Imagination and the Future University: Between Critique and Desire

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This essay argues that thinking about university futures requires not only practices of critique and desire, but practices of rigorous and reflexive imagination. Building on Bill Sharpe’s Three Horizons framework, it argues that debates about university futures are dominated by Horizon One thinking (critique of the current situation) and Horizon Three thinking (normative aspirations toward desirable futures), but that there is limited exploration of Horizon Two (the emerging possibilities that may create radical disruption). The paper draws on futures and anticipation studies, in particular Ziauddin Sardar and John Sweeney’s “postnormal menagerie” to model a set of imaginative inquiries into the blind spots, blank spots, and different forms of ignorance through which highly divergent university futures might be explored. It concludes by proposing two scenarios for university futures – the “Campus of the Sky” and the “Pirate University” – as sites of generative experimentation and further research; and with a call for a radical diversification of participation in dialogues about the future of the university.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Times
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


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