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Future of higher education

Le futur de l’enseignement supérieur en débat

Princeton-Fung-FMSH global Forum in Paris

Forum global Princeton-Fung-FMSH à Paris

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Published on Friday, April 04, 2014


Some of the world's top thinkers including a Nobel laureate, policymakers and university leaders will gather in Paris on April 9-11 to discuss the future of higher education at the second annual Princeton-Fung Global Forum. The forum, which comes as educators assess the potential of massive open online courses, or MOOCs, and other technological advances to reshape higher education, will examine the challenges and opportunities that colleges and universities face in multicultural societies and information-driven economies. The forum is a partnership event between Princeton University and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme.


Registration is mandatory


Day 1 Wednesday, April 9

7:00–10:00 p.m. Reception and Dinner

Conversation Over Dessert

Knowledge for What? Have Universities Lost Sight of Their Purpose?

Moderator: David Remnick ’81, Editor, The New Yorker

  • Serge Haroche, Director, Collège de France; 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
  • Christine Musselin, Vice President for Research, Sciences Po, Paris
  • Alexander Nehamas *71, the Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Professor in the Humanities and Professor of Philosophy and Comparative Literature, Princeton University

Location: Westin Paris-Vendôme Hotel

Fifteen years ago, a UNESCO summit on higher education in Paris declared that access to higher education was a key pathway to citizenship and social mobility in a knowledge-based economy. It cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 26’s assertion that “everyone has the right to education.” 

But what kind of education? What kind of knowledge? Cardinal Newman’s famous preference for “liberal knowledge” over “useful knowledge” has fewer and fewer adherents. If universities are not to pursue knowledge for its own sake, what is their purpose? What makes them distinct from the societies that surround and support them? How should higher education respond to multiplying and diverging demands? When attempting to strike the delicate balance between public good and private interests, how should decision-makers think about achievement and innovation, and those who benefit?

Day 2 Thursday, April 10

Location: All Thursday and Friday Sessions Will Take Place at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris

8:30–10:30 a.m.

Session I: Conversation

What Models Are Available for Sustainable Success?

Moderator: Matthew Bishop, U.S. Business Editor and New York Bureau Chief, The Economist

  • Vincent Berger, Special Advisor to French President François Hollande for Higher Education and Research
  • Helga Nowotny, Immediate Past President, European Research Council; Professor Emerita of Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich
  • Wendy Piatt, Director-General and Chief Executive, The Russell Group, London
  • Cecilia Rouse, Dean, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and the Lawrence and Shirley Katzman and Lewis and Anna Ernst Professor in the Economics of Education, Princeton University

A target set by the European Commission’s growth strategy for the coming decade, known as Europe 2020, calls for 40 percent of young people to earn higher education certificates in an effort to move millions from low-skill destinies to high-skill careers. In Africa, governments are scrambling to keep up with the soaring demand for higher education. And yet, institutions around the world are expected to cut budgets and meet competitive higher standards. The last decade has seen a great deal of experimentation—some might say “structural adjustment”—in financing and partnering in higher education. 

Is it possible to educate more people with limited public purses? What works? What doesn’t? Should the rewards generated by discovery be subject to private intellectual property rights or belong to institutions? Is a successful adjustment to the realities of demand and supply possible? And if so, what makes it sustainable?

10:30–11:00 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Session II: Lecture 

New Technologies: What Are the Risks and Rewards of Online Education?

  • Moderator: Tamar Lewin, Domestic Correspondent, The New York Times
  • Featuring: Daphne Koller, the Rajeev Motwani Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University; Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Coursera


  • Bruno Latour, Scientific Director, Sciences Po Médialab, Paris
  • William Lawton, Director, Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, London
  • Gideon Rosen, the Stuart Professor of Philosophy; Chair, Council of the Humanities; and Director, Program in Humanistic Studies, Princeton University

Once defined by their spires, universities are increasingly shaped by their wires. Online technologies have changed the way we shop, how we socialize, and our access to public services. They’re now transforming the classroom. In the past year and a half, with the inauguration of Massive Open Online Courses, a debate has developed: is this a threat to core values of higher education or a solution to the obstacles presented by cost and access? One platform alone, Coursera, had over five million students and 107 partner institutions by October of 2013. 

The effects are hard to measure. While the data are still inconclusive—the landscape has changed, as a recent survey from the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education has indicated. What are the hazards of going digital? What do we gain? In the polarized debate, what voices or issues are being lost? Will digital learning eclipse or embellish the classroom? 

1:00–3:00 p.m. Break - Lunch on Own

3:00–5:00 p.m.

Session III: Conversation

How to Expand Access for a Diverse Population

Moderator: Michel Wieviorka, Director, Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme

  • Luiza Bairros, Minister of the Special Secretariat for the Promotion of Racial Equality, Brazil
  • Pankaj Chandra, Professor of Production and Operations Management, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore
  • Caroline Hoxby, the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics, Stanford University
  • Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza, Lord Justice Professor, Constitutional Court of Uganda

Universities face contradictory pressures. As societies become more diverse, these institutions are under increasing pressure to be integrative forces. Indeed, universities are often held up as models for seeking excellence through diversity by treating social differences as resources for learning. Not only are institutions of higher learning expected to look like the societies that support them, they are asked to be mechanisms of inclusion that reverse inherited patterns of unearned privilege. 

In the scramble for rankings, recognition, and status, there has been a growing public sentiment that higher education—and elite universities in particular—have returned to old habits of enhancing social distinctions and inequalities. The result has been a decline in public support for higher education.

What tools render complexity and difference into assets for learning? What interventions have not worked, and why? How do we reconcile conflict, disagreement, and collaboration within the halls of academe?

5:00–6:00 p.m. Reception for Conference Attendees

6:00–8:00 p.m.

Session IV: Public Conversation

How to Think About Universities in the Global Age

Moderator: Christopher L. Eisgruber ’83, President, Princeton University

  • Paulina González-Pose, Chief, Section for Higher Education, UNESCO
  • Bernd Huber, President, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, and Chairman, League of European Research Universities
  • Jeffrey Lehman, Vice-Chancellor, New York University Shanghai
  • François Weil, Rector, Academy of Paris, and Chancellor, the Universities of Paris

The marketplace for ideas is, for better or worse, global. What is the nature of the university when knowledge and its carriers transcend boundaries? Nearly four million students cross borders every year to study. The result is a shift in the territorial horizons of higher education: some universities create satellites; others position themselves as magnets for global talent; others forge networks and consortia, like the European Erasmus program or the fledgling BRICS (Brazil, China, India, Russia) University League, or the Pan African University. 

Emerging partnerships are reinventing the 20th-century model of “study abroad” to include research collaborations and inter-institutional curricula. How do cross-border mobility and collaboration redefine the mission of higher education? How should we assess the competing models of university governance in an age of globalization? What alternatives remain to be explored?

Day 3 Friday, April 11

Location: All Thursday and Friday Sessions Will Take Place at the Hôtel de Ville de Paris

8:30–10:30 a.m.

Session V: Lecture

Universities and Development: How Are Universities Agents of Social Change?

Moderator: Francisco Marmolejo, Lead Tertiary Education Specialist and Coordinator of Network of Higher Education Specialists, The World Bank

Featuring: Bernard Ramanantsoa, Dean, École des Hautes Études Commerciales, Paris


  • Ambuj Sagar, the Vipula and Mahesh Chaturvedi Professor of Policy Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
  • Lan Xue, Cheung Kong Chair Professor and Dean, School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, Beijing

While higher education has been regarded as an engine of social mobility for those who have access to it, universities have also become instruments of social intervention for those who lack access. “Service” is an increasingly prominent facet of education. This is perhaps most evident in the burgeoning field of global public health and legal training. 

The notion that institutions of higher education should be at the vanguard of innovation and invention has paved the way for new partnerships with the private sector. This has been especially pronounced for institutions in developing societies, where it has fallen upon universities and colleges to promote the acquisition of skills combined with a social mission to “catch up.”

How should we think about the balance between objective inquiry and social engagement? Does this challenge the traditional organization of teaching and research framed around classical disciplines? Does it overstretch the mission of already overcommitted institutions? Are service and development ornaments or organic parts of learning?

10:30–11:00 a.m. Break

11:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.

Session VI: Conversation

The Future of Undergraduate Education: Breadth or Depth?

Moderator: Olivier Bouin, Director, Network of French Institutes for Advanced Study

  • Cheryl de la Rey, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Pretoria, South Africa
  • Don M. Randel ’62 *67, President Emeritus, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the University of Chicago
  • Pauline Yu, President, American Council of Learned Societies

Once upon a time, Cardinal Newman envisioned a university-educated citizen as prepared to “master of any subject with facility.” With the rise of the modern research infrastructure, its broadened scale, and diversity of functions, there has been a push to vocational and professional education—and corresponding resistance. 

The knowledge economy requires ever more complex and refined skills, many of which need to be developed at an earlier age, and pursued for more years of study. The notion that a broad-based curriculum and multi-disciplinary learning— the vaunted liberal arts tradition— should be the foundation of an undergraduate learning experience is under unprecedented pressure to give way to specialization and concentration.

Should university leaders and stakeholders in societies embrace this new model? Is there a case to be made for a “liberal arts” for the 21st century? If so, what would this broad exploration of various disciplines look like? Or is it destined to be a luxury limited to those who can afford it?

Schedule subject to change


  • Place de l'Hôtel de ville
    Paris, France (75004)


  • Wednesday, April 09, 2014
  • Thursday, April 10, 2014
  • Friday, April 11, 2014


  • université, universités, enseignement supérieur, recherche, globalisation, TIC


  • Nicolas de Lavergne
    courriel : transatlantic [dot] dh [at] msh-paris [dot] fr

Information source

  • Nicolas de Lavergne
    courriel : transatlantic [dot] dh [at] msh-paris [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Future of higher education », Conference, symposium, Calenda, Published on Friday, April 04, 2014, https://calenda.org/280793

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