Gallup and the Lumina Foundation recently (2/25/14) published the “2013 Lumina Study of the American Public’s Opinion on Higher Education and U.S. Business Leaders Poll on Higher Education – What America Needs to Know About Higher Education Redesign (click here for report).
When asked to reflect on how employers make their hiring decision, Americans responded in the following way:
When employers were asked about how they make hiring decision, they responded in this way:
These responses seem to suggest that the focus on the specific university, college and degree is relatively less important in the higher decision than the public believes (although not unimportant). More interestingly, both business and the public are in alignment on the importance of both knowledge and skills to the hiring process.
When employers were asked whether US higher education institutions were graduating students that met their needs, they responded in this way:
All of this taken together seems to suggest that the American public places relatively too much priority on where a student attends university, while also correctly placing priority on what that student learns. And more interestingly, American businesses appear to believe that the students that they hire generally do not possess the desired level of skills and competencies.
All of this makes me wonder about how universities (colleges, departments, etc.) may be able to capitalize on this opportunity to close the apparent gap between the American publics understanding of higher education, the expectations of business and the knowledge and skills that students acquire in a university. I also wonder whether all universities are equally well-positioned to capitalize on this opportunity. That is, are smaller universities (or units in a university) able to be more flexible and responsive than larger universities (or units in a university)? If that is the case, it would suggest that smaller universities/units may be able to reorganize in order to create disruptive innovation in the marketplace for higher education; certainly enhanced by the technology-enabled flattening of the world that is driven by relatively inexpensive technology solutions that allow education products to reach markets that are well outside of the traditional local/regional markets that universities serve. I really do wonder whether the competitive market for higher education is going to continue to compete on the same basis or whether we are headed for a different competitive landscape – perhaps one that places more emphasis on both the scholarship of discover AND the development of knowledge and skills in our students. Is there a model that will help us to do both of these important functions of a university better?