Life Is A Test…I-ATP’s Keynote Speaker Calls for Globalized, Engaged Universities and “Smart Assessments”

“Life is a test – and so we had better prepare for its constant tests,” remarked C. Peter Magrath, Ph.D., five-time college president and keynote speaker at India-ATP’s second annual conference held November 9, in New Delhi.

Magrath addressed an audience of higher education leaders, including chancellors and vice chancellors, representing more than 50 educational institutions throughout India. In his opening remarks Magrath talked about the need for colleges and universities to graduate critical thinkers and the need for critical evaluation of students so that their instruction can be tailored to their needs. “Put another way,” said Magrath, “assessment testing makes it possible for the university to serve the common good; every country needs in its workforce good quality graduates.”

Magrath advocated for what he termed as “smart assessments” that give a picture of the skills – and educational needs – of the student. “This is important if universities admit diverse students from many backgrounds. Their purpose should not be to pick winners, guaranteed to succeed, but rather to measure the needs of students so that they can be directed toward a path that will liberate them to have a fulfilling life – and to serve the common good of their country.”

Magrath, whose career included serving as president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC), delved into the future of higher education in an increasingly technical world, but one in which many opportunities and advancements are in abundance. “There is a future,” he said, “for world-class higher education that serves the people of all countries – if we are smart and exploit the opportunities before us!”

Magrath advocated for the “engaged” university, which he defined as those universities that “partner with groups and interests of their countries.” And he pointed, as a model, to the historic land-grant system created in the U.S. in 1862, which provided for public universities in every state “that would be inexpensive and open to all—not just the wealthy and privileged.” These universities, he said, increased productivity and wealth for not only the regions in which they were housed, but for the nation.

Three characteristics which Magrath itemized as being essential for an engaged university are that it must be organized to respond to the needs of today’s students and tomorrow’s – not yesterday’s; it must enrich students’ experiences by brining research and engagement into the curriculum including practical opportunities for students; and it must put its critical resources – knowledge and expertise – to work on the problems of the communities it serves.

He also called for the globalization of universities as a reflection of an increasingly interconnected world. “A university that is not fully internationalized is a university in name only – whether it’s located in Mumbai or New Delhi or Minneapolis-St. Paul or New York…if countries…wish to compete economically in a…global economy, they must be internationally smart.”

Magrath concluded with the definition of a test as “a procedure for critical evaluation; a means of determining presence, quality or truth of something…a series of questions, problems, or physical responses designed to determine knowledge, intelligence or ability…” And that, Magrath concluded, “is what we are all about – being tested in various ways, to create hopefully a more humane, truly interconnected world.”

The full program and presentations can be viewed by visiting the I-ATP web pages