Cardiff Connect, Why Universities?

Why Universities?

Ever since Cardinal Newman sought to answer questions around the nature and purpose of a university nearly 200 years ago, the issue has continued to vex and, at times, enrage.

Why Universities?

Few, however, have been as eloquent as Cardinal Newman in their response: “A habit of mind is formed, which lasts through life, of which the attributes are, freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom; or what I have ventured to call a philosophical habit. This then I would assign as the special fruit of the education furnished at a university”.

Today universities have to operate in an international market place, within funding mechanisms that treat students as consumers. Governments look to them to solve some of the most intractable issues of our age, from climate change to dementia, from the use of artificial intelligence to assisted dying.

They operate in an age of information overload, where knowledge is shared instantly and cheaply. For universities that pride themselves on generating knowledge and testing it, this poses a unique and difficult challenge.

Despite this, there is no area of human life that has not benefited from the “philosophical habit” so beloved by Cardinal Newman and so embedded in our universities.

The best are spaces where difficult questions are asked, and uncomfortable answers found. Where diverse opinions are compared and ideas tested; where difference is challenging and enriching; where the past is assessed and a better future made. They are places of personal growth and engines of social change. Here, nine contributors reflect on what Cardiff University brings to them, their communities and the world; things that can’t always be objectified, quantified or categorized – but are, in their own way, priceless.

Professor Stuart Palmer FREng DSc, Chair of Cardiff University’s Council

Read the next Why Universities article:
Universities are for closing the skills gap

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