Richard Burridge claims that "the universities have preserved human culture through the dark ages" (THES, October ). The dark ages are usually taken to refer to the two or three centuries following the collapse of the Roman empire around 400 ad. The first recognised university, Bologna, emerged in the 12th century. He also says that a university is "by definition . . . universus, turned in one direction".
A mediaeval "universitas" was a group of people with a common interest - originally, training for one of the three major professions, law, medicine and theology. This, mutatis mutandis, is what universities are now getting back to.
John Radford Emeritus professor of psychology University of East London