Ducere Blog

Filling the Skills Gap in Higher Education

13 May 2016

Online education is opening gateways for tomorrow’s corporate leaders to attain the skills that Australia urgently needs, writes Dūcere Business School’s CEO Jack Hylands

Cogs-1200x800Business leaders have felt the significance of digital disruption across all sectors of industry, fundamentally impacting everything from core internal operations through to market engagement.

A critical outcome of digitalisation has been a seismic power shift from service providers and product producers to end users, and therefore bespoke demand and measurable outcomes. With customers more informed and highly empowered, entire markets have reacted to place customer needs above all else.

One of the bastions of the old guard – slow to act, cumbersome to manoeuvre, and temporarily cushioned from the harshest blows – is the higher education sector. Higher education institutions remain largely stagnated upon business models built in Victorian Britain, propped up by customers that enter their halls at standard milestones, and unaccountable to the quality of their teaching and delivery.

The reality that prospective students, including lucrative overseas markets, must utilise ranking tables based on academic research provides no incentive for universities and their administrators to focus on student experiences or graduate outcomes. The result is that Australian universities have fundamentally lost touch with their end users, that is, the student who pays their bills, and industry, which will employ and ultimately reward that student based on their acquired skills.

The oft-quoted statistic that Australia ranked 32 out of 33 OECD countries for the level of small and medium-sized companies collaborating with higher education (and 33 out of 33 for large company collaboration) stands as a clear example of how far our universities have strayed from their mandate to support industry through employable graduates and commercial innovation.[1]

According to conservative estimates issued by Deloitte Access Economics in its 2014 report on Australia’s STEM workforce, 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations in Australia require STEM skills and knowledge.[2]  Not only do enrolments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics continue to decline, but the higher education sector is  failing to produce graduates capable of the innovation, problem solving and entrepreneurial skillsets needed to commercialise STEM-based opportunities.

The response of the higher education sector, if it is to support a high-income economy, must include re-connection with its key stakeholders and a re-imagining of business models focused on the relevance of the skillsets being sent out into the workforce. Universities retain a huge number of invaluable assets as leaders and accreditors of education, but these advantages must serve to further societal capabilities and not stand as frictions to innovation and progress.

As an emergent key player in the Australian online education industry, Dūcere delivers accredited programs focused on business, entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership at bachelor and master degree levels. It is our mission to partner with universities and TAFE colleges to enable the redesign of educational experiences in order to deliver world-leading student and industry outcomes.  Dūcere is providing students with the experiences they want and the tools that employers are seeking; relevant life skills that can be readily applied to the real-world business environment.

The student experience is at the centre of our innovative course design, drawing on the latest trends in digital delivery, industry integration and career mentoring.  With the aim of bridging the relevance gap for students, Dūcere has created a unique international faculty of the most successful, talented and inspiring world leaders. The Global Leaders Faculty includes heads of state, Fortune 500 CEOs, Nobel Prize winners, renowned scientists, academics and humanitarians.  Students access bespoke video content where the Faculty provides insights and explains key academic concepts and how they can be applied in real-life business situations.

Dūcere has partnered with some of Australia’s leading employers to provide students with industry across private enterprise, for-purpose organisations and government. Groundbreaking delivery models provide unparalleled hands-on learning and real-world insights through the completion of course integrated projects with industry partners including KPMG, NAB, Seek, Telstra, Linfox, PwC, Save the Children, Volunteering Victoria and The Treasury. Our Bachelor of Applied Entrepreneurship and Bachelor of Applied Social Entrepreneurship courses enable students to launch their own ventures while they study.

Dūcere has further innovated its delivery models to accommodate the desired flexibility of modern learners, enabling students to study remotely while they work and a level of structure that consistently delivers student success. This approach sees our master’s degree students receive live webinars and mentorship online from academics, as well as attending two face-to-face full-day events each trimester. These events hosted by leading organisations feature talks and workshops delivered by preeminent academics and business practitioners.

We consider these blended models as fundamental to the exceptionally high progression and success rates that our students are demonstrating. In the context of traditionally low completion rates in the online space, over 80 per cent of Dūcere’s inaugural MBA class will graduate within 12 months of starting their program. The remaining class members are taking advantage of the course’s flexibility to complete in up to three years. This exceptionally high completion rate reflects satisfaction ratings consistently above 95 per cent recorded in our frequent student surveys .

These innovative approaches are resonating strongly with individual students as well as employers looking to up-skill and retain their staff members. The result is exceptional growth across all of Dūcere’s courses and its establishment as a global educational company within 4 years of conception. The hope is that this focus on student experience, industry integration and graduate learning outcomes highlights a new path for the Australian higher education sector and its crucial role to play in our country’s future success.

 

Jack Hylands
CEO at Dūcere Global Business School

 

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[1] OECD Report

[2] http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/DAE_OCS-Australias-STEM-Workforce_FINAL-REPORT.pdf

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