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The Future of the University

We live in an age of uncertainty. Universities, in particular,

live in an age of uncertainty. Descended perhaps from the

Platonic Academy, universities used to be elite and autonomous

institutions, both academically and socially. But universities

rightly, even after the influential idealistic reforms of Wilhelm

von Humboldt and Cardinal Newman, always also retained the

valid mediaeval and Enlightenment tradition of professional

training in instrumental modes of knowledge. In Britain, we

have experienced waves of expansion, not only after the

Robbins Report in 1964, but also under the Blair government’s

knowledge economy widening of access, which aspired to admit

50% of each school-leaving generation to university. This has

been accompanied by the dissolution of the binary system with

the emergence of former Polytechnics as New Universities.

In recent years universities, and not only in the UK, have in

the context of new economic priorities been required to seek

funding through greatly increased fees on an American model,

to seek research funding through increased collaboration with

third parties, and to face the challenges of both digitally-based

modes of study and wholly private competitor institutions. More

recently still, there is emerging a new global market, beyond

Europe and North America, where distinguished emergent

universities are already competing for student customers. And

now Brexit looms.

In the face of this rapidly changing landscape, urging instant

adaptive response, it is too easy to discount fundamental

questions. What is the university now for? What is it, what

can it be, what should it be? Are the visions of Humboldt and

Newman still valid? If so, how? University College Durham and

the Institute of Advanced Study are jointly mounting a series

of lectures over 2017/2018 by leading world figures on the

university and political stages, who will deliver a public lecture

in the Great Hall of the Castle, and in many cases conduct

seminars with Durham and other colleagues. Speakers include:

Judith Butler, Louise Richardson, Peter Coveney, Kate Hayles

and David Willetts, among others.

These lectures are free and open to all. For further information

contact the IAS (

enquiries.ias@durham.ac.uk

). Details, dates

and times of these lectures will appear at the end of the

programme and on the IAS website

(www.durham.ac.uk/ias/events/events_listings/

).

Joint IAS / University College Public Lecture Series