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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 17, No. 1. March 4, 1953

The Central Idea

The Central Idea

Training students at undergraduate and at graduate level in the attitudes and the techniques of research, whether in special institutions such us graduate schools or in the colleges at all levels, is a proper duty of universities. Those so trained are needed today in the applied sciences in ever increasing numbers by Government departments and in private firms. In England a recent survey showed that the need for scientists was so great there to serve industry and Government that doubling of the output of scientists from the universities within ten years was recommended. Engineers are in like demand and there is as yet no sign that the demand is likely to slacken.

Before turning to the function of the university as a prelude to the life of the graduate in the community, let me mention in passing some conflicting views by university men about the central idea around which the university should be integrated.

(1)Newman's idea of a university integrated about the idea of the religious interpretation of life and human destiny.
(2)Hutchins's metaphysical idea of integration about the unselfish devotion to truth.
(3)The Harvard reports idea of integration about the unselfish community centred life.
(4)It is possible that increased Government interest in universities may cause integration to be on the basis of what the Government of the day thinks the university should be doing.

Some hold that there is no need to think in terms of any other integrating idea than that of exposing the student to the best scholarship in the university subjects available to him.

Now to touch on the function of the university in relation to the preparation of the individual student for life in his community after graduation. The student comes up to the university usually with some career in mind. Provided he has a reasonable intellectual ability, a real desire to be educated and the habit of work he must get the best possible education for his chosen profession. There is hardly a limit to what he can learn for the wealth of materian in books and in the scholarship of the teachers is usually adequate to stretch the mind of the student to its limit.

Even in professional training, however, there are two clearly defined schools of thought about what should be offered The die-hard intellectuals who believe—as they should—that the most Important things to larn are the principles behind the facts and that the attitudes of intellectual curiosity and clear thinking are more important than special techniques, would restrict the professional courses to basic disciplines. Others who do not wish to launch engineers, for instance, into industry full of theory but weak in practical skills, would extend the courses at the university to include much practical knowledge and many special skills.

Faculties and professional boards can be trusted to work out a balance between these two attitudes.