Thinking about University Futures (Presentation)

The Creative University Conference (Hamilton, New Zealand)
August 2012

Abstract

The changing face of contemporary capitalism suggests a new form of university will  be needed in the future, and that brings with it the need to re-think the university’s role in society and the economy. The university has been quite adept at shifting its organisational form in the past to respond to changes in its external environment.
However, universities as a focus for knowledge discovery and dissemination is a role under challenge from many things, including new forms of digital delivery, new demands for open and personalised learning and research, and the democratization of knowledge. Being creative has new and emerging meanings today, and is a capability being developed in many ways across many organisations and industries.

The creative university and all that infers for the changing university-economy nexus requires not only a shifting of individual and collective perspectives about what the university is today and what its future might be in a complex and changing environment, but also a shift in views about how the university is organised, its purpose and how work gets done to fulfil that purpose. For universities and people who work in them, therefore, the biggest challenge to responding to new forms of education and creativity has more to do with the way they think rather than the ability to change structures, curricula, delivery modes or internal processes.

How and what people think about change now being experienced is determining decisions about strategy, structures and systems. It is these decisions that influence the university’s capacity and readiness to be able to shift its shape once more to respond to the transformation now occurring around education and research, and to redesign its role in the creative economy that is emerging.

This paper will explore how people in universities are responding to these external drivers of change around the creative university from three perspectives: first, how the work gets done (the collective culture); second, organisational interactions (observed behaviour/habits); and third, the power of worldviews (internal and individual understandings/assumptions/beliefs about the university and its role in society). The paper will investigate how these perspectives connect and collide with each other in the context of the economy/creativity context, and how those perspectives generate different actions and decisions influencing the future of the university.

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