Reimagining Higher Education: A Discussion with Udi Mandel of Enlivened Learning

Blog post by Rebekah Parker

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

“Learning takes place in the heart, the hands and the home, not just in the head. What does that mean for the universities of the future?”– Udi Mandel & Kelly Teamey

 Blog Post by Terry Project Researcher Rebekah Parker 

Udi Mandel and Kelly Teamey took out all of their savings, and went on a 12-month journey around the world to explore and document a revolution that’s happening in higher education. Both formerly worked as academics in the UK.

The Terry Project chatted to Udi about the Enlivened Learning project, the state of universities, and two of the Canadian stops on their journey: Red Crow Community College, former home of the St. Mary’s Residential Missionary School where the Blackfoot people are retaking control of their learning, and the Frieda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art where they focused on a course for First Nations artists.

Q: What is Enlivened Learning?

The Enlivened Learning project focuses on documenting places that re-think what higher education can be. These include places that value localized, grassroots, and indigenous knowledges, and focus on teaching beyond the classroom.

Q: Why are current universities in “a state of crisis”?

Universities currently prioritize the knowledge economy and commodification of knowledge. They are less likely to value the relationships between faculty and students, creativity and innovative research, and instead focuses on making money, cutting corners, and raising money for research.

There’s an emphasis on applying for grants as a faculty member. The amount of money you can make as a researcher has taken priority over the quality of your teachings and how much time you spend with your students.

UBC’s recent proposal to increase residence rates and international tuition fees has sparked intense debate and activism on campus. Listen to our latest podcast on the issue ( Recorded live at BARtalk) 

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Q: When did you realize you needed to get out of the system?

We’d increasingly seen these pressures in the higher education sector combined with a sense that it’s not just the commodification of knowledge, but what is higher education doing to meet the challenges of the world today? Climate crisis, economic crisis, disintegration of communities. We felt that conventional education in higher education institutions weren’t tackling these head on.

Q: What were you trying to accomplish by travelling the world on your journey?

We wanted to learn what was happening in these places we’d heard of. We wanted to unlearn some of these habits we’d acquired in our academic training; how we might approach learning and interact with students and the challenges we mentioned before. We also wanted to connect people as much as possible and give visibility to these places through our writing and films and encourage more of a conversation and exchange about how they might share their experiences/resources, and contribute to an ongoing conversation between people who are interested in what is the role of learning in higher education places in contributing to making a better world.

Further reading and viewing:

To learn more about Enlivened Learning, check out their website, vimeo channel, or Facebook page.

Udi’s article about Enlivened Learning at Red Crow Community College

Kelly’s TEDxBath Talk

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Sam Fenn is the Executive Producer and Host of The Terry Project on CiTR. You can follow Sam on twitter (, check out his instagram ( and read more of his writing at