This weekend I was in London to meet up with our peers (read people and organizations also interested in alternative higher education. “Universities: Past and Future” was the title of the event which is just a part of a larger initiative – the University Project, aimed at exploring the new dimensions of higher education and maybe setting up a new university (does that sound familiar?).
I came across a lot of interesting people involved in education projects and all the ideas came together in a great place, Hub Westminster is one minute away from Trafalgar Square in the heart of London, in true unconference style: improv methods, open spaces, world cafe sessions, a pro-action cafe, a live performance on Saturday evening and even graphic harvesting.
In the beginning I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to get out of the experience other than meeting people who tend to think and act on learning in a way similar to ours. But the conversation was so much more than that. By the end I had a strong feeling that education alternatives and fringe initiatives are bubbling up all over the place and moving faster and faster. People are starting to “get it” and doing something about it. I also got the chance to talk a little bit about the model CROS has been building, we got great feedback, a lot of questions and an unexpected amount of praise by the end (some people actually said it was inspirational to find out what we’ve accomplished in Romania). All this gave me mixed feelings:
On one hand I felt part of this lively community in the UK, on the other hand I realized what we’re doing in Romania is as good as it gets and we need to confidently expand and deepen the conversation over here – there is huge opportunity for innovative leadership at the fringe of education practice and there is room for everybody to jump in.
Heightened sense of possibility
People at the event came from all sorts of backgrounds, including academia and all seamed to share a deep understanding about the fact that education just isn’t working right, that we need to sort out the past and move along. And some of them have the projects to prove it. They were trying all sorts of things, tackling the issues from all sorts of angles and connecting the dots in surprising ways. The ground is definitely shaking (by the way, while we were talking about change in higher education about 4000 people took over the London Stock Exchange).
Patience vs. Urgency
Something that struck me was the idea that the transition between the old and the new is not going to be smooth, but rather abrupt. And “the new” will have to be ready to take the pressure when the time comes. That means that principles need to be solid and well thought out, our networks in place, our practice of methods quite well developed and documented and the mechanisms for trading value and resources at least experimented across.
It wasn’t all talk and no play. I came back with things to do and the most important three are as follows:
- A network we need to engage more with. We are going to set up a simple list of people and projects to serve as a reference and facilitate sharing and new connections <link soon>. For instance people seamed honestly interested in coming over to Romania to see the CROS model in practice (some of you might meet some of them at the next CROS CAMP).
- Alina Beissenova is a diploma student at the AA and she is developing her thesis on alternative learning spaces. She wants to use CROS as a case study in her work and also help us with designing Learning House.
- One thing people always ask us is “what about accreditation?” and we have a complex answer and no practical thing to show them – yet! We are thinking of joining a project set up by Fred Garnett called WikiQuals. Fred is coming before the end of the year to Romania so we can talk more about it.
In short this is it – an exciting weekend about the future of higher education. Before you click-out, check out the pictures and if you want to get inspired further be sure to check the projects link at the beginning of the post and work your way from there (just remember to eat at one point while getting lost amongst the details).
*This post is in English because we would love the people in the UK to also be able to read it.