Universities: Medieval and Modern
Universities have existed since the Twelfth Century AD and have been evolving ever since. There have been many changes however many things have remained unchanged throughout the years. The student and teacher roles have evolved as well as the general purpose of going to a university. Overall the academic aspects have changed more than the personal aspects of college.
In 1200, the King of France issued a statement (118)* regarding Royal Privileges granted to the University of Paris. In order to protect the students, the King made a law that if any citizen sees harm being done to a student of the university he must testify truthfully to this. This law shows how important students were in Paris. The privileges given to students now include financial aid and grants. Today the federal government gives low interest rates on loans that students do not have to start paying back until after they have graduated. Sometimes students can even get grants which will pay for their education and do not have to be repaid. These privileges show how much the government wants people to attend college.
The life of the student today still has striking similarities to that of the medieval student. The main problem for students both now and then is the lack of money. A letter (132) written in the Thirteenth Century displays a timeless theme: writing home for money. The last line of the letter says it all; “Without Ceres and Bacchus Apollo grows cold”. Another issue that has plagued students and parents for hundreds of years is partying. Some students concentrate more on parties than their studies. Another letter (132) written in the Thirteenth Century is from a father to a son admonishing him about his laziness. The father states that his son, “prefers license to restraint and play to work”. A more serious issue that has arisen throughout the history of universities is that of rioting. A recount of the riot at Oxford (130)in the 13th century is reminiscent of a riot that occured at Kent State in the 1960’s. These similarities merely show that human nature has not changed as much as some may think.
Some major changes have taken place in society over time, regarding religion especially, which have affected the universities. As time goes on people as a whole have become more tolerant. Now society is more accepting of differences. In 1215 Robert Courcon issued the statutes for the University of Paris that stated,
“The books of Aristotle on Metaphysics or Natural Philosophy, or the abridgments of these works, are not to be read, nor the writings of Master David of Dinant, the heretic Amauri, or the Spaniard Mauricius.” (119)
These could not be read either because the authors were considered heretics by the church or because they expressed beliefs that did not coincide with the church’s beliefs. Today students study all kinds of writings not discriminating against those which contain beliefs that differ from their own. In fact these studies are encouraged in order to broaden the students thought processes. One aspect of universities, however, has stayed the same. The main method of teaching is still the lecture. Today teachers incorporate auxiliary methods of teaching in order to keep the students interested but still rely mainly on lecturing. This is a method that has worked for hundreds of years and will probably work for hundreds more.
Universities in medieval times were more formal than those today but the underlying theme of college life remains the same. People in medieval times questioned students intentions for attending a university which still happens today. De Vitry said (131), “Some studied merely to acquire fame, which is vanity; others still for the sake of gain, which is cupidity and the vice of simony.” Some say today that young people go to college not necessarily to learn but to be able to get a job. The main reason that the university has not changed a great deal since medieval times is because the student has not really changed.