Skip main navigation

Hurry, only 11 days left to get one year of Unlimited learning for £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

The University of the Future: Visions for the 21st Century

In this part you will learn why today’s universities need to change to justify their place in today’s complex and inter-disciplinary ecosystem.

In this part you will learn why today’s universities need to change to justify their place in today’s complex and inter-disciplinary innovation ecosystems. Furthermore, you will learn about two concepts for the universities of the future: the Ecological University and the Open Innovation Hub University.

Universities must change because of the following three challenges:

  • Information is constantly generated also outside of universities
  • Innovation processes involve diverse and interdisciplinary stakeholders
  • Innovation is not only dependent on scientific knowledge anymore; other forms of knowledge production, processing and dissemination are faster than traditional research

In the concept of the Ecological University from Ronald Barnett (2011), the focus lies on societal ecosystems.

Goals: Responsible further development of society and resolution of local, regional, and global societal problems

  • Networked university – forms and extends its networks throughout society; is itself permeated by societal networks
  • Engaged, critical, researching and questioning
  • Contributes to a learning society
  • Produces “public goods”

Position: acts for others (alterity) – oriented toward society and the world, not focused on itself or competitiveness

Last but not least, we want to introduce Gertraud Leimüller’s concept of the Open Innovation Hub University (2017):

Goals: Targeted opening of research, teaching, and knowledge transfer to external and societal actors

  • forward-looking facilitator
  • it discusses and initiates innovation projects
  • builds competence in open innovation and working in interdisciplinary co-creating networks
  • fosters experience-based learning such as co-creation or crowd-sourcing processes
  • supports building of networks and offers incentives for positive impact on society
  • it increases demand for fast knowledge transfer to scientific networks: novel formats, technologies, and rules for the sharing of knowledge

Position: Outward-oriented, open institution closely interlinked with additional external, non-academic actors to foster social innovation and evolution


What do you think about the evolution of universities outlined here? Do you have a new understanding of roles at your university as formulated here? Please, describe your experiences in the comment field and comment on at least one post of your fellow learners.

This article is from the free online

Openness in Science and Innovation

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now