The role of a university I dream of is very simple-to generate knowledge, to disseminate knowledge and to implement knowledge.
The main responsibility of academia is to make knowledge more accessible to all. This is exactly what Buddha did centuries ago. He went through all the pains and sufferings to distill knowledge into simplest form that could be understood by every being and passed on around the world.
My learning from Buddha is as follows:
First, the person who generates knowledge must have an integrity of character and pursue scholarly quests selflessly. This applies to all involved in teaching. The purity and sacredness of the role of a teacher, still holds same as it was in the time of Buddha. Nothing should blemish that. For a teacher, knowledge is the religion and students are the primary beneficiaries.
Second, the mission of knowledge should be to do good to others. The fundamental essence of serving others, comforting those in pain and making lives better through our knowledge, wins over all adversities and survives the tests of time. Nobility of purpose cannot be substituted with anything. It is the very spirit of knowledge.
Third, the delivery of knowledge should be simple and clear. We live in a world where greatness tends to be measured by the grandeur of appearance rather than the depth of quality, acceptance tends to be measured through momentary popularity rather than the gravity of thoughts. Simplicity appears to be a vice rather than a virtue; but the truth is, it is not. In the long run, simplicity and clarity endure.
Yes, the shade underneath the trees might have changed to classrooms. The robes of monks might have changed to uniforms but the basic essence of teaching, learning and the spirit of knowledge has not changed a bit and will not change for generations.