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Towards a digital future

What is the role of universities in creating skills for the digital economy?

Towards a digital future

Birkbeck Enterprise Hub organised a panel event at the Clore Management Centre in June, asking: What is the role of universities in creating skills for the digital economy?

The roles that emerged fell into two categories: general and specific.

On a general level, universities were seen as nurturing promising ideas by providing environments where people could make their own connections between areas of study.

Indicative of such flexibility, panel member Dr Linda Hickman, Visiting Senior Fellow at the LSE’s Department of Management, contrasted rigid, old-style lecture theatres with learning spaces that users could configure. This free-roaming study environment could help the student ask: what problem do I want to solve, and how do I want to solve it?

Reflecting this, Mat Braddy, Brand Founder of Just Eat, said that universities could help nurture in students a passion for developing skills with business potential.

Sherry Coutu, Co-founder of Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, focused on universities as forums for addressing the country’s need to grow start-ups into larger companies.

On a specific level, universities were seen as essential for teaching the specialist skills required in the digital economy. Here, too few undergraduates were studying computer science, according to panel chairman Will Hutton, Principal of Hertford College, Oxford and Chairman of the Big Innovation Centre, whose CEO Professor Birgitte Andersen, gave the evening’s keynote speech.

Lord Chris Holmes, Member of the Lords Select Committee for Digital Skills, also focused on expanding specialist training.

Delivery could be one area of change. For and through the web, could universities continue to become more user-led? Is Birkbeck’s way – emphasising flexible study to accommodate other commitments – indicative of the future?

Dr Carol O'Connor, Knowledge Exchange Manager of LSE Entrepreneurship, opened the evening, which was closed by Ibrahim Maiga, Director of Birkbeck Enterprise Hub.

Towards the end, Lord Holmes noted the ever-present relevance of life-long learning: an apt pointer from a Birkbeck perspective.

Further Links

The Innovators: A weekly column showcasing innovation and the role it plays in business success. Sponsored by the Big Innovation Centre.

Birkbeck Centre for Innovation Management Research