SEDA/SHED DECEMBER TEACHING LEARNING AND ASSESSMENT CONFERENCE 2020
Rethinking the Remit of the University in Uncertain Times
In an age of supercomplexity, a new epistemology for the university awaits, one that is open, bold, engaging, accessible, and conscious of its own insecurity. It is an epistemology for living amid uncertainty. (Barnett, 2000: 420) (1)
This quotation, by Ron Barnett at the turn of the century, is an important one to revisit twenty years on. It is an appropriate starting point for this conference which will explore how we have been able to ‘live amid uncertainty’, if indeed we have. We need to examine whether/how we have been ‘bold, engaging, accessible’ as well as probing ongoing questions of academic identities as we are increasingly held accountable by media and society. Quality, freedom of speech, wellbeing and metrics dominate headlines but how much do these headlines really shape the ‘business’ of ‘being’ in a university?
Many of these headlines from the media – both social and broadcast – adopt a critical or negative stance. A sample of recent UK media reports illustrates some of the issues which this conference can address:
- the quality and focus of undergraduate degrees, challenging the Education Secretary’s evaluation of “’low-value low quality degrees’” (2) and the continuing characterisations of ‘Mickey Mouse degrees’. (3).
- freedom of speech on university campuses, with obvious implications for the development of students’ critical skills. Complaints of online abuse have fueled suggestions that “critical thinking is becoming an unwanted skill.” (4)
- ‘spiraling grade inflation’ (5, 9), following the OfS reporting a “significant unexplained increase in first-class degree awards” (6).
- increasing debates about student well-being and mental health (7) alongside accounts of “the crippling stress university lecturers face” (8)
Venue: Radisson Blu, Glasgow