Heriot-Watt pushes button on online initiative to help bridge skills gap

Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University is pushing the button on an online education initiative that hopes to address the key issues and skill gaps identified by business.

Heriot-Watt Online, which will be unveiled during a skills conference being held this week in Dubai, is designed to open up higher education opportunities to thousands of “non-traditional” students around the world.

It includes masters courses in subjects such as digital transformation, data analytics and supply chain management and logistics, alongside undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships, working with businesses to co-create and co-deliver courses “tailored to current and future talent needs”.

The university said the new approach would enable it to support organisations with a range of “impactful workforce development needs”. New future courses will reflect the emphasis that many businesses are placing on the drive to net zero including masters in sustainability and energy transition.

Heriot-Watt Online is designed to open up higher education opportunities to thousands of 'non-traditional' students around the world.

Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University, which has campuses in Scotland, Malaysia and Dubai, said: “The devastating impact of the pandemic has accelerated acceptance and understanding about the benefits of digital learning but also highlighted the urgent need for businesses to build a suitable talent pipeline who are trained for the future jobs market.

“The demographic of learners is changing and is unlikely to go back to the pre-pandemic landscape. Our largest student group by age is now late 30s and early 40s with a higher percentage of women as barriers are broken down to accessing higher education.

“Workplace skills are also changing rapidly, so both employers and employees must keep pace.

“Heriot-Watt University has spent the past two years undertaking a detailed analysis of the current marketplace and researching the needs of business, identifying where the gaps are.

“We conducted research with students, industry bodies, partners within corporate businesses and academics to design this new learning approach.”

She added: “Industry bodies are calling out for these types of courses but what makes our offering unique is that we’re also leading many areas of innovative research that will inform the future job market. Developing the right types of courses to help build in-demand skills is crucial.”

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