AbstractThe essential nature, function and place of the university in society is being queried world-wide. This is nothing new, however, and therefore it would be valuable to get a historical perspective on the course of events, before investigating the problem areas. As an institution for higher education, a university takes its place in the centre of society. Therefore, since society as such periodically experiences change due to a number of different factors, a university too cannot escape change. It is important to bear in mind that every institution is characterised by specific attributes that are fundamental to its being and nature and which distinguish it from other institutions. According to J. Chris Coetzee the university is distinguished from other institutions by its training in the philosophy of the sciences, and also by an emphasis on research and on the practice of the sciences. By remaining true to these tenets on the one hand, and by, on the other hand, meeting needs within society in a specific manner (for example, hy including such need's within its curricula), the university can remain a centre of excellence and, while serving society, remain a true university.
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