‘Ideas and Universities’ explores ways in which ideas have found institutional expression in universities from the emergence of the earliest European universities in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries until today. The project will consider a range of themes including: how the mind works, how people learn, how people generate new knowledge, how we divide knowledge into different subjects or disciplines, how the lifestyle of intellectuals shapes their thinking, how management and governance of universities relates to the ideas that are generated within those institutions and what relationship intellectuals should have with the societies in which they live. It will also look at the organisation of universities (their constitutional structures and where the power to make decisions is located), their internal structures (departments, schools, faculties, etc.), curriculum, teaching methods, and the relationship between teaching and research. Crucially the project will explore the relationship between these themes about ideas and these institutional aspects of universities in different places at different times. By its nature, it will have to be interdisciplinary. All universities in the WUN can be involved because we all have to address these issues (implicitly or explicitly) in our own universities, so the universities themselves, with their very different histories, will in part be the subject matter. The opportunity to compare the intellectual cultures of European, North American, and Chinese universities will be very exciting.
The project aims to involve historians of intellectual culture (ideas and universities) in different periods; educationalists and social scientists with an interest in the past as well as the present; scientists with an interest in the relationship between the sciences and the humanities; policy-makers (academic leaders, politicians) and university administrators.
There will be a regular video seminar involving WUN universities, and it is anticipated that a number of key figures in the field will be invited to Bristol as part of a series of related events run jointly by the project and the IAS.