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By 2040 Australia’s future workers will invest 33% more time than today’s employees reskilling and upskilling over their lifetime, University of Queensland (UQ) Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Deborah Terry AO will tell participants at the 17 June Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) State Forum.

In her first major address to Queensland’s independent schooling sector since returning to UQ as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Terry will share her views on the future of universities and the evolution they will undergo to prepare graduates for life-long learning.

“Every so often, I hear predictions that universities will face some kind of existential threat because they no longer serve society’s needs, and this perplexes me because I think the opposite is true,” Professor Terry said.

“Universities have stood the test of time precisely because we are adaptive, and we will continue to evolve to meet the educational needs of students in a rapidly changing world.”

Professor Terry said more nuanced predictions were being made about the future of work, including an increasing emphasis on skills and tasks rather than jobs.

“Australians are now likely to spend a third more of their time – an additional 8,000 hours compared to the average worker today – on education and training across their lifetime by 2040,” she said.

“At the same time global challenges and the impact of technology, artificial intelligence and robotics will put fundamental human skills centre stage. For universities to produce ‘career-ready graduates who are able to engage in life-long learning, we need to carefully balance deep disciplinary knowledge that allows students to grow, with the broader transferable skills that will allow them to branch out even further.”

Professor Terry said she believed the campus experience would retain its value, especially for undergraduates who valued the rich array of extracurricular and entrepreneurial experiences as well as support services on offer.

“Universities are also very mindful that tertiary education must be within reach of all Australians with the potential to succeed and we are working to improve equity and access through scholarships and other means,” she said.

Professor Terry is one of five speakers who will address the ISQ State Forum Celebrating Change on 17 June. The other speakers include social researcher Michael McQueen; social entrepreneur Felicity Furey; political analyst Paul Kelly; and learning strategist Louka Parry.

ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said the biennial forum brought independent school leaders together with big-picture thinkers, social researchers and education experts to examine current and future schooling trends.

“This forum has never been more important following the significant disruptions COVID-19 made to the way we think about schooling, its purpose and how it is delivered,” Mr Robertson said.

Queensland independent school leadership teams and school board representatives can register for the ISQ State Forum here. Seats are limited.

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