Associate professor Dr.Kristina Kundelienė, Head of Accounting and Finance Study Programmes at Kaunas University of Technology, School of Economics and Business (KTU SEB), shares her thoughts on the current state of university education and the challenges faced by today's students. She discusses the attitudes of different generations of students, the importance of motivation and discipline, the role of parents and environment in career choices, the benefits of using ACCA's Accelerate program, and the future of education in the age of technology.
We discussed some questions:
1. There is a stereotype that each new generation of students is inferior to the previous one. It is strange to comment on this myth seriously, but we would like you to tell us what current students are distracted by and what was the reason for not passing exams 5 years ago. What is the main threat to a student's education – parties, social networks, computer games, addictive hobbies, burnout, part-time jobs?
I would not agree that each new generation of students is inferior to the previous one. Rather, I observe a volatile fluctuation and certainly a change in the attitudes of young people. We can certainly relate this to generational theory. Until recently, the university was predominantly attended by Generation Y. They are characterized by self-seeking, a thirst for freedom and pleasure, and a need for extrinsic motivation. These millennials, however, are often labelled as being lazy, narcissistic, and spoiled. Lack of intrinsic motivation and discipline often led to unsatisfactory study results and exam failures. Today, Generation Z, or the Centennials, are entering the classroom, with the internet and technology as their hallmark from the cradle. Generation Z is very mobile and not afraid to change their choices: workplace, field of study, etc. They do not like routine and are strongly self-oriented, but often lack interpersonal communication skills, especially when face-to-face. This is not surprising, as young people are most used to communicating through technology. However, Generation Z is really looking forward to the feedback from which they learn. It is also very important for them to feel satisfied with their activities. So well-chosen innovative study methods and effective feedback in the study process are key success factors.
2. Does the level of students’ awareness is changing? What percentage of the guys ended up at the faculties by chance / their parents wanted, and how many purposefully came to build their future and are preparing for a career?
Young people who have only just left school often do not know, or at least have a lot of doubts about their future career path. Parents or other people in the immediate environment play an important role in the choice of undergraduate studies. Unfortunately, every year, we see students who drop out because of an inappropriate choice of study programme. In contrast, people who are motivated and usually already have work experience in the accounting/finance field choose to study for a Master's degree. It is particularly encouraging to see faculty graduates returning after a 1-3 year hiatus to continue their studies at KTU SEB. The main reasons for choosing the Accounting and Auditing programme are the need to deepen knowledge in the accounting/auditing field and the ACCA accreditation, which reflects the high quality of studies.
3. How often do students use Accelerate and what is needed for this from your perspective?
Sad to say, the benefits of Accelerate are not being taken up actively enough by KTU SEB students. The most frequent users of Accelerate are employees of large multinational companies or students who are highly motivated, ambitious and planning an international career. I am very pleased that ACCA offers comprehensive help and support for both students and lecturer. Publicity and increased sharing of success stories would be helpful.
4. It is obvious that ACCA partners (like employers) are looking for young talents in order to get qualified and motivated employees. Tell us how quickly a successful student can be noticed and what he/she can do in addition to studying to lay the foundation for a future career.
We get a lot of enquiries from businesses looking for motivated and talented students. We actively collaborate with professionals in the field, who join our lectures and share their experience and expert insights as guest lecturers. Motivated students are usually active and visible in lectures through involvement in discussions, group activities, etc. Therefore, we particularly encourage active student participation, not only in lectures but also in research activities or joint projects with business. So, the most important advice is be active!
5. Education has always been a social lift. From your experience, how much education nowadays is a determining factor in young people's lives?
The importance of higher education for young people today, I believe, depends to a large extent on personal qualities such as autonomy, motivation, the pursuit of personal goals and attitudes towards social norms. University is important when you are not very independent, are still hesitant about a career path and need someone to get you on track; it is essential when you have no other way to get a licence for a specific speciality (e.g., medicine) or when networking is relevant. The exception is prestigious universities (such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, etc.), as this is attractive to employers. Otherwise, if you know what you want and are independent, you can acquire knowledge on your own - the internet is great for this, especially with the proliferation of artificial intelligence tools (e.g., ChatGPT).
6. We see that modern approaches to education are becoming more online and digital. How do you think how Universities might transform in the future? Will students just need VR to attend the class?
Technology offers more opportunities and flexibility, allowing us to offer a wide range of study alternatives and innovative study methods. Universities need to innovate for a future that accommodates both a mix of degrees, micro-credentials and shorter cycle courses, synchronous and asynchronous learning, using online or hybrid delivery models. I believe that universities of the future will offer flexible learning experiences that are available on demand and tailored to what people want to achieve. Studies will be fully compatible with work and other activities and fit in with your lifestyle. Learning never ends.
In conclusion, Dr.Kristina Kundelienė provides insightful perspectives on the current and upcoming generations of students, highlighting the importance of intrinsic motivation and effective feedback in the study process. She emphasizes the role of active student participation and collaboration with professionals in the field to lay the foundation for a successful career. While higher education remains a determining factor for some, personal qualities and technology advancements are transforming the future of universities, providing more opportunities and flexibility in learning experiences.