Forward College: When higher education rises to the challenges of tomorrow's world

The Forward College program helps foster social and emotional skills, which are increasingly in demand in the management sector.

The first intake of students at Forward College will start their course in September 2021. The students have signed up for an international double bachelor program over three years and in three countries, preparing them to become the "shapers of a meaningful future." In fact, this new higher education establishment aims to create tomorrow's leaders -- leaders who can rise to the challenge and make a real impact.

"Forward College has already received a bit more than 1,000 started applications," said its founder, Boris Walbaum, posting on LinkedIn, March 19. This unique higher education establishment, launched after the first unprecedented covid-19 lockdown, will welcome its founding class of students in September 2021, offering a double bachelor program teaching the art of positive leadership. In other words: an education that equips students with skills other than those acquired in standard university programs, including social, emotional, practical and technological skills.

In three years, the students will live in three cities: Lisbon, Paris and Amsterdam. And, when it comes to their studies -- forget sitting at a desk and listening to a professor giving a lecture -- because these students will be thrown in at the deep end, getting straight to work on a team project based on an idea to “drive social change.” The following year, students will learn to design and implement digital solutions, learning about web design, programming and data analysis. Then, in the final year, they will train in consulting work with international organizations to help find ways to solve problems.

Over the course of the three years, students will also focus on developing soft skills, such as learning to manage stress, for example, and social and emotional intelligence, as well as digital skills. All of these skills are essential in shaping the leaders of tomorrow in a world where the stakes have shifted -- notably in terms of ecology, artificial intelligence and social entrepreneurship -- but, for the time being, they tend to fall outside the classic framework of higher education.

Putting diversity and motivation at the heart of education

The school, which is open to European passport holders (for "administrative" reasons), is looking to recruit high-achieving students with a strong academic record and with high proficiency in English -- the language in which the course is taught. But also, and above all, Forward College is looking for diverse profiles who can show their motivation.

According to Boris Walbaum, the school is looking for individuals that have "done things and already led projects," whether in the field of art, sport, or with nonprofits and associations. But how can the school be sure to have different, diverse profiles, when some students won't have the means to pay high course fees? "We have established a system of income-contingent loans, in other words, the students only repay if their salary exceeds a certain threshold," explains Boris Walbaum. In the inaugural cohort, 20% are scholarship students, and "the aim is to reach 30% by 2025."

Because, as Boris Walbaum concludes, for future leaders and teams in the world of work, diversity will be essential for success.

Louis Bolla