What are Universities for?


What are universities really for? Well, the main thing is to teach people how to make a living. Educating the young to be engineers, biochemists or economists. But there is another, stranger, bigger ambition, lurking away there somewhere in the background. And it sometimes comes out during Commencement addresses, or at the lyrical moments of graduation ceremonies. And that’s the idea, that universities might teach us how to live. That is, that these might be places to go and study in order to work out what really matters Who we are, where our societies should be headed, and how we can be happier and more fulfilled Not coincidentally, a great many universities were founded in the mid 19th century. At exactly the time when belief in religion was undergoing a severe, and in the eyes of many, alarming decline. At that time, a lot of questions were asked about where people were going to go and find meaning, consolation, wisdom and a sense of community All the things they once found in a church. And to certain educationalists there was one answer above all others. What people had once found in churches, they would now be able to discover in things like the dialogues of Plato, the plays of Shakespeare, the novels of Jane Austen, The paintings of Botticelli or Titian. In other words, in a secularizing age, culture would replace scripture. That’s a beautiful, moving idea. And it’s been responsible, for the construction of so many universities, as well as museums, concert halls and libraries. But there is a problem. Picture up at any actual university, more or less anywhere in the world, and start asking big questions, like, where should I go with my life? Where is meaning to be found? How can we change things in this troubled world? And the stunned teaching staff will either call for the police or an insane asylum. It’s just not what you’re allowed to ask. The really big questions, and inner dramas that people used to take to religion seem strangely out of place in the average university setting. Where the mood is far cooler, more abstract and oddly removed from anything too practical or urgent. Big questions that many students in the humanities have, like how can I learn about relationships? What should I do with my life? How can I reconcile my demand for money with my requirement for meaning? How does power work out there in the world? Such questions aren’t necessarily very well addressed or answered. Currently, universities have departments named after big academic disciplines, like history, or literature, or philosophy. But such titles really just reflect pretty arcane priorities rather than accurately picking up on issues that actually trouble people in their lives. In the ideal university of the future, that original dream, that culture could replace scripture, would be taking so seriously that departments would be reorganized to reflect the actual prioritiesof our lives. So, for example, there might be a department for relationships, and another for death. A center for anxiety and an academy for career self-knowledge. You wouldn’t study 18th century history or the picaresque novel. You’d study how to be less anxious, or how to be more compassionate. Complaining about how many universities are today isn’t a way of giving up on them, it’s an attempt to get them to live up to their original promise, which is, in a busy world, where most of us are just scrabbling around full-time trying to make a living, to act as centers which can generate those ideas that we’ll truly help us to live and to die well.

100 thoughts on “What are Universities for?”

  1. Let's be honest. Universities are places for privileged people to connect with other privileged people who can open doors for them. It's all about networking.

  2. I obtained a Biochemistry BSc from a university consistently ranked among the top 15 in the world. I learned absolutely nothing that had any apparent relevance to economic productivity… and have since forgotten the innumerable facts I memorised simply because they are irrelevant to all subsequent endeavours (tho I do work in a related industry).

    You'll only learn "how to live" on something like a philosophy course and that's if you're very lucky… though actually just living, while being open to new ideas (which are NOT exclusively found or generated within universities) is a vastly less resource-intensive means of achieving the same.

  3. The whole education system is first and foremost- To make money.
    They produce workers for specific jobs, and along the way, gain a shit ton of money form people picking the wrong occupation, and needing to start all over, and those that just didn't make it, and try again.

    Don't try to insert any meanings to place that is managed by the demands of jobs with the need of profit of the institution.

  4. These are things we must be tought from the age we are at school, even preschool if possible. I have studied on humanities and although these subjects are unfortunatelly not a big part of the classes, they are being discussed. Sure, it is necesary to study them deeper, not only theoreticaly, but practicaly as well. But, let me ask, arent they doing such things in Psychology Universities?

  5. Or from learning STEM studying so we can continue to farther are technology that has made human life easier…. Just a thought

  6. this is all in my diary it sounds like i actually have a friend talking with me. why do these videos not have more views!

  7. I have been teaching in higher ed for over 20 years now, but the last 5 years alone have made it clear that much reform is needed. The movement to re-organize the curriculum of higher education around problem-solving real world and real life issues or to emphasize the Four C's (communication, collaberation, creativity, and critical thinking) is very very slow going for many reasons, but I generally agree with TSoL's assessment of university education offered here. I would add some less personal or subjective departmental titles or issues to focus on however; such as: What to do about income inequality? Social polarization? Technological change? Corporate influence on government? Labor influence on industry? Global warming?

  8. People say that universities don't teach you anything, yet they still go there and pay immense amounts of money for it. And they complain that after graduating from university they can't find a job. Wouldn't it be better not to go to university if you don't like it? According to your statement, you won't get a job anyway. So leave university to people who actually like it and everyone will be happy.

  9. On the other hand though, has the internet not taken this role? This is a place where you can find a lot of answers to these things, just look at this channel and others like it! Sometimes when big questions such as relationships and death are discussed, the answer is usually different for each individual. So to go to a place, where a lot people gather to express themselves, might give this sense of "center of knowledge". Unfiltered knowledge though !

  10. What are universities for? The answer to this question has become entangled more and more with the daily concerns of the everyman. While the answer, in fact, has nothing to do with solving the problems of a social individual who is suppose to follow an ordinary course of life–that is not to say that academics do not lead ordinary lives.
    The university is an establishment that is there for people who "do not want to replace religion with culture as a substitute in the search of meaning for life," but for those who want to have a more refined understanding of answers brought to important questions and further those answers by hard-work and critical endeavor. A university is a place that aims to educate and furnish gifted and/or high-achieving and/or hard-working individuals who want to contribute to any of those disciplines with "big names" like mathematics, philosophy, and literature, for reasons of their own (among which I have heard "to cope with oppression" by understanding its dynamics, to cope with "boredom" by stimulating myself intellectually, to pursue human intellect in the course of history in its varieties and excellences of expression on any given subject, etc.).
    It is has become a common misconception after the 20th century that a university is a place where you attend to get a degree to qualify for a profession of any sort. It could not have been further from the reality. Universities are not vocational high-schools, nor are they suppose to provide individuals with guaranteed success or prosperous futures.

  11. Here in Chile it's really a great problem. I don't know for sure how this thing work in other countries, but here goes like these. University was ONLY for the richer class of our society, and it's has been like that since the foundation of the republic. After the 17 years of dictatorship (1973-1990) the poor people began to do everything they can do to get their childrens into University, because you got no recognition as a citizen here if you are not "professional" (for example, if you say to the police that you are a professional they surely let you go after bothering you for smoking marihuana). The problem was that, no matter how hard the majority of the population work for get their sons in University, there was no way of paying it. So the sons began to take loans from banks, to pay the career. The result was that generation get their titles by getting indebted for 20 or 30 years paying the loan. A career here cost like 4.000 – 5.000 USD a year, and has a duration like 4 or 5 years. Since 2006 and specially 2011 a huge movement from the students began to paralyzing the country to stop this situation and in some kind of way it worked. The last year a law was approved giving the 50% of the poorest social levels the possibility of studying their whole career for free whit some academic conditions. The thing is, now almost everyone is getting to college, there's a huge number of private institutions providing careers like Hairdressing or things like that which cost the same that a regular career and it can last for 3 years. Here, the careers are absurdly longer, giving you teachings that don't have an actually effect on what you want to become to be. And, the most strange and bizarre thing is, now that almost everyone can, at least, try a year or two into college, everyone is findin' out that this institutions don't filled our deeply aspirations in any way. People often get bored at college, think they suck, and yes, they're actually so far away in making people get real and important information. This situation is what I'm living right now. I'm studying Cinema in a public university, and, even when I love Cinema, i get so frustrated by going to hear teachers that actually suck, making exercises that don't have any real gratification, and trying to fill up my spirit, artistic and philosophically by myself outside of the institution. But the thing is: you really have no oportunity to make your living by being a non-professional person. And whoever think that's not actually truth, they sure have a lot of money from their parents or are irritating naive. (I'm sorry if i don't write this very well).

  12. The song 'Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen' by Buz Luhrmann which was hypothetically wrote as a graduation speech would probably be of great benefit if it were structured into the university curriculum frequently.

  13. When I was studying for my doctorate, I learned too late into my studies that my department's chief ambition for its graduate students was to prepare its successors. In the words of one of my professors, "We hope you'll be the ones who come in and write the formulas."

    I concluded from this remark and experiences of ridicule that at least my department's goal for its students was to teach us what to think, not, as its own propaganda would have us believe, how to think. We could tweak the existing theory but we were not authorized to question it. It sounded like it was more of an indoctrination center to me; and when the department showed me door at the end of my study period, I exited because I had had enough of indoctrination from political parties and religious organizations.

    I wish my department had actually lived by its propaganda, for I would have had a better experience and I might have actually finished my studies, earned my doctorate, and not wound up so bitter about the experience over the last 25 years. But, lesson learned.

    Perhaps that was the bigger and better lesson, to wit: Institutions of higher education are human organizations and suffer from the same failings as other organizations even though they claim they are above such failings, including not living up to their stated ideals.

  14. I am always intrigued to read the comment section, when a video has about 10% downvotes. This time again it was pleasant to read the discourse.

  15. Universities have lived up to a core founding dream of pushing human scientific potential. Nonetheless, it has failed in the Humanities and Arts.

  16. What is NOT said may be more relevant than what is said. I can't wait to dig my heels into this one. Stay tuned.

  17. I believe that one of the best things about studying in an university is that it renders you a "professional learner". It's like that your job is to study,think and get yourself cultivated in general. So under the "excuse" that you are an university student, you actually have the time and "social justification" to contemplate on your life and improve your philosophy.

  18. Awesome but the answer is simple, it is just an upgrade from high school to pay more for more junk. In fairness, the good but even more expensive universities come close to the ideals mentioned in the video. I can see it because I work for a world class university right now.

  19. "how can i learn about relationships?"
    maybe from the thousands of other students around you? you're paying for more than just your professors…

  20. University has a narrative for us all to live by. They are corporate entities capitalising on the youth by giving you your own opinion. I say this as a student of a university, free speech is dwindling.

  21. So what I'm hearing is, universities used to be cultured places where discussing, sharing and studying big life questions, ideas, and personal interests was the priority, and not a culture-void money drain where you just learn a bunch of soft skills so you can make more money while having Liberalism rubbed in your face.

  22. the first university was by an islamic woman
    a religious islamic woman
    ironic how you said it was when religion was on decline, when a religion was the one that brought these ideas to life

  23. Why don't you just make videos about Relationships, Death and Anxiety? You basically based this video on History, Literature (post modernism) Philosophy, yet state why are we teaching them? congratulations you just proved why.

  24. UNI? I have to study fucking poetry and 70's media as a part of the standard curriculum to do architecture!

  25. Thought the whole point of american education was to make workers, not to make people succseful financially

  26. Personally i think that religious studies and philosophy are the gratest things you can study in university

  27. For me, universities are to get a job and bang sluts along the way. Libraries and the internet are for my actual education.

  28. yes your videos are great and very usefull…but your voice mate !!!! is soooo soothing and calming it make watch every video for hours

  29. Universities are obsolete – today they fail at both teaching you how to live and to make a living.

  30. I remember very distinctly having a one on one conversation after class with one of my philosophy professors where I was arguing this very stance among others when I was at university about 5 years ago. Culture can replace religion and universities should be at the forefront of this. I left and never finished in part because these questions always seemed much more important to me then what I was being taught. I've always felt very alone thinking about these things and a lot of times they were all I could and still a lot of times think about. People either couldn't access what I was attempting to say, had nothing to say about it, or couldn't do anything about it. It's really nice to see that after all this time that I'm not alone on this. I'm really grateful for what you guys and gals at The School of Life do. Please, never stop. You are making the world a better place

  31. If anyone wishes to learn about relationships I suggest taking a sociology class on marriage, or for those who do not have that option perhaps buying a textbook on sociology and marriage would be the way to go.

  32. I do believe some of the big questions asked in the video are questions that if not able to be answered in a classroom, then one who surly wants to find the answers to these questions can do so in their free time. From my own experience I can say I have found my own answers to a few of the questions mentioned.

  33. Stop trying to remove God from academia and you'll have the problem solved . that works only with Islam. The Qur'an has a solution for every issue we have in humanity but the media and the capitalists behind it just dubb Islam and it's Shari'a law as backwards and violent which couldn't be further from the truth!

  34. Simple definition listed below
    Education institutionsit:Aww fuck we cant make alot of money from school and college lets make a fukin universities!!

  35. I would have liked some reference to Cardinal Newman's book The Idea Of The University. I haven't actually read it. But would like to. Surely this man, and his work, represents some sort of transition point between the Age of the Church and the Age of the University. And is therefore of central importance to this topic.

  36. I believe that universities are centres for acquiring knowledge; however, moving forward – I agree, we should mix that in with courses/classes relating to more immediate aspects of our lives such as anxiety or depression, relationships, money managing, career self-knowledge etc. All of these topics directly or indirectly affect our emotional state. I say this because we all experience life through our emotional state and having a bad emotional state can hinder learning. An ill state of mind may even lead to one ultimately dropping out of university. If universities help their students to carry out their studies in healthier mind sets, then I am confident that students will get a lot more learning done, faster, with much greater performance. They will have the guidance, goals, a well thought through strategy to execute, and the mental energy to accomplish whatever they so please. This needs to be implemented, especially in times where mental health in society is deteriorating at an alarming rate. This will give students a sense of purpose and direction, as opposed to just waddling along aimlessly at university through the years. This will be a much better preparation for the real world for students.

  37. People who think that paying thousands of pounds to sit through some presentations and read some bland textbooks will make them smart

  38. Can you make a video on how some cultures are fading because of one language and wearing styles.thanks for making amazing videos

  39. Thanks you for sharing this !! This is very insightful and profound, I agree, university or colleges “help us to make a living” in the future but it also teaches us “how to live” this is immensely insightful.

  40. Today, knowledge is compared with what is happening with on-demand transportation. If you have never owned a vehicle and you should conmute everyday, you work hard and save during a long time, to be able to buy your own transport. Then you realize that owning a car is not just a dream, there are a lot of problems related to its maintenance and insurance. When Uber and similar services came out to the scene, you just simply can use any vehicle when you just really need it and it is available at anytime. You forget about repairs, maintenance and insurance and concentrate to move to point A to B.
    It is the same with university wich has became a dinosaur in digital era, 4 or 5 years just to have a licence to be able to belong to a workforce? And in some countries like US you should get in a huge debt with that training center? No way. Some disciplines and work areas no longer require university level. For example, computer sciences. There are a lot of knowledge and new skills on-demand that you find when you really need it.

  41. "Universities are designed to teach all that is in the Universe, and Earth is in that Universe;
    in a Earth of Billions, when the percentage of humans
    with accessability, regardless of it's forms, is a small percentage compared to overall numeral human totality, the amount of 'things' streaming to the ideal pools of solutionisms to global things can usual reflect it,
    though Providence has inspiring inspirational ways regardless, it is sound to say that an increase of means of access etcetera in populational empowerment with the likes, would increase the things streaming to those solution based oriented vastness of adverse pools";
    perhaps it could be termed:
    addverse".

  42. well, those mentioned should be taught in schools, not universities, because regardless of who you are, you need those skills. not anyone can afford or want to go to universities, unlike schools, they are only optional. so, universities should bring a sense of community but their priority should be specializing students for their specific profession

  43. The truth remains until the end, there will either be Muslims or atheists at the time of the second coming of Jesus Christ son of Mary peace be upon him.

  44. 2 points response to What are Universities for?I learned from this video that universities teach us how to live. the narrator was saying that universities teach us how to make a living and they play a huge part in society. I was thinking on a line the narrator said throughout the video culture would replace scripture. I liked the fact the narrator said we go to college to be taught about life and ways of life.

  45. I'm so impressed with the wisdom this channel unfonds. I would say they should slow down a bit with the video production.

  46. Universities shouldn't teach you how to live or solve your issues. They get you ready to become an expert in the field you studied and how to think in that field. If you want to know how to live, look for answers in your life.

  47. Lol, these things don't resonate with the Indian education system. They are messed as hell and create nothing but uncreative morons. To all Indians reading this, I dare you to prove me wrong.

  48. Hmmm, this video seems to suggest that universities will now be expected to take over the role and responsibility of FAMILY. At least that's where most people used to learn coping skills.

  49. In the future there’s gonna be less universities. I attended college and many basic questions I had for software used in class, the professor’s answer was “look it up on YouTube “. YouTube will teach more complex skills and lessons than physical universities, and it’s going to replace them. No more paying hundreds or thousand on mediocre people telling you “search it on google or YouTube”, when you can do that for free.

  50. I learnt something about me that i wouldn't understand until i had gotten into university which is that i hated and still hate everything about it, every minute of it and that i shall be forced to continue with my life and live by the rules of society. You will die in every possible way without a degree and a job if you come from an unprivileged background.

  51. I'll just pay my monthly bill of high speed internet and get all my info from there. Much cheaper, faster, unrestrained. Plus I can download a lot of old textbooks for free and just start reading.

  52. For most a university education is definitely a huge waste! They let just about any class-less riff
    raff in our universities these days, most of whom will graduate with
    huge debt, a useless degree and no practical life skills. To wit, the
    other day I was on the campus of one of Canada's places of higher
    learning, walked into the public bathroom to find that some Illuminati
    had taken a crap right in the middle of the floor. Right there, in full
    resplendent glory, a big lump of you-know-what, with heel marks leading
    out into the main corridor. That's the kind of genius we are churning
    out these days!

  53. Universities suck… like the only thing I got from mine was depression … And once you finish, whatever you thought you learned to be "ready for life" vanishes away when you try to get a job beacuse people is so rude

  54. I don't know if I agree with this. Universities should not be places where people learn to live. I don't even think they should be places to learn how to make a living. The purpose of a university is to be an institution of research, innovation and of preservation. Universities are meant to create scholars, philosophers and scientists. It was a mistake to make universities a career-starting platform for any career that is not involved in scholarly work. Apprenticeships are what should be the standard for the majority of people.

    Returning to the subject of teaching how to live: K-12 education is probably better suited to teaching people how to live. Students are young, blissfully naive, with minds more easily influenced. Why couldn't we teach philosophy along with maths and grammar? Is that not what the Academy did in ancient Athens?

  55. Although the school of life does have plenty of flaws in its system that should be fixed and worked on. It's concept in general is superior, compared to other forms of education. It gives mankind the oppertunity, to evolve itself in certain different ways of expertise. Than the regular and mainstream forms, and methods, of education. So yeah, if you truly are able to understand certain aspects compared to real life life school forms they can in a certain way, live up to there promises in certain ways and methods as well.

  56. Isnt the departaments of psychology and its extensions the responsible for the questions related about emocional inteligence and self-improvement?

  57. Universities should be informing , and not indoctrinating , like the church does . Learning the people how to think for themselves , and also letting them do that . If not they don't . If universities want to replace the void the declining church would leave , they make a big problem . Universities should distanciate themselves from that . Universities emerged when religion declined , not to fill that loss , but as a consequence of it , and of free thinking . I don't agree with this video . Dangerous . Erwin , Belgium .

  58. majority of this channel's subscribers are from Europe which happens English to be their first/second language….most of them had figured out understanding this educational video's concept but I'm still here in Africa sorting out understanding the actual meaning of just one statement

  59. Well today, Universities are for making money and indoctrinating young adults to parrot your political and social ideologies.

  60. As a university student (nursing student) I have found myself reading so much literature in the massive library. I will miss that after graduation. Connect whatever you study to humanism.

  61. Universities are places reserved for people who have low social ability, the relationship between students and teachers are totally unequal, teachers ask students to take all responsibilities and them only take responsibilities to their superiors (deans, all those administration staffs), just think about how many times you received a handout or test sheet with very low printing quality or very small font or several typos, and think about would those teachers treat his work to the superiors as carelessly as they treat students. The reality is students has no value to universities as soon as they paid the tuition fee, if you are an employee of a company, your employer will at least care about your working environment and provided you the necessary help because you make him/her MONEY, but students make no money for teachers and universities with their study, that's why.

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