Insights Into University-Business Cooperation in the Information Society: A Romanian Project for Higher Education

Insights Into University-Business Cooperation in the Information Society: A Romanian Project for Higher Education

Lorena Clara Mihăeş (University of Bucharest, Romania) and Manuela Epure (Spiru Haret University, Romania)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6292-4.ch009

Abstract

This chapter dwells on the state of university-business cooperation within the European Union, with special attention to the situation in Romania. The discussion is contextualized by referring to Adapt2jobs, a higher education project, developed with a view to adapting seven courses from three different domains to the demands of today's ever-changing labour market. All courses aim at developing transversal, multidisciplinary, and innovation skills and competences, and offers students up-to-date subject-specific knowledge. Moreover, the choice of blended learning for their delivery is meant to bring the new technologies inside the university for the benefit of students who are encouraged to become active and reflective learners, able to continue learning long after leaving school.
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Introduction

The empires of the future will be empires of the mind. -Churchill, 1943, speech delivered at Harvard University

The man of the 21st century leads a much better life than in the previous decades. Humanity seems to have reached a point where the impossible has become possible in many domains. The main force behind these amazing advances is, undoubtedly, technology. Yet, the technology-driven world we now inhabit comes with its own challenges. One of them, probably the most important of them, is how the man of the future will make a living. What skills should we teach our children to make sure they could find a job ten years from now? According to a report released by McKinsey Global Institute (2017), robots will cause the work displacement of 400 million to 800 million individuals by 2030. At the World Economic Forum held on 24 January 2018, Jack Ma, the founder and Executive Chairman of Alibaba, urged educators to change the way they teach, otherwise, in thirty years’ time, we will be in trouble: “We cannot teach our kids to compete with the machines who are smarter - we have to teach our kids something unique.” (Flashman, 2018). As mere knowledge-teaching is obsolete and not of much use in the competition with the almighty computer, which can outsmart even the brightest, Jack Ma pleads for the teaching of soft skills, such as independent thinking, teamwork, values or believing. Besides what Ma upholds, stronger links should be forged between education and the labour market in order to meet the new realities. We witness a shift in the configuration of occupational categories of a magnitude only comparable with the 1900’s workforce transition from agriculture to industry (McKinsey Global Institute, 2017).

In this context, the connected university is more than what Kitson, Howells, Braham and Westlake (2009) understand the modern university to be: a driver of growth through local, national and international connections with industry. The connected university also encompasses policy-makers, the government and the community at large, for the benefit of all stakeholders.

This chapter looks at the skills reconfiguration on today’s labour market, its connection to the novel purposes of tertiary education, as well as at the larger-scale initiatives regarding University-Business Cooperation (UBC) within the European Union (EU). The discussion is contextualised with reference to Romania and, more specifically, to a small-scale initiative undertaken by the authors of this endeavour under the form of an eighteen-month project meant to redesign seven academic courses in order to match labour market requirements with the educational offer. The chapter equally aims to use this good practice case study to show how the new technologies can break down the constraints of the old formal teaching style, and create a new educational paradigm, where teaching and learning is inclusive, ubiquitous, and student-centred.

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Background

Almost one millennium since their foundation, the modern universities find themselves torn between traditionalism and modernity, between knowledge-orientation and the more pragmatic status as a globalised commodity. Today’s universities are also concerned with the extension of knowledge through research, and capitalization of knowledge by generating social, intellectual, as well as human capital (Etzkowitz, 2002). Thus, apart from teaching and research, the universities of our times are said to be entrusted with a “third mission” – that of societal engagement seen by Etzkowitz as a triple helix technopolis – “research centers, technology transfer offices, and science parks, and the interaction among them” (p. 90), or by Goddard (2009), as the reinvention of the civic university.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Skills Disruption: Changes in the configuration of skills structure which lead to less demand for certain skills and increased demand for others.

University-Business Cooperation: Cooperation links between universities and companies with a view to better preparing the human capital for the labour market.

Blended Learning: A method of instruction that combines traditional learning with computer-mediated activities.

Student-Centred Learning: Methods of instruction which place the students at the centre, aiming at developing their autonomy as learners, so that they may continue to learn on their own even after leaving school.

Information Society: The post-industrial society whose main drivers are digital information and communication technologies.

Adapt2jobs: A Romanian project run with European funds, between May 2014 and November 2015, with the view to adapting seven academic courses to the demands of the labour market.

European Union: A political and economic union of 28 European states, with a single market and a single currency (the euro) for many of the member states, and free movement of citizens.

Gamification: The use of game elements and principles for educational purposes.

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