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This conference aims to promote collective thinking about the future directions of universities in the knowledge economies of Europe and the Asia-Pacific Rim.

UNIKE’s University Futures conference is built up around an idea of organising 'collective' thinking. It aims to bring forward different ideas and approaches in scientific thematic sessions, generate a dialogue between them, and debate their strengths and weaknesses.

The conference asks:

The conference's scientific themes are asking questions such as: How is a wide range of businesses and other stakeholders engaging with and reassembling the university? What is meant by internationalisation? How are universities mobilised by nations and regions in the global knowledge economy? How can ideas from feminism and post-capitalism be used to create a liveable university? And are there alternative ways of organising the university and its relations with society?

Participants in each thematic session will discuss existing knowledge and critique of existing practices and institutions of higher education. Following this, participants will move on to think about an ideal future and consider how these ideals can be put into concrete action and how we can support each other in such an effort.

The Danish School of Education (DPU) at Aarhus University, Copenhagen Campus, is the host of the conference.

Keynote speeches from conference


Post Conference Report

Summary of the University Futures Conference, future plans of the groups behind the scientific themes and developments since the conference.


The programme includes the following six scientific themes:

  • Constructing a liveable university using feminist and post-capitalist ideas
  • Reassembling knowledge production with(out) the university
  • How do nation-states mobilize universities to position themselves in the global knowledge economy?
  • How can universities be transformed to center on public goods in teaching, research, and community engagement?
  • Reconsidering "Internationalization" from peripheral perspectives
  • Market-driven or open-ended higher education?

Download the official conference programme here.

Registration - Closed

Please click here to register.

Registration closed on 9 June 2016.

Conference fee is 1200 DKK. Conference fee for self-funded PhD students is 800 DKK.

Call for abstracts - Closed

The conference focuses on the following questions:

  1. How can ideas from feminism and post-capitalism be used to create a liveable university?

    Title: Post capitalist and feminist perspectives on universities as work places.

    The ambition of this thematic session is to draw upon post-capitalist (JK Gibson-Graham 2006) and feminist ideas to analyse, critique and rethink universities as workplaces, including e.g. practices of management, recruitment, academic work and work culture, notions of quality, life-work balance . Orienting ourselves towards local social, cultural, political and economic orders, the participants will draw upon detailed ethnographic studies of gendered and intersecting work practices in the neoliberal university to illustrate existing challenges and problems. We then turn to discuss how we might bring about an alternative future and a more liveable university. Guided by two experienced scholars in interactive gender research and feminist change projects targeting academia, we invite people to analyse their own institutions and practices. Participants will collectively reimagine their universities through debating concrete ideas for transforming everyday workplace practices. Finally, participants will have the opportunity to establish a network in order to support each other in their future local efforts.

  2. How is a wide range of businesses and other stakeholders engaging with and reassembling the university?

    Title: Reassembling Knowledge Production With(out) the University

    What many have theorized as the university is disintegrating right before our eyes. Encouraged by processes of digitization, marketization, financialization, and globalization, the contemporary university is now constituted by, beholden to, and competing with a wide array of new actors and institutions. Among other things, where once the university held a virtual monopoly on formal academic, scientific, and technical knowledge production, now the production of authoritative knowledge seems to be ubiquitous across society and economy. Digital technologies in particular have facilitated many of these processes by lowering technical barriers on the distribution and “publication” of knowledge and information. Furthermore, new service providers, whether focused on education, research, or policy are marketing solutions to students, teachers, academic researchers, university administrators, and policy makers. In interrogating the ways universities are cooperating and competing with new actors and institutions, these sessions will engage with the ways the university itself is being transformed as a social and economic institution. In other words, these sessions will questions how the university is being “re-assembled” from the ground up, and whether and how as a result the concept of the university is still meaningful.

  3. How are universities mobilised by nations and regions in the global knowledge economy?

    Theme 3: How do Nation-states Mobilize Universities to position themselves in the Global Knowledge Economy?

    This panel explores how nation states mobilize universities to position themselves in the global knowledge economy and how governments use them to further national interests. Drawing on  case studies from Europe and the Asia-Pacific we discuss, among others, (1) the processes, projects and politics of higher education regionalism  that aims at enhancing competitiveness of world regions, (2) the creation of international campuses or outposts that position national universities’ in ‘global’ settings, (3) higher education as an instrument of ‘soft’ diplomacy, and (4) the construction of frames of reference such as university rankings to define the space of global excellence and assess universities’ position within it. We critically reflect on the ‘globalization’ of national higher education agendas and the emerging roles of universities within a ‘global knowledge economy’ and ask how this ‘global knowledge economy’ and the university are mutually constituted in the process. Finally, we raise questions about how university autonomy and accountability serve national priorities and are being shaped by them, what role the ‘world class’ discourse plays in national development and regionalism, and how imaginaries of global spatial hierarchies come into being.

  4. Are there alternative ways of organising the university and its relations with society?

    Title: How can universities be transformed so that they center on public goods in teaching, research and community engagement?

    Within higher education, values such as democracy, solidarity, public good and community benefit are increasingly overshadowed by systems of management based on Taylorism and hierarchical control. The session explores these trends and draws on participants’ practical experiences, lessons learnt, and best practices to suggest alternative organizational forms. The session aims to use these experiences to promote both discussion and first steps in developing an audit tool to use to evaluate universities and hold them accountable for their promotion of public goods. Finally, participants will identify some alternative pathways to address the decline of public goods in universities: reform of existing institutions, creation of new institutions, etc.

  5. Title: Reconsidering "Internationalization" from Peripheral Perspectives

    In the past few decades, the concept of “internationalization” has been dominated by powerful actors such as university ranking agencies, intergovernmental organizations, university consortia, university managers in the corporate-like universities, and researchers/practitioners from the developed areas, while the voices of the unprivileged actors—students, administrators, academic staffs, and researchers/practitioners speaking for developing areas—who are situated within the “periphery” of higher education sector, have largely been overlooked. This session will bring together a group of critical thinkers, who will present papers representing marginalized voices to supplement to the current discussion on the concept of “internationalization” in higher education research. The session will be followed by a round table discussion, in which participants will comment on and summarize the views contributed by previous presentations and discuss how the peripheral perspectives can exert an influence in the internationalization process of higher education.

  6. Titel: Market-driven or open-ended higher education?

    The massification of higher education on a global scale has led to an increased standardisation of the ways in which education is being viewed and practiced. Policy bodies such as the European Commission and the OECD have been encouraging universities to focus on preparing students for the labour market, by equipping them with a set of competences and predefined learning outcomes. While this economy-driven approach can arguably be useful as a component of someone’s (vocational) ‘training,’ the panel focuses on some empirical cases to explore  how far education is being objectified and reframed from a public good into a tradable commodity. We set out to imagine alternative visions for education at universities, by looking at empirical cases in which actors were able to go beyond the instrumental conception of training and sustain what we call open-ended education, in line with Biesta’s “beautiful risk of education” and Masschelein’s warning for the immunisation for the call of the other. This scientific theme wants to take up the question of what open-ended higher education could look like in practice in contemporary and future universities and welcomes contributions of this kind.


To offer a paper, please send your abstract (max 1 page) highlighting which theme question you are responding to Kathrin Gramsch kagra@dpu.dk. The abstract must include: Title, name, contact details and affiliated institution. Please save your document titled: Theme no_Your name.

Deadline for submitting abstracts is 28 February 2016.

Practical information

How to get to the conference venue from the airport?

How much does a public transportation ticket cost?

Where is the nearest pharmacy?

What is the voltage in Denmark?

All those answers can be found in the practical information sheet.

What is UNIKE?

Universities in the Knowledge Economy (UNIKE) is a four year collaborative research project investigating the dynamic relationships between universities and knowledge economies in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific Rim. The project is funded by the European Commission and the actual research is conducted by 12 doctoral fellows and three post-doctoral fellows at six different universities: Aarhus University, ENS Lyon, Ljubljana University, Roehampton University, the University of Bristol, and Porto University.

Read more about UNIKE at unike.au.dk

PR Material

You are welcome to download and print this poster and disseminate it at relevant places.

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Time and place

June 15 - 17 2016

Danish School of Education, University of Aarhus, Copenhagen Campus

Tuborgvej 164, Building D

Copenhagen, Denmark

Post Conference Report

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See all the stories shared on social media during the conference.

UNIKE Newsletter


UNIKE's mailbox

UNIKE Coordinator
Professor Susan Wright
M: suwr@edu.au.dk
T: +45 8716 3628

UNIKE Research Assistant
Lisbeth Kristine Walakira

M: likw@edu.au.dk
T: +45 9350 8321