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Future Skills – The future of learning and higher education.

Since the beginning of 2016, there has been a research and work focus in the area of researching future requirements of the labor market as well as members of society – i.e. Future Skills, how these can be learned and developed, i.e. the future of learning and in what way universities can support the development, i.e. the future of universities.

At the core of this are 3 questions:

  • Future Skills: What do future employees have to be able to do? What are the requirementsfor people to be able to shape today’s and tomorrow’s societies in a sustainable way?
  • Future Learning Concepts: How can organizations/companies support the development of Future Skills (learning and leadership approaches in the organizations)?
  • Future Higher Education: What do higher education concepts look like that support and educate Future Skills?

Our research interest is especially focused on those competencies that future graduates of higher education should possess in order to be able to move agilely in the constantly changing, innovation-driven field of work. We follow an educational theory-based, socio-ecological competence approach.

Research currently underway:

  1. Expert screening of over 120 organizations on Future Learning Concepts.
  2. FutureSkills study based on 20 in-depth interviews with leading organizations – completed
  3. International Delphi study with nearly 50 international experts on „Future Skills – The future of learning and higher education.
For more information visit:
Project team

Prof. Dr. Ulf-Daniel

Director of the Researchgroup and Professorship for Educational Management and Lifelong Learning

Prof. Dr. Ulf-Daniel

Director of the Researchgroup and Professorship for Educational Management and Lifelong Learning

Related publications
01 Ehlers, U.-D. (2020): Future Skills: Die Zukunft des Lernens, die Zukunft der Hochschule. Springer. Wiesbaden. ONLINE ACCESS
Dieses Open Access-Buch analysiert veränderte Grundkoordinaten der Hochschulbildung weltweit und stellt die Frage, wie Hochschulbildung sich entwickeln muss, um in einer Welt globaler Herausforderungen, sich immer schneller wandelnden gesellschaftlichen Umbrüchen und innovationsgetriebenen, agilen Arbeitsfeldern bestehen können. Mit der NextSkills-Studie wird über ein qualitativ-quantitatives Multimethodendesign erstmals ein ganzheitliches bildungswissenschaftlich fundiertes Future Skills Konzept konstruiert und validiert. Future Skills und das ihnen zugrunde liegende Triple Helix Model zukünftiger Handlungsfähigkeit werden im Detail beschrieben. Das Buch führt die Diskussionsstränge um die Zukunft der Hochschule zusammen. Es beschreibt die 10 Sekunden zukünftiger Hochschulentwicklung und entwickelt vier Szenarien für die Hochschule der Zukunft.
02 Ehlers, U.-D. (2020): Future Skills: The Future of Learning and Higher Education. Springer. Wiesbaden. ISBN: 9783750494268. ONLINE ACCESS
The starting point for the enormous career of the Future Skills concept is the insight that current concepts of higher education do not meet the urgent needs of our societies with convincing future concepts. Neither are they fit to help sustain our environment nor associated social or economic challenges. While social challenges are exacerbated by an accelerating process of globalisation and digital advancement, at the same time these are the very forces that enable a multitude of new options for human development. In this situation of digital acceleration, the characteristic feature is that of uncertainty and the inevitable necessity is that of creative responsibility. The NextSkills Studies are about models for future relevant skills, so-called Future Skills. They are developed through a multitude of research activities over the last decade, involving a diverse range of international experts. Future Skills are the skills that enable future graduates to master the challenges of the future in the best possible way. The results show that in order to deal with future challenges, students must develop curiosity, imagination, vision, resilience and self-confidence, as well as the ability to act in a self-organised way. They must be able to understand and respect the ideas, perspectives and values of others, and they must be able to deal with mistakes and regressions, while at the same time progressing with care, even against difficulties.
03 Ehlers, U.-D., Eigbrecht, L. (2024): Creating the University of the Future – A Global View on Future Skills and Future Higher Education. Springer.
04 Ehlers, U.-D., Meertens, S. (2020): Studium der Zukunft – Absolvent(inn)en der Zukunft: Future Skills zwischen Theorie und Praxis. Springer. Wiesbaden. Zukunft der Hochschulbildung - Future Higher Education. ISBN: 978-3-658-29426-7. ONLINE ACCESS
In diesem Sammelband berichten zehn ausgewählte Organisationen, wie sie mit dem Future Skills Turn umgehen, welche Future Skills in Zukunft wichtig sind, wie sie diese bei ihren Mitarbeitern fördern und welche Erwartungen sie an Hochschulen haben. Im Rahmen der NextSkills Initiative wurde mit Unternehmenspartnern, öffentlichen Organisationen und Hochschulen ein international einzigartiges Modell für Future Skills entwickelt. Es basiert auf dem Triple Helix Konzept für zukünftige Handlungsfähigkeit. Die Beiträge zeigen die Zukunft hybrider Studienformen zwischen Theorie und Praxis, wie dem dualen Studium. Es werden Praxisbeispiele für Methoden zum Umgang mit dem Future Skills Turn vorgestellt.
05 Ehlers, U.-D. (2022): Shaping the Future Skills Turn – Zukunftskompetenzen für den Kulturwandel in Hochschulen in einer Welt im Wandel. In: Personal in Hochschule und Wissenschaft entwickeln. 2. 2022. ONLINE ACCESS
06 Ehlers, U.-D. (2023): The future of Skills in Higher Education. 32. EURASHE Jahreskonferenz: Skills for Europe – Mobilising he for the green and the digtal transitions.
07 Ehlers, U.-D. (2022): Future Skills im Vergleich. Zur Konstruktion eines allgemeinen Rahmenmodells für Zukunftskompetenzen in der akademischen Bildung. Universität Stuttgart (Ed.). Stuttgart. Lehren und Lernen neu gedacht – Konsequenzen für das künftige Bildungswesen. ONLINE ACCESS
[Paper presentation]. Sektionstagung „Lehren und Lernen neu gedacht – Konsequenzen für das künftige Bildungswesen“ der Universität Stuttgart und der KBBB.
08 Ehlers, U.-D., Eigbrecht, L. (2022): Envisioning the University of the Future. Mannheim. iMOBTS. ONLINE ACCESS
In this roundtable discussion, we invite participants and higher education professionals to engage with us in a stimulating discussion concerning the future of higher education. We will present and discuss different scenarios based on our own Future Skills research initiatives and emerging trends in higher education. We will also ask participants to envision their utopia of future higher education - and compare participants’ visions to the scenarios presented. We will then discuss in what way these future scenarios are already visible now - and how we can promote future-ready teaching and learning in higher education.
09 Ehlers, U.-D., Bonaudo, P. (2020): Grand Challenge: Open Educational Practices Focusing on Future Skills. Lisbon. 11th EDEN Research Workshop: Enhancing the Human Experience of Learning with Technology: New Challenges for Research in Digital, Open, Distance & Networked Education. ONLINE ACCESS
10 Ehlers, U.-D., Eigbrecht, L. (2020): Reframing Working, Rethinking Learning: The Future Skills Turn. Timisoara. EDEN 2020 Annual Conference. ONLINE ACCESS
Research on Future Skills is one of the current hot topics in education, management and organizational research. In times of global networked organizations and steadily accelerating product cycles, the model of qualification for future jobs seems debatable. Can we really prepare graduates and employees for the future by the predominant model of knowledge acquisition? Do we already have adequate concepts for competence development in higher education and work environments? An international study led to the identification of the change processes that the working and learning world are undergoing as well as of the Future Skills that will be needed in highly emergent future contexts – including digital competences, but transcending them. This calls for new strategies and concepts concerning structural, teaching and learning aspects and a new way of embracing lifelong learning concepts. “Future organizations” have been identified that have already set out for dealing with those new demands. By learning about their innovative approaches concerning employees’ competence and skills acquisition, a veritable turn away from specialist knowledge and towards Future Skills can be observed – and cannot be ignored by higher education.
11 Ehlers, U.-D. (2020): Future Skills for a European Higher Education. pp. 311-324. Bologna. Proceedings of Bologna Process Beyond 2020 – Fundamental values of the EHEA. ONLINE ACCESS
Research on future skills is the current hot topic of the day in management and organizational research. In times of global networked organizations, and steadily accelerating product cycles, the model of shifts are likely to play out differently across different industries and regions, globally, our respondents expect average skills stability – the proportion of core skills required to perform a job that will remain. Are we already having adequate concepts for competence development in higher education? Or is something new, something radical needed?
12 Ehlers, U.-D. (2019): 28th ICDE World Conference on Online Learning. In: Conference Proceedings – Volume 1: Full Papers 2020. pp. 193-207. Dublin. 28th ICDE World Conference on Online Learning. ONLINE ACCESS
13 Ehlers, U.-D. (2019): Future Skills und Hochschulbildung – Future Skills Readiness. Berlin. Gesellschaft für Medien und Wissenschaft e.V. (GMW) Jahrestagung “Teilhabe an Bildung und Wissenschaft”. ONLINE ACCESS
14 Ehlers, U.-D. , Eigbrecht, L. (2024): The Practice of Future Skills Learning: An Assessment of Approaches, Conditions and Success Factors. Ehlers, U.-D. & Eigbrecht, L. (Ed.). Springer. Wiesbaden. In: Creating the University of the Future. pp. 61-71.
15 Ehlers, U.-D. , Eigbrecht, L. (2024): Creating the University of the Future: A Global Panorama on Future Skills. Ehlers, U.-D. , Eigbrecht, L. (Ed.). Springer. Wiesbaden. In: Creating the University of the Future. pp. 3-20.
16 Ehlers, U.-D., Geier, N., Eigbrecht, L. (2023): Curriculare Einbettung und didaktische Umsetzung von Future Skills in der Hochschullehre. In: Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Rechtswissenschaft/ZDRW. 10(4). pp. 336–361. ONLINE ACCESS

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