This year’s GPP topic – universities and society: meeting expectations – cannot be discussed without clarifying some terms in advance. Thereby, a particular focus should be given to the word ‘society’. For the purpose of this blog post, the term ‘society’ is equivalent to a country’s population. Every society in the aforementioned sense consists of several subcategories. One of these subcategories contains all people who pay taxes.
Both in Switzerland and in the U.S., only few taxpayers have a university degree. Hence, merely a small group is familiar with the ‘operating mode’ of the higher education sector. The majority of taxpayers knows that a university employs people who teach and do research. Yet, the exact meaning of these activities is beyond their knowledge.
All universities have the responsibility to inform the interested public about the use of taxpayers money. On the one hand, this can be done through public events. On the other hand, social media (facebook, twitter, blogs etc.) play an increasingly important role. At present, the public can be reached most easily via a conventional web page. However, web pages only have an effect if their design is appealing.
After a quick research I realized that the web presence of many U.S. universities is very convincing. In particular, one learns about outstanding performances of professors and students quickly. In this area, Swiss universities have some backlog demand.