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 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.