PaTHES Thematic Webinar Series 2021: Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures

The webinar series aim to create quite lively events with engagement of the participants during or after the talks. Rather than extended talks, we wish to make some room for conversations, co-creation and critical reflections amongst the participants in relation to the theme of the webinar and the topics of the talks. Furthermore, the webinar is followed by a PaTHES community extension where collegial discussions can continue – and where there is also space for informal networking, hanging out and sharing a drink or cup of coffee. We very much hope you might be interested in joining us there as well – for however briefly – before returning to the reality of the present.

Webinar 1 – Through the futures cone: Speculative design, foresight and university futures – September 9, 9.00-10.30 CET (followed by PaTHES community extension)

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This webinar is part of the PaTHES Fall 2021 Thematic Webinar Series on “Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures”. This first webinar focuses on designing for preferable university futures and finding the university the future needs. Speakers will be Dr. Rikke Toft Nørgård, Aarhus University and Dr. Maree Conway, Foresight Futures. 

Talk 1: What comes after the ruin? Speculative design for preferable university futures

Dr. Rikke Toft Nørgård, Associate professor, Aarhus University & Center for Higher Education Futures

Twitter: @RikkeTN

LinkedIn: Website:


As a response to the widespread lamenting of the present state of the contemporary university, this talk presents a framework for imagining and manifesting more preferable university futures. This is done through introducing the concepts of ‘hopepunk’, collective visioning, the futures cone and speculative design as ways of widening the field of possible futures for the university. Today, we see a deliberate intention to reduce possibilities in order to be able to see and plan for the imminent future through future-oriented preventive measures. The future-making imagination becomes colonised by an already known future to be planned for through disciplining possible futures into a singular projected future. To imagine its possible future forms, the university must move beyond projected, probable and even plausible futures. To do that, the university needs thinking and methods for preferable, possible and sometimes even preposterous futures. What movements, frameworks and methods for imagination and future-making might facilitate and nurture the emergence of an expanded possibility space for the future university and help us see yet-unimaginable alternative and preferable futures? The idea is an optimistic idea. One could almost say it is an act of hopepunk.

Talk 2: Finding the University the Future Needs

Dr. Maree Conway, Foresight Advisor and Researcher, Foresight Futures

Twitter: @mareeconway


Perhaps the most perilous assumption we can hold today is that the university in some form will always exist. This assumption closes down conversations about possible futures and traps us in a single assumed, projected future. By considering a future without a university as we know it today as a real possibility, different conversations become possible, ones that expand and deepen our thinking to imagine the university the future needs. These are open conversations, integrating our individual and collective ideas of the university with social change and foresight approaches to generate new conversation spaces, new ideas, new perspectives and new, hopeful and preferred futures. Instead of assuming the university will always exist, we can value all futures that we find in the present – even the crazy ones – as we seek to understand how the ‘right’ university for its times can always exist.

Webinar 2 – HE Futures beyond the colonial university – October 26, 3.00-4.30 CET

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This webinar is part of the PaTHES Fall 2021 Thematic Webinar Series on “Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures”. This second webinar focuses on higher education futures beyond the colonial university. Speakers will be Professor Carolyne J. White, Associate Professor Drew Kopp, Senior Lecturer Susie Miles, PhD Candidate Fatemeh Moghaddam and Masters of Advanced Studies Maria Stergiou.

Talk 3: Higher Education Futures beyond the Colonial University: Embracing Manifesto Writing with Ontological Inquiry

Professor Carolyne J. White
Rutgers University
Associate Professor Drew Kopp
Rowan University
Senior Lecturer Susie Miles
University of Manchester
PhD Candidate Fatemeh Moghaddam 
Syracuse University
Masters of Advanced Studies Maria Stergio
Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Exchange


This panel will focus on the distinctive speech act performed by the writing of a manifesto: the declaration of a new future. However, this new future is not merely a recycling of the options derived from the past, but a future that is utterly different. Such a future is by necessity disruptive, to the degree the illocutionary force present in the declaration is taken up by the audience addressed in the manifesto.

Each member of this panel has undergone significant professional development designed to equip us to practice ontological inquiry within higher education. Yet, we are discovering that writing about our as-lived experience with ontological inquiry in our personal lives and its contribution to our teaching, research and/or service requires even more discovery as we literally invent new ways of being and acting as writers trained within one paradigm and yet seeking to write ourselves into a new paradigm that is calling us forth. Here we attach a collage crafted with pieces of writing drawn from each of our chapters for our currently titled manifesto Ontological Inquiry in Higher Education: A Declaration Whose Time Has Come: 

For the talk we will each speak about what we have discovered from this shared engagement with manifesto writing. We seek to provoke lively conversation and look forward to being with you in collective thinking about how ontological inquiry may contribute toward new futures in higher education.

Webinar 3 – Anticipating the near future of Higher Education Teaching – November 16, 3.00-4.30 CET (followed by PaTHES community extension)

Registration link

This webinar is part of the PaTHES Fall 2021 Thematic Webinar Series on “Foresight, speculative design and

This webinar is part of the PaTHES Fall 2021 Thematic Webinar Series on “Foresight, speculative design and preferable higher education futures”. This third webinar focuses on anticipation and near future teaching. Speakers will be Professor Sian Bayne and Dr. Michael Gallagher from the University of Edinburgh. 


Instrumentalising narratives developed by corporate ‘ed-tech’ often drive the debate around the ‘future of the university’. These are narratives which, aligning tightly to marketisation, unbundling and other dominant ideological trends, describe a highly technologised, datafied and surveillant future for teaching. This future is often framed as an imperative, leaving university communities with the sense that a future is being designed for them over which they have relatively little control. Drawing on recent thinking in anticipation studies in education, this seminar will share the methods and outcomes of a project (Near Future Teaching) which worked to build a compelling counter-narrative for the future of higher education teaching – one which emphasises collectivity, participation and hope.

Professor Sian Bayne

Professor of Digital Education

University of Edinburgh

Twitter: @sbayne


Dr Michael Gallagher

University of Edinburgh

Twitter: @mseangallagher