Professor Alexander Schmidt (Friedrich-Schiller University)

6 June 2011, 12:45 - 14:00

CRASSH, 17 Mill Lane, Cambridge

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

   Professor Alexander Schmidt (Friedrich-Schiller University)
   CRASSH Visiting Fellow Easter 2011 
   The future of the (German) university around 1800

In the decades around 1800 Germany witnessed a lively and controversial debate about the future of the university with contributions by nearly every (German) thinker of note.  Historically, this discussion responded both to French Expansionism (and its ensuing destruction of the political structures of Germany) and to the institutional crisis of the university as an Ancien Régime corporation.  The (nationalist) reassertion of the university against the centralized French system of special écoles, particularly by Prussian thinkers, had been traditionally associated with the birth of the (“Humboldtian”) research university of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Now that this teleological narrative has been increasingly questioned by recent scholarship, I aim to recover the plurality of competing visions for the future university around 1800 looking at current debates about university reform. 

My talk will concentrate on two interrelated key issues of the debate: first, the relation between the state and the university (hence the problem of academic freedom, state funding and censorship) and, second, the role of the university in the acquisition, organisation and economy of knowledge.  According to these thinkers around 1800, should priority be given to “universal” knowledge or to special/particular knowledge preparing students for their future professions?  And what are the implications of the answer to this question for the hierarchy of disciplines as well as for the role of the university in society? 





About Alexander Schmidt

Alexander Schmidt, Dr phil (2005), Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, is research fellow at the Sonderforschungsbereich 482 at the University of Jena.

For administrative enquiries and a link to the readings please contact Michelle Maciejewska.