Universities to focus on enriching student experience, student employability and acting as a hub for research: FICCI-EY report

New Delhi, 10 November 2017: A FICCI-EY report, titled Leapfrogging to Education 4.0: Student at the core, has underlined the need for focusing on the learner, supported by technology, in-person guidance and industry-relevant content to meet the learner’s individual learning needs. In all this university transforms into a driver to create this ecosystem.

The report released yesterday at the 13th FICCI Higher Education Summit 2017, points out that the nation is at the cusp of a change where the learner will be at the center of the future ecosystem in Education 4.0.

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Education 4.0 empowers learners to structure their learning paths. It is characterized by personalization of the learning experience, where the learner has complete flexibility to be the architect of his or her own future and has the freedom to aspire, approach and achieve personal goals by choice. Increased innovation in teaching methods, demand for an improved HE experience and availability of better learning opportunities supported by technology have been the major impetus for this shift toward personalization.

The “traditional” profile of the learner has been changing and he or she is no more a student right from high school, enrolled in a full-time course to complete a degree; the new majority demands greater deal of flexibility and customization. Technology has made personalized learning both approachable and dynamic. Without educational technology ranging from digital content to adaptive learning software, it would be extremely difficult and resource-intensive to implement personalized learning.

How fast universities adapt to this change and continue to evolve will determine their future. With the changing paradigm, universities have a critical decision to make: Embrace new opportunities and succeed or make the wrong choice and perish? It is crucial for universities to focus on enriching student experience, aligning to individual needs across the student life cycle, focusing on student employability and acting as a hub for research.

The report suggests universities could focus on building unrivalled student experience through flexible program structures that enable lifelong learning and provide learners  with multiple entry and exit options. They could provide learners with predictable schedules and opportunities for collaborative learning.

Universities will have to address employability challenges by providing the required employability skills and integrating with industry to provide greater exposure to students right through their university experience. They need to enable development of thinkers, complex problem solvers and decision makers who are prepared for a broad range of jobs across sectors and thus can be fungible across changing job scenarios.

Global integration and technological advancement have had a transformational effect on research. As research becomes democratized, funds would need to be spent in the most optimal manner. Universities need to build project management capabilities around research to ensure quick turnarounds, reduce cost and schedule overruns and better collaborations across industry and academia.

Universities with weak financial statements could pass this financial burden to the student in form of rising tuition fees, but the price-sensitive student is now turning to alternative affordable education sources such as massive open online courses (MOOCs).

Universities will need to diversify their revenue stream and explore sustainable business models to continue operations. They will have to ensure that resources are optimally aligned with financial stability at the core.

Regulators need to appreciate online as a viable medium of learning. They would have to provide a forward-looking ecosystem for Education 4.0 and work with higher education institutions (HEIs) on developing a regulatory framework that addresses issues of quality control, accreditation and information privacy.

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