Blog Post

Designing Higher Education from Scratch

Designing Higher Education from Scratch:

The students in Professor Cathy N. Davidson's face-to-face course at Duke University have created a first draft of some basic, preliminary ideas for their collaborative project on "Designing Higher Education from Scratch." Please find below a "napkin sketch" for your comments and feedback, created by a project team in the Duke "History and Future of Higher Education" course. For more information about this project, please see this post.


Our College

Motto: “Helping students engineer bridges toward our future…”


In today’s world, landing a good job and a secure income often depends on graduating from a four year college. Unfortunately college completion rates for students from low-income families are significantly lower than their higher-income counterparts. While the reasons for this are complex, it is partially due to the fact that students from low-income families often do not have access to quality high school education and therefore are not equipped with the skills needed to thrive in college.


Mission: Our College is a small low-cost junior/community college aimed at equipping promising students with the skills they need to succeed in a rigorous higher education environment. Our College targets the underserved population of low-income students [in the city where we are located] who enter college without the skills and support they need to succeed.


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Hand, Head, Heart University

Learning yourself to engage the world, engaging the world to learn yourself.


Louis Nizer: “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”


Decision Points/Assumptions:

*Based on current university structure

  • We should discover a purpose in life
  • We should pursue those purposes to positively engage communities
  • Every individual has a unique way of learning
  • Every culture has unique priorities and ways of thinking about their world
  • We are an increasingly globalized world. While that has its flaws, we strive to use the advantages afforded by critical and meaningful engagement for making positive growth
  • Those who have gained access to education and social mobility should ‘pay it forward’
  • The best ideas can come from the most unlikely sources, we should be in ongoing dialogue with a myriad of peoples


University Principles:

  • To help students identify their interests and skills and apply them in real-world cases.
  • To provide spaces for collaboration with people in communities within and outside of the university space.
  • To provide students with the resources and networks necessary to pursue a project of their own design
  • To provide a system within which students can grow to become seers, doers, teachers, and sharers of their individual passions and intellectual interests.
  • To provide holistic education and a university culture that supports and promotes the full individual’s development.


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Libertates University

Motto: The Freedom to Nurture Learning and a Future


Our mission: We believe in an education system that is personalized--not standardized, comprehensive but not a check-list, and exploratory not mandatory.


We specialize in: Social awareness, Collaborative Learning, and Innovation


Who we are: A student-driven, living-learning community where students have the opportunity to re-imagine their learning experience in a year-round, three year program. Students have the opportunity to engage with mentors and intellectual interests in a number of customizable exploratory tracks, with the flexibility to explore the intersections and interconnectedness between these areas of focus.

Every year, we will have a state of Libertates University address, to discuss how we are meeting our mission and what we can and should do to address our mission


Our Location: Home base location/city TBD.

Our university is mobile through collaborations with an onsite shared work-space (a la “Impact Hub”) and a Marker/Fab Lab and networks affiliated with it.

Our students are mobile through programs abroad and the travel/intercultural track.

Our university is part of a network of similar institutions that share similar missions.


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