A Scottish university is launching a global digital learning platform designed to equip students around the world with the skills they need for the tech and green industries of the future.

Heriot-Watt University’s platform will open up higher education opportunities for students worldwide, and help businesses attract the talent they need to fill the growing number of roles in ‘non-traditional industries’.

The learning portal includes Masters courses in subjects such as digital transformation, data analytics and supply chain management and logistics, alongside undergraduate degrees and apprenticeships.

The university, which has campuses in Scotland, Dubai and Malaysia, will work with industry bodies to co-create and co-deliver courses tailored to current and future skills demands.

Heriot-Watt Online, which will be unveiled during a day-long Future Skills Conference held at Expo 2020 Dubai on 8 December, will support organisations with “a range of impactful workforce development needs”.

New courses coming in the future reflect the emphasis that many businesses are placing on the drive to net zero including Masters in sustainability and energy transition.

With the global workforce predicted to grow by 230 million people by 2030, the job market is rapidly changing with around 2 billion jobs predicted to change due to new technology, decarbonisation and new growth industries. A $8.5bn (£6.4bn) talent shortage is predicted by 2030.

The adult education market is therefore predicted to grow dramatically as the pace of new knowledge and the demands of the global workforce continue to accelerate.

According to the education market intelligence firm HolonIQ 18, the global online degree market was valued at $36bn (£27.2bn) in 2019 and is expected to grow to $74bn (£55.7bn) by 2025. 

Dr Gillian Murray, deputy principal of business and enterprise at Heriot-Watt University said: “Our mission is to power the economy and transform lives by providing world-class relevant and flexible learning. 

“The devastating impact of the pandemic has accelerated acceptance and understanding about the benefits of digital learning but also highlighted the urgent need for businesses to build a suitable talent pipeline who are trained for the future jobs market. 

“The demographic of learners is changing and is unlikely to go back to the pre-pandemic landscape.  Our largest student group by age is now late 30s and early 40s with a higher percentage of women as barriers are broken down to accessing higher education.

“Workplace skills are also changing rapidly, so both employers and employees must keep pace. Heriot-Watt University has spent the past two years undertaking a detailed analysis of the current marketplace and researching the needs of business, identifying where the gaps are. We conducted research with students, industry bodies, partners within corporate businesses and academics to design this new learning approach. 

“Many people simply can’t take time out to study due to financial or personal circumstances. It’s essential that universities facilitate this shift in approach to education, continuing to cater for students who are leaving school but ensuring that adult learners can receive a world-class education at any age, anywhere in the world. We are breaking down the borders and barriers many people face when trying to reach their career goals by offering a flexible approach.”

Heriot-Watt University, which has campuses in Scotland, Malaysia and Dubai, has delivered digital Masters of Business Administration (MBA) courses across 160 countries over the past 20 years.