The paper considers Boyer's declaration that the work of a university centres around four areas of scholarship: discovery, teaching, application and integration. The evolution of the modern university is analysed in terms of the struggle for dominance by each area of scholarship in turn, to meet the needs of the contemporary society. It identifies three major times of upheaval. At the birth of the Civic universities, the scholarship of discovery was added to that of teaching. With the “plate glass” expansion and the institution of the polytechnic sector, the need for application was acknowledged. As knowledge has expanded and new subject areas continue to form where disciplines connect and overlap, the discipline of integration has become increasingly relevant and, with the merging of the polytechnic and university systems, it could be argued that there has also emerged a need for a management system to support that integration.
The paper concludes that Boyer's four areas of scholarship are still necessary, and remain core to the business of universities, but they are no longer sufficient for survival and development unless the scholarships are considered, not only at an institutional and national level, but also as part of a global learning system. The four scholarships will only be guaranteed if the unique role of the university itself is defined and defended.