As private sector providers begin to enter the marketplace with tailored, ‘work-ready’ courses; as industrial research labs and think tanks claim the research space; as the internet provides informal learning on any subject from plumbing to patriarchy, the natural ‘terrain’ of the university seems under threat. In this context, the continued existence of the university as a multi-disciplinary civic institution is being questioned.
In her lecture Professor Facer will argue that such contemporary challenges to the university should not be met simply with defense and resistance or by a passive acceptance of the march of the market. Instead, we require a clear-eyed examination of what it is that universities uniquely offer to contemporary society. She will argue that the features of the university as a multi-disciplinary institution, in which research and teaching, and scholarship and service combine, create a unique form of ‘lively’ knowledge that cannot be achieved in any other way; a form of knowledge that will be essential to our survival in a rapidly changing world.
Understanding this unique function of the institution, however, does not mean that universities should simply be left alone to ‘do their thing’, rather, it requires substantial and in many ways revolutionary changes to the way that we run universities today.