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IAU Durban Conference, August 20-25, 2000 11th General Conference: Universities as Gateway to the Future Plenary Panel IIAdnan BadranPresident, Philadelphia University, JordanIntroductionThe University really has always been the centre of knowledge in terms of creation of knowledgethrough research and also through teaching, by disseminating knowledge through teaching and evendisseminating knowledge and applying this knowledge in some universities through out-reach andaccess.Even when we go back in history, although I do not want to go far in history, because of the limitationof time, we find that universities, when they were created, as theological universities, were knowledgecreators. They disseminated theology through teaching and training. Then, with the revolutions wehad, the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution, this brings me to the third wave, theinformation revolution.To the first two revolutions, universities reacted. Some were rigid. They did not react to the industrialand agricultural revolutions. Some were flexible. They did react with what I call communityrelevance; society relevance, industrial relevance, market economy relevance. They changed. But,because many did not change, new universities were created to make the change. So, new venues ofhigher learning were created. I think, if we go back in history to 1865, the Morell Act, which createdthe North AmericanLand Grant Colleges and universities, boosted agriculture and agricultural engineering. They didwonderfully according to those who know the history of agriculture in the state universities. If we turnto the UK, thirty polytechnics were created, because the traditional university did not react quicklyenough, to the market economy.The Third WaveMany science and technological universities were created throughout the world for this reason. Thisbrings me to the Third Wave, the Knowledge Society. It is different from any wave we haveexperienced. It is brain intensive. Human capital is the main and most important element. It is notdependent on natural resources. It is not dependent on capital resources. It is dependent on educationalresources. Brain intensive, and at a high intellectual level, this is really what brings us to theinformation revolution and to information technology.There is no doubt that we are moving into a world of brain intensive technology. Whether we talkabout IT or whether we talk about BT, biotechnology and genetic engineering, this really opens a wayfor the universities to think whether we go traditional, business as usual, or whether we mix the oldwith the new or whether we create a new virtual university, borderless universities (sans frontièrse).We reach out to include everybody, the global. One language, interactive learning, and genuinedistance education, will be the most important theme of those universities. Obviously, we have tothink deeply, particularly at our Conference, how really to cope with this change. I think we shouldlearn from history. If we do not cope with change, probably we will be marginalized. If we cope withthese changes quickly and without really taking note of traditional values, ethics and the preparationfor individual good citizenship, for democracy, human rights and freedom of expression, if we donttake those values and use others, which could be taught through the screen, then we are dumping toomany of the values in our university system.I think we have to follow yesterdays Speakers, who mentioned that the 21st Century would be acentury of spiritual capital. On the campus, Ethics will be the most important thing we have to arm ourstudents with.The ChallengesThis brings me to the challenges we face. Obviously, universities have to deal with life-longeducation, distance education, with no age limitation and no time limitation. This has been reallymentioned yesterday by Professor Dhanajan. It involves the virtual library, online education,
interactive learning and the electronic library and mass education, which could be carried throughvirtual university education. The certificates, the degrees and the assessment, have to really change.Here students are measured on their outputs and on their fitness with the driven economy, for themarket economy, as human resources. Globalization brings a very competitive edge on humanresources. Hence, the outputs of the university will be for global needs, rather than being completelyoriented to community and local needs. Here again is a challenge: how to make a mix where graduatescould be oriented to a knowledge-based society locally and also could be marketable as a humanresources capital, as a human capital to enter the global world of the multinational?Delivery of Services and Loss of DiversityThe delivery obviously and the act of the delivery probably would be the same or probably wouldinvolve different actors. The patterns of learning, pedagogy, curriculum, rules and regulations, whichprevail now in the universities system, tenure, all this we have to rethink. In addition, we have to re-think the cost of education, through online education. This we must do because we are addressing themasses and we are addressing courses of different venues and different dimensions: a course of threeweeks, a course of three months, a course of three years, whether graduate or undergraduate. Thewhole concept of training and education, and we have to face it is a challenge. We have to actaccordingly. Obviously, there are advantages in this. But if we talk about virtual education and onlineeducation, do we lose diversity? Do we lose human identity? Do we lose diversity of cultures, becauseagain we are entering into a screen where online education does not recognize borders? Do we get intoa single language? Language is a mirror image of peoples identity and the culture. Do we lose thisdiversity once again, which is very rich and has been built over many years of cultural evolution?Furthermore, there are problems where the university has to serve God, which should not be orientedtowards a market-driven economy where knowledge become contractual, secret, patented in itsapplication and sold in its innovative technologies. Universities always were free. Free indisseminating knowledge and free in getting that knowledge. Is the free right over for developingcountries to have access to knowledge as we used once to have? Or will we have to pay for thisknowledge which is being contracted to multinationals, where knowledge becomes secret andunavailable to the citizens of the world.Again this is a challenge. There are so many challenges when we talk about globalization and no lessso we when we talk about online education and virtual universities. I think, this is where the role of theuniversity has to provide answers to such questions.