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Universities should be assessment centres


People go to universities for a variety of reasons; one of the most common ones is that a degree will help you get a job. From a company’s point of view, a university is a kind of assessment centre. If someone is able to get into a university and earn a degree, then that says something about their intelligence and conscientiousness. For specialized programs, such as engineering, it also shows they’ve developed some specific skills.

If one of the important roles of a university is to act as an assessment centre, then they are doing a poor job of it. When companies give assessment tests, they generate a wide range of insights into the individual’s ability and potential. With universities, the assessment is often little more than “they passed”.

What would be more valuable to both students and employers would be a comprehensive assessment of soft and hard skills. There should be assessments of writing skills, analytical skills, personality, cooperation skills, leadership skills, general cognitive ability, emotional intelligence, and so on. Imagine how helpful that would be to a student plotting their career. Imagine how helpful that would be to employers in picking the best match for their jobs.

Currently, employers have to judge someone on a resume, a few interviews, and possibly a 30-minute assessment test for some soft or hard skill. How much better it would be to have four years to really get to know the individual, the way universities could potentially do, and capture that data in a useful way.

A sparkling new element of this is that a student’s assessment could be stored on a blockchain which they could share or update as they wished.

Since universities are typically poor at innovation perhaps there is an opportunity for a new kind of institution. Perhaps a one-year boot camp, perhaps part-time, that will, instead of giving a degree, give a psychometrically valid, comprehensive assessment, stored on a blockchain. This sort of thing would be ideal for the high-potential person stuck in a low-paying job and with no sense of how to move into something new. With an outstanding assessment, employers would be happy to take them on.

If universities, or some new institutions, took assessment seriously, then they could pay attention to a student’s interim scores and tune their learning to build on their strengths and correct any important weaknesses. This kind of personalized learning program is possible, it’s just that universities are not set up to deliver it.

There is a grand opportunity to look at the advances that organizations have made with assessments and bring that into our universities. Let’s hope some entrepreneurial minds seize this opportunity which will be good for individuals and companies alike.


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