Introduction: Reflections on higher education and the public good

Leibowitz, Brenda (2012)

CITATION: Leibowitz, B. 2012. Introduction: Reflections on higher education and the public good, in B. Leibowitz (ed.). Higher Education for the Public Good: Views from the South. Stellenbosch: AFRICAN SUN MeDIA. xvii-xxvii. doi:10.18820/9781928357056/00.

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There is always a potential contribution that higher education can make to the public good. In the twenty-first century specific concerns that require our attention are sustainability and global warming, human mobility and migration and peculiarly contemporary diseases such as AIDS. These can be seen as contemporary manifestations of protean and oft-recurring social and natural ills such as war and conflict, food insecurity and religious and ideological rivalries – phenomena to which higher education applies its collective mind and know-how. The greater the technological advances we make, for example in health provision and communications technology, the greater the frustration that we cannot do more to make the world a better place. Despite the enormous potential of higher education as an institution to contribute to the public good, it does not deliver on this potential, as Saleem Badat, the vice chancellor of Rhodes University, observes: Higher education holds the promise of contributing to social justice, development and democratic citizenship. Yet, this promise often remains unrealised and universities, instead, frequently continue to be a powerful mechanism of social exclusion and injustice. (2010:6).

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