I continue to share brief lessons from the modules in Contemporary Approaches to University Teaching.

Session 1, 2024 started February 12th and runs until June 30th 2024. Enrolment is open now. You can sign up at https://canvas.instructure.com/register and use the following join code: FPXJJW.

Higher Education in Context: Purposes, Politics and Futures is Module 20 and part of the Leading learning and teaching pathway through the course.

This is a module developed by me, Agnes Bosanquet, with Cathy Rytmeister (Macquarie University) that provides an opportunity to reflect on the political, economic, social and cultural influences and power structures that shape the higher education sector internationally.

We start with a brief history of universities, moving rapidly through time from the University of Al Qarawiynn to medieval European universities and on to Australian higher education. We look at what defines a university, the context of globalisation, massification and marketisation, and accountability and regulation of higher education.

Participants are asked to explore the history of their own institution, read University World News, and share a prediction about the future of higher education.

What is the function of a university?

It is difficult to share a brief lesson about a module I have created! Here is one of the prompts for reflection:

The 1904 Final Report of the Royal Commission on the University of Melbourne in Select Documents in Australian History 1851-1900 (Clark, 1969) describes the function of a university:

In a country like this, where there are no leisured classes, and where everyone has to make his living, a University can only be truly national by association with the life’s work of the people. It is too commonly supposed the object of a University is to train students to obtain degrees. Although this is doubtless an important function, yet, its chief object is to educate –that is, to fully develop the faculties of the students and to extend the bounds of knowledge… In fact, a student should be able to get the best instruction and education in all branches of knowledge and, what is more important, actual training in the methods of research so as to be able to himself add to the existing stock of knowledge.

(pp. 698-699)

How have the functions of a university changed since 1904? And what about since 1088 (University of Bologna) or 895 (University of Al Qarawiynn)? Would a student or teacher from these early institutions find anything familiar in a contemporary university’s organisation, culture or purpose?

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Banner image: Wikimedia Commons

Posted by Agnes Bosanquet

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