The new power university: Rediscovering the public purpose of higher education in times of uncertainty

The Canadian author, John Ralston Saul, talks about the “in-between time” in his book the Collapse of Globalism (2005). He sees this period as a “short positive moment of uncertainty…[where] it becomes possible to emerge into a less ideological and more humanitarian era”. We are living in one of these in-between times, where the confidence of global liberalism is being challenged by the rise of local populism fuelled by existential pressures around climate and resource, and the shift form the analogue world to the digital one. As we transition to a new (as yet undefined) system it is likely that established and traditional institutions such as universities will come under attack. As this talk will explore, universities will play a critical role in determining which path we take, either through their active evolution of their public purpose, which has evolved over millennia, or their passive remoteness from the world around them.