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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Simon Marginson is Professor of Higher Education at the University of Oxford, Director of the ESRC/OFSRE Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), Editor-in-Chief of Higher Education, and Lead Researcher with Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Simon’s research is focused primarily on global and international higher education, the contributions of higher education, and higher education and social inequality. At Oxford he lead teaches the MSc (Education) subject on ‘Globalisation in higher education’. He is currently preparing an integrated theorisation of higher education. His recent books in comparative and international studies are Higher Education in Federal Countries, edited with Martin Carnoy, Isak Froumin and Oleg Leshukov (Sage, 2018) and High Participation Systems of Higher Education, edited with Brendan Cantwell and Anna Smolentseva (Oxford University Press, 2018).
Ronald Barnett is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education. He recently completed a trilogy on what it is to understand the university (with Being a University; Imagining the University; and Understanding the University). Recently published by Routledge is his idea of the university: The Ecological University: A Feasible Utopia. His books have been translated into several languages and several have won prizes. He has had an (earned) higher doctorate of the University of London conferred on him and is a visiting professor at several universities. He is the inaugural recipient of the EAIR Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Higher Education Research, Policy and Practice’ and has been an invited keynote speaker in 40 countries.
Elisa Brewis is a doctoral researcher in higher education policy at the UCL Institute of Education. Her thesis examines the impact of accountability reforms on equity and teaching and learning quality in Indonesia. She has conducted research on inclusive development, social justice and pedagogical self-accountability in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.