Workshop: How might universities best contribute to societies’ conversations about the future?

19 November 2013, 9.00 AM - 19 November 2013, 9.00 AM

Verdon Smith Room, Institute for Advanced Studies, First Floor, Royal Fort House


Young (2013) describes the university as a site in which society can carry out and inform its conversations about the future. Indeed, there have been departments of ‘futures studies’ and ‘sociology of the future’ in a small number of universities since the 1950s. Such specialisations, however, overlook the fact that most academic disciplines are also already concerned with informing society’s conversation about the future - through informing policy, through designing new ways of living, through creating new knowledge, through teaching. This workshop will explore these different anticipatory practices and begin, in turn, to reflect on the future of the university itself and the different trajectories it might take in contributing to societies’ conversations about the future.

Aims of the workshop:

To bring together researchers from a range of different disciplines in order to:

1. To explore how universities and their academic disciplines seek to understand and shape ‘the future’

2. To understand how different academic disciplines might contribute to societies’ conversations about the future.

3. To creatively reimagine possible roles for the university and its disciplines in the light of these different contributions.

Workshop activities

This workshop runs from 9 am - 5 pm.

The workshop will be facilitated by Keri Facer, Professor of Educational and Social Futures and supported by Roberto Poli, UNESCO Chair of Anticipation, University of Trento. The day will allow participants to explore issues including: 

• Assumptions and metaphors of the future that underpin their own research and teaching

• Possible future trajectories for the University in supporting social anticipation.


Pre-reading will be circulated a week in advance, no other preparation required.


There are five remaining spaces at the workshop. Please contact, if you wish to attend. Participation is particularly encouraged from natural sciences, medicine and engineering and the arts in order to complement existing participants, although researchers from other fields are very welcome.

Funding and purpose

This is an IAS event.  The workshop is funded by the World Universities Network as part of the WUN theme of ‘The university in 2030’. The project is a collaboration between University of Bristol (Professor Keri Facer), University of Auckland (Professor John Morgan), University of Wisconsin Madison (Professor Adam Nelson), Zhejiang University (Professor Hongqin Zhao). It will feed into a publicly accessible report to the WUN. It is hoped that the conversation will also underpin the development of new research collaborations in the area of anticipation.

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