Van Hasselt Lecture: The Purpose of the University in Democratic Societies

In the contemporary world, universities are often seen as sites of innovation, problem solving, and human capital formation by educating students. Yet throughout history, many philosophers have argued that the first and most important purpose of the university is a different one – a purpose that is related to its important epistemic role in democracies. Do these historic arguments still apply to universities in the contemporary world? In this lecture, Ingrid Robeyns will argue that these arguments have not lost their importance. Moreover, given technological developments and other factors shaping democratic processes, the democratic purpose of universities may well have become even more important than over the last decades. Against this background, what should we think of politicians worldwide who are attacking the universities as epistemic sites? And if we want to protect and foster the democratic purpose of the university, what does this require from the government, businesses and organizations, the university leadership, scholars and scientists, and from its students?

Vice-Rector Rob Mudde will award the Mekel Prize to the most responsible innovation at the TU Delft.

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