Corporations are founded on the principles of profitability and return on investment. Universities, on the other hand, are universally expected to pursue the vision of common good.
Professor C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), Sonipat.
Universities are unique social organisations. They are not corporations, nor are they think tanks, research organisations, NGOs, media organisations, government agencies or civil society organisations. Universities perform roles that may reflect some intentions and goals of these other entities, but they are sui generis and uniquely situated in the larger context of the society.
In the celebrated work, The Idea of a University, John Henry Newman observed, “…If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society… It is the education which gives [them] a clear, conscious view of their own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them…”
One of the greatest challenges that universities around the world face today is in relation to their governance. Indian universities are no exception. University governance has become complex due to the multifaceted nature of the organisation and the fact that there are social expectations from different stakeholders — faculty, staff, students, parents, accrediting bodies, government departments, regulatory agencies, international partners, and donors. It is in this context that we need to recognise the role of universities in society and how to govern them in a manner that will fulfil these expectations from a diversified set of stakeholders.
While corporations have historically played a role in creating wealth and contributing to the economic and social development of a nation, they remain focussed largely on adding value to their shareholders. The social expectations from a corporation are also limited to that objective. However, there are new forms of challenges to this paradigm in which corporations are also reimagining their wider role in the society. The Global Compact and the UN’s vision for implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourage businesses to examine their larger role in society.
Published in: The Indian Express
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