Humanism as an Ideal for Higher Education

Higher education is in the midst of a transition. The number of students participating in higher education worldwide is expected to grow. This growth rate represents an immense increase in the global demand for higher education. This demand has been fueled by far-reaching political, economic, social, and technological changes, including legal reforms, economic competition, social movements, and technological innovations. Due to the fact that my other blogpost about humanism is my best post I hope this post will add some new perspectives and insights.


The increasing demand for higher education suggests that as nations become more globalised and democratised, more people participate in higher education of all types to equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to better function and compete in an increasingly globalised and complex world.


As a result, higher education has moved from an elitist to a universal model of access. The playing field for many colleges and universities is now a global one. In an increasingly hyperconnected global knowledge society, it is important for those working in higher education to not only understand the consequences of these changes but also to use that knowledge to steer the ongoing development of higher education in the right direction. This implies that higher education leaders, lecturers, students, and other stakeholders should embrace a humanistic vision of higher education.


Humanism can be defined as a philosophy, a paradigm, a value system, a model, a conceptual framework, a pedagogical approach, and a learning theory.
Humanism’s central focus has been on human nature. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be human in the world that humans occupy? Initially, humanism is a mode of inquiry that focused on increasing one’s self-awareness. When societies became more democratic and interconnected it gradually evolved into a broader understanding of human rights, global humanity, and one’s role in humanity. The modern notion of humanism centers on those core qualities in all humans: agency, dignity, and development.


real world

As humanism is primarily concerned with addressing human needs, concerns, and problems, one of the great challenges is to strengthen the democratic social contract by making societies more inclusive, equitable, and just.
The more we learn about the world and the more interconnected the world becomes, the smaller it becomes. As the world becomes smaller, societies becomes more interdependent. In this brave new world, humanity is confronted with extraordinary challenges such as destructive climate change, economic and humanitarian catastrophes that must be addressed collectively.

These challenges imply the necessity of a human rights-based approach to human affairs with a focus on improving political and social relations, global sustainable development, and lifelong learning for all. Higher education plays a vital role in shaping this brave new world.

higher education

Creating a vision of humanistic higher education has never been more important. Three major paradigm shifts have occurred as a result of recent changes taking place in higher education:

  • the necessity of lifelong learning. With the rapid pace of change in knowledge production and dissemination, the shelf-life of knowledge and skills continues to decrease. Thus lifelong learning, including lifewide learning, has become so important in the lives of people that it is now recognised as a basic human right;
  • the democratization of knowledge. Widening access to knowledge is growing everyday. Access to knowledge includes traditional credit-based higher education programs as well as open education resources. A comprehensive diversity of educational resources allows people to access much of the world’s knowledge with just a smartphone or computer;
  • the development of the global knowledge society. The degree of political, economic, social, and technological development of a nation depends largely on the quality of lifelong education available. Organizations like the United Nations and World Trade Organisation were created to implement universal declarations and protocols needed for common areas of concern. These have further fuelled the rise of the global knowledge society. In the higher education space, global organizations like UNESCO, the International Association of Universities and the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association provide a mechanism to help educators move higher education in the right direction.

As with any system that experiences rapid change, the changes associated with these paradigm shifts have compelled higher education leaders, lecturers, students, and others to rethink higher education in ways that go beyond purely utilitarian views of education.

humanistic vision

In a rapidly evolving world higher education must continually renew itself. Given the importance of higher education to the on-going development higher education must renew itself with a renewed vision.
Humanistic higher education takes the idea of the integration of teaching, learning, and research, and integrates it with service to humanity. So, humanistic higher education is an approach or mode of inquiry for all higher education degrees.
Humanistic higher education is interdisciplinary and focused on the development of human capacity at all levels (individual, local, national, and international) and in all areas (politically, economically, socially, technologically, and ecologically). This matches the aim of higher education, to my opinion.

for common good

Based on a long tradition of human inquiry, humanistic higher education is based on core principles of our shared humanity: equity, inclusion, justice, responsibility, and sustainable development. Humanistic higher education respects the diversity of multiple knowledge systems and strives to put knowledge into practical action for the benefit of humanity and for the common good.
Education has done more to lift people out of poverty in the past century than at any other point in history. Education at all levels has done more to strengthen democracy than any other factor. Education is the engine that drives every form of development which is why it must be supported and expanded.


Future higher education will require a more fluid approach to learning. An approach that includes integrating formal, non-formal, and informal modes of learning and integrating different modes of disciplinary inquiry for a more holistic approach to solving complex problems.
Learning is both a process and an outcome and it involves continually progressing to higher levels of critical and creative thinking. This requires a collaborative environment of academic freedom. From this point of view human creativity and critical thinking has become the most versatile renewable resource and it must be developed over the course of a lifetime. Education policy must therefore be visionary in its approach and inclusive in its implementation.

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