What are Universities for? (ODDc Tue 14th July 09 )

derek tatton
13 July 2009

What are Universities for?

ODDc     Tue 14th July 09  (and replacing The Lunar Men  which will feature in the autumn programme)  at  The Blue Mugge pub

1.    The Ancient Universities   - what were they for?   
 Issues will include,  links with the monastic idea;  ‘a community of scholars’;  
 religious foundations with relatively narrow curriculum…  all male institutions.

2.   Red-brick Universities  >  The New Universities.  Why?    What changes?    Science, technology and engineering coming through…   The Keele University Foundation Year (now no more…).

3.   Late C20 to present:   from Polys >  Uni’s.    Aim for 50% of young people attending University.      Why?   The issue of elitism.

4.   Consider these who did not go to University:    Leonardo da Vinci,   William Shakespeare,   Josiah Wedgwood I;  James Watt;   The Brontes and Charles Dickens;  Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill and  John Major; Monarchs, Elizabeth’s I and II;   Richard Branson;
Glenda Jackson;  Michael Parkinson etc.   
     Raises the question -  Is a university education over-rated?   

5.   Universites mentioned above are all residential institutions, following the Ancient University pattern.    Residentiality  is valuable but expensive?    How do we assess its value?

6.   The OU  from the 1960s has demonstrated that the best kind of university education can be gained through ‘distance learning’,  without residentiality (or at least, through short-term residence, like Summer Schools).   

7.   Problems and tensions in contemporary universities:   pressures on funding related to the ‘competitive global market’.   Impact on ethos and teaching and issues around work-related training and education.   

8.   Re-visit Frank Furedi’s argument  ‘In the age of the knowledge economy, we have somehow managed to combine the widest ever participation in higher education with the most dumbed-down of cultures’.

9.   What’s in a name?  Consider the University of the Third Age;  Schools of Medicine;   Polytechnics;   Institutes of Technology; Faculties of Engineering;   Colleges of Humanities; Research Institutions…  Then, debate whether all those institutions needing specialist residential spaces for teaching and research in HE need state funding.  Some in HE and the Government are now arguing that many students can study staying at home, so where residentiality is not essential it should be phased out, taking the OU as model?   

10.   Use the money (£billions) thus saved for what?

a)    more resources for educating the very young.
b)    take ‘life long learning’  seriously
c)    use existing residential universities and colleges for programmes of short-term residential university courses  of which many could be open to older adults too.
d)    thereby gaining the benefits of cross-generational learning in many spheres…


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