The University: A Web of Arteries Feeding a City with Ideas

Universities create the life force of many towns, cities and regional economies. They foster places for knowledge exchange both within the student and research communities, but also between these and the wider community and business. They provide the nourishment that the city needs to survive.

Plaza of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Mexico
(Meritorious Autonomous University of Puebla)
Stimulating ideas, creativity and knowledge exchange

Many studies such as the OECD’s programme on Institutional Management in Higher Education into the role of higher education in local and regional economies, show the importance of universities in terms of knowledge creation and exchange, underpinning innovation through research and contributing to the development of skills in the local economies. Universities can also play an important role in regenerating urban areas by creating a focus for activity.

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University of The Future: Connected Environments

Why is the physical environment for higher education still important when arguably with the emergence of online learning and digital access, students do not need to leave their own homes?

Creating spaces that make connections

We are, as is so often pointed out, in a world where the focus is increasingly on personalisation. In healthcare gene therapy is tailored to treat specific conditions unique to a specific person; people can order cars or computers with specific features determined before production; and of course education where students expect that educators will meet their own specific needs at a time that suits them. Continue reading

Giving Hope to Communities

There is much dinner-table chatter these days about the role of schools in the community. Yet you may be forgiven for thinking that the reality on the ground is that often schools do not fulfil this role at all. Well, here is one example where they do.

These parents of children at a primary school in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico are not rich, but they are happy. Why? Because they been able to get some money to repair the school building.

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Creating Environments for a Creative Economy

Nobel prize winners can teach us a thing or two about creating effective learning environments that support the creative economy.

Inspiring children to learn science at the Science Centre, University of Lund, Sweden: 15 000 primary to secondary school children visit every year to learn about science from university students

A Swedish researcher, Ola Thufvesson, has analysed the biographies of 486 Nobel Laureates to understand what their backgrounds can tell us about how they came to be such creative and innovative thinkers, and what the link may be with the physical environment. Continue reading

Education – Where is the Soul?

We can measure student outcomes and teaching performance. With feedback these can be improved. What about the soul of the school?

Searching for a soul. The caption at the top reads: “Creativity produces innovation through connecting things not previously connected”, Sir Ken Robinson

Image above: A collage by primary students at CEFPI 11, Marketplace for Learning under the watchful eye of Claire Gibb Global Co-ordinator of Room 13.

There are things about a learning environment that no-one can quite put their finger on, yet have a powerful influence over the success of the school or college. There is an ingredient ‘X’. The soul? Without ingredient ‘X’ a school or college in both the physical and conceptual sense must surely be a hollow shell. Continue reading

Small Schools

Must we really have all these small schools? It depends.

Small Primary School in the Scottish Highlands for 25 students

Last week the OECD’S Centre for Effective Learning Environments ran a webinar on small schools for its members. The focus was on the knotty problem of whether they should they be closed, or be seen as an opportunity for educational transformation. Here is why it is difficult to just close them… Continue reading

The Wickedness of Education

Education is a wicked problem with no solution. Educational buildings are likewise wicked.

A student common room. Isn't education wicked?

Back in 1973, two academics at University of California, Berkeley, developed the notion of the ‘wicked problem’ to describe intractable problems facing social policy makers. With wicked problems, said Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, in their seminal paper Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning, “there are no solutions in the sense of definitive and objective answers”. Continue reading

Seeing Tomorrow’s School Today

The world of education will change. Are we really aware of just how fundamental this educational shift might be within a relatively short time – say within ten years

Is this more like the learning environment of the future?

We know education will change because of globalisation, demographic pressures, technological advances and emerging user expectations to which education must respond. Perhaps, though, we are not aware by just how much it might change. Continue reading