Knowledge can be many things; it can be metaphysical, enhancing the understanding of human beings and social relations. It can be hard facts, information, structures and ordering of nature. Knowledge can be inherent in the knowing subject – the emancipated subject – or it can exist as an entity independent of its founder. An apposite metaphor is knowledge as an end in itself or knowledge as a means to an end; do we learn for the joy of knowing or do we learn in order to manipulate
an object or phenomenon?
This fundamental distinction structures the account of university-society relations from the Middle Ages up until today. Contemporary knowledge production, it is argued, favours knowledge as a means to an end. The effects may be devastating for any piece of academic knowledge that cannot prove its immediate value in monetary terms. Academic knowledge needs to be recognised in all its variety in order for the university to remain a trustworthy institution, capable of contributing solutions to the pressing problems of our time.