Higher education institutions operate in complex and rapidly changing environments. In Australia, shifting student demographics, the expansion of digital and technology-enabled learning, and governmental changes to higher education policy priorities and funding all impact university teaching and learning—and the people involved. Certainly, over the past three years, staff and student experiences in higher education institutions have highlighted flexibility and adaptability as key attributes required to navigate fast changing futures. We argue that what has emerged from these experiences is the utility of uncertainty and ambiguity in supporting, optimising, and fostering resilience. Critical is the ability for our sector’s staff and students to thrive in uncertain, ambiguous, and complex work situations. Ambiguity and uncertainty are understood as threshold concepts in design. In their practice, designers learn to embrace ambiguity and what is not known to arrive at an appropriate design proposition relative to context. In this way, ambiguity is conceived as openness and interpreting something in more than one way; it is positioned as a productive force that supports learning (Orr & Shreeve, 2018). However, working with ambiguity and residing in a space of uncertainty is often uncomfortable; it can create personal and interpersonal tensions that, in turn, might impact wellbeing. In this paper, we examine synergies between developing a comfort with ambiguity through design and skills that build resilience and wellbeing. Speculating on the potential of design and design education to better prepare staff and students for the uncertainties of future work, we suggest that this may in turn contribute to fostering societal wellbeing.
Keywords: design practice; design education; ambiguity; higher education; future of work; resilience and wellbeing