As others see us


“Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel’s as others see us!”

Having been immersed in the ‘business community’ for most of my working life, I tend to see the world through business eyes.  I had an interesting insight into the academic world recently, however, and how they have a different perspective.  I was invited to participate in a very interesting debate amongst university entrepreneurial educators and, toward the end of the discussion, there was a throwaway comment about how  ‘business’ just wanted universities to do their job for them.  The comment was based on the business expectation that the universities’ main function is to produce graduates that are fully trained for business careers. The academics, however, believed that  businesses should be prepared to provide specific workplace training for their new employees, instead of universities being considered as a training resource for business.

Of course, in Scotland we say that we value the high quality of our universities, but I wonder if we really think about what makes them great. It’s not just about churning out ’employable’ graduates, but about creating a generation that have learnt to think for themselves and can provide the creativity and innovation that our country needs in order to be truly competitive.

Perhaps both ‘sides’ in the academic/business worlds need to understand each other a little better too. What do you think?

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About Fiona

Fiona is a passionate advocate of the Scottish entrepreneurial spirit, especially our students. She was once a scientist and is a keen supporter of the Scottish life sciences community. She is a powerful networker and loves to put people in touch with others who can help and inspire them.
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7 Responses to As others see us

  1. Fiona says:

    Great comments from Angela and Michelle.
    “The genius of the ‘and’ ” – we do need to get the right balance, and for that to happen, both business and universities need to understand each other better. We really can’t lose the historical thirst for academic excellence that make our universities special, at the expense of churning out standardised graduates.

    The good news is that this topic also appears to be under discussion at the highest levels of universities and government, as the debate about fees continues. Lets hope we get it right.

  2. artmadillo says:

    Definitely interesting topic.

    I think that if universities only train graduates for the current business careers… what we do wrong now will never change, as we haven’t been trained to challenge the standard.
    Still, being pragmatic, wanting to change things is not giving me job.
    There must be a balance somehow..

  3. I have a slightly different take: I genuinely believe universities need to shake up their courses to meet the demands of a changing economic environment – too many teachers, lawyers, accountants are being churned out relentlessly. Also, too many people feel the need to have a degree before they can succeed in their chosen profession, not always necessary.
    But I also believe employers are duty bound to provide the necessary workplace training to cater for those young people who want to learn the job “on the job” rather than in a strictly, often isolated, academic environment.
    It’s the genius of the “and” – we need both to get this right.

  4. Fiona says:

    Hi Mark, thanks for your comments and I’m glad that my thinking seems to be in line with the students 🙂

  5. Mark Henderson says:

    Interesting post, an issue I have debated with my flatmates many a time! I personally see universities as place to ‘prep’ individuals with generic skills for a specific field in a safe, consequence free environment. The business can then provide specific training if necessary. These generic skills learned at university are possibly what give individuals the ability to think for themselves? Very interesting topic.

  6. Fiona says:

    Yes indeed. It’s clear that universities and businesses need to work much more closely together, but I’ve also come to see that businesses should recognize the expertise that has built up over centuries in our universities, and trust them to deliver the best possible education that benefits all.

  7. Alasdair McGill says:

    Fiona, I agree that it’s much more about producing great talent with the power to think for themselves. Over the past 20 years university education has almost become an expectation. Many graduates that I’ve seen in the past decade have been technically capable, but lacking in some of the “softer” skills. I wrote a blog recently about the need to place greater value on design & innovation – that’s something that the business community has to embrace more. We’re now working within the university environment as you know and hopefully adding a new dimension with our business experience. Interesting times ahead…..

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