Teaching ethical leadership in tertiary education

Tertiary Education Futures
Publication Date
Professor Sandro Carnicelli
Professor Edwin Constable CorrFRSE
Logo, company name
The future of tertiary education
Teaching ethical leadership in tertiary education

In a rapidly changing world with shifting societal values, AI, and complex global challenges, the need for ethical leadership transcends traditional boundaries and extends beyond research and tertiary education.

In this episode, we look at the vital role of ethical leadership in preparing tomorrow’s leaders, asking what skills and values they should be equipped with to navigate the intricate systems we inhabit in academia and beyond. We ask why early career researchers are increasingly embracing non-academic pathways, and what skills are required to prepare them to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by academic careers but also enable them to thrive in other fields of activity. And finally, what lessons in communicating science have we learned in recent years that enable institutions and researchers to better contribute to addressing grand challenges?

More ways to listen:


Professor of Tourism and Leisure Studies, University of the West of Scotland.
Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of Basel
Paper planes against a purple background with a green plane leading the way

Tertiary Education Futures project

A ‘blue-skies’ thought experiment, informed by sectoral views to stimulate continued creative thinking about how post-school education might evolve over the next few decades.

Discover the Tertiary Education Futures project


Royal Society of Edinburgh logo
Logo, company name


This transcript has been automatically generated so may feature errors.

00:00 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Hello, this is Professor Sandro Carnicelli. I’m a Professor of Tourism and Leisure Studies at the University of the West of Scotland and member of the Young Academy of Scotland. Today, we continue our podcast series discussing the future of tertiary education and we focus on doctoral training, what the future holds for ECRs and the ethical leadership in tertiary education. To explore this theme, I’m joined by Professor Edwin Constable. Ed was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England. He studied chemistry at Oxford, where he gained a BA and a doctorate in philosophy. His interests cover all aspects of Chemistry, chemical history and the communication of science. He has been Research Dean and Vice-president of the University of Basel. He is currently the chairman of the Swiss Academy’s Expert Group on Research Integrity and President of the EU research. He was recently elected as a corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. When he’s not being a chemist, he should be found chasing insects and pursuing his love of photography. 

Hi Ed, thank you so much for joining us today and it’s lovely to talk to you about leadership in academia. I think my first question to you would be regarding early career researchers. You know, they are now increasingly opting for non-academic pathways, you know, straight after the PhD. I was actually looking at a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute from 2020 showing that 67% of PhD students want a career in academic research, but then only 30% stay in academia three years on. So I wanted, you know, coming from your experience, and you’ll have been involved in doctoral programs development for a number of years. How do you see these programs now? How do you see this development of early career researchers and post-PhD, you know, what is actually happening?

01:57 Professor Edwin Constable: Well, first of all, Sandro, it’s a pleasure to be here. And I look forward to an interesting conversation. Yeah, that’s a very, very good question. It was also very nice to see the quantification of those figures. It’s always been my feeling that something like 70% of doctoral candidates enter their PhD convinced they’re going to end up as a university professor, and that the reality is something under half of them actually continuing an academic route of any description. From my own point of view, this is a very welcomed development. I think it’s one of the major ways in which the tertiary education system essentially gives back to society. So this is our societal input. And although many university professors would regard this as wasted talent, in reality, it’s actually probably the most valuable contribution that we make towards developing a technological and literate society.At the same time, it does indicate that many doctoral candidates entered the PhD programs with an unrealistic expectation. And maybe the first comment I’d like to make here is that somewhere very early at the beginning of the doctoral training, it would be useful for the supervisor and the candidate to sit down and just mutually exchange, what their expectations are, what the PhD candidate expects, not only in terms of supervision, but also what they intend to do afterwards, what they think they would like to do afterwards, and also, what the possibilities after a PhD are, because universities are very good at emphasizing the academic training within a PhD program and the academic career pathways and are maybe less forthcoming regarding the alternatives and the diaspora of possibilities after completing a PhD training.

04:11 Professor Sandro Carnicelli:  And obviously, you are a vice president of a university and you would have seen that beyond your own area of expertise, which is chemistry, is that something that it varies according to areas, you know? I don’t know, my background is tourism, tourism management, and, you know, when I when I was doing my PhD, you know, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that did a PhD and didn’t become an academic. I think I met more of them more recently, let’s say, but it wasn’t something that 15-20 years ago people thought about. It is that something that differs depending on the field is, like, for example, chemistry, is it more like when the research and PhD make one work in industry or policymaking? Or, and maybe business, business students would do something else, or is that something that in an organisation-wide perspective, that’s something that you observed?

05:11 Professor Edwin Constable: Yeah, I think it’s very true that although universities like a one model fits all approach, these questions are so discipline dependent. And I mean, if we take extremes, where we can emphasize this, if we take training in medicine or in law, the natural career progression is not towards an academic career path. Whereas maybe within the experimental sciences, a lot of experimental scientists enter a PhD program with aspirations to continue in an academic career. In the humanities and social sciences, it’s quite interesting. Although the success chances are probably lower in that there are simply very often fewer possibilities to progress up the career ladder. At the same time, the more rarefied the research topic, the greater the expectation that an academic career pathway might be opened. The social sciences are really very much in the middle. And maybe I can make an aside here and a very, very good colleague of mine, who I’ve known since we were both PhD candidates is now a professor of tourism. All, although I suspect when we did our PhDs such a position didn’t even exist even in the minds of the most liberal university management.

06:43 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: I can imagine that, yeah. You mentioned that about these conversations when people are starting their PhD about future career and so on and I want to bring you some other data from this Higher Education Policy Institute report from 2020. One says that PhD students are well trained in analytical data and technical skills, along with presenting to specialist audiences and writing for peer reviewed journals. But they are less confident on their training and managing people, finding career satisfaction, applying for funding and managing budgets. So clearly, there is a different aspect in terms of developing skills. So according to you, what skills do these future leaders, let’s say, have that could be useful across the sector’s not only in academia? How do we develop those skills, and how we can really understand those skills that postgraduate students are developing?

07:45 Professor Edwin Constable: I’m smiling, which you can’t see just on the audio of the podcast, because I’m just looking at the bullet points that I wrote down for this discussion. And I put on the list of things that universities are typically very poor at doing, and which creates an enormous problem when you make the transition from doctorate to post doctorate to first academic position. You know nothing about handling a budget, you probably unless you’re in business studies, you can’t read a spreadsheet, you know nothing about governance. And the worst omission, I think, is that you have had no formal training on conflict management and leadership. And I can almost guarantee that within the first year of any newly appointed academic, at almost any level from postdoc onwards, they will encounter conflicts within the team that they have to learn to manage early before they escalate to create a more deep-seated issue. I think we’re very poor at doing this. And I don’t know why, because it’s been identified for certainly 15-20 years as a need in the training. Possibly because universities have always tried to avoid discussions about conflict management, trying to give the ‘we’re all happy within this enclosed environment’ view to the world. On the other hand, though, the trainings that are received are excellent for proceeding into an academic career on the academic side, subject to those limitations of man management. And those skill sets are also generally of use within society where there is a deficit and it’s one that’s very close to my heart, that although doctoral candidates, for example, are very well trained in preparing material for an academic audience for learning journals, they are generally is not well prepared to be able to present their work to a non-specialist audience. It’s a particular problem within the experimental scientists, where we tend to say: ‘Oh, you wouldn’t understand, or I can’t present this without using a very specialized vocabulary’. That’s a problem we’ve made. And it’s a problem that we have to solve, it is possible to communicate without using a specialized vocabulary. But we tend not to do it or not to teach it, because it’s seen as denigrating the value of the science.

10:39Professor Sandro Carnicelli: You have had experience in UK and Switzerland and in other countries. Is there, obviously there is a difference in both graduate research training in all these different countries, how do you see this, is there a better model than others? You know, have you seen better model models than, let’s say, UK based training?

11:02 Professor Edwin Constable: I think that, in general, within Europe, there is a trend and a change, that may be going a little faster in some countries, a little slower in others, but in general, everything is moving towards a similar direction. I am, with the prejudice of my background, at the European Universities Association on the committee for doctoral training, I would say the Salzburg documents are really the basis for what PhD training could be and should be. And they go everything from the training aspects to the move from one on one supervision, to team supervision, to expectations and the skill sets that doctoral candidates should have, even down to the vocabulary issues that we now talk about doctoral candidates, rather than doctoral students, indicating a clear break after the Masters, which at least prejudices the debate that as to whether the doctorate is simply the end of the formal education at the university system, or whether it’s the beginning of the early career researcher program. I think it’s a healthy debate, it’s one that’s ongoing. And I’m not convinced there is any consensus, as yet. I mean, maybe it’s also an entry into another topic very close to my heart that in almost all universities, worldwide, the postdoctoral candidates are a missing generation, their voices are very often not heard within the governance of the university. They have an allegiance, usually to a laboratory, or to an institute or a research group, but not towards an institution. And at the same time, these people are at the peak of their scientific career, their research career. And they are the future ambassadors of the institution. And they really are not incorporated either within the career structures of the universities, or within the opportunities that the university can offer in terms of trainings and skill sets for future careers. Because again, although we see this 50% drop out at the end of the doctoral candidate, from those with aspirations on the academic career paths, there’s a similar drop out into the diaspora of career possibilities after the first or the second postdoc. And in some disciplines, for example, a postdoc is regarded as essential to be able to realistically apply for an industry job, chemistry is a typical example of that. So the postdoc there is not only a portal into the academic world, it’s actually the portal into using your previous seven years, eight years training.

14:12 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Now, why is this happening according to you? Because I would suspect that the leadership of universities, most of them had to go through similar processes and patterns, maybe obviously in a different generation or, you know, what is the reason why current academic leadership have not made changes, significant changes on that process? 

14:31 Professor Edwin Constable: That’s an exceptionally good question. It’s a question I can really only answer with the kind of stomach feeling, While I play conservatism, to fully embrace what we believe the doctoral training and early career training should be, does involve a major reorganization of the university infrastructure for that cohort of people. It involves, more importantly, and probably with a greater resistance, changing the expectations and the aspirations of the supervisors and of career progression structure within the university. So for example, although we have in the vast majority of cases moved away from the one to one relationship between supervisor, and doctoral candidate towards at least some kind of team leadership, most doctoral supervisors, most PIs will still instinctively think about their PhD candidates. And that leads to the difficulty of balancing the expectation that they will be working 100% on the research topic that has been decided, to the reality of whatever the university has decreed is the amount of time the doctoral candidates should be spending in transversal skills or whatever, together with whatever other responsibilities that the university imposes upon those doctoral candidates, for example, didactic experience in classes or in laboratories. That’s one aspect of it. It’s one that’s much broader, because it’s a reluctance to accept that the system has changed from when you were being trained yourself. And, I mean, it’s human. And it takes time to change those attitudes. But those attitudes are also at the senior management level, that the conservatism there is less to do with willingness for change, but rather with caution that change may not necessarily be for the better. And it’s very easy to break something, and it’s not so easy to repair it. And I think that in many cases, explains the conservatism that we see in university management.

17:03 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Interesting. You know, one thing that I’ve been fascinating during my time as a member of the Young Academy of Scotland, was exactly meeting members of other Young Academies, including the Young Academy of Switzerland. And observing this new generation with, one, strong critical views of the current systems or higher education systems, but also a very strong desire to make changes. But I do wonder if there is at some point that it becomes an unnatural approach, should be a bit more conservative in terms of the changes you make, because it is easier to break them to repair, which is a very good point.

17:52 Professor Edwin Constable: I think one of the tragedies is that the young researcher rapidly becomes the old professor. That in that transition, they are exposed to very often the views and the culture of a previous generation. In many cases, it’s just easier to accept that status quo, which is a very comfortable status quo, I must admit.

18:14 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Is there a relationship between these and like, I don’t know, new research paradigms and new ways people are seeing how to do research, how to develop careers, and so on. I know that you’ve been involved with a new research integrity framework for Switzerland. What did you learn from that? How you see that could be a fit for other countries, including Scotland? Should this be embedded in training if there is an opportunity shift that kind of almost status quo cycle that we mentioned?

18:55 Professor Edwin Constable: There’s an opportunity, I think, that we need to be very careful how we present questions of research integrity, because the automatic response of most active researchers, and an understandable response, is, this is something which is put in place to restrict my freedom of research, to restrict my freedom of activity. And what we really need to be doing is saying this is not a new set of rules to constrain your work, but rather, it represents best practice in your discipline. And also, if we come back to what we were saying about the societal impact, it actually is the guarantee that scientific research, and I’m using scientific in the German sense here, all knowledge creation activity, not just the experimental sciences, that scientific research should be really reliable. And that as we are sitting here, I believe that WHO has now said the pandemic is over. So we can look back at the pandemic and see how scientific research was challenged, because effectively, the research integrity was not established. So the integrity of the results was being challenged in a very, very broad community. And that in itself raises a very interesting question as to how scientists should be able to communicate, possibly complex and detailed research results in such a way that they can be unequivocally understood within a broader community. And again, this is our failure. We, we train scientists to do science, we don’t do a very good job at training them to communicate outside their discipline. I believe it’s actually part of the responsibility of any knowledge creation individual to be able to explain what they’re doing in a good old fashioned English phrase to the man on the Clapham omnibus, or maybe on the Edinburgh tram.

21:20 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: You mentioned academic freedom there. Why do you think that there may be debates between integrity and academic freedom? Can you unpack that a little bit more?

21:31 Professor Edwin Constable: Yes, it gets us into an area which is actually rather topical. The first point that it really creates a clash is in the so called dual use research of concern. So this is research which is done for the benefit of mankind, but which can be misused or redirected towards typically military or antisocial ends. So the classic example I would give is, should the researcher accept a contract from a cosmetics firm, to develop an app for a smartphone, so that you could hold the phone up to your face, and it would then match the cosmetics perfectly to your colouring, to your facial features. And that, of course, is a benign application and is something that I think at first sight, we would all say: ‘hey, that’s great, I can look better without having to do anything’. But that is exactly the same facial recognition technology, which can be built in to a drone. And so this is classical dual use, research of concern. It also extends, is very generally recognized within the Life Sciences and Biological Sciences. And this is where there is a conflict because you have an, at least, an ethical, and possibly an integrity question regarding even doing this research.But then there is the question that if you decide that you don’t want to do it, or if your institution decides it doesn’t wish to be involved in this research program, we immediately have the question of the researcher’s individual rights to academic freedom, and not being allowed to pursue a particular line of research. But it’s a broader issue. If we move to the humanities, there is an ongoing debate and one I have no wish to enter into: should we allow research into the 1930s and the 1940s in Europe, with a stated thesis of Holocaust denial. Is that academic freedom or is that a step too far? And as I say, it’s a debate I don’t want to enter into, but it’s a debate that many university managements have to address one way or another and many funding agencies have to address in the course of their daily work.

24:09 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: I think it’s interesting you explaining that because actually, earlier this month, we were in Stockholm for the meeting of the European Network of Young Academies. And one of the days was fully dedicated to academic freedom. And one of the debates was also about, you know, what are the limits of academic freedom? And it’s a valid point, and I think it’s something that actually early career researchers, young academics, future leaders are really keen to better understand the debate. And talking about that, I wanted to take us then further through the development of skills, and leadership skills because again, a lot of these issues that we talked about here, that have developed with technology or with changes in society, or, you know, the increasing awareness of some of our global challenges are really put in check, you know, scientific knowledge, academic knowledge, and so on. And you mentioned a lot about the capacity of explaining academic or scientific knowledge to others. But I wonder in what other leadership skills, values, we should be kind of thinking about developing in this new generation of scientists and researchers?

25:42 Professor Edwin Constable: If I knew the answer to that… no, the question is really at the core of how tertiary education should develop in the next 20 to 30 years. There is no doubt that we can begin to address it very early on in the career path, possibly at the bachelors, certainly the masters and the doctoral level, by simply showing the career pathways that a particular course of training can lead to. And that’s something that should always be done with examples rather than with dry or textbook presentations. Every university has a senior management team, every one of that senior management team have come through doctorate, post doctorate, early career appointments. Now, the story of how they ended up in their present positions, is actually a way of showing the career pathways that can come from, for example, a PhD or a postdoc. And again, one of the things that I like to try to do, and I encourage institutions to do is to track their alumni, and not just do it for the short term, which is what you need for the statistics. But it’s the 10-15 year mark that is actually critical, because then you can see what people have really done with the training that they had, rather than the first job opportunity that they went into. So you can see that you know, your chemistry doctoral candidate is now the CEO of a market research firm. And the question is, you know, how did they do that? Or they’ve become, I’m just thinking of personal experience here, they become responsibility for sustainability within the political section. And again, it’s just to open the possibilities, and change the expectations and aspirations. I mean, I certainly went into a PhD, I was convinced I wanted to follow an academic route, I was lucky enough that I could do that. But I don’t ever remember anybody saying to me with a PhD in chemistry, the following career possibilities are open to you, or none of these. And that’s the earliest point. At the same time, there is a need to somehow develop leadership skills in those individuals who will either need them or benefit from them. But I’m also very, very opposed to trainings that are unnecessary, or simply not appropriate for individuals. And again, I’ll change the subject very slightly here towards multidisciplinary research, transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, whatever it’s called this week. That is a topic that every research institution in the world says this is what we do. This is what we want to do. This is what we want our researchers to do. It is not anything that an early career researcher can do. Because all of those institutions also have evaluation procedures, have career progressions, which are based upon a monoculture rather than the multi culture. And so just now to bring that back, every institution I know will encourage their researchers to go in a multidisciplinary direction. Sometimes they go a little bit more than encouraging, and I think this is an exceptionally bad move. The role of the institution is to open the door for those who wish to work between disciplines, who wish to develop. My favourite example is we should have research possibility for studying archaeological nano chemistry, which covers two very radically different disciplines and which many faculty structures in the world would find difficulties in accommodating the candidates within their doctoral programs. So it should open the doors to multidisciplinary research, but under no circumstances, should we be training people saying, you must do multidisciplinary research. Some people are intellectually capable and willing and want to do it. There are other people for whom imposing that requirement would actually stifle their creativity. So we have to be very careful about how we implement things, how we do the trainings, recognizing where there is talent, and where there is an ability, that maybe to the benefit of the institution, to the benefit of academia, if they follow a more structured pathway towards management.

31:17 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Is there’s a problem, as you go through, you mentioned that and I fully agree with you, is that also a problem of organizations, for example, because of the current metrics that we’ve seen, encouraging early career researchers for short term success instead of long-term transformation? Because one of the feelings that we had, and again, talking to other members of Young Academies, there was always this push for now, for short term, you know, results and papers and very short term impact instead of transformation in practice, is that also a problem in that perspective?

32:00 Professor Edwin Constable: Uncharacteristically, I can simply say, yes. It is a problem. It’s a problem that universities and governments have created for themselves. On the one hand, the dependence upon metrics and upon rankings, and upon evaluation, from the funding side, again, legitimate concerns about value for money. On the other hand, the universities have been, I believe, seduced by the power of rankings. It’s very nice for a university leader to stand up and say, we’re number 97 in the world, or 32 in the world, or 14 in the world, or whatever, without really asking ‘what does that question mean about my university culture?’. And it has inevitably meant a change in the culture, reacting to the metrics that are used in the rankings. And so that’s the drive for this short-term research, this concept that you need to get 123, whatever the number is, top quality research papers out in the first two, three years of your early career, to have a chance to get further up that career ladder. I am strongly opposed to that. Even if the university managements come to this view, unfortunately, it is very rarely reflected within the promotion committees, who, for perfectly good reasons, actually, they need a metric to be able to decide, to make a decision. And the metric has traditionally been publications. The publication metric became a little bit skewed with the impact factors. It’s being skewed a little bit more in a way that nobody really knows what to do with the requirement of funding agencies to go to open access publication. And I know of at least some universities where the promotion committees simply won’t even consider open access publications within a portfolio because they have low impact factors, even though they are required both by the institution and the funding agency. So there is a dichotomy here. And again, it’s a generational thing. But it is a reflection of something that maybe the Young Academies have identified. But in general, early career researchers and I’m going back certainly as far as a doctorate and maybe even the masters do not. Usually there are wonderful exceptions, but they do not usually have a powerful or even an audible voice within the governance of the institution. And I think that is something that can be changed quite easily. It’s something that should be welcomed by university management, and which also helps to prepare those early career researchers for the challenges they will certainly encounter in whatever career path they take later. Engagement with management is a part of being a responsible member of society.

35:30 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: I wondered, like, I think one of my biggest fears is that this culture that we are kind of almost establishing early career researchers based on metrics, and based on publication, and based on those requirements, will then start to reflect on leadership of universities in 10-15-20 years’ time, because these are the people who will then progress the scales because of the current metric systems that we have. And then when they get to the top, it won’t get any better, they’re just going to reflect the behaviour or increase that the type of behaviour and cascade down. My concern is also about the future of this generation that we see now growing up with that environment of necessity of publications that are sometimes meaningless, because there are so discoveries that are so divided into 35 paper that, you know, that are becoming problematic, I feel.

36:21Professor Edwin Constable: I would share your concerns, I still have somewhere deep inside me, a feeling of optimism that these individuals will actually recognize that it was not a good way to proceed, and would certainly not try to expand or continue that approach. But you know, human beings are human beings. So something that will have to evolve organically. I think it would be catastrophic if it were regulated externally, but it can, there is certainly a need for external trans institutional advice and cooperation. And maybe coming back to thoughts about the doctorate, here we have an underdeveloped opportunity for collaboration, cooperation between institutions. And it fits very much within the question about the future of tertiary education, where we’re going, every institution has a tendency to do it yourself. It’s what I call the NIH approach, which doesn’t mean for National Institutes of Health, it just means not invented here. And so you know, there is a huge tendency that you feel you have to develop a presence and a critical mass in a topic where you have no background, you have no resources, and neglecting the fact that your next door neighbour institution is the world leader in this. And so I feel that doctoral programs, and even postdocs running across multiple institutions, could be of enormous benefit to the individual, because they will experience different research cultures, but also of benefit to those institutions, and may actually just erode a little bit, those short term deliverables.

38:18 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: I think that’s one of the recommendations we did on the report of the future of tertiary education, which is collaboration, increasing collaboration, increasing contribution to each other, and maybe bringing… even in Scotland, if you think about Scotland, how higher education environment, tertiary education environment, you know, it’s not very, very large and I think this type of collaboration across universities, across research centres, will contribute a lot for more impactful research. And I think that’s the other thing, I think, I agree with you about regulation from outside. I don’t think there is a shift now, I hope in terms of some of the narratives, and I think the word impact is coming more often so I wonder if this is cascading a little bit now to doctoral programs as well, in terms of really understanding, you know, what are actually your impact, you know, what impact your research is actually having? Do you have any views on the concept of impact?

39:14 Professor Edwin Constable: I have views on the topic of impact. I will moderate them a little bit for the purposes of this conversation. I think that we are beginning to recognize that impact is a useful metric in assessing the value of research. Now, I’m being, I use the word metric there, I am opposed very strongly to trying to quantify the meaning of impact. But as a qualitative term, I think it’s very useful, both for the institutions and the individuals. My hesitance, is that I think certainly individual researchers are at the very, very beginning of this pathway, and I’m not sure we know where the end of this journey is going to be. At the moment, the interpretation of impact is at two different levels for the individual researcher. The first is how do I legitimately tick that box on the funding application, and write a sentence about the societal impact of my research, which very often goes into the world of science fiction and fantasy. The other is on the feeling of self satisfaction, that you are addressing a problem of scientific, of societal relevance and societal need. And so you kind of educate yourself to do research that has impact. Where I feel the next part of this journey has to come is that the output of that research is not impactful. Or rather, it has no societal impact in the vast majority of cases, it has academic impact, because the primary means of transmitting research information is still either in the format of presentations and lectures to a narrow audience, or publication in discipline specific journals. The challenge here is to develop new dissemination methods, which reach outside that traditional community. But at the same time, bearing in mind, the university and society’s needs don’t impact the potential intellectual property that lies behind the discoveries. And I think both in research integrity and in the development of universities, the future of social media, or whatever social media will be in five years’ time, is something that shouldn’t be underestimated. Because when we look at the early career, the people were currently training, they are of such a different generation from the university leadership, even a different generation from actually the early career researchers who are training them now, that their preferred means of communication has an immediacy to it which the traditional scientific methods don’t have. I personally view that as a challenge, but not as a negative. But it means that we have to, within the universities, understand what the possibilities are, how good communication skills can be developed, across all of the means. And this means everything from giving a press interview, from doing a podcast, all of these things, which you know, are never a part of a scientific training, they’re never part of our transversal skills. I don’t think I’ve seen a single transversal skills program in any university I’ve evaluated, which actually tells you how to do a press interview. And they represent a gain, that point at which society and academia and training and the individuals come together, there is a possibility for a fusion and a transfusion, of expectations again, and what can be delivered and what cannot be. And again, there’s an education need here. Society needs to know what can’t be done, what doesn’t have a quick fix. And we’re all, we’ve actually been a little bit misled by the pandemic, nobody four years ago, would have predicted that one could bring a RNA based vaccine through clinical trials to the marketplace within 24 months. Equally, I’ve been looking through a number of university risk management plans from 2019. And the one thing that was missing from any of them was the possibility of a global pandemic and the restraints that that would lead on academic exchange. But there are some questions of expectations here at all levels, which we need to address. But basically, it’s all part of the original question. Where is tertiary education going? It needs on one hand to be more open, it needs to be more accessible. At the same time, it needs to recognize what its core values are, and not let those core values actually be diluted by, certainly by political pressure, maybe by societal pressure. But there is a need for dialogue. And I find that dialogue is missing almost worldwide. There are forums, but they are very, very refined clientele within them from a very, very narrow subset of the communities they’re meant to be serving. I mean, how often does a doctoral candidate get involved in the debate with the senior politician at deciding funding levels? I think they should be, I think it would be good for the doctoral candidate and it would certainly be good for the politicians.

45:45 Professor Sandro Carnicelli: Ed, I think it’s been a fascinating conversation. I do take this final point about the importance of the future of tertiary education should be open, to be accessible, to rethink their values, and the importance of dialogue. I’d like to say, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, your views and your experience with us and on behalf of this project, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Academy of Scotland.

46:14 Professor Edwin Constable: My pleasure, and I wish you all the best.

A man wearing glasses and looking at the camera
Tertiary Education Futures
Publication Date
Professor Sandro Carnicelli
Professor Edwin Constable CorrFRSE
Share This