Speech on Role of a University


  • Introduction: historic role of the university
  • Functions of the university: the spread of ideal education: social responsibilities
  • Direct sphere of activin: the indirect sphere of activity
  • Necessary conditions are guaranteed the university
  • Conclusion

In the present set-up of human society, the university occupies a position of unique’ importance, by virtue of the historic functions that have come to devolve on it. Its importance has particularly grown beyond all proportions since the time when the basic criterion of national greatness began to shift from wealth to culture. Since then no other institution has exercised more influence in guiding the present and molding the future of any nation nor has earned it greater honor from abroad. What we find England to-day, nationally and internationally, is largely the contribution of her Oxford and Cambridge. The vast colonial empire of Great Britain has collapsed her naval or industrial supremacy, no longer exists but universities still continue to receive the highest respect from all over the world. It is, therefore, no wonder that the university to-day has become the center of public attention in every country of the world. For this reason, every nation is now carnest to build her universities on an ideal planc, so as to cnsure the proper discharge of its great responsibilities.

What should be the standard of an ideal university? In other words, what functions should a given university be called upon to discharge in order to justify its claim to idealism? The test, though simple in nature, is vet difficult to pass. The first and the only business of the university is to diffuse or assists in the diffusion of learning only that university can be said to have played its part fully which contributes to the spread of ideal education in the country: What is, then, ideal education? It would be too inadequate and abstract to say, as Prof. A.E. Johnson. docs. that “Education is the creation of finer human hunger”. He has obviously its higher purposcs in view. But education is also needed to scrvc lower ends. Can a man, however highly cducated, think of any higher pursuit of life, if his existencom is in question? Hence, to a man of our agc. when the struggle for breast and butter is harder than ever education is of no worth if it does not help him secure his bare existence. That is to say, modern education must combine the opportunities and equipment for satisfying both physical and mental hunger. It is such an education that a modern university must diffuse.

But obviously, the university is not and cannot be an employment exchange bureau to secure means of livelihood to the people. That does not, however, relieve it of its social obligations. If any university retires to the ivory-tower of isolation in disregard of the needs and problems of society and wants to diffuse abstract learning for those few who are ready to learn for learning’s sake, it may do so but society at large will have no truck with it because it does not exist for social utility. Such a university can be called anything but ideal. Hence, it is clear that only that university can be said to play its full part which exists in the society and delicates’ itself to the service to social needs and interests.

The functions of a modern university fall into two broad categories. In its direct sphere, the university has to conduct’s higher cducation and research in all the branches of Arts and Sciences. It is mainly here that talents are to be discovered and given ample scopes for expression. To that end, it must possess a well-equipped library, up-to-date seminars, and laboratories, together with a brilliant staff of teachers consisting of the best in these respective subjects. Of great importance is the method of university instruction. It is the backbone of university cducation. It should, therefore, be so framed and executed as to turn out not products but free and independent human beings who can think. The need of the hour is men and women of balance mind, strong will, broad outlook, and unprejudiced judgment. It is they who can handle the affairs of life efficiently and lead the society to progress. The direct responsibility of producing such persons rests on the university.

In its indirect sphere too, the university, unless it is an entirely residential institution, has to play an important role in organizing the national cducation for creating better avenues of social happiness. It has the essential tasks of formulating educational curricula and syllabuses of study and also of publishing textbooks for the study of college students. The university, again, bears the overall responsibility of guiding and supervising the management and activities of its affiliated colleges. The holding of various examinations is another important task that it has to perform. Even in respect of Secondary and Primary cducation which is outside the usual scope of its responsibility, the university has some contribution to make by way of counseling the authorities concerned in their organization and management. There can, in short, be no sphere of cducation in a country, from the top to the bottom, with which the university is not to remain connected, directly or circuitously.

The proper performance of the university’s role is, however, dependent on the existence of certain conditions. Firstly, it must be free from any kind of financial encumbrances. Its demands must receive priority in any national budget. Secondly, the university must be an autonomous institution, functioning freely and independent of any extraneous control or interference. Thirdly, it is necessary to house the university within the area of some city and not far from the madding crowd. For, students receiving education in the so-called university towns often develop an unhealthy ivory-tower attitude and remain largely unacquainted with the hard realities of life. Thus the real purpose of cducation is defeated. Such isolation also makes higher cducation expensive and inaccessible to the average man of to-day. In conclusion, as we have already said, the university has come to assume the present momentous role vis-a-vis our society by force of the inexorable law of necessity. Any government that aims at progress should recognize this fact and submit to it. It is, therefore, certain that any state attempting to curb its functions or restricted its liberties would only contribute to its own national disaster.

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