At the Times Higher Education Teaching Excellence Summit, co-hosted by the University of Glasgow, a panel of experts from Guild member universities discussed how research-intensive teaching can equip students for the future. As Radosław Rybkowski (Jagiellonian University) asked: how can we design curricula that respond not so much to the needs of today, but to the needs of graduates as tomorrow’s citizens, workforce and leaders. Rybkowski emphasised that research-led education should be flexible and responsive to changes in scholarship and societal needs.
Another panelist, Han van Krieken (Radboud University), suggested that improved assessment tools could help us understand what all – and not just the average of – students need and how they learn best. Drawing from the field of medicine, van Krieken made the case for ‘personalised education’ – which, like precision medicine, would rely on improved diagnostics, as well as on the application of a vast body of knowledge to address individual students’ needs.
Meanwhile, Cathia Jenainati (University of Warwick) explored how the notion of ‘appreciative inquiry’ could change how we think about improving the student experience. Based on practices developed around coaching, such an approach would focus on what students, academics and employers value about any given course, and reinforce these attributes in a process of co-creation.
James Conroy (University of Glasgow) argued that in thinking about the future of research-led education, it was critical not to confuse the ends and means of education. At a time of rapidly developing technology, increasing information availability and a fast-changing job market, students need, above all, judgment and the ability to make sense of complex information. This has important implications for digital learning because new technologies and pedagogies should be considered facilitators, not ends in themselves.
So, how will universities prepare students for the future? Academic institutions are not the only ones asking this question. As Jan Palmowski wrote in a recent blog post, public authorities, employers, and students themselves are pushing for change in often conflicting ways. In response to this, the higher education sector must strive to separate legitimate claims for change from oversimplified and shortsighted assumptions. Universities should not only support students in their learning and prepare them for their first job, they need to equip them for the economic, ethical, cultural and social challenges they will face throughout their lives.