Future Prospects for Higher Education: Key Drivers of Sustainability

Date(s) - November 17, 2015
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Woodward (IRC) Building, Room 1

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Distinguished Panel

Jens Zimmermann, Canada Research Chair in Interpretation, Religion and Culture, Trinity Western University

Bruce Hindmarsh, James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology, Regent College

Emily Osborne, PhD Cambridge University, Postdoctoral Fellow in English, UBC

Ron Dart, Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Politics, University of the Fraser Valley


In a recent Globe and Mail article, CNN’s reporter Farheed Zakaria posits the tough question, “Is liberal-arts education more than a nostalgia for a bygone era of higher learning, now out of sync with today’s hyper-competitive skills-based economies?” Such questions are also posed by many powerful influencers today. In a different issue of the Globe, Alan Wildeman, President and vice-chancellor of University of Windsor, adjures us in an article entitled “We ignore liberal arts at our peril” where he argues that the liberal arts is essential for civility, democracy, wise decision-making and competence in the job world. As a multicultural country playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, history of ideas, social behaviors and cultural traditions. Indeed, does higher education encourage the pursuit of important aspects of character development together with academic excellence? Is it innovative, socially relevant and sustainable? Does it prepare students for negotiating an increasingly complex and competitive globalized world? What will inspire and engage their imagination in the pursuit of active citizenship and civil discourse? Post-secondary education has a huge cultural and economic influence in Canada. It shapes the future, while building on a critical appreciation of the past. In its community, UBC Vancouver has 10,000 postgraduate and 41,000 undergraduate students from around the world. They come with high hopes for skill and credential development, and long to contribute to meaningful research and to acquire good future careers. A large percentage hope to make a better world. Education seems essential for both self-awareness and global awareness. At the same time, education is under intense pressure from various forces (intrinsic and extrinsic), currently pulling it in different directions, amidst conflicting public and political expectations. In the early history of universities like Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, Queen’s and McGill, character development was a central priority. It is timely for this panel to reflect upon the purpose and trajectory of the contemporary university, and the goods it is to pursue in the future.


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