A Village University Primer







by Franz Nahrada

Table of contents of this page
Introduction:The Idea of a Virtual University of the Villages   
A comprehensive image   
The Learning Method   
Reasons for Municipalities to Participate   
Requirements for Starting the Process   

The Idea of a Virtual University of the Villages    

1. The Virtual University of the Villages (abbreviated VUV) uses digital broadband technologies to create a new, flat educational infrastructure complementing traditional educational institutions. It is focused on informing and inspiring people in rural areas about local and regional opportunities for action, sourced in the common willingness to share knowledge between villages, communities,municipalities, regions.

2. This endavour could be characterized as a self help organisation (NGO, COOP, network) of municipalities and collaborating local initiatives, who have understood that education is the one most critical factor for the future of rural areas when it comes to the problems as well as when it comes to solutions.

3. The problematique does not confine itself to the mass exodus of young people towards the cities, but also includes an atmosphere of hopelessness, stagnation, mutual blockage and forced belief in traditional authorities among those who are forced or willing to stay.

4. The solution is grounded on the intentional and reciprocal sharing of practically proven knowledge between participating rural communities. But it also includes the intentional linking to other providers of knowledge and training. The goal is providing higher education and knowledge closely related to the fields of activities in the region. Thus VUV is also a chanel for vocational training, distance teaching universities etc.

5. Rural areas who do not have sustainability, resilience and circular economy at the very heart of all their endeavours will pays for it with their own demise.

6. Education provided by VUV must be to a very high degree a community building process; on one side it must foster encounter, agreement and practical implementation, on the other it must foster highly individualized profiles that complement each other in the provision of goods and services.

7. All of this is rooted in the specific nature of rural areas which leads to two main characteristics:

  • economic competition and rivalry means (unwanted) duplication of efforts and waste of resources
  • these scarce human and natural resources have to be applied in a conscious and wise way, much different from urban areas where there is abundance of people.
This means two more things:
  • A regional circular economy in general needs more communication than market, more inner - regional coordination and agreement than free play of forces
  • The (fewer) individuals that are active in rural areas need to have greater, deeper and more diverse qualifications than urban people. They have to meet many and manifold assignments, if the goal is to have an equivalent standard of living compared to cities.
8. The new flat education infrastructure that VUV wants to build is the exact answer to these challenges:
  • Forstering communication between municipalities means to encourage them to specialize in themes and go for excellence.
  • So also on an intercommunal level, the idea is to strengthen complementarities. This might also support other forms of co-operalion and resource sharing.
A comprehensive image    

9. A symbolic picture of a local instance of VUV would look like this: a building with three floors. This does not describe the physical shape, but the functionalities and the dependencies.

  • In the "ground floor", which is also somehow the foundation and bearer of the whole structure, we have the large "townhall meeting" style of events, where inspirational stories and good practises are presented. Usually this means a "theme leader municipality" provides a multicast presentation to multiple broader local audiences. (Se below on methodology how we would stage such events. It is crucial that this leads to local reflection and dialogue: does this affect our own future possibilities?
  • In the first floor (again metaphorically!) there will be a linkup to educational channels and resources or followups with thematic networks to deepen the learnings and prepare for action.
  • in the "second floor" (again symbolically) there will be opportunity for individuals to focus on there personal learning, training, upskilling, indivdual portfolio.
Of course eventually this leads to presentations in the "ground floor". The "Smart Village" is a Learning Village.

10. In practical terms, the allocation of learning spaces will depend on particular local conditions - people in local communities will know best about their venues. Be it the school, becoming a grown-up school, be it a community centre, an inn, a fire brigade house or elsewhere: there is always a possibility.


For the first time, Broadband is available in more and more rural areas. With the advent of new generations of interconnected devices (5G), we will see a development that definitely will go beyond the traditional Phone - TV - Internet triade. For us, the most important aspect is real time, synchronous group communication in high quality. But the positive potential of technology does not end there. We hope to see more telecooperation than ever in the field of development and design, fostered by a generous Open Source culture. Village University is the first step to connected Virtual Maker Spaces, it will lead to a lot of productive investments allowing people to apply shared digital creativity.

Note: There is a special (older) text on Digital Creativity that explains the manifold potentials beyond "commodified information"

12. Der Austausch im "Erdgeschoß" setzt voraus, dass Themen und Schwerpunkte im Vorfeld geklärt werden. Es wird eine zentrale personelle und technische Infrastruktur brauchen, die mit der DorfUni mitwachsen kann. Aber es wird auch den Austausch der Bildungsverantwortlichen vor Ort untereinander bedürfen, damit ein Thema wirklich so aufbereitet werden kann, dass es authentisch, informativ und inspirativ für andere Orte wirken kann.

Laying the groundwork and foundation for the VUV by intercommunal agreement means that themes and focus must be subject to a common process of theme selection and clarification BEFORE the VUV can actually start. Also, we strongly recommend a kind of hub structure that cares for the communication before, during and after the process, provides technological assistance and help and grows with the endavour. It is crucial to present each and every subject in an authentic, informative and insprirational way.

The Learning Method    


a first glimpse from the forerunner projects:

a) Kirchbach Culture and Business center with Global Classroom (2004 - 2011)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=180&v=FpIKeIh8mOM / starts at minute 3 - English subtitles

b) Village Innovation Talk - December 2011

c) Grundtvig Workshop 2011

Reasons for Municipalities to Participate    


Requirements for Starting the Process