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The ultimate guide to 2024’s biggest university challenges like retention rates, access and equity, digital innovation and digital transformation, and more.

There are many pressing issues facing Higher Education in 2024, such as a student enrolment and retention rates decline, access and equity, digital innovation and digital transformation, cybersecurity and more.

In this article, we will discuss the biggest university challenges for 2024 and how to solve them. 

university challenges such as access and equity or digital innovation and digital transformation

Some of the biggest university challenges in 2024 will include digital innovation and digital transformation, access and equity, retention rates and more.

For the past number of years, the challenges facing Higher Education Institutions have been heavily influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic. Now, as colleges and universities emerge from these pandemic related challenges, new obstacles are taking their place. Many institutions are struggling with student enrolment declines, rising costs, staff retention rates, improving access and equity and a constant need to innovate and advance.  

In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the most pressing university challenges facing Higher Education in 2024 and how institutions can go about addressing them.

University Challenges For 2024

Embracing Digital Innovation and Digital Transformation 

One of the key drivers of change in higher education is the emergence of new technologies and data-driven solutions. Artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, blockchain, virtual reality and augmented reality are some examples of the digital innovation that is reshaping the way education is delivered, accessed, and assessed. These technologies offer new opportunities for enhancing learning outcomes, personalizing learning experiences, boosting retention rates, improving efficiency and quality, and expanding access and equity.   

However, the speed with which digital transformation and much of this digital innovation is happening can be very overwhelming for higher education institutions. Digital transformation and the use of data and technology to streamline processes and remove inefficiencies, assess compliance risks and improve student outcomes and experiences is increasing every year. Yet, many institutions still have work to do.

A recent survey revealed that only 60% of technology leaders say their institutions use data effectively to inform important decisions or make data analytics a strategic priority. 

As a result, digital transformation will represent one of the biggest university challenges in 2024. How quickly and how effectively institutions can keep up with this digital innovation will have a significant impact on their ability to remain competitive and resilient in the future.  

Learn More about Digital Transformation with SEAtS Software

Student Enrolment and Retention Rates

One of the major university challenges for 2024 will be attracting and retaining students in a competitive and uncertain market. In the US college enrolments have fallen dramatically since the pandemic and have failed to recover. Students are increasingly likely to opt for online or hybrid modes of learning, to seek shorter and more flexible courses, and to demand more value for money.  

Higher education institutions need to adopt innovative strategies to improve enrolment and retention rates, such as offering more diverse programs, prioritising access and equity with more financial aid and scholarships, enhancing student support services, and improving student engagement and satisfaction.  

Strategies for improving student retention rates:

Learn More about Improving Retention Rates with SEAtS Software


Staff and student retention rates will be some of the biggest university challenges in 2024.

Staff Retention Rates

Staff retention rates will be another of the critical university challenges for 2024. Major changes in the higher education landscape recently have increased the workload and stress levels of academic and non-academic staff, as well as affected their health and well-being.

Staff are also facing increased pressure to adapt to new technologies and pedagogies, to meet the changing needs and expectations of students and employers, to produce high-quality research and publications, and to cope with the uncertainty and instability of the sector. As a result, staff retention rates are declining. 

The sector is particularly struggling to attract and retain technology employees, which poses a threat to the digital transformation and digital innovation needed to achieve operational resilience and institutional success.  

Higher education institutions need to invest in staff development and well-being, as well as address administrative burdens and high workloads with process automation and streamlining technologies.  

Access and Equity 

Access and equity are essential values for higher education in 2024. Higher education institutions have a social responsibility to ensure that all students have equal opportunities to access quality education regardless of their background, identity, or circumstances.

Evidence still points to the significant gaps and barriers in access and equity that prevent many students from participating in higher education.

As a result, many university challenges for 2024 will be rooted in improving access and equity for all students. Higher education institutions need to implement policies and practices that promote equity, access and inclusion, such as providing more scholarships and financial aid, offering more online or flexible learning options, creating more inclusive curricula, and providing more support services for diverse learners.

Technology can make a significant impact, especially in providing more effective, personalised support for disadvantaged learners. Data-driven academic advising is transforming the way many higher education institutions are supporting access and equity. 

Learn More about Improving Access and Equity with SEAtS Software

Student wellbeing

Improving access and equity will be one of the most pressing university challenges for 2024.

Climate Change and Sustainability 

Climate change and sustainability are urgent issues that will impact higher education in 2024. Higher education institutions have a vital role to play in addressing the environmental crisis and contributing to the global goals of sustainable development. However, there are significant university challenges in reducing their own environmental impact, such as carbon emissions, energy consumption, waste generation, and water use.  

Higher education institutions need to do more to track, report and reduce their emissions. This means producing regular sustainability reports and accounting for their carbon footprint. Higher education institutions can use technology to support this journey as there are increasing options available for the measurement, management and reporting of emissions and energy consumption. 

Space and resource utilisation technologies will be critical in 2024 in helping HEIs maximise their budgets and achieve their sustainability goals. 

Student Satisfaction  

Student satisfaction will be a key driver of student enrolment and retention in 2024 and as a result, represents one of the major university challenges. Student satisfaction reflects the extent to which students are happy and satisfied with their learning experiences, their academic outcomes, their interactions with staff and peers, their institution’s level of access and equity, and their overall well-being.    

A new survey revealed that three out of the ‘big four’ study destinations for English-taught programmes – the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada – fell below the global average for student satisfaction.

These results, coupled with the changes these countries are making to their student visa and immigration policies, will likely impact their popularity as a destination for international study.  

Higher education institutions need to measure and monitor student satisfaction regularly and systematically and use their student data to improve their services and processes. Higher education institutions can also enhance student satisfaction by providing more personalized and meaningful learning experiences. 

Learn More about Improving the Student Experience with SEAtS Software

Higher education institutions will have to be strategic in their planning and investment to address some of the biggest university challenges such as digital innovation and digital transformation, access and equity, poor retention rates and more.


One of the major university challenges for 2024 is the growing threat of cybersecurity. As higher education becomes more dependent on data and technology, it also becomes more vulnerable to cyberattacks that can compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information systems and resources. Cyberattacks can cause significant damage to higher education institutions in terms of financial losses, reputational harm, legal liabilities, operational disruptions and loss of trust.

A recent survey of CIO’s revealed that only 2% feel “extremely confident” that their institutions’ policies can prevent such attacks. 

Higher education institutions need to enhance their cybersecurity by implementing robust policies, and procedures around cybersecurity and investing in appropriate technology that can prevent, detect and respond to cyber incidents.  


There are many university challenges ahead for 2024 and beyond that require strategic vision, leadership and action. Higher education institutions need to embrace change, digital innovation and digital transformation as an opportunity to grow and improve their performance and impact in 2024.

University-challenges and retention rates

The key elements all HEIs should focus on in 2024 are using data and analytics to inform their decisions, lowering costs and managing risks, improving access and equity, and ensuring a positive experience for all students.