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The Purpose of Universities Today – Public Lecture

14 February @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm


Professor Shane O’Neill

Shane O’Neill is a Visiting Research Professor at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. He is a political philosopher and critical social theorist who worked at Queen’s from 1994 to 2016. He served for an extended term on the University Executive, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, and he was instrumental in establishing the Institute. Since 2016 he has been Professor of Political Theory at Keele University in England, where he also serves as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Planning and Advancement and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

About the Lecture

Public debates about the role of universities have tended to be polarised in recent years. On the one hand neo-liberal views present universities as institutions with a singular focus, which is to compete with each other by demonstrating how effective they are at equipping students or research partners to succeed in market society. On the other hand, traditional accounts of the intrinsic value of university education and research that have challenged such neo-liberal thinking can often appear to be either nostalgic or elitist. We need to reconstruct the purpose of the university today by moving beyond this unhelpful debate. The argument presented here suggests that the most fruitful way to do this is to present universities as instruments of social freedom.

Tea and coffee will be served in the Canada Room from 5.00pm.

The lecture will take place in the Council Chamber at 5.30pm.


14 February
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Event Category:


The Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice


Canada Room and Council Chamber
Queen's University Belfast, University Road
Belfast, BT7 1NN United Kingdom
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