How is Higher Education Preparing Students for the 'Real World?'

This is the fifth post in a series where we share the conversations between higher education leaders that came together during Everyone a Changemaker Week. They discussed the role of social innovation as a significant lever for the relevancy of higher education in a time when many claim that colleges and universities are becoming obsolete. This series delves into how higher education may be our best bet for empowering society to innovate at the rate the world is changing.

Innovation is a popular trend within higher education. And with good reason. Students and faculty today more than ever are exploring opportunities to innovate while making a difference in the world. And as the pursuit for this type of learning model continues, the education community is searching for ways to develop more meaningful intersections between student pedagogy and social value.  

At the recent AshokaU Influencer event, education leaders discussed how universities can fuse together learning and real-world issues so students are working on more than just say, abstract problem sets—they're understanding both content and context, which often reinvigorates a hunger for learning

During the workshop, Noam Unger, a policy director of the Foreign Assistance Reform project, identified three trends in higher education relevant to this important question:

  • There has been a shift in how students and faculty define their community. There is a trend to associate what current global events with what's happening on campus. This can help students feel part of the larger global community. 
  • Another trend is the increasing pressure on universities to improve their four-year graduation experience. The “typical” college experience, the classic academic track, becomes more and more structured each year. However, this can be counter-productive. Students must be exposed to the challenges of the global marketplace,  which may mean deviating from traditional learning models in favor of a renewed focus on  learning outside the classroom. 
  • The gap between high school and college is often overlooked as an opportunity for student growth. Maybe educators should provide opportunities for students to gain  real-world experience through internships, apprenticeships and gap years before entering their formal college educations. 

As this conversation continues, it’s important to continue investing in a more innovative system of education. How we can continue to grow the university into a real-world setting for students?