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Text 3B. Functions of the Universities

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Not every student can hope to become a Galileo; but to be a scientist is not to know what Galileo knew and more, it is to be able to understand, within the limits of one's capacity, how men like Galileo think.

What students will need above all is intellectual skills. They must be trained to think. We teach the humanities because, in these studies, we introduce our pupils to the various ways, good and bad, in which men have thought about the social, moral, political, intellectual, and aesthetic problems of human life, and again, it is not the conclusions that the great thinkers arrived at that matter; it is the ways in which they arrived at them.

The aim, then, is clear. It is not to teach literature, history, or philosophy, but to teach those skills that are required for living. But it is no accident that literature, history, and philosophy have always been the main ingredients of education in the humanities. For these subjects include the main ways in which (apart from science) the human mind has manifested itself; it is in these fields that creative imagination, practical wisdom, logical thought, and their opposites have been most obviously and powerfully displayed.

The functions of universities are many. The pursuit of knowledge is an end in itself. As centres of learning the universities have to preserve and interpret the understanding and culture of the past, advance knowledge in the present, and create an intellectual springboard for the future.

Within the broad system of higher education the universities also have special teaching functions. Their basic purpose is to give a first-class education in theories and principles to enable their students to reach a high standard of creativeness, criticism and flexibility. Certainly, they do have to teach how to acquire, increase and employ knowledge. The essential emphasis in university education is on the cultivation of the minds of those, with whom lies the heaviest responsibility for creating the future.

Universities do train for the professions and teach special skills. They turn out doctors, engineers and lawyers, chemists, physicists and economists. But the majority of their graduates are not trained for specific jobs. Even in cases such as those cited, the education is not narrowly vocational. Degree students are educated in principles as well as practice so that, as knowledge grows and techniques change, they can adapt themselves and keep up-to-date and efficient.

It might possibly be argued, then, that it does not matter what universities teach − physics or geography, sociology or English − so long as they provide intellectual training. This, of course, would be unrealistic; for one thing, people have different interests. Different subjects also require different types of mind and produce different mental skills. The nation also needs certain numbers of dentists and architects, lawyers and engineers. It is not reasonable for universities to teach anything and everything; there must be some consideration for national needs. Universities must certainly educate people in a variety of subject areas in order to meet the future needs of the nation. The main duty of the universities is to produce well-educated people who can construct the future and adapt to it.

7. Write an essay (300−350 words) about the problems of higher education in our country.




1. What do you know about the systems of higher education in Great Britain and the USA?

2. What famous British or American universities do you know?

3. Are there any students from Russia in Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard universities?

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