Why read the Idea?

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).


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Criticisms of the Idea

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