With few exceptions, universities have become ineffective in their role as critics and conscience of society. Support for this contention is provided in this paper by addressing the questions: What is the evidence that universities are failing to act as critics and conscience of society? In what ways should universities continue to be the critics and conscience of society? Exemplars and examples of what has been, what is, and what might be are provided. It is posited that as a good critic, a university as a community of learners and leaders should identify and challenge assumptions, be aware of context, seek alternative ways of interpreting situations, remain sceptical about what is seen and heard, and pronounce judgement as appropriate. As a conscience, the university should take into account and articulate the moral quality of the actions and motives of both itself and society, approving the right and condemning the wrong. Also, it is argued that it is essential to have an underpinning philosophy. This could be, for example, social constructivism. Without a philosophy, there can be no conscience. Without a conscience, criticality is of little worth. From a logical perspective it is possible for an institution to be neither critic nor conscience, critic but not conscience, conscience but not critic, or critic and conscience. The point is made that the first two of the four options are unacceptable for a university; the last two apply according to the circumstances.
Hornblow, D. (2007). The missing universities: Absent critics and consciences of society. In 37th Conference of the Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia Inc., Wellington, New Zealand.