'What are Universities for now?' - One day conference
Institute of Liberal Arts and Sciences partnership event with the Keele Institute for Social Inclusion
Wednesday 3 April 2019
As we enter our 70th anniversary year, it is a time to reflect on Keele as a university with a long and proud history, one that responds to the needs of a modern and rapidly changing society. In 1949, Lord Lindsay, our founder and a great and innovative educationalist, outlined a powerful vision for the purpose of a university in an era of post-war austerity. He was clear that universities have a key role to play in enriching democratic societies so that they would become ever more inclusive, civilized and enlightened.
In 2019, we face a future that is at least as uncertain as it would have seemed to Lindsay and his contemporaries 70 years ago. All universities face unprecedented challenges and questions about their purpose and value, and it is ever more important that we seek to clarify what the broad purpose of universities is in the twenty first century.
Updating Lindsay’s vision
One way to update Lindsay’s compelling vision and to make it clearly relevant to the needs of the future is to unearth its enduring underpinning values. We might consider the core value at the heart of that vision to be social freedom, that is the ways in which individual autonomy can be facilitated through forms of social co-operation that are mutually beneficial. Universities promote social freedom by supporting students in ways that not only enhance their personal freedom, but also their productive freedom, through the world of paid and unpaid work, and their political freedom as engaged citizens of the world. Through its research and various forms of partnership, universities can also be instruments of social freedom that have positive impacts on the wider society in the economic, political and cultural spheres.
This one-day conference brought together students, academics and practitioners to debate the role of universities today by exploring their potential as instruments of social freedom. If we are to remain committed and true to a vision that highlights the transformative potential of universities in enhancing the freedom of all, students, staff, alumni and wider society, then we need to ask what it would mean for us to lead the way in realising this vision today.
Presentations from six of our speakers on the day can be viewed by following the links below.