Working Paper 11
Critical thinking, university autonomy, and societal evolution; thoughts on a research agenda
Published January 2017

Professor Gordon Redding from the UCL Institute of Education discusses the crucial role of higher education in societal progress and evolution, and asks to what extent the consequences of globalisation pose a threat to academic autonomy.

The paper outlines the tension in political society between fostering critical thinking on one hand, and responding to pragmatic logics such as those of the labour and finance markets on the other.

The capacity to manage such stresses may be shaped by a society’s cultural and civilizational heritage, but it has also been the traditional role of higher education to assist societies in the transformations that this requires. Professor Redding contends that the level of autonomy a society affords its universities bears a relation to its ultimate success or failure.

Yet, under the competitive pressures and proliferating complexity of globalisation, are universities losing their effectiveness? The paper concludes that a research agenda focusing on the variations of critical thinking and their origins would help in addressing this question.