Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rise of the modern university

From the New Yorker review of William Clark's Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University :

Between 1750 and 1825, the research enterprise established itself, along with institutions that now seem eternal and indispensable: the university library, with its acquisitions budget, large building, and elaborate catalogues; the laboratory; the academic department, with its fellowships and specialized training. So did a new form of teaching: the seminar, in which students learned by doing, presenting reports on their original research for the criticism of their teachers and colleagues. The new pedagogy prized novelty and discovery; it was stimulating, optimistic, and attractive to students around the world. Some ten thousand young Americans managed to study in Germany during the nineteenth century. There, they learned that research defined the university enterprise. And that is why we still make our graduate students write dissertations and our assistant professors write books. The multicultural, global faculty of the American university still inhabits the all-male, and virtually all-Christian, research universities of Mommsen’s day.

Thanks to Guru and Pradeepkumar for the link.


  1. abhinav said...

    Maybe you can find this book at the IISc library: Research and Relevant Knowledge: American Research Universities Since World War II . It elucidates the glory years of the american research universities.

    I noticed one line in the article that the first academic hot shots were lured to America by offering a salary five times that in Germany.maybe that is how dominance is broken.

  2. gaddeswarup said...

    There is another review in
    “Therefore the professor could not come of age until the birth of the modern secular state.

    This observation is the linchpin of Clark’s analysis. After making it, he introduces a startling set of ideas: It was not the professors who created the modern academic profession; rather, it was the rationalizing, bureaucratic, market-conscious functionaries who served the various German states of the 18th century. Through site visits, the careful recording of facts, new methods of accountability and judicious use of budgets, government ministers forced the once-indolent professors to become hardworking and reputation-seeking. It was ultimately the state that created the syndrome of "publish or perish" and put us on the path to the large-scale research environments in which scientific work is pursued today.”
    “Even four decades ago, Clark Kerr, who was then president of the University of California, warned about the damage to academic culture caused by the "rise of the Research Grant University." In the final chapter of Academic Charisma and the Origins of the Research University, William Clark joins a large number of critics in finding fault both with the managerial and corporate styles of governance present in research academia today and with the grandstanding and self-seeking that have encouraged institutions to purchase faculty. It is assuredly difficult to recognize the remains of collegial authority in today’s universities. The heavy emphasis on wealth generation has produced university-government-industrial alliances that are often disturbing, compromising our sense of the proper use of scientific inquiry and making us wonder about the true strength of professional values. However, this is a complicated story of losses and gains. This tailpiece of the book is its least original part, but in fairness it does tell us where Clark began his retrospective investigations.”

  3. gaddeswarup said...

    Sorry; the link has not come out properly. It is here I hope (trying for the first time in other's blog).

  4. Anonymous said...


    Just wanted to say a blanket thank you for these articles on academia. As someone who has just set foot (well, around two years now) in the academic world, from a completely different environment (corporate life) this is indeed illuminating and fascinating.