At this point of GPP2013 I want to point out shortly two positions regarding our theme “Universities and Society: Meeting Expectations?”:
According to the World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century the importance of higher education for the society is based on the following understanding, which makes higher education indispensable:
“Owing to the scope and pace of change, society has become increasingly knowledge-based so that higher learning and research now act as essential components of cultural, socio-economic and environmentally sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations.”
Furthermore the World Declaration calls attention on the following aims of higher education:
“(a) Relevance in higher education should be assessed in terms of the fit between what society expects of institutions and what they do. This requires ethical standards, political impartiality, critical capacities and, at the same time, a better articulation with the problems of society and the world of work, basing long-term orientations on societal aims and needs, including respect for cultures and environmental protection. The concern is to provide access to both broad general education and targeted, careerspecific education, often interdisciplinary, focusing on skills and aptitudes, both of which equip individuals to live in a variety of changing settings, and to be able to change occupations.
(b) Higher education should reinforce its role of service to society, especially its activities aimed at eliminating poverty, intolerance, violence, illiteracy, hunger, environmental degradation and disease, mainly through an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach in the analysis of problems and issues.
(c) Higher education should enhance its contribution to the development of the whole education system, notably through improved teacher education, curriculum development and educational research.
(d) Ultimately, higher education should aim at the creation of a new society – non-violent and non-exploitative – consisting of highly cultivated, motivated and integrated individuals, inspired by love for humanity and guided by wisdom.”
On the other hand one can find statements like from Brewer, G. D. [(1999). The challenges of interdisciplinarity. Policy Sciences, 32, 327-337]:
„The world has problems, but universities have departments”.
These positions set the frame where we will have our discussions in this years GPP.