‘Promising Spaces’: Universities’ Critical-Moral Mission and Educative Function


Basil Bernstein
capabilities approach
university teaching
utopian studies

How to Cite

McLean, M. (2015). ‘Promising Spaces’: Universities’ Critical-Moral Mission and Educative Function. Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning (CriSTaL), 3(2). Retrieved from https://cristal.ac.za/index.php/cristal/article/view/52


Attention has been drawn to a hollowing out of universities' purposes to serve economic interests only. This dissatisfaction has provoked thinking about how to reclaim a critical moral role for universties in society. Inspired by contemporary utopian studies the paper brings together traditional ideas about how transmitting university knowledge connects to universities' critical-moral functions; Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's capabilities approach adapted for education; and Bernstein's theories about knowledge distribution. Focusing on the educative function, the aim is to develop a theoretically informed and practical vision of a university education, which is both personally transformative and produces critical citizens and workers. Research evidence from two projects on university education reveals 'promising spaces' (Cooper, 2014). I conclude that there is reason to believe that the transmission and acquisition of knowledge and understanding in specific fields is key to preserving and recreating a critical-moral mission for universities wherever they are in the world, even though current conditions are inclement and unequal.


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