The Idea and Becoming of a University Across Time and Space: Ivory Tower, Factory and Network

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The modern university has grown from small scale, elite access institution, growing out of the Enlightenment period in Europe in the early nineteenth century. Freedom to pursue knowledge and ‘dare to know’ was a key characteristic of the Enlightenment university, conceptualised here as Mode 1 Elite Ivory Tower University. The twentieth century saw a rapid rise in national government involvement, funding and regulating universities as a way of nation state building. This developed within social contexts of neoliberal knowledge and information economies. Market demand and regulation, seeing teaching and research as products saw huge growth of universities in size and number globally. More citizens accessed and engaged with universities as large institutions, conceptualised here as a Mode 2 Mass Access Factory University. Globalisation, digital technologies and a move away from big organisations and states is seeing an emergence of a Mode 3 Universal Network University which is universal and unbundled in complex technological and social network relationships, often underpinned by a form of capitalism which is developing neoliberal approaches aided by data collection and information networks. These three modes are developed and explored here through a postdigital lens across time (genealogically) and space (residual, dominant and emerging discourses and cultures remaining in and between institutions) as a theoretical framework with which to research and envisage the characteristics, discourse, perceptions and becoming of the current and future university.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPostdigital Science and Education
Early online date5 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Oct 2022


  • Discourse
  • Factory
  • Genealogy
  • Higher education
  • Ivory tower
  • Postdigital
  • Spaces
  • University


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