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The flexible professional in the knowledge society new demands on higher education in Europe


As Europe and the rest of the world moves towards a knowledge society, an effective system of higher education is increasingly important to the economy and society. However, ambiguity as to the meaning of the knowledge society is reflected in tensions in demands made of higher education graduates who are expected to fulfil key positions in the knowledge society. These workers need to possess the advanced specialized knowledge and skills required of modern high-level professionals, but are also often exp ected to be highly flexible and adaptable, able and willing to take up challenges not closely related to the specific field in which they have been trained. The knowledge society appears to require a new kind of worker: the flexible professional. In th is project we focus on three broad and interrelated questions: (1) which competencies are required by higher education graduates in order to function adequately in the knowledge society? (2) what role is played by higher education institutions in helping graduates to develop these competencies? (3) what tensions arise as graduates, higher education institutions, employers and other key players each strive to meet their own objectives, and how can these tensions be resolved? This project will develop a series of instruments designed to provide the information required to answer these questions. These instruments are: (1) a country study highlighting the main structural and institutional factors that shape the relation between higher education and work in nine European countries; (2) a qualitative study on graduate competences in the knowledge society; (3) a survey of higher education graduates in these countries. The results of the project will be disseminated in the form of several reports and memor anda, a working paper series, seminars and conferences among a broad public of scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders.

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