The University: Its History and Future

History 103D.003

Spring 2018
2231 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 2-4
Class Number: 

This seminar will focus on the “modern” university, especially as it developed in the United States during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Beginning as colleges to prepare young men for the ministry, colleges expanded their mission, and in many cases evolved into universities, in the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century also saw the emergence of the “public” university, first in Virginia, then Michigan, and then in many more states after the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862. Universities expanded their role in comprehensive research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and then, after the end of World War II and the passage of the G.I. bill, began to pursue the goal of universal education. In the 1960s universities became politicized around the wars in Southeast Asia and their role in the military-industrial complex. And by the end of the century, public universities began to suffer from growing disinvestment on the part of state governments. With escalating attacks on the relevance of the university, its relationship to objective knowledge, expertise, and “elitism,” and concerns about commitments to diversity and access, the university has more recently become highly politicized once again, this time with serious questions about its future in American society. This moment of crisis coincides with a time of massive investment in higher education across Asia and many other parts of the world. The seminar will conclude by evaluating current critiques, and speculations about the future of the knowledge industries, in which universities hope to play a major role.