By DAWN BENNETT
With half the Australian population now engaging in higher education, the sector is under increasing pressure to align the needs of students, industry and community. This requires policy and funding models which recognise the sector’s economic and societal value and which promote inclusivity and cooperation. Such policy is in stark contrast with existing rankings exercises and steering mechanisms, which promote self-interest and status competition.
Higher education policy could recognise the development of graduates who can meet the demands of life and work well beyond their discipline. For students to become capable graduates who think for a living on behalf of themselves and others, they need first to learn how to recognise, articulate and demonstrate their abilities. They also need to accept and manage their responsibilities as learners and thinkers.
Engaging students as partners demands that all learning is relevant to the possible disciplinary, societal, personal and/or professional futures of students. If the learning asked of students is relevant, its relevance should be articulated. If it is not relevant, we should stop teaching it. This is a challenge not to make programs vocational, but to make them developmental and societally relevant.
Employability development in the higher education context is not limited to discipline skills, knowledge and practices. Rather, it concerns students’ abilities to create and sustain meaningful work throughout the career lifespan and in changing contexts. It integrates the metacognitive capacities with which graduates are not only ready for work, but ready to contribute and ready to learn.
Higher education needs policy that distinguishes between job-getting (employment) and the ability to create and sustain work over time (employability). Educating for employability rather than employment means educating for life rather than for a job, for society rather than self.
Professor Dawn Bennett
National Senior Teaching Fellowship 2016
ALTF 2019 Legacy Report here