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How can universities be saved from the global crisis?

How can universities be saved from the global crisis?

Cover of Transforming Universities in the Midst of Global Crisis, a book by the authors

The institutions that have helped to sustain settler colonialism are universities. The public university system was, and continues, to be part of the state’s investment in its own future.

In Australia, universities were founded in the mid-19th century and early 20th centuries amid frontier violence and dispossession. First Nations’ lands, labour and relationships. Universities grew in size and influence while nature was privatized and commodified. Knowledge hierarchiesNormalisation of racial and gender divisions was normalised

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Cover of Transforming Universities in the Midst of Global Crisis, a book by the authors


Our new book Transformation of Universities in the Middle of Global Crisis: A University For the Common GoodThe role of universities in today’s society is examined by. We argue these institutions, and indeed the entire higher education sector, must be considered as not only in crisis – though they clearly are – but also as Crises drivers.

Universities are now fully integrated into the neoliberal system. They fixate on vocational “job-ready” curriculums and commercial research agendas. They enable industries that extract natural resources and support economic growth.

This system has its problems. Life-threatening and destructive. Climate chaos, biodiversity loss, the COVID-19 Pandemic, the democracy recession Inequalities in socio-economic life are getting worseThey have changed the way we relate, are and know.

Transforming universities therefore demands we seek out ideas, practices and values beyond the university’s walls. Only then universities will be able to respond to interconnected ecological and health problems as well as social ones.

We use case studies and examples from all over the world to show how this transformation can be achieved – and is actually already underway.

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A crisis can be a catalyst for change

Multiple mega-crises have devastated ecological systems, human lives, and livelihoods in the 21st Century.

A small but powerful lobby of interests in politics continues to exist Deny, downplay and divertThese problems deserve our attention. These challenges can be overcome if we are willing to work together.

US scholar Lauren Berlant Suggestions:

In times of crisis like these, politics is defined collectively by the sense that something is wrong with the reproduction and reproduction of life. […] A glitch is also the revelation of an infrastructural failure.“

But glitches can – and must – provide the impetus to bring alternative worlds into being. The challenge for universities is to place human relations and responsibilities in the right context. The web of lifeThe Earth.

The Ecoversities AllianceFor example, he is working to change ecological consciousness. This means a shift away private interest to ecological integrity and the greater common good. The goal is to orient universities towards “service of our diverse ecologies, cultures, economies, spiritualities and life within our planetary home”.

Another challenge is to decolonize universities. The Dechinta Bush UniversityThe Northwest Territories, Canada, is an example. The university embraces Indigenous land-based values and practices. In this context, Indigenous pedagogies and practices refuse the colonial enclosures of traditional “education-based” institutions.

There are many other ways to do this in Australia and around the world. Indigenous scholars, educatorsAnti-racist activists and decolonizing activists are leading the charge Ecological governance agendas.

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What is it going to take to transform universities

Universities cannot be transformed alone. Change must be based on the values, practices, and leadership of progressive movements. Examples include Black Lives Matter, #MeTooIndigenous movements and movements sovereignty treaty.

Our book outlines the possibilities of radically changing the political and economic structures on which universities are built and continue to be supported. The change agenda must be bold and not incremental. We present activities and interventions that go beyond superficial Reformism to more Radiant possibilitiesChange is possible.

We also call for:

  • More democratic governance at universities

  • A return to public universities as defined in state and territorial legislation

  • Decoupling from market-oriented extractivist growth ideas

  • resistance to “job-ready” graduate tropes

  • Learning communities that are inclusive and genuine

  • In curriculums and research agendas, Indigenous rights and knowledges are centralized

  • Fostering cultures of generosity, appreciation, and collaboration, rather than competition, individualism, and hierarchy.

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For a just, resilient future

These changes are essential if universities are to meet the 21st century’s challenges. A university for the common benefit could allow human society to connect with other than human communities and work within the limits of nature. This university would be accountable to all human and nonhuman communities and could help build more sustainable and just worlds.

Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti, and colleaguesFrom the Gesturing Towards Decolonial FuturesCollectively, we believe that regeneration can only be achieved through the destruction of the modern university. If so, the challenge for those committed to the future of the university is to ensure that, through its dwindling, a new regenerative approach – within and beyond its walls – flourishes.

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