To be fair, the gap between a university education and the major modern challenges is a global problem. Education has always been one of the most conservative spheres of social life. It never can keep up with the economy. In order to realize that one might need to read the book An Avalanche is Coming: Higher Education and the Revolution Ahead by Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly, and Saad Rizvi.
The authors claim that over the next 20 years new technologies and globalization will change universities just like over the last 20 years they have changed the leading sectors of the economy. University system of education must create new means of effective updating, using all the achievements of the new technological revolution. The faster a university goes through changes, the higher positions it occupies in rankings.
Applying this idea to the issue of employment, we may see that universities need to learn how to change programmes in accordance with new demands of the market. This is a very complicated problem for all universities because business, being the main employer for the graduates, plans its activity only two years head, because of the technological innovations and the global economic crises that go one after another. Universities offer four or six year programmes, not including the time for developing. It is also a problem to determine the most promising, from the point of future employment, majors.
Every year different Russian and international consulting agencies and leading journals on management, business, and education offer their own rankings of professions.
For example, Russian news agency RIA published opinions of several experts in 2008. Those experts predicted that in 2018 the most demanded occupations would be an engineer, an IT-specialist, a software developer, a nano-technologist, a biotechnologist, a marketing consultant, a logistic expert, a doctor, a chemist, and a service industry specialist. The experts claimed that for social workers, researchers, web-designers, brokers, and plastic surgeons it would be extremely difficult to find a well-paid job. In 2009, Forbes published its own list of the most popular professions. The top ten looked the following way: a universal soldier, a GR-manager, a gerontologist, a clean-tech expert, a business developer for African countries, a news aggregating journalist, a specialist in tight oil reserves, a gene engineering specialist, an urban architect, and an international and interconfessional conflict manager. Today we can see whether those predictions have born fruits or not.
Here is the most recent information: in 2014-2015, the best experts who worked for the largest Russian companies Agency of Strategic Initiatives and Skolkovo Moscow School of Management developed two versions of so called Atlas of New Professions.
The Atlas became a product of a very serious interdisciplinary research and certain foresight technologies. The Atlas contained not only 186 new professions that would appear by the year of 2018, but also 57 professions that would probably die by that time. The first list contained such professions as an IT-doctor, a medical robot operator, a molecular dietitian, a green building architect, a personal safety constructor, a science-artist, an education platform coordinator, a startup mentor, and a content-aggregator editor. The second list contained an accountant, a stenographer, a bookkeeper, a legal advisor, a notary public, a journalist, an interpreter, a touristic manager, a guide, a logistics manager, and a system administrator.
Such lists of advanced and dying professions may be generated in the future. In general, we can see that choosing the right education path for a university is as important as choosing a future profession for school graduates and is related to making major management decisions under the conditions of uncertainty and risk.
What should such decisions be based on? For universities it is important to evaluate the innovation eco-system as a complex of interdependent conditions that help to create and develop new production and entrepreneurial structures. They must evaluate these conditions on various levels – global, national, and local. Special attention should be paid to technological innovations and to what potential employers think. The result of such an audit will be up to date changes in education programmes.
It is clear that decisions and changes aimed at achieving certain goals in certain spheres of economy and social life can be promptly made only in Master’s degree programmes.
Though in reality the opportunities Master’s degree programmes are provided with are rarely used. Bachelor’s programmes are mainly aimed at giving students some basic competencies and skills, such as creativity, ability to work in multicultural environment, ability to work in a team, self-organization and self-education. These particular competencies are highly demanded today and will remain as such in the near future.
Now let us talk about what future students should be oriented to and ready for when they choose an education direction. First of all, they should realize that they will switch occupations many times during their lifetime. Such a switch will be more or less significant but it is unlikely that they will be able to avoid it. Second, they must understand that university is just the first stage of their education and professional training. They will have to learn all their lives. Therefore, Bachelor’s degree programmes are just a foundation for the future career. Master’s degree programmes provide with an opportunity to obtain one of the most current professions. It is smart to see both programmes as nutritious environment to enhance one’s talents and skills.
It is important to know that having certain IT-competencies and mastering at least one foreign language are required conditions for the future successful employment regardless the area of occupation.
One of the advantages a classical university has if we compare it to a general university is its focus on training future bachelors and masters not as field-specific professionals but as transfessionals. By transfessionals we mean people capable of adapting to any changes in the environment, mastering certain skills by themselves, and changing a profession in accordance with personal needs and expectations. Tomsk State University is a classical university with strong traditions and new achievements. It develops students’ personality, their thinking, and culture. It is important to talk to our enrollers and their parents about all that.