Aarhus University Seal

AU project to build bridges between education and careers

In future, more university graduates must pursue careers in the private sector. AU is launching a new project, Karrierklar (‘career-ready’) aimed at making university education even more relevant to the labour market.

In future, more university graduates will need to pursue careers in the private sector, and the university’s degree programmes must adapt to this development in order to to live up to their responsibility to society. This is the main message of the new project which was approved by the Aarhus University board this week.

The Karrierklar (‘career-ready’) project is aimed at developing initiatives to promote the inclusion of practical experience in university education and to emphasise the inclusion of the career dimension in the curriculum.

“We have to do more to adapt to the changed demands that will be made on us, and not least on our graduates, by the labour market of the future. Although we aren’t going to revolutionise how we teach at the university, we are going to strengthen our efforts to integrate practical elements into our courses and unify them with the core academic content of the individual degree programmes. We will address this for each individual degree programme, so appropriate allowances for differences between subjects are made,” says Berit Eika, pro-rector for education.

Case competitions and one-year Master’s theses

The pro-rector cites increased use of case competitions and projects as examples of interesting methods of bridging the gap between students, lecturers and employers. At the same time, she points out that Aarhus University is already working to encourage more students to spend more than one semester on their Master’s thesis projects, and to ensure that a far larger proportion of theses are written in collaboration with a business or organisation:

“This will ensure that the Master’s thesis remains the crown jewel of a university education, while also giving the project scope for closer collaboration with an external partner. This will give students a particularly good springboard to their careers, and businesses will derive more benefit from collaborating with a student.”

Eika emphasises that the link between theory and practice is not a new issue, at that AU’s degree programmes have been working to strengthen it for a long time. The aim of the Karrierklar project is to provide additional backing for the efforts already being made in this direction, and to help spread the models which have been shown to work, including in relation to potential students:

We have to do a better job of clarifying the career dimension for applicants. This is not a simple task, because both the labour market and a student’s interests can develop in the course of a degree programme. While academic interests should still be central in choosing a degree programme, we can see that career possibilities do affect that choice, and that visible career opportunities can help motivate students and give their studies focus,” explains Eika.

No one-size-fits-all

She emphasises that while the project will involve all of the university’s degree programmes, it does not represent an attempt to impose a one-size-fits-all model of how to link theory and practice:

“We can’t predict precisely how the labour market will develop, and so our trump card will always be strong academic competencies in the various disciplines, in-depth study and critical thinking. The challenge is to identify the models which best link the academic strengths of the different disciplines with the practice which graduates can expect to encounter in their careers.”

The Karrierklar project should be viewed in the context of the university’s overall strategic efforts to build bridges between degree programmes and the labour market. After a board meeting this summer, AU began the process of readjusting the academic focus of its degree programmes. This involves a central investment of DKK 260 million, which will be invested in improvements to the engineering and business programmes, as well as in mergers and consolidation of a number of language programmes. The development of honours programmes aimed at specific industries is also under consideration, as well as measures to improve conditions for student entrepreneurship.