Monday, November 15, 2010

What is a University?

There has been some debate on this blog about how to improve higher education in India. From the comments it seems that different people have different ideas about what a university is or should be. This is alright as long as we have a diverse set of institutions catering to these diverse needs and viewpoints.

What is a university in my own, personal view? To me, a university is an institution that does the following three jobs.

1. Curation of knowledge: a university should act as a storehouse of knowledge. It does so through libraries (perhaps outdated in the computer age), conservatories, centers etc. For example, Sanskrit or Latin are dead languages but it is certainly or value to keep a classical languages department in a university where there are experts who can read and write fluently in these languages.

2. Dissemination of knowledge: universities should teach vocational skills so that people can find employment. But universities should also engage in raising public awareness, finding effective means to disseminate knowledge (online coursework, effective pedagogy etc.) and finally increasing access to the underprivileged in the society.

3. Generation of knowledge: universities should generate new knowledge though research and development.

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