Future Skills and Higher Education “Future Skill Readiness”

Ulf-Daniel Ehlers
Baden-Wurttemberg Cooperative State University


The discourse on the future of higher education is already an old one. Higher education Institutions are used to it and are slow in turning around which makes them stable and enduring organisations. In a way institutions and society are benefitting from their internal protection mechanisms which goes along with the status of autonomy and independence they are granted in democratic societies. However, in recent times it becomes clear that we are approaching a peak point in the “race between technology and education” as the Dutch Nobel Prize winner Jan Tinbergen called it about four decades ago (Tinbergen, 1975). One popular theory to explain the rising trend in inequality was first put forward by the Dutch Nobel Prize winner in Economics Jan Tinbergen over four decades ago. He characterised wage inequality as being the outcome of a “race between education and technology”. In this theory, technology increases the relative demands for more skilled labour while education increases the relative supplies of such labour. Thus, rising inequality implies that technology is winning this race. It is characterized by technology, global and globally networked societies, institutions and individuals and education systems as a whole will have to make the next move in this race – and evolve in the light of to these developments, change their mode of working and evaluate their objectives. This is especially true for higher education amongst educational institutions, as the last autonomous and self-governed institutions in the education sphere. One important piece in this puzzle is the question of direction – change in which direction? What are the new skills which are needed for our societies to be sustainable and our organisations to be fit for the changed environments?

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