NUI Galway launches Designing Futures for next generation graduates

Dean of Students at NUI Galway Professor Michelle Millar and President of NUI Galway Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh with students at the launch of Designing Futures. Credit: Martina O’Regan.
Jan 12 2022 Posted: 04:38 GMT

€7.57million Government funding, investing in new educational, lifelong skills, personal and professional development programmes for students 

NUI Galway has today launched a new educational programme that will prepare students to deal with the complexity and uncertainty of life and the future world of work. 

Designing Futures has been developed to enhance the employability of NUI Galway graduates by offering additional practical and creative teaching, learning and skills development alongside traditional degree studies.

More than 1,500 students are taking part in design thinking programmes each year, with more than 300 students attending new transdisciplinary modules in 2021/22. 

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris, T.D., said: “Designing Futures is a really exciting and dynamic programme which aims to deliver a unique mix of skills coaching, trans-disciplinary modules and curriculum reform all underpinned by technology.

“It is creating a sustainable system where every undergraduate embarks on a personalised and assessed learning journey. And crucially it has been designed with enterprise and international partners, ensuring graduates are employable and ready for the new world of work.  

“NUI Galway continues to dream big, to think big and to lead on the biggest issues facing our country.”

NUI Galway’s Designing Futures is funded by €7.57 million from the Higher Education Authority’s Human Capital Initiative of the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science.

More than 100 students who have been supported by the Designing Futures team are running their own business or start-up. 

The programme aims to -  

  • Promote greater student engagement with civic society, community and enterprise, while expanding their education and preparedness for life and a career.
  • Empower students to design personalised skills development pathways and to ensure graduates transversal skills achievements are recognised alongside their degree.
  • Enhance NUI Galway and Ireland’s position as a leader in innovative, student-centred and enterprise-engaged education in Europe and internationally.

President of NUI Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “We at NUI Galway are delighted to announce the formal launch of the innovative Designing Futures programme, which directly aligns with and promotes the values of our University Strategy, Shared Vision, Shaped by Values (2020-2025). 

“The University has a proud history and tradition of excellence in education, both in Ireland and globally. Designing Futures will deploy innovative educational technologies; open educational and strategic partnership with enterprise, creative and civic organisations; and bespoke, tailored support for students’ personalised learning. 

“As a consequence, this exciting new programme will significantly enhance NUI Galway’s position as a leader in education in its region, and on the national and international stage. Through the Designing Futures programme, we are delighted to contribute substantively to preparing the next generation of our graduates who can creatively tackle the complexities and challenges of the world today, as we live and learn through and beyond this pandemic.”

Designing Futures has been developed with enterprise, civic and cultural links at its core. Partners include Aerogen, Boston Scientific, SAP, Rent the Runway, Mbryonics, Veryan, Channel Mechanics and Medtronic and the Galway International Arts Festival. 

Professor Michelle Millar, Dean of Students and Designing Futures Programme Lead, NUI Galway, said: “Designing Futures reaffirms our continued commitment at NUI Galway to ensuring the best possible education for our students, particularly in these challenging times. 

“The innovative design of the programme will ensure our graduates are exceptionally well-placed to face and handle the complexities of today’s world, while also making the most of future opportunities in life after university. 

“As well as their academic and disciplinary knowledge, and engagment with enterprise and civic and social partners, Designing Futures contributes to students’ holistic and rounded education through specialised personal development and success coaching. Designing Futures recognises, enhances and supports the totality of students’ experience at third-level, so that they will graduate well-equipped for the world of today, and tomorrow.” 

Designing Futures has three core pillars - 

1. A personalised student experience scaffolded by success coaches to support students to “design their futures” with a key focus on maximising their university experience. This incorporates an innovative personal development module, Designing Your Life (DYL), linked with and based on the approach which has been developed by Stanford University. 

2. A new state of the art human-centred design studio, IdeasLab, which intersects with our enterprise partners to develop curricular and co-curricular experiences that are driven by design thinking, technology-enhanced learning, curiosity, creativity and empathy.

3. A new suite of modules focused on trans-disciplinary learning and action, which breaks down the traditional silos of academic specialism, promoting innovative thinking and problem-solving. Modelled on an approach developed in Georgia Institute of Technology, multidisciplinary teams of staff and students are brought together to solve research challenges in culture, enterprise and society.


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