REIMAGINING AND REDESIGNING UNIVERSITIESThe scientific developments and advances have addressed many ambiguities and uncertainties making this world a more predictable place to live in. We know the average number of years we will live; we are near certain that flu, cholera, typhoid and many such fatal diseases of the past will not kill us; we are reasonably sure …
The scientific developments and advances have addressed many ambiguities and uncertainties making this world a more predictable place to live in. We know the average number of years we will live; we are near certain that flu, cholera, typhoid and many such fatal diseases of the past will not kill us; we are reasonably sure that we will not get killed whilst crossing a busy road and we are able to predict with reasonable accuracy the weather for today, tomorrow and the coming week. Having said that, we are yet plagued by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). VUCA is the symptom caused by our inner insecurities, lack of confidence, lack of imagination and the velocity of change impacting our lifestyle and habitat.
Legacy Universities have been designed to create and disseminate knowledge and award credentials in specific disciplines of study. The disciplines by themselves are archaic and are losing relevance due to the prevailing dynamics of society. Universities and regulators are trying to address this problem by evolving interdisciplinary pedagogies and courseware. But the reality is, such changes will be marginal in nature and will not be sufficient to deal with the prevailing challenges of VUCA. Universities will need to stretch and evolve around transdisciplinary and anti-disciplinary studies. This implies that we will need to seek knowledge in areas and disciplines that do not exist. It is high time we reimagine and redesign Universities and their reason for existence.
The purpose of education needs to be inspected as well. Through the Agrarian Age, followed by the Industrial and Automation Ages, education has tacitly succumbed to the rising material needs of the human being and has been reduced to becoming just the means for earning a living. The objectives of education are being determined by the capitalistic demands of society to develop resources that can perform tasks and deliver goods bearing economic value. In this process, the joy of learning and the boon of imagination granted to humanity have been shelved. Learning is and will always be about the creation of new knowledge, although it is understood currently as ‘consumption of knowledge’. This is precisely the reason why the traditional disciplines developed by universities and educators have become devoid of new knowledge and thus less enjoyable. For generations we have been training our minds to think within the boundaries of such stringently defined disciplines, thereby killing imagination and restricting the creation of new knowledge. The locus of control of learning now needs to shift to the learner from the educator and the provider. The role of the provider should be restricted to enabling and facilitating learning for the learner.
The New-Age university must architect itself as a heterarchical organization, which provides the independence to knowledge workers for creating new knowledge through collaboration, engagement, and innovation so that they can deliver discovery, inventions and real-life solutions that are not confined to traditional disciplines. To achieve this, the old construct of the University will need to be unwound and rearchitected afresh.
Here are some principles that a New Age university would need to adopt to attain the above objective. The university will need to provide for self-discovery by learners, allow learners to curate and develop their own individual pathways of learning which produce joy, fire up the imagination and lead to satisfaction through creation. The new-age university will need to ignore the traditional metric devised by various ranking agencies to gauge scholarly contributions, student selectivity, employment outcomes of students and the quality of faculty employed. These parameters have resulted in the marketization of universities and have transformed these pure academic organizations into mere participants in the “ranking rat race”.
Not surprisingly, this has resulted in the exclusion of the essential purpose of learning and creating new knowledge to solve problems and make the world a happier place.
Another important reason for the creation of a New Age university is to democratize knowledge and associated opportunities. Such democratization will surely reduce the accelerating disparity prevailing today, which in turn will add to the inner insecurities of the society. To attain this the New Age university must be more open and accessible to those who want to learn. Gate-keeping functions such as high standards of selection deny such opportunities to those who want to learn and make the process of hiring for the capitalist easy. The University owes its allegiance to the learner more than the recruiter and thus it is important that New Age universities move away from this popular trend existing today.
The New Age university needs to engage with society at large and not remain confined to addressing economic and commercial issues. As part of its mission, it must promote healthy and sustainable living, making social responsibility one of the primary learning goals. The New Age university must view the individual learner as a whole and not restrict its development agenda to just the cognitive abilities of learners. The velocity of change in society is creating external noise leading to VUCA symptoms – and that can be cured by empathizing with one’s inner self and ignoring the noise that does not resonate with oneself. In other words, leading the learner to self-actualization is a sure shot panacea for VUCA symptoms.
Vijaybhoomi University, India’s first liberal professional university is a diligent and sincere attempt to create a New Age university, which addresses the challenges mentioned herein. The design is a complete reimagination of how a university should function without compromising on the present outcomes of the best-in-class universities of the world, whilst reigniting the joy of learning. The curriculum of the University has been architected on the lines of the Krebs Creative Cycle (reference Oxman’s article from Journal of Design and Science 2016), which in essence, concludes that creativity is an outcome of information being processed by science to create knowledge; knowledge being processed by engineering to make utility; utility being processed by design to make art, and art raising questions based on the impact to create new information feeding back to science, making a full circle. Vijaybhoomi University is designed to propagate this virtuous, infinite cycle of transdisciplinary creativity for bringing joy to the learner, to engage all aspects of society to create a positive impact by solving new problems through new knowledge.
It is a University designed for the learners and by learners and this is what makes it an Uniqversity.