The real work starts now


I had my mid-candidature review session in October and I've had a break from all things PhD for a few weeks now. The review session went well, some very excellent feedback and comments from the panel which have reinforced my desire to get this PhD done. Many thanks must go to my supervisor Joseph Voros for his continuing support before and during the review session as I work through this process to its endpoint.

Here's a link to the Contested Ideas of the University presentation to the confirmation panel.

So what next? The real work begins, and the end goal is emerging.

First, I need to do some more work to finalise the literature review and finish the analysis using the combined Three Horizons/Integral framework I've developed. This provides some evidence that we do indeed have contested ideas of the university at play today - we know this intuitively and it's not a particular aha moment - but it makes it clear to me that we can't ignore this side of how people in universities face the future anymore.

The other issue is that we rarely sit down and talk about what having contested ideas mean for our actions and decisions today. Much of the literature is based on an assumption that 'my' idea is the one that matters, that holds the true heart and soul of the university in it, and everyone else is wrong. These ideas are neither right nor wrong and all have elements that make sense, but they can be more or less useful at different points in time.

Arrow Chamber Funnel ChartThen, I need to get my Causal Layered Analysis underway. This exercise will allow me to identify the nature of the contested ideas more deeply and the worldviews and stories that underpin each idea.

This step is about finding, surfacing and understanding the worldviews we have today about the future of the university as a social institution. How much agency we think we have to use the future today also depends on those mindsets.

Next is the step where I put it together by designing some scenario archetypes to reflect the types of universities that might evolve from each of the contested ideas. This is about thinking in multiples, understanding that no single future for the university exists - there are alternatives that must be explored first before making decisions and taking action today.

The final step is looking at the archetypes as a whole and looking for patterns across them that suggest implications for today's policymakers and university leaders. This is the stage where I'm looking to identify pathways to the future.

The literature review has identified some elements of universities as organisations that I'll use across these steps such as leadership, work roles, relationships, structures and culture. This will allow me to link the thinking as I work through each step.

This all is, of course, the starting point of this next phase of my PhD. I'll change what I'm doing, adapt it, refine it and maybe even discard some of it as I do these tasks and write them up. The excitement is still there which is a good sign. I'll check back in here as I go to update you on both excitement levels and progress.

2013 Faculty Progress Presentation


In order to fulfill Faculty progress requirements, I needed to present to an open Faculty forum which I did in December 2013. The form of the powerpoint template and report was highly specified which I understand but which is annoying. My topic at this stage was The Future of University Management  and this is what I was going to research:

  • This research will explore what will characterise appropriate university management in 2035 from the perspectives of major stakeholders – academic managers, professional managers, academics and government policy makers. It is these four groups of people whose interactions, choices, decisions and the beliefs and assumptions that underpin them - that constructs the ways in which university management is understood today, and that will shape the construction of appropriate university management in the future.

The presentation is an example of death by powerpoint, but I didn't care much to be honest, just wanted to get it over and done with. I'll do better this year!

PhD Confirmation Milestone Reached

I spent most of the first half of this year working up to my PhD confirmation presentation which happened this month. I'm waiting for the bit of paper to say I'm official, and can proceed with my PhD. The process of getting the proposal in order was challenging not only because I had to keep it exactly to 20 pages, but also because I had to become very clear about what it is I will be doing for the next few years. None of this is unique to me I know, and it did force me to do some thinking around the dreaded ontology and epistemology.  I discovered that I have been a closet social constructionist (a favourite book here is Michael Crotty, The Foundations of Social Research*). That discovery made finishing the proposal a lot easier, and some things fell into place in terms of how I see the world and my work.

Why I'm designing my work around people in my strategic foresight practice, for example, became clear - people create the future, not systems or structures or trends. Why I am going to surface the integral 4 quadrants in my work became clear - those systems and structures and trends matter little if we don't understand the nature of diverse worldviews surrounding the future. I have been trying to find a way to include integral in my PhD, but that hasn't worked out yet. I'll keep trying. And perhaps importantly, the process reminded me that I love doing deep dives on topics and writing about what I'm finding in a way that makes sense academically and professionally.

I know that the whole process will shift and change as I start collecting and analysing data, and I know that it's not going to be a straight line to the finish. At least I feel like I'm underway now, and that is a nice feeling.

*Crotty, M 1998, The Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and perspective in the research process, St Leonards, Allen & Unwin.

Creative Universities Conference


This presentation was at my first real life 'academic' conference. It was small and cliquey but my supervisor was there so I was supported. I attended the conference on her recommendation and presented on my research with a 'creative' twist to make it fit the conference theme - which in the end, I think I did badly. It shows my devotion to Integral and Causal Layered Analysis that I inflicted these methods on attendees - now I have seen sense and shifted Integral at lest to the analysis back room of the PhD rather than as overt as they were here. I got the small group to do some participating and they were great, tolerating my strange requests. It was a struggle for me though because I'd come down with food poisoning about four hours before my presentation. Thankfully, I made it through the hour with no mishaps and spent the rest of the day in my room.


Hub Melbourne Presentation


Hand and button LearnHub Melbourne (Melbourne) 11 December 2012

A presentation to the folks at Hub Melbourne on the future of learning. This was a great conversation across the implications of changes now occuring in learning design and delivery, both within and outside universities. This work forms part of the context for my research on university management - I have to provide the context for the future university before I can start talking about who manages universities.

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