The role of research

Though Newman saw research as having its part to play in the university, he stressed that the primary function of a university is to teach rather than to undertake research. But he was careful not to draw the line too closely.

‘A professor is not to be overburdened with lectures, that he may have time for the steady pursuit and thorough mastery of his department of science or learning. […] Nor are his duties confined to the lecture hall: in this day, especially, he may be quite as usefully employed with his pen as with his tongue’ (Scheme of Rules and Regulations of the Catholic University, 1856).

Newman saw to the publication of Atlantis, a register of literature and science conducted by members of the Catholic University, which was launched in January 1858 as a biannual journal for the scholarly output of the teaching staff. As a heavyweight academic journal under the editorship of the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Atlantis provided an outlet for those academics who had few students to challenge, and it served to raise the academic tone of the University and set its sights high. Each number was about 200 pages in length and included articles of a literary and scientific nature, largely the latter.

Overall, however, Newman felt that the proper home of research lay outside the university, albeit in institutions closely connected with it. In distinguishing between the tasks of teaching and researching, Newman argues in the Idea of a university that the capacities for undertaking both are not commonly found in one and the same person, since research demands isolation and concentration, and teaching an external involvement.

Newman wrote when pressure for research was just beginning to mount – and long before it had been raised to the level of an ideology. He insisted in his lectures on the central teaching function of the university and the wider emphasis on character development.

While Newman made a certain provision for research, others such as his close friend Edward Pusey insisted that the formation of the mind should be given not only pride of place but an absolute monopoly in university life:

The object of Universities is […] not how to advance science, not how to make new discoveries, not to form new schools of mental philosophy, not to invent new modes of analysis, not to produce works in medicine, Jurisprudence or even Theology, but to form minds religiously, morally, intellectually. It would be a perversion of our institutions to turn the University into a forcing-house for intellect. (Collegiate and professorial teaching and discipline, 1854)


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