In anticipation of the publication shortly of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the THE has invited Twitter followers to declare succinctly what makes a university great. The responses, which I believe are mainly from younger and mid-career academics, are interesting. Here’s a sample:
• A place about minds, not behinds. Now try + measure that!
• Being called The University of Sheffield, of course ;-)
• A great University is the community of great teachers and scholars.
• A great univ = place that is intellectually risk tolerant
• The students.
• GreatUni=A Uni where professors hav balance between passion for subject, ability to teach it 2 others & facilities to do so.
• A great univ = place that is intellectually risk tolerant.
• 1 that stimulates creativity, tantalizes intellect thus inspiring students to author theculture of their time.
In many ways our ability to discern what constitutes ‘greatness’ in higher education is becoming more and more important. As universities become more vulnerable to funding cuts and bureaucratisation, their ability to persuade the government (and the public) that what they do matters and needs to be protected will become vital. This is not just a responsibility of university managers, but of the whole academic community.
If there is to be a persuasive case, it needs to be less general (and banal) than some of the attempts above. The academy needs to be able to respond better to people’s expectations of higher education, and this means that we must understand those expectations better. A great university is more than a place with great and even tolerant minds: it is a place that does something with these. It is the difference we makes that makes us great.