What are Universities for? Interrogating the Assumptions of Current and Future Higher Education Policy in the UK

29 November 2010, 12:00 - 13:15

CRASSH

Professor Michael Kenny (Politics, University of Sheffield) presents at The Future University conference in June 2011.

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Abstract

The project I will pursue during my Fellowship involves a historical analysis of some of the main contending ideas about the rationale for public investment in Higher Education in the UK.

The case for supporting Universities is currently linked to the expectation that they should pursue such goals as enhancing social mobility, increasing the nation’s economic competitiveness, promoting the UK’s image and reputation globally, and providing the requisite portfolio of skills for future generations of workers in the knowledge economy. But where has this thinking come from? How is it that the nature of public reflection about the purposes of
Universities has shifted so fundamentally in the last few decades? And what role should we assign to ideas and political thinking in understanding shifts in Higher Education policy?

This project attempts to address some of these questions through an assessment of the provenance of some current ideas. I will focus particularly on a period of fairly intense political disagreement about the rationale for Universities, their significance for the national culture, and their relationship with the state from the 1960s to the 1980s, and consider why and how Higher Education emerged as such an important focus for leading intellectuals and political thinkers of both right and left in this period.  Were aspects of this thinking important in changing the intellectual atmosphere in which Higher Education policy was conducting?  And do some of the ideas that were marginalised and defeated then, such as the model of the civic, locally rooted University, merit re-engagement now?

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress seminar series

To access the Readings for the Work in Progress seminar, please contact Michelle Maciejewska.