Academia can be an important vanguard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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Academia can be an important vanguard of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
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Universities possess the dual role of producing public good and educating the next generation which no other type of institution are able to do so. Therefore, it is critical for universities to embrace this role and start acting accordingly to meet the current demands.

The rise of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies are rapidly changing global interactions and universities have a fundamental role to play. Their ability lies in three main aspects: developing new technologies, understanding the broader consequences of the 4IR and educating the next generation.

Creating new technologies and evaluating broader consequences

Universities play a critical role in growing an intellectual capital and knowledge production. Faculty often work on critical issues within their area of expertise, while students are educated with methods needed to produce knowledge. All university researchers play a role in setting the 4IR in motion and identifying its impact. Universities are contributing in numerous ways and they include:

  • Research on key technologies, including artificial intelligence, robotics, biotechnology and the cyber domain.
  • Basic research needed for the conceptualisation of new technology and applied science to introduce new products to market.
  • Map the consequences of 4IR for the people, economics and politics.

Universities also have a dual role to play. They are not only instrumental for getting people to work together in the development of underlying technology with those mapping potential consequences; they are also responsible for connecting these researchers to the key industry partners, governments, international organisations and NGOs.

In addition, by educating the next generation, universities outline the technologies that future entrepreneurs and engineers create and how they think about them. Just like how computers and the internet have now been immensely integrated into our lives, 4IR technologies and principles will change how students learn. Therefore, universities will have to start making the necessary changes that will benefit both the students and institutions themselves. Universities have both the capacity and moral imperative to educate students and workers the skill sets needed to adapt to the new and upcoming changes.

Room for future growth

Universities possess the dual role of producing public good and educating the next generation which no other type of institution can do so. Therefore, it is critical for universities to  embrace this role and start acting accordingly to meet the current demands. This includes the organisation of collaborative research seminars that connect hard scientists, social scientists and humanities scholars; and the establishment of partnerships with industry to encourage innovation.

Universities will also have to coordinate better among themselves. Faculty often find themselves being isolated within their individual departments and specific sub-fields. However, with the cross-cutting and multi-domain nature of the 4IR, universities will have to remove these barriers and push for collaboration between academics as per needed.

Finally, the public has to be educated on the aftereffect of technological change. This will help diminish the uneasiness and push for informed communication. Universities can accomplish this by distributing digestible versions of their work through popular platforms, such as the internet, television, newspapers and podcasts.

No single action will be sufficient. But each one will help universities embrace their vital role in shaping the character and consequences of the 4IR.

Source: World Economic Forum

Join us at the upcoming QS WORLDCLASS 2018 from 16-18 April 2018 in Abu Dhabi, as we gather higher education leaders and key industry partners to participate in the discussion of “Changes in University/Industry Interaction”.