The 4th Industrial Revolution: A Redefinition of the Role of Higher Education?


The 4th industrial revolution has begun to change -and will dramatically continue to change- the economy, the society, and the labour market at large. As Frey and Osborne (2013) have pointed out, automatization and digitalization will "destroy" or at least reconfigure, as many as 70% of jobs. While Arntz et al. (2017) do not agree with Frey and Osborne (2013) on the scope of the creative destruction that AI will bring about, they are of the opinion that many routine, repetitive tasks required for the jobs of the future will be taken over by AI, therefore changing the nature of the skills needed by the labour markets of the 21st century. The OECD (2019) points out that demand for higher education continues to rise in most countries (albeit not in the United States after the COVID pandemic). While the percentage of adults who have received tertiary education has risen on average from 35% in 2008 to 44% in 2018, the OECD states clearly that the expansion of higher education will only be sustainable if HEIs give graduates the skills they require for the future, on the one hand, and on the other, if higher education can match the supply of graduates with labour market and social needs (OECD, 2019). While, according to the OECD (2019) the employment rate for college graduates is 9% than for adults who only possess upper secondary education, and the former earn on average 57% more than latter, there is much more demand for some professions than for others. According to the same report, less than 15% of students who start college study engineering, manufacturing, and construction majors, and only 5% study computer science despite the enormous demand for these professionals. Furthermore, women are particularly underrepresented in the aforementioned programs: across the OECD, only 25% of students of these majors are women.This paper reports on the increased attention on the redefinition of the Role of Higher Education in the 21st century and its key implications for the labour market. The paper builds upon a constructivist approach, combining a literature review and research on key publications and academic reports.

Author Information
Josefina Bengoechea, Geneva Business School, Switzerland
Alex Bell, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2022
Stream: Higher education

This paper is part of the ECE2022 Conference Proceedings (View)
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To cite this article:
Bengoechea J., & Bell A. (2022) The 4th Industrial Revolution: A Redefinition of the Role of Higher Education? ISSN: 2188-1162 The European Conference on Education 2022: Official Conference Proceedings
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon