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Survey: Students want career-oriented universities

Education for education’s sake?

Not anymore, according to a recent survey that asked college students to identify the most important characteristics of “the university of the future.”

The majority of students surveyed — 70 percent — said postsecondary education should focus on making sure graduates are employable, meaning professors should emphasize teaching specific, career-oriented skills, rather than broad subject matter.

The survey was commissioned by Baltimore-based Laureate Education Inc., which operates a network of more than 75 postsecondary schools in 29 countries. The company hired Zogby Analytics, an international opinion research firm, to survey more than 20,800 students at 37 Laureate institutions worldwide.

“This survey demonstrated that the primary focus of university education — especially in the developing world — is to prepare students for work,” said Laureate Chairman and CEO Douglas L. Becker in a statement. ”In every country surveyed, the primary objective that students demand from education is a real-world application of the skills they learn.”

Accessibility is also a major priority for students. Forty-three percent of respondents said “the university of the future” will provide free online content to accompany most courses, and 68 percent believe universities will maintain online libraries where students can access free course materials, books and other reference tools.

And, 59 percent of students surveyed said social media will play a role in helping students learn and teach one another.

Courses will be offered in multiple languages, according to 64 percent of respondents, and most classes will be designed by industry experts, according to 61 percent of respondents.

“It was striking to see the similarities students in vastly different parts of the world held when considering the future of education,” said Jonathan Zogby, CEO of Zogby Analytics, in a statement.

Flexibility is also a top concern— 52 percent of students envision courses being scheduled at all times of the day and night, and 44 percent envision courses being offered without fixed schedules so students can complete the work whenever it’s convenient.

For 41 percent of students surveyed, higher education shouldn’t be organized into traditional two- and four-year blocs. Those students said individuals should be able to take courses at their own pace to earn specialized certificates throughout their careers, rather than concentrating the work into defined degree-seeking periods.

“In light of our global economy, the archetypal postsecondary education system needs to be rethought, and these students are pointing us in a direction of inclusiveness and job-focused learning,” Becker said.