Joyce Kozloff, Cities on the Amazon, 1995

The University After Globalization: Are There Democratic Futures for Universities?

March 4-6, 2020
UC Santa Barbara

In 2050, will today’s Anglophone universities exist in their basic current form? Many experts say no, wagering that most will be absorbed into commercial learning platforms. Would that be a bad thing? Many critics say that would not necessarily be the worst outcome. They argue that the Anglophone university is culturally inappropriate for most of the world, has lost the democratizing impulses it may once have had, and is now primarily an engine of inequality that supports the reproduction of elites.

This conference will convene scholars from around the world to develop a theoretical framework for identifying a full range of futures for universities that serve the entirety of their populations. Conceived as a Critical University Studies project in the broad sense, it addresses key components of a next phase of university theory:

-New collaborative processes for imagining locally-appropriate universities

-“No one model” modes of institutional development

-Interaction among specific histories of higher education institutions

-A new ethos: Articulation of non-pecuniary and non-individual effects of higher education in a world over focused on private pecuniary and economic benefits.

-Clear roles for the humanities disciplines in…?

-Mediation of conflicts and ambivalences on the Left regarding universities

-Methods for conceptualizing non-deterministic and multiple educational futures

The first day and a half will follow a conventional conference format, in which participants will give 10-15 papers in order to lay out the basic predicaments and conflicts and get to know each other’s views. The second day and a half will shift into an exercise in scenario-building: the group will outline a set of alternative futures. The group will leave the conference with draft scenarios that can serve as the foundation of further research into new models that will help universities be more supportive of democratic practices in their diverse societies.




Christopher Newfield
Professor of Literature and American Studies
UC Santa Barbara

Program and further details to be announced.