Universities fail to provide graduates with key skills

1 May 2014

Young leaders warned that there is often a “disconnect” between higher education courses and the skills needed to succeed in the marketplace.

Speaking at the closing plenary of the British Council’s Going Global 2014 conference, four young innovators under the age of 30 argued that universities are not currently being held accountable for the skills gap, but they are best placed to address it.

One of these innovators, German-born Hannes Klöpper, is managing director and co-founder of online education provider Iversity. He argued that higher education institutions must reassess their traditional teaching model if they are to stay relevant:

“Universities have to think about how they incorporate non-formal learning into their degree programmes. lt will challenge them to think hard and re-examine about why they continue to operate in the same way they have done for a long time.”

Other innovators included Dale Stephens, founder of UnCollege, a US organisation set up to offer an alternative to a traditional university education, Yewande Akinola, environmental services engineer and Zakiya Smith, strategy director of the Lumina Foundation and former White House senior education adviser.

Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of International Higher Education, closed by telling conference delegates that ‘resilience’ and ‘complexity’ summed up the challenges of the higher education sector if it was to continue to play a meaningful role.

“Of 33 institutions that survive to our times from the 16th century, 29 are universities. How have universities managed to be so long-lasting? It’s simple: universities survive because societies need them. That’s their survival trick, the piece of DNA in their constitutions that makes them the longest-lived human institutions. They change with the times, but they remain unwavering in their core purpose of providing intellectual leadership and serving their local and international communities.”

The British Council’s Going Global conference, held this year in Miami, is an annual event attended by more than 1,000 higher education leaders from 70 countries. The conference focusses on pressure points in international higher education including English as a medium of instruction, the impact of MOOCs, and whether sending students abroad is a worthwhile investment. 

Find out more about the Going Global 2014 conference: http://www.britishcouncil.org/going-global