In the Idea of a university Newman identifies many of the central functions of a university and gives lasting literary form to an argument which still captivates readers and inspires reflections on what a university ought to be.
The Idea provides an attractive alternative to the shapeless, relativistic and uninspiring alternatives of many contemporary universities.
The concept of a university as an institution of unique purpose has all but dissolved, and contemporary universities increasingly function as performance-oriented, heavily bureaucratic, entrepreneurial organisations committed to a narrowly economic conception of human excellence.
In attempting to recover a sense of purpose for the university, several modern critiques use the Idea as a key point of reference, such as:
- Maskell & I. Robinson, The new idea of a university (2001)
- Graham, Universities: the recovery of an idea (2002)
- MacIntyre’s God, philosophy, universities (2009)
- Collini, What are universities for? (2012)
- Higton, A theology of higher education (2012).
Some use Newman as the pivotal figure in their analysis, such as:
Jaroslav Pelikan, The idea of the university: a re-examination (1992)
Sheldon Rothblatt, The modern university and its discontents: the fate of Newman’s legacies in Britain and America (1997).