What Makes a Good University?

A public discussion event hosted by I4P on 28th March 2018 which asked, ‘What makes a Good University?’

This event was a follow up to the ‘What Makes A Good Society’ sessions which took place in October and June 2017, where we invited participants to discuss how to influence policy-makers and decision-makers, and what the necessary ingredients for a ‘good society’ are.

The discussion was facilitated by Professor John Diamond, Director of I4P. He began by introducing the role of universities as creating spaces for critical thinkers and set the conversation within the history of universities over the last century. The discussion was informal and took place in smaller groups that then fedback to the wider group.

The importance of the transformative role of universities was discussed. Within a university there can be multiple spheres of activity; this can create a tension where different things are going on within same geographical space. How an individual tries to make sense of that might depend on where they are politicly.

The narrowness of universities’ curricula was discussed and this was linked to fees and the importance of the instrumentalist role of universities. Universities are responding to the economic needs of businesses (producing skilled workers) and the economic needs of students (in order that they can work to repay their fees).

The role of the university was also discussed as providing space to develop ourselves as critical thinkers. The discussion questioned whether this should happen by creating a third sphere of university in a discussion session like this one or whether this critical thinking space should be intertwined within courses – in that by building knowledge we automatically build critical thinking.

The discussion was vibrant and comprised of diverse options which generated enthusiastic discussion. The feedback after the session was positive with attendees appreciating the opportunity to debate and network within Edge Hill University and with community members.

Dr Katy Goldstraw is the I4P Post Doctorate Research Fellow here at Edge Hill University.