The MERIT project: studies focused on student experience and market impact
A year following the launch of the MERIT project, project participants convened in Tallinn on October 3-4 to deliberate on the progress made. During this time, they also formulated more precise strategies for future initiatives. This project has united four European technical universities —Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya – BarcelonaTech (UPC), Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VILNIUS TECH), Riga Technical University (RTU), and Tallinn Technical University (TalTech)— in close collaboration with the Bruno Kessler Institute (FBK), two prominent companies (Exacaster and Asoindel), and three digital innovation hubs, Sunrise Valley Science and Technology Park (SSMTP), UPC Technology Center (CIT UPC), and Associate Digital Innovation Zone (DIZNE). Together, their collective efforts are dedicated to the creation of new master’s programmes, with a sharp focus on enhancing the student learning experience and making a significant impact on the market.
Developing advanced digital skills
According to the European Commission Shaping Europe’s Digital Future 2020 report, over 90% of jobs require specific digital skills. However, 43% of the European population and 33% of those engaged in the European labour market currently lack these vital skills. There is still a shortage of people who can fill all the necessary jobs. This deficiency of digitally adept individuals is projected to persist into the foreseeable future.
The four participating universities have already begun creating new generation master’s programmes within the framework of the MERIT project. They will focus on the development of the latest, advanced digital skills and applicability competencies. Courses aimed at enhancing advanced digital skills will also be accessible to business professionals and the general public.
During the first year of the MERIT project, the focus was on preparing educational materials and developing basic digital skills. By way of example, in Lithuania, more than 1,000 high school students were introduced to the fundamentals of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and data analytics. Furthermore, over 400 teachers received training on effectively imparting these technologies to their students. Initiatives were set in motion to foster early-age scientific research skills development, and more than 600 business representatives were introduced to the myriad possibilities offered by the application of artificial intelligence solutions within their operations. Plans are underway to expand these initiatives and make advanced digital skills information accessible to a broader spectrum of society.
Studies focused on the student experience
Modern study content, quick response to market changes and evolving technologies are a fundamental part of the factors determining study quality. Another critical part is the student’s experience – the pleasure of studying, gaining international experience, working in interdisciplinary groups and solving specific business tasks while deepening personal and social abilities. The MERIT project study programmes pay significant attention to this. These study programmes will integrate the knowledge and strengths of all four higher education institutions, research institutes and business representatives. They will provide cross-cultural studies focused on cooperation and synergies. All students will be guaranteed “mobility at home”, with lectures by foreign partners and business representatives, preparation of group projects at hackathon-type events and other interactive activities.
In the initial year of the MERIT project, an information system for the comparison of MERIT study programmes based on their dedicated skill sets has been developed. This system not only aids in selecting the most suitable master’s study program for each student but also ensures a more seamless transition between the various study programmes offered within the MERIT project. As students progress in their studies, this system empowers them to track their competency levels and compile personal portfolios of acquired skills. It enables students to assess the alignment of their competencies with diverse market sectors and the desired proficiencies for specific job roles. This allows them to analyse gaps in their skill sets and identify the courses that will enable them to bridge those gaps.
Overall, during the project meeting in Tallinn, it was recognised that the MERIT study programmes and their modernisation solutions are unparalleled in the market. The first cohort of master’s students will be admitted to MERIT master’s programmes in September 2024 while some courses, tools, and activities will be made available to the public in the interim.