How would you define the working world of the 21st century? With an increased flexibility in terms of remote working, travel and timetabling, it is clear that businesses are adapting to millennial needs. But what about universities? At the Cyber University of Minerva, established in San Francisco, the traditional university structure has been turned on its head, in favour of tomorrow’s approach to work. Let’s see why the ‘globe-trotter’ degree is so beneficial to both businesses and the new working generation.
Imagine this: you’ve just been accepted into your dream university. You’ve made it through despite the 1.9% admissions rate. And you’ll be working with students from all over the globe. No, this isn’t Harvard, Yale or Oxbridge, but the Cyber University of Minerva. It was founded by Ben Nelson, ex-president of the photo sharing and printing service, Snapfish, which is used by over 250 million people across the globe today.
Doesn’t ring a bell? Unsurprising – this accredited Cyber University is a brand-new venture, founded in 2012, and was created to revolutionise the traditional higher education structure, with the aim to beat the prestigious Ivy League (the American group of top universities) in terms of its students’ employability, but also in terms of personal attainment. No lectures, classrooms or even face-to-face tutoring here; the international cohort spends each term in a different city across the globe (San Francisco, Buenos Aires, London, Berlin, Hyderabad, Taipei and Seoul) and works remotely on assignments, both individually and through online group video-seminars.
Not forgetting the inevitable global experience and the self-discipline gained by such a venture, the course focuses on a variety of other much sought after ‘soft skills’ that today’s employers are so interested in. In other words, someone’s human skills and qualities, linked with the domain of emotional intelligence, which are acquired and built upon over time. Something which the traditional university system often neglects at the expense of focusing entirely on technical skills and factual knowledge.
With Nelson’s mission being ‘Nurturing Critical Wisdom for the Sake of the World’, his undergraduate courses are split into vocational skills-based topics such as ‘Theory and Analysis in the Social Sciences’ or ‘Humanities Applications’, with the aim to stimulate critical thinking rather than learning from memory.
You might be thinking, ‘Soft skills are important, but what about practical experience?’ The Cyber University’s partnerships with organisations such as Amnesty International, Google and Amazon allow their students to gain real professional experience and networking opportunities during the holidays. The access to industry from their first year onwards gives them the advantage of understanding the modern business world before their career even begins.
So, what can we learn from this ultra-modern ‘Cyber University’ project? Although an extreme example of improving the university system, which may not be suited to everyone, Nelson’s idea of promoting a sense of responsibility which accompanies a flexible working lifestyle, as well as an open-minded, global outlook, is extremely attractive to modern businesses. The multiple difficulties related to remote work: distractions, time management and communication issues, will be addressed before even entering the job market. There is no doubt that the students will have obtained a flair for technology, essential for the digital age. And many will have learnt languages in the best way possible – through direct contact with a variety of cultures.
Though the ‘Cyber University’ is only 7 years old, meaning that its career prospects have not yet been proven, the students’ examination results and internship feedback at least confirm Minerva’s potential.
At TeamRH, a recruitment company located in Paris, we prioritise candidates’ soft skills, adaptability and often language skills when matching their profile with a business. Therefore, we understand that a career-oriented curriculum that looks towards the future can only be beneficial for future candidates and businesses alike.
Traditional education and elite schools such as the Ivy League, or the Russell Group in the UK, by no means need to be replaced. Indeed, many students will adapt much more readily to a traditional university much closer to home; intense and adventurous Minerva-style courses are not for everyone, especially those outside the US who benefit from much lower fees (although this university asks for much less than the Ivy League)!
Yet what universities need to incorporate into their curriculum is an emphasis on soft skill building and active participation. Simply by running seminars instead of lectures and placing a time limit on the amount of time the professor can speak, students will feel the need to listen and participate, and consequently they will grow in confidence. Or why not offer a year or even a semester abroad to students of all disciplines? A study by the Institute of International Education, conducted in 2017, demonstrates direct links between studying or working abroad and successful career development. A CV demonstrating international experience and language learning is often instantly more attractive to employers. It would therefore seem illogical not to offer such an option!
So, students, teachers and professors, and indeed employers, for a successful modern working environment, don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
TeamRH, a recruitment firm in Paris, is a leading player in the legal and financial sector. We work with a national and international clientele, helping them to strive for a top performance. Our consultants benefit from an extensive knowledge of the market and of legal professions in order to better understand their task. We also offer Career & Life Coaching sessions (stress, demotivation, professional strategies to handle burn out).
5 rue de Hanovre
Tel : 01 42 33 26 12
E-mail : jobs[@]teamrh.com