As I dig away at the ideas that my make my research, I do tend to come across ideas that fascinate me or put things in a context I hadn’t considered. This week’s reading was around the origins of university-community engagement. I had been aware of the public good, or benefit, of a university being borne out of the foundations of places like the University of Bologna or Humbolt, Berlin, but never actually considered what our oldest Higher Education institutions in the UK were up to.
Here are two early mission statements from British universities (Watson et al, 2008)
The first is Elizabeth de Burgh, Lady Clare, founder of Clare College, Cambridge in 1359 setting out a ‘mission statement’: “through their study and teaching at the University the scholars should discover and acquire the precious pearl of learning so that it does not stay hidden under a bushel but is displayed abroad to enlighten those who walk in the dark paths of ignorance.”
And here is the Papal Bull of Innocent VIII establishing the University of Aberdeen in 1495: “In the northern parts of the kingdom the people are ignorant and almost barbarous owing to their distance from a university. The city is near these places and suitable for a university, where all lawful faculties could be taught to both ecclesiastics and laymen, who would thus acquire the most precious pearl of knowledge, and so promote the well-being of the kingdom and the salvation of souls.” These stirring words from history show sharing knowledge with communities was always at the very heart of Higher Education.
University community outreach in England had its beginnings in Cambridge, when James Stuart of Trinity College inaugurated his innovative lecture tours in manufacturing towns and cities. From these beginnings developed the university extension movement – an early form of outreach.
The most significant work of universities sharing knowledge with others appeared to be in the Victorian era when Higher Educations settlements reached out to their cities as a form of philanthropic activity offering communities in youth clubs, poor man’s lawyer and labour exchanges and to gain knowledge about the “urban poor” (Oxford House – it’s work is pictured above) and created the what would be seen as the activities modern of social work (Younghusband, E. (1981).
Watson D et al, 2008, Beyond the Lecture Hall, Universities and community engagement from the middle ages to the present day, P10.
Jones B, et als, 2008, Beyond the Lecture Hall, Universities and community engagement from the middle ages to the present day, P19
Younghusband, E. (1981), The newest profession: a short history of social work. Sutton, Surrey: Community Care/IPC Business Press