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Brief Published: 13 Nov 2020

New Initiatives Shake Higher Education Conventions


The London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) and Google’s Career Certificates are the latest ventures challenging conventional degree subjects. Coupled with the pandemic-provoked shift to online learning, we expect to see fast changes within higher education in the coming years.  

  • Subject-Free Degree: Opening in autumn 2021, The London Interdisciplinary School will provide a cross-disciplinary degree instead of teaching separate subjects, as is the tradition in most tertiary education institutions. The single three-year degree will cross-pollinate arts and science disciplines to tackle global issues, such as climate change, obesity and AI ethics.  
    In October 2020, LIS received the power to award its Interdisciplinary Problems and Methods degree from launch next year. It’s the first education institution to be given this authority in over 50 years. LIS’s opening coincides with Gen Z’s (born 1996-2009) and millennials’ (born 1981-1995) declining attraction to traditional subjects, such as History. It also does not require A-Levels for attendance, removing a common barrier to university admission.
  • Learning for the Job: Google recently announced its Career Certificates programme, that sets out to replace the four-year college degree with a six-month certificate, which teaches specific skills for a variety of in-demand jobs, such as IT support, data analysis, project management and UX design. According to Google, these jobs have an average annual salary of over $55,000. 
    The online-only course doesn’t require previous experience and, at $49/month, Google hopes the scheme will help democratise access to education and therefore the job market. Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs at Google said: “College degrees are out of reach for many Americans, and you shouldn’t need a college diploma to have economic security”.