About University Futures

University Futures was established in 2006 with a website that focused on using foresight methods and approaches in universities. At that time, it was really a place for me to put what I'd learned in my graduate strategic foresight program at Swinburne University of Technology. 

As my expertise and knowledge of foresight grew, I turned my attention to using foresight in practice and I closed down the University Futures website, opened a page on Google+ where I could post my scanning, and focused on my business, Thinking Futures. I have worked with people in a range of organisations since 2007 to help them use foresight and think in new ways about the future. I now post my scanning on university futures on my Facebook page.

But ... as I got to the stage of my PhD where I could see new ideas and analysis emerging, I realised that it was time to reinvigorate University Futures. 

THE PAST: HOW I GOT HERE

First, let me provide some background. I started work in universities when I was 20 and left when I was 48. I grew up in universities. I learned early on about their academic heritage, and their often strange ways of working. I was working in the university I studied in, as part of the first student cohort. The university was one established in the early 70s, one that was more modern in look, structure and operations than what we call the 'sandstone' universities in Australia, which were established in the mid 19th century. It set out to be different, and it encouraged difference (although I'm not sure it does today). I came to love and appreciate this environment where academics and we administrators, as we were called then, worked together to achieve agreed outcomes. I was a committee secretary and student administrator, and got to hear many discussions and experience collaborative decision making. Never once did the phrase 'them and us' occur to me.

Then, in the late 1980s in Australia, the life of universities began to change. At that time, immersed in the change, I didn't think too much about why it was happening, apart from it being a result of a government mandate. My PhD has allowed me to contextualise and more deeply understand what happened and why. But then, I was working my way up the career ladder, I had joined the branch committee of ATEM, the professional association of administrators, and by the mid-1990s, I was publishing on the relationship between academics and administrators, for the phrase 'them and us' was now a reality. 

I was offended and still am, when academics criticise 'management', the seemingly amorphous blob of people who manage universities. And I was one of them. 'Why did academics think I meant them ill will?' I would always think. I valued the relationship with them, and I knew what an academic decision was, and where I could make decisions about more operational matters. Yet, the anger and vitriol grew, and the tension in the university became palpable. I left the sector in 2007 to start Thinking Futures, but my links to the university sector remain strong. I still work with people in them, and my commitment to doing some meaningful and useful research, first on the academic and administrator relationship, and then on the future of the university management, and finally the future university, has never wavered. 

I care deeply about the university's future. Its history has been unique, but its present has been standardised. There are contested ideas about what a university is and what it should be that we need to talk about if the university's assumed assured future is to become a reality. And that is what I'm exploring in my PhD - how to contribute to today's discourse on the idea of the university as it is enabling and constraining possible futures from emerging.

THE PRESENT: THE BLOG

I started my blog Maree's Doctorate as a journal about my learning and research experience in my PhD at Swinburne University of Technology in 2012. It's now on this site. It's sort of weirdly indulgent to share one's PhD journal, and I'm doing it because on the one hand, I think I need all the help I can get. On the other hand, I happen to think the openness trend is a good thing for education, and I have to practice what I preach.

I am erratic with my posts, but the major milestones are there. The epiphanies that changed the direction of my research. And random thoughts emerging as I do my daily environmental scanning. 

The Future of University Futures

I have transferred the blog here to the University Futures site, and aim to add resources you can use to integrate thinking about your university's future into your strategy development. The resources will include books and publications as well as general information on how to think about the future.

I scan daily around the future for the university, and post scanning hits on social media (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) using the hashtag #unifutures.

When the PhD is finished, I'll work out the next steps for the site.