The Idea of a University

   ‘Some great men… insist that Education should be confined to some particular and narrow end, and should issue in some definite work, which can be weighed and measured. They argue as if every thing, as well as every person, had its price; and that where there has been a great outlay, they have a right to expect a return in kind. This they call making Education and Instruction “useful,” and “Utility” becomes their watchword. With a fundamental principle of this nature, they very naturally go on to ask, what there is to show for the expense of a University; what is the real worth in the market of the article called “a Liberal Education,” on the supposition that it does not teach us definitely how to advance our manufactures, or to improve our lands, or to better our civil economy; or again, if it does not at once make this man a lawyer, that an engineer, and that a surgeon; or at least if it does not lead to discoveries in chemistry, astronomy, geology, magnetism, and science of every kind.’
       Blessed John Henry Newman, The Idea of a University, Discourse 7

1 thought on “The Idea of a University

  1. I was proud to work for fifteen years in the other place down the road, which prided itself on pursuing ‘useful learning’, but I felt I could do so on the assumption that equal weight was given to both terms of that description. It seems to me that we cut the ground from under our own feet if we show the world we have too many hang-ups about teaching young people skills that they may be able to employ in the world of work. Equally, however, we do them and society no good service if we turn out people with a purely instrumental and utilitarian view of their education. Usefulness, yes, but learning in the fullest sense that can be realised within the resource constraints.

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