The Princeton-Fung Global Forum is a series of annual meetings of the world's foremost thinkers to discuss major issues confronting the planet. With a generous gift from William Fung, group chairman of Li & Fung, the Princeton-Fung Global Forum will provide a setting for colleagues from distinct backgrounds to cross national and regional boundaries, and to share views from diverse disciplinary and professional perspectives.
The Future of Higher Education, April 9-11, 2014
A partnership event between Princeton University and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme
Higher education is at a crossroads. To some, this is a crisis. Others describe it as the growing pains of one of the biggest and most important industries in the world. Once defined as sanctuaries outside the fabric of society, universities face the challenges of a new age—multicultural societies and information-driven economies in which the circulation of knowledge cuts across boundaries and institutions. This has pushed universities to grapple with pressures of increasing access and diversity while maintaining or enhancing excellence. They are meant to reflect societies—be open, be diverse, be global—and yet be autonomous from them.
In 1900, roughly 500,000 students were enrolled in universities worldwide. Nowadays, over 110 million study in the precincts of academe; developing countries now have higher enrollment rates than European institutions had a few decades ago. Surging numbers have eclipsed precepts that universities should be bounded, autonomous communities. New social missions, the changing funding landscape, greater geographic mobility, and emerging Internet capabilities have challenged the bricks and mortar of higher education. The stress is evident in the struggle to balance providing public goods and the commitment to private achievement, or the tension between useful knowledge and free inquiry. The challenges of globalization and social equity have, if anything, magnified the contradictions.
All change presents opportunities. The medieval sanctuary and the walls of its citadels have been coming down for a long time, giving way to national debates and practices in the twentieth century. Global flows and connections have made these challenges shared ones.
This forum asks university leaders, opinion shapers, and policy makers from around the world to reflect on the fate of universities in this interdependent yet rivalrous world. When it comes to public goods like the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the peace and security we need, citizens increasingly ask their leaders to deliberate across national and institutional divides. We invite participants to consider how the same might apply to knowledge, to advance the conversation about what norms, practices, and policies might enhance the opportunities for students and scholars across the globe.