PREPARING FOR A NEW WORLD: Tech lessons for our universities

Uma Ganesh | June 12, 2023 |

In emerging markets like India, there is a need for a variety of skills and knowledge in the young people entering the job market.

Universities have by and large continued to deliver education and carry on with their research activities using the same processes for a number of decades. Some processes like registration of students, conduct of programmes, assessments and student servicing have been technology enabled and as a result, there have been enhanced efficiencies. However, there have been very few disruptive changes in the manner in which universities function. With the advent of digital technologies and the potential for their innovative applications, there is scope to rethink higher education and redefine the functioning models of universities.

Digitisation provides opportunities for customisation of services to the learners. Universities can unbundle their offerings and consider making all their services such as library, sports, tutorials, cafeteria access, etc., optional.

In emerging markets like India, there is a need for a variety of skills and knowledge in the young people entering the job market. Therefore, universities like Delhi Skills and Entrepreneurship University are aligning their offerings with the industries and designing their curriculum to ensure students are equipped with the right skills based on their interests, using a blend of classroom learning, online practice sessions and on-the-job training.

We, therefore, need to move away from the assumption that all universities need to have physical presence and departments functioning from within the university to models where the entire faculty or the department could be functioning out of research labs or from within the industrial environment or in the cloud. New academic models that would integrate theory and practice with experiential learning and entrepreneurship through collaborative approaches with the industry are essential. Universidad Continental in Peru is a good example to emulate in this context.

Encouraging the older citizens who have years of work experience behind them to build and offer programmes of relevance to the industry aligned with the university system and certification could be an attractive proposition. This would enable quick scaling and continuous innovation in their offerings, leaning in on digital and dispersed resources and entrepreneurial models. Universities should be open to accessing white labelled digitised content from multiple sources so as to minimise the time to market for launch of new programmes and also keep the costs low.

In the post-pandemic phase, universities should not completely give up the advantages gained during the Covid time and return to the old ways of functioning. Those institutions who do not build on their learnings are likely to become obsolete and those who come forward to reimagine their models around digital technologies have the opportunity to invent the future of higher education.

Originally appeared in Financial Express