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University of London: Inculcating Skills to Nurture Future Leaders

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In today’s rapidly evolving job market, it is very important for students and professionals to upgrade and learn new skills, says Chris Cobb, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and Chief Operating Officer, University of London, in a conversation with Elets News Network (ENN).

Along with Artificial Intelligence (AI), Coding and other industry needed skills, what kind of other skills students should focus on?

Chris Cobb, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and Chief Operating Officer, University of London

Chris Cobb, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Operations) and Chief Operating Officer, University of London

We are in the age of Information Technology which is leading to the automation of services and processes and more use of robotics. As a result, people have to focus more on acquiring the skills needed in future along with the traditional skills to adapt with changing world. Artificial Intelligence will have a significant impact. But it largely relies on predictive actions based on previous experience. AI is less good at adapting to new things that haven’t been encountered before. It’s also less good at the things that humans excel at: the ability to think critically; discern reality from rhetoric; develop an argument; be persuasive; lift morale; motivate; innovate; think creatively and be ingenious, in other words to be human. These are the skills that students of tomorrow will need and that we should focus on developing.

The University of London is a global education hub of knowledge and education. What are the university’s expansion plans in developing and underdeveloped countries to bring students at par with modern education?

The University of London has strength of around 170,000 global students from almost every country of the world. 120,000 of them are on campus in London, while 50,000 are pursuing our degree courses in their own countries. To enhance our engagement globally and to widen the provision further, we are trying to open up study opportunities in better numbers for professionals in key sectors such as business, finance, law, education, health and international development.

Internship plays a vital role in enhancing the employability of students and provides a hands-on experience within a corporate working environment. Please tell us about the initiative started by University of London on similar lines.

Our Business Observation Placements scheme began as a pilot in Singapore and has now been rolled out in India and Pakistan. There are plans to extend this further in South East Asia and other regions where we have significant number of students. The scheme offers our undergraduate students a unique opportunity to take a bespoke short-term placement in the sector relevant to their study, be it business, law or other field. We recognise that academic learning is an important part of a student’s journey of becoming a professional but to develop industry oriented skills along with work related learning is most important. Employers who work with the university recognise and respect the quality of education we provide. Many of the entrepreneurs are graduates of the University of London, and happy to reinvest in future generations of professionals.

Graduates often face difficulties to get employment in their respective field of study. What suggestion would you like to give these students before starting their careers?

Clarity of purpose while choosing a particular occupational path is always important. It will be difficult to succeed in areas which may be attractive for other reasons but ultimately don’t fit with the interests, motivation and skills of the individual. In a crowded market, develop oneself as a “brand” is important. This could be made up of educational branding (so the University of London would be a good example of a well-known global brand) and employer and experience branding. The latter is where internships can be very important. Creating and using networks both personal and virtual (such as Linkedin) are very significant. The creation of a network is only part of this. Networking is a skill which needs to be worked on and developed.


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