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Fostering holistic growth

While degrees are still necessary, it is essential that students also expand their learning and skills across a range of experiences. Employers are increasingly looking for enterprising mindsets and creativity as well as discipline specific knowledge.

education Updated: Nov 08, 2018 18:54 IST
education,holistic growth,Career
In today’s competitive business environment and increasingly interconnected world, university graduates require the cultural agility to prepare for and create the jobs of the future.(HT file)

In today’s competitive business environment and increasingly interconnected world, university graduates require the cultural agility to prepare for and create the jobs of the future. The world of work has changed and continues to change rapidly. While degrees are still necessary, it is essential that students also expand their learning and skills across a range of experiences. Employers are increasingly looking for enterprising mindsets and creativity as well as discipline specific knowledge. Education, particularly when it involves global mobility, is a powerful tool to foster these skills.

While studying abroad can build important individual competencies – such as interpersonal, teamwork, communication, and problem solving and analytical skills – people-to-people links also provide the foundation for broader ties between countries in business, trade and investment, arts and culture, and civil society.

Former Australian High Commissioner to India, The University of Queensland (UQ) Chancellor Peter Varghese AO, called out education as a necessary flagship sector to lift trade and investment ties between Australia and India, in a recently published Australian Government report, An India Economic Strategy to 2035.

India’s tertiary-age (18-22) population is the largest in the world. With its plans to upskill 400 million people and to lift higher education enrolment from 27% to 50% by 2030, India cannot meet the demand for tertiary education alone.

In December 2017, the Australian Department of Education and Training recorded 53,500 Indian students studying in Australia, the second largest international cohort behind China. These numbers are growing, having increased by 328.2% since 2012.

With six of Australia’s 39 universities ranked in the world’s top 100, Indian students and employers are drawn to Australian education because of its high quality. What’s more, the 2017 International Student Survey ranked Australia as the most welcoming country, safest country and the country offering the best lifestyle for international students.

Students who are encouraged to engage in a range of experiential learning opportunities both within and beyond the classroom will develop holistic skill sets. Students need to make meaning from their experiences, and translate their life-wide learnings into the workplace. In choosing where to study one is choosing more than just a degree subject, but also an environment that encourages learning through all experiences – focusing on one’s values and strengths can help, but also recognising that university is a time to challenge oneself and grow through experience.

Graduates with international experience go on to forge global careers, with many returning to India to enhance development, lift human capital and often attract a salary premium.

A growing number of Australian students are also taking advantage of opportunities in India. The New Colombo Plan is one initiative that connects young Australians with Indian universities and businesses.

Final year UQ Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Arts student Zoe Brereton studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi as the New Colombo Plan Fellow in 2015-2016 and has maintained the life-changing relationships from her time abroad. For Zoe, a highlight of her experience was pursuing research into crimes against women, an issue close to her heart. “I was able to talk to key stakeholders in the field, academics, prosecutors, judges, and the women themselves, which then informed two research papers that I wrote,” she said.

“I undertook a couple of different internships, one with the Human Rights Studies Centre at the OP Jindal University and the other was a legal internship with the Delhi High Court, which of itself was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had.”

Her experience abroad has already impacted her career, as her work has been cited by several academics in India.

“Studying abroad allows you the opportunity to experience a completely different culture and to be independent. It gave me skills that will be instrumental throughout the rest of my career, not only with research but also communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds,” she said.

A holistic view of higher education focuses not only on developing graduates who can easily gain employment, but also on developing enterprising, independent thinkers with the leadership, creativity and problem solving skills that empower them to create positive change.

Experience has shown that study abroad can help develop the global perspective necessary to address complex issues. Nonetheless, whether you choose to study abroad or not, going to university is like joining a gym for your mind – what you get out of it depends on what you put in and what you make of it. Getting involved in a whole range of experiences while studying gives students the opportunity to learn, reflect, and transfer their new skills to the workplace and future endeavours.

(The author is Director of Student Employability at The University of Queensland. Views expressed here are personal)

First Published: Nov 08, 2018 18:49 IST