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Qualification as a societal challenge and the role of higher education from a system approach

Alessandro R. Goulart ( Bandtec Digital School , São Paulo, Brazil)
Lara B. Liboni ( University of São Paulo , Ribeirão Preto, Brazil) ( Ivey Business School , Western Ontario Univesity , London, Canada)
Luciana O. Cezarino ( Federal University of Uberlândia , Uberlândia, Brazil) (BLISS - Digital Impact Lab, Department of Management, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice , Venice, Italy)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 8 February 2021

Issue publication date: 19 October 2021




Looking at the planet as our main and unique asset, the authors encounter fragile zones needing special attention more than others, such as emerging countries. One of their most urgent problems is the qualification gap of the workforce and the consequent increasing poverty and social exclusion. Their backward education system is partially responsible for this disparity, especially in technology-related sectors. In this sense, higher education institutions (HEIs) play a fundamental role in shortening this gap and solving this dichotomy. The purpose of this study is to conduct a systemic study to address the qualification gap of emerging countries, offering a framework to minimize this grand societal challenge, taking Brazilian economy as example.


Using the soft system methodology (SSM), the authors propose systemic solutions to the qualification gap in Brazil by analyzing different stakeholder perceptions and developing a feasible-change framework to transition to an enhanced higher education (HE) model in Brazil.


Results show three main aspects that draw the framework: the education of social and emotional skills, internship support during the first experience in the job market and a closer relationship with employer companies.

Research limitations/implications

As a future direction, the framework proposes positive changes focused on soft skills-based education and the partnership between companies and HEIs.


The contribution relies on an original application of a system methodology to propose solutions to the qualification gap, involving different stakeholders, their salience and perceptions. The use of SSM to analyze complex problems from stakeholders' perspectives demonstrated how a system approach could empower the stakeholder theory in addressing grand societal challenges.



Goulart, A.R., Liboni, L.B. and Cezarino, L.O. (2021), "Qualification as a societal challenge and the role of higher education from a system approach", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 11 No. 5, pp. 1002-1019.



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