Presenter: Ronald Barnett
Commentary: Simon Marginson and Elisa Brewis
The seminar will discuss and reflect on Ronald Barnett’s book, The Ecological University: A Feasible Utopia. After a presentation by Ron there will be commentary from Elisa Brewis and Simon Marginson, followed by open discussion.
Ron introduces his ideas as follows: Now several major ecosystems of the world are having their effects on the university and, whether recognised or not, the university is influenced by them. Seven ecosystems deserve attention in particular, those of the economy, knowledge, social institutions, learning, persons, culture and the natural environment.
At present, attention is given primarily to the ecosystem of the economy. Some – advocates of entrepreneurialism – play it up; others – critics of neoliberalism and cognitive capitalism – sense that the university is ‘in ruins’. On both readings, there is a neglect of the other (six) ecosystems.
As a result, there is a general downplaying of the potential that the university possesses in the twenty-first century. Ron will explore this situation and make a pitch for the coming of the ecological university. This would be a university that is not only aware of its interconnections with those seven ecosystems but has a concern for those ecosystems and strives to advance them.
Phrases such as ‘civic engagement’, ‘the public good’ and ‘the student as global citizen’ are indications of an embryonic concern for the total world on the part of the university. This may be a utopia, but it is a feasible utopia.
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