- Times Higher Education
Post-Covid university management will be an exercise in give and take (Global)
If leaders don’t proceed with openness and consideration towards nervous staff, it is students who will ultimately suffer, says Rachel Gallardo. As Covid vaccination rates increase and restrictions are lifted, many faculty and administrative staff are planning to return to campus – if they haven’t already. But to suggest that things will soon be “back to normal” would be to belittle the experience we have all been through over the past academic year. As a department head, I recognise that many faculty still do not want to be on campus because they fear Covid variants running rampant. For those faculty members in a high-risk category, such fears have particular merit. Another factor is the habit we’ve all been conditioned into of wearing a mask and isolating from others. We’ve become uncomfortable in the close proximity of other people – especially crowds. That feeling won’t be easily shaken off. Furthermore, I’ve spoken with US faculty who have admitted they are vaccinated but still wear their mask because they don’t want to be perceived as a “Trump supporter”. The politicisation of masks is a result of the 2020 election season, from which many have still not healed. Many human resources departments are rushing to write policies for their organisation post-Covid. But they need to be careful. Telling faculty that they have to be on campus a certain number of hours a day, even if they don’t have classes that day, will not be well received. If a faculty member is teaching their classes, responding to student issues and grading in a timely manner, I would question how HR can reasonably demand that department heads like me force our faculty to be on campus full time. Indeed, how can senior leaders expect me to be on campus five days a week, either, when I’ve satisfactorily performed my work duties entirely from home for more than a year? Formulating and enforcing new, post-Covid expectations will require all levels of management to walk a fine line. Sadly, many of us are not prepared for the required shift in mindset. The concept of situational leadership is worth reflecting on. While the model, developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the 1960s, acknowledges that there is no perfect leadership style, it urges leaders to strike a balance between task and relationship roles. With each situation that emerges, they should assess whether it is an opportunity to complete a task or an opportunity to enhance a relationship. Too many times, leaders are quick to jump in and resolve a problem without first asking if their help is desired. For example, if an instructor is venting about a student in their classroom who is sending rude emails or doing something else to get under their skin, asking a simple question: “How can I help?” can go a long way. The faculty member may reply that they don’t want you to do anything; they only wanted you to listen.
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- University World New
Adaptability is set to be the key skill for the future (Global)
Higher education has long faced pressure to enhance graduate competencies for a fast-changing world of work, and this has only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Skills for the Future (S4F) project, coordinated by the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES), has investigated and narrowed down a set of transversal competencies which are critical in preparing students for the future of work. One skill underlines them all: adaptability. Although the benefits of cultivating career adaptability have been discussed in career development literature since the 1980s, central tenets of the theory have only recently made the links between the shared future(s) of higher education, work and graduate skills development. Core to future skills is a foundation of adaptable self-reliance. As Ulf-Daniel Ehlers said in Future Skills: “So-called self-competences such as … self-directed learning enable individuals to productively perform the necessary adaptation processes in highly emergent contexts.” These self dependent skillsets are indispensable in an ever-increasing gig economy. In a 2018 paper, Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger found that alternative work arrangements, defined as contract and freelance work, accounted for most job growth in the United States between 1995-2015. As economies adapt and labour markets are in flux, focusing the curriculum on transferable skills can produce what Patrick O’Donnell et al describe as “adaptable capacities within graduates”. Some universities have taken note – the Tokyo
Institute of Technology offers doctoral students a course on the topic of developing career adaptability for global competitiveness. The responsibility to prepare graduates is often placed on institutions of higher learning. Universities reactively update their curricula, slash programmes or change offerings at an alarming pace to keep up with changes in industry and the world of work. This approach may be unsustainable, considering the rapid turnover of in-demand technology skills. Instead of blindly following whirlwinds of tech trends, preliminary results from the S4F project indicate that higher education institutions should base foundational curricula on preparing ready-to-learn, adaptable graduates. Technology skills – including trendy ones – will be part of the mix, but not the foundation upon which programmes are built. Programmes with a base of developing transferable transversal skills will succeed in graduating students capable of navigating uncharted and constantly evolving (employment) territory. The future graduate must be an adaptable graduate. Sustainable employability preparation must be lifelong, life-wide and set against the background of a post-pandemic world characterized by change and uncertainty. As Sandra Santos et al from the S4F project point out, developing transversal competencies with this goal in mind would “allow students to effectively cope with the rapid pace of change and obsolescence of knowledge and skills; question the consequences of change and ethically analyse science findings and technology innovations; live in the digital era; and be conscious of the perils of growing inequalities and environmental damages”.
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