Uncertain outlook and its implications on higher education

From a student’s perspective, it should appear one of the most promising investments of their life instead of a gamble.

By Rupesh Bisht

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted life and career prospects for many graduating students, especially management scholars, whose hope towards a great professional takeoff got marred by the looming uncertainties. They are on the verge of setting foot into what could be labelled as one of the most challenging job markets in decades. Besides anticipating their survival moves in the current volatile economy, they are also battling with the changes in the education system.

Sudden transition into the virtual-learning space has made them re-evaluate their choices concerning the institution, the course and the career. The digitalisation of education has posed challenges to students and institutions alike, raising the need to become more relevant and future-centric, keeping up with the requirements of the new world order.

In a stark turnaround from the earlier times, it has been witnessed that campus education is getting replaced by online and hybrid modes of learning. This shift is likely to hit institutions’ conventional enrolment strategy, especially for international students. The changing trend has pressed institutions to focus on quality, be it the curriculum structure or skill-set, as it is the only way forward.

Furthermore, to stay ahead of the curve, institutions need to not only consider slacking their tuition fee to push up their enrolments but also invest in advanced educational technology. It would help institutes to retain not only their student strength but also lower their attrition rate. The more satisfied students are with their institute’s virtual-learning experience, the less likely are they to drop out of the course. From a student’s perspective, it should appear one of the most promising investments of their life instead of a gamble.

Hence, before re-skilling their students, institutions are required to re-skill themselves in tandem with the current market demands. For the said purpose, many institutions have also tied up with different EdTech platforms to offer various skill-oriented courses to their students. Besides, the robust changes in the economy have led to extensive technological solutions, raising huge demand for curricular restructuring and pedagogical reforms. Today, institutions are looking at combining existing management skills with a more technologically-driven approach to generate excellent internship and full-time employment opportunities for their students.

Sectors such as EdTech, FinTech, HealthTech, Consulting, Cybersecurity, Gaming, Analytics, Cloud Computing, AI, ML and Data Analytics are thriving in the current scenario of an economic slump. Hence institutions should integrate industry-immersed skills and prepare a workforce of management graduates adept in digital transformation, process automation, technology integration, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

The collateral effect of curriculum restructuring and course re-alignment is believed to be a significant hike in demand for consolidated MBA programmes packed with tech-based specialisations. Today, more students opt for a combined MBA degree, which provides a blend of technical and management skills over a generalised degree. Because of its limited scope, perspective, and virtuosity, an undiversified general MBA could fetch candidates only the old-school sales executive job. Hence, in the era of rapid digitalisation, the young graduates must build a versatile portfolio that would help them jump-start their careers and reach new heights.

Adapting to the current market dynamics, today’s premium business schools have turned towards imparting competency-based courses to help students develop a niche. Hence, courses integrated with advanced technology are in great demand as it prepares them for the future work scenario. It demands them to acquire more specific skill-sets like Blockchain, Digital Marketing, Consulting and Machine Learning. Hence, the primary aim of higher education programmes has shifted to preparing students for employment opportunities during the COVID and the post-COVID world.

Despite the gloomy outlook, young graduates can safeguard their professional journey from plummeting, owing to the market forces, by investing in skills, beyond the conventional management studies. In addition to gaining new-age technological expertise, industry veterans advise young aspirants to imbibe traits like agile, adaptability and resilience. These attributes will help them progress in their careers by developing foresightedness to identify suitable opportunities and growth patterns.

(The author is CEO of Master’s Union School of Business. The views expressed are personal and not necessarily those of Financial Express Online)

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