Universities, Futures and Temporal Ambiguity

Keri Facer*, Ian Wei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

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Thinking about the future does not happen in a vacuum. It happens in social institutions constituted through material practices that shape what can and cannot be thought. In this chapter, we argue that the University is a critical social institution that has for centuries defined for itself unique roles in relation to futures-thinking, first as arbiter of the foresight accessible to god and accessible to mankind; second, as arbiter of which human knowledge will contribute to progress. We go on to explore how today, as fundamental assumptions about time and change are being unsettled by the quantum sciences, by complexity theory, by the re-pluralisation of cultural concepts of time, the university is again working to define its distinctive role in a landscape where other actors are beginning to claim epistemic authority over ‘the future’. We conclude by proposing that a new role for the university might lie in creating transparent, reflexive and responsible conditions in which
different accounts of futurity and change might be negotiated. The chapter explores this new role specifically through examining how the university today might respond to the emerging condition of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFutures
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)978–0–19–880682–0
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2021

Structured keywords

  • SoE Educational Futures Network


  • Universities
  • Futures
  • Temporality
  • Climate Change


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