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Research - 05.09.2022 - 00:00

New White Paper: Rethinking the Role of Universities

How prepared are universities for a collaborative future? Do they teach the right skills? A new white paper, jointly published by the University of St.Gallen and the St. Gallen Symposium explores the shifting role of universities in the future of work and learning.

5 September 2022. On 6 May 2022, at the 51st St. Gallen Symposium, professionals from Switzerland and abroad participated in the roundtable discussion “Collaborative Advantage: Rethinking the Role of Universities in the Future of Work and Learning”. The results of these discussions have now been published in form of a White Paper

It is certain, that higher education will undergo a massive transformation in the coming decade. The rapid growth of knowledge, changing work practices in a global economy, new digital technologies, and altered expectations of both employers and employees demonstrate that the way we learn and teach will be largely different from today. The role of the university as an independent “Denkplatz” will have to be adjusted accordingly. Within a fast-changing and interconnected world, universities will need to adopt a mindset of collaborative problem-solving to actively shape – and not merely react – to upcoming developments. “Think big, start small and learn faster” is the general advice that the authors of the white paper give to institutions of higher education. 

Fruitful discussions at the St.Gallen Symposium

How can universities remain at the forefront of higher education in a fast-changing and interconnected world? The now published white paper draws on expert recommendations and insights collected during an international and cross-generational roundtable at the 51st St. Gallen Symposium on 6 May 2022 that was co-hosted by the University of St. Gallen’s Institute of Technology Management (ITEM-HSG). Two questions were at the center of the discussion:

  • Through which innovative models of collaboration within the ecosystem of research and education can universities co-create value with students, businesses, and society?
  • In which key areas will a collaborative approach allow universities to prepare students and employees for the future of work?

Open individuals, organizations, and societies

Experts from the private sector, academia, the public sector as well as next-generation leaders ensured a multi-faceted discussion. The participants offered their diverse perspective on the future role of universities across three main building blocks. While most universities keep focusing largely on teaching domain-specific knowledge and facts, they will provide students with more phenomenon-based problem-solving and collaboration competencies to prepare them for a complex and agile future of work (open individuals). Additionally, they must collaborate with partners to share complementary assets. Like other sectors, universities will flourish most if they leverage their existing partnerships and craft new ones across the public, private, and non-profit sectors to co-create value (open organizations). Finally, universities’ expertise and knowledge arbitration are in high demand. For universities to assume their role and contribute actively to open societies, independence, professional communication, and inclusivity will be key (open societies). 

The roundtable at the 51st St.Gallen Symposium was part of a larger research project on the future of universities conducted by Professor Oliver Gassmann and his team. The results are expected to be presented in 2023.

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