Next Milestone Approaches

My next PhD milestone is my Mid-Candidature Review. I have obviously known this was happening for just a little while now and the last six months have been focused on getting the review report into good shape.

I have changed the topic since I reported about it last to Contested Ideas of the University: Enabling or Constraining University Futures. I will not change it again!


Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:

The university is a social institution within which people work to create, maintain and transmit knowledge across the society in which it operates. The university as an organisation provides a structure and operating framework to manage this work and deliver that knowledge to students and other stakeholders. Without a continuing social need or demand for this work however, the university, like all social institutions, risks becoming obsolete.

From the 11th to the mid-20th centuries, the university was adept at maintaining social relevance by adapting what it did and how it did it (Perkin 2007, pp.159–160). Until the last half of the 20th century when the era of what is now called massification emerged (Kenny 2009; Sayers et al. 2010), this resilience in the face of change was derived from the university’s ability to maintain “many of its traditional traits in the face of all manner of social upheaval” (Sanderson & Watters 2006, p. 316). These traditional traits are at the core of the idea of the university, a cultural construct based around a set of organising elements that has remained powerful in its longevity.


And other that captures what is probably the basis of the research:

The ideas constructed by people, how those ideas become real through daily interactions and work and whose idea is dominant at any given time, will shape how the university responds to change and how it approaches its futures. Each interpretation of the idea will generate different views, different images of the future university.


And finally, one that says what I’m going to do:

What sort of future the university has will depend on whose narrative about the university’s role and purpose is being privileged at any point in time, and whether that narrative is derived from past, present or future social needs. Using a foresight framework, this research will problematise the idea of the university and its underpinning assumptions in order to allow its possible futures in 2045 to be explored. This research seeks to explore how the idea and its supporting assumptions as understood today can both enable and constrain possible university futures.


Those of you who have been here before that this is just the beginning of the long haul to completion but I can’t tell you how happy I am to be at this stage given my previous false starts.  Onwards!

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