Ronald Barnett, On the possibilities and responsibilities of the ecological university.

[excerpts from The Ecological University: A Feasible Utopia] The ecological university understands its interconnectedness with the world but also actively seeks to do what it can through these connections to advance the wellbeing of the world; it assists its advancement. (Barnett, 2018: 33-34). It identifies large themes and practical projects on which disciplines can work together and bring their contrasting perspectives to bear (ibid: 36). The ecological university is no simple assemblage. But ‘ecology’ may just play a part in imparting some direction to its paths of possibilities and so energizing the university, while hinting at an ethical stance of a certain kind towards the world (ibid: 40). Barnett introduces seven ecosystems as ‘spaces of flows’, zones with which the ecological uni can engage with its world:

The knowledge ecology | Habermas posited three: scientific, technical and hermeneutic the technical having colonized the other two. However, a. digital age has brought multimodality, widening a more social form of knowledge, b. besides academic knowledge there is the embodiment of understandings of particular worlds, c. knowledge is influenced by mega-corporations, d. cultural knowledge is getting revenue-generating dimensions. The ecological potential of universities is thus considerably expanded.

The ecology of social institutions | There is an isomorphism between unis and organizations but there exist extreme variations across them based on their financial and cognitive power and their value orientations. However, a. rival value systems can be there even if there is a dominant value set, b. unis are encouraged to trade with orgs, c. orgs have an interest in engaging with unis.

The ecology of persons | the relation of humans to the world: for some, human subjectivity is torn apart or manufactured, for others, there exist as possibility of the emancipation of human psyche within society. However, time is speeded up and space are compressed. Unis contain individuals who are bound to be subject to managing their own subjectivity. Second, unis have a responsibility for the formation of their students. Liberal and utilitarian education friction resurfaces: is education about the whole person or a contribution to economic growth? A wider ecosystem of persons is finding their way into education.

The ecology of the economy | Unis constitute a large portion of any economy and have become points of investment: they are a business and they are expected to contribute to the growth of business. Thus are required to demonstrate a measurable impact, preferably an economic one. The ecological uni widens the sense of economy. Its resources go beyond the financial realm and its investments have an ethical dimension.

The ecology of learning | Knowledge capitalism encourages an environment that is increasingly competitive, individualized and oriented towards capital gain. The social world, however, is unwilling to accept this economically loaded script and multiple learning ecologies are emerging as social and individual level. A new learning ecosphere is developing bringing new possibilities to uni.

The ecology of culture | The emergence of rationality was a story of a society freeing itself from culture. However, the ecological uni cannot be culture free: it turns on culture of concern.

The natural environment | Towards a sense of being imbued with nature, having a due concern for it. Not oriented towards restoration, but the strengthening of the natural world itself.


Barnett, R. (2018). The Ecological University: A Feasible Utopia. London, New York: Routledge.

Architectural Education in Times of Uncertainty’ Symposium, 2-4/11, BK, Berlage Rooms

Want to talk with us on the current challenges of architecture and how these are affecting architectural education? Join us from 2-4 November, live here in Delft for the ‘Architectural Education in Times of Uncertainty’ Symposium. The event unfolds over three days with discussions on the integration of circularity in current curricula, new types of collaboration, transitions in pedagogy and learning in extreme complexity with an amazing line up. For more information and registrations please visit our website.

A short history of doctorates

Dr. Dorothea von Rodde-Schlözer was the first woman to obtain a PhD in Germany in the late 1780’s from the University of Gottingen. Marble Portrait bust of hers belongs to Jean-Antoine Houdon: Paris 1806. Photo by Andreas Praefcke (wiki)

The existence of the doctorate (the doctorate of philosophy dating back to the Renaissance) as a set of rituals and titles obtained at the end of a process for entry into dominant positions in guilds or professions, and also the acquisition of skills in the sciences (law, medicine, theology, and then natural philosophy) refers directly to the very long institutional history of universities (…) Universities were founded in the 12th century as networks of students or communities of teachers rather than institutions with a specific location, building and regulation (…) housing for the less fortunate students was what led to the creation of Unis as we know them today (…) interaction between a growing demand for administrators and professionals of the written word and the (re)discovery of knowledge through the translation of Arabic and Greek were the circumstances that set the stage for the Western universities to first take shape (…) medieval Unis drew their legitimacy from their monopoly to grant degrees, which stemmed from authorizations provided by religious (church) and state authorities, and gradually even by regional or urban authorities (…) criticism on usefulness, nature of knowledge and ways of learning and the establishment of the Academy of Sciences and of more specialized schools throughout Europe (second half of 18th century) called Unis into question (…) The history of university graduation is primarily the demonstration of the entanglement between knowledge acquisition processes and integration into the elite (…) Only a tiny fraction of students, who made up an infinitesimal part of the population, could afford to complete a doctorate (men, white, legitimate sons only) (…) French revolution devastated the Uni landscape. After that two models emerged: the French and the Prussian. In the first model, the universities did not disappear, but remained central only for the humanities, law and medicine. The latter, is not founded on personal development through individual research but on broad based exchange of knowledge (…) Last third of the 19th century was the time that universities developed distinct doctoral (PhD) degree programs.

The forms of contemporary research and higher education are the fruit of endogenous mutations such as the push for autonomy carried out by university administrations as well as exogenous pressures: transformation has been linked to the increasingly strong involvement of governments and private corporations in the definition of institutions and course content (…) Global consensus is that doctorates provide utilitarian knowledge, oriented towards entrepreneurship and industrial innovation but also service to individuals and society (…) national research management and development agencies support these efforts mainly through grants or contracts (…) In most countries, these models of doctoral, post-doctoral and research training have been developed especially in the STEM fields and disciplines (…) emergence of two principal forms of doctorates throughout Europe, North America, and in other countries: (1) the research doctorate, (which remains indispensable for academic careers) and (2) the professional doctorate (including multiple types, such as doctorates in business administration, doctorates in education, etc.), allowing access to careers outside academic institution

Notes from Jean-Claude Ruano-Borbalan’s: Doctoral education from its medieval foundations
to today’s globalisation and standardisation, European Journal of Education, DOI: 10.1111/ejed.12522

Summer School on Circularity in the Built Environment now completed!

After months working on the ‘Scales to Aspects’ diagram, we were finally able to put it to test. From Sunday, July 10 to Tuesday, July 12 we held a Summer School on Circularity in the Built Environment here at TU Delft. We used Binckhorst as a case study, a post industrial area in the Hague currently transitioning to a residential/commercial area.

So, how can we achieve a circular transition? Is it just by using circular building products or circular building practices for the new buildings? Or do we also need to consider how pushing the industry away from the city will affect our circular goals? Where will all necessary materials come from? And what would be the role(s) of the local citizens?

The ‘Scales to Aspects’ model developed here by the CBE Hub was scrutinized by forty participants from all over the world using the input of twelve guest lecturers and the CBE Hub group; four new visions were created for a more circular transition for Binckhorst based on its specific context. In the following months we’ll study the results of what has been an amazing experience for all of us here at BK TU Delft and we’ll make sure to keep this conversation going. A big thanks to everyone who helped make this possible.

#circularity #circularbuiltenvironment @BKTUDelft #summerschool

Closing the Knowledge Gap on Circularity: the CBE Hub Lifelong Education Programs 

Can academia provide society with a safe space for developing imaginaries and socially performing alternative political futures? Can it help reconnect the many knowledge domains that appear now to be dispersed and fragmented? And what is the role of adult learning in achieving this transition and in dealing with complex issues such as sustainability? Check our CLIMA2022 contribution for the section on Education co-authored with @TillmannKlein here:

The conference format was hybrid, you can check all presentations online

#circularity #circulareconomy #clima2022 #lifelonglearning #adultlearning #professionaleducation

“We need safe spaces to do dangerous things”

Always good to know you are not alone, this has been a relief to read. I copy here:

we need to decolonize/decarbonize (…) the old elitist models need new energy, new insight and new material (…) the school educates, while training is a lifelong process happening after that (…) people in practice are sitting at the table with eight different disciplines, all: talking to each other, not worried about their boundaries and not siloing knowledge production in the way that many universities still insist on (…) How do we invert growth and our relationship to waste? How do we wrestle with the curious paradox that our relationship to technology – hijacked by capital – got us into this mess in the first place, and yet only technology can get us out of it? (…) We may be faced with knowledge we do not recognise (…) generosity pertains to economies of love that undo the transactional. How to decentre the perception of difference is the important question (…) let the perimeter of the discipline dissolve

Francesca Hughes & Lesley Lokko, A school willing to take risks. In Architectural Review, 15/11/2021

Emotional Learning Design

Visceral (appearance): the automatic, unconscious reaction we have to experiences (…) System 1 thinking: these reactions are fast, immediate without reflection (…) Real world imagery and photography may create the right first impressions for such learning (…) The Gestalt Law of Proximity is often quoted in interface design and states that items close to each other are perceived as groups (…) The Gestalt Law of Similarity states that items similar to each other will be grouped by the user.

Behavioural (performance): This is about emotion and feelings around actual use or usability (…) There is a massive amount of good practice in interface design around usability. It is vital that the interface is a simple, consistent, predictable and easy to use as possible, as time and cognitive effort spent on the interface detracts from the cognitive effort needed to learn (…) Without challenge, difficulty and cognitive effort, you will not have the deep processing necessary for learnt knowledge, skills and behaviour to stick (…) Inducing emotion may be ideal when you want attitudinal shift in diversity, equality and other belief shift or self-awareness training but can be dangerous in non-affective training, where it can induce the illusion of learning

Reflective (memories and experience):  System 2 thinking, the rational, reasoning side of the brain (…) This is complex and involves much more than just getting a score on the assessment, although that can be an important feeling of success (…) Challenging cognitive effort can propel the learner forward and make them feel as though they really are making progress. Feedback is also a powerful accelerator of learning, so personalising learning and feedback can move things forward making the learner feel good about themselves (…) It is easy to forget that one learns for a reason, ultimately to apply that knowledge, so the transfer through to action really does matter.

Donald Clark, Emotion in Learning Experience Design – Norman’s 3 facets; Visceral, Behavioural and Reflective…, Full article available here

“Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment” Profed Course, launches October 7.

A new, fully online Profed course on Circular Economy at an advanced level will be available by TU Delft, October 7. Come join us at the “Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment” online course, register now and enhance your learning on Circular Economy.

The course is suitable for architects, product designers, managers, supply chain actors and other professionals working towards the development of future products used to create sustainable, circular buildings. TU Delft’s Circular Built Environment hub (CBE) has designed and developed this course working with leading industry and research partners, to achieve a higher level of applicability and relevance. It is based on real world case studies and provides you with the tools to create new products and business models. It will help you to fully understand the complexity of the task and to be able to evaluate existing circular approaches. You won’t be alone: a group of highly qualified people will support your learning throughout the course. For more information please visit our page.

On “Digital learning environments, the science of learning and the relationship between the teacher and the learner”

Image available here

Under what conditions do these technology tools lead to the most effective learning experiences? Dο they serve as a distraction if not deliberately integrated into learning activities? When these devices are incorporated deliberately into learning activities, how are students using them to make sense of ideas and apply them in practice? (…) It is much more complicated and difficult to develop an environment that can facilitate learning in complex conceptual domains (…) while adaptive systems have taken some forward leaps, there is still some way to go before these environments can cope with the significant diversity in how individual students make sense of complex ideas (…) Depending on how students structure related ideas in their mind, that structure will limit the way in which new information can be incorporated (…) The problem with providing personalised instruction in a digital environment is therefore not just about what the overall level of prior knowledge is but how that knowledge is structured in students’ minds (…) Technologies that are and will continue to impact on education need to be built on a foundation that includes a deep understanding of how students learn (…) teachers are constantly navigating a decision set that is practically infinite (…) The question becomes one of when and how technologies can be most effectively used, for what, and understanding what implications this has for the teacher-student relationship (…) there are two central narratives about what learning is: the first, acquisition, is vital but the second, participation, is even more powerful for learning (…)

There are several key areas helping students work with technologies:

  • Informing the development of and evaluating new technologies: research examining the effectiveness of the tools lags well behind the spread of their use (…) there is a clear need to draw on principles of quality student learning to determine how best to effectively combine the expertise of teachers and power of machines
  • Helping students to work with technologies: it is critical to determine how best to support students to do so in the absence of a teacher to help with this
  • Determining how technologies can best facilitate teaching and learning: the science of learning will assist in understanding the changing student-teacher dynamic in education is through the implications on broader policy and practice (…) The increased use of these technologies in classrooms must be driven by what is known about quality learning and not about financial or political motives.

Full article available here


Image available here

Complexity is one of four challenges expressed in the acronym VUCA — Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity (…) VUCA has largely been adopted in the business world to refer to challenges which traditional leadership models find difficult to address (…) it requires different skills, structures, modus operandi, mindsets and organisational principles from those currently taught and practised (…) current leadership approaches are counter-productive, even harmful, to working with uncertainty and complexity. In trying to gain control of complexities, in trying to get a grip, our management methods are actually making things worse (…) the cumulative effect of applying the wrong management practices to complexity has exacerbated the challenges of VUCA (…) (complexity management) can only be achieved by including and integrating the perspectives of all the people affected (…) wide-scale conversations in the form of what he (Stacey) called “reflexive inquiry” (…) VUCA skills include: interpersonal skills (e.g. active listening), perspective coordination skills (complementarity), contextual thinking skills (shifting perspectives according to context) and collaboration skills (inclusive decision-making) (…) VUCA requires the integration and fusion of different perspectives, and not alpha heroes with all the ‘right’ answers (…)  What we should learn, instead, is how to respond to complex problems from a vantage point of not knowing, probingly approaching inquiry with an empty mind and humility; likewise we need to learn how to integrate seemingly polar opposite perspectives collaboratively (…) Some of the ways suggested to learn these VUCA skills include design thinking and practicing Sociocracy. We should take note, however, that one cannot learn integration skills by oneself, these have to be practised and refined in groups. We therefore need to create more Communities of Practice where people can hone these new skills (…) Uhl-Bien defines complexity as ‘rich interconnectivity’. Interconnecting parts become complex when the parts interacting actually influence and change each other (…) what complexity calls for are deeper conversations that matter

Full article by François Knuchel available here

The ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ program

Full report available here

The project team for ‘Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning’ ran by the Chinese Ministry of Education reviewed the international literature relating to skillful remote teaching, identifying some of the characteristic challenges that needed to be addressed. The Chinese project team advocated schools designing a blend of synchronous and asynchronous teaching and identified four essential technologically enabled pedagogical techniques that should be used in combination:
Live-streaming teaching (lecture format)
• Online real-time interactive teaching
• Online self-regulated learning with real-time interactive Q&A
• Online cooperative learning guided by teachers

For each method, associated benefits and risks were identified – such as the fact that live streamed lessons were technologically challenging and that the real-time class discussion in a synchronous ‘lesson’ could be of a poor quality (…) To recreate the learning atmosphere of a face-to-face classroom, three pedagogical priorities were promoted: Building a sense of belonging to a community/ Providing timely feedback to learners/ Encouraging learners to relax and not be preoccupied with competitive achievement.