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Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 56, Issue 23, pp 2506–2517

First Online: 20 July 2011Received: 09 March 2011Accepted: 31 May 2011

Abstract

Governments worldwide rightly regard universities as fundamental to the achievement of many national priorities. But it is the paper’s contention that many misunderstand their true benefit to society. Investments in universities are increasingly based on the belief that the science labs in particular of research-intensive universities can be the source of a continuous stream of people and ideas that will spawn innovative and fast growing companies to form the nexus of the knowledge-based economy. This belief is a source of misconceived policies that offer only ultimate disillusion. It is the totality of the university enterprise that is important, as the only place where that totality of ourselves and our world is brought together, and which makes it the strongest provider of the rational explanation and meaning that societies need. In research, universities create new possibilities; in teaching, they shape new people. Its graduates learn to seek the true meaning of things: to distinguish between the true and the merely seemingly true, to verify for themselves what is stable in that very unstable compound that often passes for knowledge. It is the complex, interacting whole of the university that is the source of the separate economic, social, cultural and utilitarian benefits valued by society. It needs to be understood, valued and managed as a whole. These perceptions are a direct challenge to not only to governments but to university administrators who have been either cowed or seduced into the slipshod thinking that is leading to demands that universities cannot satisfy, whilst obscuring their most important contributions. The challenge to both is to permit autonomy without oppressive accountability, and to give staff and students the freedom to think, speculate and research. These are the very conditions of the personal and collective creativity that are the sources of a university’s deepest benefits to its society.

Keywordsuniversities higher education research society economy culture academic freedom This article is published with open access at Springerlink.com

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Author: Geoffrey Boulton - Colin Lucas

Source: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11434-011-4608-7



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