Nov 29 2007
Is it wrong to teach what is right and wrong?


(click here to download document)

It is definitely part of a university's job to equip its students with the high skills the labour market requires. It is also part of its job to inculcate the critical competence and attitude which a thriving democracy needs. But is it also part of its job to teach its students the ethical and moral values that should guide their big choices and daily routine, whether as doctors or as engineers, as managers or as lawyers, as teachers or as journalists or in any other professional capacity?

If so, how should the job be done? Just by teaching the codes of deontology of the professions our students are likely to exercise? By taking and defending a stance in case studies? By preaching by example?

If not, does it mean that we are capitulating to the dictates of the market? And what is then left of the values that allegedly define the "identities" of at least some of our universities and are eagerly invoked in our universities' "charters", on their websites and at their most pompous ceremonies? Sheer empty rhetoric irrelevant to our students' future professional conduct, if not shameless hypocrisy?


(click here to download programme)

2 - 3.45 pm : First session

  • Welcome and Introduction
    Jacques WILLEMS, Chairman of the University Foundation
  • Philippe VAN PARIJS, coordinator of the Ethical Forum
    Is the teaching of values part of the mission of Europe's Universities ?
  • Andris BARBLAN, political scientist, Secretary General of the Magna Charta Observatory on the Universities' Fundamental Values and Rights, Bologna, and former secretary general of the European University Association (document)
    Liberal education versus higher education market: trends and controversies concerning the place of values in North-American Universities
  • Jean-Pierre RICHER, philosopher, former director and adviser to the Rector at the Université du Québec à Montréal, visiting scholar at the Chaire Hoover, UCL (document)
    The debate at the Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Emmanuelle DANBLON, linguist, adviser to the Rector of the Université Libre de Bruxelles and coordinator of the ULB's "Chantier Valeurs" (document)
    The debate at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
  • Bart PATTYN, philosopher and theologian, director of the KU Leuven's Ethics Centre and editor of Ethical Perspectives (document 1, document 2)
  • Questions

4.15 - 6.00 pm : Second session

  • Teaching values to medical students?
    Robert RUBENS, professor of medecine at the Universiteit Gent (document)
  • Teaching values to journalism students?
    Yves THIRAN, professor of journalism at the Université catholique de Louvain and director of information and ethics at the RTBF (document)
  • Teaching values to management students?
    Nigel ROOME, professor of corporate social responsibility at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the University of Tilburg (document)
  • Teaching values to law students?
    Boudewijn BOUCKAERT, professor of law at the Universiteit Gent (document)
  • General discussion
  • Concluding remarks
    Philippe VAN PARIJS, professor of economic and social ethics at the Université catholique de Louvain and visiting professor of philosophy at Harvard University (document)

Newspapers articles

  •     Het nut van morele vorming (De Standaard) (document)
  •     L'Université peut-elle se permettre de dire à ses étudiants ce qui est bien et ce qui est mal? (Le Soir) (document