Writing, Sunset, Italy.

The idea of the university and the roles assigned to universities in the 21st Century will be the subject of a lecture series beginning in Cambridge this week.

It takes place as universities are facing a period of huge change, of turbulence and uncertainty; they find themselves at the heart of economic and social policy and referred to as ‘agents for change’.

Professor Stefan Collini, will challenge some of the different, and incompatible roles that are assigned to universities, in the opening lecture this Tuesday (11 October).

Other speakers in the series will include: Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, Professor Martin Rees and Professor Onora O'Neill who will be talking about what a university is or should be.

The inaugural talk, entitled ‘The Very Idea of the University’, will propose a vocabulary and a perspective, which will enable us to discuss the role of such institutions in more fruitful terms than the clichés about ‘contributing to economic growth’, which currently dominate public debate on the topic.

The free, public lecture will be held at 5:00pm on Tuesday, 11th October, at the Lady Mitchell Hall on the University’s Sidgwick site.

Stefan Collini is Professor of Intellectual History and English Literature, and a Fellow of the British Academy. His research focuses on the relation between literature and intellectual history from the early 20th century to the present. His current research focusses on the cultural role of, and the historical assumptions expressed in, literary criticism in Britain from c.1920 to c.1970.

Professor Simon Schaffer, from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, will give the final lecture in a series of six lectures.

His lecture will juxtapose the severe crisis in English universities, a crisis entirely imposed upon them by the current government, with previous histories of university relations with state and enterprise.

Further lectures in the series are:

Professor Onora O'Neill: University and Diversity

Tuesday, 18 Oct 2011

Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz: The Idea of the University

Tuesday, 25 Oct 2011

Professor Martin Rees: The Idea of the University

Tuesday, 8 Nov 2011

Professor Simon Schaffer: The Life and Death of Universities

Tuesday, 29 Nov 2011

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