What is Higher Education?


The philosopher John Stuart Mill famously said that the role of the university is not to make people into skilled lawyers, doctors or engineers. Rather, it is to make people into ‘capable and cultivated human beings’ who are able to make themselves into doctors or lawyers (or artists, designers or architects!). This means that the role of higher education is to enable people to develop their own thinking, learning, and approach to knowledge.

A fundamental role of higher education institutions is research: for more see our page on research and the scholarly community.

Your higher education at GSA will involve independent learning, in which you have the freedom and responsibility of deciding on your own learning goals and priorities, and managing your own time and working environment.

Another aspect of higher education is the emphasis on critical thinking. According to the educationalist Ron Barnett:

A genuine higher education puts students on the spot. It does not let them evade themselves. It not merely encourages the student to develop her own point of view, but requires the student to state her reasons for her point of view.[…] in the process, [the student] takes on her own voice. […]

A higher education, then, that is worthy of the name will not allow the student into her comfort zone […] The student is forever being challenged.

Ron Barnett. A Will to Learn: Being a Student in an Age of Uncertainty (Maidenhead, Open University Press, 2007), p.54

Next page: research and the scholarly community.


Image: McAteer at GSA Flickr