PROWIBO Examines the Role of Higher Education in a Transforming World

This past weekend, Professors Without Borders in partnership with the Gulf Futures Center and Bridge the Gulf, hosted a two day conference at the London School of Economics. The conference featured 28 speakers representing institutions from across the globe. The conference included five panel discussions, which covered a range of subjects. Each panel concluded with a brief Q&A. The conference began on Saturday morning with a captivating keynote address from Dr. Michèle Aerden, who stressed that schools must foster student leadership and responsibility, so students can take charge of their lives and health and create sustainable change in the world.

Dr. Michèle Aerden gives the keynote address for Day 1.

In the first panel of the day, moderator Dr. Caroline Varin of Professors Without Borders, challenged the panelists, Manish Singh, Sallyann Della Casa, Einthe Treanor, and Bernhard Dedenbach, to consider how higher education can foster skills for the 21st century job market. Manish Singh emphasized that businesses and universities should provide students with opportunities for job experience and skills development. Sallyann Della Casa challenged universities and employers to stop measuring candidates based on “archaic indicators”, such as high school transcripts, and focus on individuals’ attitudes and skill strengths. Einthe Treanor emphasized that students need to develop strong communication skills to succeed in the 21st century job market and universities should accommodate this. Finally, Bernhard Dedenbach argued that students should pursue opportunities in higher education in order to development social and emotional competencies and transferable skills.

Panel 1 from left to right: Bernhard Dedenbach, Einthe Treanor,  Sallyann Della Casa, & Manish Singh.

In the second panel, moderator Paola Diana asked panelists Dr. Carola Hieker, Sipim Sornbanlang, Anita Kouassigan and Chandni Hirani to analyze how higher education is preparing the students of Generation Z for the future job market. Dr. Hieker criticised  contemporary approaches that involve one generation making assumptions about Generation Z without talking to members of Generation Z and stressed the need for a dialogue between Generation Z and other generations. Sipim Sornbanlang argued that  professors should utilize available technology to engage with students and make a more concerted effort to “speak their language.”  Moreover, Anita Kouassigan  challenged the panelists and academics alike to consider the gap between Generation Z’s of the Global North and the Global South and to incorporate this gap into future analysis. Furthermore, Chandni Hirani explained how students of Generation Z are very passionate about social causes and issues and discussed how this energy can be channeled into social entrepreneurship opportunities.

Watch the Panel 2 Q&A here.

Panel 2 from left to right: Chandni Hirani, Anita Kouassigan, Sipim Sornbanlang,  & Professor Carola Hieker.

In third panel, moderated by Anjum Malik, panelists, H.E. Professor Hassan Diab, Richard Adams, and Dr. Claire Gordon, discussed how academic innovation fits into the contemporary system of higher education. Dr. Diab emphasized the need for increases in funding for research in universities in the MENA region in order to utilize academic innovation to promote soft skill development. Richard Adams approached the topic from a different angle and stated that in order for higher education to promote innovation, more individuals have to break the rules and dismantle the generic processes within higher education. Moreover, Dr. Gordon suggested that institutions should not only redesign their curricular but also re-frame engagement with students in order to provide an inclusive education can benefit everyone.

Panel 3 from left to right: Anjum Malik (moderator), H.E. Professor Hassan Diab, Richard Adams, & Dr. Claire Gordon. 

On Sunday, Scott Smith began the second and final day of the conference with a compelling keynote speech. Mr. Smith discussed how higher education can work to give students a better context and purpose.

Scott Smith (standing) delivers the keynote address for Day 2.

During the fourth panel, moderator Dr. James Strong invited panelists Frank Floessel, Geeta Sidhu, Dan Choon, Vincent Dassault, and Guilherme Lichand to consider the relationship between entrepreneurship and higher education. Frank Floessel argued that universities should first provide students with the skill set that they need and then students must practice these skills through job experience or entrepreneurial ventures. Geeta Sidhu stressed the importance of resilience, decision-making, and hardwork for women to succeed in higher education and as entrepreneurs. Dan Choon highlighted the need for universities to look at the bigger picture and provide students with a safe place to study and interact within one another. Vincent Dassult stressed that higher education should learn from entrepreneurs in evolving industries, such as AI, to improve feedback mechanisms  and engagement strategies of professors.  Finally, Guilherme Lichand expressed that universities must help to frame problems in the world and allow students to utilize their skill sets to solve them.

Watch the Q&A from Panel 4 here.

Panel 4 from left to right: Frank Floessel, Geeta Sidhu, Dan Choon, Vincent Dassault, Guilherme Lichand, and Dr. James Strong (moderator).

 Tessy Antony of Professors Without Borders led the fifth and final panel, Building Bridges. Panelists James Monckton, Mohammed Abdel Khaliq, Pansiri Phanuswan, Patrick Wheeler, and Wael Aburida discussed how it is possible to build bridges across many sectors in order to enhance the quality of higher education. James Monckton stated that the private sector should take initiative and assist governments in a top-down level reform approach. Mohammed Abdel Khaliq stressed that policy makers, educators, and think tanks must be more in touch with the wants and needs of students in order to design effective policy. Patrick Wheeler argued that there needs to be a greater level of professional mobility between higher education and the private sector, so they can learn from one another. Finally, Wael Aburida stated that government, universities, schools, and the private sector need to collaborate to combat issues of public education, such as overcrowding and under funding, in order to make education more effective and equitable.

Panel 5 from left to right: James Monckton, Mohammed Abdel Khaliq, Pansiri Phansuwan, Patrick Wheeler, Wael Aburida, & Tessy Antony (moderator).

The event concluded with closing remarks from co-founders Tessy Antony and Dr. Caroline Varin.

Watch the closing remarks here.

Many thanks to our panelists, moderators, guests, Gulf Futures Center, and Bridge the Gulf for joining us in our mission to improve the quality of higher education around the globe.

To learn more about Professors Without Borders, visit our website. Visit ThinkTank Without Borders to read our publications and to learn more about our future academic endeavors.

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