ERG SES H 06, Parallel Session H 06
...cities have always been regarded as leading elements in Europe; they are modern, progressive and networked. They are producers and traders; they are medium for political and cultural development. (from the website of ECER 2011)
The role, purposes and functions of higher education have changed through history, from the embryonic universities in the middle ages, through the enlightenment, to the period of extended social rights and emerging value of equity in society in the second half of 20th century (Rüegg 2002, Rüegg 2004, Zonta 2002). In a time of mass enrolments, the essence of higher education is no longer the same as it was back in the era when access to universities was limited to members of elite groups (Trow 2005). In addition, knowledge has become ever more central to the modern economy (Tomusk 2006, Nokkala 2007), and the relationships between institution, state and society have been transformed considerably (Zgaga 2007).
In most of the western world, a large proportion of young adults spend a significant period of their lives as students. There is no other institution that brings together such a proportion of young people who have completed the basic education to learn and research as adult citizens. However, unlike other adults, students carry fewer restrictions - they are largely free from family obligations, job responsibility, mortgage, etc. For students, their study years are unique, perhaps potentially the freest period of their life and an opportunity to form their personality, reflect within a democratic society, and refine the lifestyle.
Considering this, it is possible to see higher education as one of the central institutions that shape and colour the contemporary European society. The proposed central theme of the 2011 ECER offers an opportunity for theoretical consideration of higher education as a catalyst for progress of individuals and society trough Urbanisation – as a broader process and not as a mere geographical migration.
The symbiosis between the European universities and cities (where large proportion of them are located) can represent a myriad of opportunities for young individuals. The discussion is relevant in view of the uneven map of Europe in terms of strength of democracy, citizenship, critical thinking, spiritual development, solidarity and other values stemming from European urban tradition. In this sense urbanisation might well prove to be one of the effects of adequately devised higher education system in search of a complement (or an alternative) to the soaring economic instrumentalism invading the field of knowledge and higher education in a time of perceived necessity to reform this field.
Tentative theoretical framework:
I will pave the ground on the purposes and roles of higher education in society with the classical approaches: liberal, functionalist (Parsons 1959, Collins 1971), critical and conflict theories (Bourdieu 1977, 1979, Calhoun 2006). With combining these approaches I will try to explain the position of higher education in contemporary society. I will avoid the currently popular theories in higher education (e.g. neo-institutionalism, rational choice etc.) in order to leave the ground open for innovative views/discussions.
Bourdieu, P. & Passeron, J.-C. (1977): Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. Sage publications, London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi. Bourdieu, P. (1979): Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. Routledge & Kegan, Harvard University Press. Calhoun, C. (2006): The University and the public Good. Thesis Eleven, Nr 84, Sage publications, London. pp 7 – 43. Collins, R. (1971): Functional and Conflict Theories of Educational Stratification. American Sociological Review, Vol. 36, pp. 1002-1019. Nokkala, T (2007): Constructing the Ideal University – The internationalisation of higher education in the comparative knowledge society. Tampere University Press, Tampere. Rüegg, W. (2002): The Europe of Universities: Their Tradition, Function of Bridging Across Europe, Liberal Modernisation. In Sanz, N., Bergan, S. (eds.) (2002): The Heritage of European Universities. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg. p. 39-48. Rüegg, W. (2004): Universities in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century (1800 – 1945). Cambridge University Press Cambridge. Tomusk, V (2006): The End of Europe and the Last Intellectual. Fine-Tuning of Knowledge Work in the Panopticon of Bologna. In Tomusk, V. (ed.): Creating the European Area of Higher Education: Voices from the Periphery. Springer. p. 269 – 303. Trow, M. (2005): Reflections on the Transition from Elite to Mass to Universal Access: Forms and Phases of Higher Education in Modern Societies since WWII. UC Berkley: Institute of Governmental Studies. Zgaga, P. (2007): Higher Education in Transition - Reconsiderations on Higher Education in Europe at the Turn of Millennium. Monographs on Journal of Research and Teacher Education, Umea University. Zonta, C.A. (2002): The History of European Universities: Overview and Background. In Sanz, N., Bergan, S. (eds.) (2002): The Heritage of European Universities. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg. P 25 – 37.
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