The Future University (Post III)

Chapter notes (III)

  • The idea of University in Latin America in the twenty-first century (MarioDíaz Villa)

Díaz Villa’s vision for the future university can be summed as follows (p. 70):

Whatever may be the type of knowledge [that a university produces], its production and innovation must not be regulated solely by economic laws. Knowledge must be socially useful, democratically distributed and relevant to solving the damaging conditions of the world

He argues that whereas in the past great thinkers like Cardinal Newman and Humboldt provided universities with a clear identity – based on science, faith, humanities, and ‘truth’ – the identity of today’s university is fluid and is more abstract.

This view can be best summed as follows (p. 62):

The university has ceased to be a place of public debate – agora or forum. In the process of change, the place of critique and wisdom has been converted into a market place, subordinated to being a business scene of knowledge, ready to offer to its clients the services and certificates which they require for the labour market. This has weakened the credibility of the historic meaning of the university in its creation and promotion of values.

  • The decline of the university in South Africa (Yusef Waghid)

The backdrop to Waghid’s argument is that, on the whole, South African universities are elitist. This is because of a complex web of socio-political interests which means that “universities do not adequately address inequities in terms of race, gender and disability, and do not contribute towards the eradication of global problems such as poverty, environmental degradation and conflict” (p. 72). His vision is of a university that is “the responsibility of a community of thinking”. Waghid thus draws on Derrida for whom a university which is autonomous (p.73):

must be able, according to Kant, to teach freely whatever it wishes without conferring with anyone, letting itself be guided by its sole interest in truth

Waghid is concerned that even when research at university is set up to deal with world-problems – is therefore ‘end-oriented’ -it may not actually be achieving those ends. This is because large corporations that invest in this kind of research are motivated by their own corporate goals. University research thus becomes instrumental in ways that do not actually achieve social change (p.74):

Does agricultural research in poor farming communities contribute to eradicating poverty when the produce is still under the control of the rich farmers who now become more entrepreneurial? Does research about democracy necessarily ensure that societies behave according to ideals of democratic action?

He calls for universities to take more risks, to become proper ‘communities of thinking’ so that the unimaginable can become imaginable and so that change can occur.

Academic writing


Jacques Derrida

Waghid refers frequently to writing and to the role that academic writing plays in a ‘community of thinking’. He quotes Derrida on p.77 who claims that:

this community of thinking must prepare students to take new non-instrumental analyses and transform the modes of writing, the pedagogic scene, the procedures of academic exchange, the relation to languages, to other disciplines, to the institution in general, to its inside and its outside.

The following quotes further reflect Waghid’s views (p. 81-2):

our students’ writings should be about what is desirable for society (in especially humanities and social sciences) with the possibility or readiness of departing from such practices if the situation arises – that is, advocating belligerence (provocative) in deliberations might not always be desirable for the public good.


… supervisors ought to be responsible human beings with regard to their students. Responsibility towards one’s students implies that one has to create opportunities for them to think, argue and write their texts. Writing is a truly laborious yet imaginative exercise. I have taught students to continue writing even though the comments they receive would at times not be as encouraging as they might have expected – a matter of exercising critique.



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