The Two Cultures of Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century and Their Impact on Academic Freedom

By Jeffrey L. Buller


Like C.P. Snow's two cultures of the humanities and the sciences, a new bimodal view of higher education is becoming increasingly important at the start of the twenty-first century: one that sees the goal of universities as developing "the whole person" and another that sees it as largely or even exclusively in terms of job training. The problem many academics face is that the culture of higher education that regards it as preparation for a career is now widely shared by legislators, members of governing boards, and others who set the budgets or colleges and universities. Because of this divide, there is increased pressure on administrators and professors alike to shift the focus of higher education away from pure research to applied research and to appraise both the teaching and research missions of higher education on the basis of their returns on investment. Moreover, faculty members in the arts, humanities, and social sciences find themselves increasingly working in an environment in which most of the attention and funding is being redirected to the STEM disciplines. This article explores ways to bridge the gap between these two new cultures before the potential damage to academic freedom becomes irreparable.

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