Thoughts and feelings 2

September 11, 2008

Contributions to the recent debate on university standards have characterised the Government's current view as being that the function of higher education is principally to prepare students for the labour market.

This view of the main purpose of a university education has been contrasted with a past view, stemming largely from academia, that saw the principal purpose of a university as to train academics.

How far either of these views accurately represents present and past university education will continue to be vigorously debated. It is perhaps worth observing, though, that both views see the function of higher education as essentially an economic one.

However, both views seem essentially reductionist. Education, at all levels, has always had an economic function but in addition, at its best, where it is concerned to promote an open and critical mind, it contributes to personal intellectual and cultural development and to the potential role as citizens we can play in a democracy.

Michael Somerton, University of Hull.

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