How to prepare students for the global economy

To succeed in higher education and beyond, today’s students need to develop an international outlook, says Harry Hortyn, co-founder of Oxford Summer Courses

The term ‘global village’ was first coined back in the 1960s, when the precursors of today’s technology made international trade, travel and communications a possibility for more than just the fortunate few.

With the dawning of the digital age, the next generation of industrialists, innovators and scientists will be the first true citizens of that global village, and their colleagues are just as likely to be sitting thousands of miles away as working at the next desk.

The world’s leading universities understand the importance of this global mobility, and are used to collaborating on international projects to address the most pressing issues of the day. Which is why these institutions are keen to attract students with not only the brightest minds, but also a truly global perspective.

But how can we instil this international outlook in our students so they gain places at top universities and make their mark on the world?

1. Expose students to different cultures

Introducing young people to the world beyond their own country as early as possible is important, and can give students the competitive edge when applying to an elite university.

Deanna Ford, a Harvard graduate and member of their interview committee, stresses the importance of a world view when applying for a university place. “I help students in the USA, UK and beyond to secure places at the university of their choice, and the level of competition is astonishing,” she says.

“But you have to remember that, in the business world, taking a global view is second nature, which is why these places look for globally-minded applicants.”

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Deanna has found ways to introduce her own children to the wider world. “In America, where I live, it’s usual for children to go to summer camps for up to six weeks, and my own children have attended international ones in the UK since they were 11.

“I think it prevents them from living in an American bubble. They learn so much from mixing with children from Europe, India and Asia, and get to understand different perspectives and points of view that will serve them well in the future.”

2. Stress the importance of international collaboration

It’s never too early to show students how important it is to work alongside people from different parts of the world. And universities are increasingly looking for evidence of this understanding.

Dr Saroj Velamakanni, who completed his PhD at Cambridge University and sits on the university’s interview panel for medicine and natural sciences, agrees that an appreciation of international collaboration is a valuable attribute for today’s student.

“Students need to demonstrate cross-cultural experience, and the potential to interact and work with different cultures in business. We can’t only look to Europe for innovative medical developments, for example – we have to look at Hong Kong, China and India if we want to be top of our game.”

In Saroj’s view, a student who understands the benefits of collaboration across borders will be in a stronger position to make a positive impression in a university interview.

“I still remember one student who had spent time in a top Indian hospital before he applied. He spoke about developments there; how artificial intelligence was improving efficiency and how he envisaged we could use the same thing in the UK. It was the perfect marriage of ideas and aptitude.”

3. Focus on skills as well as qualifications

Today’s students will be entering a competitive global marketplace when they leave education, so having an insight into the qualities needed to thrive in the world of work is key.

Both Deanna and Saroj agree that to get a head start on the career ladder, young people need to focus on some of the softer skills, such as confident communication, open-mindedness and the willingness to network across countries, cultures and backgrounds. All of these will equip students for an evolving global economy, and prepare them for the future.

Universities are starting to provide opportunities for their students to develop a more international outlook, and schools which want to give students an early taste of the wider world could follow suit. “Encouraging students to investigate international working and studying possibilities, including internships, camps and stints at NGOs is a good place to start,” says Saroj.

“Learning is a constant process, which is why it is so important to develop a deep curiosity about new ideas and new experiences from within, but also outside of your home country.”

Harry Hortyn

Harry Hortyn is the co-founder of Oxford Summer Courses, which welcomes students from over 100 countries to their Oxbridge learning experience summer courses in both India and the UK.

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