“Universities are at times criticized for their aloofness or their devotion to vocationalism, for being too easy or too severe, and drastic efforts have been made to reform them by abolishing entrance requirements or abolishing all that does not lead to bread and butter; but no substitute has been found for the university in its main business, the training of scholars and the maintenance of the tradition of learning and investigation” Haskins, The Rise of the Universities, p. 25 (2013)
W.E.B. DuBois, in his criticism of Booker T. Washington, spoke of “education that encourages aspiration, that sets the loftiest of ideals and seeks as an end culture and character.” Institutions in this tradition do not structure their education with jobs or careers as the primary goal, but rather to help students become better people.
What it means to improve your character will certainly vary from institution to institution–some may emphasize well-roundedness, others inter-cultural empathy. But they all believe that the goal of education is the production of individuals of ‘good character.’
There are, you no doubt suspect, many different definitions of what it means to be a good person. For some colleges and universities, it is about helping students find satisfaction—contentment or happiness—in their life. For others, it is about creating devout members of a particular religious tradition.