University Students and Politics in
Underdeveloped Countries 1
SEYMOUR MARTIN LIPSET
The tasks of the universities in the underdeveloped countries of the world are fundamentally not very different from what they are in more highly developed societies. They must transmit in a more differentiated and more specific way the cultural heritage—the history, the scientific knowledge, the literature—of their society and of the world culture of which their society is a part; they must train persons who will become members of the elites of their societies to exercise skills in science, technology, management, and administration; they must cultivate the capacity for leadership and a sense of responsibility to their fellow countrymen, and they must train them to be constructively critical, to be able to initiate changes while appreciating what they have inherited. The universities must contribute new knowledge to the world's pool of knowledge and must stimulate in some of the students, at least, the desire to become original contributors to this pool, as well as equipping them with the knowledge and discipline which, given adequate endowment, will enable them to do so. Regardless of whether the university system seeks to educate only a very small fraction of the stratum of university age or a quite large proportion, these tasks remain the indispensable minimum. A university system which fails to perform these functions, however useful it might be in other respects, is not doing its job. It will become parasitic on the university systems of other countries and will be unable to cope with the tasks of national development.
In the underdeveloped countries, the role of the universities is especially important because the elites of the modern sector of the society are drawn