Collegiate living

Newman defines the term ‘college’ to mean a body of students not merely living together in one dwelling, but belonging to a single establishment; it suggests a foundation invested with authority, public recognition and an endowment.

A college (of its equivalent) is a household which ‘involves the same virtuous and paternal discipline which is proper to a family and home’. Being a domestic establishment in which teachers and taught live together as one family, the college ‘is all, and does all, which is implied in the name of home’. Young men leave the family home to find another – a home from home; because they do not know the world and so are easily discouraged by the difficulties of life; because they still have to learn how to cope with the temptations of the world; because they have not yet learned how to learn.

Ideally, the ‘collegiate home’ assumes the characteristics of the family home, and thus becomes ‘the shrine of our best affections, the bosom of our fondest recollections, a spell upon our after life, a stay for world-weary mind and soul’.

There is no contradiction between these homely images and the disciplinary role Newman gives to the college, because by ‘discipline’ he means not an externally imposed code of behaviour but the discipline of a regular and ordered personal and social life, a self-discipline that is intellectual, moral and religious. In this way college would take over where family leaves off by providing a place of refuge and companionship, and also prayer and instruction.

Newman established a medical lodging house in 1857 after the medical faculty wrote to him of the ‘lamentable consequences resulting from the exposure of inexperienced youth without guidance or restraint to the moral contagion or a large city at a time when temptation is strongest and a wholesome check most needed, namely after the business hours of the day when students come together and are left to determine for themselves how and where the night shall be spent.’

If the family is ‘the primary place of “humanisation” for the person and society’ (Benedict XVI, Message on World Day of Peace, 2008), then the university hall of residence can surely be regarded as an extension of the family to the extent to which it acts on behalf of parents in offering their offspring a second home. There, habits and character are formed, and personal growth takes place. If the university teaches students how to make a living, then the college teaches them how to live.

A university is an institution, but a college (or its equivalent) creates a family environment which educates the heart, because it forms young people by engendering good dispositions, healthy loyalties and upright affections. Newman’s efforts to ensure that this took place were of paramount significance: it is what he meant by ‘education, in this large sense of the word’.

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