Bitesized: role of universities

At a recent event celebrating 50 years of the University of Bath, where I did my Masters, I was on a panel that was asked about role of universities was in the world today. Here’s my answer.

Currently we are unsustainable because our natural and social systems are overwhelmed. To be sustainable, we need to be able to adapt as a society faster and ‘larger’ than the challenges we face. As Paul Polman said earlier, we need to evolve our economic model, not just optimise it. Where better than universities to explore and create a pivot in capitalism?

  • We need them to be sites of lifelong learning from action. We can no longer rely on learning all we need in our early 20s and then live off that for the rest of our lives.
  • We need to stop teaching the myth that fiduciary duty is maximising shareholder value. Business Schools have been like Catholic medieval seminaries, sending out priests who believe businesses must maximise shareholder value, and that is good for society. Neither of those two are true. Profit is the fuel for the journey, not the destination.
  • We need to spaces where people can give each other hope in the future. They do that by finding and telling each other stories of a bigger us, a longer now and different good life.*

Universities have a vital role as part of ‘innovation function’ for society, so we can find the form of capitalism where 9 billion people can choose how they live within environmental limits.

* I took these three criteria from a book called The Myth Gap by Alex Evans. I have a review copy, and a post will be combined about it in time for the January launch.


One thought on “Bitesized: role of universities

  1. orientikate

    The recommended book looks fascinating, David. Thanks for that. I’ll order it for the 2017 TBR pile. I’ve just been re-reading the chapter in Tom Berry’s “The Great Work” on the role of the University in this age so this post is very well timed.


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