The modern university as ivory tower, factory and network across space and time

May 23rd, from 3.30-4.30 CEST (UTC +2)

Registration deadline: May 21st

Sign-up here:

Open to all – online via Zoom: link for joining the online webinar and any additional information will be sent to everyone signed up when registration closes.

Dr. Adam Matthews

Lecturer in Education, Technology and Society

University of Birmingham, School of Education and Engineering and Physical Sciences

Dr. Adam Matthews is a Lecturer in Education, Technology and Society at the University of Birmingham in the UK, working across the colleges of Engineering and Physical Sciences and Social Sciences. This allows for interdisciplinary working in both teaching and research. Adam’s academic background and training is in the Social Sciences and research interests focus on the intersection of education, technology and society drawing upon Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sociology and Media and Cultural Studies. Prior to his academic career, Adam worked in the field of learning design in a variety of organisations including travel, sports coaching and media.

Adam leads the Engineering and Physical Sciences online postgraduate distance learning programme – Design for Learning Environments. This involves collaboration with colleagues from engineering, computing and data science. Adam also teaches on the University’s MA Education programme.

Twitter @adammatthews


The idea and purpose of the university is contested both historically and in contemporary discourse. In this webinar, I treat the university as a contested concept by tracking the growth and development of the modern global university from small, autonomous and elite in Mode 1, to mass, regulated and factory-like in Mode 2. The Mode 3 Network University is emerging with a potential for universal access as digital media technologies are adopted, but the residual strands of history of modes 1 and 2 remain. This framework draws upon sociological, higher education and knowledge production literature to provide a means of analysis across both space (within and between universities) and time (historically).

The emerging Mode 3 Network is a complex assemblage of actors which are human (students, academics, management, policy-makers, society, public and private interests) and non-human (media, technologies, discourses). The growth and marketisation of the university idea has added to this complexity with commercial ‘unbundling’ taking place. Degrees, institutions, and functions (such as research and teaching) are being unbundled and re-bundled. This active network of actors and contested concepts come together to enact the contemporary and future university.

In this webinar I will explore these issues through a genealogical study of the university idea as well as presenting empirical discourse analysis of UK university texts. This is all with the aim of developing conversations and designs on potential futures in the ongoing development of the global idea of a university.

Matthews, A. (2019) ‘Design as a Discipline for Postdigital Learning and Teaching: Bricolage and Actor-Network Theory’, Postdigital Science and Education, 1(2), pp. 413–426. doi:10.1007/s42438-019-00036-z.

Matthews, A. (2020) ‘Blurring boundaries between humans and technology: postdigital, postphenomenology and actor-network theory in qualitative research’, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, pp. 1–15. doi:10.1080/2159676X.2020.1836508.

Matthews, A. (2020) ‘Sociotechnical imaginaries in the present and future university: a corpus-assisted discourse analysis of UK higher education texts’, Learning, Media and Technology, pp. 1–14. doi:10.1080/17439884.2021.1864398.

Matthews, A. and Kotzee, B. (2020) ‘UK university part-time higher education: a corpus-assisted discourse analysis of undergraduate prospectuses’, Higher Education Research & Development, pp. 1–16. doi:10.1080/07294360.2020.1713730.

Matthews, A.M., McLinden, M. and Greenway, C. (2021) ‘Rising to the pedagogical challenges of the Fourth Industrial Age in the university of the future: an integrated model of scholarship’, Higher Education Pedagogies, 6(1), pp. 1–21. doi:10.1080/23752696.2020.1866440.

Matthews, A. and Kotzee, B. (2022) ‘Bundled or unbundled? A multi-text corpus-assisted discourse analysis of the relationship between teaching and research in UK universities’, British Educational Research Journal . doi: 10.1002/berj.3783

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