The pandemic crisis highlights how contemporary universities face a changing context where some main force-lines can be recognized: the lowering of entry barriers for both users and new subjects on the supply side; the collapse of historical borders between sectors; the unbundling of the traditional value chain, creating gates for focused and fast-moving subjects. The growth and the interaction of these force-lines is making existing paradigms creak, creating the conditions
for the emergence of new models for structuring both educational demand and the educational offer on the part of universities and new operators. In the digital world, students, who are rapidly transforming from a homogeneous group defined by age and motivation into lifelong learners with a wide range of objectives, demand that learning be aligned with an ever-changing job market, and seek a greater degree of control over their learning in terms of content, process and timing. The lowering of entry barriers resulting from the digitalization process is thus creating competition in contexts where emerging demand is not fully satisfied by traditional higher education. The new role that universities could play relies on their ability to govern long-term processes, anticipating issues of public interest that actors who do not also invest in research find difficult to intercept, and to construct alliances, and strategies of integration, between local and global digital learning players in lifelong learning projects. However, the sustainability of knowledge and its reproduction is even more strongly recognized as a public good and perhaps the rapid change determined by the pandemic crisis could open new perspectives.