The University of Today


Last week, in the wake of Design Public, I was walking around Bangalore with one of our speakers, Reto Wettach from Berlin, and we got talking about India’s needs in respect of Design education. Would we at CKS ever consider doing anything in that domain?

It’s something we’ve thought about at different times in the past. Many of our personnel go on to get Ph.D.s and other advanced degrees in different parts of the world, and there is no question that we’re at the extreme wonky and theoretical end of, shall we say, the design continuum, at the nether regions where it meets up with the disciplines of Economics, Anthropology, Media Studies, Public Policy and Systems Theory. We also train internally all the time, and have developed elaborate teaching and training tools over the years, from How To Be A Project Manager to How to be an Innovation Evangelist.

If we were to build a University today what would we do? The first thoughts that come to my mind have to do with the TED talks, which began circulating online in the last decade, and which have increasingly come to be a routine part of people’s on-going self-instruction. Then I think of the Khan Academy, which offers tutorials online in an array of middle school and high school topics. Next, memories of the Architectural Association of London come flooding back — the entire school sits on two small buildings in the heart of the city, which are made up mostly of a bar, a large auditorium, and installation spaces, with a book store and wood and metal shop in the basement.

One part of me says Universities around the world are soon going to be as obsolete as Video Rental or Music Stores. That’s a tall claim, given all the evidence to the contrary: the brand value of leading Universities is rising along with their global endowments, enrollments globally are up, and higher education is more important to aspirational families and their children than ever before. And I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a thoroughly liberal education in four unrelated disciplines at three American campuses and one Villa in Florence, amidst routine visits to academic centers of different kinds around the world.

If I had to build a University today, I’d start with its Android app, which I’d integrate into several different online communities. I’d set up a media partnership with a television channel and multimedia publishing powerhouse like Network18 or UTV. I’d negotiate access to J-Store, the closed and controversial online archive of academic journals. I’d contract event management companies to set up conferences and other special events in different cities where students can meet up with thought leaders and with one another to socialize. I’d negotiate space at Cafe Coffee Day or Starbucks, once they open, so tutors and students can meet up to talk about their work. And I’d require every single student to run their own blog.




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1 Response to The University of Today

  1. namrata says:

    Made me think of – The Unreasonable Institute, that provides mentorship, capital and network to entrepreneurs seeking to solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

    Perhaps something to take away from. An article detailing some of the projects that the institute has supported can be found at

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