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Re-imagining higher education for the Anthropocene

Friday 5 July: Conference day three, 9:00am – 10:00am keynote



Large Chem, 301-G050



Professor Jane Gilbert
Professor of Education at Auckland University of Technology (AUT)



Higher education is in an increasingly difficult space as we move further into the 21st century. “Old” ideas about the purpose/s of higher education sit uncomfortably alongside a strong push by governments for “value for money” provision of employment-related training, mainly, but not only, in the STEM subjects, and greater “inclusion”. This is taking place in an environment characterised by the exponential growth of digital technologies that, in the short term, are influencing how people learn and what they want – or need – to learn, but, in the medium term, are likely to eliminate most of the jobs they think they are preparing for. When we add to this the wider issue of the global Anthropocene transition, and the educational response to this that will be required, current ways of thinking about the nature and purpose of higher education start to look a little shaky. In this presentation I will argue that all this is starting to look like the build-up of anomalies that, Thomas Kuhn tells us, comes before paradigm shifts. I will make the case that higher education is now at a tipping point, and that there are choices to be made, at all levels of the system. These choices will be critical in determining higher education’s future nature and purposes, including whether or not it continues to have a future.


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