CFP: Disrupting the University


On the Horizon 2017

Call for Articles

Disrupting the University

Due Date: 15 June 2016



Dr. Tom P Abeles, editor

Whatsapp; Skype

Cells: +250 78 731 9322 (Rwanda)

+1 612 803 6459 (United States)



On the Horizon, is a quarterly foresight journal with a  “systems” focus on the structure/operation of the idea of a university in a digital age as well as on the content/subjects considered within the purview of the institution.

The journal is also interested in alternatives that compete with and/or complement the delivery of content from knowledge creation to knowledge transfer as well as the various functions including validation of individuals based on competency or alternative measures of certification.

The journal is a traditional print publication and is available digitally. Accepted articles can be in any form and format as long as one version is publishable in b/w print (links to digital content allowed). Additionally, articles published by Emerald are considered Open Access “Green” meaning that authors own their original content.


The “Volume”

On the Horizon will publish four themed issues and consider a revised/expanded monograph based on this volume. Authors are encouraged to choose appropriate formats with the caveat that one version must be publishable in standard journal format.  The themes below may be crossed to meet the needs of the authors.

Theme: Form/Function of the Disrupted University:

At the present time, universities have had two major functions, education and exploration of the future or seeking new knowledge. Within education there have been two key purposes: preparing individuals for contributing to the economic wellbeing of society and to participate constructively in an increasingly global society. These functions are wrapped in a process for validating competencies of learners as well as the validity and quality of research.

Today, there are challenges to all of the traditional activities, from alternative knowledge providers to accepted alternative certifiers of competencies. These include new institutions such as museums, new institutes, libraries and even the entrance of artificial intelligence.

Up to the present, the “Ivory Tower” has been the point of concentration and distribution of knowledge known and new knowledge creation.

What will the “new university” become in a PreK->Grey education environment, when will this be clearly recognizable or will it ever be as in the past?

Theme: Who will inhabit the “Ivory Tower”.  When the universities were birthed in Italy, scholars occupied two major functions, research and teaching. While these remain the current core functions, there are shifts in the balance between the two and the entrance of others who fill these roles. Additionally, the institutions have taken on other functions both within the walls of the “Tower” and in other spaces, both physical and virtual. These are all wrapped in a package that is certified by the institutions, locally and globally.

In this “disruptive” moment, not only is the university as an institution being challenged, but also, as with other organizations under such pressure, the faculty and others within the “walls” are not sanguine that such pressures should not be resisted. Change seems inevitable but its not clear who will be left “standing” and what will be the function of new entrants.

Theme: Entrance of the Internet-of-Things. The ubiquity of the Internet, globally, and the increasing availability of smart phones, internationally, even in under resourced countries, puts not just knowledge dissemination and acquisition into mass consumption, but it also puts many capabilities such as 3D printing and the linkage of knowledge centers including universities, healthcare, governments and citizens to both content and actual monitoring and control of devices from lights in a room to drones and remote fabrication at the disposal of individuals at ever decreasing costs.

What is the future of the two main academic functions of teaching and research in a world where laboratories are ubiquitous and accessible regardless of age or formal education of individuals or where members of research and education communities are located?

Theme: Outside the Ivy Covered Walls. Most analysis of education systems in general and universities in particular have seen these as separate complexes, buildings, personnel and physical infrastructure. Most analysis of outside impacts has been considering these as separate entities interacting with each other. The entrance of the Internet makes these institutions and affiliates permeable and interpenetrating in form and function. In other words, just using the term “university” or even “virtual university” evokes a solid idea of an institution rather than a process separate from such a form in whole or in part. The disrupted university might be considered an idea that coalesces at certain point in time and space, almost like a “Century Plant”. It can materialize in one or many places to meet the needs of communities, however defined and appear in a different form depending on those needs which may be short or long term.


My follow-up e-mail to Tom Abeles:

In the journal issue, are you going to consider articles that challenge the efficacy of some of the things currently “disrupting the university”? For instance, articles challenging the motives behind much of the promotion of “competency-based” education? That would one “disruption” about which I am personally very skeptical.

Many of our readers are devoting considerable time and energy to fighting many of these attempts to “transform” the university–not because they wish to maintain some anachronistic idea of the university but because they believe that these “reforms” are undermining the continuing, core value of the university and are being promoted by political ideologues who have considerable antipathy toward higher education (in particular, public higher education) and/or technocrats who have a very narrow and often self-serving view of teaching and learning. In both cases, the civic function of the university that your CFP highlights is typically dismissed as almost irrelevant.

In any case, in posting the CFP to the blog, I will be implicitly endorsing the value of the journal issue, and if you are not going to consider such articles, I would not wish to make that implicit endorsement.

Marty Kich


Tom Abeles’ reply:

I am very much interested in articles that would counter the disruption sensibility and not only argue cogently in behalf of the university as you suggest is critical.  Such material is most welcome and we could, in fact, dedicate one (or more) of the 4 issues for such, if not the entire volume.

Here is my problem and your ideas are most critical here:

  1. Many arguments in support of the “university,” have been weak and defensive and arguing from an ideal, such as that of Newman. They all have underlying the alarm that the universities are in danger of becoming vocational and the fear of the loss of the humanities permeates.
  2. There is no constructive alternative presented in light of the changing realties of economics, student concerns and, particularly those, including the government that funds. There is no addressing of the fact that individuals are graduating lacking basic competencies and soft skills. In other words, it seems as if the university wants to remain as an “Ivory Tower” defining critical knowledge to be mastered but is indifferent to what happens when the graduates leave (I teach “humanities” or even “science”; it’s up to the students to master what I deem important and it’s their responsibility to determine their path on graduation)

Thus, I am very interested in the voices of those who raise the concerns about the potential deconstruction, disruption, or vocationalization. Those concerns are present. What is not present is a realistic set of scenarios on how to move forward in a constructive manner from an academic perspective, not considering the economics of the university. What should be the interdisciplinary, holistic education that should be the university? Start with a tabula rasa.

The “university” needs people, age not defined (important) who want to learn, not all are 18+ transitioning from secondary schools. Postsecondary education has been positioned as the gateway to both economic and civic engagement, the four-year degree has been accepted as the “brass ring”. Whatever might result from filling the tabula rasa needs to be compelling.

In the US and globally, the path from secondary school through the university of today and into the world at large is seeing alternative routes around and even through the institution itself.

If there is not a compelling vision and a clear path, those cardiac bypasses will continue to widen and increase by default.

What is needed is a compelling vision and a clear action plan.

I welcome all viewpoints that challenge the current trend and goes beyond.

Tom Abeles


Here is an index of the previous issues of the journal:



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