New research from Accenture offers better understanding of post-secondary students and opportunities for educators



NEW YORK–(COMMERCIAL THREAD) – Accenture has identified new opportunities for higher education institutions to differentiate offerings and respond more effectively to changing student expectations and changing employer needs.

A new study, Serving All Students: A Survey of Learner Minds, examines how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a number of changes already underway in higher education, such as a shrinking pool of students. ‘traditional’ students, a growing societal need for accreditation and lifelong skills and the rise of alternative education providers. These factors have prompted research to better identify and deepen understanding of distinct segments of the “student” population to help colleges, universities, and professional certification programs tailor their efforts to improve satisfaction, equity, experiences. and student results.

“Educational institutions, more than ever, are looking to evolve the way they serve existing students as well as the way they adapt to serve new segments of students,” said Samantha Fisher, CEO of Accenture’s education practice. “Learning and acquiring new skills throughout the career of workers is increasingly essential to the development of employees and organizations, and the challenge demands a deeper understanding of learning mindsets. ”

Finding 1: A new way of segmenting learners

The survey of over 6,500 post-secondary learners included current and potential students aged 16 and over, seeking a university degree or professional certification from any type of education provider. post-secondary. Analysis of the survey results revealed six distinct segments of learners, grouped according to learning mindsets, goals and emotions rather than demographics or school type.

“Campus enthusiasts” representing 16% of respondents, are young people with an academic vocation, looking for an immersive and exploratory college experience. These are usually full-time students, with extracurricular social and professional activities, and most will be looking for their first professional job upon graduation.

“Intellectual guidance” representing 7% of respondents, preparing their first degree, strongly motivated by intellectual curiosity, and often interested in staying in academia. They seek a more traditional learning experience, preferring registration and in-person learning.

“Young specialists” are the largest group, accounting for 31% of respondents. They are motivated by the actual application of courses, internships and building networks to enter an identified field after graduation. Most are enrolled or plan to enroll in a four-year institution full-time and have made a commitment to further study in a professional field, such as health or business. They tend to be relatively more dependent on loans and grants, have lower incomes, and are less interested in school culture and social opportunities.

“Professionals in evolution” representing 23% of respondents, have higher incomes and more work experience. Driven by intellectual curiosity, they seek to broaden their interests and career options rather than develop specific skills related to their employer. Many are studying technology or business. A majority pursue a traditional degree, but a significant minority are enrolled or intend to enroll in a certificate program. They tend to be older than the previous three segments and many have started families.

“Mid-career climbers” representing 14% of respondents, seek to advance their career through special qualifications closely related to their current or future employer. They tend to work full time and place a high value on program flexibility (eg.

“Trajectory transformers” representing 9% of respondents, strive to evolve in their career by changing jobs or sectors by obtaining specific skills in a short time. They have a strong focus on value and potential outcomes, are the oldest group with the most work experience, and are among the most price sensitive learners. Many are or will be first generation students.

Finding 2: Alignments of satisfaction within and between segments

Students from various segments were relatively satisfied with the way institutions describe their offerings and help students navigate program offerings and other academic advice. Satisfaction was lowest in all segments with non-university services, such as mental health and wellness, disability services, and financial counseling.

The survey revealed that each segment placed a high priority on greater flexibility around the modality of the courses (onsite, online and hybrid approaches).

Finding 3: Universal demand for a high quality digital experience

Overall, 96% of respondents said a high-quality digital experience is important to their educational satisfaction, compared to 85% in a similar 2017 survey. The priority given to the digital experience was generally consistent across all segments, although all segments revealed a substantial mix of students who want in-person rather than online options for services and learning.

Delivery preferences for many key activities are cross-segment. Majorities in all segments tended to favor in-person delivery for highly relevant experiences such as graduation, internships, and clubs / organizations, and generally favor online delivery for most back office.

“Post-secondary institutions need to be able to provide almost any service in any modality, but it’s about more than just going digital,” Fisher added. “The focus should be on deepening student engagement and relationships and enhancing learning experiences, including more thoughtfully addressing the distinct needs and preferences of very different learners. . ”

To learn more about Accenture’s educational work, please visit this site. To learn more about how Accenture’s Public Service Industry Group is helping public sector organizations embrace innovation and transform quickly to operate smarter, get more, and improve services, visit Accenture’s public service industry portal.

About the research

The survey included 6,536 U.S. respondents as of July 2021, all of whom are currently or imminently enrolled in a degree program, including, but not limited to, colleges and universities. From the dataset, a Partition Around Medoids (PAM) methodology was used to define the clusters, resulting in six distinct learner segments.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global professional services company with industry-leading digital, cloud and security capabilities. Combining unparalleled experience and specialized skills in more than 40 industries, we offer strategy and advisory, interactive, technological and operational services, all powered by the world’s largest network of advanced technology and intelligent operations centers. Our 624,000 employees deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity every day, serving customers in more than 120 countries. We embrace the power of change to create value and shared success for our customers, employees, shareholders, partners and communities. Visit us at



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