Universities and their Function

Whitehead, A.N. 1929. Universities and their Function. In The Aims of Education and other essays. The Free Press. pp91-101

As my refection in this post I want to write some keywords and quotes that stand out from this reading. Perhaps they can for some sort of narrative.

  • the scope of this article: problems/issues that Universities encountered
  • business schools representing one of ‘the newer development of university activities.’
  • purpose of university ‘is that it preserves the connection between knowledge and zest of life’

I like the view that the universities supposed to act as the connection between the knowledge and the life by connecting the old and the young through learning. The notion of imagination and creativity seems crucial to this connection.

  • imagination
  • excitement, imagination, consideration = transformation of knowledge.
  • ‘a fact is no longer a bare fact: it is invested with all its possibilities’ hover ‘imagination is not to be divorced from the facts: it is a way of illuminating the facts’
  • ‘the task of a university is to weld together imagination and experience’

I would like to believe that the role of the university is to provide the ground for constant interaction with knowledge through imagination and connect it to the life experience (give the life a ‘flavour’).

  • universities originated in an obscure and rather unnoticed way (natural growth)
  • the universities ‘should function in the preparation for an intellectual career’ they can do that ‘by promoting the imaginative consideration of the various general principles underlaying that career.
  • ‘the proper function of a universities the imaginative acquisition of knowledge’

I find this last statement the key element in the purpose of universities. Obtaining the knowledge (and not only the knowledge but also experience environment in which the acquisition of knowledge occurs) creatively seems to be fundamental. Perhaps considering the right teaching ad learning methods that allow the ‘imaginative acquisition of knowledge  is critical to the function of universities.

  • ‘Imagination cannot be acquired once and for all’
  • ‘the learned and imaginative life is a way of living’
  • ‘Do you want your teachers to be imaginative? hen encourage them to research’
  • research


1 thought on “Universities and their Function

  1. I enjoyed reading your ideas based on Whitehead’s essay.

    It is incredible that Whitehead’s writing is still so relevant to today’s world.

    My heart drops when I feel that universities are becoming more of a conveyor belt. I remember a horrifying story a colleague told me. A student had made a project that calculated how much money a day they were giving the university. They would then write on a spreadsheet if they thought the lecture was worth £30. The need for ‘justification for existence’ has never felt so raw.

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