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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versión On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versión impresa ISSN 0041-4751


GOOSEN, Danie. What is the university? Reflections on the community-based university. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2016, vol.56, n.4-1, pp.980-997. ISSN 2224-7912.

The article is based on the presupposition that the future of Afrikaans as a language of instruction at tertiary level will largely depend on the Afrikaans-speaking community (and not on the state, as was the case during the past century). At the same time the article proposes that such a university, created by the language community itself, be founded on the community-based idea of the university. The aim of the article is to focus on the meaning and essence of the latter, namely the community-based university. In order to give effect to this rather ambitious aim, the article broadly distinguishes between three different (but in some respects overlapping) concepts of what the university as such implies, namely the modern Von Humboldt university, the postmodern business university, and lastly the community-based university. Like the Von Humboldt university, the community-based university is committed to the idea of Bildung as its telos. What features at the very centre of Bildung is the idea that the educational event is characterised by the search for and insight into the whole of being (and not only specialised knowledge of or expertise in the multiplicity of disciplines). But unlike the Von Humboldt university, Bildung in the context of the community-based university does not aim at the realisation of an autonomous individual existence at the service of the modern territorial state. Its aim is rather to educate students to become fully fledged burghers, i.e. balanced and mature participants not only in public affairs generally speaking, but also in the affairs of the many and respective communities to which they belong. In addition, with respect to the so-called business university in postmodern times, some similarities and dissimilarities with the community-based university are identified. Like the postmodern university, the community-based university is made possible "from the bottom up" rather than from "the top down", as is the case with the modern state-centred university. In this regard the free market plays a determining role at both universities. But unlike the postmodern business university, with its typical focus on the supply and demand of students (read "clients") on the global market, the community-based university does not suspend its dependence on and commitment to local communities, cultures and economies. Even more importantly, while for economic reasons the postmodern university tends to fragment the coherence between the different disciplines (not only between but also within the disciplines), the community-based university maintains a commitment to the modern Von Humboldt idea of Bildung and the latter's aim to cultivate an understanding for the whole of being. In short, while the global university is focussed on the whole of being in terms of its self-portrayal, it is in fact fragmenting being. At the foundation of these events at postmodern universities lies not only the central place awarded to the student as hyper-individual consumer, but also the reduction of knowledge to be nothing but exchangeable information. In response it is argued that the community-based university, drawing on the experience and wisdom of tradition and community, can play an important role in restoring the search for the whole as an indispensable part of an education at a tertiary institution.

Palabras clave : Community-based university; the Von Humboldt university; whole; postmodern university; neo-liberalism; fragmentation; Margaret Thatcher; intermediary institutions.

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