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What Are Universities for?
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What Are Universities for?

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  124 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Across the world, universities are more numerous than they have ever been, yet at the same time there is unprecedented confusion about their purpose and scepticism about their value. What Are Universities For? offers a spirited and compelling argument for completely rethinking the way we see our universities, and why we need them.

Stefan Collini challenges the common claim
Paperback, 226 pages
Published March 1st 2012 by Penguin (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jordan Kirkwood
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really interesting insight from a British Universities veteran, it delves into the past, present and future of British Higher Education and addresses many of the assumptions that have become commonplace in the dialogue on universities. Definitely worth a read if you want to get an insightful overview of the relationship between universities and government, and understand some of the opportunities and challenges facing the sector. By no means an easy read in terms of vocabulary, many a new word ...more
May 02, 2013 marked it as could-not-finish
Someday I'll read this when I can actually concentrate on what it says.
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education, nonfiction
This book doesn't aim to answer its central question. Instead, Collini uses the subject of a university's core function to dispel unhelpful narratives about what an education is worth to the British economy.

It's a very dense read and it can take some time to get used to the heavy academic prose but, when read in the right mindset, it provides an astute discussion of academia, education policy, and methods of funding that is intended to influence interested parties (namely, everyone) to consider
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written by a British academic primarily to address the contemporary debates on higher education in the U.K., this is still a robust critique of how that debate is prosecuted here in the U.S. Definitely worth a read for anyone thinking about how we should think about and support post-secondary educational institutions.
Chris Owen
Nov 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The higher education sector in the UK is in the throes of fundamental change. Collini's book challenges us to re-examine the assumptions and 'taken-for-granteds' behind these reforms. The first part of the book provides a robust defence of the humanities and provides an interesting review of the earlier work by John Henry Newman on the 'idea of a University'. He reminds us of the notion of higher education as a public good, and that as such there is an argument for public funding. In the second ...more
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was pithy, delightful and thought-provoking. In a series of short essays, Collins tries to help us rethink what universities are for, and excoriates a series of recent government reforms in Britain, whose architects appear to have had no idea what a university is at all.

There are of course many books on this subject. Collini's is intentionally lightweight. He does not offer his own detailed definition of the university. He has not conducted interviews, spent hours on archives or analys
Tariq Mahmood
Aug 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: cutting-edge, british
Universities are not corporations and corporations are not universities. Every Pakistan student needs to understand this vital and critical difference. Why because undue and unnatural credence is given to education in the Pakistani culture.

Therefore, longer time spent in any university may prove to be counter intuitive when money has to be made in the real world filled with greedy corporations and even greedier businesses. Be prepared to be outflanked by a result producing technician who may be
Jul 03, 2012 rated it liked it
An insightful and original analysis of the problems British universities today are facing (with a focus on their humanities departments). Collini mercilessly criticises the attempts of the government to tie the public function of universities solely with raising economic competitiveness in a capitalist society, while largely ignoric their intrinsic intellectual worth. Academics are more burdened then ever as they try to act as administrators, PR guys, teachers, and researchers at the same time, ...more
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Strange one this. I enjoyed it, and fundamentally agree with the central tenet that Universities are public goods. As you would expect it is well written, witty and incisive. The arguments are well put- it is difficult to argue with the author's assertion that we should support universities in a similar manner to how society supports museums or even maternity wards. Not everyone will ever visit them or use them, but we all benefit from them indirectly at least.

Its strange because it feels like a
Jul 25, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: essays
Interesting essay, but my experience of attempts in France to mitigate or influence the move to managerial and economic `accountability' mirrors Stephan Collini's when he states on p.116: `Nonetheless, the effect of these arguments and objections on those who make and implement policies for universities has been, as far as I can judge, invisible ... The arguments have not been answered; they have simply been ignored.' Even worse, I get the impression these days that academics are just perceived ...more
Mark Nichols
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm dissatisfied by this one. I'm reminded that it's easier to throw stones than stack them; the author is scathing with critique of political intervention in education, yet short on solutions. Ironically, this in some ways serves as a metaphor for much of what must frustrate the funders of higher education! I may have been seeking too much from the book, though I still wonder about the answer to the question posed by the title.
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Stefan Collini's book is quite an inspiration, although a more appropriate title would be 'what are the humanities for?' Collini is excellent at picking out the absurdities of measuring the number of published articles in humanities research. He insists upon an intrinsic value of the humanities, which has nothing to do with their economic value. A compelling read.
Feb 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
A reprint of Collini's articles and journalism - asks more questions than it answers, but speaks very clearly to a particular constituency. Alas, probably not the constituency that can change anything, for the cynicism and market value view of education is extremely ingrained.
Mar 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Rhetorically often brilliant, this is the propaganda we need if anything of the traditional university is to be saved into the middle of the 21st century. Which it won't be, at least not in Britain. But it's a comfort to read someone stating the losing case so eloquently.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
Doesn't really make a new point, not necessary to write a book - all could have been said in an article/essay
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Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature at Cambridge University. After degrees at Cambridge and Yale, he taught at the University of Sussex before moving to a post in the Faculty of English at Cambridge in 1986. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, a frequent contributor to The London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian, The Nation, and ...more