“International cooperation must be long-term,” says Daniel Späti quite convinced. The lecturer and researcher heads ZHdK’s international cooperation platform Shared Campus with six Asian and European arts universities. The venture sets out to shape the university landscape of the future by focusing on globally relevant themes and on transcultural and interdisciplinary cooperation.
Lea Dahinden: Shared Campus is a new cooperation platform for international educational formats, research networks and co-productions. What is the idea based on?
Daniel Späti: Shared Campus aims to bring together and jointly utilise its partners’ interests, competencies, resources and infrastructures to build sustainable knowledge in globally relevant subject areas and to anchor transcultural perspectives in teaching. International networking and cross-border and cross-cultural cooperation are essential for the future world of work and thus also for modern universities. It is no longer enough to rely on individual contacts; we need a strategic approach and coordinated action.
Seven leading Asian and European art schools are participating in Shared Campus. How do you experience cooperation?
I am always impressed by the intensity of our collaboration. When different cultures collide, fundamental questions arise. What values do we represent? Are we prepared to engage with other perspectives? How do we approach tasks? A supposedly simple question, for example, why I like something, suddenly becomes complex. Students and lecturers have to explain themselves and question their own attitude. A lot can be learned from this.
What does cooperation look like?
Shared Campus takes a holistic approach. We have defined five basic thematic areas: Social Transformation, Pop Cultures, Critical Ecologies, Cultures – Histories and Futures, and Tools. In each of these areas, experts from all artistic and design disciplines come together in working groups. Their purpose is to develop sustainable and long-term formats for teaching, research networks and co-productions. The need for innovation is great, as the question about contemporary forms of teaching or the weighting of ecological criteria in international cooperation shows. New standards are needed.
Why do we need a project like Shared Campus?
Universities will no longer function on their own in the future. We need cooperation i.e. opportunities to learn from each other and bring together and discuss new perspectives. Digitising teaching is a comprehensive and long-term undertaking, which we must tackle in cooperation with other universities to ensure resources and skills are used sensibly and synergies are exploited. Access to knowledge is also a key issue and location-independent studying is the future, because cities like London, Hong Kong or Zurich are increasingly overpriced.
What is decisive for your work?
I always try to convey the idea that Shared Campus only makes sense if we think long-term. International cooperation projects are particularly costly and time-consuming when they are being set up, because you have to develop new structures and good contacts, neither of which comes for free. You have to develop and improve cooperation over the years to achieve the desired quality. Its coordinated approach in recent years has helped ZHdK develop enormous potential, which we should definitely exploit and share with others in the coming years.
When do things get difficult?
University structures such as different semester dates, evaluation and credit systems or hierarchical structures are often difficult. In addition, there are cultural differences such as language, systems of thought, values and morals, political and economic conditions, diverse understandings of art and design, learning methods, the relationship between the individual and society … Shared Campus is not primarily about harmonisation, but rather about perceiving and understanding differences. In this sense, differences help reflect on and become aware of one’s own system.
Does a project like Shared Campus worsen ZHdK’s ecological balance?
Even before the corona pandemic, we had teaching formats that were exclusively online. A digital teaching, learning, knowledge and exchange platform, which we are building along our activities and topics, will be the core of Shared Campus. Travel will hopefully continue to be possible, because meeting physically and immersing oneself in a different living environment is a formative experience. Still, we must clearly define when travel is ecologically acceptable. I am thinking, for example, of a minimum length of stay on other continents.
What’s next for Shared Campus?
The founding conference was an important step where we signed a two-year agreement with the participating universities. Now we have until 2021 to lay a solid foundation by setting out lines of development and defining sustainability goals. We are setting up co-teaching modules, preparing for summer schools, symposia and research networks, as well as developing a digital platform and new kinds of research tools and publication formats. Together with our partner institutions, we will also be exploring joint teaching formats, which we intend to integrate into ZHdK’s major-minor model. We have already received enquiries from eight art colleges that would like to participate in the project. These are exciting universities that understand our idea and see its potential. However, we don’t want to grow too fast, but rather purposefully integrate additional partners step by step.