I believe that if the Great University is ever to become a reality, it will be because the faculty have designed it systematically, within a sharply clarified context, and made the results of its design activity broadly accessible.

Further, I believe that before the faculty will ever design such an institution, if it ever will, it will be because a clear image of the Great University in action has been developed and shared; to provide a basis for its detailed design and implementation.

Therefore, in this part of the paper, I propose to offer a vision of the Great University in action. This vision is what I suggest could be a basis for undertaking the institutional design.

I have sometimes discussed the design of the Great University with various persons. It is rather common for them to think that I mean by this an undertaking that spells out in great detail the nature of this institution. It is also very common for them to believe at the outset of the discussion that a mammoth expenditure and upheaval would occur, if the Great University were to come into being. Moreover, they typically state that because of this large expenditure and mammoth upheaval, both the faculty and administration of any existing university would resist such a change, making it impossible to achieve. Thus, they say, if it will ever occur, it will be with a new institution, starting with a clean state.

I accept none of these assumptions. On the contrary, I start with the belief that all existing universities could become great. I know of no inherent reason why this should not be possible. I believe that the Great University can arise without mammoth expense or dislocation. I believe that because that is so, the possibility exists for truly significant educational change, extending throughout higher education. I think this is possible, because while some change is clearly necessary, the most demanding requirement is simply that viewpoints toward the university change. If viewpoints change as proposed herein, the financial support for growing the Great University will be within our grasp. I hope to show this in presenting the Great University in action.

The External Image. The external image of the Great University will differ from the present status widely attributed to higher education, both inside and outside the institutions. The change will come about by a deliberate, consistent, prolonged program to modify the image of the university, which will be supported by broad faculty and administrative agreement.

The present image is one of an institution that engages in three activities: teaching, research, and public service. This image is fatally flawed for many reasons, all of which will be overcome in the Great University.

Like the present image, the image of the Great University will consist of three primary factors but it will differ from the present image in two major ways. First, it will stress three prototypical learning outcomes as descriptors, not three activities. Second, it will place as much or more emphasis on the interre- lationships among the three outcomes than it does on the outcomes themselves.

Shortly I will discuss the three outcomes and the reasons for choosing them. But first, I want to say that these outcomes and the interrelationships among them will be described primarily in terms of authentic academic values, and not in terms of values normally attributed to organizations or individuals outside of the academic institution. The Shakespearean idea: "this above all, to thine own self be true", is just as relevant to the authentic institution as it would have been to any ancient actor.

This does not mean that external values will not be incorporated in the image. They will be correlatively incorporated. This means that the academic values which underpin the Great University will be shown as tightly, but indirectly, connected to values of the larger society.

The Great University need not and will not co-exist with its external environment in any kind of adversarial role. The Great University will be intelligent enough to make the correlative conditions clear, and to demonstrate that the correlations are really present. At the same time, it will resist unequivocally any attempt to place the external correlations above the authentic academic values, but such resistance need not be anticipated, if the Great University develops adequately the necessary connections in the minds of its external supporters.

Education for Citizenship. The Great University will have one overall defining goal: education for citizenship, i.e., the preparation of people as citizens of a free society, by designing and implementing high-quality learning opportunities. Included in this goal is the thought offered by Parsons and Platt(1) that the university must "institutionalize a knowledge-based world view in the general public". The three great outcomes, mentioned previously, will, collectively respond comprehensively to this goal.

Visibility of Action. The three great outcomes sought by the Great University will not only reflect its image, but will also be strongly reflected and highly visible in its actions. These three great learning outcomes are:(2)

  • Inheritance: Putting the learner in possession of the cultural inheritance

  • Participation: Qualifying the learner to participate in the contemporary world

  • Contribution to the Future: Qualifying the learner to contribute to the civilization of the future

That these outcomes truly can describe the Great University will be further demonstrated by the proposed highest-level organization of the Great University into three Colleges, each of which has primary (but not exclusive) responsibility for one of these three outcomes:

  • The University College, which has primary responsbility for Inheritance
  • The Professional College, which has primary responsibility for Participation
  • The Horizons College, which has primary responsibility for Contribution to the Future
The foremost responsibiliies of the administration of the Great University will be these:

  • Staffing. Choosing employees of the Great University
  • Providing appropriate infrastructure.
  • Rewarding appropriate interaction among the three Colleges
These ideas serve to introduce the theme of authenticity and consistency.

Authenticity and Consistency. The Great University should be authentic and consistent: i.e., it show the same image to all of its constituencies, and reflect the same objectives in all of its manifestations.


  1. T. Parsons and G. Platt (1973), The American University, Cambridge, MA:
    Harvard University Press.

  2. I. S. Steinberg (1970), Ralph Barton Perry on Education for Democracy, Columbus, OH:
    The Ohio State University Press.

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