Challenged by the understanding that the future lies in the development of an ideas-driven competitive global knowledge economy, governments have embraced international agendas for university reforms. The UNIKE (Universities in the Knowledge Economy) project investigates the dynamic relationship between universities and knowledge economies in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific Rim. Since 2013 UNIKE has been Funded by the European Commission and in June the project held its concluding conference.
UNIKE held an international conference on University Futures
On 15-17 June, UNIKE’s conference was held at the Danish School of Education (DPU) in the Copenhagen campus of Aarhus University. With the title University Futures and with participants from more than 20 countries, the conference explored future directions for universities in Europe and the Asia-Pacific Rim. One of the key goals was to discuss alternative ways of organising the university in the future.
Times Higher Education has written an article based on their participation in the conference. Read the article here.
Many participants posted on social media about their experiences at the conference. See all the social media shares and tweets about the conference here.
A new university to emerge from UNIKE
Many other international researchers within higher education participated in the conference and presented their work and views on university futures. A group of 13 professors and researchers representing Mondragón University (Spain), Sabanci University (Turkey), Oslo and Akershus University College (Norway), Berea College and Cornell University (USA), University of Lincoln, University of She eld, and Roehampton University (UK) have grouped together to initiate alternative ways of organising the internal life of a university and its relations with society.
The group is planning to formulate concrete actions on how to develop a university, which is based on combined teaching and learning in a cooperative organisational structure including the faculty, sta , and students. The goal is to reclaim the legitimate concepts and practices of the university from current public universities that, in many countries, have become hierarchical, authoritarian, and expensive machines that arguably produce and maintain social inequality in the guise of “education”.
Davydd Greenwood, Professor Emeritus from Cornell University explains: “We agreed that the time has come to move beyond the legitimate but now widely known criticisms of the decline and fall of the public university and counter these with institutions that redress destruction of public higher education for social mobility and democratization. Thus the group is embarking on a process to found a university based on these principles and to show the way by taking direct action.”
The group is currently in the initial stages of formulating the frames of this new university. Updates about the progress will be shared on UNIKE’s website.
Copenhagen Declaration will be published as a joint UNIKE outcome
Following the conference, the UNIKE team held two workshop days. During the workshop, a joint publication as a result of UNIKE was planned. The workshop concluded by drafting a ‘Copenhagen Declaration’. UNIKE very much welcomes comments on the Copenhagen Declaration, which will be available for comment shortly via this page.
Keynote speakers at the conference
Three keynote speakers each presented their views on the past and present university at the conference:
- Professor Ove Kaj Pedersen, Copenhagen Business School, showed historically how four types of university systems had emerged and in the current period formed di erent kinds of knowledge regimes. He argued that European universities are losing their monopoly over research, but gaining responsibility for training PhDs who are prepared for employment in the private sector. See the keynote speech here.
- Professor Keri Facer, Bristol University, spoke about the university’s relationship with society and gave the example of The Connected Communities Programme in which university and community are working together on creating new knowledge and a participatory orientation to the future. See Keri Facer’s keynote speech here.
- Professor Rosemary Deem, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College University of London, traced recent development in doctoral education and set out future challenges facing PhDs in changing universities and changing economies. See the keynote speech by Rosemary Deem here.
UNIKE is a four-year collaborative research project and the actual research has been conducted by 11 PhD and three post-doctoral fellows at six partner universities: Bristol University, Roehampton University, Porto University, Ljubljana University, ENS de Lyon, and Aarhus University.