11 May 2015 2:00pm - 3:30pm CLAS Meeting Room, 204, Second Floor, Alison Richard Building


This is the first in a series of meetings. Other meetings will be held on 26 May, 8 June, and 22 June.

What I would say about today is that we are living through a point in history of Western academia so momentous it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around it – namely the effectual end of universities as centres of human critique, the effectual end of an enormously rich and diverse and valuable tradition, which has always had to struggle to carve out a task for itself that is often at odds with the priorities of society.” (Terry Eagleton in Third Way, 39, (2015), 25)

Thinking well about Universities – their purpose, their forms, their values  – has once again become one of the important things to do. We hope that this reading group will offer some space in which to do that thinking. Specifically, to:

  • increase our knowledge and understanding of the current state of Universities (for example: a sense of loss is a recurring idea amongst younger academics. But a loss of what? What are the sources of this sometimes-desperate elegy?)
  • understand more about the history of Universities, particularly in the British context
  • interrogate some of our assumptions about what Universities are, what they are for, and the major pressures they face
  • understand how and why the current debates on the future of Universities matter to us – our responsibilities and capacity for influence and change.

Tea, coffee and biscuits provided; and readings available by clicking on the Readings Tab


Max Weber ‘Science as Vocation’. Published as “Wissenschaft als Beruf,” Gesammlte Aufsaetze zur Wissenschaftslehre (Tubingen, 1922), pp. 524-55. Originally a speech at Munich University, 1918, published in 1919 by Duncker & Humblodt, Munich. In H.H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills (Translated and edited), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, pp. 129-156, New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.


John Henry Newman. The Idea of a University Defined and Illustrated, 9th Edition, 1889. Discourse V ‘Knowledge Its Own End’ and Discourse VII ‘Knowledge viewed in relation to Professional Skill’

[The extracts here are from an edition edited by I T Kerr (Oxford 1976) pages 99-112, and 131-155]

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk