n South African Journal of Higher Education - Rationality and the role of the university : a response to Philip Higgs

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



This article attempts to challenge Higgs' ambivalent position that the role of the university should not be defined in terms of "meeting the needs of society". My contention is that the university can still retain its character as "a community of reason" (Higgs' main argument) without abandoning its social role vis-á-vis nation building. Instead, this article argues that the envisaged social role of the modern university needs to be framed within a complementary knowledge base, that is, disciplinary knowledge or Mode 1 plus socially distributed knowledge or Mode 2. In this way, Higgs' argument for the university as a "community of reason" - incorporating both rational self-understanding and communicative praxis - would not necessarily be undermined.

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