The University as an Institution of Democracy

By George Fallis.

Published by Journal of the World Universities Forum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The modern Anglo-American university combines four historical ideas of the university: Newman’s idea of elite undergraduate liberal education, the medieval university of professional schools, the German university of graduate education and advanced pure research, and the Scottish university, accessible and conducting applied research. Recently, a new idea has been added to this unwieldy conglomerate: the university as an institution of the economy where human capital is created, and where research is commercialized. The paper advocates adding a sixth: the university as an institution of democracy. Over the last fifty years, the Anglo-American economies have been profoundly transformed: they have become post-industrial economies, knowledge-based economies. The mission of the university in such a society is well-recognized. But there has been an equally profound change over the last fifty years in the political sphere: their liberal democracies have become welfare states. This too has fundamental implications for the mission of the university. The university as an institution of democracy would help to contribute to the development of a deliberative democracy. It would place renewed emphasis on undergraduate education and citizenship. Its professors would accept the role of critic and public intellectual. The idea of a university contributing to the economy threatens to overwhelm all other ideas. The idea of a university contributing to democracy would provide a counterweight.

Keywords: Idea of the University, Democracy, Knowledge-based Society, Welfare State

Journal of the World Universities Forum, Volume 1, Issue 6, pp.107-114. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 546.242KB).

Prof. George Fallis

Professor, Department of Economics and Division of Social Science, Faculty of Arts, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

George Fallis is former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and a University Professor at York University. He has served on the Council of Ontario Universities and is a member of the provincial Undergraduate Program Review Audit Committee. He has published widely on issues of public policy and is the author of Multiversities, Ideas, and Democracy (University of Toronto Press, 2007).

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