A Corpus-Based Approach
2. Theoretical background 19
19 2. Theoretical background 2.1. Academia and the disciplines Academic institutions are entrusted with the production and dis- semination of knowledge in virtually every field of study amenable to systematic investigation. Many of the intellectual revolutions that have shaped Western civilization, from humanism to the Protestant reformation, from Cartesian science to rationalism, were a result of academic debates spilling over into society, often beyond the original intention of their proponents. The century-old history of academia reaches back to the late Middle Ages, when the Universitas magistrorum (literally, ‘corporation of teachers’) gained control of educational functions previously reserved to monks and clerics. For this reason, universities are among the oldest surviving European institutions, with Bologna, Cambridge, Coimbra, Naples, Oxford, Padua, Paris and Siena established as early as the 12th-13th centuries (cf. Feingold 2000). But age alone is not a fair predictor of future success: in a recent list of world universities ranked chiefly by peer- review score, scholarly impact and student/faculty ratio, only four European universities – all British – appeared among the top twenty institutions (THES 2007). Since the 1870s, European universities have been deeply influenced by the German model advocated by Wilhelm von Humboldt (cf. Anderson 2004), which pursues an integration of educational and research activities to serve the converging interests of faculty and students. However, a recent assessment (Pritchard 2004) of Humboldtian values in German universities exposes the distance between reality and the ideal: unsolved issues in the faculty-student relationship are today complicated by the ‘corporate university’ model, driven by...
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