Universities blamed for lack of leadership in bringing change

Disappointment with the role of many east European great universities in the reform of higher education has been expressed by Lord Dahrendorf, warden of St Anthony's College, Oxford.

Speaking in Vienna at the award of the 1995 Hannah Arendt Prize to the Graduate School for Social Research in Warsaw, Lord Dahrendorf said that reform in the former communist countries had "not emerged from the core of existing institutions, let alone from governments."

He said he had detected a "defensive attitude" in some of the great universities of the region. "They are not the sources of innovation which one would hope to find, neither in the reorientation of scholarship nor in the expansion of tertiary education," he said.

The prize, endowed with DM300,000 (Pounds 136,000), is funded jointly by the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and the Hamburg-based Korber Foundation. It is designed as a recognition of achievements in the creation of civil societies.

Founded in 1992, the school works closely with the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, from which it draws many of its 150 students, who are mostly engaged in doctoral studies.

The jury, chaired by Lord Dahrendorf, based its final decision on the school's combination of teaching and research, the innovative objective of co-operation in the social sciences, the "high probability" that its students would follow the example of some of their teachers and contribute to the success of transition, and the "hope of a lasting effect on the existing institutions".

Winding up a conference tied to the award, Lord Dahrendorf said that expansion of higher education had "led to a set of problems". Teaching was often organised inefficiently and there was no appropriate structure for undergraduate teaching.

Universities had turned into "mass institutions for which we Europeans have not yet found an appropriate structure", he added.

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