UMass Amherst Conference on the Future of Universities Attracts Scholars from Around the World

September 14, 1999

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AMHERST, Mass - The future of universities worldwide in the wake of changing global markets, and the implications these changes have for specialized fields of study are among the main subjects to be examined at an international conference to be held at the University of Massachusetts Sept. 17-19 in the Campus Center.

The conference, "Re-organizing Knowledge/Trans-forming Institutions: Knowing, Knowledge and the University in the 21st Century," will be attended by academics from more than 20 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North and South America, as well as Australia and New Zealand. During the conference these participants will jointly explore how changes in technology, economics, and the definition of "knowledge" itself are already beginning to affect the production, ownership, and consumption of higher education.

"The rapidly growing trend toward market-oriented education is having major effects not only in this country, but around the world," say conference co-organizers Marta B. Calas and Linda Smircich, professors in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass. "While the privatization of higher education is the more general issue, it takes different forms in different countries. In Europe, for instance, the European Union is creating massive changes, while in Latin America the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund''s effects on economic restructuring may be having even more impact." Calas and Smircich say that markets are not the only factors likely to create significant changes in the universities of the future. In their view, universities are also becoming increasingly interdisciplinary. They say that new theories and philosophies are having an impact on diverse fields, from the humanities to the natural sciences, and could ultimately make anachronistic the traditional idea of specialties of study. "Will the marketization of higher education do away with these exciting intellectual currents?" they ask. "Will the market, in fact, create the end of knowledge?"

The conference, sponsored by UMass in conjunction with the University of Warwick and the University of Lancaster in the United Kingdom, will include three plenary sessions and 21 sessions for the presentation and discussion of papers. It will feature six keynote speakers who, from their distinct disciplines, share a common interest in the future of the university.

The speakers are as follows:

* Sheila Slaughter, University of Arizona, co-author of "Academic Capitalism: Politics, Policies, and the Entrepreneurial University," and author of "Higher Learning and High Technology."

* David Noble, York University, Toronto, co-founder of the National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest and author of "The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Innovation" and "America by Design: Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism."

* Eduardo Ibarra Colado, Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa, Mexico City, editor of "La Universidad ante El Espejo de la Excelencia" and author of "Educacion Superior y Teoria de la Organizacion."

* Sandra Harding, University of California, Los Angeles, author of "Is Science Multicultural: Postcolonialism, Feminism and Epistemologies" and "The Racial Economy of Science: Toward a Democratic Future."

* Gerard Delanty, University of Liverpool, editor of the European Journal of Social Theory, author of "Social Theory in a Changing World" and the forthcoming "The University in the Knowledge Society."

* Johan Brongers, dean of the College of Human Resources at General Motors University.

Issues to be discussed during the conference include the following topics:

* The role of the university as new technologies, such as "distance-learning," appear and reconstitute the "time and space" of knowing.

* The redefinition of the notion of "knowledge" created by the corporate university, the freelance scholar, the think-tank, the private research laboratory, the publishing industry and the press.

* The role of the university in producing new organizational forms, historically and at present.

* The role of the university in the context of other political and social issues such as gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, transnationalism, and globalization.

A selection of papers emerging from the conference will be published in a special issue of the journal Organization, co-edited by Calas and Smircich.