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The Idea of a University

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  660 ratings  ·  39 reviews
The issues that John Henry Newman raised—the place of religion and moral values in the university setting, the competing claims of liberal and professional education, the character of the academic community, the cultural role of literature, the relation of religion and science--have provoked discussion from Newman's time to our own. ...more
Paperback, 428 pages
Published October 31st 1982 by University of Notre Dame Press (first published 1873)
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All the while I was listening to, reading along with, and contemplating Newman’s The Idea of a University I’ve been fighting this overwhelming sense of inadequacy. I can’t remember when I’ve encountered an author who’s challenged me so. While an excellent discipline and one to which I do not see myself equal, I shall nevertheless attempt to present a portrait of this great man and his phenomenal work, fully recognizing myself in his description of youthful males, though I am neither young nor ma ...more
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is perhaps the classic work on the question of "what is a university for?" The book consists of two sections. The first is a series of nine "discourses" on University Teaching given on the inauguration of the Catholic University of Ireland, of which he was its first Rector. The second part is a collection of occasional lectures gathered under the theme "University Subjects".

Newman's summary in the last of his nine lectures on University Teaching summarizes the argument he pursues in these l
Bill Tierney
Oct 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Idea of the University is one of those books that many will know about, but few will have read. The version I recently finished is 428 pages and most of it is dense. Two of Newman’s 20th century admirers were James Joyce and Edward Said. I’m not sure many authors could command the respect of such a diverse duo, but upon reflection I entirely understand why.

Newman was trying to create a university for Ireland, and even though he was a Roman Catholic, he also believed that all of science must
Jul 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My opinion of this book lingers between a 3.5 star rating and a 4. Newman has some excellent things to say here about the interconnectedness of theology and all knowledge. He has some excellent things to say about the university as "uni"versity vs. multiversity. His writing is eloquent - perhaps more eloquent here than in any of his other works.

And yet the book has its downfalls, the foremost one being the ever present, haunting tension between the residual influences of Protestantism and Oxfor
Oct 11, 2019 is currently reading it
just noting that my Papa who passed away this year had me look for and order this book a couple of years ago. i recently rescued the book from his pile at home so now's the best time to read it. also last year i bought Apologia Pro Vita Sua so it's going to the top of the pile as well. ...more
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: partly-read
Only read Part 1- University Teaching

I have thoroughly enjoyed this read. Newman has defined liberal education and has argued well why Theology is necessary in that education. God, Nature and Man are the subjects of human reason, and each one takes a step
into its own philosophy. Why can't we take all subjects of learning to
gain knowledge? Newman says we can. We need to find common ground in
each of these subjects, yet take a specific interest in each one and
break them down as a science of knowled
Paul Rhodes
Mar 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Every Priest at a Newman Center should read this book, and then maybe, just maybe, it will dawn on him why Newman Centers are so named.
Kathleen Barlow
I read this book yearly to be consistently remind of why and for what we leaarn, teach, and educate.
Jan 03, 2017 marked it as to-read
I read portions of this book in graduate school (2006 and 2013), but now it's time to read it in full.

Update: Still didn't finish. Another time.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found this book in a Goodreads review about another book I was reading, but I somehow forget which.

I have been reading this at the same time I was reading a biography of John Donne. Interesting that I paired the two together: one, a Catholic who became a Protestant in the pressures of the English Reformation, the other an Anglican who became a Catholic in the 19th century.

"The Idea of a University" was written by Cardinal Newman at the time he was helping to found a Catholic University in Ir
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: education
Newman's writing style is complex and a bit difficult to understand, even for someone who's read a lot of classics (I'm not exaggerating when I say the average sentence is probably 5-6 lines long, lol). But while it took some work at times to comprehend Newman's meaning, the reward was worth the effort. Newman has some brilliant thoughts about the value of a classical liberal arts education, the importance of teaching Christianity for a fully effective education, the limits and value of literatu ...more
Mar 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent presentation of a carefully thought-out philosophy of education.
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a lot to still like here, but one has to get by a lot of Catholic triumphalism and plain old English snobbery in defense of empire and the West and, well, all the stuff that gets people wrinkled about dead white men generally. Prepared a set of lectures in defense of the quixotic project (quixotic because Newman was asked to do it, not because of the nature of the project itself—Newman was spectacularly unsuited for the job he was given that gave rise to these lectures in the first place ...more
Mary Mahoney
Oct 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Because these are lectures and not a book, there is a fair amount of repetition. Cardinal Newman does a good job of explaining why a University Education should be a liberal arts and sciences education, and not just an education for utility's sake. Newman wrote these lectures after he converted to Catholicism and was fired from Oxford University. The lectures were delivered to different disciplines and different colleges at the first Irish Catholic University, the University of Dublin. My favori ...more
Peter Asper
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading the Idea of a University. I've heard many people mention it before but from the way they spoke about it, it seemed like a fairly short read. In reality, this collection of essays from when John Henry Newman was Rector of the University of Dublin is actually over 500 pages long.

Having established that a full read-through of this book is a considerable undertaking I believe that it is worthwhile for those interested in college-level education. From what I have seen, most pe
Christopher Byram
May 12, 2021 rated it liked it
I discovered this book, as well as Cardinal John Henry Newman, first during a Zoom meeting held by my old university's Catholic chaplaincy a few months ago, and just now in a document I was reading that relates to the question of the existence of a modern day Knight's Templar order; the Zoom meeting was on the topic of how universities used to be places to cultivate the pursuit of knowledge and higher learning and thought, and only a small percentage of the youth of previous centuries would actu ...more
Michael Joosten
Dec 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It took me eight years, six months, and three days to read this book--to be fair, I started it three times in that time, so that's not 100% accurate. Even so, though it took six years to ever get beyond the opening portion, Newman's work became immediately definitive in my view of the world. As a would-have-been academic, as one who would tout the values of the "useless" liberal arts degrees, and as a Catholic, The Idea of a University is pivotal work in defining my understanding of reality.

I on
Michael Battistone
Dec 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was led to this book by the opening lines of one I am still planning to read, Jaroslav Pelikan's "The Idea of the University: A Reexamination", which begins, "At least two books by 'eminent Victorians' ...probably ought to be part of the canon for anyone concerned with the reexamination of the idea of the university or in general about the reexamination of scholarship whether inside or outside the university." (The other book Pelikan recommends is "Middlemarch"). I set aside the "Reexamination ...more
Jeffrey Romine
Jun 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: knowledge, history
Education and instruction are not the only benefits for students who attend the university, but cultivation of the mind and temperament. Upon nurturing the intellect there follows an ability to distinguish between rule and exception, accident and design, phenomena and law, and thereby to attribute qualities to principles and causes to effects. According to Newman, knowledge and learning pay out a life time of dividends that far exceed the initial investment of time and effort.

Austin Hoffman
Finished 80% before giving up. I only read this because of a great excerpt in an anthology, but sadly, the rest of the book was not up to snuff (and I don’t remember coming across the excerpt). What a blowhard. Pass on.
Margaret P
Dec 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
When anyone asks me my favorite book, I'm not sure how to tell them...that it's this one. Aside from the fact that it's not literature, it's also written by a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, which seems an odd choice by someone who long ago cast off the restraints of religion.

But JH Newman's prose is beautiful. I love the Idea of a University not for what Newman says about religion's place in university but what he says about university's ability to elevate the mind and create true gentlemen a
Peter Floriani
One of the great master-references for any scholar, and especially for anyone who is interested in repairing the abysmal state of modern "higher education". It is essential in that it reveals the proper design of a University, which must have every field of study, since to omit one is to permit the others to intrude where they have no place, and therefore go wrong. A proper review of this important book would require a book - and also an annotated study. It is not an easy book for many due to th ...more
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
What a very well-written book this is. Here, as in his Apologia, Newman's prose at times approaches the purple. But he is always thoughtful, and often beautiful.

Expect the typical paean to Athenian learning. Throughout, it is clear that for Newman, Athens is the standard, not only for a university's scholarly rigor and tone but (and I do not kid) its geographic placement.

The passages exalting the free exchange of ideas, open dialog, and pursuing truth wherever it takes you are a good reminder th
Brittany Laccetti
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a little difficult for me to read, only because I am not used to reading texts that are so dry and philosophical. Newman has some great ideas for the university that I believe should be set in place nationwide. I love the fact that he states that the university can not change people, and that it's purpose is not to create moral citizens. He argues that trying to make moral citizens only takes time away from the students' learning. He talks about the value of true knowledge and how havin ...more
Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 5, as one of Three Books on Education.

Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 15, as one of Twelve Collections of Lectures and Reflections.

Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 20, as one of Ten Books on the Humanities.

Included in the "Literary Classics" section of Fr. John McCloskey's 100-book Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan.
Mark Schlatter
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read. While Newman's vision of theology as the queen of the sciences doesn't fit mine, I do admire his focus on the integrative role of the university. Too often, a college education does not involve students understanding how all the classes they took work together (partly because we as professors don't work together).

Some great critical essays are included in this edition, providing both historical background and challenges to current views of higher education.
Jacob Hiserman
Aug 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Explanation and apologia for the relevance, utility, and beauty of the liberal arts and Catholic university education in the nineteenth century from a Catholic convert and Thomistic perspective. One of the foremost books on educational philosophy. Period. As a historian of higher education and a Catholic, I highly recommend this book to all readers who have a philosophical and theological background and/or have studied or wish to study the liberal arts.
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I read the book's edition without the illustrations, I found it educational, clear and telling of Cardinal Newman's time. Like his biography, the lectures reinforced the idea that religion and academia are related. ...more
Abhay Bora
Jul 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent exposition of what education should be like.. What should a university be like. The one biggest take back from this book is his " description of a gentleman".. It is eerily similar to what the Bhagavad Gita describes a perfect man to be. ...more
bo bedingfield
Boring as shit. I have no idea when I bought this.

I'm sure it's worthwhile to someone.
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Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman was an important figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. He was known nationally by the mid-1830s.
Originally an evangelical Oxford University academic and priest in the Church of England, Newman then became drawn to the high-church tradition of Anglicanism. He became known as a leader of, and an able polemicist for, the Oxford Movement, an i

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