Universities as a Public Good

Authored by: Melanie Walker

Routledge Handbook of International Education and Development

Print publication date:  August  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415747547
eBook ISBN: 9781315797007
Adobe ISBN: 9781317752240


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At a recent debate among South African universities (Monday Paper, 17 March 2014, University of Cape Town) on the role of universities in social transformation (and by implication the public good), the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) argued that universities do not just lead public debate around moral behaviour and conflict resolution through rational debate. They are also a unique space where students are exposed to ‘the other’ – and come to grips with their misconceptions around this otherness:

They come to a university campus which is very diverse, and they are confronted with this diversity, with people from different backgrounds, different social classes, different languages, different religions… . I think one of the most powerful things you do at university is to educate people about tolerance, about reconciliation, and to reduce the fear of the unknown. In the post-apartheid society, what can be more important than that?

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