Collini’s “What are universities for?” – Deel 1

ShakespeareAls commentaar op de huidige situatie bij de UvA-Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, wil ik deze en een paar volgende posts graag besteden aan citaten uit Cambridge Professor Stefan Collini‘s What are universities for? (het boek is beschikbaar bij de UvA-bibliotheek). Zoals de auteur zelf in de introductie aangeeft, is zijn uitgebreide redenering over de doelstellingen en het bestaansrecht van universiteiten in eerste instantie gebaseerd op de Britse situatie van de Humaniora.

Uit de paar citaten hieronder zal toch blijken in hoeverre het Britse voorbeeld licht kan werpen ook op de situatie elders (Nederland inbegrepen):
– in termen van hedendaagse kijk, uit de politieke-economische hoek, op de rol en de legitimatie van hoger onderwijs (citaat “Vermogen vergaren”);
– in termen van juist andere tijden (en bijbehorende politieke-economische cultuur) wat betreft de algemene structuur van onze samenleving: de tijdspan waarnaar Collini refereert in verband met universiteiten (jaren 60 en 70 vs. jaren 80 en 90, citaat “Historisch perspectief”) kan dienen als referentiekader ook voor de ontwikkelingen in de gezondheidszorg, het arbeidsrecht, de pensioenregeling enz.

Vermogen vergaren
«John Maynard Keynes famously asked ‘What is economics for?’, using that question to remind his readers that the pursuit of wealth was not an end in itself but a means to living ‘wisely, agreeably, and well’. Keynes’s example is pertinent, and inspiring, because any discussion of the place of universities in contemporary society will inevitably be driven to articulate, in however rudimentary terms, some sense of human purposes beyond that of accumulating health. Or so one might think. Yet it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that the greater part of public discourse about universities at present reduces to the following dispiriting proposition: universities need to justify getting more money and the way to do this is by showing that they help to make more money […] Of course the case for their [universities’] value and importance needs to be made. But it needs to be made in appropriate terms, and these terms are not chiefly, and certainly not exclusively, economic. They are intellectual, educational, scientific, and cultural. In addition, it has to be emphasized that higher education is a public good, not simply a set of private benefits for those who happen to participate in it, and therefore that it is a mistake to allow the case for universities to be represented as a merely sectional or self-interested cause on the part of current students and academics» (pp. x-xi).

Historisch perspectief
«It is worth remembering that when the Thatcher government’s Kulturkampf against universities began in 1981, nearly half of Britain’s forty-six degree-granting institutions had not been in existence as universities two decades earlier. From one point of view, the 1980s and 1990s look like the decades during which successive governments attempted to reduce the ‘historic’ standing of universities and dismantle their ‘traditional’ funding structures; but, taking another historical perspective, it is the 1960s and 1970s that can be made to appear exceptional, the first and last decades in which Britain tried to sustain a substantial but still rigorously selective, wholly state-funded system of high-quality, undergraduate-centred universities. The fact that almost two thirds of the degree-granting institutions operating in the UK in 2011 did not even exist (at least as universities) as recently as twenty years ago only underlines the importance of not treating the situation thought to obtain at a given moment as any kind of timeless norm»
(p. 22).

De illustratie komt uit de website Think humanities Amsterdam.

About blognostrumuva

blog voor de Collectie Romaanse Talen van de Universiteitsbibliotheek van de UvA (universiteit van Amsterdam)
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3 Responses to Collini’s “What are universities for?” – Deel 1

  1. Pingback: What are the humanities for? Hannah Arendt on “human” | Blog Nostrum

  2. Pingback: Collini’s What are universities for? – Deel 2 | Blog Nostrum

  3. Pingback: Collini’s What are universities for? – Deel 3 | Blog Nostrum

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