Universities must change or lose their place to alternative education providers, says OECD education chief

In the third of a four-part series on the changing role of universities, OECD education chief Andreas Schleicher talks to Straits Times senior education correspondent Sandra Davie , on how universities need to evolve to stay relevant.

For some time people have questioned the value of universities. The challenge has become more difficult over the past two years as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and universities began offering their programs online, a global education expert has said.

Mr Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), stressed that universities must make changes, otherwise they risk losing the “monopoly” they have on higher education and the accreditation of workers to access higher education. higher level jobs.

He said in an interview with the Straits Times: “When Covid-19 hit and universities went online, students and their parents asked if they had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees to take courses. online course.

“Students go to college to learn from great professors, do innovative research, collaborate with peers on projects, and experience the social life of campus life. It’s not enough to offer a set of courses and give them a qualification at the end of the course.”

He applauded Singapore’s handling of the pandemic and the way local universities have resumed offering on-campus learning with safety management measures in place. This has not been the case in many countries around the world.

Unless they change, universities will see even more students turn to alternative higher education providers who run courses and certify skills for in-demand skills.

“It’s already happening in some fields, like IT, with technology companies,” he said, adding that universities need to prepare for a world where their location or reputation will become less important. What will matter to learners are the programs that will help them get into the jobs they aspire to.

Q: Do you think the traditional four-year undergraduate course will remain?

A: In a world facing constant change, upstream learning – the current model of studying four years for a degree and then building a career – will no longer work.

We must continue to learn while winning. You have to constantly go back to relearn and retrain, because you have to constantly adapt, pivot and change jobs.

Continuing education will take place in many different places and in different ways, both online and offline, on campus and in the workplace.

Universities must adapt to the new ways in which their students will prefer to learn, or they will lose their position as the main providers of higher education.

As I always say, we designed our education systems, including higher education, largely in the industrial age, when the goal was conformity and respect for the established wisdom of our times.

It won’t work in the world of tomorrow, where we need to create more environments where students can explore, where they can take risks and try new ideas. A teacher or a professor will be more of a coach, a mentor, a facilitator, a designer of innovative learning environments.

You can see many good and innovative programs, some of which are tested by well-established universities. We need to allow more of these new ideas to flourish in education.