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Tuesday, October 6, 1998 Published at 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK


Education

Universities 'must serve business'

Jospin: "Embrace the market but don't be swallowed"

The French Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, has told a global conference on higher education that universities must guard against being ivory towers, but must not become dominated by business considerations.

"I agree that higher education must adapt to the marketplace, but I reject the mercantile concept that it should be shaped by the marketplace," Mr Jospin told the opening session of the World Conference on Higher Education.

The conference, which is sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, brings together some 2,000 people including government policy makers, teachers, students and business leaders. There are 28 countries taking part.

The participants hope to produce a declaration and framework for priority action for higher education in the 21st Century.

The draft declaration says: "The traditional missions of higher education institutions (to educate, to undertake research and to provide services to the community) are still valid, but we affirm that its main mission nowadays is to educate citizens, providing a permanent space for higher learning.

Accountability

"Moreover, higher education has acquired an unprecedented role in present-day society, as a vital component of cultural, social, economic and political development, and as a pillar of endogenous capacity-building, democracy and peace."

It says institutions "...should enjoy full academic freedom and preserve their autonomy, while being fully responsible and accountable towards society."

Debate will be focused on four major themes : pertinence, quality, management and financing, and international co-operation.

Mr Jospin said the academic community must both remain in close contact with the economic world and "instruct democracy, train citizens and teach individuals how to blossom".

"Whenever the university has been transformed into an ivory tower, it has failed in its mission," he said. "This lesson must not be forgotten.

"Academic freedom and institutional autonomy are inseparable as far as their responsibility to society is concerned."





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