Published in Hirsch W. Z. & Weber L. E. (eds) Challenges Facing Higher Education at the Millennium, American Council on Education/Oryx Press & International Association of Universities/Pergamon,Phoenix, 1999
To make sure that the discussion would cover all the relevant issues for the future of higher education, the participants in the Glion Colloquium were invited to submit in advance what they considered to be the five main challenges facing higher education at the millennium, in particular for research universities. This introductory chapter to the collected papers of the Glion Colloquium is a short commented survey of the participants’input, including my own. Most of the issues raised in this summary are at the core of the following chapters and are therefore developed at length there. But it is interesting to note here that if nearly all the following contributions mention globalization, new technologies, and the necessity to improve governance as the most burning challenges, some issues considered as central in the replies to our inquiry, such as the responsibility of universities towards society, the academic profession, or student expectations, get relatively little attention in the main contributions.
This result demonstrates that higher education policy and university management are extremely complex undertakings characterized by lots of variables and by sophisticated, and even diverse, relationships among the variables. Universities are certainly the most complex institutions humans have ever conceived. They developed extremely slowly through the centuries, in Europe mainly, to become by the golden 1960s in most countries of the world (certainly in North America and generally in Europe) respected building blocks of society, whatever their status, public or private. Although today, universities educate a proportion of a class age up to 10 times larger than it was a century ago, their reputation is diminishing. They are increasingly criticized, mainly by politicians and private employers, and invited to change.