Raffi Manjikian

Education today can be acquired in many different ways. People can attain credentials, certificates, and degrees from public two-year institutions, public and private four-year institutions, non-profit institutions, for-profit institutions, trade schools, and online. Courses can be delivered in different modalities as well. There can be traditional face-to-face classes, online asynchronous classes, online remote/synchronous classes, as well as hybrid/hyflex classes. With all these course offerings it can be difficult to remember the point of a college, specifically a university. Education is key, but there are many other things that comprise the experience of being at a university. John Henry Newman believed that education was fundamental in helping a person grow to become a good person as well as a religious and spiritual person. He felt that the university was a place that supported student success and encouraged discussion and dialogue from all disciplines. People then could take the information seen from all disciplines and use it to enhance their well-being and overall knowledge about life. Newman is quoted as saying, “If then a practical end must be assigned to a University course, I say it is that of training good members of society. Its art is the art of social life, and its end is fitness for the world.”[1] This seems to still occur but gets scarcer as time goes on. Students now seem to go to college with the sole intention of getting a job and making money. While this is important, it should not be forgotten that education is also needed to help someone have better character and become an overall better person by instilling good values, ethics, and morals into their social life and practices. This paper will take a look at how colleges and universities can act collaboratively among disciplines using an interdisciplinary approach to provide a liberal education for students in order to achieve success both academically and in life.

Student encouragement and academic engagement leads to student success and this is necessary for people to understand the purpose and value of education. As someone who teaches in the natural sciences, one should always be mindful of how to help students in whatever way possible. One example of this is showing students how the different scientific disciplines are related to one another. There are many connections between the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Computer Science. It is because of these connections that one can always find faculty and students wanting to work together to find solutions to the many different problems that exist in life. Interdisciplinarity is also seen in the pre-med/pre-health curriculum. These natural science disciplines can also be related to liberal arts disciplines such as Philosophy, English, History, Theology, as well as other forms of Religious studies. John Henry Newman would be excited to know that this notion of working together still exists today. This culture of care and concern for a liberal education speaks to the attempts made to keep Newman’s ideas of a university alive. This includes, but is not limited to, “the need for comprehensiveness in a university curriculum, giving priority to a sense of the whole, and unity and interconnectedness among the disciplines, with these features seen as contributing to the development of intellectual virtues and personhood.”[2]

In today’s world, students have a harder time remembering and valuing the importance of education. Rather than viewing it as an interconnected web of many disciplines working together, students today generally compartmentalize information, and unfortunately do not make or see the connections being made among the various disciplines. Additionally, students feel that a college or university should only be attended to obtain a certain set of skills used to gain some type of employment. This is not the idea of a university according to John Henry Newman. He argues that the goal of an institution is not to produce workers, but to train people to look at the world with a more holistic and philosophical approach. He was hopeful that people who attended a university would form a particular habit of mind: “A habit of mind is formed which lasts through life, of which the attributes are freedom, equitableness, calmness, moderation, and wisdom. Knowledge is its own end, not for the practical utility it might impart, but simply because it is worth knowing, and further, because of its shaping influence upon the habits of the mind.”[3]

Even though more students are thinking of attending universities only as a means to employment, they can be mentored and shown the true importance of education by the foundations of teaching, research, scholarship, service and professional development. These aspects of knowledge can help students be more mindful of John Henry Newman’s ideas of a university. All types of institutions should encourage students to think critically and challenge them however possible. Teaching is necessary because it is foundational. Without being taught information, it is impossible to obtain knowledge. Active teaching strategies should be implemented to help students learn the material that they are being shown. Research is necessary in trying to solve different problems that may arise. Students should be shown how research is conducted and the proper analysis needed to interpret data in order to obtain results to build conclusions. Scholarship is necessary as a communication tool for people to publish their findings. Academic service, as well as volunteer opportunities, is necessary in trying to help one another achieve their goals and aspirations. Working together and contributing different ideas and viewpoints can help people look at things in a multidimensional way. Finally, professional development is necessary to help a person gain new information and skills so that they can apply them in various fields and disciplines. Incorporating these five aspects of education shows the true meaning of a liberal education in that it is able to relate information from various fields and disciplines to each other.

In conclusion, Newman’s ideas of a university do still exist today, but students need to be guided in understanding how they still exist and why they are still important. Having an interdisciplinary and collaborative approach toward education is key to student success. Students need to broaden their minds and think more logically in order to move toward an understanding of the importance of education. Education is not just a means to gain employment. It is necessary for a person to better themselves in a multitude of ways, including spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. Once a student embraces the true meaning of education and understands its importance and true value, that is when they can use all the skills they have obtained to become better members of society.


[1] Sullivan, John, “Newman’s Circle of Knowledge and Curriculum Wholeness in The Idea of a UniversityReceptions of Newman (Oxford, 2015), pp. 94-113.
[2] Newman, John. The Idea of a University. Discourse VII Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Professional Skill (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), pp. 114-136.
[3] Newman, John, The Idea of a University. Discourse V Knowledge Its Own End (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), pp. 74-93.