By Ruth Bridgstock

QILT survey data tells us that Australian universities make a reasonable fist of preparing graduates for the jobs out there now. But how well do we prepare graduates to transfer their skills across the subsequent 16 work roles and 5 industries the Foundation for Young Australians (2016) predicts for their working future? What kinds of value are we teaching them to add? What breadth (or not) of capabilities do we wish them to develop?

Students want a good job after university and their work adds value to the economy. But many graduates want more than just a job. They also seek meaningful ways to contribute to their communities and wider society. Many worry deeply worried about environmental issues (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2018). To solve such local and global challenges, our graduates must be critically informed, globally confident, civic-minded citizens.

The ‘21st century civic university’ is gaining traction in Europe (Civic Universities Commission, 2019) and is worth exploring for Australian higher education. Civic universities engage in close, reciprocal partnerships with local / regional and global communities to add value across economic, social and environmental bottom-lines. They proactively innovate, identify emerging issues, and both strengthen and learn from their partners (21st Century Lab, 2018). The ‘21st century’ angle adds an explicit future-understanding and forward-influencing focus and all of these commitments are infused into student learning, fostering future capability for learner, university and community.

Many Australian universities adopt some of these aims and practices but rarely systematically. Current indicators and measures of university performance do not reflect these ideas. We must rethink how our universities contribute to sustainable, resilient and constructive futures.


Professor Ruth Bridgstock PFHEA

Learning Futures, Griffith University

2015 National Senior Teaching Fellow

[email protected]

ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here


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