This symposium proposes to discuss whether, and then how, university teaching and learning, research, governance and outreach should be redesigned to promote the ideal of what Yehuda Elkana called “concerned citizenship.” Higher education become very prominent, in some places even acquiring an unprecedent degree of centrality on the public agenda immediately downstream and upstream of the year 2000. With this, the idea of promoting public responsibility and citizenship in and through higher education gained more and more traction. In the meanwhile, the “golden age of higher education has passed”, we are told, with the Great Recession, at least in the North, in terms of continuously increasing enrolment and access; the announced “death of expertise” has further reduced the public’s expectations from, and trust in, higher education’s contributions. Is the ideal of concern citizenship still actual at all? Is it still on any agenda? Elkana provided us with some of the preliminary answers on how to preserve and promote concerned citizenship in universities: make the study of values a cornerstone of education for critical thinking; create an intellectual fusion of theory and practice; emphasize personal and social responsibility; develop ethical reasoning and a critical and reflexive approach to knowledge. He argued that universities should have the ambition to educate their students in a way that enables them to become “responsible, concerned, problem-aware citizens.” As a scholar concerned with the big questions of humanity, he viewed the proximity of academic studies to real-life situations as “an epistemological necessity.” Taking up this challenge would help foster the ability of graduates to ask well-informed questions and pass judgements based on relevant knowledge – which should be multidisciplinary, as in reality science and a purely disciplinary approach to real-life problems can only give partial solutions.
The symposium will consist of four thematic panel discussions on the meanings of the “concerned scholar” concept, today and tomorrow, in the areas of teaching, research, governance and outreach. Each session will include a debate among invited panelists and an open discussion with the participants:
- What curriculum for the interdisciplinary training of “concerned citizens”?
- Training socially responsible researchers. Who are they and what should they do?
- Should university governance be more “concerned”?
- Social responsibility and outreach: training “even more concerned” citizens?