IMAGINE a university that adapts to the learning ability and style of the student, capitalizing on their individual strengths. Imagine an education system that is not segregated based on the student’s location, income level or social status. Today, education is based on a young person’s own comprehension of their potential plus the influence of parents and friends. But in this imagined world, it is not the student who chooses which subjects to study, instead it now is the role of the university to identify and cultivate student abilities, which start to be defined in the K-12 system. The students’ strengths – academic, social and psychological – and educational direction would be identified during their first year at university with the help of experienced tutors.
In this imagined world, there is a global demand for specialists with certain skills. Universities are becoming a “skills farm” by providing missing workforce. At the same time, the boundaries between high school, university and industry are fading. Talented youth is given an opportunity to tap into university-level education earlier than some of their peers. The system now adapts to the abilities of the student, making the traditional K-12 system more flexible. University-industry collaboration is becoming an indispensable part of the educational process, allowing students to test acquired skills on real problems.
Education is provided based on the student’s natural preference for information consumption, whether in person or remotely; through video or audio; with limited human interaction or full immersion to the social ecosystem. Online education is more affordable, or even free, and accessible to all – regardless of their location, income level or social status. Physical presence on a campus fetches additional expenses related to travel, accommodation, and personal health and security measures. Onsite education is provided based on the student’s achievements, not on their family’s income.
Digitalization and global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic will create a more rigid world, one led with procedures, protocols and AI processes. This fully predictable, calculated world offers fewer chances to observe natural fluctuations and statistical anomalies and poses great risk as any unpredicted event could break down this established system, much like a single thread can unravel a cloth. People with the skill set to think “outside the box” will be necessary to rebalance the system. Therein lies the role of the universities, to identify those with non-standard thinking, nurture this skill set, and lead fundamental research that does not necessarily follow predefined schemes. Education and innovation will drive the purpose of the universities, not business aspects. Together with education becoming accessible for everyone, open collaborative platforms shared between multiple worldwide scientific organizations and start-ups will drive innovation and remove boundaries. Research results will be shared globally. Intellectual property rights will fade. Universities will shape multi-country collaboration projects, aiming to improve fundamental challenges, for example space exploration, global food chain, health protection, computation power.
The picture described above is an ideal situation. However, it requires that humanity agrees on common goals and shares resources and innovations without boundaries. Without undivided agreement on these principles, the segregation between educated and non-educated people will grow due to social and economic barriers driven by the cost of education. And, without such agreement, the focus of universities will be on applied scientific research activities, neglecting fundamental investigations, deeming them “non-profitable”.
“It is up to us, the current generation, to decide our path and what education opportunities we want for our children and grandchildren. Imagine limitless education for the benefit of all.”
Dr. Marina Bulova, Director University Collaborations, leads cooperation activities between Schlumberger Corporation and Universities worldwide. That includes R&D collaborations, Education programs, Technology Transfer and Community Outreach initiatives. During her 17 years career at Schlumberger Marina served in various roles in Technology management in Russia, Canada and US. She acquired practical experience in all steps of the innovation cycle of the company. Dr. Bulova has two PhD degrees and holds a M.S. degree in chemistry from Moscow State University.