The University as a Civic Community

A very pertinent blog article by Professor Owen, Southampton University.

Politics @ Southampton

By David Owen, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy at University of Southampton (@rdavidowen, Academia.edu). You can find more posts by David here.


Universities were founded as ‘civic corporations’ in the medieval sense (this sense of ‘incorporated bodies’ is most obviously exemplified by Guilds). This is why they have Royal Charters. This guild structure still persists in some professions such as architecture and medicine that are self-governing. Their rule is exercised over their membership (for example, both architects and doctors can be ‘struck off’) and over who can be a member (they control the qualification/certification process).

There are three crucial elements here for conceiving of the University:

  • It is to be conceived as a self-governing community;
  • It is a community oriented to the common good of its members;
  • Its standing as a corporation in the medieval sense is justified only to the extent to which…

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Author: Makere

A transplanted New Zealand Scots/Maori academic/grandmother/random singer and sometime activist, my life is shaped by a deep conviction of the necessity for active critical engagement in the multi-faceted global and local crises of being and survival of species that confront us in the 21st century, the urgency of re-visioning the meaning of thriving together, and the contribution of Indigenous knowledge systems to a truly sustainable and just global society.