Contemporary higher education is subject to a large number of demands and expectations from society – both expectations from society ‘at large’ and from groups and individuals within society, including the demands and expectations from students themselves. How higher education should engage with all these demands, knowing that higher education cannot be everything to everyone, is a complex and important question. On the one hand the ways in which higher education institutions engage with these expectations demands on how they see themselves. And here it remains important to acknowledge that higher education institutions in different countries and settings have emerged out of quite differing practical and ideological histories. On the other hand the ways in which higher education engages with its ‘outside’ raises the question what is happening in the outside world and to what extent the expectations emerging in society can and should be taken seriously.
This is a profound educational question, because just as parents who give their children everything they want, run the risk of spoiling them, educational institutions also have a ‘duty to resist,’ as the French educational scholar Philippe Meirieu has put it. In my presentation I will explore these different aspects of the contemporary ‘position’ of higher education and will make a case for a university that sees teaching as its most important educational task.
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