Past Event details

Structuring knowledge: new visions of higher education

Monday, 25 June 2012 - Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Structuring Knowledge: New visions of higher education

SRHE Theory Symposium, 2012


Monday 25th July 2012


10.45am-11.15am (coffee/registration)


-          11.15am-11.30am

Opening welcome

-          11.30am-1pm

Ron Barnett: Structuring Knowledge in an Age of Non-Structure:  some problems for higher education

A course of study in higher education is controlled, organized and channelled.  It runs its course.  Through it, the student is formed in particular ways.  That is its point; and increasingly so.  State-orchestrated audit procedures require increasing specificity from programmes of study: their hours, contents, learning outcomes, skills to be acquired, attitudes to be developed, and the forms and number of their assessments all need to be set out in advance.  Two sets of epistemological assumptions are at work here: firstly, that the requisite forms of knowledge can be identified in advance and segmented into bone fide curriculum packages; and secondly, that that recontextualisation can undergo straightforwardly a further recontextualisation as the curriculum is appropriated by the student so as to form a coherent educational experience.

However, in an age in which knowledge is less characterized by structure and more characterized by spaces of meaning-making, these two assumptions become problematic.  Partly, and paradoxically, the problematic nature of the two pedagogical assumptions arises out of the new phase of the knowledge society.  For in its new phase, the means, the nature and the ownership of the production of knowledge are decentred.  In turn, liquid knowledges proliferate.  Students not only engage in projects in the community, and take on an array of identities in their lifewide learning but they participate in social networks and in second-life personas, even within their curricula experiences.  Student learning is increasingly situated amid fuzzy ´ethno-epistemic assemblages´.   

Accordingly, the question arises as to whether there are to be either boundaries or structuring principles running through a student´s higher education experience.  Can or should any kind of knowledge structure be sought in an age of increasing non-structure?


1pm-2pm (lunch break)


-          2pm-3.30pm


 Tina Besley: Academic Entrepreneurship: Creative Teaching, Creative Learning


The principle of criticism and the concept of criticality have traditionally been advanced as the raison d’etre of the Kantian university and the basis of peer review and peer governance. This paper argues that these traditional notions now must be supplemented by a concept of creativity I call “the design principle”, (after Peters, 2009) that embraces a social and public dimension of entrepreneurship. Creativity as ‘the design principle’ is considered to be a social concept rooted in social relations. It surfaces in related ideas of ‘social capital’, ‘situated learning’, and ‘P2P’ (peer-to-peer) accounts of commons-based peer production (Benkler, 2006). By contrast with traditional Romantic notions of creativity it is a product of social and networked environments – rich semiotic and intelligent environments in which everything speaks. This new social and networked notion of creativity is the basis for a kind of academic entrepreneurship that encourages creative teaching and creative learning.



3.30-4pm (coffee break)



-          4pm-5.30pm


Michal A. Peters: Open science economy: creativity, collaboration and the commons


The open-science economy (OSE) is a rapidly growing sector of the global knowledge economy utilizing open-source models and its multiple applications (e.g. open access, open archiving, open publishing, open repositories) in distributed knowledge and learning systems. This rich-text, highly interactive, user-generated OSE has seen linear models of knowledge production give way to more diffuse, open-ended, decentralized, and serendipitous knowledge processes based on open innovation and technology. These peer-to-peer distributed knowledge systems rival the scope and quality of traditional proprietary products through the diffusion speed and global access of open-source projects, especially in both software and open-source biology. OSE encourages innovation-smart processes based on the radical non-propertarian sharing of content, cloud data computing, and the leveraging of cross-border international exchanges and collaborations. Furthermore, it encourages a culture of distributed, collaborative, decentralized model research that is genuinely participatory, involving the wider public and amateur scientists along with experts in the social mode of open knowledge production. OSE provides an alternative to the intellectual property approach to dealing with difficult problems in the allocation of resources for the production and distribution of knowledge and information. Increasingly, portal-based knowledge environments and global science gateways support collaborative science. Open-source informatics enables knowledge grids that interconnect science communities, databases, and new computational tools. Open science is seen as a means for revitalizing public institutions and for developing scientific creativity and innovation at a global level through international collaboration. This paper explores the concept of “open science economy”, its dimensions and its significance.


7pm (dinner)

*After-dinner speaker:



Tuesday 26th July 2012


-          9.00am-10.30am

Gert Biesta: Knowledge? Look again! Asymmetry, democracy and Higher Education

It is remarkable how persistent the idea is that Higher Education is ‘all about knowledge.’ While this may be the story that those working in, around or for Higher Education (would like to) tell about their activities, it doesn't seem to match up with what they actually do. To change the story about Higher Education is not only important in order to have a more accurate account of what is going on, but also makes it possible to think differently about the connection between Higher Education and democracy and the role that (stories of) knowledge may play in this connection. The non-epistemological approach that I will pursue in my presentation takes inspiration from John Dewey – a radical critic of epistemology – and Bruno Latour – a radical critic of the sociology of knowledge (up to the moment, that is, when his radical insights were made 'safe' in what has become known as actor-network theory).


10.30am-11.00am (coffee break)


-          11.00am-12.30pm

Michael Young Why educators must differentiate knowledge from experience.  

My presentation will take issue with ‘knowledge denialists’ such as Ron Barnett and Gert Biesta.  In contrast to Ron Barnett  I argue that a non-structured world is the world of appearances or experience-not reality. We don’t give up physics because the physical world is more complex that Newton thought; we improve our understanding of that world and make use of its complexity, as in quantum computing. More generally, this means that higher(and indeed all education) must provide access to knowledge  that goes beyond how people experience the world and provides the possibility of explaining the world of appearances and how they might be different. The question that leaves us with is, of course, ‘what is this ‘powerful knowledge’?” In the STEM subjects, there is no serious debate; in others the issues are  less straightforward but ‘knowledge denial’ is no answer. Unlike Gert Biesta, I return not to  Dewey and  his ‘non-epistemology’, but , via Durkheim to a better epistemology. Knowledge is not a homogeneous category but that is  case for a differentiated epistemology that can apply to the social sciences and humanities,  not to no epistemology; that is little more than giving in to a government that is stopping  funding the humanities- ‘La trahison des Clercs’ again, perhaps?

12.30pm-1.30pm (lunch break)


-          1.30pm-3.15pm

Panel discussion with the seminar speakers


-          3.15pm -3.30pm

Final Comments



3.30pm (tea and departure)






Network: Theory
Date(s): Monday, 25 June 2012 - Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Times: 11.00 - 6.00
Location: Oxford
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Event Files
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R Barnett: Head in the Clouds and Feet on the Ground
Ron Barnett´s powerpoint presentation
M Peters: Open Science Economy
Michael Peters powerpoint presentation
Gert Biesta´s presentation
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