Sunday, May 27, 2012

What do we want a university to be?

If you live in New Zealand, you should be aware, hopefully, that education, especially the secondary and tertiary sectors are getting a bit of a bashing from the government at the moment. The latest budget increased the repayment rate for student loans and decreased the amount of student allowance students can get, which will quite possibly have an effect on the number of people doing post-grad work. Which will be ... bad.

So there's a lot of work, to be done. We need more people defending the education system. We already have WATU and University without conditions beginning to mobilize. There's a good piece from University Without Conditions. There is a idea floating around of Universities as independent institutions acting as the conscience of society where academics are allowed to freely research what ever takes their fancy. This ideal university has never, I suspect, existed. Still it's an ideal that many think we should be striving for. The UWC piece very nicely turns this on its head and positions the university not as an ideal we should be attempting to defend, but as something we should see as a leader of society. It's a re-phrasing that I like. And I like it think because it brings to the fore the notion that education and more importantly research is not something that should be confined to universities or large companies, but is something that everyone should aspire to.

I have (minor, qualified) reservations about the University without conditions - only because the timing and location of everything I've seen them do appears to be targeted towards university students. This at least shows that they're not necessarily always going to be focused like that. Which makes me happy.

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