What does it mean to be a modern university in a globalised era? The forces that have shaped globalisation in the past thirty years or so – the march of the market as canonical institution, widespread privatisation of activities previously thought to be public goods, intense competition and rising inequality, diminishing labour market security, and the tensions between globally mobile capital and restricted movement of people – all these forces affect higher education. In the UK, rising tuition fees, and contradictions between immigration policy and the funding model for universities, are particularly pressing issues.
But these forces are also shaped by universities. A fundamental challenge for the university ‘sector' worldwide is how institutions can make globalisation work best for global citizenship. Do they have a role in promoting a global democracy of scholarship, learning and teaching? Or will there simply be a global university revolution like the global business revolution, leading to the emergence of a few, profoundly powerful 'knowledge banks'? Do technological innovations in teaching delivery, and the promise of free online higher education, promise truly emancipatory intellectual advances or are they a vehicle for global concentration and domination by a select few ‘first mover’ universities?
What do the long-run history of universities and the recent experiences of universities around the world tell us about knowledge, power, and global citizenship? If universities are sites of original and independent ideas and enormous creativity, is this likely to be a force for global good or is their ability to challenge orthodoxy and spark new ideas (not just create patents) profoundly threatened by trends in global governance and ideology? This dialogue takes up these issues and starts from the premise that the fate of the university is fundamental to the fate of the world.
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