Journal Article — The University at a Crossroads — by Boaventura de Sousa Santos




Finding the university as a whole at a significant historical and global crossroads, the author formulates a series of twelve “strong questions” about the contemporary university in the context of the European Bologna Process—named after the Bologna Declaration organized by the European Union education ministers in 1999 aimed at reforming higher education in Europe and creating the European Higher Education Area (EHEA). The questions addressed “go to the roots of the historical identity and vocation of the university in order to question… whether the university, as we know it, indeed has a future” (author). The questions aim to determine, for example: whether the university can successfully reinvent itself as a center of knowledge in a globalizing society with many other centers; whether there will be room for “critical, heterodox, non-marketable knowledge,” respectful of cultural diversity, in the university of the future; whether the scenario of a growing gap between “central” and “peripheral” universities can be avoided; whether market imperatives can be relativized as a criterion for successful research and the needs of society—in particular those not reducible to market needs—be taken sufficiently into account; and, whether the university can become the site of the refounding of “a new idea of universalism on a new, intercultural basis.” More than a decade after the beginning of the Bologna Process in Europe, the author observes that these strong questions have received only weak answers to date but he imagines a future scenario in which stronger answers can be provided and the university can “rebuild its humanistic ideal in a new internationalist, solidary and intercultural way” (author).

Recommended Citation

De Sousa Santos, Boaventura. 2012. “The University at a Crossroads.” Pp. 7-16 in Decolonizing the University: Practicing Pluriversity (Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Volume X, Issue 1, 2012.) Belmont, MA: Okcir Press (an imprint of Ahead Publishing House).

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