Universities and educated citizenry

As someone who has spent the last ten years in the academy, this quote by Jon Nixon really resonated with me. The forces of late capitalism and economic rationality are making universities less a place of learning and knowledge creation and sharing, and rather a marketized and elite institution.

What universities can do—must do—is forge a public language which has the capacity to affirm and construct an educated citizenry. The dominant language currently at our disposal is emphatically not directed towards such ends and purposes. For all its insistence on ‘user relevance’, it is an exclusive language of technocrats and bureaucrats, the ideological purpose of which is to endorse technocratic and bureaucratic ways of thinking about education. Against these ways of thinking universities must seek to open up the debate regarding the ends and purposes of education, to expand and render more inclusive its civic spaces and to recognise the diversity of human presence that comprises those spaces. That is the prime task of any university seeking to reclaim its civic leadership: to reclaim, that is, a public and inclusive language for higher education. (Nixon, 2004: 246)

I share Nixon’s vision of the university as a civic space, where people come together with the purpose of learning, collaboration and knowledge formation. In the current political and economic climate fraught with competing agendas, we need to fight for this vision and hold true to the university’s original purpose.

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