Being a University

Paul Gibbs (Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University, Nicosia, Cyprus)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 4 October 2011



Gibbs, P. (2011), "Being a University", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 1 No. 2, pp. 189-190.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

A new book from Ron Barnett on universities signals something important is about to be said. In his new book he does not disappoint. It is a rich discussion on the state of and the forms of higher education and its institutions. Being a University both charts this conceptual development and examines the future possibilities and this journey is signalled from the ontologically themed title. It offers many insights to savour and has engaged the reviewer to reconsider the notion of a workplace university and knowledge within and outside it. There is much more which is addressed here. I was particularly drawn to chapters on the scientific university where Ron provides a very interesting profiling of the forms of knowledge‐based universities and on the therapeutic university. These are my standout chapters yet the depths and breadth of the work will surely provide interest to all its readers.

Barnett himself seems to settle upon the ecological as the most effective for our futures and introduces it in grand fashion – “the ecological university is a university whose time has come”. I do share Barnett's somewhat idealized (and idealism is, in my view a good thing) notion of a sustainable university springing from the Heideggerian notion of value in ecological connections to a notion of wise inquiry which chimes with the edifying inquiry made explicitly by Rorty and the neo‐pragmatic conversationalists.

This indeed is one of the attractions of the book. In true Barnett style the book does not leave you alone, it lives in your reflections, in your thinking about the university and what it is and might be. This is a thought‐changing book and one which has led me to think again of what higher education and the workplace might be. Read it and then talk to others about it. I bet the conversation will be worthwhile as is the book.

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