n South African Journal of Higher Education - Nation building and the role of the university : a critical reflection

Volume 16, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1011-3487



The ongoing process of transformation in South African universities testifies to the enduring seriousness of the questions of meaning and purpose that universities face. The response to this situation often is in terms of transformation programmes that focus on the social role of the university, that is, on the meaning of the university as a social institution whose purpose is defined as meeting the needs of society. In South Africa, political and economic discourse has to a large extent perceived the social role of the university in terms of nation building. In this essay, I argue that such an understanding of the social role of the university is misdirected, and if allowed to guide educational transformation, damaging. Rather, I would argue that the basis for the university's service to society lies in its character as a community of reason.

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