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IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000
                                   11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future
                                                                              Welcoming Speech


Welcoming Speech
by
Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Natal

Introduction.
It is an honour for the University of Natal to co-host this event in collaboration with the South African
Association of University Vice Chancellors (SAUVCA)).
This year's theme "Gateway to the Future" is an appropriate one as we move forward into the new
century and as we seek, as institutions of higher learning, to meet the unique challenges this future
brings.
Globalisation.
The word "globalization" has become commonplace in every corner of the world. It is a word used to
describe the rapid and accelerating worldwide movement not only of technology, goods and capital,
but also the movement of people and ideas. It also speaks of the diminishing importance of national
boundaries and the strengthening of identities that go beyond those rooted in a particular region or
country. It is both an economic and cultural mingling that brings both positive and negative results,
benefiting some while marginalizing others.
Potential Dangers.
Professor Manuel Castells, who visited our University last month, spoke of the potential dangers of
globalization when he warned of the capacity for the global economy to allow the overall system to
link up everything that is valuable according to dominant values and interests, while disconnecting
everything that is not. It is this simultaneous capacity to include and exclude people, territories, and
activities, he said, that characterizes the new global economy as constituted in the information age.
Solutions to these problems are, of course, complex. But, they are problems from which we in South
Africa are unable to distance ourselves, situated as we are at the southern-most region of a continent
which is characterized by an ongoing and often seemingly titanic struggle, the nature of which ranges
from a need to improve the basic living conditions of people, to securing their right to political
freedom.
Resources for Change.
Whatever the positive-negative balance, the fact remains that reality of globalisation prompts us to
rethink aspects of our lives and the institutions we believe in, and to recognise that whoever we are,
and wherever we are, resources for coping with change can come from great distances.
This brings me back to the reason we are all gathered together today. If Manuel Cartels is correct - and
I think he is - a country's ability to move into the Information Age depends of the capacity of the
whole society to be educated, to assimilate, and to process complex information. This, he says, starts
with the education system, from the bottom up, from the primary school to the University.
Benefits.
This analysis of course, places a good deal of responsibility on the shoulders of educators, placing
educators and their institutions in the role of major players in a new World Order. This IAU
conference affords educators from around the world the opportunity to share ideas, expertise and
experience, to reconfigure their identities in a world characterized by flux and where responsibilities to
commercial, industrial and social need make themselves equally felt. In such an environment, where
choices are likely to be difficult, and involve some sort of ethical decision, we are likely to benefit
more from partnership and co-operation than from competition.
Its my hope that this conference, organized as it is, around a series of pertinent questions: "What
values?", "What knowledge?" and "What Leadership?" will go some way towards developing a
common understanding of universities' contribution to our common future.
As we debate these themes 1 would urge you to abandon any complacency that you may have about
universities having as assured place in the future. Just because universities have survived so long does
not, in my view, mean that we should assume they will continue into the future - certainly not in their
present form. When Microsoft obtains degree-awarding status from at least one country I know which
takes their higher education system very seriously, there is a very clear message indeed.
New Responsibilities.
I would also urge you in the next few days to place your deliberations against a backdrop of a growing
trend of what I would call "anti-intellectualism” which seems fashionable in an alarming number of
quarters. This does not bode well for the academic endeavour. It places new kinds of responsibilities
on universities - serious responsibilities with far- reaching and disturbing repercussions if they are
neglected.
On that note, may I close by wishing you well in your deliberations. I am sure we can all look forward
to some interesting interaction.

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Durban opening b. gourley

  • 1. IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000 11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future Welcoming Speech Welcoming Speech by Brenda Gourley, Vice Chancellor and Principal, University of Natal Introduction. It is an honour for the University of Natal to co-host this event in collaboration with the South African Association of University Vice Chancellors (SAUVCA)). This year's theme "Gateway to the Future" is an appropriate one as we move forward into the new century and as we seek, as institutions of higher learning, to meet the unique challenges this future brings. Globalisation. The word "globalization" has become commonplace in every corner of the world. It is a word used to describe the rapid and accelerating worldwide movement not only of technology, goods and capital, but also the movement of people and ideas. It also speaks of the diminishing importance of national boundaries and the strengthening of identities that go beyond those rooted in a particular region or country. It is both an economic and cultural mingling that brings both positive and negative results, benefiting some while marginalizing others. Potential Dangers. Professor Manuel Castells, who visited our University last month, spoke of the potential dangers of globalization when he warned of the capacity for the global economy to allow the overall system to link up everything that is valuable according to dominant values and interests, while disconnecting everything that is not. It is this simultaneous capacity to include and exclude people, territories, and activities, he said, that characterizes the new global economy as constituted in the information age. Solutions to these problems are, of course, complex. But, they are problems from which we in South Africa are unable to distance ourselves, situated as we are at the southern-most region of a continent which is characterized by an ongoing and often seemingly titanic struggle, the nature of which ranges from a need to improve the basic living conditions of people, to securing their right to political freedom. Resources for Change. Whatever the positive-negative balance, the fact remains that reality of globalisation prompts us to rethink aspects of our lives and the institutions we believe in, and to recognise that whoever we are, and wherever we are, resources for coping with change can come from great distances. This brings me back to the reason we are all gathered together today. If Manuel Cartels is correct - and I think he is - a country's ability to move into the Information Age depends of the capacity of the whole society to be educated, to assimilate, and to process complex information. This, he says, starts with the education system, from the bottom up, from the primary school to the University. Benefits. This analysis of course, places a good deal of responsibility on the shoulders of educators, placing educators and their institutions in the role of major players in a new World Order. This IAU conference affords educators from around the world the opportunity to share ideas, expertise and experience, to reconfigure their identities in a world characterized by flux and where responsibilities to commercial, industrial and social need make themselves equally felt. In such an environment, where choices are likely to be difficult, and involve some sort of ethical decision, we are likely to benefit more from partnership and co-operation than from competition. Its my hope that this conference, organized as it is, around a series of pertinent questions: "What values?", "What knowledge?" and "What Leadership?" will go some way towards developing a common understanding of universities' contribution to our common future. As we debate these themes 1 would urge you to abandon any complacency that you may have about universities having as assured place in the future. Just because universities have survived so long does
  • 2. not, in my view, mean that we should assume they will continue into the future - certainly not in their present form. When Microsoft obtains degree-awarding status from at least one country I know which takes their higher education system very seriously, there is a very clear message indeed. New Responsibilities. I would also urge you in the next few days to place your deliberations against a backdrop of a growing trend of what I would call "anti-intellectualism” which seems fashionable in an alarming number of quarters. This does not bode well for the academic endeavour. It places new kinds of responsibilities on universities - serious responsibilities with far- reaching and disturbing repercussions if they are neglected. On that note, may I close by wishing you well in your deliberations. I am sure we can all look forward to some interesting interaction.