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Higher education - equipping the country for what? 7 th Galway Symposium on HE Ferdinand von Prondzynski June 2009.

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Presentation on theme: "Higher education - equipping the country for what? 7 th Galway Symposium on HE Ferdinand von Prondzynski June 2009."— Presentation transcript:

1 Higher education - equipping the country for what? 7 th Galway Symposium on HE Ferdinand von Prondzynski June 2009

2 What is higher education? Wilhelm Freiherr von Humboldt (1767-1835) Lehrfreiheit (academic freedom): freedom of the academic to teach and research as s/he pleases Financial autonomy (university was given land)

3 … continued John Henry Newman (1801-1890) The Idea of a University (1852): I say, a University, taken in its bare idea, and before we view it as an instrument of the Church, has this object and this mission; it contemplates neither moral impression nor mechanical production; it professes to exercise the mind neither in art nor in duty; its function is intellectual culture; here it may leave its scholars, and it has done its work when it has done as much as this. It educates the intellect to reason well in all matters, to reach out towards truth, and to grasp it. (pp. 125-60)

4 The traditional consensus Universities are places of higher learning Staffed by faculty who are full-time, permanent, tenured Teaching and scholarship are the key tasks for all faculty Universities are independent of vested interests Independence is protected by academic tenure and academic freedom Students are full-time and (usually) school leavers Both learning and university structures are based on disciplines Programmes of study are self-contained University education is not primarily functional

5 The Four Big ‘Who’ Questions Who needs the universities and why? Who are the academics and what so we expect from them? Who are the students and how should they learn? Who should fund the universities and how?

6 Who needs the universities? We all do We need a modern, educated, emancipated population We need high levels of skill We need a sophisticated and tolerant culture We need to attract investment and economic development We need disinterested research We need research and development (R&D) involving professional academics

7 Who are the academics? Professional scholars, but also… Experienced professionals with non-academic backgrounds What about academic freedom and tenure? Combating the perception that these are claims for employment security without any accountability Developing academic careers

8 Who are the students? No longer just full-time school leavers Students are working in jobs, and there are consequences What does Lifelong Learning really mean? Are students customers? Is anyone? Do we see students as independent learners? Can we still afford to teach small groups? How much of the population should we be teaching? What should they be learning – the merits of a modular system?

9 Who should fund the universities? Is free education a right? If it is, what does that mean? Is public funding affordable? Is it disinterested? Are there alternative ways of channeling funding to the universities?

10 Losing the vision We have lost the consensus around higher education (which was only ever an elitist one anyway) We have fled from vision into process: quality assurance, modularisation, lifelong learning all ask no questions about content, but only about process (Bologna has institutionalised this way of thinking) Higher education strategy now involves very little pedagogical thinking

11 Rescuing the vision Moving from disciplines to themes? Reinventing the university as an organisation that is more integrated with society? - access - economic and social development - enterprise - ethics - cultural centres Taking more responsibility for education at earlier stages? Autonomy with accountability

12 Equipping the country for what? Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University The new gold standard will be represented by the university that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, the university that is fully committed to its community, the university that directly engages the challenges of its cultural, socioeconomic, and physical setting, and shapes its research initiatives with regard to their social outcomes. Skills Economic growth Cultural vitality Enterprise Inclusiveness and a sense of ethics

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