Entrepreneurialism Cannot Emerge From Traditional Learning

Alison Jenkins, Director - International Marketing, Recruitment, and Admissions, University of Queensland, Australia director speaks to BW Education


Alison Jenkins, Director - International Marketing, Recruitment, and Admissions, University of Queensland, Australia director

Q. What is the purpose behind this delegation coming to India? Are people preferring India as an education hub nowadays? 

I have just completed a study for Australia ordered by the Prime Minister on the Australia- India economic relationship. One of the key aspects to it that it was written by our chancellor Peter Varghese. He used to be the High Commissioner of Australia to India in early 2000. So, he is a very senior diplomat, but he is also our Chancellor. One of the key pillars that came out of it in terms of the Australia-India economic relationship was education. So, with that thing in mind, we have been working on a couple of years on how come we partner with India. We had a quite known approach that we have taken, and it was a bit undercooked. With clear directions from the chancellor, we have developed a new partnership strategy for India. Now, the partnership strategy is headed out to look for our premier partner which we settled out on last Saturday with our partnership with IIT Delhi. This partnership is multi-faceted, not just about students, it is about focusing on a Ph.D. exchange. The 250 Ph.D. exchange students will be sent both by IIT Delhi and the University of Queensland. The students will have experience in both countries and will have a course supervision. So, it will be a true partnership, not just a one-sided partnership. This is a well-supported system. The students will have scholarships. It’s a well-thought structure partnership plan. So, this is our premier partnership for India and we will be focusing on building that in the research-based and student based collaborative exchange in a true sense. We will be signing with other partners on a different type of agreement. The key ones that we have planned off are Shiv Nadar University, BITS Pilani, Symbiosis and Amity University. These partnerships are also about joint degree programs. The Ph.D. partnership is only with IIT Delhi. The partnership with other universities is for undergraduate student exchange. They will also be supported with scholarships and schemes to help the students get that experience. We understand that cost can be a problem for undergraduate students. So, we are providing funding for that as well. So, expansion into India is really the result of the paper written by Peter Varghese. The Australian Prime Minister said that India is very important to us. Our partnerships are not just about academic partnerships. They are about industry partnerships as well. 

Q. Nowadays, universities are increasing their digital presence. Most of the universities are focusing on their digital platforms where they can have more and more involvement from students across the globe. What is UQ’s global strategy to attract students for the next 2-3 years?

It’s huge are for education and students are becoming more and savvier in technology, much faster than we are. It’s a struggle to keep us and also, it’s a huge unknown for education. Students now don’t want to study in the traditional ways. For us, we need to find a balance in maintaining quality and also to service the students on what they want to do and when they want to do. So, it is really a fine balance between those two areas. At the moment we offer one of the most successful Edx programs that are available in the MOOCs space. UQ is already very active in MOOCs and that is something we are proud of. We have over 5,00,000 Indian students that have enrolled in our online programs already. So, online MOOCs space is very developed, but it is also moving into more traditional programs as well as online learning. We have done a quite extensive research into what students want and how much online they want. It is interesting to look at that research because all those students want to be able to study online and use digital platforms when and where they can. They also want campus experience because the campus experience is not just about studies, it's about really developing a global network and having one-on-one touch and face to face experience in academics that you just can’t replicate online. So, its an entirely different experience. We are still trying to work out what that balance is but at the moment, the Australian government doesn’t allow universities to teach programs more than 33% in an online way. So, we can’t award a degree which is 33% online. That’s the area we are working on at the moment and of course, some programs will be less than that. The questions are that what students want? We don’t know that different students want different things. It’s quite interesting. Some students will say, I am not into sitting online. I prefer face to face because that’s how I learned in class. Some students will say I don’t want to go to the class. I don’t want to talk to anyone. I learn better online. So, it’s really a challenge for universities to be able to offer something to everybody. The focus of the university teaching has always been that how can I personalize my learning and teaching style for all learners. It’s not that different to what that has been traditional problems that how can I teach to all learners. It’s about how I can teach all the learners in a more digital way. That is the issue that universities face all the time. We are trying to keep up and maintain that quality learning experience. 

Q. In India, the buzzword is employability of the students because of the students passing out of the Indian universities except for the few credible institutions, they are not employable. They are applying for jobs which are clerical in nature, which is looked down upon 20 years down the line. Why always go for grades and academic performance which I don’t deny that they are not valuable but again they are not employable because they don’t have skills. So, a greater number of courses are coming up on entrepreneurship and skill development. Along with these things, the research is also being focused heavily where many funds and grants are being given. So, what is UQ’s plan for India to promote entrepreneurship and research?

Employment outcomes for the students to be able to get a job on entrepreneurial is really a huge focus for us, not just for Indian students but for all students. We don’t know what careers the students are going to go into these days. The world is moving so fast. Our job is to prepare them for everything. Our job is to give them fundamental knowledge. It's also our role to be able to prepare them for the sectors that are new like the environment and the sectors that are not discovered yet. Learners have agile minds these days. The real world is an unknown field. So, you need to be able to adapt according to different situation and be compatible with that. So, entrepreneurialism is just a way of thinking for all our students now, for not just engineers or a particular profile of students but every student should be a free thinker and should be able to come up with ideas. We have programs within the university where the students want to commercialize their ideas. We have expert entrepreneurs that have taken the idea and put it into business practice. Any student or any faculty can join this initiative. Its called ‘Idea hub’. The idea is put into practice and a business model is developed. It's unbelievable. Entrepreneurialism is very different from the traditional styles of learning and it’s our job to really create that space for the students where they can come together and flourish.  It is an important area to grow for us. We are the leading university in Australia for commercializing research because research ideas can change the world as well. So, it’s important that we are able to recognize that and help our students covert their ideas into successful business models. 

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