The Ideal of the University

“The ideal of the university used to be of a moral community, collectively engaged in the collaborative pursuit of truth. To be sure, doubtless it often fell far below that standard. But the very idea of the university as a moral space has become attenuated, and in its place – as with society as a whole – come the values of the market (the university as a production-line of career-enabling qualifications) and the state (the university as the arena of a struggle for power). When seen in terms of the market, the university ceases to be induction into the community of scholars and the intellectual heritage of humankind, and becomes a commodity to be purchased, a degree that will result in a better job and a higher salary. And since students pay the price, they can to some extent determine what is offered. When seen in terms of power, the logic of the university is recalibrated. Now power lies in the hands of those who can mobilise the maximum amount of support in threatening to accuse university authorities of riding roughshod over students’ sensibilities. Indignation becomes a potent political weapon when power prevails over the ethos of learning.”

Morality, Chapter 12, p. 180