The Future of Colleges & Universities

On stage at the TEDx Reset event in Feb 2012 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey

Author of the 2011 book “Communicating with the Future,” Futurist Speaker Thomas Frey is a powerful visionary who is revolutionizing our thinking about the future of education.

Thomas is the Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the DaVinci Institute, and is currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.

Because of his work inspiring inventors and other revolutionary thinkers, the Boulder Daily Camera has referred to him as the “Father of Invention” while The Denver Post and Seattle Post Intelligencer have referred to him as the “Dean of Futurists”.

Thomas has been featured in hundreds of articles for both national and international publications including New York Times, Huffington Post, Times of India, USA Today, and US News and World Report.

Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Thomas spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

TOPIC: Staying Relevant in the Emerging Education Marketplace


Throughout history, education has been formed around the concept of “place.” Build fancy buildings, attract world-renowned scholars, and you have a college or university. This model works well in a culture based on teaching. Over the coming years, with our hyper-connected world, we will be shifting to a leaning model. And while “place” will still matter, it will matter differently.

Teaching requires experts. Learning only requires coaches.

The two primary variables of time and money will drive the new education marketplace, and the four primary trend lines involve:

  1. Shortening the distance between students and experts
  2. People matter. Rewriting the social context of learning
  3. The emerging courseware industry
  4. Experimental emersion camps

Those who attend will begin to understand the shifting ground on which higher education stands and how the embryonic learning businesses of today are set to mushroom into the next-ed industries of tomorrow. Many of our existing colleges and universities will collapse, leaving great opportunities for those who specialize in rebirthing this great institution. – Keynote

Recent Papers

The 5-Year Pipeline – (Published in ColoradoBiz Magazine)

Five years ago was the beginning of 2007. George Bush was President, Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California, Barack Obama wasn’t very well known, and Saddam Hussein had just been executed in Iraq.

Five years ago the Dow Jones was on a tear, on track to break 14,000, and some of the big names on Wall Street were Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WaMu, and Wachovia, names that no longer exist.

Some of the hottest job markets were in Florida, Arizona, and Las Vegas, areas that were about to see a mass exodus from jobs evaporating in thin air.

The iPhone had just been introduced, MySpace was the top social networking site, and the world still hadn’t heard of the Amazon Kindle, iTunesU, mobile apps, iPad, Hulu, and Twitter.

But 2007 was also the year that today’s college graduates decided on which college to attend and what their major would be. This is the stark reality of the 5-year educational pipeline created by today’s existing college and university system. Today’s colleges take far too long and are far too expensive. Here’s why.

Accomplishment-Based Education – (Published in FuturistSpeaker.com)

Today, our best and brightest are drawn to elite colleges like Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. As they attend these institutions they are surrounded by some of the most talented people in the world.

Yet, despite having all the cards aligned in their favor, and being presented with one huge opportunity after another, many of these people fail. They fail at their jobs, fail in their businesses, and fail to live up to their full potential.

So what if a new kind of proving ground were created, an anti-academic college of sorts, where graduation was predicated on success? Where success wasn’t defined as academic success, but as real-world accomplishments.

And what if this new institution not only attracted the best and the brightest, but also the most determined and driven? And what if this organization completely rewrote the rules of academia and created an entirely new rung on the ladder of success?

That is exactly what could happen with accomplishment-based education. Allow me to explain further… (Continue reading)

Other Papers


“Bravo on such a fabulous idea. I’m in. I would love to be a part of a more effective way to get an education. I believe our society in indeed headed that way. As college graduates are more and more disillusioned, our country as a whole will begin to seek alternatives.” – Gina Sienia

“Their is always a need for improving educational systems and this is certainly one way and applicable for a few individuals. Improving our ability to serve others is essential and there are many forms of valuable service that have little to do with making money…We need to move in the direction where the outcome of our learning is the ability to learn and to apply that learning to facilitation and research in all fields of endeavor, where we are able to balance global systems, and where we are able to work more effectively with other people and other nations to ensure the success of everyone. We have become far too isolated in our thinking.” – Garth Schmalenberg

Tom, a wonderful vision to bring practicality into education and create a much more powerful engine for new businesses.” – Andrew Brown
This LINK takes you to the French translation of Thomas’ Speaking Topics – “The Future of Colleges and Universities” page.