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Do Universities Have a Future: The Radicalisation of Yehuda Elkana

The CEU Campus
Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

About the event:

The text for this discussion is Yehuda Elkana and Hannes Klöpper, The University in the Twenty-first Century: Teaching the New Enlightenment in the Digital Age (Central European Press, 2016). 

The central thesis of this book is that the nature of knowledge has been fundamentally transformed in ways that make it imperative for universities to undergo radical changes. Elkana (former President and Rector of CEU) and Klöpper (Co-founder of iversity) argue that the Western Enlightenment cluster of values that emerged in the late 17th and 18th centuries assumed that knowledge was rational and all-embracing, that it evolved in orderly, linear and predictable ways and that it could be measured and was context-free and thus was applicable any where at any time. These values were the basis of the widely-accepted notion of a scientific revolution that helped the West achieve remarkable economic and technological success well into the 20th century. Universities were important beneficiaries and contributors to this success, producing scientific research, academic disciplines and the development of a professoriate that claimed supremacy in the ongoing search for truth.

This cluster of values has now exhausted itself and its collapse threatens the very existence of universities. Today’s world is uncertain, messy, unpredictable, non-linear, context-dependent and dangerous. Traditional dichotomies between theoretical/basic research and technical/applied research, between professional education and liberal/academic education have to be replaced by overlapping and shared engagements in which the goals are to find resolutions to shared intellectual, social, economic, technological and political problems. If universities do not recognize this and then dramatically alter what they are currently doing, they will either disappear or become insignificant certificate givers competing with alternative certificates that are likely to have much more value.

But what does radically altering universities mean? The discussion will pursue this question by looking at mission, curriculum and teaching, the iconic position of research and the use of technology in learning.

About the speaker:

Marvin Lazerson is professor of higher education policy in the School of Public Policy, CEU and professor emeritus, University of Pennsylvania.  Educated at Columbia University and Harvard University, where he received a PhD in history, he has published widely in the areas of educational history, higher education, and social policy. A member of the National Academy of Education (U.S.), before coming to CEU he taught at Harvard University, Stanford University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania, where he also served as dean of the Graduate School of Education and the university's interim provost. In 2009 he received the CEU President’s award for outstanding service. He chairs the European Teacher of Year Award committee, the International Advisory Board of the Yehuda Elkana Center for Higher Education and serves on the editorial board of CEU Press. His books have been published by Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Chicago and CEU presses.  He edited The University in the Twenty-first Century.


Éva Fodor is associate professor in the Department of Gender Studies and Pro-Rector for Social Sciences and Humanities at CEU.  She has a PhD in Sociology  from the University of California in Los Angeles and works in the field of comparative social inequalities.  She is interested in how and why gender differences in the labor market and elsewhere are reshaped, renegotiated and reproduced in different societies.  Her book, Working Difference:  Women’s Working Lives in Hungary and Austria, 1945-1995 Duke University Press, 2003) compares the organizing principles and everyday practices of state socialist and capitalist gender regimes in Hungary and Austria between the late 1940s and 1990s.   Other research projects examine the relationship between gender differences in poverty and the ways in which EU countries are integrated into the global capitalist economy; the foster care system in Hungary and the ways in which foster parents conceptualize work as they are raising children and negotiating their relationship with state authorities and birth parents; and the gendered construction of the ideal work in the finance sector and the experience of the motherhood penalty among professional and working class women.

György Gergely is Professor in the Department of Cognitive Sciences and co-director of the Cognitive Development Center at CEU. He did his graduate studies in psychology at University College London and Columbia University, where he received his PhD in experimental psycholinguistics. He also earned a second PhD in Clinical Child Psychology from the HIETE University, Budapest. His main research interests are: Social and cognitive development and cultural learning in infancy and early childhood, action understanding, theory of mind, and developmental psychopathology. He has published books and papers in three broad areas of research and theory: a) cognitive science, b) cognitive and socio-emotional development, and c) clinical and psychoanalytic developmental theory, and developmental psychopathology.

 RSVP to                                               The lecture will be followed by a reception.