University-Business Cooperation for Sustainable Solutions

PEOPLE project team members participated in the 8th European University Business Forum (UBForum), held on 24 and 25 October 2019 in Brussels. The UBForum explored the role of university-business cooperation for innovation in sustainable development and brought together some 400 policy makers, representatives of higher education institutions, businesses and industry. The UBForum was established in 2008 as a platform to encourage and improve relations between the world of academia and business and is part of wider efforts to support the Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe.

The opening speeches were delivered by Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, and Sabine Verheyen, Member of the European Parliament, with keynote speeches by Matías Rodríguez Inciarte, President of Santander Universities, and Borhene Chakroun, Director of Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems division at UNESCO. In addition, various topics central to the theme of the event, such as lifelong learning, regional and local ecosystems, social innovation, or institutional change, were discussed in the panel session.

PEOPLE team members Gregor Cerinšek (IRI UL) and Dr Sara Arko (Metronik) participated in one of the afternoon workshops focusing on providing learning experiences that enable students to acquire the right mix of knowledge, skills, and competences. Research shows that short-term policies which ensure employment of graduates do have a statistical impact of reducing unemployment, but are insufficient in the sense of directly addressing the skills mismatch. Since the nature of work is changing, transferable skills are gaining importance. One of the key aims of the PEOPLE project was to address the gap between skills and competences provided in social sciences and humanities (SSH) curricula and the skills required or expected from SSH graduates in industry.

In the PEOPLE project’s Learning Cycles, we developed a problem-based learning approach, where SSH students work on industry-relevant challenges in a project format, mentored both by academic instructors and industry representatives. Essentially collaborative, interdisciplinary, and applied to a real-life problem, the PEOPLE learning process provided an environment that enhances teamwork skills, research and project management skills, communication skills, interdisciplinary cooperation, and problem-solving skills that are increasingly required in a number of workplaces (see also our Skills database). The UBForum workshop, where we presented the idea and the results of PEOPLE’s Learning Cycles, provided a fruitful platform for exchanging experiences with other presenters and workshop participants.