Research themes

The Centre for Higher Education Futures (CHEF) brings research activities together around three inter-related themes:

The role and positioning of universities and higher education in the world

The first theme explores the positioning of universities in a new context where they engage with and respond to a plethora of external stakeholders,  including industrial and commercial companies, publishing firms with new business models, student recruitment agencies, corporate universities, private institutes providing supplementary or ‘shadow’ education, consultancies and international organisations with policy prescriptions, rankings firms, municipalities, and governments using universities in their economic and foreign policies, as well as national and international associations of rectors, academics and students.

In this situation, universities are working to renew their societal mandate as a progressive force in society. The boundaries around the higher ‘sector’ are no longer clear; they are constantly being renegotiated, and relations span from exchange, trust and gift to contracts and new forms of financialisation.

Linked current projects

  1. Universities in the Knowledge Economy: Marie Curie Initial Training Network. (Susan Wright, Jie Gao, Corina Balaban, Jakob Williams Ørberg)
  2. Mapping the university economy/ecology: University relations and negotiations in a ‘formal economy’ or a ‘liveable and interactive ecology’? (Susan Wright)
  3. Promoting a Culture of Entrepreneurship (PACE): (Sarah Robinson and iCare, BSS/AU)
  4. Universities and soft diplomacy: Denmark (and the EU) and China positioning  themselves through universitities and the establishment of joint campuses. (Jie Gao and Susan Wright)
  5. New learning economies in the vicinity of the state: The role of alternative learning spaces outside formal HE, incl. ‘shadow education’ and its implications. (Gritt B. Nielsen, Jakob Williams Ørberg, Ida Mangor)
  6. Power and Inequality in Cross Border Collaboration in Higher Education: (Hanne Kirstine Adriansen and Rajani Naidoo, UofBath, and Lene Møller Madsen, KU)
  7. Darkness’ within higher education and the doctoral learning penumbra: Empirical study of experience of failure, let down, and alienation in the higher education and the role of extra-institutional support systems. (Søren Bengtsen, with University of Brighton (Prof. Gina Wisker), and Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (Dr. Gill Robinson))

Universities’ organisation and inner life

The second theme explores the implications of universities’ location in this new ecology for its internal life, based especially in the global drivers of performance management, massification, digitalization, and quality assurance. In many countries (including Denmark), governance and management have been reformed to make universities ‘world class’ and ‘drive’ competitiveness in the global knowledge economy. Academics and students are faced with changing expectations about their work and identity, often embedded in new performance criteria and human resource management. Increased demands from industry for collaborative research and knowledge exchange provide opportunities for different disciplines to develop new research methodologies and relationships with stakeholders.

Education at all levels has been expanding and adapted to new international and output oriented standards, controlling the pace and learning outcome of the students. Many of these reforms are carried out with the assumption that candidates will gain the skills and inclination to develop careers as ‘knowledge workers’ outside academia, revealing a ‘torn curriculum’ within globalised higher education programmes.

The boundaries between institution, work-life, the private life sphere and extra-curricular professional networks have also become permeable. Meanwhile, the merging of societal and academic arenas give rise to a renewed discussion about how to promote and educate for academic citizenship and revitalize discourses about virtues and pedagogical formation in university life.  Formal and informal support systems can now be seen as part of the higher education curriculum, and learning environments outside the campus maybe should be included in higher education pedagogy and didactics. The power and potential of media ecologies surrounding formalised higher education programmes should not be overlooked in the analysis of student motivation, learning, and engagement.

Linked current projects

  1. The Danish Study Progress Reform and the ideal student. (Laura Louise Sarauw)
  2. Experience of Transitioning to a Post-PhD Career: Int. Doctoral Students in Denmark. (Tijana Maksimovic)
  3. Research on Doctoral Education: Combined methods research approaches into the doctoral experience of becoming (or not becoming) an academic. (Søren Bengtsen et al. (Helsinki, Oxford, Ramon Llull, Karolinska))
  4. Collective academic supervision: Implementing and evaluating collective supervision across DPU educations. (Helle Merete Nordentoft, Kristina Mariager-Anderson, Pia Baggesen, Anne Smedegaard)
  5. Imprints in practice: Developing creative synergies between academic theories and MA students’ professional practice. (Helle Merete Nordentoft, Kristina Mariager-Anderson)
  6. EDUPLoP: Hybrid teaching and learning in higher education (Rikke Toft Nørgård and colleagues).
  7. ED-Think (Educational Design Thinking in HE): ongoing research funding application project (Erasmus+). (Rikke Toft Nørgård, Tina Bering Keiding, Yishay Mor [Levinsky College of Education])
  8. Erasmus+ Play&Learn DigiMedia: Playful Learning Experience: Enhancing adult education and learning environments with digital media. (Rikke Toft Nørgård)
  9. The ideal academic: What is the depiction of the ideal ‘world class’ academic and how do people engage with these expectations? Women early stage researchers in Denmark, Norway and Finland. (Rebecca Lund).
  10. Gender and Leadership in Higher Education - disengagement and diversity: Gender and career trajectories in academia. (Rebecca Lund, Susan Wright and Jill Blackmore [Deakin U])
  11. ‘World Class’ Academics: Notions and performance in elite universities (Oxford U) and beyond. (Søren S. Bengtsen)
  12. Researching the student experience and early career academic work-life. (Søren Smedegaard Bengtsen, Rikke T. Nørgård, University College London (Dr. William Locke), and Lancaster University (Prof. Paul Ashwin)                    

Higher Education Futures

The third theme is to develop new insights into the practical implications of our critical research on the ecology and internal transformation of universities for building alternative futures for higher education. The Centre will draw on international links to experimental projects (e.g. Auckland’s ‘Liveable University’, ‘Cooperative Universities’ in Australia, U.S.A., UK and Mondragon, Spain). While not translatable to other contexts in their entirety, how do these examples of ‘thinking otherwise’ help bring a critical and reflexive perspective to discussion about issues ‘at home’ and possible ways of developing the university in future?

Also, the idea of the future university will be explored. The notion of ‘future,’ ‘future education ’and ‘new educational futures’ will be of key interest. These themes link to idea of ‘future making’ and draws on the philosophy of higher education, design thinking, educational philosophy and the history of ideas. The conceptualization of the future university challenges several of the present state forms of higher education systems and management by raising the questions whether higher education is dependent on physical university buildings, offered only to registered students, and using a set course curriculum. At the same time this theme explores what can be said to make manifest an idea and practice of the university today, which is not eroded by the changing political and social landscapes but gives cohesion and authority to the university as an institution in the knowledge economy and in the societies yet to come.

Linked current projects

  1. University Futures: New mandates, new formats. Marie Curie ETN application project with Bristol U., KU Leuven, UofPorto and  UofLjubljana. (Susan Wright and Jakob Williams Ørberg)
  2. Trust university: Inalienable ownership, participatory governance and management, and trust relations systems with ‘surrounding society. (Susan Wright, Davydd Greenwood, Cornell University, and UNIKE’s 25-member network on reforming public higher education in the US and Europe).
  3. Go-IT: Global Online Inter-University Teaching. (Rikke Toft Nørgård and Gwyneth Hughes, IOE/UCL).
  4. Value-based vision-driven educational design thinking for future practice at the university: Ongoing research funding application project (Erasmus+). (Rikke Toft Nørgård, Clive Young & Natasa Perovic, UCL)
  5. The playful university: Creating open-ended and playful universities. (Rikke Toft Nørgård and House of Game//Play with Andrew Burn, John Potter, Nicola Whitton, Alex Mosely)
  6. Innovation and emerging technologies in education. (Pantelis Papadopoulos)
  7. Networked students in Higher Education: Ongoing research funding application project (FKK/Velux). (Christian Dalsgaard, Rikke Toft Nørgård, Søren Smedegaard Begtsen, Janus Aaen)
  8. InnoEntre Erasmus+: Framework for innovation and entrepreneurship support in open higher education. (Sarah Robinson, Pantelis M. Papadopoulos)
  9. European Network for Research Evaluation in the Social Sciences and the Humanities (ENRESSH): Enabling social science and humanities to demonstrate their place in society and academia. (Pantelis M. Papadopoulos)
  10. Designing Institutions for Open Education in Society Project Group @ CUDiM: Ongoing research funding application project incl. Horizon 2020. (Søren Bengtsen, Sarah Robinson, Rikke Toft Nørgård)
  11. The ontology of the future university: shifting conditions for higher education and the transformation of academic life. (Søren Bengtsen, Ronald Barnett [IOE/UCL], and Wesley Shumar, Drexel University)