Research, study programs, and industry: what is the connection?

TEFFIC is an Erasmus+ project by six educational institutes for higher education that educate graduates who are about to enter the industry. The project aims to improve the alignment between educational institutions and the industrial demands that have occurred because of digitization. To reach this aim, the members of the TEFFIC project have created a framework that teachers can use to prepare their lectures in a way that will provide the students with skills needed in working life.
The project is based on the interactions between research, the study programs, and the industry. All three elements are influenced by and able to affect each other, and the TEFFIC members has incorporated this way of thinking into their research.

The interplay between TEFFIC, study programs and industry

The trade between the study programs and the industry is the most obvious. The industry has specific demands which often enters the curriculum as themes; whereas the study programs provide the industry with skilled graduates. In order to educate candidates that meet the industrial demands, the study programs need to be developed continuously. This is where the research, and TEFFIC, enter the interplay.

The members of TEFFIC began their work by looking at the two elements: research and industry. In other words, what were described in the literature and what were the demands in the industry? These are the factors that became the basis of their research. During the last three years, the members of TEFFIC has explored these factors with the aim of improving the third elements, namely the study programs. The result of their research is an educational framework that can be used to improve graduates’ core skills, for example programming, mechanics, and data analysis, but also contextual skills such as teamwork and working with real-life challenges. Competences that come in handy once the graduates enter the industry as employees. The knowledge from the TEFFIC research and the teaching materials developed with the educational framework are then passed on to the study programs where it can be incorporated as part of the lectures.

At last, there are the more implicit connections between the study programs and research as well as the industry and research. These are found in the way that the study programs and the industry enable researchers to validate their projects. Once knowledge is incorporated into the study programs, the researchers can observe whether and how the students receive the knowledge – and in the long run, whether the demands of the industry are meet by the graduates who received the knowledge from the research.

Why is incorporation of this interplay relevant?

Working with the alignment between industrial demands and educational institutions is difficult
because there is a delay from the institutions know and incorporate the demands of the industry
into their programs to the graduates who have learned the necessary competences enter the job
market. Furthermore, graduates’ core skills are not the only factor counting in the industry. As
mentioned, contextual skills such as teamwork and experience with real-life cases are just as important, but these skills are harder for the industry and researchers to define.

So how do the educational institutions ensure that study programs prepare the graduates for
working life? The answer: by supporting projects like TEFFIC. This project has addressed complex
cross-structural factors that can improve both students’ core and contextual skills, and further, it
has worked with the vertical integration of this knowledge because the members has conducted
pilots of their framework across different educational levels