Nowadays globalization and crisis threatened society has put the knowledge at the heart of the efforts for achieving sustainable and smart growth. That is why, in supporting this strategy, a crucial role was assigned to education and, in particular, to higher education. In view to achieve such crucial role, University faced demands for urgent and deep modernization. So, the University had to rethink its purposes, that is, definitions of what University is, can be and should be, criteria for quality and success, the kinds of research, education and services to be produced, and for whom (Masten Olsen). 

At stake was the higher education’s capacity to compete in the global knowledge society, to adapt and adjust to a series of profound changes: globalization of education and research, increased demand for higher education, increasing need to develop a close cooperation between universities and industry; reorganization of knowledge (need to adapt to the interdisciplinary character of the fields opened by society’s major problems such as sustainable development).

Keywords: higher education, reform, paradigm of academic, technological competitiveness, become permanent.

Reforming academic education implied a proper modulating of university structural principles. Bologna Declaration (1988) – considered Magna Carta of European University – is still the main depository of the educational principles of modern humboldtian university starting with the beginnings of Berlin University in 1810. 

The first concept is that of independence of university as an institution where study and research should be, in a moral and intellectual point of view outside governmental and economic constraints.

The second concept speaks about a unity in teaching and research and special mentions are made on free choice of study and free organization of studies. Fundamentally, university should therefore be a place of permanent public exchange between all involved in the scientific process.

It is to be noticed that when Bologna Declaration was adopted university reforms all over the world highly implied politic and economic elements in academic activity.

Lisbon Declaration of European University Association (2007) appears to   reflect the latest developments in the Bologna Process; while proclaiming university independence it tries to redefine the ideas elaborated in 1988 and to offer new notions in order to adapt governing structures, improve leadership and management competence so as to increase efficiency, but also creativity and innovative capacity of high education [1,p.8].

For several decades university have became object of successive reformative steps which tend to be permanent. The basis of this constant attempt to change academic life we find the concept university has a new role and meaning in the contemporary globalized and computerized society where knowledge is the main factor of a sane, strong and lasting development. The reform was about the internal rules and order of a university and its connections to society and economy as well.

A deep, rapid change of university as a condition for the universities to play a crucial part in managing knowledge asked for a new perspective of academic goals. That is, of what university is, could and should represent, of what criteria to use when evaluating quality and success, of what research, education and services to produce and for whom are these created, respectively (Masten Olsen).

The purpose was to create a competitive higher education in a global society of knowledge, to make it adapt to structural changes as the increasing demand of university graduates on labour market or the permanent need of cooperation between industry and university. It was also assumed that a reformation in knowledge and perception are necessary and an adjustment of the research methods of the interdisciplinary character of different major aspects of contemporary society will lead to a modern, lasting academic development.

All the innovations in upgrading university life and activity were meant to define the relevance of study and research, to better convey and train the necessary skills so that the graduates could successfully use in their job; the reforms also tended to focus on the knowledge triangle – study, research, business- only to supply the economic demands and to create the educational machinery in self-financing.

Having these objectives in plan, universities faced radical changes similar to Humboldtian University crisis (a terminal crisis for some researchers).  Marketizating education seems to lead to a new university paradigm: a functional, effective paradigm combined to a managerial one. We thus witness the transition from humboldtian University to what is known as McUniversity

It is about time to examine and evaluate the results and the implications of these decades of university reformation, to sum up the strong and weak points, to consider the positive and negative impacts and to think at the function and role of postmodern university – the very aim of the present work.  

The tendency to make the reform a permanent process suggested a terrifying perception of successive waves, the new one consuming the old and making place for the next wave [3, p.76]. All the debates on university reformation have a common question about the final results of the consecutive changes aiming to upgrade university, considered the oldest European institution after Church. That is, to balance society and economy of knowledge with university, an establishment sometimes seen as an ivory tower, a privileged place that functions to produce and disseminate knowledge. University independence, the intellectual freedom to study and research and the holistic relation between these activities represented the frame of what was characterized as humboldtian model. This aspect gave university cultural legitimacy based on the universal force and validity of taught knowledge.

Which are the needs and demands for the university at the end of the XXth century and the beginning of the XXIth? Etzkowitz and Leydesdorff offers an intriguing answer known as triple helix model (inspired from the DNA double helix) for studying both knowledge-based and developing economies while considering University-Industry-Government relations. [4,p.111]. This model will define in an innovative way the cultural function and the university objectives.

During a recent meeting UNESCO it was stated that university should give all its cultural resources for a community use and therefore the latter could become not only an active factor and a partner in social changes but also to have a major role in teaching, research work and other services for this community. To play the role, it is necessary to marketize university, to make it part of the market system, so that it could be able to manage, to support and to self-finance; pay or decay will thus become a demand for contemporary university [10].

As for university purposes, a synthetic approach can be found in the work The Future of Higher Education [11]: intense research, technologic competitiveness, efficiency of academic studies or interference of a social justice with a knowledge society.

At about three decades of applied reforms done to redefine university, both in its internal order and in its external relations and taking into consideration the above mentioned objectives, the analysis of results leads to intriguing conclusions as mentioned as it follows:

1. The demand of university competitiveness in the general economy of knowledge produced significant changes where higher education turns from an elitist form into a “mass” only because knowledge economy needs a lot of specialists. As a result, university campuses become huge university towns and the universal academic education, cultural integrated comes to be a specialized one with a final goal to produce specialists in a short period of time with low costs. Even the given situation with a lot of specialized graduates, labour market still needs working, professional people. 

The late documents of European Commission Education and Training estimates Europe needs higher education more graduates because, it is said that in 2020 around 35%  of positions will require university studies – today only 26% of  European working people between 25 and 64 years satisfy this demand. European statistics shows that at a rate of 68,6% working people 82,3% out of them have university studies( in our country out of 62,3% working people 81,5% are graduates of higher education).

2. The demand of reconsidering the relation between cultural and economic goals of university and an increase in importance of the latter ones as a result of some social agents’ demands or governmental conditions imposed for universities to make them economic and financial entities. Once reformed, university turned into a corporation where knowledge is produced, converted into goods and sold on the global knowledge market [9,p.77]. In fact, according to Boyer’opinion, the major objective of reform in university is to eliminate its organizational and institutional independence  and replace it with the general principles of knowledge market with teachers with paid salaries, with specific management instead of administration and with students being public consumers in a university that became a market[3,p.74].

3. To reconstruct university and make it a market to trade knowledge as a merchandise results into a strong tendency to diminish governmental education budget. It appeared a quite irrational situation [3, p.76]: on one hand, universities are supposed to be open knowledge markets and on the other hand, they are under high governmental control in order to satisfy economic knowledge-based requirements. University is called on to give more for less [3, p.74].

4. The process of making university a free market where knowledge is  merchandise produced and sold has leads to a reconsideration of the relation between education and research and the latter is certainly privileged. Education is now on a second position and it is the end of the binary system of education and research [1,p.1]. A new approach is appears in the way universities assume research: the requirement for academic research socially and economically based puts under question university independence. Richard Felder, generally speaking about university but with special reference to engineering education focuses on the negative consequences of this separation: research productivity is the main factor to advance and the major criterion for a professor to progress in career. But, there is no manager or rector to accept in public that education plays a secondary part as long as for parents, present or future students, donors or legislators education is of prime value. At this point rationalization when university managers claim education is the main function of the institution and give a justification for looking upon research as a criterion to evaluate and promote professors; they motivate, far from the real evidence, that research and education are highly connected and therefore only productive researchers could be good teachers. Things are not in this position as education and research have different goals – knowledge progress and developing skills, respectively- and they ask for separate personal attributes and competences: researcher should be objective observers able to come to conclusions while teachers must show skills in communication and empathy [5,p.109]. 

 5. The necessary act of redefining the three university estates: managers, students, teachers offered significant results.

Managers are to get a more privileged position because of university independence and because of governmental intrusion through ministers, imposed rules or education plans.

Students increased their social power as they appear now to be free consumers ready to negotiate and make compromises with the reformers neglecting the other estates [3,p.79-80]. It is to be mentioned that they are often used by managers to control, promote and keep the teaching staff taking students’ opinions in consideration.

Teachers in universities have been deeply affected during this reforming period. An illustrative work is ‘Imposters in the Temple’ where the author profoundly criticizes the American professors. Known as a university teacher and journalist, Martin Anderson [2] considers that the American academic teachers have an undeserved place in the intellectual value system as they are no longer models for students or part of the intellectual elite. Scientific and didactic competence are often mediocre, writes books to be read by colleagues only but is the beneficiary of undeserved material advantages. Anderson’s opinions are relevant for the actual tendency to diminish teachers’ status in a university.

6. The general result of these permanent changes can be seen in the process of reconstruction the university to satisfy market demands and to cross the paradigm of university autonomy and independence in research and education, humboldtian model to come to the utilitarian and managerial paradigm, McUniversity.   

The perspective of replacing the humanistic university with a corporatist business meant to produce and sell knowledge on the global goods market is seen by many of those observing the education system in a pessimistic way.  A certain optimistic point of view about the future university alternatives [9,p.78] appears if considering:

  • Knowledge character, source of pathology and creativity in an university. In order to become valuable resource knowledge must be created but not to make it merchandise as creativity and merchandise tend to destroy each other. It is to notice that the university capacity to satisfy market economy depends, according to Anderson, on measures decided and imposed outside university, on curiosity, originality or inner progress of subjects to be studied. There is a warning that knowledge economy depends on the quality and independence of knowledge itself and that mind can be a creative force only when it is free.
  • University character that should not be conceived as a rigid system of features but as a set of tensions, permanently active but solved in different ways in time and space; there are pressure between teaching and research, between autonomy and responsibility, between given information and new ones, between the inevitable relation state-university-economic agents, between present occupational structure and social mobility, between immediate needs of economy and those on long term or between education as form of personal skills encouragement and society demands. To focus on either one of these aspects is to simplify and deteriorate university goals [1].
  • Contemporary society character and its development tendencies ask for changes in university. The reasonable process of social progress imposes surpassing the knowledge society and this will activate new models of challenges for universities. This passing is explained by Paulo Blasi as an evolution to a wisdom society. If we consider knowledge to be an aware use of information, wisdom is when the best behaviour based on information and stated values is chosen to create a state of good conditions and to be convinced that personal actions have good social consequences. But, to make possible this evolution to a wisdom society it is necessary a revolution in education where, instead of giving knowledge it is better to promote wisdom by specific rational methods as teaching and learning: education should teach humanity to create a wiser world [8].    


1. ANDERSON, M. The Idea of University today. In: History and Policy, 2011. http://www. historyandpolicy. org/papers

2. ANDERSON, M. Impostors in the Temple. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

3. BOYER, D. What is driving university reform in the age of globalization? (debate with Elizabeth Rata). În: Social Anthropology, 2010, vol.18, no.1, p.74-82.

4. ETZKOWITZ, H., LEYDESDORFF, L. The dynamics of innovation: from National Systems and Mode 2 to a Triple Helix of university-industry-government relations. In: Research Policy, 2000, vol.29, p.109-123.

5. FELDER, R.M. The link between research and teaching. 1.Does it exist? In: Chem. Engr. Education, 2010, no.44(2), p.109-110.

6. MARGA, A. The Cultural Legitimacy of European University. Cluj: Cluj University Press, 2006.

7. MARGA, A. Challenges. Values. Vision. The University in the 21st Century. Cluj: Cluj University Press, 2009.

8. MAXWELL, N. From Knowledge to Wisdom. London, Pentire Press, 2007.

9. RATA, E. What is driving university reform in the age of globalization? (debate with Dominic Boyer). In: Social Anthropology, 2010, vol.18, no.1, p.74-82.

10. Universities: Pay or decay. In: The Economist, 2004, Jan 22nd.

11. U.S. Department of Education. A Test of Leadership. Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education. Washington, D.C., 2006.