and challenges. International Education Journal. Chetana. 2016;1(2):33-42.
ISSN: 2455-8729

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). World conference on higher education: Higher education in the twenty-first century, Vision and action. Paris 5-9 October. 1, Final Report. 1998;202:49.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Higher education in a globalized society: UNESCO education position paper. Printed in the workshops of UNESCO, Paris, France. 2004;33.

Aguilera-Barchet B. A higher educaion for the twenty-first century: European and US approaches. Centre for European Studies. Printed in Antwerp (BE) by Albe De Coker; 2012.

Sanchez JG. The challenges of higher education in the 21st century. Research Gate. Global University Network for Innovation; 2011.

Orr D. Earth in mind: On education, environment and the human prospect. Chicago, Island Press, 2nd Edition; 2004.

Cachia R, Anusca F, Ala-Mutka K, Punie Y. Creative learning and innovative teaching. Final report on the study on creativity and innovation in education in EU members states, Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission, Luxembourg (JCR 62370); 2010.

The World Bank. Putting higher education to work: Skills and research for growth in East Asia. World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Report. The World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington DC, USA; 2012.

Altbach PG, Davis TM. Higher education in the 21st century: Global challenge and national response. Institute of International Education (IIE) and Boston College Center for International Higher Education. IIE Research Report Number Twenty-nine; 1999.
ISBN: 087206-252-X.

Barack L. Higher education in the 21st century: Meeting real-world demands. The Economist Intelligence Unit Limited; 2014.

GUNI (Global University Network for Innovation). Implementing the 2030 agenda at higher education institutions: Challenges and responses; 2019.

Gibbons M. Higher education relevance in the 21st century. Association of Commonwealth Universities Education: The World Bank, Human Development Network; 1998.

Irvine V, Code J, Richards L. Realigning higher education for the 21st-century learner through multi-access learning. MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching. 2013;9(2):172-186.

Howard P, O’Brien C, Kay B. O’Rourke K. Leading Educational Change in the 21st Century: Creating living schools through shared vision and transformative governance. Sustainability. 2019;11(4109).
DOI: 10.3390/su11154109

Collins CS, Rhoads RA. The World Bank and higher education in the developing world: The cases of Uganda and Thailand. The worldwide transformation of higher education: International perspectives on education and society. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. 2008;9:177-221.
DOI: 10.1016/S1479-3679(08)00007-8

Peters MA, Besley ACT. Building knowledge cultures: Education and development in the age of knowledge capitalism. London: Rowman & Littlefield; 2006.

Nyakito C, Allida V. Twenty-first century education: Is Kenya heading towards the right direction of improving teaching and learning as prescribed by educational transformation programme? Baraton Interdisciplinary Research Journal. 2018; 8:1-10.

Beattie JW, Thornton B, Laden R, Bracket D. 21st century challenges in higher education: Strategic changes and unintended consequences. International Journal of Educational Leadership Preparation. National Council of Professors of Educational Administration (NCPEA). 2013;8(1):62-71.
ISSN: 2155-9635.

st century skills, education & competitiveness. A resource and policy guide. Partnership for 21st Century Skills; 2008.

Yadav VS. Educational issues and challenges in the 21st century in india. An International bi-annual, bi-lingual refereed Journal of Education. Educational Trends. 2017;7&8(1-2):62-66.

Knepp KAF. Understanding student and faculty incivility in higher education. The Journal of Effective Teaching. 2012;12(1): 33-46.

Lawrie G, Marquis E, Fuller E, Newman T, Qui M, Nomikoudis M, Roelofs F, van Dam L. Moving towards inclusive learning and teaching: A synthesis of recent literature. Teaching & Leaning Inquiry. 2017;5(1).

Sun A, Chen X. Online education and its effective practice: A research review. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research. 2016;15:157-190.

Cochran WG. Sampling techniques. 2nd Ed., New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 1963;75.