Higher education institutions currently have a reputation of graduating students who are deep in debt and unable to find full-time employment. What’s more, traditional brick and mortar colleges and universities face unprecedented competition from for-profit and distance learning schools. Students who attend institutions of higher learning that have adopted innovation are more likely to be competitive in the job market. Here are five signs of innovative universities prospective students should use to guide their college search.
1. They keep their finger on the pulse of the job market.
A truly innovative university will ensure its relevance by developing relationships with leaders from the business world and reviewing its needs every five years. This way, universities stay abreast of employment trends while also developing reciprocity to help students land coveted internships and, eventually, jobs after graduation. Universities can offer coursework that prepares students for jobs in the current market while giving students credit for experiences they gain working with partner companies. In return, businesses receive employees with relevant skills and training that match their needs.
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2. They forge partnerships beyond their own walls.
Mirroring the “real-world,” innovative universities go outside the boundaries of their institution to conduct research, perform service and participate in other types of collaboration internationally, thus preparing students for their future in a global community and proving themselves as valuable resources for the world. Hallmarks of a globally aware university are international involvement, research and transfer programs with higher education institutions across the globe as well as relationships with international businesses. This type of global collaboration represents the future of education.
3. The whole community embraces technology.
Technology is one of the most obvious ways universities can innovate. However, most schools confine technological advancement to a few programs or courses, or they merely install exciting new technology throughout the campus without knowing how to best use it. True innovation in technology requires buy-in from everyone. Tenured professors comfortable with their teaching methods often resist change especially as it applies to adopting new technology in their classrooms. An innovative university offers the training and resources for making everyone comfortable using available technology and trains its students to be lifelong learners when it comes to new developments.
4. They know imitation is the fondest form of flattery.
Borrowing from advice Forbes offers to companies, innovative universities are not afraid to copy what makes other successful institutions succeed, whether they are their competitors or examples from the business world. Always waiting to discover their own innovative niche will only cause universities to fall behind their peers; thus, sometimes copying what works is the best solution for staying on the cutting edge. This theory applies to processes as well as more tangible innovations.
5. They adapt to accommodate the needs of today’s students.
From flexible admissions processes to nontraditional instruction delivery, innovative universities know that a four-year program of study immediately following high school graduation does not work with modern students’ lives and goals. With the nontraditional student in mind, thriving institutions have adjusted admissions criteria, enrollment procedures, how courses are held and how credit is given. Moreover, programs increasingly help students gain skills they need in the workplace and the confidence to create their own knowledge more than learning to regurgitate facts from textbooks and lectures.
Innovative universities are not afraid to embrace change, even when it means leaving behind the comfortable way they have always operated. They also know that partnerships with other schools, businesses and communities nearby and across the world are essential to producing students prepared for the modern world. Students looking for a college or university should focus on finding one that meets these criteria.