The aims of Higher Education

Lefteris Heretakis
9 min readFeb 2, 2024

from the Robbins report[1] on Higher Education, Chapter II (1963)

Professor Lord Robbins C.B.

22. To begin with aims and objectives — what purposes, what general social ends should be served by higher education?

23. The question is not a new one; and the answers have been many and various. But of one thing we may be reasonably certain: no simple formula, no answer in terms of any single end, will suffice. There is no single aim which, if pursued to the exclusion of all others, would not leave out essential elements. Eclecticism in this sphere is not something to be despised: it is imposed by the circumstances of the case. To do justice to the complexity of things, it is necessary to acknowledge a plurality of aims.

24. In our submission there are at least four objectives essential to any properly balanced system.

25. We begin with instruction in skills suitable to play a part in the general division of labour. We put this first, not because we regard it as the most important, but because we think that it is sometimes ignored or undervalued. Confucius said in the Analects that it was not easy to find a man who had studied for three years without aiming at pay. We deceive ourselves if we claim that more than a small fraction of students in institutions of higher education would be where they are if there were no significance for their future…