International experts highlighted the challenges in higher education at an online panel hosted Monday by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to discuss a Qatar Foundation-commissioned research report.
Opening the discussion, Claire Casey, global managing director of Public Policy at EIU highlighted five innovative models of higher education.
“They are online, cluster, experiential, liberal arts, and partnership models. Technology drives innovation across all models in both education delivery and curriculum design,” stated Casey.
The EIU report ‘New schools of thought: Innovative models for delivering higher education’ emphasises how dwindling public funding, questions over the value of higher education, and technology’s potential to automate jobs are combining to place institutions under intense and increasing pressure.
In a video message at the panel discussion, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, said, “Our global education system is a well-oiled machine – too well-oiled. We were so used to the way things were that we couldn’t imagine them otherwise. The good news is that we know what change looks like, because we are in the middle of it today. If this pandemic has proved anything, it is that we, as a society, can change. Things that were impossible are suddenly possible.
“We owe it to our children and grandchildren to change what we know is not working. Today, the new page is no longer just a dream. Let’s have the courage to truly be seekers of knowledge.”
The report analyses how these innovative higher education models are addressing social, political, and economic challenges – highlighting how institutions must rethink the education, and adapt to the demands of a rapidly-changing world.
The panel discussion noted that global education systems will face “a reckoning” if they do not meet the needs of students and societies, and have to “challenge their assumptions” in a post-Covid-19 world.
Education thought-leaders from three continents explored its findings and exchanged their views on education’s future in the online panel discussion sponsored by Qatar Foundation.
The event saw Ben Nelson, founder, chairman, and CEO of Minerva Schools at Keck Graduate Institute, US, say: “We have to be honest with ourselves and realise that when societies and students are interfacing with institutions and not getting what they are paying for, there is going to be a reckoning – it’s crucial in this period of transition during Covid-19, but will also be crucial afterwards.”
According to Tim Blackman, vice-chancellor of the Open University, UK, the “shelf-life of knowledge” is getting shorter, as he said: “While discovering new knowledge and innovating remain incredibly important, the fundamental issue is that everyone has to have the ability to become a lifelong learner – to keep on learning, apply their knowledge, and put it to use.”
Francisco Marmolejo, education adviser, Qatar Foundation, noted, “We have to be very serious about recognising whether what we are doing today is really up to the standards of the future. Do students learn due to, despite, or independently of what we teach them? Are rankings as important as we think they are? What is education about? Do we still believe a simple grade is the best way to measure learning? All of these are assumptions we seriously have to challenge, because unless we do that, disrupt, and are willing to take risks, as soon as conditions return to some sort of normal we may try to become the same as we were before. This crisis is telling us we no longer have the luxury of assuming things will be as they used to be.”
The event also heard from Dr Mary Schmidt Campbell, president of Spelman College, US, who said: “The partnership model – and being able to understand who your natural partners are - becomes incredibly important in days like these.
“We have to stop being so precious and siloed and sequestered. Everyone benefits from collaboration, but it takes a very different mindset to what we have now. If we fall back into the marketing and competition mode, we are not going to get anywhere.”