Globalisation, technology and demographic shifts are strong drivers of change for economies and labour markets. The workplace seems to be moving away from mass production and to put more emphasis on the customization of products and services, which in turns leads to some changes in the employment relationship. Work becomes more project-based, and requires increasingly from workers to work in teams, to be autonomous and even creative. With the outsourcing of some activities to emerging countries with cheaper manpower, OECD countries will have to continue to invest in their human capital and raise the educational attainment of their population, both to help those whose activity is outsourced to find a new job and to develop high value added products and services.
Changes in the labour market could affect tertiary education in several ways:
The organization of tertiary education institutions still largely reflects the mass production model and one question is whether and how tertiary education will/could accompany these social changes: will it change its production model towards more personalised and flexible courses or will it find a way to accommodate these new demands while keeping most of its current organizational features?
The needs of people and of employers will also change in the future, both quantitatively and qualitatively:
With the ageing of society, inducing the retirement of baby boomers and an increasing demand for services for elderly people, shortages are forecast in some sectors. While this might be absorbed by an inflow of foreign graduates, one question is whether and how tertiary education can become more responsive to labour market changes in the future?
Will the expansion of tertiary education graduates yield positive returns to the graduates and their economies in the coming decades? Have OECD countries reached the point where higher education starts to have decreasing economic returns?
What determines the responsiveness of higher education systems and how could they become more responsive in the future? Does the division of labour between programmes and institutions within domestic tertiary education systems play an important role in that respect?
Lifelong learning has been widely supported for several decades but the reality has often not matched the rhetoric. Will the tertiary education sector become a major actor in lifelong learning infrastructures or will it continue to mainly take place outside the higher education sector? What are the drivers that could make this happen?
Here are some of the questions this strand of the activity will address.
OECD-France Seminar - The labour market orientation of tertiary education in France and in OECD countries: Assessment and prospects (14 February 2007)