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How can higher education put forth graduates who effectively contribute to national economies and the labour market in a new age of knowledge-based economies? This was one of the key questions addressed by the forty education experts at the institutional and disciplinary levels from a broad cross section of countries. At the international seminar "Vocational Content in Mass Higher Education? Responses to the Challenges of the Labour Market and the Workplace" (Bonn, Germany, 8-10 September 2005). The expansion of higher education and the rapid shifts in patterns of work, combined with a growing infusion of new technologies and innovation, has brought about an unprecedented shift in programme design in higher learning. To meet the demands, higher education institutions need to re-examine their curricular and programme design to incorporate vocationally oriented content that prepares graduates for the world of work beyond academia. To raise and discuss crucial issues that arise from this for higher education institutions as well as for policy-makers was the aim of the seminar.
The meeting concentrated on three themes:
"Vocational Content in Mass Higher Education: International Perspectives and Policy Trends" focused on views from different world regions. Speakers from Europe, the Middle East, the Far East and Australia shared their perspectives.
"Responding to Rapidly Changing Labour Markets through New Forms of Knowledge Production: Organisational and Epistemological Shifts in Higher Education" explored questions about the nature of vocational content in mass higher education and its implications and challenges for the higher education sector. Issues such as the internal organisation of institutions, staffing, ethics, the nature of learning and epistemology, financing and marketisation of universities were raised in the discussion.
"Knowledge Producing Partnerships and Collaborative Ventures between the Academy and Industry" examined the nature of new emerging partnerships and of vocational content in mass higher education. Who decides the skills mix? How is it met? Who pays?