Academic Program Prophecies: We’ve Seen the Future, and Sometimes It’s Pretty Weird

January 2, 2024

Gray DI’s upcoming webinar on Emerging Academic Programs uses meticulous research and analysis to distinguish ephemeral trends from real opportunities. We review our past predictions each year to see if we got the balance right.

On Generative AI, we were very right – we announced this Emerging Program just as ChatGPT took off. We may have gotten ahead of ourselves on Space Commercialization, though it continues to show promise.

Generative AI (Creative AI)


Generative AI is taking the world by storm. OpenAI introduced Chat GPT in late November 2022 and had 100 million users within 42 days – the fastest software adoption rate in history. New competitors soon followed, including Google’s Bard and Microsoft’s Bing. With each passing day, generative AI technology becomes more mainstream, and its potential applications expand.

Here’s a breakdown of the current landscape:

  • Early adopters: Some universities have launched dedicated generative AI programs or courses. For example, Stanford University offers a course called “Generative AI,” and the University of California, Berkeley, has a program called “The Art and Science of Machine Learning.” The University of Florida has integrated AI across its curriculum – not just in Computer Science but also in the Sciences and the Humanities. On an unexpected note, this led to growth in Philosophy classes – teaching the ethical issues surrounding AI.
  • Industry demand: Every industry and function will be affected by AI, and as a result, there’s a growing demand for workers with skills in generative AI. This is likely to drive further interest in generative AI college programs in the future.

    The future of generative AI college programs continues to be promising. As the technology matures and its applications become more widespread, we expect to see more universities offering programs in this field. Overall, the popularity of generative AI college programs is on the rise, driven by growing interest from institutions, industry demand, and the potential for exciting new applications.

Space Commercialization


While the field of space commercialization is rapidly evolving, dedicated college programs specifically focused on it are few, despite growing interest and media attention on the increasing private sector involvement in space ventures by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Here’s the current landscape:

  • Few Dedicated Programs: While some universities offer courses related to space exploration or aerospace engineering, only some have developed comprehensive programs solely focused on space commercialization. Stanford University’s “Stanford Space Initiative” could be considered an example, though it covers more than the business aspects of space. The Colorado School of Mines offers graduate programs and certificates in Space Resources. Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Management offers an Executive Master of Global Management: Space Leadership, Business, and Policy.
  • Students interested in space commercialization can find relevant skills and knowledge through existing programs in related fields, such as Aerospace engineering, which provides a strong foundation in the technical aspects of spacecraft design and operation; business administration, which equips students with skills in entrepreneurship, marketing, and finance; and, policy and law, which provides an understanding of the legal and regulatory frameworks governing space activities.

Future outlook: As the space commercialization industry matures, we expect more universities to develop dedicated programs and courses in this area. However, existing programs in related fields will likely remain an important pathway for interested students.

Cellular Agriculture


Cellular agriculture, the exciting realm of lab-grown meat, holds immense promise for a sustainable and ethical food future. Yet, despite the buzz and potential, its widespread adoption hasn’t quite matched the initial hype. Currently, dedicated cellular agriculture programs at the bachelor’s or master’s level are scarce. Notably, Tufts University boasts the first-ever minor in the field. Other institutions offer relevant courses scattered across programs like biotechnology, food science, or bioengineering.

Some of the roadblocks holding back the industry include:

  • Regulatory: Cellular meat is uncharted territory for regulators, who grapple with defining it, establishing safety protocols, and navigating labeling rules.
  • Cost: Currently, producing cultivated meat remains expensive, primarily because the growth media and bioreactors are costly.
  • The Ick Factor: While public interest in cellular agriculture grows, some consumers remain cautious due to unfamiliarity and, quite frankly, “the ick factor.”
  • Infrastructure Gap: Building a robust supply chain for cellular meat requires significant investment in specialized facilities, distribution networks, and marketing strategies.

Quantum Computing


Quantum computing, like the famous quantum cat, is dead and alive. On the dead side, current machines are enormously expensive to create and operate and have high error rates. So far, they have yet to do much by way of useful computing. On the live side, the University of Maryland at College Park launched a Quantum Computing graduate certificate. Other institutions have incorporated quantum computing tracks or specializations within existing Master’s or PhD programs. For example, MIT, Caltech, and Stanford are developing specialized “tracks” within existing physics, computer science, or electrical engineering graduate programs. These tracks focus on quantum theory, algorithms, and hardware, providing students with the necessary foundation for careers in the field.

We are even starting to see undergraduate programs focused on quantum computing. The University of Pittsburgh recently launched a new major in physics and quantum computing jointly offered by the physics and astronomy, and computer science departments. The University of Colorado Denver announced a four-course Quantum Information Technology Certificate through a collaboration between its electrical engineering and physics departments.

Rapidly growing interest: Student interest in quantum computing is nascent; below are several factors that may spur future demand.

  • Job market potential: Quantum computing is poised to revolutionize industries where optimization is critical, such as equity trading and logistics, which may create demand for skilled professionals. IBM is by far the leading employer, with 233 of the 270 job postings. After IBM, there are over a dozen firms with 1-3 job postings in 2023.
  • Intellectual challenge: Quantum mechanics offers a new lens to understand the universe, attracting students fascinated by the intersection of physics, mathematics, and computer science.
  • Media buzz: Growing media coverage of quantum computing’s potential and recent breakthroughs further fuels public interest and inspires students to explore this frontier.
  • AI: Artificial intelligence may be the “killer app” that brings quantum computing into the mainstream. Quantum computers could accelerate the development of foundational models (like ChatGPT), which require immense computing resources. AI, in turn, could help manage the high error rate in quantum computing.

Alternative pathways: Even without dedicated majors, students can still gain valuable skills for quantum computing careers through several existing programs:

  • Physics or computer science degrees: Provide a strong foundation in the key disciplines underpinning quantum computation.
  • Mathematics or electrical engineering degrees: Offer valuable training in mathematical skills and hardware design relevant to the field.
  • Postgraduate programs: Master’s or Ph.D. programs in related fields with quantum computing tracks or courses provide specialized knowledge and research opportunities.
  • MOOCs, perhaps the most accessible option, offer courses in quantum computing (e.g., Udemy: C101 Quantum Computing & Intro to Quantum Machine Learning).

Just as a star chart guides mariners across uncharted waters, our predictions are intended to spark your curiosity and lead to new opportunities. They inspire students and educators to explore frontiers, challenge institutions to adapt, and remind us that education’s future is as dynamic as knowledge itself.

Click here to register for our 2024 Emerging Academic Programs to Watch webinar.

Mary Ann Romans


Mary Ann creates, defines, and executes marketing strategy at Gray Decision Intelligence.

About Gray DI

Gray DI provides data, software and facilitated processes that power higher-education decisions. Our data and AI insights inform program choices, optimize finances, and fuel growth in a challenging market – one data-informed decision at a time.

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