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Worldwide?

That’s right. Universities  are worldwide. From Brock to Bangalore, from MIT to TEC Monterrey, from the University of Wales to the University of the West Indies, from Yale to Yeshiva, universities have become an almost mundane feature of modern life. From being elite institutions designed for elites, they have gradually spread their wings to become a necessary part of the life path in so many places around the globe. And much of this has happened in a rush in the last thirty years or so as elite higher education systems have gradually become mass systems.

At the same time, universities have gone out into the world. At first haltingly but now much more rapidly, universities have been experimenting with new modes of educational provision which can span different jurisdictions, allow students to circulate, and provide qualifications which themselves have an underlying geography.

Some things have been gained and others have been lost as these events have unfolded. The massification of higher education has inevitably put a strain on the finances of institutions since it has usually come with a declining amount of money per student. As seriously, research has been problematized. It is written into the story of universities that they do research but in future, in relative terms, research is likely to be restricted to fewer and fewer institutions around the world. Finally, what about the ‘eternal’ values of higher education, the values that Jonathan Cole has enumerated in his recent book The Great American University: universalism, organized scepticism, the creation of new knowledge, free and open communication of ideas, disinterestedness, academic freedom, collegiality, and the like? They are certainly under strain.

So this is not only a fascinating higher education landscape but one which comes replete with a series of dilemmas which have yet to be worked through. In this blog, I will try to follow the twist and turns of these dilemmas – and no doubt others – as they are worked through in (nearly) real time by one British Vice-Chancellor. I shall look forward to your responses!

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