Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What are universities for?

Stefan Collini's book by the same title is a contemporary manifesto in defense of universities. Not for their utility - will I get a job?  - or to be more precise: will my child get a job?  or that dratted word 'impact'. And the impact must be immediate.
Nor are universities about economic capital to be invested in by politicians only if they can see  a desirable result. 

Research - good research - by its nature is incremental and we should be exploring and judging the body of work of the discipline not a single article, book or presentation. 

The traditional values of universities are worth upholding and supporting. To wit: the exploration of knowledge and where it might (or might not) lead is the purview of the university student and the university professor to be supported by the university administration.

Might universities also serve all of those other utilitarian purposes. But of course.  Universities are famous and esteemed for their complexity (John Henry Newman) and their 'messiness (J. Pelikan - my addition). 

Let many complexities exist and co-exist without loss of the anchor: the pure pursuit of knowledge.

Stefan Collini, What are universities for? A contemporary manifesto in defence of our universities (Allen Lane: 978 1 8461 4482 0)

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