Public or Private? Arts or Applied Sciences? Early Modern Debates on University Funding and Curricula

7 February 2011, 12:45 - 14:00

CRASSH

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress seminar series.  All welcome, no registration necessary.  Sandwich lunch and refreshments provided.

Dr Nicholas McDowell (English, University of Exeter)

Abstract

One of the most pressing issues facing the future university in Britain is funding. British governments are finding the public funding of universities to be increasingly problematic in an unprecedented economic downturn and, without a transformation of financial priorities, almost certainly unsustainable at current levels. This has raised a series of questions. What is a public university for? Should students pay for themselves or be funded? Should universities be allowed to turn into private, independent institutions? Closely linked to the issue of funding is that of the curriculum, with the current government making clear its preference for applied science, which it believes can directly pay its own way by benefitting the economy. At an even more critical moment earlier in British history, the English Civil Wars and Interregnum of the mid-seventeenth century, these issues of funding and curricula were also up for debate at a time when centuries of traditional authority in church and state had dissolved. The 1640s and 1650s saw a flurry of pamphlets and proposals regarding what we would describe as ‘higher education’. My paper will offer case studies in the complicated mid-seventeenth-century debates over the funding and curricula of the future university, and consider what relevance they have, if any, for our current situation.

To access the Readings for the Work in Progress seminar, please contact Michelle Maciejewska.