Tag Archives: Alexander Humboldt

How far have we drifted from the Newman/Humboldt Idea of a university?


Irish universities have a plethora of missions. Many of these are laudable – the reduction of inequality, acting as a reservoir of skills for the modern economy, acting as engines of that selfsame modern economy, a sponge to soak up youth who might otherwise be unemployed… That they are laudable is not the point- they are distant from what has for centuries been seen as the core of universities. That core goes by various terms. In the European tradition it is called Humboltidian, in the Anglo-Saxon Newman. Both are essentially the same, and were the formalization of the centuries old approach as well as being the template of modern ones. The basic tenets of these are the same : a liberal education in its broadest sense, a focus on the person more than on the skills, universities containing the broad range of human knowledge, and a general sense of anti-utilitarianism. These are ideals which I would like to see actualised.

Continue reading