Monday, 28 June 2010

What is University for? Part Two: A view from the past

In my previous blogpost, I opened up the debate about whether University is about receiving an education to a degree level, or an opportunity to have a life experience of moving away from home to living and studying with other young people.

In his Idea of a University, John Henry Newman argues that the very experience of living in a community of scholars is its the greatest educator, regardless of the curriculum or examination structure:
I protest to you, Gentlemen, that if I had to choose between a so-called University, which dispensed with residence and tutorial superintendence, and gave its degrees to any person who passed an examination in a wide range of subjects; and a University which had no professors or examinations at all, but merely brought a number of young men together for three or four years and then sent them away; if I were asked which of these two methods was the better discipline of the intellect … [and] if I must determine which of the two courses was the more successful in training, moulding, enlarging the mind, which sent out men the more fitted for their secular duties, which produced better public men, men of the world, men whose names would descend to posterity, I have no hesitation in giving the preference to that University which did nothing, over that which exacted of its members an acquaintance with every science under the sun.
Idea of a University, 1852 Discourse VII; pp 232-3

1 comment:

  1. The Gordian knot: academic initiative excellence entwined with functional realism. But then wasn't Ruskin College an early attempt to disentangle this knot? And isn't the Open University model also an attempt?