Higher education is a noble and longstanding enterprise. And yet, curiously, it has not been a particularly self-reflective one. Especially in times of economic or political difficulty, the academic community has been more ready to analyse and campaign about what is being done to it than what it does to itself and to its most important members—its students. All too often we can focus on issues like funding, economic returns on investment, relative institutional prestige and the like, and ignore what tutors and researchers working directly with students frequently hear in interviews: “it changed my life”. This seminar is based on my new book, The Question of Conscience: higher education and personal responsibility (London, Institute of Education Press, 2014). In it I examine several distinct claims about what higher education does to and for students: in existential terms (how students come to be); in epistemological terms (how they think and appraise information); in behavioural terms (how they learn to conduct themselves); and in positional terms (both through competition and collaboration).
Prof. Sir David Watson
Principal, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford