Skip to Main Content

Lingnan University Distinguished Scholars Seminar Series University College London: A critical reflection on the nature and future of higher education



Riding on the success of the previous two seminar sessions, the Distinguished Scholars Seminar Series organised by Lingnan University’s School of Graduate Studies continues with the delivery of its third seminar. The seminar series takes place between November and December 2023 and features world-renowned scholars sharing their insights and expertise on various topics.

The third seminar, “What is University?": A critical reflection on the nature and future of higher education” was held on 15 November 2023. Prof Tristan McCowan, Professor in International Education at University College London, delivered an instructive presentation that was attended by around 100 participants, both on-site and online.




Prof Joshua Mok Ka-ho, Vice-President and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies at Lingnan University, expressed the university’s gratitude to Prof Tristan McCowan for his contribution to the seminar series, highlighted Lingnan University's visions, and reiterated its commitment to outstanding education and research. Prof Mok has also emphasised the relevance of this seminar series to improving Lingnan University’s research, teaching, and learning.




Prof Tristan McCowan delivered a lecture on how socio-cultural and political issues affect universities, presenting thought-provoking questions and extensive analysis. McCowan believes universities are greatly impacted by society. He stressed the necessity of critically assessing impacts on higher education systems to understand their strengths and flaws, using examples from ancient to contemporary universities. This knowledge can help build inclusive and egalitarian systems.  


speaker 2


McCowan's presentation challenges audiences to picture a future where universities can satisfy everyone's and the community's needs, notably the SDGs. Universities may feel pressured to favour vocational programmes over liberal arts education in a profit-driven society. Limited exposure to varied viewpoints and critical thinking abilities might impede pupils' well-roundedness, the professor said. Universities may emphasise inclusive admissions practices and varied faculty representation in a culture that values social justice and equality, creating a more inclusive and equitable learning environment for all students. The professor also explained how societal requirements and economic forces have transformed universities and research institutions, into entrepreneurial ventures.


The seminar stimulated discussions on understanding universities' historical and social contexts to anticipate their future and retain their role in society. Prof Tristan McCowan kindly answered all the inquiries raised by postgraduate students and faculty colleagues, providing insightful suggestions and information related to how a market-driven strategy has prioritised practical skills and job-oriented education. The interactive discussion explores whether universities should prioritise economic growth or a broad education that fosters creativity and independent thinking. Many participants expressed their interest in further exploring this topic following the seminar, attesting to the immediate applicability of the knowledge shared.


The Distinguished Scholars Seminar Series is part of Lingnan University's commitment to promoting academic excellence and fostering intellectual exchange. The university looks forward to welcoming more distinguished scholars to the upcoming seminars.


To learn more about the Distinguished Scholars Seminar Series, please visit


Media Report:

  4. Asia Research News