Universities in Crisis or Crisis of the University?

Modes of Organizing Knowledge Production and Higher Education in the 21st Century

The crisis of universities has been a topic of discussion that has grown popularity in
the context of a global knowledge society. In the discussion prevail two positions: on the one
hand, critical scholars denounce failures of the academic system increasingly expressing a state of
powerlessness and incompetence, on the other hand solution-oriented scholars propose projects of
institutional change and remodelling of university structures.
In the setting of a globally integrated world of the 21st Century, where almost every place is accessible
at any time without being physically present, these discussions on the university need to be
reframed. Interconnectivity may promote homogenization, but it does not mean homogeneity at
all. In this sense different kind of local knowledges have to be brought into dialogue and scientific
knowledge is negotiated under new conditions. Both tendencies put into question a paradigm of
university that emerged in Europe and which is based on Western knowledge production.
This workshop responds to the urgency of re-contextualising university in a global setting. The
emerging indigenous universities, affirmative action programs to provide members of lower-classes
and discriminated ethnic groups access to higher education are strategies to confront these
shortcomings. Furthermore, there are other societal actors that produce knowledge – from private
enterprises over think tanks to NGOs – that put into question the symbolic power of the academic
field. Taking these findings into account it is worth to speak of a complex multiple crises of the
The present workshop scrutinizes modes of organization and knowledge-production of the 21st
Century University. We debate reformation, transformation, dilemmas and limitations in the
organization of knowledge production and higher education from two specific theoretical angles:
world society and decolonization. Both frames question from very different standpoints: How do
universities confront crisis? Which alternatives are proposed? In how far are knowledge production
and higher education affected by decentralized challenges and to what extent is the university as a
global model facing a general crisis?

Specific aims of the workshop are to:
1. critically analyse contemporary modes of organizing knowledge production and higher education,
2. scrutinize the relation between reformation and transformation of the university,
3. explore the potential, discourse and challenges around current moves to decolonize the university,
4. and discuss patterns and tensions between universalization and pluralisation of knowledge production
and higher education in a transnationalized academic field.

Contributions & Conditions:
Despite counting with a sociological core, the workshop unites people from diverse intellectual and
personal backgrounds with a common interest in decolonizing knowledge and higher education in
the frame of global(-izing) dynamics of the academy. Perspectives from anthropology, education,
ethnic studies, history, politics, sociology, and Social Work engage the conversation across disciplines
and area specialisms around everyday practices of decolonisation in the university as well
as the encounter of practitioners like activists and artists, early career and senior researchers from
Latin America and Europe.

Thursday, November 28, 2019 - 10:00
Friday, November 29, 2019 - 09:00

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