Create your UNIverse: What do students expect from the universities of the future?

AUTHOR: MAGDALENA THEURL

Students from all over Austria were invited to contribute to the study “Create your UNIverse” to communicate their expectations and wishes to the university of the future. The research project was initiated by the Austrian Council for Research and Technology Development (RFTE) together with the Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft (LBG) and was conducted by the Open Innovation research and consulting company winnovation. The goal was to point out the student’s perspective in the current academic debate and to develop appropriate recommendations for the Austrian universities and universities for applied sciences. Data was collected by crowdsourcing, which was online between November 2016 and February 2017. Data gathering was not based on a web platform, but instead on postings in existing social media communities and online fora. This experimental approach allowed better access to student communities, where the required knowledge was particularly concentrated.

A total of 2,105 contributions were submitted by 754 students and graduates from the Austrian universities, universities of applied sciences and educational colleges, and were evaluated in an inductive-deductive pattern recognition process. The number of contributions was remarkably high compared to other crowdsourcing projects, which is a clear indicator of the urgency of new solutions in the field of higher education.

The results of the study can be grouped into five concrete recommendations for action. Digital Natives wish that universities make better use of the potential of digitization to provide students with a contemporary learning environment and to create new room for new resources. Furthermore, the role of teaching is to be further developed, from the pure knowledge-transmitter to the educational coach and mentor. In addition, universities should provide structures and framework conditions to support the networking of students among themselves, but also with alumni, teachers and companies, NGOs and the public sector. Additionally, interactive formats are required in the curricula, experimental settings in lectures and physical spaces, which are open to all students to intensify personal and professional development. Finally, the expansion and further development of international, but also national cooperation and coordination between universities are of great importance in an increasingly digitized and globalized world.