Week 2: Purpose of a Research University

The research university in the 21st century has many purposes. This can be a very good thing because it allows the vast resources that research universities poses to benefit a wide population. It can also be a challenge, however, because not all of the purposes work together harmoniously. In my opinion a university, even a university that is focused on research, should have a primary purpose of education. Students are the foundation of a university and I think it is a shame when universities grow to a level that they are no longer in touch with their most fundamental responsibility: imparting knowledge to students. A research university should also have a fundamental purpose of producing research. This seems obvious but it is important because a university has a unique position in the spectrum of organizations that undertake research. To a greater extent than in many cases, the research that comes out of a university is not constrained by the pressures of industry. They are one of the few places where knowledge can be advanced for the pure reason of understanding. Another purpose that ties into this is disseminating the research outcomes to the community and society as a whole. I feel strongly that universities have a moral duty to actively spread the knowledge that is uncovered in order to provide the maximum benefit to society. I also think that this extends to the role that universities play in their local communities. Through outreach programs universities have the opportunity to enrich the lives of the people who surround them, whether or not they are actually students.