Global macroeconomic, technological and social developments are driving an increased need for flexible learning. Machine learning, artificial intelligence and robotics; the changing world of work; longer lives and more physically and mentally active pensioners; marginalised communities and the rise of populism; and the disruption of the global financial crises, the climate emergency and pandemics are combining to make lifelong learning essential.
Leadership and strategy
The pace of change across higher education is accelerating. New programmes, new ways of learning, classroom technology and remote learning: it’s all coming faster and faster. Universities have a responsibility to promote critical thinking and encourage good citizenship. They must prepare learners for career changes and a labour market in constant flux. They have to support students through a lifetime of learning, not just an undergraduate degree. To build student fitness for change, a university needs to be adaptive, and to constantly assess its offerings.
Blended learning – a pedagogical approach combining face-to-face teaching with online course delivery – is gaining traction around the world thanks to its cost-effectiveness and flexibility, spurred on by the pandemic. However, the implementation of a successful blended learning programme is often complex, time-consuming and taxing on staff. This is particularly true for universities at the early stages of digital transformations, as they face a shortage of staff skills, connectivity issues and negative attitudes towards technology, among other challenges.
This summer marked a decade since the US entrepreneur and software engineer Marc Andreessen famously predicted that “software is eating the world”.
I am pretty confident that the most frequently “deleted unread” all-staff emails at the moment are those titled “Well-being”. For the past two years, across all sectors, including higher education, these messages have proliferated like the coronavirus itself. Advice includes reminders to eat broccoli, to exercise regularly and to listen to birdsong. The latest epistle I received delivered the shattering news that “not being physically active can increase our risk of developing heart or circulatory diseases and diabetes”.
Research often lacks full transparency and reproducibility, and poor research practices are increasingly picked up by the public, which is undermining trust in academia. Open research is research conducted with full transparency, in its design, methods and communication of outputs. Research practices that are “open” improve research quality and integrity, reuse by others and value for money. They increase public trust in research and protect against fraud.
Many early career researchers hear mentoring spoken of in hushed, reverential tones. It is, they’re told, something that changes people’s lives (professionally, at least).
Unfortunately, in many cases, it’s never something they experience firsthand.
Over the past 18 months, we’ve all heard about the unique challenges of joining a new organisation during a global pandemic. For me, joining Leeds Trinity University as vice-chancellor in November 2020, I was faced with establishing my own leadership style at a time when staff and students were working remotely, a number of our traditional touchpoints had disappeared and the goalposts seemed to be changing by the day. Here are five of the key lessons I learnt, in the hope that other university colleagues can take something from my experiences.
New analysis of the economic impact of international students in the UK showed that the net impact of just one cohort of international students, 2018-19, was worth nearly £26 billion to the UK economy. This was up 19 per cent since similar analysis was last conducted, in relation to the 2015-16 cohort.
Globalisation and technological developments are changing the private and working lives of students and educators. It is now essential to be able to use technology to collaborate in culturally diverse international teams. Collaborative designs such as online co-teaching or peer learning can support this development. But how can we foster virtual collaboration within and across higher education institutions?