What Are Universities For?

“In 1852, John Henry Newman, in one of his discourses on ‘The Idea of a University’, said ‘a University is, according to the usual designation, an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill’. Thirty years later, Thomas Henry Huxley said ‘The medieval university looked backwards; it professed to be a storehouse of old knowledge… The modern university looks forward, and is a factory of new knowledge.’ I believe Newman’s criteria to be as valid today as they were when he voiced them. That they no longer appear to be so is not because the reason for a university’s existence has changed; it is because our society has found it expedient to pervert its purpose to a degree which has come close to destroying its true function. The ideal of a bounteous mother, for which Newman fought with such luminous hope and fervour, has been forgotten in the shift from a place of enlightenment toward a corporate enterprise …” (more)

[David Inman, Academic Matters, 20 January]

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