The Future for Universities

The future of learning is upon us. How well are universities responding to the changing world students face? How relevant are today’s educational programs for tomorrow’s challenges? How can we ensure universities serve the needs of students? How must universities evolve to ensure their approach to educating is contemporary, fulfilling, and relevant?

The Future of Learning
SFU Vancouver Speaker Series
Open Learning Week

Creating and sharing knowledge with the communities we serve

A creative conversation about the future of Simon Fraser University


To explore the approaches available for universities to position themselves in the ecology of knowledge and determine the unique role, contribution, and interests for our universities for the future

Desired outcomes

To excite interest in investment in increasing our capability and contribution

To have governments positively predisposed to the university’s role and open to proposals and opportunities

To minimize resistance to the university’s interests, enterprise, and strategic initiatives and communication requirements and approaches

To retain, reinforce, and build upon the university’s core values of research and teaching

To keep the elements of the message and the communication plan simple

To keep the agenda simple, clear, unambiguous, inspiring, elegant, open, friendly, and receptive, and focused on our key priorities and core values.

To benefit from and build on the contribution and support that the university provides to our governments, commercial enterprises, social enterprises, our community, and the communities of common interest that we serve

To keep our media relations agenda simple and focused on earning and building our reputation for our resources, our expertise, and our contributions

To gain more knowledge and understanding of our clients and supporters

To find new language to communicate our interests, our enterprise, and our initiatives

To ensure our interests are real and demonstrate our integrity in what we do and how we do things

To attract and keep a larger share of outstanding students

To recognize the role and contributions of our faculty and to build our reputation by building their reputation and by demonstrating who we are and what we do through who they are and what they do

To create and establish one or more recognizable symbols or images in a family that all communities we serve can connect with

To capitalize on the unique parts of the university as a smaller, closer, more intimate, and people and community oriented operating in a more personal face-to-face manner, interacting with the clients and communities we serve and encouraging dialogue and participation

To build support for the university and its interests and enterprise inside the university to make this are primary focus and continuing priority

To build recognition for and leverage the substance of the contributions the university is making in all the communities we are part of and serve.

What we want

We want our faculty intellectually energized by our interests and our enterprise, particularly in the humanities and sciences.

We want to challenge and engage them collaboratively in developing innovative intellectual initiatives within each discipline, and with other disciplines, other institutions, other enterprises, and other colleagues worldwide.

We want to create the environment, provide the leadership, stimulate innovation, and maximize the use of our resources for the common good

We want to avoid being self-serving and focus on outcome and contribution, not on activity

We want to remember the human element, the community we serve, the human benefit, the benefit to others, the benefit to humanity

We want to remember and remind others that education is the only thing that will sustain our ability to improve our quality of life.

We want to improve our knowledge base and our ability to disseminate knowledge for humanity, for quality of life, for sustainability, for survival.

We want to eliminate negative perceptions and questions as to whether knowledge acquisition and growth is worthwhile endeavour and to build overwhelming acceptance and understanding that knowledge creation and sharing makes a positive contribution to our individual and collective welfare.

We want to increase our knowledge and understanding in all areas recognizing that technology is only one solution and only part of the solution


There is no one way. The challenge is to make the best use of the resources and capabilities we have in order to make the greatest contribution to our clients and client groups; our learners, our communities, and our contributors and participants.

The challenge lies in determining how to leverage what we have and everything we do to determine how they contribute, which ones to emphasize and when, how to coordinate, how they complement one another, and how to bring them together to create and achieve synergy.

The challenge lies in how we position everything we have and everything we have to contribute, in our agenda, in the stories we tell, and in our communication strategies.

Where do the ongoing stories fit? How do they benefit or contribute to our desired outcomes, to our client groups, to our community? How do they fit in the communication agenda? How can we connect them?

Our edge

What are the things that give us an edge in our ability to realize our vision?

Our responsiveness, our openness, our inclusiveness, and how we contribute more directly and personally to more people.

Our niche

To provide a leadership role in meeting the needs of the future

To provide leadership in the collaboration that is needed. To provide leadership in encouraging and inspiring more innovative initiatives. To provide leadership in finding ways to make a greater contribution to the communities we serve.

The benefit message

Knowledge is our Greatest Resource

Our purpose

Creating and sharing knowledge with the communities we serve

Making the Case for Investment

Developing our most valuable resource
An investment that grows in value
An investment in our future

Positioning the university in the ecology of knowledge

Knowledge is our greatest resource. Knowledge is our universities’ greatest resource. It is our greatest resource as a society. It is the only resource each of us, individually and collectively, we can rely upon.

It is our most renewable resource, our most sustainable resource, and our most valuable resource. It is never depleted. And when we use it or contribute it to others, its value increases.

What we do

We are in the business of creating and sharing knowledge with the communities the university serves.

Who we serve

The communities we serve first, and most immediately, include the students, the faculty, and the university staff so they can be more successful in realizing their full potential and have the ability and the resources to contribute to the other communities the university serves.

  • The academic community we are part of around the world
  • The business community and the commercial enterprises that benefit from the resources the university contributes
  • The social enterprises that are focused on improving the quality of our lives
  • The communities of common interest that are coming together around issues of common interest and concern to humanity
  • The local communities in which the university operates and who provide services to the university, and
  • The global community to which we all belong
The Challenge

When we look at the challenges we face, we know they are going to change every day. We need to be flexible, responsive, open, and ready to adjust to new demands as they appear.

So our focus needs to be and is going to continue to be on innovation, collaboration, and contribution. We need to become more innovative in how we generate new ideas and create new knowledge, in our approaches to teaching and sharing knowledge, in how we do business within and with the community we serve, and in finding ways to make a greater contribution to benefit more people, in more ways. And in a manner that meets our growing and ever changing needs.

Knowledge is our greatest resource. This is not a new idea. But it is an idea that can lead us to a better future.

There is always room for new ideas. But there is also room for taking old ideas and sharing them. We can look to our past to find our way in the future. Look to what we know. That is where some of our greatest opportunities lie.

In literature, in history, in the arts, in philosophy, in politics, in economics, in science. That is where we find knowledge and ideas.

And new ideas and knowledge come from sharing that knowledge and adding to it the knowledge of others. Dialogue, the exchange of ideas, is one of the most effective ways of creating knowledge. Dialogue is collaborative. Collaboration is a contributive process.

Knowledge is the resource we all need to invest in

Roger Chilton
My Point of View
The Future for Universities

The Opportunity

If one of our overarching interests is to increase our knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of our world, one of the greatest opportunities we have is for our post secondary educational institutions to collaborate with one another to bring together our learning resources around the overarching creative interests we have in common, from what we need to know and learn to explore what we can do to restore our climate and our environment, to what we need to know and learn about our common human nature, to what we need to know and learn to create sustainable communities.

We could begin with educational institutions who see this as a great opportunity for Canada to demonstrate leadership and show how we can do this with our own post-secondary education and research community.

The Canadian Learning Centre