The Universities in Historical Context: Professor G. R. Evans

February 1, 2012

In the latest CEMS seminar on ‘The Universities in Historical Context’, Professor G. R. Evans posed the provocative question ‘Dumbing down’? Did that happen in early modern universities?’.  She began by discussing current debates on standards and quality. Given how hard it is on our own time to infer from  a syllabus or exam paper at what level people are actually being taught, how far is it possible to make such inferences about the past? Her examples ranged from the medieval university to the debates about reform at Oxford in the early nineteenth century. If the question did not allow of a simple answer, it produced valuable debate and a reminder of previous controversies over the public value of higher education: the Edinburgh Review complained in 1810 that ‘When a University has been doing useless things for a long time, it appears at first degrading to them to be useful’’.

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