Philosophers on the University: Reconsidering Higher Education

AMANDA FULFORD (Editor), Ronald Barnett (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


This book shows the significance of the thinking of philosophers (and other key thinkers) in understanding the university and higher education. Through those explorations, it widens and substantially adds to the emerging philosophy of higher education. It builds on the historical literature on the idea of the university, and provides higher education scholars with highly accessible introductions to the thinking of key philosophers and thinkers, alerting them to a set of literature that otherwise might not be encountered.
Until very recently, most of the debate on higher education – both in the public domain and in the scholarly literature – has been conducted with little regard to the philosophical literature.  This is odd for two reasons.  Firstly, much of the historical literature on the idea of the university – over the past two hundred years – has been written by philosophers and their thinking has largely gone unmined.  Second, and perhaps even more importantly, many of the issues in the higher education debate are either philosophical in their nature, or require reflective thinking, and there lies to hand huge resources in the philosophical literature that can help in working through those issues.  Issues such as what is to count as knowledge (in the university), wisdom, voice, democracy, culture, what it is to ‘be’ a student or academic, academic freedom, communication, work and disciplinarity cry out for the kind of insights that the philosophical literature – very broadly understood – can offer.  This book attempts precisely to do this, to show how the work of key thinkers can help in deepening the higher education debate.

Each chapter focuses on an individual thinker, giving both an insight into the thinker in question and accessibly drawing out something of their thinking and showing its significance in understanding the university and higher education.  The editors provide a full-length introduction that marks out this large territory and prepares the ground for the reader.

The book impressively builds a rich meshwork of careful and thorough thinking around the university and higher education by way of introducing 14 important philosophers on timely subjects such as culture and the university, higher education and democracy, and the role of the university. The volume is a great contribution to the important task of deepening the debate about higher education and the university, through introducing important philosophers in ways that might help the university and higher education work through some of the issues and challenges that it is currently facing. As such, this book is essential reading for anyone wanting to wander and wonder deeper into the core purposes and possibilities of higher education in the good companionship of outstanding thinkers and distinguished academics on these matters. A playground for philosophical thought and adventure.Rikke Toft Nørgård, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark

'This book is an excellent introduction to a wide range of famous thinkers and what they have to say about the university and higher education today. It goes beyond the contemporary preoccupation with metrics, based on managerialism, and takes a much needed philosophical look at what higher education should be, or should aspire to be.'Assoc. Prof. Stephen Loftus, Foundational Medical Studies, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, USA 
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherSpringer, Switzerland
Number of pages213
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-31061-5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2020

Publication series

NameDebating Higher Education: Philosophical Perspectives


  • Philosophers
  • University
  • Higher Education


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