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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


DIEDERICKS, Morné. The influence of lines of thought in the German university model on current university issues. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.4, pp.680-691. ISSN 2224-7912.

By the end of the 18th century, the university model of Europe was largely that of the late Middle Ages (the 15th century), although the French Revolution and its overflow into Napoleon's reign had a significant effect on the universities of Europe. In 1789, Europe had 143 universities, but in 1815 only 83 universities remained; thus, a loss of 60 universities occurred during this time. However, in the 19th century, a turnaround took place. By the 1850s, Europe had 98 universities, and just before the start of World War II, there were approximately 200 universities. Viewed against the university's rich history from the Middle Ages, the 19th century was characterised by a time of great upheaval in universities. The German university model contributed significantly to the reversal of university growth in the 19th century. The new societal structures brought about by the French Revolution with its Enlightenment ideologies required new university models. The first model that was developed was the French university model. The French university model was a highly regulated model. The state prescribed to universities exactly which university should teach what content, as well as which function each university should fulfil. The university was in the service of the state and had to assist the state in training citizens for the performance of their task. The French university model had four aims in the sense that this model intended to: secure and maintain post-revolutionary status, bring education in line with state policy, prevent a new professional class from emerging and, lastly, establish restrictions on free thought in order to prevent the development of any ideas contrary to the stronghold of the state. This study shows that the notable reversal of the 19th-century university system came about as a result of the implementation of the German university's model. Core German intellectuals such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schleiermacher and Wilhelm von Humboldt devised a new German education system, independent from that of French oppression. These intellectuals developed numerous fruitful concepts such as Bildung, Wissenschaft, Lehrfreiheit, and Lernfreiheit. These concepts and other concepts made it possible for the new German university model to be devised and implemented. The German university model did not only have a great influence on the growth of student numbers, but it also opened up some lines of thought regarding the idea of the university, which are still relevant today. Some of the core issues still featuring on the agendas of present discussions regarding universities include the state-university relationship, where public universities are considered by some to be the property of the state. Issues regarding lecturers include, among others, the task of lecturers. The Medieval university concept of the lecturer as a master teacher is rarely found within the contemporary university - instead, teaching students is regarded as a lower order task compared to that of the lecturer's responsibility towards research. Today, lecturers 'performance is measured by their research output (within the publish or perish culture) rather than their ability to teach students. An additional issue concerns the idea that higher education is currently perceived to be a human right and that students are therefore entitled to a free education (part of the Fees Must Fall campaign). Finally, the fragmentation of the curriculum within the modern university, resulting in the loss of the ideal of a universal education, is of concern - the latter having been a characteristic that was part of the idea of the university. This paper, by revisiting the classical German university model, provides a philosophical and historical background to current discussions regarding aspects such as the university-state relationship, the role of professors, demands on students and the fragmentation of the curriculum.

Palavras-chave : Bildung; German university model; French university model; Friedrich Schleiermacher; research university; and Wilhelm von Humboldt.

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