Milan Cathedral: schools are under pressure to prepare their students for jobs that will be in demand
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Having trouble matching your trousers and jumper? Unsure if you can wear a blue shirt with black shoes?

For those aspiring to have a definitive answer to these questions and more, two universities in Milan are offering what is being touted as the world’s first masters degree programme dedicated to colour. With coursework that contains chemistry and psychology, the fashion industry is just one of many careers for which the programme is designed to prepare students. Other outlets for graduates include industrial design, interior design, entertainment, architecture, communications and art restoration.

While the University of Milan and the city’s Polytechnic University are on the cutting edge with their masters in colour design and technology – the first year-long course begins in late February – they are part of a growing pack of universities rolling out once impossible to imagine masters degree programmes designed to attract students by offering preparation for jobs that are or will be in demand.

“In many jobs where colour plays an important role, such as architecture or art restoration, there are people who have only a basic understanding of colour and how we interact with it,” says Alessandro Rizzi, a professor at the University of Milan who helped develop the masters in colour. “This course will produce people who are much better prepared.”

Deans from Milan to Philadelphia and beyond are increasingly under pressure to develop courses that prepare students for a changing world.

Rather than prepare students for specific careers, Drexel University in Philadelphia is tackling the uncertainty of the jobs market with its online masters in creativity and innovation that aims to produce students who can solve real-world problems in myriad industries through new ideas and critical thinking.

“Creativity is a new body of knowledge for inclusion in existing jobs – law, engineering, project management, hospitality, construction management,” says Fredericka Reisman, a professor and the director of the Drexel-Torrance Center for Creativity and Innovation.

Online courses have only heightened the already stiff competition for students. In Milan alone, five universities offer dozens of masters courses such as the Catholic University’s co-operative banking and development programme which targets students wishing to work for co-operative banks, while SDA Bocconi School of Management’s masters in fashion, experience and design management is aimed at those seeking a career in fashion or design-based companies.

Even the MBA has its variations as universities try to distinguish themselves. The key, says Gianmario Verona, the director of SDA Bocconi’s MBA programme, is that business schools adapt to change.

“The most important business schools have the same standard part of the curriculum and then you have to try to differentiate within that framework,” says Prof Verona.

“Nowadays to get the best students, programmes must be interactive and must offer innovative parts that appeals to particular segments of possible students. If you do the programme well the good students will come.”

Two big changes – the arrival of new technology, which has made more content easily available and the increasing amount of coursework that is done in the field – are influencing MBA programmes around the world and forcing universities to adapt, Prof Verona adds. The need for more time in the field means it is no longer enough to have an engaging professor with consulting experience, he says.

The key adds Ms Resiman is to have teaching staff with stellar credentials in the relevant field so that a cutting-edge programme can be offered.

With dozens of experts in their respective fields soon to have a hand in teaching Milan’s masters in colour, time will tell if Prof Rizzi and his colleagues can produce a pool of marketable experts to solve the riddles of colour in a host of industries.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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