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You are here. Quick links Faculties Learn more. Learn more. Human Brain Project. Research Heidelberg University defines itself as an internationally networked research university dedicated to research-oriented teaching. Study Courses of study at Heidelberg University are informed by its strong research focus and are designed to accustom students to independent research practices early on. Transfer The exchange between basic research and technological innovation as well as the targeted transfer of knowledge and insights into society are the focus of the transfer activities.

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The same process should also guarantee the individual freedom. A researcher has the right to study anything and everything without regard for political and ideological issues, while a teacher has the right to teach at their own discretion without restrictions. In the German tradition these principles are called Lehrfreiheit and Lernfreiheit , the freedom to teach and the freedom to study. So, what patterns do we detect if we turn to our own times, or at least the developments taking place in recent decades? What immediately becomes obvious, once we ask ourselves what has happened to the idea of the university, is that for a long time it has been seen as something on its way to extinction.

An overwhelming number of commentators from the early s to our own day have at least claimed that the idea of the university has grown obsolete and that it is no longer meaningful or constructive to discuss such an idea. One very important example is Clark Kerr, the legendary leader of the Californian higher educational system in the s. In a famous book from he insisted that the modern university was no longer held together by a unified idea; instead, it consisted of separate entities, which were linked simply because the institutions shared the same name or the same administration.

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Since the times of Kerr, predictions about the demise of the idea of the university have been repeated in innumerable versions and along a broad range of the emotional spectrum—stoically, triumphantly and melancholically. Simultaneously, each generation has fostered new debaters attempting to pick up on the legacy of the idea and formulate it afresh with regard to the requirements of the changing times. I am not intending to take a closer look at these attempts or at the discussions surrounding them.

However, what I would like to state is that this extensive debate—which in some ways has been going on since the days of Humboldt and Newman themselves—has been misinterpreted in important ways. I also would like to argue that this misunderstanding concerns established ways of viewing and understanding the process of secularisation. A rather common way to frame the debate about the idea of the university as it has developed during the last two centuries is to identify its first champions as standard-bearers for the change towards secular institutions of research and higher education.

The principles of Humboldt and his contemporaries, for instance, put an end to the compulsion to mediate the eternal truths of the Christian tradition according to this line of interpreting the intellectual history of the university. The focus on modern scientific and secular truth-seeking, with its openness and critical stance, became the forefront. Newman believed that the latter was the mission of the Church. The university, for its part, had the obligation to educate and form gentlemen who were well prepared for an active life in modern secular society.

If one understands Humboldt and Newman in this way, it then becomes possible to interpret the continuing debate on the idea of the university as ever-increasing evidence for an ongoing process of secularisation. Even the very emergence of the debate on the idea could actually—according to this line of reasoning—be seen as a manifestation of how the Christian intellectual heritage lost its grip on higher education and had to be substituted for something else. Once the Christian dogmas and the Church as the centre of power lose their influence, they are replaced, so to speak, by the secular debate on the idea of the university, which tries to capture the institutional goal and meaning without any reference to a religious past.

However, the problem is that once you take time to study the sources closely, it soon becomes obvious that this line of thinking is clearly at odds with empirical facts.


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As far as I see the matter, it is both possible and reasonable to discuss the debate on the idea of the university from the times of Humboldt and Newman and onwards in terms of a persisting religious perception of the university. This religious perception is discernible in formal structures and regulated ceremonies as well as in the content of central ideas and its expressions in norms, convictions and beliefs. I do not have the space now to give a detailed account of all parts of the argument in favour of this interpretation, and neither can I cite every single empirical proof.

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But allow me to highlight some of the especially significant examples to clarify what I mean. When commentators describe what happened, it is usually said that the university resolutely broke away from the religious sphere, as I have mentioned. However, what actually becomes evident as one studies the most noted programme statements on the educational policy from these times closely, is that the situation was rather the reverse.

To get access to the subject it might be worth examining more specifically how the debaters on the idea of the university expressed themselves in respect to the phenomena that at that time were quite new in the academic context. I will limit myself to two examples originating from two leading figures in the university debate during the period: the new understanding of the role of the academic teacher and the new theories and practices of the academic seminar and academic lecturing.

Firstly: the new role of the academic teacher. To put it simply, one could say that earlier in the history of the university a teacher, in general, had played the part of the mediator of an already given knowledge. But now the ideal was rapidly swinging towards an understanding of a teacher as an agent with his own authority and powers to talk freely to students and listeners. Philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, under his controversial professorship in Jena right before the turn of the nineteenth century, was the first to lecture in front of the public without a ready script.

Such manner was perceived as enormously scandalous, but soon spread within the university world. What is interesting in that respect is how Fichte put into words what a new teacher was. Similar observations can be made when it comes to the emergence of a modern academic seminar. This currently well-established practice is, actually, relatively new within the university.

Certainly, a model existed already during the Early Modern times, not least within theological education.

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The fundamental idea of the modern seminar is that all the participants should be engaged in a free but ordered interaction, in which a fellowship as well as the consensual attraction and love for knowledge should be achieved. And interesting enough, it is quite often the case that this new academic practice was described in a way that is greatly reminiscent of a parish communion. In some cases, it was expressed in notions, clearly influenced by pietism, of an intimate coexistence in a close-knit group with distinctly marked borders against the outside.

Specific examples of the notion of a seminar as something that appears to be influenced by the picture of a parish communion can be seen, for instance, in the writings of Friedrich Schleiermacher. And it is fascinating how Schleiermacher in his writings to a great extent appears to interpret this new substance in terms of an intimate parish communion, a free association with interpersonal love as by far the most important unifying bond.

Another confirmation of the university as a sort of Ersatzreligion , a substitute religion, can be found in how an academic lecture was perceived at the time. In this respect as well, the period around the turn of the nineteenth century is the time of change. As I mentioned, the oral address was given a new role within the university, and one of the reasons for that was the dramatic increase in reading and writing skills as well as the huge cultural expansion of the printed book.

When representatives of the university started formulating the new understanding of a lecture against the background of such changes, it is strikingly noticeable how often they adopted Church models. Quite commonly an oral address was understood as a sort of sermon. Thus, one could draw further analogies with the earlier Christian-dominated understanding of an institution, rather than interpreting it as a break away from the past caused by secularisation. But instead of proceeding with more examples of that sort, I would like to highlight another phenomenon that is seldom noticed.

This manner of extracting intellectual models namely characterised not only the initial stage of the modern research university. It also continued its life in many shapes and forms within the rich and manifold tradition of debating the idea of the university. In the middle of the s, philosopher Karl Jaspers could, for instance, explicitly talk about the university as a so-called Church community. And one could continue citing examples of phrasings similar to those of Jaspers in the German context.


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  4. But I will limit myself to just one, which came significantly later and shows more connection to the legacy of Newman rather than of Humboldt. Despite an expressed secular self-perception, Said followed on from Newman and highlighted the British cardinal as an unprecedented paragon in terms of the thought of the goal and meaning of the modern university.

    Furthermore, in his lecture Said stressed that, in order to understand the university correctly and to protect it from destructive forces, we must experience it and interpret it in terms of something sacred. One could say that, according to Said, the university is a stand-alone holy place, beyond the range of the commercialism and power play in the secular world.

    It is possible to name plenty of other instances of what could be called the transfers of religious intellectual energy into the sphere of the university.

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    But instead I would like to conclude with some reflections on where this takes us in the current debate on research and higher education. I would even dare to claim that one of the most important dividing lines in the current debate on the university goes between those who—often without actually being familiar with the background—want to see the university as an institution with essential ties to Christian culture, and those who would want to cut off this link and erase any sort of religious dimension from the university.

    Let me then conclude with the striking contribution of a present-day debater who laid a strong emphasis on the necessity to cut the link to Christianity.

    clublavoute.ca/lazyn-viladrau-conocer-mujeres.php According to Thrift, the idea of the university since the s has essentially been based around values. Values make us think solemnly of ourselves as insulated and self-sufficient academics, and make us incapable of contributing pragmatically to affluence, problem-solving and social and economic development.

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    In short, according to Thrift, academic institutions lose their legitimacy in our ever-changing world if they are compelled to embody systems of belief. What Thrift consequently points out, is the fact that the idea of the university is, more than anything, a moral vision. This insight has often remained unnoticed, or at least not sufficiently reflected upon in the political debates surrounding the university.

    The deep roots of the moral vision in Christian culture have largely stayed unseen.