Time for praxis symposium--meet our three keynote speakers

The University of Borås have therefore invited participants from Nordic institutions of higher education and international guests who will, over three days, discuss challenges and issues that higher education is faced with today. Find out more about the symposium's three keynote speakers and hear their thoughts about higher education here.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for higher education in the Nordic countries today and how can we work towards solutions?

Petra Angervall, Professor, University of Borås, Sweden:

"The Nordic higher education sector is being challenged by forces that risk major structural consequences regarding hierarchy, leadership, and priorities, but also for the view of knowledge, research, and teaching. Growing populism, market forces, globalisation and conservatism are in the air. The challenge for universities today is to stand firmly against these forces, safeguarding the autonomy of the research, but also the researcher's critical role for social development and democracy. The courage to show resistance, question, deviate and perhaps clearly renounce aspects is possibly more important than ever."

Eva Bendix Petersen, professor, Roskilde Universitet, Danmark:

– One key challenge that marks all systems and institutions of higher education is one of meaninglessness. When we for example hold a meeting for the sake of holding a meeting, or write a research article just to produce an output. Teaching becomes meaningless when educators sense that students engage strategically – attend courses to obtain a tick in an attendance log or plagiarise or cheat to pass the course on the way to getting the credential of a degree. Teaching also becomes meaningless when workloads mean that the quality is compromised – there is not enough time for preparation, for engaging with students informally, or for providing thorough feedback on their work.

– Higher education consists of many ‘we-s’ that must do different things. We need to keep insisting on the meaningful and keep pushing back when things do not feel meaningful. We need to think about what can I do, and what can we do, to improve the situation and make a better future – and act upon it, every day, in big matters as in small. Nobody here suggests that it is easy work. And it requires courage, which is precisely what my key-note lecture will address.

Petri Salo, professor, Åbo Academy University, Finland:

– The extreme form of “McDonaldization” of both research and teaching, which is requirements for fast delivery, standardization, predictability and focus on quantity instead of quality. When combined with meticulous bureaucratic control, projectification and lack of institutional and professional trust, the outcome is a lethal cocktail for groundbreaking research, both in science and humanities.

– We could handle this by restoring the conditions by which Nobel prizes are won. I call it slow science, true scientific work that needs time; time for profound thinking, time for deliberation, time for searching alternative perspectives, time for unexpected findings and creative surprises. The basic rule for doing proper research is that you cannot know the answer to your research question before you have done the re-search (in the meaning searched again).

About Praxis

The Praxis Symposium will take place 22-24 May at the Swedish School of Textiles at the University of Borås.

Read more about the university's educational work

Read more about Petra Angervall's research at the University of Borås

Text: Lydia Andersson
Photo: Private