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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

University Autonomy and other ‘irrelevant’ matters


Recently, Universities have been in the news for various reasons. Among many, one of the important issues is University autonomy. Often quoted examples are those of occidental countries, for example, University of British Columbia, etc. However, what are lacking are the discussions on the model for eastern Universities such as Nalanda, Mahavihara and even Pirivenas.

However, if one looks at the economic model promoted in USA/Europe, it is based on Protestant Modernity with so called Post-Modernism thinking at the fringes. The free market model comes under the Newtonian Paradigm, where a kind of equilibrium is envisaged.

Incidentally, so called Military discipline usually comes under command and control, which is anathema to free thinking. Usually, a military system is example for an entity under a Newtonian Paradigm, whereas a University is supposed to be a self organised system.

Under occidental knowledge system, more appropriate paradigm for economic thinking would be the Thermodynamic Paradigm, where the concept of Entropy is central. Hence, a more representative economics comes under the subject known as Non Equilibrium Thermodynamics (NET). This aspect has been discussed at least forty years ago, for example, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen in his seminal book (1971) ‘The Entropy Law and Economic process’ and more recently in ‘Steady State Economics’ by Herman Daly (1991).

Perhaps, University model(s) in USA and Europe are "irrelevant" as they are built on a false economic premise that is possibly why USA/Europe is facing many economic hardships at the present.

In considering technological solutions, it must be said that the role of technology is to gain access to Entropic Capital. However, technology cannot create Entropic Capital, for this reason technology has very limited role in sustainability. This concept of Entropic Capital is least understood by most persons, so called eminent or otherwise, as they are made function and think in a system which is mainly based on a Newtonian Paradigm. Thus, in most cases, technology results in the generation of appreciable Entropic Footprints, which often aggravates environment problems. For this reason, the concept of developed countries is also less relevant under the Thermodynamic Paradigm and what is more important is the concept of "Low Energy Countries", or in other words, countries which consume minimal amount of energy per capita wise.

However, Universities in Sri Lanka have been creating knowledge outside the Newtonian Paradigm despite its preponderance. For Example, model for Cosmology has been developed in the University of Vidyalankara where the Buddhist concept of Sanvatta/Vivatta is used, instead of the familiar "Big Bang model" which has the signature of god written on it. A model for Economic Sustainability is being developed at the University of Vidyodaya. This is even more the reason that university autonomy is of paramount importance in our country. The model for University autonomy could be home grown.

Some Definitions:

Entropy - It is usually described as a measure of disorder in a system in most standard textbooks on Thermodynamics (Statistical Mechanics). However, this description is unsatisfactory as explained by D. F. Styer. Quoting from his paper, "Insight into Entropy", American Journal of Physics, 68(12), December (2000) says:

"Given the clear need for an intuition concerning entropy, and the appealing but unsatisfactory character of the simile "entropy as disorder" what is to be done? I suggest an additional simile, namely "entropy as freedom," which is to be used by not itself but only in conjunction with "entropy as disorder."

Entropic capital – The accumulated transformable order found in nature which provides with the freedom to act (for any entity). Incidentally, entropic capital is the foremost of the factors of production encountered in economics, as without it other factors would be irrelevant.

Agra T. Wijeratne