Re-imagining the University of the Future

Superdiverse courses, a health-promoting curriculum or a higher education institution of symbiotic emergence — what could the university of the future look like? 18 UNIC student representatives explored this question during a Re-imaginatorium session as part of the first UNIC Student Board conference at Malmö University. UNIC is an alliance of ten universities in post-industrial cities.

During Eurovision week, Malmö University hosted the first-ever UNIC Student Board conference, UNIC@HOME. The conference brought together 18 student representatives from the UNIC alliance under the motto: “Music unites people, UNIC unites students”. One particular highlight of the conference was the Re-imaginatorium session, where the students used radical design thinking to re-imagine what the university of the future could look like.

After a short introduction by Per-Anders Hillgren to radical design thinking and why it is so important to re-imagine the future, the student representatives jumped straight into the first exercise. Using the concept of gamification, the students were asked to imagine what the university of the future could look like from a tactile, sound or smell perspective to get their synapses firing from all cylinders.

Divided into three groups, they took inspiration from little props, such as smelling oils or a variety of tactile materials — some squishy, some sticky, some with sharp holes. From imagining a university made of light, smooth wood instead of heavy, hard stone with a warm, homey campus to a recycled university or one that finds and explores new opportunities in the cracks in modern society, the students let their imagination go wild.

Once their imagination muscles were limbered up, it was time for the main thought exercise: re-imagining different parts of the university from the perspective of three different thematic lines, as set by the UNIC alliance — superdiversity, health and wellbeing, and sustainability and green cities. Together, they discussed questions like: “What could the university of the future be and where would it be? Who is it for and how does it look?”

Superdiversity, health and sustainability

One group explored the idea of super diverse courses, another the concept of a health-promoting curriculum and the last one a university of symbiotic emergence, where each student’s academic journey is individual and open to change. Through lively discussions, the groups were able to come up with some very concrete ideas of what the university of the future should offer. “First you think that an exercise like this will not work, then it actually does!”, commented one of the students after the session.

One of the ideas was to create a course that should be taught across all participating universities at the start of your studies on how to take care of yourself, how to manage your health, and where to get support. Another group imagined what it could look like if you could pick and mix different courses to build your degree after your own interests.

“The students were really good at taking their own experience of being a student and re-imagining it into great, transformative ideas. They went from re-imagining to what could actually be needed,” says Joel Veborg, one of the facilitators. “A lot of the things they were imagining, already exist in bits and pieces at the different UNIC universities — now they were putting it together, creating something new.”

About the Re-imaginatorium

The Re-imaginatorium is a tool, developed by Malmö University Professor Per-Anders Hillgren as part of UNIC’s WP3 (Engaging with cities, communities and stakeholders), to help ideas along, draw from different perspectives, and build communities. On 12 June, another Re-imaginatorium session will be organised for the UNIC headquarters to re-imagine a virtual campus that spans all member universities. So far, the team is still testing out the format, the first prototype will be delivered in September. “This Re-imaginatorium was a great success. I can’t wait to do it again!” reflects Joel Veborg.

If you would like to learn more about the Re-imaginatorium or the students’ ideas for the university of the future, you are welcome to contact Joel Veborg at

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