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

University 2019

(Cole Keister, 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

Primary Health Care: in a world of specializations

Novartis and Johnson & Johnson to deprive Europeans of their right to Health

Celebrities are helping the UK’s schoolchildren learn during lockdown

Ecuador: UN ‘stands ready’ to support talks, in bid to end political turmoil

Humanitarian aid: €7 million for disaster preparedness in Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region

Tragedy of Mediterranean deaths continues, as seven drown, 57 rescued: UN migration agency

Whale populations are slowly recovering – this is why

Rising landmine blast toll in Afghanistan highlights long-term care needs of survivors

Sweden’s forests have doubled in size over the last 100 years

Everyone’s ‘buy-in’ needed to restore peace in Kosovo, UN envoy tells Security Council

US pardons for accused war criminals, contrary to international law: UN rights office

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on mental health

Infringements: Commission adapts its calculation methodology for financial sanctions

Medicines from the sky: how drones can save lives

Eurozone’s central bank leadership prepares for shoddier prospects

Escalation in Syria fighting cause for ‘great concern’ says UN chief, dozens more civilians dead or injured

Why ‘video call fatigue’ might be making you tired during lockdown – and how to beat it

If innovators can solve India’s problems, they can save the world. Here’s why

Fighting Terrorism Online: EU Internet Forum committed to an EU-wide Crisis Protocol

The world’s economy is only 9% circular. We must be bolder about saving resources

The sad plight of fledging doctors

G20 LIVE: “This was not an attack against France, this was an attack against the universal human values!”, EU President Juncker cries out from G20 in Antalya Turkey

Terrorism ‘spreading and destabilizing’ entire regions, Guterres warns States, at key Kenya conference

Hungary: Commission takes next step in the infringement procedure for non-provision of food in transit zones

UN sounds alarm as Venezuelan refugees and migrants passes three million mark

This wall of shoes is for the women killed by domestic violence

China is sending science students to live with rural farmers – and crop yields are skyrocketing

Corruption thwarts attempts to build a better world and ‘must be fought by all, for all’

Unemployment and exclusion brings EU cities to boiling point

Now doctors can manipulate genetics to modify babies, is it ethical?

To realise the full potential of AI, we must regulate it differently

Good Governance in developing modern quality infrastructure systems

Much more than a ‘lifeline’ for millions of households, remittances can spur global growth, says UN agency

COVID-19 has laid bare the cracks in long-term care. Here’s how to fix them

5 ways the digitisation of the global logistics industry can increase trade – and reduce poverty

Can cybersecurity offer value for money?

Junker for Commission President: What were the stakes in this affair

We know ethics should inform AI. But which ethics?

Mexico: Helping refugees go into business, a ‘win-win situation’, says UNHCR’s Grandi

Privatisation and public health: a question of Human Rights

Colombia’s former president says COVID-19 shows the importance of listening to indigenous peoples on how we treat the planet

How COVID-19 has changed what we search for online

End of plastic water bottles at European Parliament

Young activists share four ways to create a more inclusive world

How India’s globalized cities will change its future

‘Continuing absence’ of political solution to Israel-Palestine conflict ‘undermines and compounds’ UN efforts to end wholesale crisis

Protecting whistle-blowers: new EU-wide rules approved

EU and World Health Organisation team up to boost access to health services in developing countries

New legislation on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment model in the food chain

Brexit update: Leave campaign leads race but undecided voters will determine the outcome of the EU referendum

These countries have the highest minimum wages

Main results of EU-Japan summit which took place on 25/04/2019 in Brussels

Nowhere is safe to hide in war-torn Yemen, say UN-appointed rights experts

Countries must make teaching profession more financially and intellectually attractive

How India is harnessing technology to lead the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Changing the EU copyright law won’t bring us much closer to Digital Single Market

This city is planting a tree for every man, woman and child

Conflict and climate change challenge sustainable development effort: UN report

EU Leaders’ meeting in Sofia: Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for the benefit of all

WHO working to save lives following powerful earthquake in Albania

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