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University Foresight - Program Options

This page offers suggested standards for foresight professionals seeking to bring foresight curricula, foresight certificate programs/minors, and foresight degree programs to the modern University. See our page on Organizational Foresight for additional ideas on bringing foresight practice to the University as an organization.


Foresight Education and Admissions Standards

Interdepartmental Foresight - The Ideal

Departmental Foresight - The Reality


Foresight Education and Admissions Standards

ASF suggest best-in-class MS or PhD foresight programs should provide basic proficiency in all the primary foresight specialties (the core curriculum of futures studies), and a survey-level introduction to the secondary specialties (areas important to foresight, but where independent academic degrees may also be obtained). In a comprehensive foresight program, electives and thesis topics should be possible in primary, secondary and other specialties, per student interest.

The best foresight programs should satisfy the following prerequisites and requirements:

   Ideal Admission Prerequisites
   1. An undergraduate degree (foresight work needs context and maturity, it is best as an MS-and-above degree)
   2. Applied, specialized, real-world experience (3+ years incoming experience after undergrad degree)
   3. Undergrad science, tech, econ, political, and humanities literacy, with mandatory deficit remediation

   Ideal Program Requirements
   1. Broad-based, balanced, integral curriculum (all quadrant, all level, all discipline, globally- and accel-aware)
   2. Considers both evolutionary (possible and reversible) and developmental (probable and irreversible) change
   3. Measurably improves subject knowledge (pre- and in-program testing)
   4. Measurably improves skills, incl. prediction and change management (validated via prediction markets, etc.)
   5. Transdisciplinary. Foresight students can become subject matter experts (SME's) in more than one discipline

Interdepartmental Foresight Center - The Ideal

In ASF's opinion, the ideal administrative structure to support foresight curriculum and programs is an Interdepartmental Foresight Center (IFC) at the University. Like Science and Technology Studies (STS), a similarly cross-disciplinary activity, foresight and futures MS and PhD programs can live in a wide range of schools and departments at the university. But an independently-funded IFC at the university can easily collaborate on foresight projects with departments and centers across the campus, and seek revenues from external university, government, and corporate clients.

IFC staff can source and create foresight resources for instructor use in all the University's undergraduate and graduate departments at the University. There should be top-level mandates by university regents for at least a moderate level of forsight curriculum as part of all relevant undergrad and grad courses. University professors are an individualistic lot and have quite variable interest and experience in exploring the future of even their own fields, much less larger trends that might make their fields change, and course textbooks are of quite varying quality in exploring trends and futures of their subjects. Both foresight and innovation studies (who is innovating what and where) is of great interest and value to the student, who is at the beginning of their career. Adding foresight as a required course objective, and leaving it to the instructor to determine which IFC resources (curricula, websites, reports, media, guest lectures, etc.) to use in satisfaction of the objective, and following up with student and practitioner surveys of efficacy, is one reasonable way to handle this integration requirement.

IFC staff can also develop and administer Foresight Certificate Programs/Minors for several of the University's undergraduate and graduate majors. This is a set of three or four courses that give the students of that major skills in exploring historical and breaking trends, innovations, competitive intelligence, horizon scanning, and scenarios in the future of that industry. The IFC can also support dedicated Foresight MS Programs in as many departments as are interested (see the four primary departments that benefit from foresight programs below).

IFC curriculum should require undergraduates to use Career Services resources at the university, to consider possible Summer internships or cooperatives, and to engage in personal foresight and task management development (personality tests, productivity software, etc.). Once fully funded, the IFC can administer a PhD that will graduate academics who can improve and validate foresight methods, and establish foresight programs at other universities on graduation.

The IFC would ideally get its budget from an endowment plus general university overhead, as it services the entire University with foresight resources and services. We've never seen any University do all of this yet, though some, like Tamkang University in Taiwan, are well on the way toward this model.

Departmental Foresight - The Reality

As a practical matter, unless foresight has a major champion at the CEO, owner, or founder level, as well as a multi-million dollar philanthropist to fund the IFC, the first MS-level foresight degree program is likely to be hosted in a particular University department. In our experience, the four main departmental options are:

1. Engineering (Science and Technology foresight)
2. Business/Economics (Entrepreneurial and Management foresight)
3. Political Science/Urban Studies (Political and Policy foresight)
4. Liberal Arts/Sociology (Social and Demographic foresight)

Though we don't have hard numbers here (please let us know if you do), we would guess that salaries and number of jobs with a significant foresight component also rank in this order. There are many tech companies and tech consultancies who would love to have engineers who are also trained in foresight, to work in their R&D, operations, or strategy units. There are also many business sectors (marketing, strategy, planning, entrepreneurship) that would be glad to employ engineers and, business graduates (and to a lesser extent, political science and liberal arts grads) with foresight skills. There are several political organizations (nonprofit, policy, military, security, government) that would love to employ political science/urban studies, engineering, business , or liberal arts grads with foresight backgrounds. Liberal arts/sociology also provides a number of employment options, including journalism/media, and some consultancies, for foresight grads of all stripes.

Gaining well-paying foresight employment in a world as short-term oriented and foresight-challenged as ours is a challenging endeavor. University administrators would do well to host their Foresight MS program in a department that will maximize program selectivity, rigor, and employable skills and employment options for the graduate.

Of the departments listed above, a great choice, if there are only funds for one university MS program, is Engineering, as there is so much that is predictable in science and technology (S&T) innovation, for example, the century of very predictable data we have on accelerating technology performance/experience/learning curves (Moore's law, etc.). Modern foresight students should learn and understand that history, have a good basic technical understanding of S&T, be able to do Delphi and market research around business applications, be able to consider political oversight likelihoods, options, and strategies, and be able to put that all in urban and social contexts, generate scenarios, forecasts, and roadmaps, and consider robust strategy. Of these four departmental foresight domains, Science & Technology is arguably the most difficult competency to build in a foresight student, so basing a foresight program in Engineering will automatically ensure good quality graduates who have the ability to work in all four foresight sectors upon graduation.

Another excellent choice, for universities with strong business departments, is Business/Economics, as businesse are the environments supporting most (2/3) of national R&D research, and as the planning and forecasting departments of all businesses benefit greatly from strategic foresight. Graduates with a Business MSF (Masters in Strategic Foresight) will be able to work in Business, Poli Sci/Urban Studies, and Liberal Arts/Sociology , and interface with engineers and product developers. As with engineering, graduates from business foresight programs have broad career options.

Basing the Foresight MS program in Political Science/Urban Studies or Liberal Arts/Sociology will certainly prepare graduates in superior ways for these two domains, but such graduates will be much less able to do Engineering/Technology and Business foresight, which reduces their marketability in perhaps half or more of the available foresight careers. As graduates with foresight competencies from these departments will be more specialized, it makes sense, at the typical university for them to emerge after Engineering and Business/Econ foresight programs have been developed.

To conclude, in an ideal world, all four departments at the University would have their own foresight MS programs, servicing each of these sectors, and an Interdepartmental Foresight Center administrating all four of them. But if resources are only available for one program, as is the typical case, we recommend starting the first MS program in Engineering, or in Business at Universities which either have no Engineering, or an Engineering department that doesn't buy in to the need for graduate foresight programs.

At the undergraduate level, as we've said on our Foresight Graduate Programs page, we do not recommend independent Foresight BS Programs (and no university has yet started one that we know of) , but rather integrating foresight resources and exercises throughout the undergrad curriculum, and offering Certificate Programs/Minors for students wishing to delve more into foresight methods and literature. Future-oriented students should have both an undergraduate degree and at least a few years of industry experience before they do a Foresight MS, to maximize their effectiveness in strategic, planning, forecasting, policy, media, marketing, and other organizational environments.

Foresight and Futures-Related People, Orgs, and Resources

See ASF's Global Foresight Directory for a community-edited list of foresight research centers, consultancies, NGOs, associations, and other foresight resources and groups that might be of value as strategic partners, or employers of graduates of a foresight/futures academic program.

Edits, feedback, or corrections to this page? Please let us know.


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