Global Higher Education in 2050: Imagining Universities for Sustainable Societies

UC Santa Barbara
March 4-5, 2020


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



Christopher Newfield
Professor of Literature and American Studies
UC Santa Barbara


Primary Sponsors

International Consortium of Critical Theory Programs with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
University of California Humanities Research Institute (David Theo Goldberg, Director)
With generous support from the UCSB Office of the Chancellor, UCSB Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, UCSB Dean of the College of Engineering, UCSB Deans of the College of Letters and Science, Dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education