Higher education and the needs of society

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Enders (CHEPS, University of Twente)

Universities are organisations that, in all societies, perform basic functions resulting from the particular combination of educational and scientific, social and economic, cultural and ideological roles assigned to them. They are multi-purpose or multi-product organisations that contribute to the production and application of knowledge, the training of the highly skilled labour force, the social development and educational upgrading of societies, the selection and formation of elites and the generation and transmission of ideology. This range of functions constitutes the key tasks of higher education systems, albeit with different emphases depending on the national context, the historical period, the specific sector and indeed the organisation concerned. What is clear though is that nowadays, universities are heavily involved in literally every kind of social and economic activity in our increasingly dynamic societies. At the same time this makes universities rather vulnerable organisations that tend to be loaded with multiple expectations and growing demands about their role and functioning in our knowledge-driven societies.

Recent debates and developments on higher education as a social need will be addressed with a special focus on the relationship between higher education and the world of work.