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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970


The university is a very old feature of western society. In Athens in the 4th century B.C. there grew out of the introduction of compulsory military training the institution sometimes called the University of Athens. The 'Museum' at Alexandria was founded in the 3rd century B.C. There are thought to have been at one time 14,000 students at this ancient centre of learning. The geometer, Euclid, worked there, and Eratosthenes, the astronomer. After the fall of the Roman Empire the Greek traditions of learning were carried on at Byzantium where a state-subsidized university was founded in 425 A.D. The Moslems, as they over-ran the Middle East during the Dark Ages, spread their learning as well as their faith. About 970 A.D. they founded a university at Cairo, the University of Al Azhar, which still flourishes.

In Western Europe, from the 9th to the I2th century, places of learning sprang up in various towns in Italy and France. These were the universitates magistrorum et scholarium,' the whole bodies or guilds of masters and scholars, whose purpose was the study of theology, philosophy, civil and canon law, and medicine. They were the forerunners of modern universities as we know them, and by the end of the 12th century two of them, Bologna and Paris, could properly be called universities. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge began somewhat later than those of Italy and France. Oxford was founded in the latter part of the 12th century and Cambridge some 30 years later—Cambridge, I recently read, by some students and teachers who did not like the way Oxford shopkeepers were taking them for a price ride.

At Bologna the students controlled (heir own affairs. At Paris the government of the university was in the hands of its teaching members. Present-day universities thus have an administrative structure that is descended directly from the early Paris system. (A university teacher of modem times must naturally ask what relation the demise of Bologna and the survival of Paris until the present day bear to the form of government that evolved in each.)

This is the text of a speech delivered by Professor A.L. Titchener at an Association of University Teachers Seminar in Auckland last month. Professor Titchener is Professor of Chemical and Material Engineering at Auckland University.

Following Professor Titchener's address is a commentary by Victoria University Pro-Chancellor Kevin O'Brien.

The great growth in the number of universities and in the scope of their teaching has been, of course, during the 19th and 20th centuries. Of particular importance in the last century was the admission of the experimental sciences and the engineering technologies into the teaching curricula. These disciplines, applied to human affairs, have had a profound effect on the nature and quality of human life; and this in turn has put the universities, as the generators of new science and new technology, under political and social pressures formerly unknown to them. For this reason alone the role of the modern university cannot be the same as the rote of the university of the past.

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