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Symposium 2012

Proposal - From Employability to Job Creation; From Single Campus to Several Including Virtual

The Challenge

There are two big trends in higher education: "individualization" and "massification." The former is important mainly in developed countries whereas the latter takes places mainly in developing countr ...

There are two big trends in higher education: "individualization" and "massification." The former is important mainly in developed countries whereas the latter takes places mainly in developing countries. Yet distinctions between the systems of developed and developing countries cannot be sharply drawn: on the one hand, outstanding students from developing countries want individualized education; and on the other hand, aspiring students from developed countries want good value for money (which means massification).

Summary: Invest in and build global, multi-location, offline and online universities that build job-creation ability and not just process-driven employability skills.

Solution: As several developed countries take leadership roles in concept and idea-driven economies, much of the developing world is struggling with preparing individuals to be highly effective, process-driven employees.  The higher education systems in developing economies are torn between providing basic skills and imparting sufficient depth to have room for creativity development. This is in a resource-constrained environment, which cannot build brick and mortar universities fast enough to keep pace with the growing population. However, in the same environment, online social networks are growing more rapidly and are starting to seek a purpose beyond targeted advertisements.

The current university model, which is characterized by a single campus catering to thousands of students, is preparing students for jobs of yesterday and today and not for the challenges of tomorrow.  Most countries face the following challenges to various degrees that limit their abilities to invest in education: limited resources, increasing ageing populations, dwindling rates of job creation, increasing global competition, increasing role of technology and an under-prepared graduating population.

Universities of the future have to address these challenges and, in particular, adopt more relevant context, style and content to build job-creation ability amongst students, as being employable is necessary but not sufficient.

First, a new model of a global university is needed to take advantage of national and regional strengths, such as, design in Germany. Imagine a university, which has campuses in Germany, USA, Brazil, Turkey, Greece, India, China, and Indonesia. Each campus offers basic education to build basic learning skills in the first year and afterwards teachers from each campus provide synchronous or asynchronous lessons in subjects that leverage the strength of that campus. Consider, design and manufacturing education from Germany; multi-cultural history from Turkey or Indonesia, etc. Leveraging the strength of each campus, which would have strong relationships with practitioners of the knowledge and where courses would be designed specifically to learn through inquiry.

Second, course credit articulation across boundaries and campuses should be targeted. Many countries have used course credit recognition as a tool to re-train highly qualified practitioners who seek employment there.  This is a waste of human talent and it can be fixed by creating an international standards body whose task it will be to review, analyze and accept/reject credits across universities and colleges.  Students should have the access to travel to other campuses of the university through pre-agreed upon visa arrangements.

Third, many of the courses may be delivered through an online mentorship-driven approach. This will also be an affordable option for much of the developing world considering that some of the students of higher education institutes are the largest constituents in a connected online social world. Bringing scale through asynchronous online education is feasible but it will likely be at the expense of some quality. An online mentorship driven approach should help bridge this quality gap through real-life projects and assessments. For example, in the university being proposed, the US campus may lead online mentorship in technology design, India my lead online mentorship in hospitality training, Brazil and China in infrastructure development and so on.

Fourth, private sector companies with a global footprint are best equipped to enable such campuses in partnership with the local governments, as most cannot fund Ivy League campuses. Not all campuses, online or brick-and-mortar, will be built in one go. Phasing will depend on funding, regulatory open-ness and supporting talent pool amongst other factors.

Lastly, regulatory lobbying efforts should enable many of the target countries to provide licensing and support for such campuses. Forward-looking countries and their leaders are more likely to adopt this model of a redefined global university.

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