Research and knowledge management

The Changing Labour Market and the Future of Higher Education


Agenda and list of participants (.pdf) | Background papers | Further reading 
PowerPoint presentations | Summary report

Monday 12 February

The first day will mainly look at trends and changes in OECD labour markets and reflect on their possible implications for the supply of higher education and tertiary education graduates in the future. It will discuss to what extent tertiary education graduates will be needed in diverse OECD countries and why. It will discuss quantitative and qualitative forecasts in selected OECD countries as well as its implied consequences in terms of educational attainment of the populations.The second day will look at the division of labour within tertiary education systems and speculate on how it could evolve or how a new organization of tertiary education could emerge in order to meet labour market changes.

9.15: Welcoming

9.30-10.30 : Session 1: Introduction, tour de table

During the tour de table, participants will be asked to identify what they consider as the 2 most important drivers of change for the future of higher education related to the labour market.

10.30-10.50: Coffee break

10.50-13.00: Session 2: Labour market changes: trends and prospects

This morning session will discuss some of the expected changes in OECD labour markets and in the workplace, following demographic change, technology advances, and further globalisation. What are the implications of these drivers for different OECD labour markets?

This session will try to differentiate between different types of labour markets and discuss expected changes in quantitative and qualitative terms at a general level.

  • How will different types of OECD labour markets look like in the future? What will be the main challenges? Will there be shortages in some fields?
  • How will labour markets be transformed by the increasing competition of emerging economies and increasing outsourcing of qualified work?
  • What is and will be changing qualitatively in the workplace, and what are the skills implications
  • What will employers expect from their employees?

The discussion will be launched by Stéphan Vincent-Lancrin (OECD), Marc-Antoine Estrade (France) and Marita Aho (BIAC).

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-16.00: Session 3: Returns of tertiary education to graduates: trends and prospects

This session will follow the morning discussion by focusing on the transition of tertiary education graduates in the labour market and on the associated economic returns. It will discuss related trends and prospects. It will focus on the issues of possible over-education and the possible mismatches between labour market demand and graduate supply in different contexts. This discussion is important to see whether there will still be high incentives for individuals to invest in higher education, what kinds of returns they can expect in different contexts and prepare the discussion of how tertiary education systems should adapt to labour market demand in the future.

  • What have been the trends in returns of tertiary education? What are the prospects? What characteristics in the labour market (or economy) affect these returns?
  • What leads to mismatches between labour market demand and graduate supply? Could there be over-education or shortages of tertiary education graduate students in the future? Under what conditions? To what extent would it be a problem?
  • What impact could the feminisation of tertiary education graduates have on labour markets, if any?

The discussion will be launched by Sandra McNally (UK), Ulrich Teichler (Germany), and Jean-François Giret (France)

16.00-16.20: Coffee break

16.20-17.30: Session 4: Responsiveness of tertiary education institutions and systems

This session will focus on the inter-linkages between tertiary education and the labour market and reflect on what could change the links between the two in the future.

  • How can one (or what could) make tertiary education systems become more responsive to changes in OECD economies and labour markets, both in quantitative and qualitative terms and at the individual and social level? To what extent is it desirable? What characteristics have made them responsive in the past?
  • Does anything significant need to change to strengthen the links between higher education and the labour market? What should and could be changed? What will make these changes happen at institutional and system level?
  • How do employers’ behaviour and labour market characteristics structure these links with tertiary education? What can employers reasonably expect from tertiary education? What training responsibility might they have in the future?

The discussion will be launched by Rolf van der Velden (Netherlands) and Andrée Sursock (European University Association)

17.30-18.00: Session 5: Conclusion of the first day

Maria Jesus San Segundo, former Minister of education of Spain, will wrap up and react to the first day of the meeting and set some future challenges from a policy-making perspective.

20.00: Dinner


Tuesday 13 February


9.30-11.30: Session 6: Strengthening the links between higher education and tertiary education: the division of labour within tertiary education systems

The morning session will concentrate on trends within tertiary education to strengthen its links with labour market outcomes while pursuing its other missions (research, academic training, etc.). This session will discuss how different countries and systems have tried to make their system more responsive to their labour market, give an assessment of the results, and speculate on how this might change in the future, especially in the context of globalisation (or harmonisation processes like the Bologna process in Europe). An emphasis will be given to the division of labour between institutions within a system, but other aspects of higher education (governance, teaching style, study paths, alternate periods of work and study, etc.) can also be important. The discussion will be launched by country specific examples.

Brief presentations will alternate with discussion during the morning: Tom Bailey (USA), Peder Michael Sørensen (Denmark), Moon Hee Kim (Korea), Daniel Munich (Czech Republic), Caítriona Ryan (Ireland)11.30-11.45: Coffee

11.45-13.00: Session 6: Strengthening the links between higher education and tertiary education: the division of labour within tertiary education systems (continued)

13.00-14.00: Lunch

14.00-15.20: Session 7: The changing labour market and the future of higher education: Scenarios (breakout session)

This session will be introduced by Henno Theisens (OECD). The group will split in two sub-groups to imagine how changes within the labour market could impact on higher education systems. The groups will imagine 2 to 4 scenarios.

15.20-16.00: Session 7: Report back session

The group will resume in plenary and present and Scenarios .

16.00-16.30: Session 8: Conclusion

This last session will aim at consolidating the main results of the meeting and identify areas for further research for the higher education project and provide feedback on the Secretariat’s current set of scenarios.

End of the meeting: 16.30



Background papers for the meeting

For further reading

PowerPoint presentations



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