The fact that universities never explain what “the real world” is like is a criticism that is often made. But like so many things in life, just because it is inaccurate that does not mean that it is not partly right. However, a partially correct diagnosis cannot be cured with similarly imprecise treatment, such as simply focussing on the “move from theory to practice”. Because it is not a question of moving from one to the other; both concepts walk step-by-step and advance together. Previously, if possible, but most definitely during and after the academic stage.
There is no doubt that this debate goes back many years. What I propose, as a way not of preventing it but as a partial solution to what is clearly lacking in the higher education system, is an approach that also pays homage to a film: Reality bites.
This was the title of an iconic film (1994) that sought to explain what “Generation X” was. Its place as a case study and item of interest has now clearly been taken by the more modern Millennials and “Generation Z”. However, this technique of poking fun at the generations currently being formed is exactly what Reality Bites does. And the form and substance of this is intended to connect with the student body. Further examples are being aware of (and applying) this in the classroom (or in this very article), so as to seek to convey in a sufficiently intelligible form what we want to make understood. First we must think of what the recipients of information understand and what can awaken some kind of emotion or reaction in them that drives them to connect. Does this imply the use of networks, YouTubers, career options and everyday examples rather than films from before they were born? Then that is what we should do. Without either thing necessarily excluding the other. And as is fitting for the current generations, this should be done with a combination in which it seems truly impossible to separate profession and passion. Providing examples with theory and practice, in university teaching, of the need we are aware of and that we sense exists among new professionals who must feel an emotional connection with what they do. Because otherwise they simply will not roll up their sleeves and get to work unless the context forces them to. The times of “spare the rod and spoil the child” ended long ago. We know that. But do we really feel it enough? We need theory and practice applied. As a beginning, as the foundation for everything that comes afterwards in the classroom and the working world.
In short: one key factor, time, especially time management, can make all the difference between the success or failure of an enterprise. Allow me to explain. Many aphorisms are attributed to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. I will use one of them in support of the argument in this article: “Time is more important in politics than in grammar”. To summarize: effective management of the pace at which things happen determines the outcome of most projects. And not just in politics, obviously. I am taking a phrase by Churchill (which may or may not be apocryphal) and applying it to universities. Time is more important here than in grammar too. Due to the need to adapt praxis to time, with a foundation that fortunately is capable of surviving different eras.
My next quote is from a person who is not as well-known as Churchill. At least not to mere mortals, but he is to me. I will use what one of my grandfathers said to round off my thesis concerning the need to put soul into classrooms in order to surf the waves of our liquid times. He was always doing a thousand and one things, even when he was very elderly (and he did most of them very well). When I asked him once how he managed to do it all and where he found the time, he jokingly replied, “Like everyone, I do not have time, but I am not in a rush.” Bingo! It is the same for universities. There is no time to lose, it is stressful because the people we are training, all of them, are living in stressful, changing, procrastinating and compulsive times.
But, at the same time, universities have been around for a thousand years and are here to stay, so they can allow themselves little pleasures that businesses and other institutions cannot. They can stop and think. More than that: reflecting on the what, how, who, when and why is part of their DNA. That is why, at institutions such as BSM-Universitat Pompeu Fabra, we dare to think, to innovate and feel, throughout the whole of the building and beyond its walls. That is why classrooms have started to mutate, teaching is being conducted through new channels and the feeling of belonging to a family made up of service and administrative staff, faculty and students is stronger than in other parts of our city. And this is being applied slowly but surely. Unleashing our imagination in a methodical way. Applying talent but also a lot of feeling. Loving what we do. Conveying it. Making it contagious.
Co-director of the Master in Political and Institutional Communication