Our society is currently organised around a highly stratified generational model. The first eighteen years of our lives are protected and recognised at an institutional level and seen as being a time to prepare for our most “productive” years. These years are carefully broken down into developmental phases where both education and leisure contribute to the common brief of nurturing the individual’s civic soul. As we are entering a more complex phase of demographic, economic, and technological developments, our current, institutionalised image of a three-stage life course is metamorphosing into a much more varied one, where categories like work, education and leisure have become atomised and dispersed through the life course.
As a result of this emerging paradigm, traditional welfare safeguards such as state retirement payments are progressively being viewed as being unsustainable - a “fuller working life” becomes instead the means by which to age actively and healthily. As part of the same reframing, education has also been transformed into a permanent phase of life, instrumental to these shifts. Society’s demand for continuous adaptation has extended the project of education into what is currently referred to as “lifelong learning.” The Open University was an early image of this cultural shift - an educational model where the individual is constantly retrained and updated to best match the market demand and therefore no longer requires a designated time or space to learn in. This process has transformed the space of education from a social space nurturing the good citizen into a factory crafting the good entrepreneur - an educational market where knowledge is gained as a commodity tailored to the individual.
The Other University rethinks what lifelong learning could mean. Taking it as a necessity but also as an opportunity, it proposes a different form of knowledge production, one that is driven by social interaction and thrives off of the abundance of under-utilised knowledge possessed by the ageing population outside of the workforce. Reappropriating the lifelong learning brief implies rethinking the spatial and social dynamics embedded in education. Focusing on three of the established educational tropes - classroom, corridor, schedule - the project seeks to redefine a new form of learning economy based on social exchange.
What does a school that is not ultimately motivated by economic production look like? What form would an education controlled by education take? Could a different form of knowledge economy redefine the school typology?