Parallel sessions tackled subjects as crucial and diverse as the impact of artificial intelligence on universities, the civic role of institutions of higher learning, or how to teach “Generation Z”. Others focused on data – how to use data to better serve students’ needs, including professional competencies, knowing for example that 65% of children entering school today will have jobs that don’t exist yet. Two emerging trends that were broadly discussed were student engagement – a growing demand of students and thereby focus of universities – and the digitalization of exams, in which Nordic countries (Norway in particular) are already fully engaged, as a response to the demands of this generation of students, who complain about no longer being able to handwrite for hours on end.
Conclusions reached in the various sessions and debates ranged from the imperative for universities to now think in terms of purpose and identity of their institution, and become increasingly nimble and flexible in order to survive the epochal changes. Overall, the need for universities to “change the story”, in other words to engage more forcefully in promoting the unique value of higher education as a life choice, remained the key theme of the sessions.
The two-day event was brought to a close with a superb THE Awards evening in which the talent, dedication and innovations of individuals and teams in universities across the UK was recognized and festively rewarded.