Newman's evergreen truths

July 28, 2011

"The secret to saving our universities" (14 July) reminded me of these lines from John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University.

"If then a practical end must be assigned to a university course, I say it is that of training good members of society...A university training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspirations, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life. It is education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them and a force in urging them."

This was written in 1852, and is still true today. But contrast this with what the government is doing to universities today: short-term planning, grade inflation, modularisation, commodification and cramming for examinations, to name a few.

Bala Balachandran, Director, accounting and finance, Cass Business School, City University London

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