On higher education

Alma-Tadema_The_Education_of_the_Children_of_Clovis

Increasingly, I have found great difficulty thinking of higher education – and in particular my own university – without my thoughts linking to the chorus to The Animals’ “We gotta get out of this place”.

Once upon a time, such outbursts may have been mere parapraxes. Nowadays they feel more like unabashed cris de coeur.

I have no doubt that there are hundreds – if not thousands – of written pieces seeking to analyse the rights and wrongs of higher education. For me to attempt my own analysis would require far more time than I could reasonably spare. That said, with all that I experience on a regular basis, I find myself arriving at the same disheartening conclusion: that a great many clever people – staff and students alike – are being woefully let down by universities that, far from helping them, often seem to do more to hinder them.

In “Reflections on life”, Alexis Carrel wrote,

“The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed”.

If the above can also be said of higher education, then surely the time for its transformation has come. If universities are to remain relevant and meaningful in the future, and if they are to contribute anything of value to global society as a whole, then there will be no option but to transform. If they do not, then many universities may become so myopic and backward that they do more to repel talent instead of attracting and developing it.

The warning signs, worryingly, are already there.

(the above image – “The Education of the Children of Clovis” by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1861 – was found via Google Images, and comes from commons.wikimedia.org at http://bit.ly/2aOJzmN)

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