Past Program

Feb 13 - Feb 17, 2002

The Meanings of Autonomy: University Governance Reconsidered


It was the goal of this symposium to unravel some layers and underlying assumptions about the concept of academic autonomy as a guiding principle for the way in which higher education institutions pursue their purposes and objectives. While the notion of autonomy seems to receive almost universal approval within the academic community worldwide, there is much less agreement when it comes to specifying the rights and responsibilities of the various actors at the level of the individual university. The same is true for the “external” relationship between public authorities (the government) and the university. More recently, the term “governance” has become a catchword to denote a trend toward an enhanced degree of institutional self-regulation and the minimizing of “state control,” a trend which is more consonant with a broader understanding of autonomy, taking into account the increasing emphasis on accountability, stakeholders, public interest, etc.


For the year 2002, the Universities Project will be featuring a different focus issue at each of its four symposia. These issues were chosen because they have consistently been the subject of extensive discussion during the Project’s first five years of programming. While the governance theme will serve as the main focus of the symposium, the five core themes of the Universities Project also helped frame the discussions:


1) University administration and finance;
2) Academic structure within the university;
3) Meeting the needs of students, and the role of students in Institutional affairs;
4) Technology in higher education;
5) The university and civil society.


The symposium featured plenary presentations followed by discussion as well as conversations in smaller working group format. In this way, we hope to maximize the opportunities for meaningful discussion afforded by both large and small formats.