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I watched an interview this week with Catherine Friday from EY, who co-authored the report “The peak of higher education — a new world for the university of the future”. This report was written building on her previous papers “Can the universities of today lead learning for tomorrow?” (2018) and “University of the future” (2012).

The preamble for the 2018 report, prepared for the Australian Government, starts with:

“Imagine closing your eyes and waking up on 1 January 2030”, and the new report continued with the 2030 theme, posing four ‘What if” scenarios for university Vice Chancellors to consider. Key messages in the responses focussed on digital adaptation of learning strategies and the exploration of what a university campus may look like in 2030.

In the context of the massive disruption the learning sector has experienced in the last two years, Ms Friday was interviewed some three years after this report was published, and made comment on the fact that universities have pivoted their business to provide access to their products online, perhaps 10 years earlier than anticipated as discussed in the report.

She questioned the campus approach to learning, suggesting that universities are being forced to consider what value a designated learning space has for students. Certainly, aspects of the university experience like attending lectures alongside cohort of 200 other students don’t speak to a bespoke learning experience, which was reflected in this comment in the 2018 report:

“With this in mind, we suggest universities should consider the potential to…make the shift from being faculty-focused to learner-centric (and) re-imagine the physical campus for the digital world.” When we speak to our students of the range of employment options that they may take up, that haven’t been created yet, we are reminded that it is also the case that the range of ways they will learn, similarly, haven’t yet been imagined.

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