Sunday, July 18, 2021

Embodying the “Wisconsin Idea:” The University as the Arm of the State


 By John A. Akec

Universities, all over the globe, are entrusted with three missions: education, research, and service to society. The University of Juba is no exception.

Endowed with hundreds of highly qualified faculty, and given its unique location in the nation’s capital city, the University of Juba is obliged to serve society by constructively engaging policymakers and legislature and drafting policies, laws, and regulations that can help propel the country forward. It is nothing peculiar to us. Throughout the ages, ideas that enable societies to progress have been passed around and shared among nations, and adapted to local settings.

Traditionally, universities were known for exercising an ‘indirect’ or ‘silent’ influence on society through discoveries that others could be put to good uses and serve practical ends. Universities also teach the young to attain inquiring minds. These two functions belong to research and education missions of university.  The Germans were the first to establish universities that are wholly dedicated to research. The British gave importance to training of undergraduate students and developing their moral and intellectual capacity.

The third function of university was added by the Americans who were the first to recognise the importance of higher education in providing knowledge and human capital required by a rapidly developing society. This was facilitated by the signing of Morrill Act by Abraham Lincoln in 1861. The Act required every state in the US to allocate land to at least one university or one college of higher education whose mandate was “to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and mechanical promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in several pursuits and professions in life.”

Consequently, the American ‘land-grant’ universities and colleges provided extension services that included field agriculture stations that advised farmers on seeds and the latest farming technologies. Their law schools helped develop new commercial codes. Their economic professors advised the state governments draft labour and social legislation. Evening programmes allowed hundreds of thousands of the working American adults to learn new subjects, and train for new careers in industry. Their schools of education developed model curricula for high schools in suburbs and poor parts of the cities. Charles R Van Hise, President of the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1903 to 1918, opined that “the borders of the campus are boundaries of the state”. That became the ‘Wisconsin Idea’ that defined the American land-grant university. In the like manner, Kerr Clark, the former President and Chancellor of the University of California (Berkley), described American university as ‘the arm of the state’. In fact, for state universities in the US, there was no intellectual service that was “too undignified for them to perform.”

On our part, we at the University of Juba are fully committed to the ‘Wisconsin’s Idea’, and are striving to advance our third mission of serving the society beside education and research. We want to provide evidence that informs policy design. Top of our agenda is an ongoing initiative to advise the Ministry of Public Service and the Ministry of Finance on the best approaches and strategies to be followed in order to adjust the pay structure and improve the wages and salaries of public sector employees in the Republic of South Sudan. We will advise the Ministry of Finance on reforms of the pension system and social security. We will work with the Ministry of Health in order to reform and enhance the quality and provision our healthcare system. We will collaborate with Juba City Council to improve waste management and improve the traffic flow around the city as well as land management and urban planning. We are getting involved in the enrollment of vocational training throughout the country. We will collaborate with National Revenue Authority to identify new sources of taxes. We will advise the National Communication Authority on improvements in telecommunication and ICT services. We will assist the Ministry of Defence in mounting necessary security reforms.

In short, the University of Juba is more than willing to act as ‘the arm of state’, ready to assist in tackling every economic and social ill facing our country. Our academics will be playing the role of ‘voluntary civil servants’.


  • Thanks you so much my Vice Chancellor for the services you have delivered, may God continue his blessings so that you adds more to your people.

    By Blogger Ajuong James Jok, At 10:25 PM  

  • Thank you Prof Akech.
    No doubt on your administration at the University of Juba.
    U have transformed University of Juba.
    May God continue blessing your term at University of Juba.

    By Blogger Marko Achien Deng, At 11:34 PM  

  • I recommend Prof Akech for more ten years in administration

    By Blogger Marko Achien Deng, At 11:56 PM  

  • Be bless and continue to work hard and harder to bring the system of institution to right channel. You really changed the university of Juba, it is now like a public institution.
    Thanks so much Prof J A for the great work done, I wish you to do more Sir.

    By Blogger Them Miyen, At 3:45 AM  

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