1st Edition

Knowledge and the University Re-claiming Life

By Ronald Barnett, Søren Bengtsen Copyright 2020
    206 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    206 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    For hundreds of years, knowledge has been central in understanding the university. Over recent decades, however, it is the economic value of knowledge that has come to the fore. Now, in a post-truth world, knowledge is also treated with suspicion and has become a vehicle for ideologies. Knowledge and the University combats all these ways of thinking. Its central claim is that knowledge is of value because of its connection with life. Knowledge is of life, from life, in life and for life.

    With an engaging philosophical discussion, and with a consideration of the evolution of higher education institutions, this book:

    • Examines ways in which research, teaching and learning are bound up with life;
    • Looks to breathe new life into the university itself;
    • Widens the idea of the knowledge ecology to embrace the whole world;
    • Suggests new roles for the university towards culture and the public sphere.

    Knowledge and the University is a radical text that looks to engender nothing less than a new spirit of the university. It offers a fascinating read for policy makers, institutional leaders, academics and all interested in the future of universities.

    Part I The university and life; 1 Life in truth and truth in life; 2 The real thing; 3 Re-placing the humanities; 4 Where's the life in academic knowledge?; Part II The spirit of knowledge; 5 More than mere debate; 6 A will to know; 7 Living with darkness; 8 Edifying knowledge; 9 A culture of lively discourse; Part III Cultivating knowledge in the university; 10 Living reason; 11 Widening the knowledge ecology; 12 Reaching out


    Ronald Barnett is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, Institute of Education, University College London, UK.

    Søren S.E. Bengtsen is Associate Professor at the Centre for Teaching Development and Digital Media and Deputy Director of the Centre for Higher Education Futures, Aarhus University, Denmark.

    "Finally a book that gives life back the university. It takes courage to reclaim knowledge as the vital energy of university life. Especially today. By introducing the vocabulary of truthfulness, edification, engagement and imagination, the authors give the university the real and realistic spirit that it needs. This book is of vital importance for everyone who cares for the university, and for the university caring for the world."

    Maarten Simons, Professor of Educational Policy and Theory, KU Leuven, Belgium


    "This is a thoughtful and provocative intervention that seeks to renew our understanding of the place and space of knowledge in the university. Often considered in economic terms, Bengtsen and Barnett contend that universities and the knowledge they produce have a broader value which needs to be considered and re-claimed. Through presenting a novel conceptual model and connecting universities to a philosophy of life, this book promises to stimulate, inspire and foster much debate. I highly recommend this volume."

    David Hornsby, Professor and Associate Vice President (Teaching and Learning), Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada


    "This bold and imaginative book takes the philosophy of higher education, indeed the study of higher education broadly, in a much needed turn – a turn toward life. In their innovative analysis of the contemporary university, Barnett and Bengtsen offer us a new vision for the work and the purpose of academe. Drawing across philosophical traditions that are too rarely connected to higher education, this volume carefully learns from the past while remaining situated clearly in the present-future for imagining a university worthy of further exploit and commitment."

    Ryan Gildersleeve, Professor of Higher Education, University of Denver, USA


    "Universities have long been encouraged to be key players in the "knowledge economy" and to focus on the monetisation of their educational and research activities. Their value has been calibrated often in purely instrumental terms. Knowledge and the University: Re-claiming Life is a profound and original examination of what knowledge means in a supposedly post-truth age for institutions whose very existence is predicated on its possibility. This thought-provoking study encourages us to think about how the university can become a "space of truthfulness" which actively seeks to enhance the lives of all those touched by its action. It is a moving call to understand knowledge's intrinsic value and the university's essential role as its generator, custodian and propagator. Anyone who cares about universities and their future will want to read this book."

    Karen Sanders, Professor of Communication and Politics, Dean of Research of St. Mary’s University, UK

    "In the venerable tradition of Humboldt, Newman, Ortega y Gasset, and Jaspers, ‘Knowledge and the University: Re-claiming Life’ is a book about the idea and the spirit of the university. Barnett and Bengtsen seek to recast the connections between the university, knowledge, and the world in a manner that would ease—perhaps even overcome—the strained relationship between society and university that characterizes the new century. Born from love for the university and deep concern about its present and future, this book infuses new life to an intellectual quest—that of defining the meaning and role of the university—that began in the Enlightenment but had more recently lost currency and relevance to postmodernity and postmodernism, as the authors explain. This is essential, urgent, and inspiring read for all who have made the university their home, and the pursuit knowledge their vocation."

    Andrés Bernasconi, Professor of Education, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile


    "Imaginative, engaging and refreshingly optimistic in tone, Knowledge and the University is a clarion call to anyone concerned about the future of the University to take a new look at what we think is at once important and endangered in higher education in light of the challenges the world is facing, and then get to work at rebuilding an institution that can serve a genuine "knowledge society" to come."

    Sharon Rider, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Uppsala University, Sweden

    "With inviting elegance and rigour, Barnett and Bengtsen provide a refreshing argument that understanding our world, and our life, is nothing but a struggle with truth and truthfulness. At a time of great uncertainty about what constitutes truth, this book is here to remind universities, that knowledge is not a marketplace of safe ideas, but a space of contestation, discomfort, and perennial struggle."

    Nuraan Davids, Professor of Philosophy of Education, Faculty of Education, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

    "At a time when universities are rethinking their identities in what has been termed a "knowledge society", this book is an extremely timely contribution. Barnett and Bengtsen face head-on the place of a twenty-first century university in the world and especially in relation to knowledge and life. They propose that knowledge is of value because of its connection with life which is seen as being everything that is in the world, past, present and future. They state that knowledge is of life, from life, in life and for life. In this book, the university is seen as having the ability and responsibility to reach out into the world to enhance life and to do this with many voices in order to reach multiple audiences and publics. We are reminded through these sentiments of the critical role of public intellectuals - a key element of universities and their ability to bring knowledge, debate, controversies, imaginings and issues to the public in ways that multiple audiences could understand. The authors observe that in attempting to run as businesses obsessed with rankings, competition and money making, universities are at risk of losing the spirit that propels them to engage with life and with knowledge, to instigate conversations, to stimulate internal and external debate and to help society to imagine possibilities and dare to reach into the unknown. In this book the authors provide us with new ways to reimagine the place of the university in the twenty-first century and present a challenge to leaders of universities to ensure that universities are themselves full of life and that they care for the world. The message for university leaders is perhaps best encapsulated in the Introduction to the book where it is claimed that "Reclaiming connections with life through its knowledge activities can provide a new legitimacy for the university". This book contains critical messages for university leaders as well as for academics, and there is an urgency to act on the ideas and challenges raised. The place and legitimacy of the university in the current era is convincingly portrayed and in the words of the authors, "The university has to feel the world is its oyster".

    Lorraine Ling, Emeritus Professor, La Trobe University, Australia