For Whom Do Colleges Exist?

Seth Roberts poses a fantastic question:

I had never heard it put so clearly. We can ask if governments exist: 1. To improve the lives of the governed. 2. To employ the governors. 3. To help other governments. Similarly, we can ask if colleges exist: 1. To teach the students. 2. To employ the teachers. 3. To help businesses who will eventually employ the students (the signalling function of college).

Suppose we believe that the main function of colleges is to teach the students. How, then, should we improve colleges? By giving mini-grants to teachers (as is done at UC Berkeley, where I teach)? By giving awards to the best teachers (as is done at UC Berkeley)? Or by doing something quite different?

Reminds me of the provocative book What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated?.

20 Responses to For Whom Do Colleges Exist?

  1. bigfoot says:

    Go google some essay about the “multiversity.” I’ve done a lot of reading about why colleges exist.

  2. Rockwell says:

    The answer to both questions is clearly #2 as they currently exist.

  3. Jason says:

    During a meeting with PR professionals, they all stressed the importance of internships… to the point where it almost seemed that they were implying that regular classroom learning is subpar.

    Liberal arts has been nothing but a pain in the ass for me — perhaps others feel differently?

    Oh yeah, and dorm living blows.

  4. Bekka says:

    If you haven’t already seen/heard it, Ken Robinson did a great speech on creativity and education.

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