ALTC2010 and HEA workshops: Is Higher Education’s use of technology making it more ‘efficiently unsustainable’?

Following a few months of research and writing about energy, climate change and future scenarios for Higher Education, I’m pleased to write that Richard Hall and I have recently had two workshop proposals accepted based on the idea of ‘Resilient Education’.  There are minor differences between the two workshops, based on the anticipated participants, but the outline below, accepted for the ALTC2010 conference, is broadly representative of both. We’re hoping that we’ll not only raise awareness about the possible impacts of Peak Oil and the recently introduced Climate Change Act on the form and provision of Higher Education, but also learn from participants about ways that the sector might become more resilient to the the legislative, economic, societal and technological impacts that we face.

Is Higher Education’s use of technology making it more ‘efficiently unsustainable’?

When we speak of ‘sustainability’, what is it that we wish to sustain? In a future of climate change, energy depletion and low or no economic growth, what will Higher Education look like? Will our institutions and the current form of educational provision survive? This workshop will encourage participants to imagine and work towards a more ‘resilient education’.

This session will provide an opportunity for both non-academic and academic staff to discuss Higher Education, its institutions, curricula and pedagogies, in the light of two external impacting factors: Climate Change and fossil fuel depletion. HEIs are significant energy consumers. Increasingly both pedagogy and the curriculum are aided and delivered through the use of ICT. University floor space is increasing to accommodate growing numbers of students. In a near-future scenario of energy scarcity, which impacts both the reliability and availability of affordable energy, as well as the need to radically shift to the use of renewable energy and extreme efficiencies, we ask: “How resilient are our educational institutions?”

The workshop facilitators (Joss Winn, Lincoln, Dr. Richard Hall, De Montfort) will explain a near-future scenario in which the impacts of climate change and energy depletion on Higher Education are apparent. After a Q & A session, clarifying the scenario for participants, small groups will be challenged to ‘Think the Unthinkable’ and develop responses relating to the business continuity of their institutions and the continued provision of quality research, teaching and learning in an environment where absolute emissions are reduced by 80%. Participants will be encouraged to consider the most radical solutions including massive reform of curricula and the disestablishment of the national institutional model.

“It is not an exaggeration to claim that the future of human prosperity depends on how successfully we tackle the two central energy challenges facing us today: securing the supply of reliable and affordable energy; and effecting a rapid transformation to a low-carbon, efficient and environmentally benign system of energy supply. What is needed is nothing short of an energy revolution.” (IEA World Energy Outlook 2008

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