Conversations about the future of the university

The discourse around the future of the university is generally - but not always - derived from perspectives constrained by the past and present. In turn, these perspectives are informed by strongly heal beliefs in the ideas of the university, the cultural constructs that have enabled the university to survive centuries of often turbulent changes in its external environment. To explore the future of the university in meaningful ways however, requires us to let go of today's ideas to allow new ideas to emerge. 

The future of the university will not be like the university of the past or present, yet some aspects that exist today will move with us into the future. Much will be different however, and the discourse needs to incorporate the different as well as the same. How to do that?

In my Thinking Futures work, I developed an integrated framework for having conversations about the future. Integrated in the sense that it pays equal attention to individual beliefs and organisational culture, organisational systems, structures and behaviour, and change in the external environment. In my PhD, I'm applying the framework to the future of the university as a way to identify gaps in today's discourse.

Before we go any further, I have called this a conversation framework, not a discourse framework, since discourse is academic in nature and tone, and more people than academics care about the university's future. Conversations about the future of anything reflect the need for people to come together to talk about issues of common interest, including surfacing and challenging assumptions about those issues. 

People create the future, not change, not technology, and not our deeply held opinions about what the future should be.