Université de Strasbourg

Symposium 2019

USIAS Annual Symposium 2019

Thursday 21 November 2019, 14:30-17:00

Salle de conférence, ISIS
8 allée Gaspard Monge, Strasbourg (access)

This year's Symposium will feature two distinguished speakers, Alison Wolf Baroness of Dulwich of King's College London, who will address the issue of the future of universities, and Martin Wolf of the Financial Times, who will speak about the viability of democratic capitalism.

The symposium is open to the public. The keynote lectures will be in English. Registration is now closed.


14:30    Opening words by Michel Deneken, President of the University of Strasbourg
14:35   Presentation of the 2019 USIAS Fellows by Thomas Ebbesen, Director of USIAS
14:45 Keynote lecture: The Modern University: Too big to fail? by Alison Wolf, King's College London
15:35 Discussion
15:50 Keynote lecture: The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism by Martin Wolf, Financial Times
16:40 Discussion
17:00 Reception

The Modern University: Too big to fail?


Universities, judged by their meteoric growth in size, wealth, internationalism and social importance, were the most successful institutions of the twentieth century. This success derives in part from governments’ belief that expanding higher education guarantees increased prosperity, and their consequent willingness to spend large amounts on it. It also derives from individuals’ desire to succeed: university degrees have become an increasingly important way of sending positive ‘signals’ about oneself to the labour market. However, universities now operate in an environment of faltering productivity, rising costs, growth of populism, and decreasing average returns to a degree. What might this mean for their future? Does their current importance guarantee business and growth as usual? And if not, what alternative scenarios are plausible, and what do they imply for universities themselves, and for society?

Alison Wolf

Alison Wolf, Baroness Wolf of Dulwich CBE, is the Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King’s College London and sits in the UK House of Lords as a cross-bench peer. She was educated at the universities of Oxford and Neuchâtel and spent her early career in the United States as a policy analyst for the federal government. She currently directs the MSc in Executive Management within King’s Business School, and was founding Chair of Governors of King’s College London Mathematics School, where she remains a governor.

In 2011, she completed the Wolf Review of Vocational Education for the government, which implemented her recommendations in full. She was a member of the expert panel for the government’s Review of Post-18 Education and Funding (the ‘Augar Review’) which reported in May 2019. Publications include Does Education Matter? Myths about Education and Economic Growth (2002); The XX Factor: how working women are creating a new society (2013); and Remaking Tertiary Education: can we create a system that is fair and fit for purpose? (2016).

The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism


Is the marriage between liberal democracy and global capitalism an enduring one? Political developments across the west, including the rise of populist leaders, heighten the importance of this question.

Historically, the rise of capitalism and democracy went together, both systems are built on the belief that people should make their own choices, as individuals and as citizens. This is why the richest countries tend to be liberal democracies with, more or less, capitalist economies. Widely shared increases in real incomes played a vital part in legitimising capitalism and stabilising democracy. Today, however, capitalism is finding it far more difficult to generate such improvements in prosperity. On the contrary, the evidence is of growing inequality and slowing productivity growth, and the shock of the financial crisis has had a devastating effect on trust in the elites in charge of our political and economic arrangements. This poisonous brew makes democracy intolerant and capitalism illegitimate. One cannot take for granted the success of the political and economic systems that guide the western world and have been a force of attraction for much of the rest for four decades. The question then arises: if not these, what?

Martin Wolf

Martin Wolf, CBE, is associate editor and chief economics commentator at the Financial Times, London. He studied at Oxford University, initially reading Classics but continuing with Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He spent his early career as senior economist at the World Bank, working in Kenya, Zambia, and India. In 1981 he became Director of Studies at the Trade Policy Research Centre in London. He subsequently joined the Financial Times in 1987. He was a member of the UK government's Independent Commission on Banking between June 2010 and September 2011, and is a member of the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum.

Martin Wolf is an honorary fellow of Oxford University’s Nuffield College and Corpus Christi College, as well as King's College London. He is an honorary professor at the University of Nottingham, and was awarded several honorary doctorates, most recently by the University of Leuven (2018). In 2014, he was a University Global Fellow of Columbia University, New York (USA), and a Senior Fellow in Global Economic Policy at its School of International Public Affairs.

Professor Wolf has figured several times in the list of “100 leading global thinkers” by Foreign Policy magazine. Books that he has authored include Why Globalization Works (2004), Fixing Global Finance (2008, 2010), and The Shifts and the Shocks: What we've learned - and have still to learn - from the financial crisis (2014).

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