3 years ago

Re‐imagining universities as places where learners address global transformation

Shanti George


“Learner agency for what?” is one of the key questions addressed in this article and the response distinguishes between more self‐interested responses and answers that suggest a wider orientation towards global transformation. The context is that of education at global centres of international development studies and the mid‐career professionals worldwide—whether practitioners, activists or academicians—who undertake courses of studies at such centres in order to gain insights and abilities related to social transformation that earlier education at conventional universities did not expose them to. Since such global centres tend to be located in the “Global North” but are largely attended by experienced people from the “Global South,” the article examines these binary distinctions and how learners navigate the geo‐political fault lines that the binaries represent. The pedagogical dynamic is explored in terms of the “wicked problems” that international development studies wrestle with and that can be approached using the experience of learners from across the continents in interaction with formal knowledge. One hundred twenty‐four in‐depth interviews with protagonists from 27 countries who attended one of the oldest centre of development studies in Europe open windows onto global transformation during the second half of the 20th century and illustrate both insights and challenges for learners who are struggling towards positive change around universal rights and well‐being across the planet. Traditional universities are urged to learn from pedagogies at global centres of international development studies in order to gain relevance in their societies and the world around them.

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