This article explores the theoretical foundations of social cohesion as it relates to higher education institutions. In so doing it seeks (a) to understand the core elements of social cohesion—social capital, human capital and ethical behavioural norms that serve a common good—and (b) to establish a flexible framework for understanding the combined contributions of higher education to society. Tertiary institutional phenomena (those occurring in higher education) that are involved in the creation of social cohesion are hereafter termed academic social cohesion. The particular emphasis is on higher education’s role in cultivating moral awareness as a vital product of institutions’ primary activities. These core functions of colleges and universities are discussed in relation to both academic social cohesion and the degree to which they should involve the creation of specific ethical norms.
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