Bulletin Vol. 4 No. 11 Aug 1968

Abou t 440 delegates from 178 institutions attended the Congress to discuss matters and policies o f common interest. The discussion was conducted in three Plenary Sessions w ith the follow ing topics: ( 1) “ The Distinctive Role of Universities in Systems of Higher Education"; ( 2) “ Significant Developments in Common wealth University Affairs between 1963 and 1968"; and ( 3) “ The Role of Universities in Higher Education in Developing Countries". Vice-Chancellor L i, who was invited to give the opening address fo r the Third Plenary Session, was among the major speakers chosen from the various regions of the Commonwealth. This was the first time that the University took part in the quinquennial congress organized by the Association of Commonwealth Universities since its formal admission into the Association in 1964. This quinquennial congress is intended to promote understanding and cooperation among the member universities, and fo r this purpose requests each member university to be represented not only by the Vice-Chancellor and two academics, but also by a nonacademic member of the Governing Council. Each university has its own unique relationship w ith government and community, and the congress pro­ vides the only opportunity fo r these nonacademic representatives to share their experiences. It pro vides also the only opportunity fo r the University to be closely associated w ith an international body o f Vice-Chancellors and academics. Before the Congress Dr. Choh-M ing L i attended a conference o f Vice-Chancellors and executive heads of A .C .U . member universities in Melbourne from 10th to 14th August. Dr. L i visited Perth before proceeding to Melbourne and also participated in a post-Congress tour o f universities in Australia and New Zealand. THE ROLE OF UNIVERSITIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN THE DEVELOPING COUNTRIES Vice-Chancellor Choh -Mi ng L i 's Opening Address f o r the T h i r d Plenary Session I So much has been said about the role of universities in developing countries in the last two Plenary Sessions and in the Group Discussions these few days and especially by M r. Butterworth just now that whatever I have to say on the subject this morning could not be more than an anticlimax. Perhaps, however, there is some merit in bringing some of the points together in order to highlight several questions that T would like to stress, weighing in the process duplication of those just raised by M r. Butterworth. 1 would like to begin w ith the statement of a president of a university in a developing country. “ A university, in any worthy sense of the term, must grow from seed. It cannot be transplant ed from England or Germany in fu ll leaf and bearing. It cannot be run up, like a cotton m ill, in six months to meet a quick demand." The man who said this was President E lio t of Harvard University, grandfather of one of the American university presidents present here today, and he was w riting just one hundred years ago and two hundred years after Harvard College was founded. “ When the American university appears, it w ill not be a copy of foreign institutions . . . but the slow and natural outgrowth of American social and political habits." This statement raises questions about what the term "developing country" means. It also raises ques tions about the significance of the distinction between a “ native university" and one that provides a higher education but is somehow inferior because it is a mere copy of “ foreign institutions". Furthermore, in arguing that a university must somehow reflect the outgrowth or development of social and political habits, one sees the need fo r perpetual university reform, and that raises the question of the pace of these reforms in a society whose "social and political habits” are changing more rapidly and radically than was true even fo r American society in the 18th and 19th centuries. This also leads to a deeper probing of the concept of the developing country. Does the economic connotation of the phrase "developing country" bear a greater weight than is viable in respect of the problems, resources and prospects of A fro-Asian societies today? Is this a problem also of the self-interpretation o f the developing country? Was E lio t right that in a developing country an indigenous university was confidently expected to appear, not from the progress of textile technology but from the slow and natural outgrowth of social and political habits? Have these countries in our century the human resources to develop in this natural manner? But even today the university is not the outgrowth of economic development; it is the precondition of economic development. Thus, it does seem significant that the follow ing three questions asked today have a mixture of both similar and contrasting implications from what they had when the same questions were asked one hundred years ago: — 2 —