Higher education and ethical imagination
SourceThinking About Higher Education
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The advent of the new millennium found university discourse in a peculiar, perhaps unprecedented position: A plurality of intersecting influences induced academics to see the time as important 'for higher education institutions critically to reflect on why they exist' (Gibbs 2001, p. 86). What is unprecedented is not quite the exhortation 'critically to reflect' but rather the object of such a critical reflection, that is, the existence, the very being of higher education. This ontological challenge was prepared by shifts in extra-mural social priorities and realities and presaged by J.-F. Lyotard's (1984) The Postmodern Condition in mid-eighties. The cataclysmic impact of those shifts had, as early as mid-nineties, been captured by the bold ontological metaphor of the university being and dwelling in ruins (Readings 1995). The global character of the impact had been described from a comparative-educational point of view by Cowen (1996) as the coming into being of the 'attenuated university' (p. 256). An all-embracing attenuation, financial, pedagogical, qualitative, and so on, has made 'the university's existence' much less dependent on political support and protection (p. 257) and much more susceptible to the vagaries of the global market. © Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014. All rights are reserved.