Steven Schwartz, the new Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University, has written an interesting opinion piece on the role of Universities in the SMH, partly in response to recent comment that engineering graduates weren’t graduating with sufficient skills:
To quote two paras:
We have put so much emphasis on the utilitarian aspects of our activities that organisations such as the business council have become convinced that universities exist mainly to confer economic benefits. Now, economics is vital. The country needs educated people and graduates need jobs. A sound economy is also essential if we are to achieve our social goals. But first we need to have goals. Otherwise, we are a nation of means without ends.
What should universities be striving to achieve? According to the Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, social institutions such as universities should be judged by the extent to which they promote human liberty and freedom.
As someone who likes liberty, freedom and the promotion of imagination, I’m quite attracted to Hayek’s view.