John Tusa

Sir John Tusa is an arts administrator, radio and television journalist. He is Chair of Governors, University of the Arts London and Chairman, Clore Leadership Programme.

It is all too easy to sound glib about the benefits of going to a university; it is very easy to sound smug; it is fatally easy to appear superior about having had the experience. Can I avoid those hubristic traps while expressing honestly why my university years were so important? It is only relatively recently that I suggested to myself that the real purposes of a university education were fourfold: First to learn how to think; then to learn how to learn; next to understand why thinking and learning should never stop; and finally to learn a specific discipline or skill. In that order? Yes. How can you truly master your discipline without knowing how to think and learn? If you grasp something of the challenge that such a process involves, those skills are applicable across any practical or theoretical disciplines you might ever want. Of course a good university course teaches you the prior skills and their subsequent application as part of a total intellectual package. Some of the things taught and above all learned are implicit; acquiring the explicit knowledge is enabled by the implicit understandings. Most of them cannot be quantified which does not mean that they cannot be measured but the measurement that is intuitive rather than numerical is often the most precious. I knew none of this while I was at university. But I definitely first learned it there.