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Something has gone deeply wrong with the university - too deeply wrong to be put right by any merely bureaucratic means. What’s wrong is, simply, that our official idea of education, the idea that inspires all government policies and ‘initiatives’, is itself uneducated. With the growing emphasis in higher education on training in supposedly useful skills, has the very ethos of the university been subverted? And does this more utilitarian university succeed in adding to the national wealth, the basis on which politicians justify the large public expenditure on the higher education system? Should we get our idea of a university from politicians and bureaucrats or from J.H. Newman, Jane Austen and Socrates? The New Idea of a University is an entertaining and highly readable defence of the philosophy of liberal arts education and an attack on the sham that has been substituted for it. It is sure to scandalize all the friends of the present establishment and be cheered elsewhere.
Newman's famous ideal which was to shape thinking and policies of all future generations, here in his own original words
The contributors look at the motivation behind the various interested parties in higher education reform - administrators, politicians and the students themselves - in an attempt to determine how universities will be shaped in the future. The book will appeal to all those with an interest in the university as an institution, and its historical - and future - role in society.
By the late eighteenth century, universities in England and Germany had lost their sense of purpose. The romantics then presented them with a new one, a new Idea of a university. In Germany, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and others stressed that universities must teach more effectively; in England, Coleridge and Wordsworth attached to the German Idea a desire to keep the universities part of England's national church.
Starting from Newman`s concept of the university as a place of liberal education, Professor Cameron examines how today`s university functions, what its aims should be and what its strengths and deficiencies are, and presents some proposals for reform. He argues that liberal education, in which knowledge is pursued for its own sake as well as for the advantages it may bring, should remain the core of university studies, although he emphasizes that natural science and the technologies, as well as the traditional art subjects, may be studied liberally in the university. In the course of a rich and broad-ranging discussion, he singles out parasensical discourse – a kind of curious verbal play, neither sense nor nonsense, designed to inculcate attitudes, not convey information – as a symptom of the crisis in the university today. Cameron`s trenchant analysis of it and of the serious ills that it represents is particularly relevant to an understanding of the controversy surrounding modern university education. The four lectures in this volume were originally delivered to mark the sesquicentennial of the University of Toronto and the 125th anniversary of Saint Michael`s College. The occasion, Cameron writes, `gave me a chance to consider the nature and spirit of the institution within which I have spent most of my working life. At a time when the value of university education is being questioned, Cameron provides a fresh perspective on the university`s purpose, its form, and its future. The volume is published in association with the University of Saint Michael`s College by University of Toronto Press.

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