The importance of a residential university

Newman’s main educational objection to the newly-founded colleges of London University was that neither college nor university aimed at the ‘philosophical idea of education, which was fulfilled in the old Universities’. In a stinging contrast, he remarks that Oxford and Cambridge ‘were emphatically places of residence for those who came to them, the residence of many years: the University was an Alma Mater, and College was a Society. But a University which is scarcely more than a board of Examiners and an apparatus for Degrees, and a College which is but a collection of lecture-halls, open to young men who need never see each other or their professors elsewhere, in no way rise to the height of the ancient idea, of which they usurp the title.’ (‘University and King’s Colleges in London’)

The University of London effectively became an ‘open’ or distance-learning university in 1858, but a campaign to turn it back into a teaching university eventually made it not just a metropolitan university, but a national and imperial – as well as a residential – one.

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