How much would the traditional teaching styles and core values of the early European Universities have transferred over and been influential in Columbia University (Kings College) when it was founded in 1754?

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14 Responses to Post/Question

  1. Eugenia Lotova says:

    What was the admissions process to early universities like? Could anyone attend? Or was it in some way similar to the process today?

    • Robert McCaughey says:

      Eugenia — Pretty much anyone who showed up and had the fee to attend could do so. Getting a degree was another matter — and more fees. Think MOOCs.


  2. Abigail Mitchell says:

    In class, we discussed that the earliest universities were very small. What was the quality of education for students at these medieval European universities in the beginning? Were they more than professional schools for theologians and lawyers?

    • Robert McCaughey says:

      Abigail — Many of these early European universities grew into big operations pretty early on. Cambridge had 3000 students in the 1580s. The students were instructed by way of large lectures and then examined on their retention of the material (sound familiar?). The degree they came away with certainly made them more employable in the ecclesiastical bureaucracy and and in government, as well as educators.

  3. Rebeka Cohan says:

    To what extent and how did students of different medieval universities interact with each other, especially considering the fact that Bologna and Paris were such different universities?

    • Robert McCaughey says:

      Some movement by students from university to university in search of the “rock stars” of the moment. Faculty also had some mobility, moving around the circuit of European universities. Erasmus moved from Dutch university to Oxford (?) and back….

  4. Sarah Bernstein says:

    Assuming that the emergence of a need for a “middle level” of educated individuals (the people below the Pope and the priests, etc. as we were talking about in class yesterday) led to the shift from private apprenticeship and tutoring to collective institutions of higher learning/education available to the masses; when/how did the eventual shift occur that better/more esteemed professors and educators became available to these institutions over private/individual educations? Was the shift tied to economic motivation?

    • Robert McCaughey says:

      Sarah, Sure, money mattered, but so did the prestige of a professor in some obscure university being asked to come to Paris where the best students and the most esteemed professors were concentrated. Maybe Paris also had the best auxiliary services, such as scribes, secretaries…


  5. Justin Feit says:

    To what extent are more contemporary non-secular American universities similar to non-secular European universities of the 1580s and 1590s?

    • Robert McCaughey says:


      By “contemporary non-secular,” do you mean church-based evangelical colleges like Oral Roberts or Liberty University, or Catholic ones like Notre Dame and Georgetown?

      • Justin Feit says:

        I was considering universities more like ORU and Liberty, but on second thought it would be interesting to look at Notre Dame and Georgetown as well in a different light.

        • Robert McCaughey says:

          I know in the case of the “Catholics,” they have all classified themselves as non-sectarian back earlier in the 20th century so as to be eligible for funding from foundations (Carnegie) and state governments which would not support church-run entities. Columbia, too.


  6. Hilary Going says:

    It seems like when King George II of England founded King’s college in 1754 they kept with the current standards and values of English (and most other European) universities. The 13 subjects that the first class at King’s College took had been outlined in a royal charter by the King himself for what he called an education in the liberal arts and sciences. However, there were likely marked changes in the curriculum after the Revolutionary War, when the university was reopened as Columbia College in 1784. Columbia was an alternative name for America and in using this reference in the new name for the university they expressed their support for the country and showed willingness to reform the charter of the school as per advice from the state of New York. Obviously, to this day we are still a university in pursuit of an education in the liberal arts and sciences, but our values and certainly the course subject matter likely changed with the birth of our free country.

    • Robert McCaughey says:


      I doubt that King George II had much of an idea what was going on in New York, educationally or otherwise.The charter for KC was likely drafted byLt. Gov’r DeLancey with some help from Samuel Johnson — and they were winging it as to the subjects that MIGHT be taught.

      You are spot on about the renaming and the pressures to do so.

      But as for today’s CU,do you number social work, journalism and business among the liberal arts and sciences? We teach them, too.


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