Substantive look ahead

General insights from this first system-wide analysis 

In sustainable co-creation, it is important for all the individual partners and for the partnership as a whole to create added value. In times of labour shortage, the opportunity to readily meet high potentials within the programmes constitutes an obvious added value for the professional field. However, collaboration and co-creation also remain important under different circumstances. The quest for added value – also for the professional field – must, therefore, extend beyond what is evident.

Actively contacting organisations in the professional field and inquiring about urgencies they are facing will enable higher education establishments to identify learning opportunities in which the professional field and students may be equal participants in a co-creation process aimed at achieving a shared goal. This involves a different role for the professional field, which used to act predominantly as an advisor to institutions/programmes (e.g., in an advisory council) or as a co-creator with an institution/programme.

Co-creation with a partner from the professional field extends beyond carrying out assignments, developing a specific product or meeting a pre-defined societal need. The original question constitutes a type of starting point for further exploration in a partnership that goes off the beaten track. Such exploration will often lead to a new question of which the professional field partner was unaware; thus, the results of this collaboration in co-creation will exceed their expectations. The creativity of both partners is called upon by thoroughly exploring how complementary expertise will lead to more and new results (processes, products, insights) than each partner would achieve by individually taking this track: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is not only true for the academic programmes in which research and research-related competencies form a major part of the learning results; it applies equally to professionally oriented programmes. The goal-oriented use of such methodologies as design thinking supports this process.

The practices and experience shared demonstrate that for universities of applied sciences, co-creation with the professional field is playing an increasingly greater role as a critical success factor for high-quality education. Collaboration with the professional field is engraved in the DNA of the programmes provided by universities of applied sciences. Traditionally, such programmes command an extensive network of companies to arrange work placement positions, guest lecturers, company visits… However, the collaboration is going increasingly further and also taking on new forms, as a result of which it can be regarded as true co-creation. Students, programmes, teachers, researchers, and the professional field are all emerging stronger. The successes of these good practices will, perhaps, convince other programmes to take this step and start looking for new forms of (far-reaching) collaboration.

An attendant factor in this evolution is that, more so than before, a higher education establishment may engage in co-creation with the professional field for the additional purpose of having students acquire VUCA competencies and, more specifically, learn to co-create as such.