Universities have the responsibility to form the professionals that our society demands with more urgency and quality now that we’re facing economic, social, scientific, cultural, and human challenges. Interdisciplinary orientation to achieve a competent academic education is key for the sustainability and progress of humanity. In the face of these challenges, university education needs to be projected not only to the creation of knowledge and information processing; but must be oriented to the investigation, extension, and creation processes, as roads to human development and construction. University of West England (UWE) is an example of how interdisciplinary education is achieved.
An interdisciplinary point of view on education
UWE has managed to overcome that ingrained disciplinary posture that leads to disintegration, separation, and division of knowledge and has adopted integration, dialogue, complementation and organization, key elements for optimal education. These allow the development of the student’s best aptitudes and personal enrichment by providing them with the best resources for good social interaction and thinking.
UWE knows how to adapt to the necessities of the students and the demands of companies. One of the main necessities of students nowadays is to have proper digital technology available to them since they are digitally native. Companies demand more and more specific profiles, specialize in certain areas and a transversal knowledge in tools and competencies that are considered basic these days. UWE has that union point between students and companies’ demands.
Furthermore, UWE provides a wide range of options that do not limit students to their course of choice, options that will enrich their formation and resume. These include international experiences, volunteering, internships, placement years, language courses, and many different extracurricular activities. Each of these is a differentiative element that students can include in their CVs, which will mark the difference when it comes to being chosen in a selection process for a job.
Many students feel lost when they finish their studies and don’t know what to do or which direction to follow. It is normal if they have never lived a true university experience during their education. However, UWE students get the possibility to have real contact with companies whilst still having a full university experience. This is done through a job portal where you can filter what jobs you’d like to try, and they make it very easy to apply. They also offer a summer internship scheme, where they pay half of your salary if you get a job, so the employer is more likely to hire you. This has helped many students get the experience they need to apply for future jobs after university.
Finally, there is a focus on gender equality; it’s a central element in a sustainable vision in which each member of our society respects others and plays a role that allows taking advantage of their whole potential. To make gender equality effective, the lecturers’ way of thinking and acting in their classes must change to articulate gender equality in the topics to study, generate consciousness among the students in a way they feel empowered by equality so then when they are professionals; they can generate positive changes in society.
UWE provides programmes and projects that promote spaces of interaction between students and staff, externally and internally, to create debates, proposals and workshops oriented towards gender equality topics and their impact on society. This generates consciousness both individually and collectively. There is an emphasis on asking students to think about innovations and improvements in the current politics of the university, evaluations of both students and staff, informative campaigns in a university at a societal level, and the creation of free virtual platforms linked to gender equality topics. What all these things do, is create a conversation between staff and students, to realize all ideas, feeling, and points of view are valid regardless of gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, or cultural background.
In conclusion, the orientation for university students’ education from an interdisciplinary level is a challenge and rises as a response to the new economic, social, cultural, and scientific conditions that we are now presented with. UWE presents an interdisciplinary discourse that is done collectively, a product of the consciousness and flexibility of lecturers and students, to give more integrated solutions to academic challenges. The aim is to form an academic culture in the students that is current to their time, a culture that doesn’t separate reality but that can integrate all the elements and discover them with all their essence. This all starts with making all the students feel like they belong, and they all have the same opportunities, regardless of their gender, religion, race or cultural background, by making all these different people have conversations and exchange ideas and thoughts.