views updated May 23 2018


changes in the map of european universities
european university systems
transformations and convergence of european university systems
conclusion: a european system?

In the first half of the nineteenth century, higher education in Europe underwent changes that resulted in the establishment of divergent institutional systems. Beginning in the 1870s, however, a new consensus began to emerge, based on an ideal that combined teaching and research that accelerated the exchange of knowledge, teachers, and students across the Continent.

changes in the map of european universities

In 1790 there were 143 active universities in Europe. As the century came to a close, and over the first half of the nineteenth century, major changes started to occur that, to begin with, affected Germany, France, and Russia.

Germany, France, and Russia: Revolution in the university

Of the thirty-five German universities existing in 1789, with a total of seventy-nine hundred students, eighteen disappeared during the Revolutionary period. On the other hand, three new institutions were founded, in Berlin (1810), Breslau (1811), and Bonn (1818). Prussia hoped that these would help buttress the control it recovered after 1815 over extremely heterogeneous lands now stretching from part of conquered Poland to the Catholic Rhineland.

The French university landscape was even more radically altered. A string of revolutionary laws and decrees issued between 22 December 1789, when universities were subordinated to the départements, and 7 Ventôse Year III (25 February 1795) quite simply swept away colleges and faculties of theology, medicine, the arts, or law founded in the Middle Ages. Under the Consulate (1799–1804) and Empire (1804–1814), French higher education was integrated into a highly restrictive central administrative framework from which all local institutional autonomy was completely absent. Professional faculties (three of medicine and three of law for the whole empire in 1804) and academic faculties (of arts and letters and of science) were all brought under the authority of a central administration known as the "Imperial University." Fortunately, the Napoleonic regime spared certain major institutions considered to be genuine seedbeds of scientific innovation. Some of these dated from the ancien régime, such as the Jardin du Roi, turned into a museum in 1793, and the Collège de France; some had been founded during the Revolutionary period, such as the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, the Institut de France, and the School of Oriental Languages; and others were long-established elite training establishments such as the École Polytechnique for civil and military engineers, the Saint-Cyr military academy, and the École Normale for the training of university teachers.

In Russia too the transformation of the university system was rapid and carried out from above. Moscow University itself was founded early on, in 1755. Between 1803 and 1819, however, as many as five Russian universities came into being: Kazan (1804); Kharkov (1805); Dorpat (Tartu), formerly a German institution, became Russian in 1802; Vilna (1803), transferred to Kiev in 1835; and St. Petersburg (1819). In the second half of the nineteenth century, universities in Odessa (1865), Tomsk (1888), and Saratov (1909) were established. To these institutions should be added very many higher technical schools, chiefly in Moscow.

Elsewhere in Europe, however, the growth of universities was far slower.

Slow progress in northwestern and southern Europe

The British Isles were especially conservative. In 1800 there was one university in Ireland, namely Trinity College in Dublin; four in Scotland; and two—the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge—in England. This deficit was gradually mitigated by local endeavors with no overarching plan: by 1901, Durham (1832), London (1828; reincorporated 1836), Manchester (1851), and twelve other "civic universities" had gradually been established in the larger English cities. And, thanks to reforms made in Scotland in 1858 and at Oxford and Cambridge in 1877, it is possible to say that a real university system, rather than the isolated colleges of an earlier time, had come into existence in Great Britain before 1914.

As for the Mediterranean region and northern and eastern Europe, it is hard to blame traditionalism for the delayed progress of higher education. Governments in these areas tended to create new, more functional institutions as a response to social and political pressures, the result being a highly unbalanced distribution of facilities. Before 1871, the Italian states as a whole possessed twenty-one establishments of higher learning, but these varied dramatically in size and were distributed in a way that failed to reflect real needs: northern and central areas were overserved, whereas from the academic standpoint the south was a near-desert utterly dominated by the giant University of Naples.

By contrast, a centralized country such as Spain was able to rationalize its university map gradually during the nineteenth century. A number of the institutions of the old regime were simply closed down between 1807 and 1845, with no attempt being made to revitalize them. Just ten universities remained, each covering a district conceived on the model of France's "circumscriptions." After the transfer of the main institution from Alcalá de Henares to Madrid in 1836, the nationwide network suffered, just like that of France, from the crushing weight and privileges of what in the official terminology was called the "Central University."

Smaller countries also, notably the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, and to a lesser degree the countries of Scandinavia, met with much difficulty in their attempts to bring a measure of rationality to their university systems. As in the modern period, religious traditions and national, even regional, rivalries meant that these sparsely populated states had a disproportionate number of institutions relative to their actual needs. In the wake of Belgium's independence, two new universities were founded, a liberal and secular one in Brussels and a Catholic one in Malines (both in 1834). The reorganization of 1835, however, left the country with just four universities: two state institutions, in Ghent and Liège, an independent university in Brussels, and a Catholic one in Louvain.

The map of Scandinavian universities went through analogous revisions in response to political changes and the requirements of scientific innovation. The achievement of autonomy, and then independence, by such new states as Norway and Finland enabled them to develop systems of higher education clearly distinct from those of their former protectors, Denmark and Russia, respectively. The ancient universities in Scandinavia were Copenhagen, founded in 1479, and, in Sweden, Uppsala (1477) and Lund (1666). To these was added the University of Christiania (Oslo); founded in 1811, six years after Norway became independent of Denmark, it was to be the center of Norwegian nationalism. Similarly, the elevation of Finland to the status of a grand duchy dependent on the Russian Empire was followed by the transfer of the University of Turku to Helsinki (1828).

Change in the university and political change in central and eastern Europe

In the early modern period, central and eastern Europe was a region with little in the way of a university system. This traditional pattern, however, was gradually transformed by virtue of the expanding national and liberal movement, the training of local elites in western Europe, the birth of new states, religious and ethnic rivalries, and a growing desire to catch up with the more developed parts of Europe. A few signs of intellectual subordination or archaism nevertheless survived until after World War I, as witness the continuing flow of students sent to Germany and France from most of these new nations.

The western part of the Austrian Empire (Cisleithania) was undoubtedly the best served region, with six ancient universities at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to which almost as many advanced technical schools were added in the first half of that century. This picture underwent very few modifications thereafter, except for the division of the University of Prague into two autonomous institutions, one Czech and the other German, in 1882; the creation of the University of Agram (Zagreb) in Croatia in 1874, with philosophy, theology, and law faculties; and the founding of the University of Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine) in 1875.

As for the eastern portion of the empire, Transleithania, its sole university was founded in Nagy-szombat (now Trnava, Slovakia) in 1635 then moved to Buda in 1775 and then to Pest in 1784. The university could award doctorates but offered only partial programs of technical instruction and specialized law and theology courses. New universities were eventually established around the turn of the nineteenth century, as was consistent with the country's development.

A very different path was taken by higher education in partitioned Poland, which would not regain its independence until 1918. Throughout the nineteenth century, Polish elites were educated for the most part in foreign universities. Students from the Prussian province of Posen (Poznán) attended the universities of Berlin and Breslau and, being barred from administrative posts, tended to take up Catholic theology. In Austrian Galicia, however, there were two predominantly Polish university towns, Kraków and Lemberg (now L'viv, Ukraine). The most repressive university system was in the Russian-dominated "Congress Kingdom of Poland." From 1831 to 1862, the University of Warsaw was in effect closed in reprisal for the 1830 uprising. During those years, Polish students were thus obliged to go to Russia—to Kiev or St. Petersburg. After 1864 the University of Warsaw was Russified, becoming in effect a sort of private free university. This institution had to struggle to survive, and indeed it lost all autonomy in 1869. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, Polish elites preferred to educate their young people abroad, in clandestine establishments or, more and more, in the Polish-speaking and relatively independent Galician universities. The most oppressed group of all were Jews aspiring to higher education but confronted by both Russian and Polish anti-Semitism.

On the fringes of Europe, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania provide examples of the simultaneous emergence of the modern university and the modern nation under strong foreign influence—Bavarian or German for the first two, French for the third. In such small rural countries the founding of a university in the capital was one of the chief symbols of an independence eventually won after long centuries of cultural oppression. From the outset, the new kingdom of Greece, with Otto, son of the king of Bavaria, at its head, sought to buttress its national identity by establishing a university in Athens. Inaugurated on 3 May 1837, it was to serve for the rest of the century as a rallying point for the Greek diaspora living under the Ottoman Empire (more than 40 percent of students at the University of Athens were born outside Greece's borders).

In Romania, the creation of the University of Iaşi (1860) through the expansion of an academy dating from 1835 was followed in 1864 by the founding of the University of Bucharest on the basis of three preexisting faculties (arts, sciences, and law); a medical school was added in 1869 and a department of theology in 1884. These two institutions reflected the desire of the Moldo-Wallachian elites to emancipate themselves from dependence on ancient centers of learning abroad that had trained the ruling class until that time. As a small country speaking a romance language, however, Romania maintained its links to France, and most of its future university teachers and a significant proportion of its students, especially in law and medicine, continued to complete their education in Paris.

european university systems

The first seventy-five years of the nineteenth century thus saw the rise of university systems in Europe that differed greatly according to their location. This may be explained in part by the upheavals and reorganizing already mentioned, and in part, too, by the survival of long-standing cultural traditions. The two most radically distinct approaches, which for the sake of convenience are referred to here as the "Napoleonic" and "Humboldtian" systems, were instituted almost simultaneously and represented opposing responses both to critical historical contingencies and to the intellectual and pedagogical debates of the Enlightenment.

The Napoleonic system

Though constructed almost from scratch, the Napoleonic system of higher education extended certain eighteenth-century innovations (the vocational schools) while rejecting the universalizing ambitions and new departures of the radical phase of the French Revolution. The intent was to endow the state and postrevolutionary society with the framework needed to stabilize a country turned upside down, to exercise a tight control over education in accordance with the new social order, and to prevent the emergence of a sphere of intellectual freedom too large and dangerous for the state to handle. This enlightened despotism accounts for the predominance of the "school" model (even when the term faculty was used), the tyranny of state diplomas governing the right to exercise a specific function or profession, the importance placed on grading and competition even in courses of study that did not necessarily call for them, the regimentation of curricula, and the conferment of degrees by the state alone. The system implied a strict division of labor among faculties and a high measure of educational specialization. In consequence all essential research and innovation was confined to the large establishments—to a few departments of the Sorbonne or the Collège de France or to the academies and learned societies. This explains the chief shortcoming of French higher education, namely the overconcentration of resources and manpower in Paris.

This unegalitarian logic was also reflected in the hierarchical relations among teachers: because a portion of their remuneration was in the form of examination rights, teachers in the vocational schools with their large intake and those in Paris with its abundance of candidates had unfair advantages. This inequity was exacerbated by the ability of professionals, notably teachers of law and medicine, to supplement their incomes through extramural activity. Professors of arts and science subjects, meanwhile, often sought to increase their revenue by cumulating teaching or administrative functions, which had an exploitative effect on substitutes and adjuncts.

The Humboldtian system

The new university system promoted by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) was conceived in explicit opposition to the Napoleonic approach. Under its sway the philosophy faculty was assigned equal if not superior status to other departments. The philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) defined the university in this context as that place where masters and fellow students assemble between school (in the sense of secondary education, viewed as a coming together of masters and apprentices) and academy (meaning an assembly of masters among themselves).

This ambitious intellectual ideal explains the categorical rejection of French-style vocational and specialized schools, which turn their back on what the German model considered the true purpose of the university, namely to awaken the individual to knowledge, to adopt an encyclopedic approach, and to offer a free choice of studies (Lernfreiheit). Nevertheless, even though the organization of the University of Berlin was certainly influenced by these ideas, it would be an error to assume that its structure conformed strictly to the myth of the "Humboldtian system" as later constructed by German academia.

To begin with, research played a distinctly subordinate role in the new system, and the particular relationship between teaching and research that was subsequently deemed one of the chief distinguishing features of the Prussian approach came into being only slowly and in an uneven manner depending on place and discipline. As for another hallmark of the German system, much admired by foreign observers, namely the use of the privatdocent (an assistant professor who gives lectures to students without being tenured and is directly paid by them) in the training of future teachers, it should be pointed out that this arrangement was by no means as widespread as is often assumed. The real basis of the dynamism of the German system (or more accurately systems) was perhaps that, being less rigid than any other, it was able to benefit from nineteenth-century intellectual and social advances. Decentralization indeed allowed for local initiatives that might later, imitated or imported, spread to other universities. Student mobility obliged institutions to adapt according to demand, and this created a process of emulation that was by definition absent from unified and centralized states such as France. All these features are primarily the result not of any concerted approach but of a history based on the division of Germany into several different states.

Nor should one overlook the persistence of older traditions (differing religious practices according to region, the continuing subordination of philosophy departments in southern Catholic states such as Bavaria) or the enduring wish of the sovereign of the German states to retain political control over "their" universities. In 1819, for example, the conference of German states in Karlsbad decided that the universities should be subject to political surveillance in view of a growing liberal student movement, the Burschenschaft. The concern of the states was only increased by the degree of student participation in the 1848 movement for German unification. The supposed competitiveness of the academic market within a multipolar system unique in Europe was nonetheless vulnerable to corruption through persistent nepotism in recruitment, especially in the smaller universities. Inasmuch as the state, in order to meet the demand for teachers, resorted to the creation of extraordinary, low-paying and nontenured positions for teachers or privatdocenten, this arguably served as a spur to young researchers whose work had to be truly distinguished if they were to join the professoriate. On the other hand, the appointment process remained prone to biases of a social kind into the twentieth century; in the conservative Protestant states, for instance, Catholics, teachers considered too liberal, and—a fortiori—Jews were persistently discriminated against or even excluded from the academy.

The vocational crisis of the German system

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, when the German university system was being imitated across Europe and elsewhere in the world, the system itself was undergoing a crisis. This reflected several problems related to social and intellectual changes: the difficulty of incorporating the most modern scientific and technical culture, the aristocratic corporatism of the teachers, the lagging professionalization of certain career paths, and so on. This was a crisis of growth—and a crisis in the academy's sense of vocation.

After stagnating between 1830 and the mid-1860s, the German student population had multiplied by a factor of five (to sixty-one thousand) by 1914. In the main, this growth benefited the smaller universities and the philosophy faculties. For the first time the number of arts and science students surpassed that of law students, while the tally of theology students in 1914 was a full half lower than in 1830. Higher education was changing, shifting its emphasis from traditional avenues such as the clergy or the civil service to more modern careers such as college teaching, scientific research, engineering, and the technical professions. In parallel to the universities a network of Technische Hochschulen (polytechnics) was set up—ten in all by the beginning of the twentieth century. Their student population more than tripled from five thousand in 1871–1872 to seventeen thousand in 1903; university enrollment doubled during the same period. These technical colleges were disparaged by those in traditional universities, and it was only thanks to the intervention of Emperor William II in 1899 that they obtained the right to bestow doctorates.

The new generation of students tended to be drawn from less middle-class, less cultivated backgrounds than its predecessors, and student attitudes were more pragmatic. Students were now less taken with the Humboldtian ideal, for they were seeking an education tailored to very precise career goals, and this often gave rise to misunderstandings with teaching staff who for their part were increasingly specialized, detached from the surrounding society, and prone to indulging nostalgia for a Germany that was no more.

The burgeoning student population alarmed conservatives fearful of the rise of what Otto von Bismarck called a "proletariat of bachelors." The absence of regulation with regard to enrollment probably did produce numbers of students in law, medicine, and arts and sciences that at some point became disproportionate to the society's needs.

As for the system's vocational crisis, it was an even more pointed threat to the German approach than uncontrolled expansion, because it precipitated an internal dislocation of the universities. The Humboldtian ideal was meant to help educate distinguished young men of the solid bourgeoisie or nobility. But once the universities were populated in the majority by young people (including, from the early nineteenth century on, young women and foreign students) whose concern was to maximize the future profitability of their university careers, the orientation of higher education was bound to veer toward utility and specialization. After 1871 the governments of German states gradually accepted this tendency, structuring their institutions and courses of study in accordance with the new needs of an industrial society. They also fostered ties between scientific research and the economy. These new priorities were bound to throw the earlier German ideal model of the university into question.

The crisis also affected those supposed to embody and uphold the Humboldtian ideal, the university professors themselves. The untenured were often in the majority, notably in the sciences and in medicine, but they did not always participate in collective faculty decisions. This imbalance made career advancement slower and more arduous and fed a discontent that erupted before World War I in the movement of the Nicht-Ordinarien. The proliferation of untenured teachers cannot be explained solely by the financial advantage governments stood to reap from the availability of lower-paid employees. It was related also to the increasing prestige of professorships, which were more and more eagerly sought after, and to the growing specialization of disciplines, whose new branches would typically be entrusted to young untenured teachers. These factors accelerated innovation, but they were also a source of intellectual frustration. They meant, for one thing, that new entrants to the system needed to dispose of private means while waiting for promotion or occupying lower-level positions.

Meanwhile, institutional autonomy was increasingly jeopardized by state intervention in appointments and even more by the growing financial dependence of the universities on public funding for the equipment needs of scientific and medical research and even for research grants and library resources in the humanities. The "freedom and solitude" of the ideal Humboldtian professor had scant prospect of survival in institutes where collective projects held sway or in universities collaborating closely with captains of industry.

Austro-Hungarian exceptionalism

Austro-Hungarian higher education presented a far more traditional aspect than the German universities. After the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1773, the central government administered the entire system, including the non-German-speaking parts, under the Ratio educationis law of 1777. Remnants of medieval tradition, such as "student nations" and the "assembly of the doctors," and the survival of absolutist tendencies into the 1850s, also impeded the introduction of German-style reforms. The university system thus had a strictly functional goal, namely the provision of the human cogs—priests, functionaries, or teachers—needed by a heterogeneous empire. Education was thus governed in every detail from above, in sharp contrast to the pedagogical freedom gradually spreading in Germany. With the exception of the Vienna Faculty of Medicine, Austrian universities were scientifically backward. The 1848 revolution, in which Viennese and Hungarian students were very active participants, obliged the authorities to experiment with the Prussian model (Count Leo Thun Von Hohenstien's reform), albeit in an authoritarian version that remained in place until around 1860. Under this arrangement higher education was extended by two years, while students in the preparatory years no longer entered institutions of higher education until they had passed a "maturity examination" (or baccalaureate). The philosophy faculty thus achieved parity with other departments, as in Germany. The government eliminated student nations and associated teachers' remuneration with the number of students enrolling in their courses. The opening up of the academic market through the hiring of more privatdocenten and the recruitment of teachers from Germany created a competitive situation that over time raised scientific teaching standards.

The chief peculiarity of the Austro-Hungarian system lay, however, in the obstinate survival up until World War I of professional (and especially law) faculties: 45.7 percent of Viennese students in 1860 and as many as 53.8 percent in 1909 were law students; in Hungary the proportion was close to 60 percent.

British systems

It makes little sense to speak of a single university "system" in the British Isles. The characteristics of English universities on the one hand and Scottish on the other were the product less of any state plan than of compromises between centuries-old traditions and long-postponed reforms. To this picture must be added new institutions, privately or locally conceived, that addressed shortcomings in the existing establishments and were thus governed by the logic of local conditions rather than by an overarching idea, as in France or Germany.

For most of the nineteenth century, a clear distinction has to be drawn between the Scottish universities and the two ancient English universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The Scottish institutions were much more closely akin to universities on the Continent because they depended on the state for most of their financial support. Their doors were open to students from modest backgrounds, they imposed neither residence nor the tutorial system, and they were far more concerned with teacher training than the "colleges" of their English counterparts. Reformed before the English universities by virtue of two royal commissions (1826 and 1876) and two acts of Parliament (1858 and 1889), the Scottish universities took the lead in educating students in the new disciplines and preparing them for professions other than the clergy. As early as the 1820s, their total student population was large, totaling 4,250, whereas Oxford and Cambridge together had less than one thousand undergraduates. The reason was twofold: the simultaneous presence within the Scottish universities of adolescents of fourteen or fifteen, "lads o'parts" drawn directly from parochial schools, and young men of twenty or thirty years of age; and a generous scholarship system. The flexibility of curricula and attendance even made it possible to combine studies with work. While a humanist culture continued to dominate at Oxford and Cambridge and while vocational training in England, as a practical matter, was provided outside university walls, the Scottish universities, like those of most European countries, combined the two functions.

At the start of the nineteenth century, Oxford and Cambridge differed in every particular from the Scottish universities. They had barely emerged from a long period of stagnation stretching over the best part of the previous century. By about 1829, with 840 admissions annually, they had returned to their seventeenth-century level. The requirement that students reside in the colleges, the high cost of enrollment, the absence of vocational preparation other than clerical, and the refusal of admission to non-Anglicans placed further limits on expansion. The gradual introduction of formal examinations (the Tripos), especially at Cambridge, produced a corresponding improvement in the quality both of the teaching and of the students. The complete independence of these ancient universities vis-à-vis the state was founded on their vast landholdings and on their close relationship with the Church of England. Their ideal of an educated man was still that of a well-rounded honnête homme (honest man), and moral context continued to count as much as scholarly content. Thus the teacher–student ratio was kept much higher than in continental Europe. At Oxford, for example, there was a teacher for every nineteen students in 1814 and for every sixteen students in 1900. It is true that competition for "honors" introduced a kind of meritocracy and bestowed social markers, so to speak, of future success.

Even before religious restrictions were lifted, dissidents got around them in 1828 by instituting the first non-Anglican college in London, namely University College, destined to become one of the core components of the University of London. The

Anglicans of the capital responded in 1831 by founding King's College. The Whig government recognized both colleges in 1836 in setting up the University of London, licensed to deliver degrees on students in London institutions. As early as 1850, two hundred candidates took advantage of this method of circumventing the constraints of the traditional universities. The new university thus introduced another level of heterogeneity into British higher education, for London was not residential like Oxford and Cambridge ("Oxbridge"), nor was it unified like the Scottish establishments.

A third phase in the evolution of the British higher education system was constituted by the creation of the "civic universities" mentioned earlier, which had purely practical goals and philanthropical or local funding, and by the long-deferred reform of the ancient universities, where a few features of the German system were eventually introduced.

Russia between Humboldt and Napoleon

In Russia, the beginning of the nineteenth century saw the establishment of a system of secondary and higher education. The new universities were modeled on the German system. The first teachers were in fact Germans or Russians trained in Germany, notably at Göttingen. The most contradictory aspect of the new system, an aspect that would endure as long as the Russian Empire itself, was that these institutions, devoted in principle to science and theoretically rather autonomous, were nevertheless assigned the task, after the fashion of France's grandes écoles, of training civil servants. This ambiguity was reflected in an alternation between liberal periods facilitating Westernization and the politicizing of student youth and periods of repression and militarization precipitated whenever the authorities felt they had been too permissive.

The first such reactionary moment came in the 1830s in response to the European and Polish revolutionary events of 1830 to 1832. The statute of 1835 obliged students to wear uniforms and follow regimented curricula while teachers were forced to defend the Orthodox religion, autocracy, and nationalism. The tumult of 1848 in Europe sparked a new militarization of the Russian universities. Rectors were now to be appointed, the teaching staff was purged, the content of courses became liable to prior vetting, enrollment fees were increased so as to reduce the number of students, and students were subjected to military training and strict pedagogical control. Disciplines perceived as dangerous (such as constitutional law and philosophy) were eliminated. By the early 1860s, however, the return to a more liberal administration had begun.

Initially intended as they were to train a nobility integrated into the state, the Russian universities accepted but a small proportion of poorer students. In Moscow in 1862, 71 percent of students were children of the nobility or of eminent functionaries—actually up from the 65.9 percent estimated for 1831.

In theory at least, the teaching system was very rigorous, calling for twenty hours of obligatory course work per week, a pass-or-fail yearly examination, and a maximum of six years of study to finish the nominal four-year program. Selection was not very strict in practice, however: more than two-thirds of students were graduated and received the title of kandidat.

transformations and convergence of european university systems

Sociologists and historians of education have described the period from 1860 to 1914 as one of diversification, expansion, and professionalization of higher education. These three tendencies were accompanied by the growing influence of the German system as a model for reform in countries whose universities had remained traditional. Convergence was nevertheless only partly realized because of the persistence of national and regional particularities.

France: Incomplete reform (1868–1904)

In France during these years two main concerns, the need to develop the research function within the faculties, as in the German system, and the need to restore balance to a vastly overcentralized structure, joined forces with a mood of intense national self-examination prompted by the defeat of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871) to spur on the movement for reform.

In 1868 the first concern was addressed when Victor Duruy (1811–1894) founded the four sections of the École pratique des hautes études, so creating teaching laboratories and a place where knowledge was transmitted by means of specialized seminars that broke from formal courses intended for a wide audience (the main form of teaching in the faculties). The second concern, the need for decentralization, took longer to address. A solution required local support from the provincial cities, a new inflow of teachers (teaching positions nearly tripled between 1865 and 1919), and much increased financial resources (faculty budgets more than tripled between 1875 and 1913). Most universities were reorganized or expanded during this time. An improved balance was achieved, too, between vocational and academic faculties, bringing things closer to the German model in this regard. The greatest challenge was the administrative reform embodied in the law of 1896 that grouped faculties together as universities. As was consonant with their status as civil institutions, these new entities had elected governing councils, controlled a portion of their budgets, and were empowered to create and eliminate professorial posts and to receive endowments. In a word, they could innovate.

Convergence with the German system was nevertheless incomplete. The decentralization failed to impinge seriously on the dominance of Paris: 43 percent of all French faculty students were still to be found in Paris in 1914, as compared with 55 percent in 1876. Paradoxically, the decision finally taken to transform all groups of faculties into universities, even in small towns, prevented the emergence of major regional centers capable of competing with Paris.

All the same, the reform must be credited with the diversification of the subjects on offer and a reduction in the average age of teachers, who now fell into several different categories.

The university reform was less successful in the vocational faculties, and it failed to challenge the enduring hold of an elite system of higher education over recruitment to top technical and administrative positions. So far from losing their importance, the schools of this system multiplied, keeping most of their privileges. After 1870 they were reinforced by commercial schools, as well as new engineering schools and schools of administration. Catholic faculties created after 1875 also developed vocational training opportunities.

The development of the British universities

This period was also decisive for British universities, which experienced their most radical reforms since the Middle Ages. England's two ancient universities were obliged by parliamentary action to adapt to the modern world: non-Anglican, female, and foreign students were at last admitted in the 1870s, when they were permitted to enroll outside the college system. Meanwhile college fellows were gradually given permission to marry. From this point on, therefore, a genuine academic career became a possibility, because university teaching was no longer merely a stepping-stone to the clergy or to the liberal professions. In consequence the population of Oxford and Cambridge grew considerably. The range of subjects taught, still confined at midcentury to the classics and to mathematics, opened up now to the sciences, history, law, and foreign languages. Research too now had a place, especially at Cambridge, after a gift from the Duke of Devonshire made it possible in 1871 to create the Cavendish Laboratory, where part of the future British scientific elite would be trained.

The most significant changes in the British academic landscape nevertheless occurred outside Oxbridge, as the new civic universities grew in number in the provincial cities, their purpose being to train the new managers needed by an industrial and urban society. Until these universities were granted full independence by royal charter, their students received their degrees through the University of London, an establishment that itself expanded very greatly as more and more specialized institutions were federated under its aegis in a somewhat abstract manner. The resulting "exploded" university obtained its real charter only in 1898.

The other change that underlined the break with the Middle Ages was the state's ever-increasing financial stake in institutions that had hitherto subsisted either on their inherited wealth (Oxbridge) or on the support of private or municipal benefactors (the provincial universities). This departure was initiated in 1889, and by 1906 state aid had already reached £100,000, a by no means negligible sum, albeit much inferior to university apportionments on the Continent (from the 1890s on, for example, France disbursed four times as much to its fifteen groups of faculties).

The Scottish universities depended even more on the state. They were granted £72,000 yearly from 1892, to which were added funds for building, endowments from local businesspeople to create chairs of practical interest, and, beginning in 1901, a gift worth £100,000 per annum from the Scottish-born American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

The social background of university entrants continued to reflect great elitism at Oxbridge, but for the new universities and above all for the Scottish institutions the picture was considerably more egalitarian, and thus closer to the continental pattern. In 1910, for instance, 24 percent of university entrants at the University of Glasgow were children of manual workers, and 20 percent those of small shopkeepers, artisans, and office workers; at Oxford these two categories together accounted for a mere 10 percent of student intake, although they constituted 90 percent of the active population in Britain. This discrepancy in the level of social discrimination between the two kinds of universities had a financial underpinning: in Scotland, fees were low, scholarships plentiful, and the primary and secondary education network well developed; in England, by contrast, Oxbridge students continued to be drawn mostly from the high-fee public (i.e., private) schools, while some two hundred pounds per annum, roughly equivalent to the entire income of a middle-class family, was needed to fund an Oxbridge student. And in 1910 no more than 7 percent of English students received scholarships (predominantly young people supported by local municipalities interested in their pursuing technical careers).

Austria-Hungary: The attraction of Germany

It was during the second half of the nineteenth century, too, that the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the newly developing Balkan nations began in their turn to feel the gravitational pull of the German model. Their universities belonged in a sense to two worlds: they were modern, and close to the German academy, inasmuch as German-speaking teachers and students were continually circulating through the western part of the empire and even reaching Budapest; but at the same time they were still archaic in many ways, still characterized by the backwardness of largely rural countries where careers for professionals lay in the civil-service, judicial, ecclesiastical, or medical spheres far more often than in the scientific or literary ones. The eighteenth century's enlightened despotism had left a concrete legacy in the shape of many well-established advanced technical schools. But the whole system was subject to unusual stress on account of the national and religious origins of its students, drawn as they were from populations of great diversity. Another difficulty arose from the pressure, strongest in the east, for students to migrate westward to Vienna, to the German or Swiss universities, or even, in the latter part of the period, to Paris, a trend that deprived many new institutions of the most highly motivated individuals.

The universities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire gradually won the right to teach in national languages. They thus became seedbeds of national freedom movements, which naturally tended to block convergence with the German system and with international intellectual life.

The Hungarian universities had a number of special traits, notably the predominance of law studies, a privileged avenue so favored by the ruling class that Hungary was dubbed "a nation of lawyers." The explanation for this lies in the development of a Magyar bureaucracy after the Compromise of 1867 and by the new prominence of the legal profession in a liberal economy. The petty and middle-level Hungarian nobility, with its land rents in decline, used law training as a way of monopolizing positions in the state apparatus. By the end of the century this monopoly was being challenged by commoners, especially by Jews who were able to take advantage of bloated university law schools where rather easy requirements made it possible to combine legal studies with other activities. By the same token, such easy access to law courses facilitated the assimilation of Germans and Slavs into the dominant ethnic group.

Switzerland: Gradual expansion

During this period Switzerland slowly developed an approach to higher education that was unique in three respects. In the first place, there was no nationwide university system, because each establishment depended on a particular canton that had a free hand with respect to education. Second, because the canton authorities were directly involved in the governance of the university, institutions were immediately affected by political developments. Third, the independence of cantons notwithstanding, the nearness of Swiss university towns to one another meant that competition always had to be reckoned with when striving to attract students from a single linguistic catchment area; rather as in the German system, this was a powerful spur to productive rivalries. An original—albeit almost unavoidable—way to fund the conversion of the old Swiss academies created by the Reformation into true universities (including research facilities), was the opening of the door to foreign students and (unusually early) to young women. Even before 1914, female students constituted a fifth of the total Swiss student population, more than twice their proportion in France at that time. As for foreign students, their percentage in Geneva was very high: 44 percent in 1880 and 80 percent in 1910; for all Swiss universities their numbers were not much lower: 47 percent in 1900 and 53 percent in 1910. All these rather unusual characteristics made Switzerland's small universities into innovators when compared with peer institutions in neighboring countries.

Italy and Spain: The difficulty of reform

Reform in the Italian university system proceeded alongside the construction of the national state. It was particularly elusive inasmuch as modern and medieval traditions weighed heavily on the system, while the unique role played by the Catholic Church in Italian society meant that any attempt at modernization meant contesting clerical privileges. The Casati Law of 1859 sought to centralize higher education after the fashion of the French system. It excluded the church from higher education but failed to eliminate small local universities inherited from medieval times.

With its seventeen complete or incomplete groups of faculties, post-unification Italy at the end of the nineteenth century seemed overendowed by comparison with France (fifteen groups) or Germany (twenty universities), especially since Italy's population was smaller and its territory only half as large. In addition, the Italian network was very unevenly organized: in the 1890s, for instance, eight universities had fewer than five hundred students among them, while in the following decade the student body at Naples alone numbered more than four thousand. The only notable reform, motivated by anticlericalism, was the abolition of theology faculties in 1873.

At the turn of the century, despite German influence, the system's long-standing defects remained, among them the predominance of law studies, the lack of independence for the smaller university centers, and hidebound teaching methods. The archaic character of the degree courses was at the root of significant unemployment among brainworkers and a predilection for civil-service posts that worked to the detriment of the sort of advanced technical training needed by a modern economy.

In the early 1900s, however, this last tendency was significantly reversed, thanks largely to private-sector initiatives. In response to the new industrial Italy's need for managers, business leaders, and technicians, public business schools sprang up, the private Bocconi University was founded in Milan (1902), and engineering schools were established in Milan (1863), Naples (1868), and Turin (1859). But teachers were still badly paid, precipitating a continual search for other sources of income—especially in law departments, often a springboard to politics.

Spain, like other Mediterranean countries, saw its higher education system fall dramatically behind that of the more advanced northern European nations in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Until 1900 the Spanish universities were plagued by some of the same problems as the French but in an even more chronic way. Those problems included overcentralization, skeletal staffing, bureaucratic administration, and lifeless teachers given to rote methods. The law faculties monopolized the majority of students. The central university of Madrid dominated the whole system because it alone could confer doctorates and because its teachers were better paid. Advanced technical schools supplemented the very traditional degree courses offered in the faculties.

Though overshadowed by the technical schools, the Spanish universities were very slow to welcome academic and modern disciplines. Two-thirds of teachers were underpaid and to ensure their futures were obliged to seek additional work or hope for transfer to Madrid.

The movement for reform was started by a modest group of teachers at Oviedo, the smallest university in Spain. They were inspired by measures taken from 1900 on by a new minister of public education, among them the opening up of faculties of arts and sciences to new disciplines, the introduction of the social sciences into law departments, and the establishment of scholarships. Chronic shortages of funds, however, limited such advances. The necessity of modernizing course content and attracting students from new sectors was addressed by adopting the English system of university extensions; this solution was initiated in the shape of public courses at the University of Saragossa in 1893, and later spread to other Spanish universities.

Russia: The impossibility of liberalization

Russian higher education during this period was inhabited by contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, in accordance with the Russian tradition of benevolent despotism, the state was striving to make the system into an integral part of the modernization and Westernization of the country. On the other hand, the reactionary tendencies of the autocracy reemerged from time to time in response to endemic revolutionary agitation, enforcing authoritarian measures designed to reassert control over universities viewed as hotbeds of subversive ideas and a threat to the social order.

The expansion in the student population during the period is even more striking in view of the very low initial tally: a total of five thousand students in nine universities in 1860 swelled to thirty-seven thousand students fifty years later. That this trend was unstoppable, despite restrictive measures (including quotas for Jews and those of modest means) passed in the wake of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, is accounted for by the appeal of higher education in a society in which bureaucratic positions were the most prestigious of all. Aside from the study of law, which led to such positions, medicine also exerted a growing attraction in view of the country's immense health care needs and the perception that science was the prime weapon in the fight against poverty and ignorance. As a result of the rise of social aspirations in the middle and lower socioeconomic strata, the proportion of students of noble background dropped between 1865 and 1914 from 67 percent to 35 percent in the technical schools and from 55 percent to 25 percent in the universities. Meanwhile, aspirants from petty bourgeois, middle-class, or Jewish families who failed to enter higher education because of obstacles placed in their way by official policies were quick to go abroad, and indeed in great numbers, to obtain degrees. Thus Paris, Berlin, and the Swiss universities acquired large communities of Russian students whose number should really be added to the empire's official figures.

It was during this period too that women entered the Russian student population in force: in 1914–1915, women constituted 30 percent of all students in Russian higher education as compared with an almost negligible proportion in 1900.

Political agitation among students did not end with the century; rather, it continued to reflect the failure of the Russian system to adapt to the emerging modern society. The growth of student militancy was a response to the refusal of the authorities to recognize student associations and their recurrent reassertion of the most authoritarian regulations. The high point of student agitation was reached with the Revolution of 1905, when the universities served as centers of the mobilization that led to the general strike of October.

The growing inadequacy of the Russian university system was reflected in the fact that teachers in higher education, though drawn in the majority from privileged backgrounds (39 percent of them were nobles as late as 1904), inclined overall toward liberalism and reform. Their ideals were Humboldtian, even as tsarism continued to bar the way to the scientific freedom indispensable to progress. But both the statute of 1884, which sought to bring the universities back under control following the assassination of Alexander II, and an orientation toward vocational rather than scholarly and scientific goals were gradually brought into question in actual practice. The institution of privatdocenten in the German mold failed to produce the desired effect absent an adequate pool of teachers. Mediocre remuneration and the difficulty of obtaining a post made an academic career unappealing. Between 1900 and 1914, the situation in the Russian universities deteriorated sharply for lack of revenues (the state met only 60 percent of the budget, the remainder coming from fees) and because the creation of teaching positions failed to keep pace with student enrollment. Ever-growing internal and external tensions (between tenured and untenured teachers, between teachers, students, and the authorities, and so forth) further contributed to the disorganization of a system that, despite a government commission set up in 1902, shrank in fear from any idea of reform.

conclusion: a european system?

Despite the multiplicity of university systems and the persistence of national and cultural differences, the last years of the nineteenth century saw the birth of a truly "European" university, albeit a university that was invisible and without institutional boundaries. Its basis was the incessant and ever-increasing movement not just of students but also of teachers between different cultural environments. For students such migrations represented ways of escape from the political and institutional obstacles that faced them in "backward" or oppressive countries, mostly in eastern and southern Europe. Teachers for their part traveled a good deal between the main centers, attending congresses, joining scientific associations, and setting up exchange programs. This invisible academy realized the Humboldtian ideal inasmuch as it was based on a true desire for knowledge, despite geographical or institutional obstacles, and on the freedom to teach and learn outside official curricula. The fact that students could choose between competing university centers was one index among others of the intellectual reach of those institutions, and hence of their capacity for innovation and excellence in particular disciplines. As for teacher exchanges, they attested to the intensity of intellectual relations between different linguistic and cultural regions, and to the strong influence of this country or that in a particular branch of learning. Even though it issued into the most murderous explosion of nationalism in European history, this period nevertheless suggested the possible shape of a reconstructed academic Europe firmly linked to the most ancient medieval traditions.

See alsoEducation; Humboldt, Alexander and Wilhelm von; Intellectuals; Intelligentsia; Professions; Schleiermacher, Friedrich.


Charle, Christophe, and Jacques Verger. Histoire des universités. Paris, 1994.

Jarausch, Konrad H., ed. The Transformation of Higher Learning, 1860–1930: Expansion, Diversification, Social Opening, and Professionalization in England, Germany, Russia, and the United States. Stuttgart, Germany, 1982.

Ringer, Fritz K. Education and Society in Modern Europe. Bloomington, Ind., 1979.

Rothblatt, Sheldon, and Björn Wittrock, eds. The European and American University since 1800: Historical and Sociological Essays. Cambridge, U.K., 1993.

Rüegg, Walter, ed. A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 3: Universities in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries (1800–1945). Cambridge, U.K., 2004.

Schriewer, Jürgen, Christophe Charle, and Edwin Keiner, eds. Sozialer Raum und akademische Kulturen: Studien zur europäischen Hochschul- und Wissenschafts-geschichte im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert/A la recherche de l'espace universitaire européen: Études sur l'enseignement supérieur aux XIXe et XXe siècles. Frankfurt am Main, 1993.

Schubring, Gert, ed. "Einsamkeit und Freiheit" neu besichtigt: Universitätsreformen und Disziplinenbildung in Preussen als Modell für Wissenschaftspolitik im Europa des 19. Jahrhunderts. Stuttgart, Germany, 1991.

Stone, Lawrence, ed. The University in Society. 2 vols. Princeton, N.J., 1974.

Christophe Charle


views updated May 18 2018


The medieval European university

Differentiation of the academic system

The emergence of the modern university

Academic systems since World War II


Universities are organizations engaged in the advancement of knowledge; they teach, train, and examine students in a variety of scholarly, scientific, and professional fields. Intellectual pursuits in universities define the highest prevailing levels of competence in these fields. The universities confer degrees and provide opportunities both for members of their teaching staffs and for some of their students to do original research.

Since the beginning of the nineteenth century, much diversification has taken place in the disciplines taught and the research conducted in universities. However, there is variation from country to country in the subjects included in the university curriculum; only the humanities and the natural sciences constitute an important part of the curriculum of universities in all countries. The functions performed by the universities in a particular country are related to their position in the total educational system of that country: the functions of these educational systems as wholes are uniform, and universities have to be treated as parts of a more comprehensive system.

Because of their high level of competence, the professional staffs of universities have generally been able to exercise great freedom both in carrying out their scholarly and teaching functions, in recruiting new staff members according to professional standards, and in controlling other university policies. The key prerequisite for this independence is functional specificity; such guildlike traditions in universities as collegiate self-government and the election of deans and rectors do not exist uniformly in all universities and are not as important in safeguarding academic freedom.

The medieval European university

The European university as a distinct type emerged in the twelfth century. Groups of students and masters from all parts of the Christian world gathered in certain cities and organized themselves into corporations (hence the name universitas, meaning a community or corporation of any kind). Of the first two universities, which served as models for the rest, Bologna was mainly a corporation of students (or rather a federation of student corporations), and Paris was principally a corporation of masters. Corporate privileges included jurisdiction in civil and, in certain cases, criminal matters, the granting of degrees, and, in principle, the right to teach in all universities (licentia ubique docendi). The most important safeguard of university integrity was the right to strike or to leave town in protest against some insult to the university. The principal universities were legally recognized as corporations by the pope, and their members were either clerics or were regarded as clerics even when they had not taken orders. The first universities were supervised by the local bishop or by one of his high officials—the chancellor. However, the importance of the chancellor receded quite early, and the elected head of the corporation—the rector—became the principal figure of the university. Sometimes, as at Oxford, the chancellor became an elected official of the corporation. At Bologna, a relatively secular university specializing in law, the chancellorship was mainly an honorific post. The universities thus became to a considerable degree independent of the local church.

The protection of the papacy was, however, often sought by the universities when they came into conflict with local bishops and townspeople, and since the Roman Catholic church considered itself responsible for education, this protection was granted readily. Furthermore, since the universities were international institutions in close contact with each other, and since their scholars and masters wandered from university to university, they served a papal cause: the unification of the Christian world. To the members of the universities this close tie to the papacy was acceptable not only because of the protection it provided but also because it accorded with their belief—at least in the twelfth century—in the essential unity of all knowledge and in faith as the highest order of knowledge. In spite of sporadic clashes, the relationship of the universities to the church and in particular to the papacy was based on mutual consent and common interests. The ties with the church created no feeling of constraint; the universities were able to accommodate all the important intellectual currents of the time, and, until the fifteenth century, any limitations on their secular character were self-imposed, arising from the beliefs to which they subscribed.

The most characteristic aspect of the teaching at medieval universities was the method of study known as scholasticism. This method was, on the one hand, based on authority: the acceptance of the Christian faith, of the Holy Scriptures, and of the works of certain classical authors; on the other hand, it implied an absolute belief in the power of reason, which, if correctly applied, had to lead to the discovery of all truth. Textual exegesis was thus used as a way of asking “questions” about all kinds of problems, which then gave rise to disputations conducted according to accepted laws of logic and, finally, to original solutions (determination).

Although much of this abstract speculation now seems futile, it was carried on in an environment that facilitated the emergence of professional intellectual activity and eventually a series of intellectual revolutions. Scholars discussed the difference between religiously revealed truth and logically discovered truth; they applied dialectical methods to the interpretation of Aristotelian texts and to observed natural phenomena. This led to the emergence of secular thought and to the formulation of physical theories that were important for the genesis of modern natural science.

The medieval university was the organizational form embodying the public recognition of the corporate autonomy of specialized intellectuals who performed important social functions. These intellectuals were mainly theologians, lawyers, and physicians. As a stable social structure with sources of income, buildings, permanent personnel, and legal regulations, the university was able to foster the continuity of the intellectual traditions and the creative intellectual efforts of the age. It also provided a setting for the formation of informal groups; as a permanent enterprise, it made risky or ephemeral ventures possible (an example of a risky venture being the study of natural science).

Differentiation of the academic system

During the period from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century, universities, like other successful corporations, became part of the system of estates. Professors claimed hereditary privileges for their posts, using their positions like patrimonies and gaining income from fees, bribes, and even moneylending. Some of them became very rich, and in the carefully graded social hierarchy of the time their status tended to be equated with that of knights.

A development that particularly affected the universities of Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge was the rise of colleges. These were originally charitable foundations serving as hostels for needy scholars, but they soon came to be used for academic lectures. (In this way, for example, the Paris faculty of theology and, later, the university as a whole became identified with the college founded in 1253 by Robert de Sorbon.) In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries colleges grew very rich through real-estate operations; like some of the monasteries, they became seigneuries ruled by small oligarchies, and these oligarchies dominated the whole university. The colleges monopolized the teaching of the liberal arts and became institutions that catered to the sons of the privileged classes rather than to the international community of scholars.

While the earliest universities—Bologna, Paris, and Oxford—had been spontaneous gatherings of scholars, from the thirteenth century on universities were deliberately founded to gain the political support of intellectuals, to strengthen Christianity in areas of contact with heretics or Muslims, or to increase local or national prestige. The University of Naples was founded in 1224 by Frederick n as a rival to the influence of the Guelph city of Bologna. The University of Toulouse was founded in 1229 as part of a scheme for recapturing the heretical lands of the Midi for the church. Similar politico-religious considerations led to the establishment of several Spanish universities in the thirteenth century.

Before the fourteenth century, the university movement was predominantly international in character; only Oxford was established as a national university from its very beginning. It was the founding of the University of Prague in 1348—by Pope Clement vi in response to a petition of Charles iv—that marked the beginning of a movement that turned the universities into national institutions. In the course of the next century and a half many universities were established in the German states, in Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, and—after some early faltering—in Poland and Hungary. By the end of the fifteenth century there were 79 universities in Europe.

The extent to which these universities could serve as centers for the development of new ideas was limited. Their chief goal was to prepare men for the professions of law, theology, and medicine, and this precluded the possibility of paying serious attention to intellectual ventures in humanism, natural science, vernacular literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, and music. The flexibility of the universities was further limited by their involvement in the system of estates and in religious controversies. As a result, the intellectual ferment that had started in the universities and had been centered in them until the fifteenth century began to manifest itself both in new types of teaching institutions and in organizations that were primarily engaged in research.

The new teaching institutions were colleges, Gymnasiums, and academies (to be distinguished from learned societies, which were also called academies). They provided a more practical education than the universities and enrolled mainly the sons of the growing middle classes and of the lower gentry. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the most famous among them were the Jesuit colleges in France, the Pietist schools of Germany, and the Dissenting academies in England. Some of these last were relatively secular institutions founded by private educational entrepreneurs. These schools were not universities in the legal sense, since they had no charters of corporation; however, their functions were parallel to those of the university arts faculties, and some of them taught everything that a university did, including theology, law, and medicine.

In the curriculum of the new schools certain innovations were developed, such as the study of Greek, Hebrew, and modern languages, and the new schools were among the first to inaugurate the study of history, modern mathematics, and some natural science. Moreover, they experimented with methods of education, some of which were the precursors of the seminar and the laboratory. Some of the new colleges were devoted to advanced learning for its own sake, the most famous of these being the Collège des Lecteurs Royaux—later the Collège de France—in Paris and Gresham College in London.

Yet these new colleges did no more than the older universities to foster the development of the natural sciences or the new developments in literature, painting, sculpture, and music. It was left to individuals working on their own to cultivate these two areas, although these individuals were usually connected with some learned society or academy. There are interesting parallels between the emergence of learned societies in the seventeenth century and the beginnings of the universities in the twelfth century. The learned societies started as spontaneous gatherings of people who were interested in scholarship and science and who needed an institutional framework both to facilitate the exchange of ideas and to provide support—psychological and, more rarely, material—for their activities.

In the second half of the seventeenth century, the learned societies were granted royal charters and public recognition; princes all over Europe became interested in founding academies. Where there were few savants, as in Russia or Prussia, they were invited to come from other countries. The outstanding scientists of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—men like Oldenburg, Descartes, Leibniz, Euler, and Lagrange—spent much of their time as itinerant savants. Unlike the universities, the academies (with the exception of academies of art) did no teaching. Members were elected in recognition of merit, but some aristocrats were also included.

In England, France, and Italy, the functions of intellectual institutions became differentiated: private colleges took over general higher education; universities trained for the ministry, medicine, and, frequently, the law; while research was undertaken independently by scholars associated with the academies. In the newer and smaller centers of learning (especially in Scotland, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden) the universities continued to combine the three functions. This was probably due partly to their smallness, which did not allow much division of labor, and partly to their newness, which spared them a great deal of the traditionalism based on hereditary privileges and other vested interests. These smaller centers became leaders in the new fields of learning; they taught natural science, medicine, history, and philology at an advanced level, whereas in the great cultural centers of France, England, and Italy these subjects could generally be studied only privately. But in spite of the fact that the superiority of the peripheral universities was so widely recognized that they were able to attract students from foreign countries, they had no influence on the institutional structure of higher learning. Instead of serving as models, they tended to adopt the prestigious and obsolete traditions of the older centers.

By the end of the eighteenth century, the universities were being strongly criticized, and many intellectuals regarded them as moribund institutions. University instruction was under attack because it almost entirely ignored new developments in science and scholarship. This exclusion of the highest levels of intellectual activity from the universities might not in itself have aroused protest (today a similar situation exists in the creative arts) if the universities had not allied themselves, in some of the absolutist countries, with the church and the state in interfering with the freedom of education and publication. In the economically more backward areas, where there were few channels of mobility for talented young people, the universities blocked the only attractive intellectual career opportunities. Many intellectuals, therefore, had the same contempt for the universities that the new entrepreneurs had for the monopolistic guilds, and they envied the privileges of the academies as the middle classes envied the privileges of the aristocracy.

Since the results of university teaching were poor, some critics recommended the replacement of the universities by professional schools. Such schools were indeed established by some of the absolutist monarchs, especially in medicine and in the new profession of civil and mining engineering. In England professional schools arose without the intervention of the state, especially in medicine. Hospitals and proprietary medical schools became the accepted means for medical training in England and spread from there to the United States.

The emergence of the modern university

During the last decade of the eighteenth century the academic system was thoroughly transformed. In France, the obsolete university corporations as well as the academies were abolished in 1793, but in the Napoleonic era they gradually reappeared in a changed form as parts of a centrally conceived and directed system of higher education. The new system was pragmatic, using the different types of institutions that had evolved over the centuries to train people for different purposes. New institutions were also established in response to new needs, and the whole system was placed under the direction of the central civil service.

In Germany, although the mood of the intelligentsia was also revolutionary, a different course was followed. The universities retained their corporate privileges and their place among the traditional estates of society, but their organization was brought into conformity with the administrative realities of modern state financing and supervision. The level of intellectual activity was raised by making the faculties of arts and sciences the central parts of the universities and by appointing members of the new intelligentsia to chairs in these faculties.

In England the transition was gradual. Beginning in the sixteenth century, a great variety of professional and scientific associations had been established there, as in France. But unlike those in France, the English institutions were founded and financed by private individuals. Their increasing prestige, relative to that of the old universities, threatened the intellectual hegemony of the upper classes. About 1840, in response to this threat and to pressure from both the government and from public opinion, the universities began to reform themselves, and by the end of the century they once again dominated the academic scene.

Toward the middle of the nineteenth century, the quality of the German university system became outstanding. The universities were at that time an almost autonomous subsystem of German society. Because of the political and economic backwardness of the German-language area and the consequent shortage of attractive career opportunities, there was a large supply of able aspirants for academic careers. Education and culture became the most effective bonds between the various parts of the politically fragmented nation. The universities were lavishly supported by the different states and were vigorously competitive. Under these conditions, academic interests flourished: new fields of purely scientific interest could develop without having to convince government departments or charitable laymen of their usefulness, and research was recognized as an important function of the university.

The success of the German university system convinced academic public opinion in other countries that an academic system composed of relatively autonomous, multipurpose units was superior to a centrally coordinated system of specialized institutions. The German system came to serve as a model: it was copied in central and northern Europe and decisively influenced the reformation of the English and American academic systems; to a more limited extent, it exerted an influence in eastern Europe (German influence there was somewhat attenuated by that of the French) and on the French, Italian, and Spanish-Portuguese academic traditions. Under the impact of the German innovations, universities consisting of several faculties were re-established in France in 1896. The German system was also adopted in Japan.

Contemporary academic systems . At the end of the nineteenth century there were three influential academic systems: the German, the French, and the English. (The importance of the Italian universities had receded since the sixteenth century; although the United States had evolved the most important features of its academic system, this system was not yet influential.) All the major European systems (as well as the system in the United States) had the following characteristics: education was free of church control; hereditary claims to university posts were abolished; a clear-cut distinction was made between secondary and higher education; modern scientific and humanistic subjects were accorded a central place in the curriculum; and technological studies were given university status.

At present, the typical institution in Germany, England, and the United States is the university in which a wide variety of subjects is taught and in which research is conducted; most of the “pure” subjects and many of the applied ones are covered. In these countries there exist institutes of technology with university standing; the institutes teach many different subjects—often the social sciences and the humanities as well as the natural sciences. Because of the variety of their functions, both universities and institutes have great potentiality for growth. Specialized research and training institutions play a relatively marginal role in these systems.

The special characteristics of the U.S. system evolved between 1860 and 1910. Before this period, the system of higher education consisted principally of church-affiliated colleges and a variety of professional schools. The Morrill Act of 1862 was the first step in the transformation of the system; it provided grants of land to the states to be used or sold for the support of colleges that would emphasize the teaching of agriculture and the “mechanic arts.” This legislation provided an impetus for the development of academic teaching and research in agriculture, as well as in engineering and a variety of other applied fields. In the course of time most of the land-grant colleges developed into full-fledged universities, thus establishing the basis for a wide-spread and relatively open system of higher education. The view that higher education can legitimately be practical and diversified was not confined to the land-grant institutions but was also adopted by many of the older universities. As a result, American universities have become much more differentiated institutions than European ones. They teach and train students at three different levels: a minimally specialized liberal education (bachelor’s degree) such as does not exist in Europe at all; professional training (ll.b., m.d., master’s degree) in a much greater variety of fields than European training offers; and the training of scholars and researchers (ph.d.), of which only the beginnings exist in Europe.

The French system consists of universities that perform teaching functions comparable to those performed by universities elsewhere and a governmental research organization—the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)—that runs parallel to the universities, often employs the same staff as the universities, and provides facilities and funds for research. In addition, there are the Grandes Écoles: the Polytechnique and the École Normale Supérieure provide professional education for a highly selected elite, and the Collège de France and the École Pratique des Hautes Études offer high-level instruction untrammeled by the requirements of degree courses. Furthermore, the Academie Française still has important symbolic functions. In France, each type of institution performs a limited range of functions, and the system as a whole is centrally directed. An essentially similar structure was adopted in the Soviet Union after the Revolution.

The different types of academic systems reflect differences in general social and political organization. In France and the Soviet Union, a central bureaucracy makes academic policy for the whole country, while the United States and Germany have federal political structures and systems of independent, competing universities. The social and political organization of Britain has produced a system that is somewhere between the other two: on the one hand, Britain is a centralized state— London playing a role similar to that of Paris in France—but, on the other hand, there exist important traditions of cultural autonomy in Scotland, Wales, and the centers of religious dissent in the North and the Midlands. Universities rather than specialized institutions predominate, but the system has a centralized, hierarchic structure, with Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of London at the apex of the hierarchy.

Universities and the social structure . Although the university reforms of the nineteenth century recognized the importance of modern scientific and scholarly subjects and of the intellectuals interested in them, these reforms did not change the place of the universities in the rigidly hierarchic European class system. The universities, therefore, continued to emphasize training for the established professions of law, medicine, and—where this remained within the university—theology. Secondary school teaching was the only “new” profession for which nineteenth-century universities provided training. The introduction of such disciplines as engineering, bacteriology, physiological chemistry, psychiatry, the social sciences, and contemporary philosophy usually met with resistance. This rigidity gave rise to a new wave of intellectual dissatisfaction, which in the mid-nineteenth century found its expression in polemical writings and led to the radicalization of students and intellectuals in general.

There were other sources of discontent among the intelligentsia, some of them inherent in the very process of university education. Universities and other academic institutions had been established in central and eastern Europe to foster autonomous national cultures and to develop the professional manpower needed for the services of the state. Tuition was free or relatively cheap, and students and faculty enjoyed enviable privileges exempting them from harassment by the police and by local authorities and from the oppressive religious and social control characteristic of villages and provincial cities. Becoming a student, therefore, was an attractive path to quasi social mobility. Even if they lived in poverty, students enjoyed some of the privileges of upper-middle-class status, as well as the pleasures of living in large cities with numerous cultural facilities.

For these reasons young people were attracted to the universities, regardless of their interests and abilities or of the demand for the services of graduates. Many of these students were practically unemployable because the European universities trained them in a very limited range of disciplines. Moreover, they were, in a sense, spoiled: not only were they unwilling to forgo their privileges as students for risky careers but also, having experienced life in the capital cities during their studies, they were reluctant to return to the backward provinces. The provinces, which were most in need of educated manpower, were thus drained of their ablest young men, while university graduates emerged as a revolutionary intelligentsia that formed the vanguard of subversive movements.

To some extent, of course, the size of the student body increased in response to a demand for certain kinds of professional men—secondary school teachers, civil servants (who were required to have law degrees), and doctors. But these spurts of growth were invariably followed by waves of unemployment. Such a recession occurred in Germany, mainly as a result of the satiation of the demand for doctors, and as a result the student-population ratio dropped from 6.5/10,000 in the 1890s to 5/10,000 in the next decade (calculated from statistics in Samuel & Thomas 1949, p. 112). Following World War i there was a steep rise in the demand for law graduates to man the newly established civil services in those countries that had gained their independence or had been granted new territories—the Baltic countries, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Rumania, and Yugoslavia; but with the inevitable slowdown of the rate of new employment of civil servants, a slump followed. In the countries that had lost territory, especially Austria and Hungary, there was an excess supply of professionals after the war.

The disproportion between the supply of university graduates and the demand for their services became acute in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s, a problem that was aggravated but not basically caused by the economic depression. The student-population ratios, which ranged in 1913 from 7/10,000 to 11/10,000, rose by 1934 to a range of 11/10,000 to 30/10,000 (Ben-David 1963-1964, p. 263). Curriculums, however, had changed very little, and approximately half of the students studied law and medicine (ibid., pp. 266-267). To cope with the unemployment of intellectuals and their consequent alienation, university expansion was drastically curtailed by governmental action or by the workings of the free manpower market.

The only academic systems that escaped serious crises during this period were those in the United States and the Soviet Union. The relatively open class structure of the former and the government-enforced egalitarianism in the latter led to important changes in the curriculums in their academic institutions. In the United States, expansion took place especially in such new fields as education, the social sciences, business, social work, engineering, and technological studies; in the Soviet Union, the fields of education and technology were greatly expanded.

These academic systems, therefore, adjusted with little friction to the manpower needs of the changing economies in the two countries and expanded without hindrance. In the United States the student-population ratio grew to 83/10,000 in 1934 and to 185/10,000 in 1958; the comparable ratios for the Soviet Union were 31/10,000 in 1934 and 105/10,000 in 1958 (ibid., p. 263). In neither of these countries was the alienated intelligentsia an important social category in the 1920s and 1930s; instead, the professional expert became increasingly important.

Academic systems since World War II

Because of their success in research and the creation of professional expertise, as well as their political and economic importance, the United States and—to a somewhat more limited extent—the Soviet Union have furnished the main academic models for other areas of the world. They account for about half of the world’s student population, and their contribution to research is overwhelming. Their influence is limited only by the political cleavage in the world and by the prevalence of English and French traditions in the previously colonial countries of Africa and of Spanish-Portuguese traditions in Latin America.

Since World War n higher education has greatly expanded in Asia. In Japan, which has one of the highest student-population ratios in the world, expansion has led to the founding of many new universities of different types and the adoption of a pattern of studies modeled on the diversified American curriculum. The influence of the American pattern has also been considerable in India. Despite the increase in the number of universities in Asia, there is still not nearly enough room for the admission of all applicants, nor has it been possible to prepare the growing number of students adequately for professional service or to prevent their studying fields for which there is little demand. The problem of useless training is most severe in India and Indonesia, where, following European and local traditions, higher education is still regarded as a means of access to the privileged classes rather than as training for productive work. Although similar traditions existed in prerevolutionary China, they have been counteracted by the adoption of the Soviet system, in which students are assigned fields of study according to manpower plans. However, prerevolutionary conditions of secondary education still limit the number of candidates for higher education; despite China’s rapid rate of growth—enrollment in institutions of higher education increased from 116,500 in 1949/1950 to 434,000 in 1957/1958—the number of students relative to the population is still very low (Orleans 1961, pp. 68-69) as compared with India, which had 833,450 students in 1957, and Japan, which had 636,200 students in 1958 (Ben-David 1963-1964, p. 262).

Although the rate of growth in Africa has been high—an increase from 70,000 students in 1950 to 141,000 in 1959—most of this growth has occurred in the United Arab Republic, which alone has more than 100,000 students. South Africa also has a large concentration of students (37,000 in 1958), most of whom are white (United Nations … 1963, vol. 1, pp. 113, 119-124). This rapid growth has created problems of intellectual underemployment similar to those in Asia.

The development of higher education in west, central, and east Africa is only beginning, and the universities in these regions face the immediate problem of finding a sufficient number of qualified students and staff; the latter are to a large extent foreigners.

Development in South America has been relatively slow, the number of students increasing from 179,000 to 326,000 during the period 1950-1959 (ibid., p. 113). Even this modest increase has, however, created serious problems. The universities have coped with the growing numbers of students by limiting enrollment and by introducing difficult examinations at the end of the first year. These measures make the university attractive to potentially mobile young people faced with relatively rigid class structures, but do not provide these youths with efficient means for actual mobility. The result is the emergence of a student body that is frustrated in its aspirations and prone to revolutionary action.

The rate of growth of the student population in Europe has been somewhat accelerated since World War Ii. Student-population ratios have almost doubled since the 1930s and in 1958 ranged from 30/10,000 to 50/10,000 in most European countries. Only in Britain and Norway were the ratios as low as 20/10,000; since 1958 there has been a steep rise in the student-population ratio in Britain (Ben-David 1963-1964, p. 263). The problem of the underemployment of intellectuals has disappeared, and in the natural sciences, technology, and the social sciences there is often a shortage of trained people.

In eastern Europe there has been a reform of the system of higher education based on the Soviet pattern. Most of the expansion has taken place by the establishment of new specialized institutions of technology and education; the universities have grown very little. In western Europe the university has remained the most prevalent form of higher educational institution, but without any basic reform in organization or structure. A number of new universities have been founded, and all the existing ones have been considerably expanded—average enrollment per university in western Europe grew from about 3,590 in 1950 to 4,350 in 1959 (United Nations … 1963, vol. 1, p. 132). There has been a marked decrease in the proportion of law and medical students (Ben-David 1963-1964, pp. 266-267). Training in technological fields, the social sciences, business, and other professions has been expanded or introduced at a great many universities. But only in England, where colleges of technology have been granted university status and there are plans to raise teacher training to university level, is there a true diversification of higher education.

Joseph Ben-David

[See also Academic freedom; Education; Teaching.]


Anderson, C. Arnold 1956 The Social Status of University Students in Relation to Type of Economy: An International Comparison. Volume 5, pages 51-63 in World Congress of Sociology, Third, Transactions. London: International Sociological Association.

Anderson, C. Arnold; and Bowman, Mary Jean (editors) 1965 Education and Economic Development. Chicago: Aldine.

Anderson, C. Arnold; and Schnaper, Miriam 1952 School and Society in England: Social Backgrounds of Oxford and Cambridge Students. Washington: Public Affairs Press.

Anger, Hans 1960 Probleme der deutschen Universität: Bericht über eine Erhebung unter Professoren und Dozenten. Tübingen (Germany): Mohr.

Armytage, W. H. G. 1955 Civic Universities: Aspects of a British Tradition. London: Benn.

Ashby, Eric 1958 Technology and the Academics: An Essay on Universities and the Scientific Revolution. London and New York: Macmillan.

Ashby, Eric 1964 African Universities and Western Tradition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Ashby, Eric 1966 Universities: British, Indian, African. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Ben-David, Joseph 1963-1964 Professions in the Class System of Present Day Societies: A Trend Report and Bibliography. Current Sociology 12:247-330. → Provides a social history of the transformation of the professions; emphasizes relations with higher education; includes a bibliography.

Ben-David, Joseph; and Sloczower, A. 1962 Universities and Academic Systems in Modern Societies. Archives europeennes de sociologie; European Journal of Sociology 3:45-84.

Berelson, Bernard 1960 Graduate Education in the United States. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Billroth, Theodor (1876) 1924 The Medical Sciences in the German Universities: A Study in the History of Civilization. New York: Macmillan. → First published in German.

Brunschwig, Henry 1947 La crise de l’état prussien à la fin du XVIIIesiècle et la genèse de la mentalitéromantique. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Bryson, Gladys 1945 Man and Society: The Scottish Inquiry of the Eighteenth Century. Princeton Univ. Press.

Busch, Alexander 1956 Stellenplan und Lehrkörper-struktur der Universitäten und Hochschulen in der Bundesrepublik und in Berlin (West) 1953-1954. Untersuchungen zur Lage der deutschen Hochschullehrer, Vol. 2. Göttingen (Germany): Vandenhoeck& Ruprecht.

Busch, Alexander 1959 Die Geschichte des Privatdozenten: Eine soziologische Studie zur grossbetrieblichen Entwicklung der deutschen Universitäten. Stuttgart (Germany): Enke.

Caplow, Theodore; and McGee, Reece J. 1958 The Academic Marketplace. New York: Basic Books. → A paperback edition was published in 1961 by Wiley.

Cardwell, Donald S. L. 1957 The Organisation of Science in England: A Retrospect. Melbourne and London: Heinemann.

Carr-Saunders, A. M.; and Wilson, P. A. (1933) 1964 The Professions. Oxford: Cass.

Coleman, James S. (editor) 1965 Education and Political Development. Studies in Political Development, No. 4. Princeton Univ. Press.

Commission on Human Resources and Advanced Training 1954 America’s Resources of Specialized Talent: A Current Appraisal and a Look Ahead. New York: Harper.

Conference on the Development of Higher Education in Africa, Tananarive, 1962 1963 The Development of Higher Education in Africa: Report. Paris: UNESCO.

Corson, John J. 1960 Governance of Colleges and Universities. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Cousin, Victor (1846) 1850 Instruction publique (en France sous le gouvernement de juillet). New ed., 3 vols. Paris: Pagnerre.

Curle, Adam 1963 Strategy for Developing Societies: A Study of Educational and Social Factors in Relation to Economic Growth. London: Tavistock.

Dewitt, Nicholas 1961a Education and Professional Employment in the U.S.S.R. Washington: National Science Foundation.

Dewitt, Nicholas 1961b Reorganization of Science and Research in the U.S.S.R. Science 133:1981-1991.

Farmer, Paul 1950 Nineteenth-century Ideas of the University: Continental Europe. Pages 3-24 in Margaret A. Clapp (editor), The Modern University. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell Univ. Press.

Ferber, Christian von 1956 Die Entwicklung des Lehrkorpers der deutschen Universitäten und Hochschulen 1864-1954. Untersuchungen zur Lage der deutschen Hochschullehrer, Vol. 3. Göttingen (Germany): Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

Flexner, Abraham 1925 Medical Education: A Comparative Study. New York: Macmillan.

Flexner, Abraham 1930 Universities: American, English, German. Oxford Univ. Press.

Great Britain, Committee on Higher Education 1963 Higher Education. Report of the committee appointed by the Prime Minister, under the chairmanship of Lord Robbins, 1961-1963. Papers by Command, Cmnd. 2154. London: H.M. Stationery Office.

Halsey, A. H. 1962 British Universities. Archives européennes de sociologie; European Journal of Sociology 3:85-101.

Hans, Nicholas A. 1951 New Trends in Education in the Eighteenth Century. London: Routledge.

Higher Education in East Africa. White paper issued jointly by the governments of Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, and Zanzibar. 1958 Entebbe (Uganda): Government Printer.

Hindle, Brooke 1956 The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America: 1735-1789. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

Hofstadter, Richard; and Metzger, Walter P. 1955 The Development of Academic Freedom in the United States. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

International Association of University Professors and Lecturers 1961 The Status of University Teachers: Reports From Sixteen Countries. Prepared with the assistance of UNESCO. Edited by Richard H. Shryock. Ghent (Belgium): The Association.

Irsay, Stephen d 1933-1935 Histoire des universités; françaises et étrangères des origines à nos jours. 2 vols. Paris: Picard. → Volume 1: Moyen age et renaissance. Volume 2: Du XVI siècle à 1860. A supplement by Reneé Aigrain, Les universités catholiques, was published in 1935.

Kerr, Clark 1963 The Uses of the University. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Kneller, George F. 1955 Higher Learning in Britain. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

KÖnig, RenÉ 1935 Vom Wesen der deutschen Universität. Berlin: Runde.

Kotschnig, Walter M. 1937 Unemployment in the Learned Professions: An International Study of Occupational and Educational Planning. Oxford Univ. Press.

Lazarsfeld, Paul F.; and Thielens, Wagner Jr. 1958 The Academic Mind: Social Scientists in a Time of Crisis. A report of the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University. Glencoe, 111.: Free Press. → With a field report by David Riesman.

Le Goff, Jacques 1957 Les intellectuels au moyen âge. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Merz, John T. (1903-1914) 1912-1928 A History of European Thought in the Nineteenth Century. 4 vols. Edinburgh and London: Blackwood.

Nachwuchsfragen im Spiegel einer Erhebung, 1953-1955. Untersuchungen zur Lage der deutschen Hochschullehrer, Vol. 1. 1956 Göttingen (Germany): Vanden-hoeck & Ruprecht.

Organization for European Economic Cooperation 1964 Aspects économiques de I’enseignement supérieur. Paris: The Organization.

Orleans, Leo A. 1961 Professional Manpower and Education in Communist China. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Ornstein, Martha (1913) 1963 The Role of Scientific Societies in the Seventeenth Century. 3d ed. Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press.

Paulsen, Friedrich (1893) 1906 The German Universities and University Study. New York: Scribner. → First published in German.

Pevsner, Nikolaus 1940 Academies of Art: Past and Present. Cambridge Univ. Press; New York: Macmillan.

Powicke, Frederick M. (1951)1964 Ways of Medieval Life and Thought. New York: Biblo & Tannen. → See especially pages 149-197 and 213-229 on the medieval university.

Rashdall, Hastings (1895) 1958 The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages. New ed., 3 vols. Oxford Univ. Press. → Volume 1: Salerno, Bologna, Paris. Volume 2: Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Scotland, etc. Volume 3: English Universities; Student Life.

Ross, Earle D. 1942 Democracy’s College: The Land-grant Movement in the Formative Stage. Ames: Iowa State College Press.

Samuel, Richard; and Thomas, R. Hinton 1949 Education and Society in Modern Germany. London: Routledge.

Schnabel, Franz 1925 Die Anfänge des technischen Hochschulwesens. Pages 1-44 in Karlsruhe, Technische Hochschule, Festschrift anlässlich des 100 jährigen Bestehens der Technischen Hochschule … Karlsruhe (Germany): Müller.

Schnabel, Franz 1934 Deutsche Geschichte im neun-zehnten Jahrhundert. Volume 3: Erfahrungswissen-schaften und Technik. Freiburg (Germany): Herder.

Storr, Richard J. 1953 The Beginnings of Graduate Education in America. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Tewksbury, Donald G. 1932 The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War: With Particular Reference to the Religious Influences Bearing Upon the College Movement. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

United Nations Educational, scientific and Cultural Organization 1963 The International Study of University Admissions: Access to Higher Education. 2 vols. Paris: UNESCO & International Association of Universities.

U.S. Office of Education 1955 Education for the Professions. Washington: Government Printing Office.

Veblen, Thorstein (1891-1913) 1961 The Place of Science in Modern Civilisation, and Other Essays. New York: Russell.

Veblen, Thorstein (1918) 1957 The Higher Learning in America: A Memorandum on the Conduct of Universities by Business Men. New York: Sagamore.

Veysey, Laurence R. 1965 The Emergence of the American University. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Weber, Max (1919) 1946 Science as a Vocation. Pages 129-156 in Max Weber, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology. Translated and edited by H. H. Gerth and C. W. Mills. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. → First published as “Wissenschaft als Beruf.”

Wilson, Logan 1942 The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession. Oxford Univ. Press.


views updated Jun 27 2018


Jewish interest in education, including its advanced forms, goes back to the early history of the people. Specialists in the history of education, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have long recognized that the *academy of ancient Judea and Babylonia was an institution of advanced instruction and research in theology and in other subjects as well. According to Lewis J. Sherrill, the academy was "a university," in which "learned scholars" pursued "the most advanced studies" and instructed those who were capable of learning.

In the Middle Ages

The advent of Christianity, with its opposition to Judaism, made impossible any Jewish identification with the learning represented by such institutions as the University of Constantinople. However, Jewish scholars were welcome in the University of Jundishapur during the reign of Nurshirwan the Just, the renowned sixth-century monarch of Sassanid Persia. In this, "the greatest intellectual center of the time" (George Sarton), Jews, Christians, Hindus, Greeks, and others furthered study and research in philosophy, science, and *medicine. Jews also played an educational role in the House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Ḥikma), the research and translation center founded in Baghdad by Caliph Abdallah al-Mamun (813–833). At this institution, alchemy, astronomy, mathematics, law, philosophy, philology, and other learned subjects were promoted by the combined efforts of Jews and Christians under the aegis of al-Mamun.

The study of medicine drew many Jews to medieval and Renaissance universities. During the latter half of the 14th century Abraham Avigdor studied medicine at the University of Montpellier. He was apparently one of the earliest Jewish students of note at a Christian institution of higher learning. In later times Jewish names were not rare in the medical faculties of European universities, especially at those in Italy.

During the 15th and 16th centuries there were several recorded instances of Jews' affiliation with universities, as a rule in connection with science, medicine, and Hebrew. Elijah Levita, the Hebrew grammarian, invited by Francis I to accept the professorship of Hebrew at the University of Paris, refused because other Jews were not permitted to live in Paris at that time. Elijah b. Shabbetai (Sabot) taught at Paris in the 15th century.

At most, the contacts between the Jews and the European universities were sporadic and tenuous. The desire for higher education could not be satisfied through such arrangements. Hence it is not surprising that the desire for advanced learning led to the formation of plans for the establishment of an institution under Jewish auspices. In 1466 King John of Sicily gave formal permission to the Jews to organize a university of their own with faculties of medicine and law, and possibly also philosophy. It appears likely that the aim of this university was to prepare young Jews for the medical and legal professions. In any event, nothing came of this proposal, especially since the Jews were expelled from Sicily in 1492 by order of the Spanish crown.

An echo of the drive for university education came a century after the Sicilian plan. In a publication in 1604, R. David *Provençal of Mantua and his son Abraham called for the establishment of a Jewish college to teach Jewish religious and secular subjects. This plan evidently anticipated a bull by Pope Pius IV prohibiting the admission of Jews to examination for doctoral degrees. With the aid of his son, a doctor of philosophy and medicine, R. David presented a suitable program of study, "so that anyone who wishes to become a physician need not waste his days and years in a university among Christians in sinful neglect of Jewish studies." Owing to the intolerance of the times, the Provençals were not able to open this yeshivah-university, but only a talmudical institute instead.

If there was discouragement from without, there can be little doubt of opposition from within regarding secular education for Jews. Opposition to secular learning arose repeatedly, on the grounds of safeguarding the integrity of Judaism against alien ideology. However, despite such disapproval, there were always traditional Jews who made an effort to combine the sacred with the secular.

Whatever the case, some Jews in the 16th century managed to obtain doctoral degrees from several Italian universities – Bologna, Ferrara, Pavia, Perugia, Pisa, Rome, and Siena. The University of Padua conferred 228 doctorates upon Jews from 1517 to 1721. Aiding the Jews in their quest for higher learning in Italy was the Senate of Venice, which bypassed the papal ban on degrees by empowering an official to grant degrees without regard to religion, thus safeguarding academic freedom at the University of Padua.

The attitude of the Catholic Church toward study by Jews changed with the times. According to the 24th canon of the Council of Basle, Sept. 7, 1434, a ban was placed upon conferring any university degree upon Jews. However, even churchmen found it advisable to ignore this decree. Thus, Pope Julius III ordered the University of Padua (on Jan. 9, 1555) to examine a Jewish student, Simon Vitale, for the doctorate. The pope's motivation was neither religious tolerance nor academic freedom, but rather the hope that conversion of the candidate and, consequently, of other Jews would be facilitated.

Even when admitted to a university, Jewish students were faced by special problems and difficulties, some originating from their religious principles and others from discriminatory treatment. An example of the former was when students had to resort to various devices to avoid desecration of the Sabbath and holidays in connection with examinations. Jews had to pay larger graduation fees than did the Christian students, and in the 15th century they were required to invite all the students to dinner. If the Jewish students were excused from wearing the Jewish cap, they were also prohibited from practicing medicine on Christians. Jewish physicians of the 16th century had few, if any, opportunities for medical research and teaching or for admission to the leading hospitals.

17th and 18th Centuries

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the barriers to Jewish study were still very firm. No doubt taking their cue from traditional Catholic practice (as well as from Luther), European universities, hospitals, and official bodies carried on a boycott of Jewish physicians (generally identified as "Italian doctors," since it was impossible for a practicing Jew to get a doctoral degree outside of Italy). Johann Jakob *Schudt, the Lutheran theologian and Orientalist from Frankfurt and author of Juedische Merckwuerdigkeiten (1714–1717), was distressed at the Catholic Italians' disregard for the canon law of the Council of Basle. He accused the Italian universities, particularly the University of Padua, of permitting "every ignoramus and even the despised Jews" to take their degrees because of their pecuniary greed. Johann Heinrich Schuette provided proof in 1745 that conferring a medical doctorate upon a Jew was "contrary to the Christian religion." Under these circumstances, it is clear that Jews were separated at this time from the universities of virtually all of Europe by a formidable iron curtain.

However, here and there were chinks in this curtain. The philosopher Baruch *Spinoza, who had been excommunicated in 1656 by the Amsterdam Jewish community, but who was still identified as a Jew, was offered a professorship at the University of Heidelberg in 1673. Spinoza turned this invitation down because he feared losing his independence of thought and expression.

The usual association between medicine and higher education is also evident in the early history of the Jews of Poland. In their society talmudic and rabbinic studies were predominant, the physicians alone obtaining secular learning at universities. The earliest Jewish physicians in Poland were Spanish exiles and alumni of the University of Padua. They were seeking a place of refuge and hoped to practice the arts forbidden to them elsewhere. It was probably their example that influenced some Polish Jews (e.g., R. Moses Fishel of Cracow) to study medicine at the University of Padua in the early 16th century. From the second half of the century to the 18th, an increasing number of Polish Jews enrolled as students of medicine at Padua.

Interesting case studies are provided by R. Tobias *Cohn and Gabriel Selig or Felix of Galicia, who succeeded in getting their doctorates in medicine and philosophy at Padua in 1683. Both had succeeded in 1678, with the intervention of the great elector Frederick William of Brandenburg, in gaining admission to the University of Frankfurt on the Oder in the face of strong opposition on the part of the faculty. Only when the Lutheran faculty, citing the Catholic Council of Basle in 1434, refused to admit Jewish students to doctoral examinations, did Jewish students go to study in the south.

Once the barrier was broken, it became less difficult for Jewish students to enter German universities. Those whom the University of Cracow refused in the 18th century ventured to study medicine (and sometimes other disciplines) not only at Frankfurt on the Oder, but also at the University of Heidelberg. Only Padua exceeded the number of Jewish students at Frankfurt. It was most difficult for a Jew in the 18th century to obtain an appointment as a university lecturer in Europe, even on a temporary basis and in a subject such as the Hebrew language. The experience of Isaac Abraham *Euchel at the University of Koenigsberg in 1786 illustrates this. Euchel, who was an observant Jew, applied to the rector, Immanuel Kant, but was rejected by the university senate (minus Kant's signature) on the ground that he lacked the master's degree and that he was not a Christian.

During the 18th century, Jews studied at Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Brown University (where they were excused from attendance on Saturday). Moses Levy, who graduated from Pennsylvania in 1772, became a lawyer and judge; Isaac Abrahams (A.B., Columbia, 1774) practiced medicine; and Sampson Simson (B.A., Columbia, 1800) was the first Jewish lawyer in New York. A Jew in higher education was Rabbi Gershom Mendes *Seixas of the Spanish-Portuguese Congregation of New York, who became a regent of the University of the State of New York when it was founded in 1784, and who served as a trustee of Columbia College (1785–1815).


The change in the European attitude toward opening higher education to the Jew, originating in the Enlightenment, was evident in the "Patent of Tolerance" (1782) issued by Emperor Joseph ii of Austria. By this Jews could enroll their children at public schools and their young men at universities. In general, however, the change was more apparent than real, in actual practice. Nonetheless, during the course of the 19th century, young Jews began to attend European universities, at first slowly and then increasingly.

The reforms in 1812 of Karl von Hardenburg, Prussian minister of state, and of Wilhelm von Humboldt, minister of education, opened the universities to Jews. The closed door policy of the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, which restricted entrance to Anglicans only, led to a movement for a secular university in England. The opening in 1827 of University College, the foundation school of the University of London, resulted in the admission of dissenters (Catholics and Jews). Finally, a parliamentary law in 1871 abolished the religious tests for Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham. The admission of Jewish faculty members followed that of Jewish students.

In the United States slow but perceptible change was made during the 19th century. Early in the century Joel Hart, possessor of a medical degree from the Royal College of Surgery in London, became a founder of the New York Medical Society and of the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. David Levi Maduro *Peixotto received an M.D. from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1819 and became professor of medicine at Willoughby College. Lorenzo *da Ponte (Emanuele, son of Geremia and Rachele Conegliano), a convert to Christianity, was appointed in 1830 to the professorship of Italian language and literature at Columbia College. As a poet and famous librettist of Mozart's opera he became one of the early contributors to the development of the teaching of foreign culture at American universities.

The 19th-century Russian policy of repression of minorities, especially the Jews, as well as that of reactionary political philosophy, was instrumental in the exodus of young Jews to universities in Germany and other countries. A Jewish scholar could become a faculty member at a Russian university only at the cost of conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church. The outstanding example of this was Daniel *Chwolson, professor of Hebrew and Syriac at the University of St. Petersburg.

The professional rosters of the German universities indicate the presence of a significant number of Jewish scholars in the 19th century. Jews also made their mark as scholars in Oriental studies in Germany.

The establishment of the first real university in the U.S., the Johns Hopkins University, in 1876, led to the appointment of several Jewish scholars, James J. *Sylvester and Fabian Franklin in mathematics, and Maurice *Bloomfield in Sanskrit and comparative philology. The Hopkins atmosphere was one of learning and research, rather than one of Christian piety. By the end of the 19th century, with the gradual growth of secularism, the spread of science, and the impact of industrialization and business, Jews attended Columbia and other universities in various parts of the United States.

The situation in imperial Russia regarding university attendance by Jews changed somewhat for the better under Czar Alexander ii. However, the liberal privileges were severely curtailed under his successor, Alexander iii, with the result that only a small percentage of Jews could receive a higher education in Russia during the late 19th century. The Jewish drive for higher education, stimulated by the Haskalah movement, but somewhat inhibited by the anti-secularist influence of the yeshivot, found an outlet in the universities of Germany, Switzerland, and other countries.

Modern Period

The forces which operated during the last decades of the 19th century to liberalize opportunities for Jews as professors and students in higher education were even stronger during the advancing decades of the 20th. The interest by young Jews in new fields of knowledge, such as psychology, sociology, experimental physics, and linguistics, brought about calls for their services when universities expanded their areas of teaching and research. The multiplication of the media of publication brought Jewish research scholars to the attention of academic audiences everywhere.

The growth of democratic sentiment in some countries opened the doors wider to Jewish students. On the other hand, Poland, Hungary, and Romania introduced the numerus clausus to limit Jewish enrollment. In Poland, particularly, Jews were relegated to the "ghetto benches" in university lecture halls, while periodic riots were organized by antisemitic students. During the later years of the Weimar Republic, German university students began to harass Jewish students and put pressure on Jewish professors, thus preparing for the academic repression characteristic of the Nazi regime. The opening of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem, 1925) and of the Yeshiva College (now Yeshiva University; New York City, 1928) served notice that Jews were now determined and prepared to undertake an active, leading role in the world of higher education. They would not now merely wait for Christian benevolence and for the vicissitudes of scientific and intellectual development. As time went on during the 20th century, it became evident that in universities in various parts of the world Jewish professors and students were common in virtually all fields of study. Although one cannot say that antisemitic restrictions had been abolished universally, it is clear that in the 1960s it was not at all difficult for capable Jews to make progress as students, professors, and even as administrators in higher education.

A special factor of significance during the 20th century was the impact of the policies of Nazism in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. With the application of the Nazi racial doctrines to the universities, there took place a migration of professors, research workers, and students to other countries, especially to the United States, Canada, England, and Palestine. As a result, higher education all over the world became enriched, even as the university systems of Germany and Austria became impoverished.

Of special interest is the situation in the U.S.S.R., where large numbers of Jews have been enrolled in institutions of higher education, and where professors and research workers have won signal recognition in the universities, institutes, and academies. During Stalin's "black years" (1948–53), however, a drastic reduction of their number took place, when Jewish scholars were dismissed in great numbers from their posts and many of them arrested or exiled. After Stalin's death the situation improved, but the complete absence of discrimination prevalent in the early post-revolutionary period was not restored.

In addition to teaching and scholarship, Jews have made growing contributions, in recent decades, to the administration of higher education (see below). Apart from heading institutions such as Yeshiva University (Bernard Revel, Samuel Belkin) and Brandeis (Abram L. Sachar and Charles Schottland), Jews have served as deans, vice presidents, and presidents of various institutions of higher learning. Among the rectors and presidents are Samuel Steinberg (Prague), Vittorio Polacco (Padua), Paul Klapper (Queens College), Martin Meyerson (University of Pennsylvania), Edward H. Levi (Chicago), Edward J. Bloustein (Rutgers State University of New Jersey), Maitland Steinkopf (Brandon University, Canada), Marvin Wachman (formerly at Lincoln), David N. Denker (New York Medical College), Maurice B. Mitchell (Denver), Jacob I. Hartstein (formerly at Kingsborough Community College, Brooklyn, n.y.), and Jerome B. Wiesner (mit). Samuel B. Gould, a convert to Christianity, was president of the State University of New York. David H. Kurtzman, formerly a professor of political science, served as acting chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh. Also to be mentioned are Abraham Flexner, director of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and Simon Flexner, former professor at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania, and director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University).

[William W. Brickman]

In the U.S.

students: data and trends

Since the end of the 19th century, the number and proportion of Jewish students in American colleges and universities has increased rapidly, parallel to the growth of the Jewish community and of the American university population in general. In 1890 general enrollment in American colleges and universities was 157,000; it passed a million in 1934–35, reached 2,100,000 in 1946, increased to 3,570,000 in 1960, and virtually doubled once again by 1968, when it reached 7,571,636. The number of institutions of higher learning grew from 998 in 1890 to 2,008 in 1960.

The growth in Jewish enrollment has been equally rapid. By the beginning of the 20th century Jewish university students were numerous enough to permit the founding of Jewish fraternities and Zionist societies and especially of Menorah chapters at several universities. A survey by the Menorah Association between 1911 and 1913 reported 21 Jewish students at Colorado, 400 at Cornell, 160 at Harvard, 100 at Minnesota, 75 at Missouri, 62 at Ohio State, 325 at Pennsylvania, 50–60 at Penn State, 50 at Rutgers, and 70 at Wisconsin.

Prior to World War i, only scattered data about Jewish campus life are available. The first statistical survey of Jewish student enrollment, in 1915, found 7,300 Jewish students, or 3.1 percent of the total student population, at 534 institutions. Subsequent studies showed 14,837 Jewish students (9.7 percent) at 108 institutions in 1919, 104,906 (9.3 percent) in 1,319 institutions in 1953, 200,000 (7.5 percent of the total college population) at 1,610 institutions in 1955, 275,000 (6.5 percent) at 850 institutions in 1963, and 375,000 Jewish students (5 percent) at 840 institutions in 1968. A survey of 59,707 college seniors of the class of 1961 by the National Opinion Research Center found that 8.4 percent were Jews; of these 62 percent were male and 38 percent female, as compared with 67 percent and 33 percent respectively in the non-Jewish student population.

Although the number of Jewish students has increased continually since 1900, the Jewish percentage of the total American college population dropped from 9.3 percent in 1935 to about 5 percent in 1968 as the overall growth of college enrollment moved at a faster pace than the Jewish enrollment. Less than 40 percent of the U.S. college-age population was in college in 1968; the Jewish percentage attending college was nearly 80 percent. More than half of all Jewish students (51.3 percent) attended public institutions, 41 percent were at privately supported colleges, and denominational institutions accounted for 7.7 percent.

New York City continued to have the largest number and proportion of Jewish college students in the world, reflecting its large Jewish population and the city's unique system of tuition-free city colleges. Nevertheless, New York City declined as a center of higher education for Jewish students after 1935, when 53 percent of all Jewish collegians in the United States studied in New York City institutions, to 50 percent in 1946, 38 percent in 1955, and 27.6 percent in 1963. The decrease was due to several factors: growing affluence enabled more parents to give their children a college education away from home; the growth of the State University of New York opened additional opportunities for study at colleges outside the metropolitan area. The liberalization of admissions policy by private colleges, mainly but not exclusively in the east, and the steady movement of the Jewish population from the inner city to the suburbs contributed further to these tendencies.

The distribution of Jewish students by professional fields of study showed 23.6 percent (as compared with 16.5 percent of all students in business administration), 18.9 percent (compared with 28 percent) in education, 17.6 percent (19.8 percent) in engineering, 8.2 percent (3.3 percent) in law, 7.6 percent (3.4 percent) in medicine, and 5.2 percent (1.7 percent) in pharmacology. Other professional fields in which Jewish students were highly represented were dentistry, optometry, psychology, and philosophy; they were proportionately underrepresented in agriculture, nursing, home economics, physical education, and physical therapy (data for 1964).

restrictive admissions practices

Jewish students, however, did not always gain admission to the colleges and professional schools of their choice. While admission to institutions of higher learning was, in theory, open to all students who had the necessary scholastic and financial qualifications, many institutions restricted the admission of members of minority groups, including Jews. The use of quotas was rarely admitted, but they were a persistent feature in numerous private institutions, usually reflecting the social prejudices and desire for social homogeneity of the university community, its alumni, and its supporters. In 1922, Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell defended the existence of a 10 percent quota for Jews at Harvard by expressing concern about "the large and increasing proportion of Jewish students in Harvard College," and his policy was supported by Harvard undergraduates who claimed that "Jews do not mix [and] they destroy the unity of the college" (in: Harvard Graduates' Magazine, Sept. 1922). In 1945, Dartmouth president E.M. Hopkins justified a quota for Jewish students by emphasizing that "Dartmouth is a Christian college founded for the christianization of its students." In 1947, President Truman's Commission on Higher Education charged that quota systems and policies of exclusion had prevented young people of many religious and racial groups, but particularly Jews and blacks, from obtaining a higher education and professional training. A study by the American Council on Education (1949) showed that the average Jewish applicant for college admission had considerably less chance of acceptance than a Catholic or Protestant of comparable scholastic ability. In the same year, application forms of 518 colleges and universities and of 88 schools of medicine and dentistry were still found to contain at least one and usually several potentially discriminatory questions.

Restrictive admissions and social practices at universities began to yield to concentrated public criticism after World War ii. Many veterans returning to the campus under the gi bill vigorously objected to discriminatory practices in civilian life as incompatible with the mandates of democracy for which the war had been fought. Reports and studies by federal agencies and educational associations criticized restrictive policies. Several states outlawed discriminatory practices in education and employment. As a result, scholastic merit gradually became the major criterion for admission to private institutions, although other factors – geography, preferential treatment of children of alumni, the extracurricular activities of the applicant, the desire for a balanced student body – remained operative. As a result, Jewish enrollment at private institutions rose substantially between 1940 and 1968 (at Princeton from 2 percent to 12 percent, at Harvard to 21 percent, in the Ivy League colleges as a whole to 20 percent).

At the same time, however, many state universities began to restrict their enrollment of out-of-state students. In 1969, 73 (more than one-half) restricted the admission of nonresidents. Inasmuch as New York and New Jersey constituted a major Jewish population center of the United States and both states consistently "exported" large numbers of students because their own college systems could not accommodate all applicants, this restriction grew as an obstacle to the admission of Jewish students in the rest of the country. The demands for the admission of more black students to American universities, especially to tax-supported institutions, also caused increasing concern that such redistribution would cut down Jewish admissions.

faculty members and administrators

While Jewish student enrollment, despite restrictions, rose steadily after the turn of the century, the number of Jewish faculty members remained proportionately small. Before World War i, the supply of qualified American-trained Jewish college teachers was small; but even after the supply increased, restrictive policies continued to bar many Jews from academic appointments until the late 1930s, when burgeoning student enrollment and the demands of enlarged or new institutions created a growing need for additional academic staff. The way was smoothed further by federal and state legislation, especially after World War ii, prohibiting discriminatory employment practices. Virtually no ethnic restrictions in faculty appointments have remained. According to a 1968–69 survey, 10 percent of more than 60,000 faculty members of all ranks and from all types of institutions (94.4 percent white) indicated they had been reared as Jews, though only 6.7 percent still gave their present religion as Jewish at the time of the survey. (A similar drop in religious identification was found among non-Jews; the percentages for Protestant faculty members were 64 percent and 45.3 percent; for Catholics, 15.4 percent and 11.8 percent.) At the same time, some leading universities, such as California, Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Princeton, the City University of New York, were estimated to have 15–20 percent Jewish faculty. Few Jews could, however, be found among college presidents and other top-echelon university administrators. A 1966 survey found that, although Jews constituted 10–12 percent of the student body at the 775 nonsectarian senior colleges and universities in the United States at that time, only 5 of 397 private and one of 378 publicly supported institutions had Jewish presidents (less than 1 percent). Of the 1,720 deanships at the same institutions, 45 (2.6 percent) were held by Jews; two-thirds of them were, however, concentrated in half a dozen institutions. Eleven (42.3 percent) of the 26 deans of the City University of New York were Jewish in 1966. Jewish deans could be found mainly at graduate schools of social work and schools of government and international affairs. While anti-Jewish restrictions had largely disappeared on the professional level, they seemingly continued to exist on the top level of academic administration. See also *Students' Movements.

By the early 2000s 85 percent of American Jews received some college or university education, and more than 50% received at least a bachelor's degree. In all, it was estimated that more than half the Jews in America under the age of 65 were college graduates.

Jewish Studies

Jewish studies, defined as the systematic study of Judaism and Jewish life and experience through the ages, began to emerge in the American university curriculum to a significant degree only in the late 1930s. The Old Testament and Hebrew had long been taught, but only insofar as a knowledge of the Hebrew Bible was considered necessary for an understanding of Christianity and the training of Christian clergymen.

The first courses in post-biblical Judaism were introduced into the curriculum of American universities only toward the end of the 19th century. The development led to the appointment of the first Jewish scholars to American university posts in Judaica or related subjects. Despite persistent efforts by interested individuals and groups in the Jewish community, the number of institutions offering Judaic studies remained small; in 1945, full-time teaching staff in Judaica could be found only at Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Harvard, Iowa, Johns Hopkins, Missouri, New York University, Pennsylvania, and several New York City colleges. The number began to increase rapidly in the 1950s; by 1969, nearly 80 Jewish scholars were teaching full-time in American universities, and courses in Judaica were taught part-time at nearly 200 additional institutions in the country. By 2005 the number of Jewish scholars in the *Association for Jewish Studies (ajs), founded in 1969, was more than 1,500, most of whom were faculty teaching some area of Jewish studies in an institution of higher education, while 20% of the membership consisted of graduate students.

A variety of factors contributed to the growth of Judaic studies, among them the articulation of a growing demand for such studies arising from increased Jewish self-awareness generated by the impact of the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel; the democratization of academic policies and admission practices which, together with the increased social mobility and affluence of the Jewish population, led to substantial increases in Jewish enrollment and greater Jewish visibility throughout the United States; the climate of greater acceptance of Jews and Judaism by the general and academic communities, especially after World War ii; the growing recognition and acknowledgment of Hebrew as a living language and of Judaism as an essential component in the fabric of Western civilization deserving of serious academic interest and study; and the postwar growth of specialized area studies and of courses and departments of religious studies.

The efforts aiming at the introduction of new or the enlargement of existing programs of Judaic studies were usually spearheaded by Jewish students, faculty members, and Hillel directors, frequently joined by other groups or agencies. Although some of there efforts may also have been stimulated by pressure for the introduction of black studies, university responses were generally based on recognition of the significance of Judaism as a major matrix of Western civilization and of its rightful claim as an authentic field of study. Some Jewish studies programs offered a major for undergraduates either in departments of religion or in departments of Near Eastern studies; others were interdepartmental.

The funds required for the support of Judaic studies came from a variety of sources. About two-thirds of the support for full-time staff was provided by university budgets; 10 chairs of Judaic studies were fully endowed; others were supported by various Jewish communal or private sources. Numerous individual courses were taught by Hillel directors (at 40 institutions) and by visiting staff provided by the Jewish Chautauqua Society, the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and similar groups.

The number of undergraduates majoring in Judaica was estimated to be about 600 in 1969. A 1972 survey (by the Hillel Foundation) listed more than 350 institutions, not including seminaries and divinity schools, which offered at least one and usually several courses in some area of Jewish studies. Graduate studies leading to an advanced degree could be undertaken at 25 institutions as well as the major rabbinical seminaries and some Hebrew Teachers Colleges. The expansion of programs of Judaic studies in American universities was, at that time, slowed by a shortage of competent academic personnel. By 2005, more than 70 institutions had degree-granting programs of one kind or another in Jewish studies.

[Alfred Jospe]


H. Hurwitz and L. Scharfman, The Menorah Movement (1914); L.J. Levinger, The Jewish Student in America (1937); E. Roper, Factors Affecting the Admission of High School Seniors to College (1949); R. Shosteck, The Jewish College Student (1955); S. Kaznelson (ed.), Juden im deutschen Kulturbereich (19592); A. Jospe, Judaism on the Campus (1963); American Jewish Committee, Jews in College and University Administration (1966); L. Fermi, Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe 193041 (1968); L.A. Jick, The Teaching of Judaism in American Universities (1970); A. Band, in: ajyb (1966), 3–30; A. Jospe, ibid. (1964), 131–45; Elbogen, ibid. (1943), 47–65; Bloomgarden, in: Commentary (Feb. 1960), 112–9; Neusner, in: Journal of the American Academy of Religion (June 1969), 131–40.


views updated May 14 2018


UNIVERSITIES. Universities played a vital role in the intellectual life of Europe from 1500 to 1789. They educated the intellectual elite and professional classes of Europe. An enormous number of political and religious leaders obtained university degrees or studied in universities without taking degrees even though the percentage of the population attending universities was extremely low. Universities provided the institutional home in which scholars carried on advanced research and created most of the humanistic, medical, legal, and scientific advances. The period from 1500 to 1650 was an era of unprecedented achievement for universities. They remained important, but to a lesser degree, from 1650 through the end of the eighteenth century.


A university had several linked components. Professors conducted research and taught theology, canon law, civil law, medicine, and the arts subjects of grammar, rhetoric, the classics of ancient Rome and Greece, logic, philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy, plus other subjects on occasion, such as medical botany and Hebrew. Written statutes told them which texts and disciplines to teach. A limited formal academic structure provided rules for instruction and student conduct. Students came, lived, studied, and obtained degrees. The university awarded degrees certifying that the recipient had a high level of expertise in a discipline with the approval of a supreme legal authority, such as emperor, pope, or the ruler of the state in which the university existed.

Europe had forty-seven universities in 1500, then added another twenty-eight new universities that survived by 1650. Thereafter the number of new university foundations slowed considerably, while some older ones were closed or merged. The net gain between 1651 and 1790 was ten, making a total of about eighty-five European universities in 1790. The lands that are now Germany, Italy, France, and Spain had, in that order, the largest number of universities, while another fifteen were to be found in the rest of Europe. Although any designation of the most important universities is open to disagreement, the list would include Bologna, Padua, Pavia, and Pisa in Italy; Paris in France; Cologne and Heidelberg in Germany; Vienna in Austria; Louvain in Belgium; Leiden in the Netherlands; Oxford and Cambridge in England; St. Andrews in Scotland; Alcalá de Henares and Salamanca in Spain; Coimbra in Portugal; and Cracow in Poland.

Universities were not the same across Europe. Universities in northern Europe and Italy differed greatly in the importance given to different disciplines, the level of instruction, and the age of students. Paris and Oxford, the prototypical northern universities, emphasized instruction in arts and theology. Most northern European universities had a majority of young students fourteen to eighteen or nineteen years of age studying for the bachelor's degree in arts, plus a smaller number of advanced students, often future clergymen seeking master's and doctoral degrees in theology. They had a handful of students studying for doctorates in law and medicine. Most northern European universities, especially those in German-speaking lands, had only one or two professors each for medicine and law.

Italian universities emphasized law and medicine at an advanced level and had many professors for these subjects. For example, the University of Bologna had an average of forty professors of law and twenty to twenty-five professors of medicine in the sixteenth century. They taught arts subjects such as logic and philosophy as well as preparation for medicine and law. But they taught little theology and did not award bachelor's degrees. The greatest number of students obtained doctorates in law, the next largest number doctorates of medicine, followed distantly by students winning doctorates of arts or theology. The master's degree with the right to teach was awarded with the doctoral degree without a separate examination. Students at Italian universities were typically eighteen to twenty-five years of age. Because of the emphasis on law and medicine at the doctoral level, many northern Europeans, especially Germans, obtained bachelor's degrees in the north, then came to Italy to obtain doctoral degrees in these disciplines.

The size of universities varied greatly, partly because the age of students differed. Paris, with an estimated 12,000 to 20,000 students, most of them young, was undoubtedly the largest university. Up to 500 teachers, the vast majority in arts instructing younger students while studying for advanced degrees, taught at Paris. Salamanca also had several thousand mostly younger students. The University of Bologna, the largest Italian university, had about ninety professors and 1,500 to 2,000 students, all studying for doctorates, in the sixteenth century. But the vast majority of universities were smaller: thirty to forty professors taught 300 to 800 students. Some universities had only ten to twenty professors teaching 100 to 300 students. Student enrollment fluctuated from decade to decade as war, disease, and the presence or absence of a famous professor caused students to move from one university to another. Students frequently began at one university and took a degree at a second or third. They could do this easily because the texts studied were the same from university to university, and all lectures, texts, disputations, and examinations were in Latin.

A course met five days a week, typically Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, with the professor lecturing for an hour or longer. In a typical lecture, the professor began by reading a section from a standard authority, such as a scientific work of Aristotle, a medical text of Galen (c. 130c. 200), a legal passage from the Corpus iuris civilis, the collection of ancient Roman law, or the New Testament for theology. The students sitting on benches normally had copies of the text or passages. The professor next delivered a detailed analysis of the text, explaining how it should be interpreted, rejecting some interpretations, reconciling others, bringing to bear other texts, and explaining its larger meaning. He might range far beyond the original text. This was the heart of university instruction. In due time the professor published these detailed analyses of authoritative texts. Other professors used them in their own research and teaching or published contrary interpretations. Students taking notes and annotating the passage in their own copies had useful professional information, such as a full explanation of a legal text and guidance about how it might be used in cases. The lecture concluded with questions and answers between students and professors. They sometimes moved into the piazza or atrium for this less formal part of teaching.

Another important academic exercise was the disputation. A student or professor posted a notice announcing that he would defend a series of positions in his discipline at a certain time and place. Anyone was free to come and argue. Disputations offered practice in learned argument, which was considered a valuable skill in all disciplines and professions. For medical students, the annual public anatomy was also essential. Students stood in tightly packed rows to watch as a dissector cut open a body as a professor explained the organs. Public anatomies were scheduled for the coldest time of the year and went on without stop until the body putrefied days and weeks later.

After three or four years of study, the student presented himself before a committee of examining professors as a candidate for the bachelor's degree. Examinations for the doctoral degree were more complex. After four to seven years of additional study, the candidate presented himself to an examining committee, appointed by a college of doctors of law, medicine, arts, or theology. Colleges of doctors consisted of professors and other local men holding doctoral degrees in a subject. A typical examination required the student to explain several passages (called puncta or points) chosen at random from the required texts in the discipline, followed by wide-ranging questions from the examiners. A candidate for a medical degree might also be required to give his opinion on a medical case proposed to him. Students who satisfied the examiners of their competence were awarded doctoral degrees recognizing them to be experts in a subject and authorized to teach it. The degree was conferred in public ceremonies marked by much rejoicing and considerable expense.


The introduction of humanism was the most important curricular change in the sixteenth century, and it involved much more than teaching the literary and historical classics of ancient Rome and Greece in their original languages. Humanists and professors with humanistic training transformed the study of several disciplines because they used their linguistic and historical skills and critical outlook of humanism in their research and teaching. The use of the Greek text of Aristotle and ancient commentaries in place of medieval commentaries offered new insights in philosophy. The rediscovery of ancient mathematical texts aided mathematicians, including Galileo Galilei (15641642), a professor of mathematics at the University of Pisa (15891592) and the University of Padua (15921610). Applying the techniques of humanistic textual criticism to the Corpus iuris civilis led to a better understanding of the historical context of Roman law. Called humanistic jurisprudence, this new approach had great influence in French and German universities but little in Italian universities.

Humanism had the greatest impact in medicine through a series of developments sometimes called "medical humanism." Professors of medicine used humanistic skills to examine the medical texts of Galen and other ancients in the original Greek. They found the medieval Latin translations of Galen wanting, so they produced better Latin translations for classroom use. Their enhanced understanding of the texts soon led them to find fault with Galen himself. The medical humanists also placed greater emphasis on anatomical study achieved through more frequent and more knowledgeable dissections of human bodies. Italian universities added professorships of medical botany in order to improve the study of the medicinal properties of plants. The universities of Padua and Pisa simultaneously founded the first university botanical gardens in 1543. Henceforward, students came to the garden in springtime to examine plants and learn about their medicinal properties. Clinical medicine began in the 1540s when a Paduan professor took students to hospitals in order to lecture on a disease at the bedside of the ill patient. Even though universities remained dedicated to lecturing on authoritative texts, these innovations gave greater emphasis to hands-on study, a tendency that continued in the following centuries. Universities in Italy, especially Padua, pioneered the changes in teaching and research, while universities elsewhere quickly followed.

In many northern European universities, especially in Germany, the introduction of humanists and humanistic studies into universities at the beginning of the sixteenth century produced bitter conflict with theologians. The fundamental issue was, how should the sacred texts of Christianity be studied and interpreted? The theologians answered by traditional medieval Scholastic methods, using the tools of logic, the philosophical framework of Aristotle, and guidance from Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and other great medieval theologians. Only in this way could God's truth be uncovered and error avoided. The humanists answered, not through Scholasticism and medieval commentaries, but through careful linguistic, grammatical, and rhetorical analysis of the texts in their original language, Latin, Greek, or Hebrew. This enabled man to understand God's personal message and to be persuaded to follow him. The two sides fought bitterly. The humanists heaped scorn on university theologians for confusing the word of God with man's interpretations, while the Scholastic theologians dismissed the humanists as grammarians lacking the theological training to understand what they read. The differences were great, because the stakes were university positions in this life and salvation in the next. The advent of the Protestant Reformation exacerbated the conflict as many, but not all, younger German humanists joined Luther while older humanists and most Scholastic theologians remained Catholic. In Italian universities, by contrast, humanists and the few theologians who taught in universities there mostly ignored each other.

The sixteenth was a century of enormous achievement for universities. It is difficult to name another century in which university professors produced so much important scholarship. Numerous major religious leaders also held university professorships. Martin Luther (14831546), professor of theology at the modest, newly founded (1502), and geographically isolated University of Wittenberg, began a religious revolution. His chief lieutenant, Philipp Melanchthon (14971560), was a professor of Greek at Wittenberg. And many of their Catholic opponents were professors. Leaders with university training from other areas of life were equally important.

The eruption of the Protestant Reformation had both negative and positive impact on universities. Enrollment initially dropped sharply in German universities, especially those in lands that became Lutheran. But enrollment recovered by the end of the sixteenth century, and a few new universities, both Catholic and Protestant, were established. Despite their differences, students continued to move from university to university across religious boundaries. For example, German Protestant students continued to study and to get degrees in law from the Italian universities in Bologna, Padua, Pavia, and Perugia because the most famous professors of law taught there and because Italian civil governments protected them from prosecution for their religious beliefs.

DECLINE: 1650 TO 1790

Universities continued to lead Europe in research and training leaders into the seventeenth century. But then new and different institutions of higher education rose to challenge them.

Protestants needed schools to train their clergymen in the new doctrines. Catholic universities obviously would not do this, and establishing new Protestant universities was difficult and expensive. Hence, small schools for theology and arts sprang up in the Protestant world. The Calvinist Genevan Academy (founded in 1559) was a famous example. It had seven or eight teachers for theology, Greek, Hebrew, arts, and law. The majority of the graduates became ministers. Some of these new schools sought to become universities teaching a broad range of subjects, but few succeeded.

In the Catholic world the new religious orders of the Catholic Reformation, led by the Jesuits, did the same on a much larger scale. The Society of Jesus, founded in 1540, originally established schools to train boys aged ten to sixteen in the humanities. A handful of Jesuit schools began to add upper-level classes in philosophy and theology in order to train members of the society. These schools, which were open to lay students, proved to be very popular because the Jesuits were excellent scholars and teachers and because the schools were free. Thus, a growing number of Jesuit schools with classes in logic, metaphysics, natural philosophy, mathematics, and theology appeared. Occasionally a Jesuit school also offered an introductory law course. Other religious orders of the Catholic Reformation followed the lead of the Jesuits.

Prodded by princes, the Jesuits also established boarding schools for noble boys and youths from about the ages of ten to twenty. These schools added classes in French, dancing, and horsemanship, all necessary skills for sons of the ruling classes, to the humanities, philosophy, and religion classes. Schools for nobles offering the opportunity to mix with peers attracted students who would otherwise have attended universities. They were expensive, but so were universities. Other Catholic Reformation religious orders again imitated the Jesuits.

Religious order schools offered a structured education in a morally upright and safe environment. By contrast, universities had loosely organized curricula, a licentious life style, and brawling students. Most university students carried swords, and many carried firearms. It is small wonder that many parents preferred religious schools, especially the boarding schools, for their sons. For example, the school for nobles at Parma, founded in 1601, rose from 550 students in 1605 to 905 in 1660, and a minority of the students were non-Italian. Approximately one-third of the students attended the higher classes, which duplicated the first year or two of university studies. Every young male from the ages of eighteen to twenty who attended a religious order school was a possible enrollment loss for universities. Protestant lands also established numerous highly regarded and socially selective schools that taught part of the arts curriculum of universities.

Learned societies offered intellectual and financial competition to universities needing scholars. A famous example was the Royal Society of London for the Advancement of Natural Knowledge, founded in 1662. Financially underwritten by member subscriptions, it supported scientific research, provided opportunities for contacts with other scholars, and published the results of research. Learned societies proliferated. Most Continental societies received funding from governments; some offered salaries to members who carried on studies in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and other subjects. And they did not have to teach. Overall, scientific societies offered attractive nonuniversity alternatives to scholars needing support. Scientific societies created an international network enabling scholars in a discipline to communicate their research.

The philosophes of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment attacked universities as not useful to society. They judged the traditional university curriculum to be incapable of training citizens to contribute knowledge to improve the state. So they persuaded rulers to create new, specialized institutions of higher learning to teach practical subjects, such as agricultural technology, engineering, military tactics, surgery, even the fine arts. These highly specialized and practically oriented schools competed with universities for students.

Some of the criticism of the philosophes was justified, but much was not. Universities had kept up with innovations in learning. Although Latin remained the common language of instruction and writing, and universities continued to teach traditional subjects, they had added professorships in new subjects such as history and geography. They had discarded Aristotelian science in favor of Galileo's mathematical physics and had then adopted experimental science, all in the course of a century. And university research in medicine continued to lead the way, as university professors produced all of the important medical advances of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Professors in traditional subjects produced nontraditional works of scholarship. For example, Adam Smith (17231790), who taught logic and moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow from 1751 to 1764, produced An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations in 1776. Universities continued to award degrees certifying that the lawyer, judge, physician, clergyman, teacher, and civil servant were qualified to practice their professions. Learned societies, religious schools, and specialized schools could not do this. Overall, universities played essential intellectual and social leadership roles in European life that no other institution could replace.

See also Academies, Learned ; Classicism ; Clergy ; Education ; Enlightenment ; Humanists and Humanism ; Latin ; Law ; Literacy and Reading ; Medicine ; Printing and Publishing ; Reformation, Protestant .


Brockliss, L. W. B. French Higher Education in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: A Cultural History. Oxford, 1987. Comprehensive study.

Curtis, Mark H. Oxford and Cambridge in Transition 1558 1642: An Essay on Changing Relations between the English Universities and English Society. Oxford, 1959.

De Ridder-Symoens, Hilde, ed. A History of the University in Europe. Vol. 2, Universities in Early Modern Europe (15001800). Cambridge, U.K., 1996. Information on all aspects of universities with emphasis on general patterns and the university in society. Good on northern universities.

Farge, James K. Orthodoxy and Reform in Early Reformation France: The Faculty of Theology of Paris, 15001543. Leiden, 1985. A detailed study of the personnel and activities of the major Catholic theological faculty.

Grendler, Paul F. The Universities of the Italian Renaissance. Baltimore and London, 2002. Comprehensive study of Italy's sixteen universities, 14001625, with extensive bibliography.

History of Universities. Avebury and Oxford, 1981. Annual volume founded by the late Charles B. Schmitt. Includes articles, bibliographical surveys of recent research, and reviews.

Jurriaanse, M. W. The Founding of Leyden University. Leiden, 1965.

Maag, Karin. Seminary or University? The Genevan Academy and Reformed Higher Education, 15601620. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt., 1995. Important for Calvinist influence plus the universities of Heidelberg and Leiden.

McConica, James K., ed. The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. 3, The Collegiate University. Oxford, 1986. Excellent study of all aspects of Oxford between 1485 and 1603.

Rummel, Erika. The Humanist-Scholastic Debate in the Renaissance and Reformation. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1995. Study of the battles between humanists and Scholastics, mostly in Germany.

Schmitt, Charles B. Aristotle and the Renaissance. Cambridge, Mass., and London, 1983. Short survey describing how Renaissance university scholars approached Aristotle in innovative ways.

Tyacke, Nicholas, ed. The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. 4, Seventeenth-Century Oxford. Oxford, 1997.

Wear, A., R. K. French, and I. M. Lonie, eds. The Medical Renaissance of the Sixteenth Century. Cambridge, U.K., 1985. Excellent collection of studies on medical humanism, anatomy, and other aspects of the medical Renaissance.

Paul F. Grendler


views updated May 29 2018


In 1725 Peter the Great founded the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences, which, unlike its Western models, included a school of higher education known as the Academic University. The primary task of the university was to prepare selected young men to enter the challenging field of scientific scholarship. The university encountered difficulties in attracting and retaining students. Because all instructors members of the Academywere foreigners, there

was also a serious language barrier. The general atmosphere did not favor the new teaching venture, and the university folded before the end of the century.

After a slow start, Moscow University, founded in 1755, ended the century as a dynamic enterprise with a promising future. The initial charter of the university guaranteed a high degree of academic autonomy but limited the enrollment to free estates, which excluded a vast majority of the population. In 1855, on the occasion of the centenary celebration of its existence, the university published an impressive volume on its scholarly achievements.

The beginning of the nineteenth century manifested a vibrant national interest in both utilitarian and humanistic sides of science. During the first decade of the century, the country acquired four new universities. Dorpat University, actually a reestablished Protestant institution, immediately began to serve as a link to Western universities and as an effective center for training future Russian professors. The universities at Kharkov, Kazan, and St. Petersburg benefited from an initial appointment of Western professors displaced by the Napoleonic wars. St. Petersburg University also benefited from the presence of the Academy of Sciences in the same city.

It was not unusual for the members of the Academy of Sciences to offer courses at the university. Kiev University was founded in 1833 with the aim of contributing to the creation of a new Polish nationality favorably disposed toward the spirit of Russia, a quixotic government plan that collapsed in a hurry allowing the university to follow the normal course of development.

The 1803 university charter adopted the Western idea of institutional independence and opened up higher education to all estates. Conservative administrators, however, continued to favor the upper levels of society. The liberalism and humanism of government management of higher education was a passing phenomenon. In the 1820s, the Ministry of Public Education, dominated by extreme conservatism, encouraged animosity toward foreign professors and undertook extensive measures to eliminate the influence of Western materialism on Russian science. Geology was eliminated from the university curriculum because it contradicted scriptural positions.

In a slightly modified form, extreme conservatism continued to dominate the policies of the Ministry of Public Education during the reign of Nicholas I (18251855). The 1833 university charter vested more authority in superintendents of school districtssubordinated directly to the Minister of Public Educationthan in university rectors and academic councils. Professors' writings were subjected to a multilayered censorship system.

Russia's defeat in the Crimean War in 18551856 stimulated rising demands for structural changes in the nation's sociopolitical system; in fact, the Epoch of Great Reformsas the 1860s were knownwas remembered for the emergence of an ideology that extolled science as a most sublime and creative expression of critical thought, the most promising base for democratic reforms. As Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, the famed neurophysiologist, noted, the Nihilist praise for the spirit of science as an epitome of critical thought sent young men in droves to university natural-science departments.

Inspired by the waves of liberal thought and sentiment, the government treated the universities as major national assets. Budgetary allocations for the improvement of research facilities reached new heights, as did the official determination to send Russian students to Western universities for advanced studies. New universities were founded in Odessa and Warsaw. In 1863 the government enacted a new university charter with a solid emphasis on academic autonomy.

At the same time, the government abrogated the more crippling provisions of the censorship law inherited from the era of Nicholas I. This reform, however, had a short history: In response to the Nihilists' and related groups' growing criticism of the autocratic system, the government quickly restored a long list of previous restrictions. This development, in turn, intensified student unrest, making it a historical force of major proportions. The decades preceding the World War I were filled with student strikes and rebellions.

The 1884 university charter was the government's answer to continuing student unrest: It prohibited students from holding meetings on university premises, abolished all student organizations, and subjected student life to thorough regimentation. The professors not only lost their right to elect university administrators but were ordered to organize their lectures in accordance with mandatory specifications issued by the Ministry of Public Education.

Student unrest kept the professors out of classrooms but did not keep them out of the libraries and laboratories. The waning decades of the tsarist reign were marked by an abundance of university contributions to science. Particularly noted was the pioneering work in aerodynamics, virology, chromatography, neurophysiology, soil microbiology, probability theory in mathematics, mutation theory in biology, and non-Aristotelian logic.

World War I brought so much tranquility to universities that the Ministry of Public Education announced the beginning of work on a new charter promising a removal of the more drastic limitations on academic autonomy. The fall of the tsarist system in early 1917 brought a quick end to this particular project. During the preceding twenty years new universities were founded in Saratov and Tomsk.

The last decades of Imperial Russia showed a marked growth of institutions of higher education outside the framework of state universities. To bolster the industrialization of the national economy, the government both improved the existing technical schools and established new ones at a university level. The St. Petersburg Polytechnical Institute was a major addition to higher education. There was also a successful effort to establish Higher Courses for Women financed by private endowments and treated as equal to universities. Shaniavsky University in Moscow, established by a private endowment, presented a major venture in higher education. In the admission of students, it was less restrictive than the state universities and was the first institution to offer such new courses as sociology.

In 1899 the total enrollment of students in state universities was 16,497. Forty percent of regular students sought law degrees, 28 percent chose medicine, 27 percent were in the natural sciences, and only 4 percent chose the social sciences and the humanities. Law was favored because it provided the best opportunity for government employment.

The February Revolution in 1917 placed the Russian nation on a track leading to a political life guided by democratic ideals. The writer Maxim Gorky greeted the beginning of a new era in national history in an article published in the popular journal Priroda (Nature ) underscoring the interdependence of democracy and science. The new political regime wasted no time in abolishing censorship in all its multiple manifestations and granted professors the long-sought right to establish a national association for the protection of both science and the scientific community. A government decision confirmed the establishment of a university in Perm.

Immediately after the October Revolution in 1917, the Bolshevik authorities enacted a censorship law that in some respects was more comprehensive and penetrating than its tsarist predecessors. The new government began to expand the national network of institutions of higher education; in 1981, the country had 835 such institutions, including eighty-three universities. The primary task of universities was to train professional personnel; scholarly research was relegated to a secondary position. This policy, however, did not prevent the country's leading universities with research traditions from active scholarship in selected branches of science. The universities also concentrated on Marxist indoctrination. The curriculum normally included such Marxist sciences as historical materialism, dialectical materialism, dialectical logic, and Marxist ethics. To be admitted to postgraduate studies, candidates were expected to pass an examination in Marxist theory with the highest grade. Marxist theory was officially granted a status of science, and Marxist philosophers were considered members of the scientific community.

In their organization and administration, Soviet universities followed the rules set up by institutional charters, specific adaptations to a government promulgated model. Faculty councils elected high administrators, but, according to an unwritten law, the candidates for these positions needed approval by political authorities. Local Communist organizations conducted continuous ideological campaigns and tracked the political behavior of professors. In the post-Stalin era political control and ideological interference lost much of their intensity and effectiveness.

During the last two decades of the Soviet system the government encouraged a planned expansion of scientific research in all universities. Selected universities became pivotal components of the newly founded scientific centers, aggregates of provincial research bodies involved primarily in the study of acute problems of regional economic significance. Metropolitan universities expanded and intensified the work of traditional and newly established research institutes. Leading universities were involved in publishing activity, some on a large scale. In university publications there was more emphasis or theoretical than on experimental studies. Mathematical research, in no need of laboratory equipment, continued to blossom in Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev universities.

See also: academy of sciences; education


Kassow, Samuel D. (1961). Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Vucinich, Alexander. (19631970). Science in Russian Culture. 2 vols. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Alexander Vucinich


views updated May 21 2018


Universities first appeared in Europe during the Middle Ages. By 1400, a total of 29 existed throughout the continent. Another 46 opened their doors over the next 200 years, mostly in Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. Like their modern counterparts, Renaissance universities offered advanced education and provided a setting for research. They made an immense contribution to scholarship and trained many of the leaders of society.


Cities and towns opened new universities for a variety of reasons. Some acted in response to the rising demand for trained professionals. Others gained political or economic benefits from having a school. Regardless of the reasons for their founding, all universities shared certain common features.

Functions. Renaissance universities trained many students for careers in government, law, medicine, and the clergy. The growing governments of the day required educated civil servants, lawyers, and judges. The demand for physicians to work in cities, towns, and royal households drew large numbers of students to study medicine. Other students earned degrees in theology* to prepare for careers in the church.

Some cities and towns founded universities for financial reasons. Attending a local school cost students far less than traveling to a distant town. Thus, building a university could help citizens save money. In addition, it might produce income for the town by attracting out-of-town students who would purchase food, lodging, and other necessities.


Cracow: 1364, stopped 1370, renewed 1400
Ferrara: 1391, stopped 1402, renewed 1442
Florence: 1348, moved to Pisa 1473
Lisbon-Coimbra: 1290 at Lisbon; settled in Coimbra, 1537
Salamanca: 1400s
Uppsala: 1477, stopped 1515, renewed 1595
Würzburg: 1561–1583

Universities also brought prestige to cities and their rulers by highlighting their commitment to learning. Many governments played an active role in higher education. They controlled the appointments and salaries of professors and the subjects taught. In many cases, they forbade citizens to study at foreign universities in order to increase enrollment at the local school. After the Protestant Reformation*, many towns set specific religious requirements for students and professors.

Structure. At all Renaissance universities, students attended lectures for several years and then took examinations to qualify for a degree. Receiving an advanced degree in a particular subject gave the student the right to teach it. A bachelor's degree in the arts required 1 to 3 years of study, a doctorate in law or medicine took 5 to 7 years, and a doctorate in theology required more than 12 years. In practice, some students graduated in less than the required time.

All lectures, debates, and examinations were conducted in Latin. Professors focused on the great works in their field. For example, philosophy centered on the writings of Aristotle and medicine on those of Galen. Because of this uniformity in content, students could easily switch their studies from one university to another.

Some universities emphasized certain subjects and levels of training. Schools in Paris and Oxford focused on arts and theology. The Italian universities, by contrast, stressed law and medicine at the doctoral level. By the early 1400s they had completely ceased to offer bachelor's degrees. Universities also varied greatly in size. Paris, the largest, had 12,000 to 15,000 students and several hundred teachers. Large Italian universities boasted between 1,500 and 2,000 students and perhaps 100 professors. The typical university had 30 to 40 professors teaching 300 to 500 students.

Humanism. The influence of humanism* dramatically changed the course of studies at Renaissance universities. In the early 1400s professors began teaching ancient Latin and Greek texts and stressing the use of the original languages. For example, they read the works of Aristotle in Greek rather than relying on Latin translations from the Middle Ages. Some even produced new, more accurate Latin versions of these texts.

Humanist professors also considered texts in their historical context. Legal scholars, for instance, looked at Roman law against the background of ancient Roman society. French universities, in particular, favored this approach.


Three of the top universities of the Renaissance were Oxford University in England, the University of Paris, and the University of Padua in Italy. Founded in the Middle Ages, all three became major centers of scholarship and influenced intellectual activity across Europe.

Oxford. Formal lectures began at Oxford in the 1100s, and by 1310 the school had grown to some 2,000 students. During the Middle Ages, Oxford was largely free from government rule. The masters (teachers) elected their own head and voted on school regulations.

In the 1500s, however, the university lost most of its independence. At that time, the English king Henry VIII became involved in a dispute with the Roman Catholic Church over his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. In 1530 the king asked Oxford for an opinion about the dispute, and the university hesitated to support him. When Henry broke with the church over the matter, Oxford found itself in an awkward position. As England became increasingly Protestant, Henry and his successors saw Oxford as a center of pro-Catholic feeling. They took measures to ensure that the university remained loyal to the English church. They also tried to control the curriculum. In 1570 Oxford lost the right to appoint its own leaders.

During the Renaissance Oxford's curriculum expanded, partly as a result of humanist influences. In the mid-1400s wealthy nobles introduced humanist ideas to Oxford by donating many books from their libraries, especially Italian texts, to the school. Not long afterward, Oxford began hiring permanent lecturers to teach certain subjects, such as theology, in place of the recent graduates who had formerly served as teachers. During the 1600s the school added new professorships in several fields, including geometry, history, and Arabic.

Paris. The University of Paris included four faculties: arts, church law, medicine, and theology. Established around 1200, the school fell into a decline in the early 1400s. However, a series of reforms in the mid-1400s made it the best university in northern Europe.

Like Oxford, the University of Paris was caught up in the politics of the Protestant Reformation. Catholic clergy members controlled the course of study in Paris. They promoted a tradition known as Scholasticism, which stressed logic, natural philosophy, and ethics*. Humanist critics attacked this course of study. They called for the teaching of rhetoric* and ancient languages and literature. However, most members of the faculty opposed the humanists and warned against the dangers of allowing them to set the curriculum.

In 1521 the university condemned the teachings of the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. The king, Francis I, who saw himself as a tolerant and cultured ruler, tried to protect humanists and religious reformers. He occasionally opposed the powerful Faculty of Theology, which had considerable influence over matters of faith. However, he also reacted against critics who went too far in attacking the Catholic Church. In 1543 Francis approved the Articles of Faith, a document that bound faculty members to uphold Catholicism. Despite reforms in the late 1500s that allowed new subjects in the curriculum, Scholastic thought dominated the University of Paris until the 1700s.

Padua. Founded in the 1200s, the University of Padua became the most famous university in Italy. Its importance grew after Venice conquered Padua in 1405. The leaders of Venice strongly supported the school in Padua. They decided that it would be the only university in the state and threatened to fine any Venetian who studied elsewhere.

After a drop in enrollment in the late 1400s, the state took measures to strengthen the school. They added professorships, raised salaries, recruited leading teachers from other universities, and restricted the number of local instructors on the faculty. These reforms helped keep key positions filled with distinguished scholars from around Europe.

The University of Padua suffered a severe setback in 1509, when the city's leaders briefly threw off Venetian rule. Professors and students fled the city, and the university closed down. It did not reopen until 1517, after Venice had recaptured Padua and all the other territory it had lost. The Venetians quickly rebuilt the school, and by the 1560s it boasted an enrollment of some 1,600 students.

Padua was particularly influential in the field of medicine. In 1537 the medical scholar Andreas Vesalius came to the school to teach anatomy. Through techniques such as dissecting* human bodies, he revolutionized his field. Padua also established the first professorship in the study of "simples," or medicinal plants. In the 1540s it opened one of the first botanical gardens in Europe.

In addition to medicine, Padua had leading schools of natural philosophy (also known as natural science), law, and mathematics. Galileo Galilei taught mathematics there from 1592 to 1610. Many famous thinkers studied at Padua, including Francesco Guicciardini, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, and Pier Paolo Vergerio. The renowned German philosopher Nicholas of Cusa obtained a doctorate from Padua in 1423. William Harvey, the English scientist who discovered the circulation of blood, received his medical degree there in 1603. Other outstanding graduates hailed from Spain, Greece, Hungary, and even America.

(See alsoAcademies; Classical Scholarship; Education; Humanism; Ideas, Spread of. )

* theology

study of the nature of God and of religion

* Protestant Reformation

religious movement that began in the 1500s as a protest against certain practices of the Roman Catholic Church and eventually led to the establishment of a variety of Protestant churches

* humanism

Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

Student Nations

Beginning in the Middle Ages, university students formed themselves into groups called "nations" based on their homelands. Each nation elected a member to represent it to the host city. The University of Paris, for example, included four nations: France, Normandy, Picardy, and Germany. For a while, student nations exercised considerable power and were even able to help choose their own professors. However, during the Renaissance, the nations lost much of their influence. Civil governments took control of the appointment of professors and other aspects of universities.

* ethics

branch of philosophy concerned with questions of right and wrong

* rhetoric

art of speaking or writing effectively

* dissect

to cut open a body to examine its inner parts


views updated May 21 2018

universities. In the Middle Ages, the studium generale, a place of learning open to all, was the equivalent of the term ‘university’. Instruction was by learned men and degrees were awarded as a title of honour. From the 12th cent., Paris was the intellectual centre of this activity, where luminaries such as Peter Abelard (1079–1142) were both students and teachers.

Similar institutions were established in England, at Oxford about 1185 and at Cambridge in 1209. For the following six centuries, the two universities, which mainly provided a liberal education for the aristocracy and gentry, retained their exclusiveness. The attempts to establish a university at Durham during the Commonwealth foundered at the Restoration in 1660. Restrictions on non-Anglicans led to the founding of University College, London, in 1828 and the University of London eight years later, with its affiliated colleges and degree-granting powers. Scotland had a long tradition of university education which was available for dissenters. St Andrews (1410), Glasgow (1451), Aberdeen (1494), and Edinburgh (1583) attracted many English students.

Until the early 19th cent. there were no universities in the north of England. However, in 1832, the clergy of Durham cathedral decided to support a university based in the Norman castle, though restricted to students who subscribed to the Thirty-Nine Articles. The university, which received its charter in 1837, was based on the Oxford and Cambridge model. Most of its (male) graduates entered the church.

A new impetus for change and expansion in higher education came largely from the growth of science and its applications to an industrial society. One example of this was the setting up of a Royal Commission on Scientific Instruction and the Advancement of Science in 1872, chaired by the 7th duke of Devonshire. One of its main findings, published in 1875, was the need for more and better-trained science teachers, in which universities could help. Owens' College, Manchester, opened in 1851, had been a forerunner, though many of its students were part-time and did not aim at a degree.

Civic pride was also one of the prime motives for creating universities, which received benefactions from Jesse Boot at Nottingham, Mark Firth at Sheffield, and Josiah Mason at Birmingham, which also later attracted money from the American steel millionaire Andrew Carnegie. University colleges were set up at Southampton (1862), Newcastle (1871), Leeds (1874), Bristol (1876), Sheffield (1879), Birmingham (1880), Nottingham (1881), Liverpool (1881), Reading (1892), and Exeter (1895).

In the 1880s, one development was the northern federation of provincial colleges. Owens' College, Manchester, was joined by Liverpool in 1884 to form the federal University of Victoria, and by Leeds in 1887. Until then the students of these colleges had been prepared for external London degrees: under the new charter, the university awarded its own. The federation lasted until 1903, when individual charters were granted.

The University of Wales followed a similar pattern of an upsurge in civic awareness. Colleges were founded at Aberystwyth (1872), Cardiff (1883), and Bangor (1884). It was not until 1893 that a charter was granted to the University of Wales, giving the body degree-awarding rights in place of the London external degree. University College, Swansea, joined the federation in 1923.

The lack of opportunities for the higher education of women led to the founding of the university extension movement. Extramural classes had been held for women by professors at King's College, London, as early as 1847. In 1867 Josephine Butler and Anne Clough became president and secretary respectively of the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women. The success of the courses, which were very well attended, led Cambridge to establish university extension in 1873, sending lecturers to Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester. This was swiftly followed by the London Society for the Extension of University Teaching in 1876 and at Oxford in 1878. The newer civic universities were also soon heavily involved in the work, later developing departments of extramural studies. Women's colleges were instituted at Cambridge—Girton (1869) and Newnham (1871), with Anne Clough as principal—and at Oxford—Lady Margaret Hall (1879) and Somerville (1879), followed by others.

Whilst the University of London had grown into a teaching institution with 24 schools by 1900, subsequent university expansion was slight; in the inter-war period, only two new colleges outside London were founded, at Hull and at Leicester. Government funding was supplied to the universities and from 1919 was administered by the University Grants Committee (UGC).

After the Second World War, there was a great demand for more university places as the birth rate rose. The University College of North Staffordshire, now Keele University, was founded in 1949, and in the years 1961–5, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Lancaster, Sussex, Warwick, and York. Newcastle, previously linked with Durham, became a university in its own right. The Robbins Committee on Higher Education (1963) recommended that nine colleges of advanced technology (CAT) should become full universities, including Aston, Bath, Bradford, Loughborough, and Salford. At the same time Strathclyde, Dundee, and Heriot-Watt were founded in Scotland. Northern Ireland has Queen's, Belfast, a 19th-cent. foundation, and the University of Ulster at Coleraine.

Innovations in the structure of university organizations and curricula are a recent feature of the system. The Open University (1966) provides degree and other courses for students over 21, operates an open admissions policy, and uses distance learning. The University of Buckingham (1976) is the only independent university in the United Kingdom, offering two-year honours degree courses. A more informal organization is the University of the Third Age (U3A), which provides educational opportunities for the over-50s.

Following the recommendations of the White Paper ‘Higher Education: A New Framework’ (1991), the 1992 Education Act abolished the distinction between polytechnics and universities. There are now almost 100 universities whose finances are determined by the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFC), which replaced the UGC.

Peter Gordon


Cobban, A. B. , The Medieval Universities: Their Development and Organisation (1975);
Jones, D. R. , The Origins of Civil Universities (1988);
Sanderson, M. (ed.), The Universities in the Nineteenth Century (1975).

Universities (Occult)

views updated May 23 2018

Universities (Occult)

In many works on the occult sciences, allusions are made to schools and universities and the instruction of those who were drawn to them. The idea for such schools derived from the philosophical schools and academies of the ancient Greek teachers. In the early Christian era, Gnosticism was taught in such schools. Since that discipline was centered upon gnosis or knowledge, a school (rather than a temple or church) was the natural form that its group life assumed.

While a few similar schools might have existed in the Dark Ages, the idea of such institutions was largely a myth used to credential otherwise informally and self-taught occultists or to refer to the places where alchemists and occultists quietly gathered to consult with each other. It was the practice of those on the faculties of the universities and those who operated independently to draw students around them, and professors of the occult sciences were no different.

There is no doubt that during the Middle Ages many lecturers taught alchemy and kindred subjects at great universities. Thus Paracelsus lectured on alchemy at the University of Basel, and he was preceded and followed there and elsewhere by others who taught that and other occult arts.

Louis Figuier, in his book L'alchimie et les alchimistes (1854), alluded to a school in Paris frequented by alchemists that he himself attended in the middle of the nineteenth century. The schoolan ordinary chemical laboratory during the day became in the evening a center of the most elaborate alchemical study, where Figuier met alchemical students, visionary and practical.

The novelist Balzac alludes to an occult school in the story "The Secret of Ruggier," which he placed at the time of Catherine de Medici. He stated: "At this epoch the occult sciences were cultivated with an ardour which put to shame the incredulous spirit of our century. The universal protection accorded to these sciences by the ruling sovereigns of the times was quite remarkable."

He goes on to say that at the beginning of the sixteenth century, Ruggier was a member of a secret university for the study of the occult sciences, where astrologers, alchemists, and others studied several branches of hidden knowledge. Balzac gives no details as to its locality, or as to the exact nature of its curriculum.

The College of Augurs in Rome and the Calmecac of ancient Mexico are distinct examples of institutions for the study of divination, and in this connection, the House of Wisdom of the Ismaelite sect at Cairo, Egypt, may be mentioned.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky insisted that a great "school" of illuminated occult adepts flourished in Tibet, but nobody except herself and her immediate friends ever saw them or had any dealings with them. Prior to 1959, Tibet was the home of a large number of monasteries that were also the schools of Tibetan Buddhism and its esoteric practices.

Instructional centers for people who studied the occultism integral to Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Asian systems did exist (and continue to exist) across Asia. These centers, remote and mysterious prior to the transportation and communications revolution of the twentieth century, took on a mythical character in the occult literature of the nineteenth century. Those associated with these Asian schools were rumored to have extraordinary occult prowess.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries attempts have been made to recreate these ancient occult schools. For example, the School for the Discovery of the Lost Secrets of Antiquity flourished for a generation in San Diego, California. It was founded by Katherine Tingley late in the nineteenth century and taught Theosophy. A decade earlier, Blavatsky founded the Esoteric Section of the Theosophical Society, an organization carried on by Theosophists associated with the Theosophical Society.

One modern equivalent of ancient occult universities are the secret magical orders, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, where occult and mystical subjects are taught to students, with grades of advancement. Many such orders, based in part on a format adopted from Freemasonry, exist.

One outstanding attempt to recreate the ancient Gnostic schools, with an intense course in esoteric training, is Ramtha's School of Enlightenment in Yelm, Washington, opened in 1988 by JZ Knight. Ramtha, a channeled entity, instructs students through the entranced Knight.


views updated May 14 2018


The improved literacy and communications of the Renaissance era went hand-inhand with an increasing respect for intellectual training for professions such as medicine, theology, and the law. To create well-rounded and educated citizens, major universities were established throughout western Europe: at Ferrara, Turin, and Parma in Italy; Bordeaux and Nantes in France; Copenhagen and Uppsala in Scandinavia; Frankfurt and Tubingen in Germany; Saragossa and Valencia in Spain; and at Kraków, Poland. The University of Paris, which taught the liberal arts and theology, remained the model for institutions throughout northern Europe, awarding bachelor's degrees and training students of the upper classesall malein a fundamental classical learning of grammar, rhetoric, and ethics.

For cities and their lords, the university was a mark of prestige. It represented advanced thinking, enlightened rule, the new trend of humanistic learning and scholarship, and the generous patronage of town fathers and aristocrats. Universities competed for renowned professors, who in turn attracted the best scholars. Members of the expanding middle class, at the same time, sought out higher education for their sons, who trained themselves in the law, medicine, and for careers as administrators and diplomats. The University of Bologna in northern Italy became a center for the study of the revived Roman law,

Within the university, students attended lectures by professors, who spoke and debated in Latin. The courses relied on the teachings of ancient philosophers such as Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates, and the Arab scientist Avicenna. Following the humanistic philosophy, students critically examined classical texts, studying the original language, whether Greek or Latin, in order to get at the intended meaning. This was an important break with medieval higher education, in which professors simply handed down the accepted traditional interpretation of the ancient texts and students were discouraged from critical thinking.

After a course of study, the student was put through a degree examination by professors and scholars, who tested his mastery of the subject and his ability to defend his ideas in open debate. The bachelor's degree enabled further study, while the master's was a license to teach. The doctorate was awarded for scholars devoted to the study of a particular field and the contribution of original knowledge to that field. Most universities during the Renaissance had several hundred students, while the largest at Bologna and Paris had a few thousand. Students within the universities organized themselves according to their homelands. At the largest universities these student unions held considerable power, making demands for better working and living conditions and in some places passing on the hiring of new professors by the university.

See Also: Aristotelianism; humanism


views updated May 29 2018


This entry includes the following articles:

Colonial Spanish America...194

The Modern Era...196

About this article


All Sources -
Updated Aug 18 2018 About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic