The first new university in the UK for 40 years is taking a very different approach to education

University student.jpg

(Vasily Koloda, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


What role should universities play in equipping the workers of the future to solve the world’s most pressing problems? And, as we approach the 2020s, should we rethink the way education puts subjects into silos?

The answers to these questions are being explored by an innovative new concept in higher education coming to the UK in 2020.

The London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) – the first new university in the UK for 40 years – is taking a new approach to teaching and learning, with a cross-curricular focus on tackling the most complex problems facing the world.

Co-founded by Ed Fidoe, co-founder of School 21 and former McKinsey manager, LIS will award a Bachelor of Arts & Sciences (BASc) degree (pending approval this year), which involves 10-week paid work placements each year to ensure students are workplace ready.

  LIS co-founders Chris Persson and Ed Fidoe, with Lead Academic Prof Carl Gombrich (left)

LIS co-founders Chris Persson and Ed Fidoe, with Lead Academic Prof Carl Gombrich (left)
Image: LIS

In an interview, Fidoe told the World Economic Forum that LIS is flipping academic learning on its head: “The big shift we’re making is to combine knowledge through disciplines to tackle problems.

“If you start with disciplines, you immediately have walls you have to break through, so we’re starting with the problems and then backfilling the academic learning. We’re trying to turn theory into action.”

Tackling problems

LIS says it will promote learning through “real-world challenges” and includes knife crime – something that’s risen sharply in the UK since 2014 – in it’s list of potential topics.

Rob Jones, Chief Superintendent of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, is part of the university’s advisory group, along with leaders from companies including McKinsey, Virgin and Innocent Drinks.

Other issues the institution will look at range from designing a tool for companies to track palm oil supply to the ethics of editing mosquito genes using CRISPR technology to eradicate malaria – combining probabilistic thinking with international relations, ecosystems and genome editing.

 Joining up the dots

Joining up the dots
Image: LIS

The idea for LIS came about in response to what Fidoe saw as a restrictive ‘single-subject culture’ that dominates at universities in the UK and elsewhere because they’re structured around research, which is organized in single disciplines.

“The world is more connected and complex than it’s ever been and it requires people to think in systems rather than narrow silos,” says Fidoe.

“We do need some people to go into very narrow fields and become experts, so we shouldn’t do away with subjects.

“But students have to understand how this stuff fits together in a system, because it’s increasingly how the world is working, how supply chains are set up and communications systems work. If something happens over here, there are all these consequences somewhere else.”

 

Shifting sands 

While the opportunity to combine big-name work placements with study may appeal to some students, the new institution will be competing for students and fees with some of the world’s top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and London’s Imperial. With tuition fees of around $12,000 a year, LIS will need to convince potential students that it can deliver value for money.

One criticism published in the Guardian newspaper also questioned whether companies or organizations such as the police should be involved in curricula, arguing instead that students should learn to be clear-eyed and critical of the interests at stake.

Employers are also increasingly recruiting directly from school, recognising that academic skills don’t always match up with determination, flexibility and a strong work ethic. Job-search firm GlassDoor has recently compiled a list of companiesthat are no-longer demanding a degree, and these include Apple, Google, Hilton and EY.

And IBM’s CEO Ginni Rometty spoke at this year’s World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos about the need for companies to develop a different mindset when it comes to recruiting, looking to grow skills on the job rather than hiring people with degrees.

There has also been a significant fall in the number of university applicants in the UK over the last two years, as the chart below shows.

Image: Statista

Skills for tomorrow

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report projects that, by 2022, besides proficiency in new technologies, ‘human’ skills such as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will retain or increase their value in the face of increased automation. Attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving will also be key.

“Emotional intelligence, leadership and social influence as well as service orientation will also see an outsized increase in demand relative to their current prominence,” it says.

Besides its problem-based curriculum, LIS will also teach students the key skills they need to survive in the modern world: including research methods, tech skills like data analytics and coding, and ‘softer’ skills like interviewing, critical analysis, creativity and collaboration.

 What are the skills we’ll need for the future of work?

What are the skills we’ll need for the future of work?
Image: Future of Jobs 2018 report

“People understand the importance of STEM subjects, but now they’re increasingly saying we need to combine this with an understanding of psychology and humanity, art and design,” says Fidoe.

“Being able to combine those things is something that machines will find very hard to do but humans need to be able to.”

There is certainly a need for a broad range of skills to meet the needs of tomorrow’s workplace.

But is it not yet clear whether students will want to take a punt on a different style of education, or whether they will continue to favour more traditional institutions or even decide to skip a degree altogether.

And Fidoe admits that the first batch of 120 students will need to be bold and willing to go on an adventure: “It’s not for the faint-hearted – they’re going to be part of a big project that we’re building, this new university.”

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

New EU rules ensure better protection for 120 million holidaymakers this summer

European Border and Coast Guard: 10 000-strong standing corps by 2027

Google succumbs unconditionally to EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling

COVID-19 will hit the developing world’s cities hardest. Here’s why

Tributes for ‘role model’ former UN refugee agency chief, Sadako Ogata

The big five EU telecom operators in dire straights

AI can wreak havoc if left unchecked by humans

Clamp down on illegal trade in pets, urge Public Health Committee MEPs

As conflicts become more complex, ‘mediation is no longer an option; it is a necessity’, UN chief tells Security Council

We are ‘burning up our future’, UN’s Bachelet tells Human Rights Council

Hydrogen isn’t the fuel of the future. It’s already here

5 ways COVID-19 has changed workforce management

Terrorism and migrants: the two awful nightmares for Europe and Germany in 2016

EU job-search aid worth €2 million for 500 former shipbuilding workers in Spain

France pushes UK to stay and Germany to pay

Where EU air pollution is deadliest

China rare earth prices soar on their potential role in trade war

Harmonised Unemployment Rates (HURs), OECD – Updated: February 2020

UN spotlights wellbeing of seafarers on International Day

‘Much more’ can be done to raise awareness about the plight of persons with albinism: UN chief

UN-backed intercultural dialogue forum urged to keep working to ‘bridge gap between the like-minded’

EU joint response to disasters: deal reached with Council

Combatting terrorism: Parliament sets out proposals for a new EU strategy

This South Korean city once had the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside of China. Now it’s reported zero new cases

Commission moves to ensure supply of personal protective equipment in the European Union

5 crises that could worsen under COVID-19

Finland has just published everyone’s taxes on ‘National Jealousy Day’

ITU Telecom World 2017: exploring smart digital transformation

European Parliament calls on Russia to end occupation of Georgian territories

5 neuroscience hacks that will make you happier

RescEU: MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

All for equality – 2020 is a pivotal year for Gender Equality

Deeper reforms in Korea will ensure more inclusive and sustainable growth

UN Climate Action Summit concludes with insufficient EU and global pledges

Milk, fruits and vegetables distributed to schoolchildren thanks to EU programme

China’s cities are rapidly becoming more competitive. Here’s why

Security Council must ‘come together’ to address the plight of children trapped in armed conflict, says UN envoy

EU Migrant Crisis: Italian Coast Guard Headquarters and Italian Navy to give host national opening addresses at Border Security 2016 in Rome

New EU-UK agreement is welcome but thorough scrutiny remains, insist lead MEPs

Coal addiction ‘must be overcome’ to ease climate change, UN chief says in Bangkok

EU27 leaders unite on Brexit Guidelines ahead of “tough negotiations” with Theresa May

How to get young people in Europe to swipe right on voting

This is Amsterdam’s ambitious plan to turn its transport electric

Reforms in Latvia must result in stronger enforcement to tackle foreign bribery and subsequent money laundering risks

Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

What is systemic racism, and how can we combat it?

EU Council approves visa-free travel for Ukraine and cement ties with Kiev

Powering a climate-neutral economy: Commission sets out plans for the energy system of the future and clean hydrogen

Marginalized groups hit hardest by inequality and stigma in cities

OECD joins with Japan to fight financial crime by establishing new academy

The business case for diversity in the workplace is now overwhelming

EU Parliament and Council: Close to agreement on the bank resolution mechanism

Poor quality is healthcare’s silent killer. Here’s what we can do about it

ECB asks for more subsidies to banks

Global trade is broken. Here are five ways to rebuild it

Intervene, don’t overthink – the new mantra of systems design

We need natural solutions to fight ocean and climate risk

EU Parliament: No EU-US trade agreement without safe data

The MWC14 Sting Special Edition

Italy and Greece zeroed their fiscal deficits, expect Germany’s response

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s