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Facilitating the networking processes of a transnational university using computer conferencing

This is a working paper prepared for the second Planning Meeting (Geneva. January 1978) of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development Project of the Human and Social Development Programme of the United Nations University (Tokyo), coordinated from the Institut universitaire d'études du développement (Geneva). Published in Transnational Associations, 1978, 4, pp. 205-214 [also searchable PDF version]
Problems of transnational, transdisciplinary operations
Computer conferencing
Intermediate communication interface
Computer conferencing network facilities
Flexible funding and resource management
Interrelating divergent perspectives
Facilitation of transdisciplinary processes
Network overview

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The purpose of this report is to attempt to identify how the technique known as computer conferencing (see Transnational Associations, 1977, 10. special issue. 1977, 12, pp. 401-448) could prove of considerable significance to the operations of a transnational, trans-disciplinary university network. There are several examples of such networks. The clearest is the United Nations University which is being deliberately based on a world-wide network of national and regional institutes. A very different example is the network of institutes which make up the International Federation of Institutes of Advanced Studies. And another extreme is represented by the proposed Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research.

The above examples are network-based and are therefore quite different from the many "international" universities, including the European University Institute (Florence) and the College of Europe (Bruges). The Inter-University Centre of Postgraduate Studies (Dub-rovnik) is however an intermediate case in that it is geographically centred but dependent on an international network of university institutes.

Another intermediate case of historical interest is the first, although short-lived, International University established in Brussels in 1920 on the initiative of the Union of International Associations. At its peak it comprised 15 universities with 346 university professors from 23 countries, supported by 13 international associations and the League of Nationi which each had special Chairs. Courses were given for three sessions (1920-1922) to permit students "to complete their training through initiation into the international comparative aspect of all great problems".

This report is therefore primarily concerned with the genuinely transnational and transdisciplinary networks and not with geographically centred institutes, nor with national university networks such as Educom in the USA, nor with interesting national experiments such as the Open University in the UK. Of special interest are those networks which attempt the difficult task of balancing, in both their conceptual and operational concerns, the constraints and challenges of the North-South and East-West influences encountered in facing up to the problems of the world.

The use of computer conferencing at a single meeting location is described in a separate report (Enhancing communication at a large conference/festival, Transnational Associations, 1977, 12). Despite its possible interest to a transnational university, it is not discussed in this paper.

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