University 4.0: The Ecological University

Barnett (2011) asks us to consider “just what is it to be a university?“. Also in relation to the previous post on Industry 4.0, we could also consider what is the point of a university?

Clare College And Kings Chapel, Cambridge University, UK.
The university has been around for 1000 years and in various incarnations according to Barnett (2011):

  • Version 1.0 was the metaphysical university,
  • Version 2.0 the post-industrial research university,
  • Version 3.0 the entrepreneurial university,
  • Version 4.0 is being dubbed the ecological university.

Ecological University

According to Barnett (2011, pg. 451-452), the future could hold:

“Perhaps the university—as it unfolds into the 21st century—can be both authentic and responsible. These two dimensions, of authenticity and responsibility, may be seen in what we may term the ecological university. This is a university that takes seriously both the world’s interconnectedness and the university’s interconnectedness with the world”.

“There is increasing attention being given to the idea of students as global citizens. As global citizens,
students come to have a care or concern for the world and to understand their own possibilities in the world and towards the world”.

“As the ecological university, it does all this by forming and widening its networks across society, a task which – unlike the entrepreneurial university – it performs not in its own interests but in the interests of the world; indeed, worlds, for it acts in the interests of both the human and physical worlds. This is a university neither in-itself (the research university) nor for-itself (the entrepreneurial university) but for-others.”


Universities ability for self-renewal has been evident for over a 1000 years, the question is how the university of tomorrow will develop to be more collaborative with industry and be considered relevant in the era of Industry 4.0.

Keywords: Industry 4.0; University 4.0; Digital Citizen; Interconnectedness; Ecological University.


Barnett, R. (2011). The coming of the ecological university. Oxford Review of Education, 37(4), 439-455. [abstract]

Barnett, R. (2016) The Coming of the Ecological University.

Barnett, R. (2015) Realising the Ecological University.

Ross, P. (2017) Industry 4.0: The Future of Work. Nursing Education Network.