Across the world, the field of higher education is undergoing dramatic changes, mainly under the impact of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance and of Artificial Intelligence. The workplace and employment transformations these technologies are creating compel universities to adapt, and rethink both pedagogical approaches and the very nature of the curricula they offer.
With this in mind, IFCU has established a Higher Education Foresight Unit (HEFU), aimed at providing decision support for presidents and managing teams of member-universities. HEFU will henceforth publish an annual report on ongoing and future changes affecting and likely to affect the near-term landscape of higher education, professional training and the job market – as AI, automation and robotization are penetrating or even taking over an ever-increasing range of professions and trades.
By most accounts found in current research on the subject, the window of predictability regarding what the “jobs of the future” will be like is getting increasingly narrower. Artificial intelligence and automation, long viewed mainly as a threat to low-skilled human jobs, have now begun to penetrate sectors of activity that require considerable expertise, such as the legal and medical professions.
In view of the dramatic character of these developing transformations, IFCU’s Higher Education Foresight Unit is undertaking an ongoing review of and reflection on discernable emerging trends in labor markets across the world. This endeavor is indeed essential to a wider-scope understanding of how higher education should evolve to prepare students for the diverse forms of employment that will be available to them in the near future.
As all institutions of higher learning across the world today, Catholic higher education is faced with the challenges of adapting its design to a rapidly changing societal landscape. In addition, Catholic universities and colleges must also reflect on the meaning and significance of their specific educational mission in an academic environment that is becoming increasingly commoditized and now privileges STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curricula at the expense of the humanities.
This evolving trend poses questions that are unique to Catholic higher education, in particular with respect to the place that spiritual guidance and humane values should occupy in such a context, described by many analysts of academia as the bearer of unprecedented transformations. Through the activities of its foresight unit and other research departments, IFCU proposes to make available to its member universities an array of data that supports reflection on this crucial transition and the ways in which it can be dealt with successfully.
Ongoing debates among observers of the labor market transformations that technology is generating currently revolve around two main poles of reflection regarding how policymakers should prepare societies to face up to these challenges. One pole mainly relies on a scenario in which human labor rapidly becomes virtually obsolete, and where the proposed solution is a universal basic income. The other is grounded in the belief that human labor will undergo dramatic transformations but remain relevant as such, which will imply a generalization of life-long training for the workers of tomorrow.
IFCU’s foresight unit monitors these debates and provides contents that help readers get an overview of the main questions they raise.