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The University of Lincoln's 21st Century Lab is designed to open up thinking about the role higher education should play in responding to the extensive changes we are seeing across the world in our economies, our societies, our nations, and in our cultures.

Profound changes are occurring across our globe, in our economies, our societies, our nations, and in our cultures.

New forms of work and working patterns are evolving.

Our nations’ economies are increasingly interdependent, the old certainties of Western power are being challenged and new powerhouses are emerging to challenge old authorities.

The speed of communications and miscommunications is having a profound impact on what and how we gather information.

The 21st Century Lab is not just about the impact of 21st century changes within the confines of the university campus, but on the society around us.

It is about restating that universities have a significant role to play to support our societies against a backdrop of significant upheaval.

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Complex, interrelated and unpredictable: tuning in to the challenges of the 21st Century

Our manifesto on the purpose of universities in the 21st century sets out a series of 10 interrelated grand challenges based on observations a fifth of the way into the 21st century. They are not intended to be predictive of what will come next but instead illustrate the complex, interrelated and unpredictable nature of change we are experiencing.

At any given moment, universities have a role to play to shape, engage, understand and educate in relation to such challenges, although precisely what they are and the impact they have will inevitably change over time.

Our response to this is to suggest that universities need to adapt how they go about their core activities. They will need to embrace a more fluid, more contingent and more permeable relationship to wider society than ever before precisely because it is all so unpredictable.

Permeability is the new lens which should reframe the purpose of universities in the 21st century

The permeable university is one where all barriers to engagement are removed, both within the institution and around it.

Our central argument is that permeability should be the new lens which reframes the historic core activities of universities: to educate, to research and to engage.

This will require a rethinking at every level, from the system and policy framework within which universities operate through to the governance of institutions and what they deliver.  It will affect every role and every relationship.

Our manifesto sets out a series of recommendations to deliver the permeable university in relation to the three core activities.

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