| 4 minute read

Revolutionising higher education: How Minerva Project is shaping the future

Elena Galán-Muros
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During the 2023 UIIN Conference, we had the privilege of sitting down with Diana El-Azar, the Senior Director of Strategic Communications at Minerva Project, a San Francisco-based education innovation company that is revolutionising higher education.

Join us on a journey through Minerva’s groundbreaking approach to education, where they first created the most innovative university in the world (WURI 2022 & 2023) and now are partnering with other higher education institutions to transform curricula and pedagogies using cutting-edge technology.

In this article, we summarise part of that conversation, but you can listen to the full interview in our podcast:

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Madeline Arkins:
I’m joined by Diana El-Azar, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at Minerva Project. To begin, Diana, would you tell me a little bit about Minerva Project?

Diana El-Azar:
Minerva Project is a San Francisco-based education innovation company. The idea behind Minerva is to reform higher education. First, we created our own university, Minerva University, which is now ranked as the most innovative university in the world, and now we partner with other universities who want to innovate and reform their curricula and pedagogies through tech-enabled solutions.

We believe in interdisciplinary curriculum, and therefore to impart durable skills. We believe in banning lectures and rather using active learning and experiential learning, which is backed by the science of learning that it is a more effective way to learn. We also believe that we can just deconstruct the concepts of space and time and then learning can happen in different places and at different times.

Madeline Arkins:
It seems that technology continues to shape education. What does Minerva Project do to leverage technology in how it designs curricula at its own university?

Diana El-Azar:
Technology in itself, like most other things, is not good or bad, but rather how we use it is what makes it useful or not, effective or less. In our view, technology has to always follow pedagogy. It is a means to better learning, rather than an end by itself.

At Minerva, we do use technology specifically around assessment, because when you use technology in a classroom, you can reduce things such as bias or faulty memory. You can capture what students have said or written without relying on memory. And students themselves can go back and see what they’ve written or said. This actually helps in their formative evaluation and they can learn from their past experiences.

Madeline Arkins:
What are the results you have seen in graduates of Minerva University? What makes them different from students at a typical university?

Diana El-Azar:
We have now graduated four years of Minerva University students and the fifth will graduate later this month, and we have seen incredible results. A good, I would say, over 90% are employed within six months, and most of them get into the graduate schools of their choice.

Pretty much every single student who has applied to Harvard Medical School has gotten in. And we have seen them employed in incredible jobs in places such as National Geographic, Meta, Google, or SoftBank. Not only that, but many of them have also started their own ventures, and 12% of our graduates have VC-backed start-ups, which are incredible results.

How are they different? I can tell you anecdotally, because I’ve hired some of them as interns, and I would say they are equivalent to a professional with a few years of experience, and these are the students who have not graduated yet. They have adopted foundational concepts in the way they think and process problems and solve them, which is atypical of a regular education.

Interested in more insights like this?

You can listen now to Eleanor Kelly (Head of Strategy and Partnerships at Innovation at UCD’s Innovation Academy) explore the power of interdisciplinary collaboration and the pivotal role universities play in fostering a more humane and compassionate society in our episode How universities can contribute to a more humane society. You can also learn more about how we can best utilise micro-credentials to better shape the landscape of higher education in our article Transforming education: The bright horizon of micro-credentials.

Stay tuned for the next episode on this series and don’t forget to follow us on your preferred podcast platform!

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