Random Callings: Discerning the University Mission
Higher education nationally and internationally is immersed in cultural change and fiscal challenge which is focused on competition and a ‘tyranny of excellence’ (Butler and Spoelstra 2015; Smith, 2015: 135). These demands on universities for greater social accountability have prompted a call for new kinds of universities – institutions which operate outside the ‘ivory tower’, and which are responsive to the challenges and needs of society (Barber, Donnelly and Rizvi 2013). These ‘new’ universities have been variously described by terms such as ‘open’, (Miller and Sabapathy 2011), ‘innovative’ (Christensen and Eyring 2011) and ‘public’ (Burawoy 2011). Goddard’s (2009) concept of a ‘civic university’ also proposes that all publicly funded higher education institutions have a civic duty to engage with the wider society at local, national and international levels on issues of relevance. Goddard’s comments appear to support an era of university engagement which is tied to broader imperatives of relevance. Yet how is such relevance configured, and how does it shape the ‘third’, or entrepreneurial, mission of universities if recourse to research-led curricula or socially inspired scholarship is diminished? While inviting further deliberation, it is nevertheless clear that engagement is now core business of all universities.
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