Imagination and the Future University: Between Critique and Desire

Keri Facer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
190 Downloads (Pure)


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 1 thinking (critique of the current situation) and horizon 3 thinking (normative aspirations toward desirable futures) but that there is limited exploration of horizon 2 (the emerging possibilities that may create radical disruption). The article 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
Pages (from-to)202–216
JournalCritical Times
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • futures
  • higher education
  • universities
  • time
  • method


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