What is the role of a university in society? In this innovative book, Chris Brink offers the timely reminder that it should have social purpose, as well as achieve academic excellence.
The current obsession with rankings and league tables has altered our idea of higher education. This focus on status has perpetuated inequality and is preventing social mobility.
How can we re-establish universities’ societal purpose? The solution lies with going back to two key questions: not only ‘what are we good at?’, but also ‘what are we good for?’.
Drawing on the ideas of Plato and Aristotle and featuring historical and academic vignettes, this book shows how universities can – and should - respond to societal challenges and promote positive social change.
Professor Chris Brink served as Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle University from 2007 till 2016. Prior to this he was Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Wollongong in Australia, and Head of Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. A distinguished academic, with wide experience of issues of equality and diversity, and a member of numerous boards, including the Russell Group and the National Equality Challenge Unit, Professor Brink is known as a champion of the idea of a civic university.
"This is a profoundly original and inspirational book, written with erudition, wit and uncompromising integrity. It is a joy to read." Nicola Dandridge
Chief Executive, Office for Students
"A mathematician explains what is wrong with ranking universities. One day the leagues tables will be no more. Chris Brink takes us much nearer to that promised day.” Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford
"With deft clarity and deep humanity Prof Brink casts a logician’s baleful eye over the current state of higher education. He demonstrates how misguided attempts to improve accountability have led to the unmeasurable being measured and the valuable being devalued. This is a modern morality tale which deserves the widest readership." Professor Sir Howard Newby, former Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool and former Chief Executive of HEFCE
"Good books about universities are, alas, rare. This helps to fill something of a void. It is full of practical good sense and wisdom, all done with clarity and intellectual rigour." Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris Patten), Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and the last Governor of Hong Kong
“A brutal and honest analysis of the crisis facing universities and the reputation of British and global academia and a stark warning that universities must address their purpose as well as their aspiration” Dianne Nelms, Newcastle University, Fellow of the Royal Television Society & Broadcast Consultant
"This wide-ranging and erudite book manages to combine the ingredients of stories and insights, philosophy and practice, into a rich literary and intellectual dish. Chris Brink has brought his experience and his intellect to bear on a vital question of what universities are for in the modern world." Matt Ridley, author of The Evolution of Everything and The Rational Optimist
"Chris Brink has a very special record of service to higher education and its social relevance. His scholarship and vision speak for themselves. His devastating demolition of the current preoccupation with league tables is brave and timely." Frank Judd, former Labour Minister of State for Foreign Affairs