Newnan’s European University Model of Education Versus the Nigerian University System

Johnsmart Ezenwankwor, George Mbara, Polycarp Ugwu & Calistus Eke


The book - The Idea of a University is an outstanding work of Henry Cardinal Newman which was published in 1875. It presents a model of a university that should engage in a kind of universal learning that embodies all the branches of knowledge. Each branch of knowledge, such as theology or religion is to be an abstraction of the complete set, offering at its unit level, a unique access to truth. Viewed together, all the branches complete and complement each other and checkmate and balance each other’s encroachment and excessive tendencies. No one among the circle can be excluded without prejudice to the accuracy and scope of others as well as the whole. They are therefore mutually complementary and necessary for each other. The Idea of a University should therefore be a place where the search for knowledge should not be exclusive, but liberal in its pursuit of truth. This paper therefore tries to show that the Nigerian system of university education has considerable influence from Newman’s (European) university model. This influence notwithstanding, there is a certain stress in the Nigerian model which is lacking in Newman;s model. The stress concerns utility. While Nigerian educational system is considerably utility-based, it is deficient of the liberal principles of a university education enunciated by Newman. The paper concludes by stating that proper blend of utility-based focus with liberal principles that are aimed at searching for the truth will be useful in resolving the problems bedevilling the educational sector on the tertiary level. In this way, the present practice of rushing for merely education for the acquisition of certificates shall be discarded.

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