2. The role of universities in modern society

The traditional functions of universities are teaching and research. In their teaching acitivities, universities provide the professional training for high-level jobs, as well as the education necessary for the development of the personality. University research increased the body of theoretical knowledge as well as its application to practical problems.

The traditional university restricted itself mainly to a close circle of professors and students from the upper strata of society and lived in relative isolation, the proverbial ,,ivory tower". It produced the elite of the nation, and society — so to speak — had to adopt to the elite. Research was the privilege of the professors, determined to a large extent by personal interests and their contacts among each other.

We all know of the brilliant performance of this traditional university which laid down the basis for the progress of mankind. But too much concerned with itself, this university lost contact with society until it was completely isolated and did not understand the issues of its surroundings. This, however, meant a reduction in performance: the ultimate yardstick for measuring the success of a university is the improvement in the lives of the people it serves. The full benefit from a university can be obtained only if the university and society are organically linked together. Raised in another way, the needs of society have to be at the center of a university's acitivities, and a flexible adjustment to changing needs is necessary but lacking — more or less — all over the world.

The current universities were developed in a bygone era to satisfy the needs of that time. In industrial countries, the today's main issue is to open up the elite university to the masses of young people and to adjust to today's democratic, pluralistic society, and at the same maintain the standard of teaching and level of research. In developing countries universities have been built more or less according to Western models and, sometimes, even as branches of old European institutions. However, the subjects and methods of science correspond to the society in which they were generated: American and European universities meet the interests of current or past American and European industrial societies. Research projects and methods are centered around Western problems, needs, and conditions. As a consequence, universities all over the world face the same transition, from being universities for only a few, to universities for many. But, it must not be overlooked that the universities in developing countries face additional responsibilities.