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The role of universities in development, the economy and society

Castells, Manuel

"If we take seriously the notion that we live in a global knowledge economy and in a society based on processing information – as universities primarily are – then the quality, effectiveness and relevance of the university system will be directly related to the ability of people, society and institutions to develop. In the context of a technological revolution and of a revolution in communication, the university becomes a central actor of scientific and technological change, but also of other dimensions: of the capacity to train a labour force adequate to the new conditions of production and management. Universities also become the critical source of the equalisation of chances and democratisation of society by making possible equal opportunities for people. This is not only a contribution to economic growth, it is a contribution to social equality or, at least, lesser inequality. The university’s ability to develop new cultures is an additional factor: that is, to be the source of cultural renewal and cultural innovation linked to the new forms of living we are entering. Finally, the university has also been dramatically affected by technological change itself. As an institution that processes information, its own information and communication technologies are deeply affecting the functioning and the culture of the university, sometimes without the full knowledge of what is happening and without controlling these processes. Yet, in spite of all these challenges, possibilities and opportunities for the university system, in many cases universities continue to be corporatist and bureaucratic, defending their own interests – particularly in terms of the professors – and extremely rigid in their functioning in terms of their administration."

Published by African Minds.
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