This year’s NMC Horizon Report on shifts and currents in higher education spotlights a “long term impact trend” which it says will need governments to prioritize major education reforms to help universities “restructure themselves around increasing the employability of their students”.

The report, now in its 13th edition, is a continuing research project designed to identify and describe emerging technologies which it says are likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in education.

This year sees changes that are “upending the traditional notion of the university and transforming the paradigm for how postsecondary learning works”.

It notes that today’s workforce calls for employees who are agile, adaptable, and inventive and consequently higher education is “increasingly revamping existing programs and creating new ones to nurture these 
key skills”.

It cites a study that revealed university graduates who had engaged in entrepreneurial programs were able to secure jobs more quickly and were more confident in their abilities to innovate in the workplace and start new businesses.

Part of the effort to make students more work-savvy is taking place through new policy initiatives, programs, and curriculum that encourage students to work with peers from different disciplinary backgrounds on innovative solutions to complex problems.

Another feature of this trend is the “emphasis on exploring alternate methods of delivery and credentialing in order to accommodate a rapidly increasing student population and the diversity of their needs”.

One such development that gripped my attention this week is a remarkable initiative by the UK’s University of Sheffield.

In the THE this week vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett detailed the activities of university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research District – a high-tech collaboration between research and industry, focused on aerospace, automotive, medical tech and nuclear energy.

Here university scientists, engineers and students work side-by-side with industry in a high-tech skunkworks designed “to solve live problems and create value”.

But working alongside all this is a brilliantly innovative venture called the University Apprentice Training Centre established and run by the university.

As Sir Keith explained, 600 bright young people from poor working-class backgrounds  – “most of whom would never consider university any other way” – are employed by companies and are “gaining an education in one of the best industrial research contexts in the world”.

Sir Keith asks: “Why would a university do this?

His answer?

Because we can … We can link the future careers of young people with the real demands of present day companies to be part of the future of industry.”

The Horizon report details many innovative schemes by universities around the world to help students gain real-world work experience and entrepreneurial skills. It shows that among the many challenges ahead there are great opportunities for student-centric education if institutions are prepared to be flexible and adaptable.

You can access the NMC Horizon Report 2016 Higher Education Edition here and read the THE story in full here.