Abstract and keywords

Ritið 1/11 - 2011

Sverrir Jakobsson: Universities: Institutes of Power or Resistance?

The article explores the invention of the university as an institution in the Middle Ages, and its peculiar characteristics in contrast with other systems of an academic education. The strength of the university has been its role in creating a standardized type of higher learning, which is solidified by its unique status in the disposal of academic degrees and titles. The traditional independence of universities is demonstrated to be created by the historical circumstances in which they came into existence, as medieval power structures were disparate and various institutions competed for authority in European societies. The role of the university as a centre of critical thinking is discussed, and it is argued that universities have seldom been in the forefront of resistance to established power and ideological hegemony; in fact universities can rather be seen as repositories of traditional authority and established thinking.

Key words: Mediaeval universities; civil examinations; the madrasa; higher education; knowledge and power; social criticism and the role of intellectuals.

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