Most reviews of the future predict that the pace at which the world is changing will increase. Unprecedented evolutionary forces are, in the wake of technological development, expected to target especially working life and the field of education that prepares people for it. What kind of a future is Aalto University getting ready for in its upcoming strategy? What trends will affect teaching and research, and, on the other hand, the existing and future Aalto community?
Students were asked to pitch in the strategy preparation process, which is set to commence fully in 2019. Based on a review of various publications and expert interviews, a student group steered by Management Studies Professor Nina Granqvist defined five central trends that will affect the future of Aalto.
“Megatrends will bring changes to the university’s operating practices either directly or indirectly. Automation, for example, will increase the need to retrain the workforce, which in turn will boost demand for more flexible studies and add to competition in the educational sector,” says School of Business student Joona Orpana.
Soft skills emphasised
The need for lifelong learning is a trend, which is in many ways changing not only the educational sector, but also our everyday lives. Debate often focuses on the mastering of technical skills, but the interviews conducted by the working group also raised the growing significance of so-called soft skills like creativity.
“Technology is developing constantly, and recently acquired technical skills can only underwrite your competence for a little while. This is why the ability to learn new things, to understand yourself and others as well as to strive for change that accords with your own values are emphasised. Sustainable competence is created by combining hard and soft skills in learning,” says Orpana.
The students and Granqvist all point out that the future is hard to predict. Megatrends are abstract, complex totalities, and it is challenging to foresee what combined effects they may have.
“It is important for the strategy work to consider the university’s vision as well as the plans employed to achieve it – but these plans must be flexible at all times. Evaluating the future is a continuous effort you engage in alongside day-to-day development work,” Granqvist says.
Involving the community
Future strategy workshops and community discussions will benefit from the work done by the students. Community involvement is a central aspect of Aalto’s strategy work, says Development Director Sirkku Linna.
“We want to make the process as open and transparent as possible – something that’s easy to get onboard with,” says Linna.
“We are not just preparing to adapt to a changing world, we’re getting ready to shape the future into what we want it to be. Aalto is in a key position to, for example, develop technological breakthroughs and steer how technology shapes our reality.”
Photo: A group of students representing the different fields of Aalto delved into the world of megatrends. The participants were Jacqueline German, Joona Orpana, Viktorija Piaulokaite and Andreas Gratz.