The competences issue in the entrepreneurial university
Different attitudes have been noticed, which endorse either a specific training favourable to practising a certain profession by focusing on developing specific competences, or, more recently, a general training in a larger field of study (at licence level in Bologna system) and, implicitly, an increased attention to developing general competences. General competences are those which apply to a variety of occupations and contexts. They are also known as key competences, core competences, essential competences, transferable competences or employability skills. So far, the theoretical arguments support the idea that ‘general academic competences’ acquired along the university route represent a solid foundation which facilitates the development of subsequent specific competences, including management ones. In conclusion, the general competences are, indirectly, of crucial importance because they multiply the efficiency of the future professional development and the maintenance at a proper standard of applicability of the specific professional competences, reducing the costs involved in their development.
Recent European Union projects, such as Tuning Educational Structures in Europe, have tried to identify generic competences for each field of study, relying on consultations of stakeholders belonging both to the universities and to the social and economic environment. Although the set of generic competences present small differences among them, for most of them, the resemblance was striking. Thus, for higher education ‘general competences’ refer to a series of essential qualities and skills which include: abilities of thinking such as logical and analytical thinking, problem solving and intellectual curiosity, efficient communication skills, teamwork skills, abilities for identifying and handling information, personal qualities such as imagination, creativity and intellectual rigor, as well as values such as ethical practice, perseverance, integrity and tolerance. This combination of qualities and skills is different from the technical knowledge traditionally associated with higher education. The specific competences are identified for each field of specialization taking into account two possible deriving sources: the professional roles a graduate should be able to perform and content analysis of the profession.
Embracing the competence approach may lead to many changes in educational processes within formal institutions. First, we note an increased awareness in society towards their development; second, higher education institutions are permanently connected to social practices, to ‘real life’. The competence approach can become a viable way of fighting school failure, more precisely, failure that is generated by a lack of motivation, because it offers a goal by opening the university field towards the external environment, towards action and life.
The competence approach represents a possible opportunity for an integrated approach to professional training programmes. The integrated development of training sequences aims at combining competences, after choosing the themes.
‘You need to know to choose, to inform yourself, to apply, to concretize, and then to report, to present the outcomes.’
The competences approach of training in an entrepreneurial university
Current social challenges are concentrated around the formative and professional needs experienced in different ways by future candidates seeking a university career. The personalization of university training, as well as the development of differentiated academic provision will constitute the central elements of a coherent and dynamic policy for higher education institutions. If cognitive competences related to critical thinking, reflective thinking, creativity, social competences including cooperation, implication and participation can also be incorporated, an adequate synthesis of the standards for socio-professional development of future graduates entering the labour market can be achieved.