Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Expanding Higher Education: Issues and Challenges

There is no ‘essence’ of university- some fixed and unchanging core of values and activities which are picked out by this word. Universities (or institutions of higher education) are part of a wider network of social and educational institutions, and this network will constantly be changing in recognition of or in response to changing economic and social factors. On the other hand, it is useful to analyse what those core values and activities are at any one time, lest something of value might be lost in the changing understanding of those institutions. There are, perhaps, certain values and commitments which ought to be preserved and yet are being endangered.

On the other hand, one should not, in preserving those values and commitments, turn a blind eye to the wider social and economic forces which inevitably impinge on universities, affecting their financial basis or their status within the wider community or the expectation people have of them in terms of their usefulness to the wider society. There is a constant need to find a new synthesis of that which one wants to preserve and that which requires change and development.

This paper is divided into three. First, I shall outline those values and commitments which have traditionally been associated with a university and which one wants to preserve, albeit in a rather different form. Second, I shall outline the forces which impinge upon the university, requiring a reassessment of those values and in some cases questioning whether or not they should be totally replaced. Third, I shall point to the issues which emerge from such an analysis and which need to be addressed.

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