How higher education can forge successful partnerships with industry

Business Impact: How higher education can forge successful partnerships with industry
Business Impact: How higher education can forge successful partnerships with industry

Effective collaboration can shape curriculum design so that graduates enter the working world with the skills, knowledge and behaviours that ensure they are an asset to future employers. Long term, students get the best quality education so that their qualifications improve their future prospects.

The key to collaboration

The critical factor is a willingness to collaborate and this works on both sides. Employers who are committed to collaboration with higher education will get a better pick of the graduates and better graduates to pick from.

Meanwhile, higher education establishments that encourage collaboration and actively pursue a variety of strategies to bring students, potential employers and learning together will gain a reputation for being a source of first-class employees and for being a preferred choice among students in view of the avenues of opportunity it provides.

High-quality education needs to be as up to date as possible. That comes from lecturers who have a good understanding of industry and its needs, so their lectures are not purely academic, but also have a practical application. To ensure that lecturers are kept up to date and get first-hand information from today’s workplace is therefore another reason why it’s so important for higher education institutions to have strong links with local industry.

Dos and don’ts

To ensure a successful partnership, it’s essential to follow some key points:

  • Define clear and specific objectives for the collaboration. Understand what each party wants to achieve and ensure their goals align.
  • Maintain open and transparent communication channels. Regularly update each other on progress, challenges and new opportunities to keep the collaboration on track.
  • Understand the strengths of each partner and how they complement each other. Appreciate each other’s expertise and contributions to the collaboration; this is all part of the development of a strong relationship based on trust and respect.
  • Address legal and ethical considerations upfront, such as intellectual property rights, data sharing and confidentiality agreements.
  • Regularly assess the progress and impact of the collaboration. Identify areas for improvement and make the necessary adjustments to enhance its effectiveness.

There are some areas to avoid too:

  • Don’t overlook equality. Both sides should have equal opportunities to contribute and benefit from the collaboration.
  • Don’t ignore student welfare and educational needs. Avoid any arrangements that might exploit students or compromise their learning experience.
  • Don’t limit innovation and creativity. Stay flexible and open to adapting the collaboration to meet changing needs and circumstances.
  • Don’t focus only on immediate outcomes. Meaningful partnerships require time to develop and yield substantial results.
  • Don’t ignore feedback from either side. Constructive criticism and input can lead to improvements and a stronger collaboration.

In addition, it’s important to ensure that there are processes in place to address potential conflicts of interest that may arise and also to aim for a win-win situation for both education and industry partners. A 2023 report from the Office for Students in the UK goes into the benefits and barriers in considerable depth.

Collaboration between education and industry can create valuable opportunities for knowledge exchange, skill development and advancements. It can foster innovation and better prepare students for real-world challenges, allow industry partners to benefit from fresh perspectives and talent and establish the educational institution as a preferred choice for students.

Phillip Stone Headshot

Phillip Stone is head of partnerships and business at Oxford Business College. He has a track record of delivering successful projects in the further and higher education sectors.

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