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Transforming Higher Education Conference Explores Move Towards Workplace-Based Education



Transforming Higher Education – Prof Ann Ledwith, University of Limerick; Dr Vivienne Patterson, Higher Education Authority; Associate Professor Josephine Lang, University of Melbourne and Prof Ian Solomonides, Victoria University Melbourne pictured at The [email protected] Human Capital Initiative conference. Picture: Brian Arthur

Traditional University Degrees a Thing of the Past & Irish Universities need to Adapt – According to Industry Experts at University of Limerick Conference

Prof Ian Solomonides, Victoria University Melbourne; Dr Vivienne Patterson, Higher Education Authority, Associate Professor Josephine Lang, University of Melbourne and Prof Ann Ledwith. Picture: Brian Arthur

The University of Limerick’s [email protected] is holding a two-day conference that challenges the accepted norms of higher education in Ireland, how workplace-based education can benefit both the employer and the employee and how the traditional university degree is a relic of a bygone era.

With a growing momentum towards dual-track education in Germany, the [email protected] Human Capital Initiative conference titled ‘Transforming Higher Education’ explores why a dual-track approach to education should be more prevalent in Ireland. Irish students can become employees of companies already eager for new talent with Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) skills. They can manage the spiralling cost of living while at the same time attaining the bachelor, master’s and professional doctorate level skills that are a feature of the new executive apprenticeships on offer at University of Limerick.

The discussion will be formed around how working professionals want to up-skill particularly in areas such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) as well as how universities need to provide high-quality advanced programmes that allow people to develop. 

Professor Ann Ledwith, Executive Dean of Graduate & Professional Studies, University of Limerick, said: “The majority of Irish school leavers now enter third-level education as a route into employment. But is the university degree the best way to prepare our young adults for life? The answer is that one size does not fit all. Our current approach to third-level education does not support all students in reaching their maximum personal and professional potential. 

Internationally, we’re seeing a move away from the three or four-year degree. The traditional university degree is a thing of the past and at UL, we are innovating and exploring different models of education in partnership with large and small employers and our community. We are creating some programmes that have extended work placements and others with on-the-job learning in our immersive engineering and apprenticeship degrees. These new degree programmes enable students to develop professional and life skills while earning a salary. The onus is on universities to provide programmes that are flexible to meet the demands of busy working professionals and are responsive to the changing world of work.” 

The [email protected] Human Capital Initiative conference features speakers such as Professor Ian Solomonides, former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Victoria University, Professor Jeff Dusek, Baldwin Wallace University USA, Professor Minna Isomursu, University of Oulu, Finland and Professor Martin Margala, University of Louisiana of Lafayette.

Professor Martin Margala, Director of the School of Computing, Information and Communications University of Louisiana at Lafayette predicted that many Irish Universities will have to “adapt or move aside” if they wish to prosper in a post-covid world. 

He said, “Higher Education Institutions across the world will have to develop strategic partnerships so that they can hope to offer sustainable, industry-relevant education, that is tailored to the needs of every generation. Unfortunately, some Universities are content to offer the same stale product to their students that they did five years ago. These institutions are unlikely to survive let alone prosper.”  

The conference agenda is available HERE

To attend day two of the Transforming Higher Education Conference, register HERE

Read more stories about Education

Richard is a presenter, producer, songwriter and actor. He was named the Limerick Person of the Year (2011) and won an online award at the Metro Éireann Media and Multicultural Awards (2011) for promoting multi-culturalism online. Richard says that the concept is very much a community driven project that aims to document life in Limerick. So, that in 20 years time people can look back and remember the events that were making the headlines.