This article was first published by the French Chamber of Great Britain (link)
That was the question posed by Philippe Chalon, Chair of the Chamber’s Economic Updates, to Peter Todd, Dean of HEC Paris and Susan Liautaud, Vice Chair of Council and Court of Governors of the London School of Economics & Political Science on the premise that education is key for the competitiveness of nations
Understanding the reality of the world
There is a big gap between the actual, real world and our understanding of it, accelerated by the forces of technology,global risks and societal development, Susan Liautaud posited.Educational institutions need to venture into that space. To do this, they need a particular mindset of interaction with the real world and avoid being ivory towers. LSE does this through partnerships with institutions from Singapore to South Africa and, of course, France, as well as corporates. ‘That is a critical part of staying mired in the real world,’ she said.Peter Todd picked up on the fact that the marketplace for and the business of higher education are now global, a reality reflected by the fact that HEC had hired him as its first non-French Dean.But with this, comes the same disruption that business faces today in terms of technological change, societal demands and the mobility of young people who can make choices about where they want to be educated. While it is fundamental that schools shape the understanding that leads to practical application, at the same time, he cautioned, they still have to preserve enough space not just to dream but also to invent a future.
Challenges of financing and cost
Susan identified financing as a major challenge, with government funding dwindling. Rising student fees also make students question the future value of what they are studying, affecting their subject choices and influencing research. Peter acknowledged that as the price of higher education goes up, students are increasingly seen as clients, and the service around education is becoming more important. He asserted that higher education in the Western world is a broken economic model because government as the key financial stakeholder is backing away as it refocuses on healthcare and economic development, not making the connections between those things and better educated people. Moreover, society is also questioning the cost and the value of higher education.
How does higher education help the market?
Academic freedom and excellence still have to be at the core of what institutions do, but they have to be ‘resolutely global’ in order to provide the pools of talent that companies will draw from, Peter stressed. The crucial components for shaping the right kind of leadership for the future he identified as entrepreneurship, digital transformation and developing students who are able to think beyond the bottom line by contributing to the health of society.
How do we train leaders to make decisions?
‘Not only do we not fully understand today, but we also don’t have any visibility on tomorrow, never mind 50 years from now,’ Susan said. Students need to be trained to think in multiple time frames, and institutions have to deliver an educational product that will be worth something in future years. Account has to be taken of collapsing boundaries, not only between institutions, between academia and the real world, but also between man and machine. In a world of scattered power, where a tweet can send a share price tumbling and a mobile phone can be used to
‘Ethical decision- making has to be part of the training as it is no longer enough to just comply with the law’
recruit a terrorist, there must be shared responsibility, and this is an important lesson to drive home. Ethical decision-making has to be part of the training, as it is no longer enough to just comply with the law. As the world becomes technology-driven with a quest for practicality and value proposition, there is a marked decrease in emphasis on the humanities, but people have to be educated to function in this world of unknowns who are able to link technology and solutions to humanity. The university of today cannot isolate itself in this world of melting boundaries, but conversely it cannot allow the real world to trample on the one thing that does allow universities to do outstanding work in the gulf of understanding, which is academic freedom.