Imagine a future university that is committed to address the digital gaps by providing digital skills to students, alumni and the society in general in collaboration with external stakeholders and that digitalizes its own operations to effectively manage these processes.
This university prioritizes the provision of advanced digital skills to all students in a very practical way, usually based on projects and challenges, and mixing students from different backgrounds and disciplines. However, this emphasis in digital skills will be combined with a focus on other transversal skills and competencies, such as leadership, problem solving, creativity, communication, teamwork, etc.
This combination of skills together with the ability to acquire knowledge of several disciplines increase the students transition to the labour market and their future employability. This is particularly relevant for students whose specialization is in IT or computer science, who receive compulsory courses in ethics, philosophy and anthropology to ensure that technology is always use for societal benefits.
“The future university also provides digital skills to its alumni and the society in general. This is part of the university’s responsibility to make everyone in the society digitally literate and support effective upskilling and reskilling of the individuals.”
This training helps individuals avoid the threat of automation and digitalization in their jobs, increase their productivity, remain active in the labour market, change sectors as well as find new or better jobs in emerging digital sectors. This is done by expanding their training catalog beyond master’s and doctorates including short-term programs such as micro-credentials, micro-degrees, or professional certifications.
Not only will these skills be provided but they will also be certified, increasing the information in the labour market and the signaling to the employers, who are able to know what candidates can do and not only what they know. The certification of these skills is done using blockchain technology to digitally secure them.
Blockchain is only one of the main technologies the university of the future uses, as it is highly digital in its structure and operations. For example, not only the education provision is partly done digitally, using an efficient blended-learning system, but the university also uses AI to guide students in their academic decisions and suggesting learning routes adapted to their interests and competences, with virtual tutors that act as coaches or mentors of students.
In addition, universities of the future have Chief Information Officers (CIOs), who work collaboratively in a network with CIOs of other universities worldwide to share initiatives to address digital transformation. Digitalization allows the university of the future to be a decentralized institution with a global presence independent from the physical campus by using hybrid spaces. The paradigm shifts and the students do not go to campus, but the campus goes to the student.
The future university does not do these things alone, but in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders. Universities often collaborate with other universities and with companies for the design, delivery and recognition of education and training. Companies communicate to universities the profiles and skills needs in the future labour markets to guide the creation of programmes targeting them.
This communication occurs informally but also formally though universities social councils, with representation of companies, the society and governments. Governments collaborate with universities in joint initiatives as the adjustment of individual’s skills to labour market needs is in the core of productivity and competitiveness of regions and nations.
Although this is only a vision of the future university, the Covid-19 crisis has shown that it is critical time to rethink the role of universities and their huge potential to become engines for social and economic development in a digital world.
Mr. Rodriguez Inciarte studied Economics at the University of Madrid and Business Management at MIT. He was the Minister of the Presidency in Spain, and later member of the Board of Directors and Vice President of Banco Santander. Matias was the President of the Princess of Asturias Foundation and is currently the Chairman and Member of the Board of several Spanish companies. In addition, he is now President of Santander Universities and Vice President of Universia, in charge of Banco Santander’s Programmes with universities.