On education in Europe and the USA

Clever Magazine
Universities United Kingdom Student life Kirill Delikatnyi

Transformative Trends in UK Education: A Paradigm Shift

In the midst of a digital revolution transforming UK education, this article highlights the transformative trends that are redefining the educational landscape. Pioneering institutions such as London Interdisciplinary Schools and The Open University are at the forefront, promoting interdisciplinary studies in education and problem-based learning, offering degrees that integrate multiple disciplines. The reluctance to continue online learning post-COVID and the shifting preferences of Gen Z are challenging the traditional education paradigms. This piece underscores the need for institutions to adopt a diversity and communication framework, nurturing a decentralised network that connects education and industry. Beyond the classroom, UCL, Cambridge, and Oxford are driving innovation and closing the education-industry gap, making significant contributions to economic and social impact. With the Institute for Research in Schools leading the charge in early education innovation, the article advocates for strategic course offerings that align education with emerging labour markets. It serves as a guide for institutions to confront the challenges and seize opportunities for change, equipping the educational landscape for a dynamic and rapidly changing future.
Long-time readers will recognize my discontent with the education system's traditionalism. I believe the digital transformation will render the current effectiveness of the education sector obsolete, and I worry we may need to start from scratch. Yet, this article casts a hopeful light, reflecting on institutions that acknowledge the global tectonic shifts and adapt to new realities. Educational establishments are discovering innovative methods of financing, fostering industry integration, creating community networks, reevaluating their knowledge delivery, and opening new channels for knowledge dissemination. This is the path being carved by a select few institutions in the UK.

Interdisciplinarity and Problem-Based Learning

Those aligned with my concerns will know that interdisciplinary skills are foundational to the future of education. Interdisciplinary curricula are proving to be a catalyst for innovation, encouraging creative problem-solving by pushing boundaries beyond traditional disciplines.

Technological advancements are poised to replace much of manual labor, shifting the focus to problem-solving roles. This shift necessitates that higher education adopts problem-based learning (PBL) as a primary teaching method, preparing students for the demands of the future workforce.

Today's corporations implement 'think tanks' at various levels, and they've learned that simply bringing together like-minded individuals doesn't spur breakthroughs.
Instead, companies championing innovation adopt interdisciplinary approaches, assembling professionals from diverse fields to tackle problems beyond their usual scope. The effectiveness of this strategy lies in its ability to foster problem-solving from fresh perspectives.
  1. People don't automatically assume that the answer to the problem lies within a textbook chapter they skipped in class.
  2. People are not locked into their "lenses" of expertise.
Diversifying your think-tank is crucial for spurring innovation, and the second key is enhancing diversity and communication. By improving the quality of communication between a system's components, you facilitate a more successful knowledge exchange, which is instrumental in driving innovation.
  1. Creating a psychologically welcome environment that appreciates diversity of thought.
  2. Utilising technology that eases communicative capabilities.
Some educational institutions are already embedding interdisciplinary studies into their curriculum, while others are yet to catch up. A Google search for 'interdisciplinary studies' reveals that many UK universities offer interdisciplinary degrees. However, these programs are often confined within a single traditional faculty, which can restrict the breadth of subjects included in your interdisciplinary education.
However, emerging institutions like the London Interdisciplinary Schools are exhibiting bravery in pioneering the fundamentals of a future education system by fully embracing interdisciplinary studies. This institution only offers three degrees: BASc, MASc, and a Leaders programme, which are renowned for their interdisciplinary programs that dissolve the traditional boundaries between the humanities and sciences.
The Open University, another innovative institution based in London, is focusing on strengthening interdisciplinary studies as well as improving communication. It offers a seamless online learning environment that relieves students from the pressure of attending campus. Without a doubt, the recent emergence of these institutions is reshaping the educational landscape.

  1. Creating a financial architecture that is adaptable to the transforming world.
  2. Becoming extremely appealing to GenZ.
  3. Becoming more appealing to the international knowledge exchange network than traditional institutions.
Most universities in the UK are still heavily reliant on accommodation and campus services for their income, which hinders their ability to adapt to the digitalization of higher education. Some are even resistant to integrating online learning, a stance that became particularly evident after Covid. These higher education providers are likely to face challenges first.
Emerging research indicates that GenZ is not as committed to the traditional education route, with 50% considering other learning options such as online courses or entering the changing job market directly after school. The labour market is adjusting, with many companies starting to view a Bachelor's degree as less essential for graduate employment. However, some education providers are still resisting change, making undergraduate degrees difficult to pursue online and less relevant for those seeking to diversify their skill set for employment.
As our world becomes more interconnected in trade, labour, travel, and domestication, the education system remains highly localised. We can find hotspots of higher education providers that are fostering an innovative environment and delivering learning of the highest quality, often due to successful industry integration in some developed civilizations. However, this organisation is causing several problems.

  1. Demographic knowledge divide/gap
  2. Migration of students puts pressure on some countries due to either diminishing of talent or an influx of migrants (such as in the case of the UK).

Educational establishments that adopt the diversity and communication framework will be able to integrate more easily into an international decentralised network of education and industry, becoming more adaptable to the rapidly transformative world.

So how can traditional institutions embrace change?

The Edinburgh Futures Institute exemplifies how traditional institutions can embrace change and adapt to the digital transformation of our world. I will outline their organisational structure in four key components to illustrate the innovation within the education system that is driving the push towards transformation.

The biggest challenges facing societies globally are complex and interconnected. Our participatory approach is future-facing and inclusive. Recognizing that insight and innovation stem from bringing diverse minds together, we believe that addressing the challenges of our time requires radical and creative collaborations.


We champion innovation and foster collaboration with people across the University of Edinburgh and beyond – from research centres and projects to dynamic networks of practitioners and creators, from living laboratories to the people and businesses we partner with.


The Edinburgh Futures Institute adopts a collaborative approach, integrating efforts across all areas of the University of Edinburgh – from Colleges and Schools to research centres, to staff and student networks and initiatives, ensuring university integration is at the forefront of our mission.

Culture & Community

Our Culture and Community team is dedicated to community engagement and enhancing research accessibility, facilitating and showcasing work by our staff, students, and partners who creatively demonstrate our aim to connect our research with the wider community. We sponsor co-produced cultural events, festivals, temporary and online exhibitions, and permanent artworks and installations around the Edinburgh Futures Institute building.

Although I believe that a diversity and communication framework is central to creating an adaptable education system, other universities have shown that fostering innovation can also be achieved through supporting start-ups and spin out companies. I will share examples of three universities that are cultivating an innovative environment and demonstrating a track record of success.
University College London Business (UCLB) closely collaborates with academics to explore commercialization avenues for bringing their concepts to market, establishes suitable organisational structures, and ensures the protection of vital intellectual property (IP). This framework has led UCL to excel in the Life Sciences sector, with 42% of spinout companies from UCL operating within it.

Cambridge Enterprise, within the University of Cambridge, provides entrepreneurs with expert guidance in the commercialization process, including support with academic consultancy services, safeguarding and licensing intellectual property (IP), establishing new companies, and facilitating investment. This roadmap for translating research into economic and social impact has enabled University of Cambridge spinout companies to collectively secure £2.12b worth of stock between 2012 and 2021, in addition to £100m in grants from UK and EU programmes.

Oxford University Innovation, a pivotal entity within the University of Oxford, specialises in assisting academics through various stages of commercialization. This includes offering expertise in business planning, securing seed funding, and facilitating introductions to potential investors, all while protecting the essential intellectual property (IP) rights. Beyond the initial stages, Oxford University Innovation provides continued investment and guidance, contributing to the University of Oxford's leading status in the UK with an impressive tally of 195 spinout companies.
While higher education institutions focus on strengthening industry ties, they often miss the mark in applying best practices for fostering innovative thinking during the foundational years of education. In contrast, external entities like the Institute for Research in Schools are pioneering problem-based learning strategies to instil innovative thinking in children from an early age. The Institute for Research in Schools is particularly intriguing to me, as it seeks to integrate hands-on research and problem-solving into the curriculum, equipping students with the critical skills needed for future challenges.

Least effort

At the very least, higher education (HE) providers should be introducing courses that cater to emerging labour markets, a move that could help maintain their relevance. However, to truly stay competitive, I believe these institutions will need to re-evaluate their organisational structure. For a bit of insight, I'm excited to share that new courses are being launched in the UK, aimed at preparing students for the evolving job market and the demands of the future:

  • Ethical Hacking introduced at the University of Aberdeen
  • Internet of things introduced at the University of Essex
  • Animal Behaviour and Psychology at the University of Chester
  • Space economy at the University of Aberdeen