A New Progressive Era

BERLIN — 3 July 2017


3rd June 2016

Speaker: Rajay Naik, chief executive officer, Keypath Education, and former director of government and external affairs, Open University, UK

Chair: Helene Hellmark Knutsson, minister for higher education and research, Sweden

In his presentation, Rajay suggested a number of ways to both widen participation in higher education (HE) and make access fairer. High tuition fees are problematic because the psychology of generating a massive debt burden is bad. More positive messages are needed, as well as lower cost programmes, for instance by using online tools and developing apprenticeships. A credit transfer system would also represent an incentive, allowing students to “move around” more easily and addressing the high drop-out rate. Better ex-ante guidance at high school level is key to avoid “decision traps” and break the negative impact of peer conversations.

Helene agreed very much on the need to open up universities, but put a caveat on a consumer-based HE, referring to the fiasco of Swedish “free schools”. In the conversation, François Taddei observed that more research is needed on the role of universities in the 21st century and on the added value of the campus. For Rajay, the added value lied in being exposed to cutting-edge research, in the university’s brand and in the social experience. The discussion also furthered ideas around mentoring and role models for high school pupils of lower social backgrounds. Rajay suggested that universities should be asked to do more social engagement when they charge higher fees.

Rapporteur: Renaud Thillaye


3rd June 2016

Speakers: François Taddei, director, Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity, France; Sonia Sodha, chief leader writer, Observer newspaper, UK

Chair: Sandro Gozi, secretary of state for European affairs, Italy

Sonia started off by suggesting that well-being was a very subjective notion and that we should instead look at different categories such as happiness, mental health, agency. She went om observing that there was no evidenced trade-off between hard and soft skills, or between high cognitive performance and well-being: schools can manage both. For this to happen, services around the school are critical, in other words a “holistic approach” to education. The transition between childhood and adulthood was particularly crucial in order to avoid the low skills, low-paid jobs trap.

François stressed that learning future technological skills was in fact key to future well-being unless technology benefits only the happy few. Everyone has to become a “centaur”, i.e. match personal, human skills to machine performance in a specific area. Therefore schools should teach human skills and promote different forms of intelligence. Originality, creativity will be key. Machines are very bad at setting goals and at giving meaning. The best schools are embedded in their local community and make kids think about how to improve it.

Some further ideas were mentioned in the conversation, such as strengthening school leadership, bringing more researchers into schools to help kids conduct experiments and develop curiosity, developing lifelong learning for teachers and proposing MOOCs to parents. Teaching should become a top, well-paid job. The problem of boys well-being was also mentioned. The stereotypes which some kids attach to themselves needed to be deconstructed.

Rapporteur: Renaud Thillaye


3rd June 2016


Will Marshall, president and founder Progressive Policy Institute.

Jenni Karjalainen, senior adviser to the Finnish Union of Professional Engineers and a former special adviser to the minster of labour.

Chair Mikael Damberg, Swedish Minister of Enterprise and Innovation.

Analysis – changing nature of work:

* Across developed economies is workers are scared of losing jobs through increasing automatization of work (end-of-work panic)

* Technological change eliminates specific jobs but it doesn’t replace labour (explosion of bank machines didn’t eliminate bank clerks)

* In general, work is not disappearing but there exists a big distributional problem in the US and Europe

* The process of production is speeding up enormously (in the past the development of new products took years, nowadays it’s months)

The key questions are:

  1. What skills do we need to rebuild middle-class jobs in the US and Europe?
  2. How can progressives empower people to actively participate in labour markets?

Which skills are needed?

* General skills that allow people to change jobs more easily as era of life-long career tracks seems to be firmly over (job flexibility)

* Problem-solving skills in conjunction with higher technical skills

* Higher proficiency in coding

* Traditional vs. modern skills? Today, priority of education should be the ability to acquire new skills; jobs in the digital age are mostly linked to gathering or processing information


For progressives the message should be to focus more on people not on businesses; how can enterprises carry more responsibilities to educate workers?

In addition, progressives should make sure that active labour market policies and apprenticeship programs support people during school-work transitions and periods of changing jobs.

Open universities – offer different career paths to students and apprentices – vocational training a la Germany?

Reform educational systems (more inclusive and open, break down class structures)

Women should be encouraged to skill up on coding as they are lacking behind on this matter (according to study by Public Policy Institute)

Rapporteur: Florian Ranft