Comment on “The Bologna Process” The Pantaneto Forum Issue 29, January 2008, Lewis Elton

How do Humboldt’s ideas articulate with the Bologna process? As Seibt [1](2007) has recently argued in characterising the outcomes of that process,

“the three structural processes – school-like form of study, the separation of research and teaching, and external, as opposed to internal governance, have all the power of a thoroughly rational economic system – based on applicable knowledge – on their side and in consequence appear unavoidable.”

These processes are, however, wholly incompatible with the fundamental Humboldtian paradox, based on complexity theory, that the best way for universities to serve the community and the state is to be left free from any direct  interference by the state. Arguably,  Seibt does not exaggerate when he concludes that

“perhaps not since the demise of Plato’s Academy in Athens has there been such an incisive date in the history of human learning.”


Taken from: Lewis Elton, Collegiality and Complexity: Humboldt’s relevance to British  Universities to-day’, submitted for publication.