The Idea of a University and the Increasing Pressures of Utilitarianism: A Critical Reflection on Addis Ababa University

  • Setargew Kenaw

Abstract

What are the aims and objectives of university education? What is, in short, the philosophy of university education? In dealing with this central question, various educators and philosophers have provided us with different formulations. Despite the contending conceptions that emanate from diverse assumptions about what university education ought to be, there is a widespread agreement that there should be certain features that should be there if a university should maintain itself as a university.

This paper tries, first, to establish the conceptual framework on the idea of a university. Drawing on What are the aims and objectives of university education? What is, in short, the philosophy of university education? In dealing with this central question, various educators and philosophers have provided the Newmanesqean analysis of what university education ought to be, and, more specifically, the distinction that the analysis brings to our attention, namely the distinction between “useful” knowledge and knowledge that is sought for its own sake, the paper subsequently argues that the end of university education should primarily be liberal or philosophical as opposed to technical or vocational education whose obvious and ultimate criterion is “usefulness.” The paper then gives us an overview of the history of Addis Ababa University with particular emphasis to the pressures that have affected its missions and aims. As hinted by the very topic, the central thesis of this paper is that Addis Ababa University has increasingly come under the pressures of capitalist consumerism. In order to substantiate this point, it is attempted to employ an analysis that works at three levels: (i) the global capitalist context and the demonstration of the utilitarian pressures on a few Western universities; (ii) Ethiopia's adoption of the principle of the free market economy, the role of international financial agencies, and related developments; and (iii) the in-campus responses to the afore-mentioned influences and the misconceptions behind them.

The paper therefore strongly argues that Addis Ababa University is increasingly falling prey to extremely utilitarian or consumerist demands, which would in turn lead it astray from one of the central educational missions that a university should address, i.e. the cultivation and the disciplining of the mind. In addition to discussing the global and local politico-economic developments that demonstrate the reality of the pressures in question, the paper tries to substantiate its point by drawing on a few but symbolic developments within the University during the past few years.

EJOSSAH Vol.1(1) 2003: 35-61
Published
2004-07-08
Section
Articles

Journal Identifiers


eISSN: 2520-582X
print ISSN: 1810-4487