Stefan Collini to give public lecture on ‘The Idea of the University: Newman and Now’ 3 May 2011

Wednesday 20 April 2011

The Institute of Historical Research - a member institute of the University of London’s School of Advanced Study - will host the John Coffin Memorial Lecture by Professor Stefan Collini on ‘The Idea of the University: Newman and Now’ on 3 May 2011.

In this lecture, Stefan Collini will explore discussions around the role and nature of universities, which often tend to revolve around a familiar dichotomy between the 'useful' and the 'useless'. Such discussion also tends to a rather ritualised invocation of John Henry Newman's The Idea of a University as some kind of justification of the notion of a 'liberal' education. Professor Collini will consider what is at stake in these discussions by re-visiting Newman's text.

Newman's concerns, when viewed historically, can appear extremely remote from present circumstances. But the lecture will suggest that by attending to some of the less obvious literary characteristics of Newman's writing, we can perhaps still draw some inspiration from it about the most effective ways to characterise the intellectual purposes of universities in the face of contemporary demands for 'usefulness'.

Stefan Collini is professor of intellectual history and English literature at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Clare Hall. His research is focused on the relationship between literature and intellectual history from the early 20th century to the present. Major recent publications include Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (2006), and Common Reading: Critics, Historians, Publics (2008), both from Oxford University Press. Professor Collini has contributed essays to such publications as the London Review of Books , The Guardian, and The Times Literary Supplement.

Stefan Collini’s lecture on ‘The Idea of the University: Newman and Now’ will take place on 3 May 2011 at 6.00pm in the Beveridge Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. Registration is free. Media interested in attending should contact the IHR Events Office at or +44 (0)20 7862 8740.

Notes for Editors:

1. For further information about the event and/or to register to attend (free) please contact the IHR Events Office at or +44 (0)20 7862 8740.

2. The Institute of Historical Research (IHR), founded in 1921, is at the centre of the study of academic history. It provides a stimulating research environment supported by the IHR’s two research centres: the Centre for Metropolitan History and the Victoria County History. It is home to an outstanding open access library, hosts events and seminars and has a dedicated programme of research training. The Institute is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London. See:

3. The School of Advanced Study at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the facilitation and promotion of research in the humanities and social sciences. The School brings together the specialised scholarship and resources of ten prestigious research institutes to offer academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Germanic & Romance Studies, Historical Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, Study of the Americas, and the Warburg Institute.

4. The School is responsible through its Institutes for the organisation of an annual programme of University Trust Fund Lectures, Literary Readings and Recitals funded by the John Coffin Memorial Bequest, and the Stanton/Cassal bequest. Trust Fund events organised by the School include the Hilda Hulme Lecture in English and the Creighton Lecture in History.