Higher education for a sustainable future

Higher education for a sustainable future Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta, and Taisir Subhi Yamin St John’s University, New York City, USA, The American University of Kurdistan, and The International Centre for Innovation in Education For much of human history people used renewable resources to provide the basic energy needed for eating, trading, transporting and simple social development (for example, wind and water for milling and seafaring as well as biomass for heating, cooking and shelter). In other words, in pre-industrial societies, humans, out of the need for survival, learned how to adapt their ways of life to fit the natural rhythms and conditions of their environment. Then, with the advent of the industrial revolution, societies began to use fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas) on a large scale to drive the growth of mass production systems and international trade.  With the advent of post-industrial societies over the past 200 years, [...]

The shifting paradigm of higher education

The shifting paradigm of higher education Patrick Blessinger, Shai Reshef and Enakshi Sengupta St John’s University, New York City, USA, The University of the People, USA, and The American University of Kurdistan The word paradigm comes from the Greek meaning framework or example. Thus, broadly defined, a paradigm is a related set of concepts and practices (that is, a mode of inquiry together with the related theories, principles, models, taxonomies, methods, rules and assumptions) that define and provide the example of or the framework for a given knowledge domain (science, humanities, art) and discipline and field.  So, from an educational perspective, at the domain level, there is the scientific paradigm, the humanistic paradigm and the artistic paradigm. Fields are particular areas of study within a discipline, or that cut across several disciplines, and they are usually centred on applied knowledge (for example, professions, careers or occupations). It is typically from fields that communities of practice emerge. Many [...]

Higher education’s key role in sustainable development

Higher education’s key role in sustainable development Patrick Blessinger, Enakshi Sengupta and Mandla Makhanya St John’s University, New York City, USA, American University of Kurdistan, and University of South Africa The United Nations defines sustainable development as “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  As such, sustainable development not only deals with environmental issues, but economic, social and cultural issues as well. Given the increased demands placed on societies and the environment due to, among other factors, increased human migration, increased urbanisation and industrialisation as well as the ongoing depletion of non-renewable resources, it is clear that global action is needed to create a more sustainable future. Given its primary role as knowledge producer, higher education can serve as a powerful means to help create a more sustainable future. Thus, the concept of ‘education for sustainable development’ has become, in recent [...]

Rethinking higher education in the service of humanity

Rethinking higher education in the service of humanity Patrick Blessinger St. John's University (NYC) and International HETL Association As I reflect on the first 25 research-based articles I have authored and co-authored over the past several years with University World News, I would like to evaluate and summarise the key findings that have emerged from the empirical evidence used to ground these articles. The findings discussed in these articles is further explicated in the peer-reviewed book series, Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning, a research collaboration between Emerald Group Publishing, the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL) and hundreds of educational researchers and scholars from around the world. Other research on higher education is disseminated through the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education. HETL (in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council or ECOSOC) initiated this book series to further the mission of ECOSOC and to support goal four of the UN Sustainable [...]

Academic freedom is essential to democracy

Academic freedom is essential to democracy Patrick Blessinger and Hans de Wit St. John's University (NYC), International HETL Association, and Boston College Since the inception of the first universities nearly a thousand years ago, the freedom to pursue intellectual inquiry has served as a core value for professors, students and educational institutions. Freedom of inquiry became more important during the Renaissance and Reformation periods as well as the Scientific Revolution because of their focus on freedom of thought and critical inquiry. Following these periods of dramatic change, freedom of inquiry took on greater importance as universities transitioned from scholasticism, which emphasised dialectic reasoning as the main pedagogical approach, to humanism, which emphasised critical thinking and empirical observation.  Since higher education is, by definition, an environment where new knowledge is produced and consumed, it follows that the freedom to engage in intellectual inquiry is essential to the purpose of higher education, to the mission of higher education institutions and to [...]

Towards a more equal, inclusive higher education

Towards a more equal, inclusive higher education Patrick Blessinger, Jaimie Hoffman and Mandla Makhanya St John’s University (NYC), University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, University of South Africa Widening participation initiatives aim to improve access to higher education opportunities for all people. Driven by increased demand for education from all segments of society as well as legal reforms and human rights declarations, these initiatives focus on improving access for students from historically marginalised backgrounds (for example, ethnic minorities, students with disabilities and students from low-income backgrounds) to address inequities and inequalities in higher education. Thus, the heart of widening participation policies revolves around making access to education more fair and equal. To that end, equity and inclusion initiatives aim to address and redress longstanding practices of exclusion and privilege (typically along race, ethnicity, sex, gender and socio-economic class lines) which have tended to stratify society.  Each society or institution of higher education is unique [...]

Towards higher education in service of humanity

Towards higher education in service of humanity Patrick Blessinger and Mandla Makhanya St. John's University (NYC), USA and University of South Africa The growing importance of education at all levels and the inclusion of more stakeholders in the educational enterprise has sparked debate about the fundamental nature and purpose of higher education (that is, what type of good is education?). Traditionally, viewed from an economic perspective, higher education has been treated largely as a public good. Since the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, this public good view has been reinforced by the view that education is also a human right. These factors, together with the increased demand for higher education to meet the economic development needs of the post-World War II economies, resulted in a huge increase in government support for higher education. This factor further solidified the notion of higher education as a public good. However, [...]

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