Professorial system

The system of university teaching which is dominated by the one-hour lecture was called the ‘professorial system’ in Newman’s time, and he and others contended that the system had serious shortcomings.

Newman challenges the idea that lectures by themselves are sufficient for learning at university. He argues that:

‘the work of a Professor is not sufficient by itself to form the pupil. The catechetical form of instruction and the closeness of work in a small class are needed besides.’ Newman explained that, even if the professor was a man of genius and able to interest his students, what was gained from his lectures would often be very superficial. Undoubtedly, students who were academically self-motivated would be able to profit from them; but in general, if the reliance was solely on lectures, ‘the result will be undisciplined and unexercised minds, with a few notions, on which they are able to show off, but without any judgment or any solid powers’. (‘Report on the Organization of the Catholic University of Ireland’, October 1851)

The solution is to combine what he calls professorial and tutorial (i.e. collegiate) systems. See Professorial and collegiate universities

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