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ABSTRACT. Both as idea and institution, the university has witnessed a double undermining over the last fifty years or so. Socially, the idea of a university as having its own institutional space has been undermined as the university has been incorporated into the state. Epistemologically, the idea of the university as a space of disinterested reason has been undermined as inquiry comes to be invested with instrumental interests. Such a context makes problematic the task of conceiving the university in the twenty-first century. Understandable temptations are either to pin one’s colors to a passing ideology – such as “the entrepreneurial university” or “the digital university” – or falls back on a pessimism that offers no hope for the university. Accordingly, the possibility of possibilities emerges as an issue. Possible ideas may be not be possible for the university as an institution. Legitimacy has to be found in some rehabilitation of universality. And that rehabilitation calls for imagination, in realizing anew the university in universal categories appropriate to its empirical situation; but this is a continuing task. The university is always before itself, both as idea and as institution. pp. 85–94
JEL codes: H52; H75; I21; I23

Keywords: university; rehabilitation; universality; institution; idea; imagination

How to cite: Barnett, Ronald (2015), “Conceiving the University,” Psychosociological Issues in Human Resource Management 3(2): 85–94.

Received 26 July 2015 • Received in revised form 17 August 2015
Accepted 17 August 2015 • Available online 24 November 2015

RONALD BARNETT
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University of London

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