Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's)

After suffering mightily during the enlightenment, European universities strove to reinvent themselves; this reshaping was based in part on the boom of Mechanic's Schools, which taught relevant vocational skills as well as science and technology. Moreover, these schools appealed to working-class and middle-class students, and taught their courses in English. Forced to adapt or die, European universities change their model of education.

Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's) Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's) Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's) Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's) Industrial Revolution (1789-1900's)

The Cerebral vs. The Practical: Universities Reinvented

After suffering mightily during The Enlightenment, European universities had to reinvent themselves in order to survive. This reinvention was doubly necessary due to the birth of a competing model of school: Mechanic's Schools that sprang up as part of the Industrial Revolution. These trade schools taught vocational skills, as well as science and technology. Enrollment at Mechanics Schools was open to working-class and middle-class people, and enrollment at them boomed. With the Mechanic's Schools came the first stirrings of the idea that a degree should be directly applicable in the workplace. This idea was embraced, and a BA was increasingly seen as less relevant than a trade certification (and the skills that came along with it). Forced to adapt to this model or die, European universities change the way they educated students.

Demographic Shifts

During this era, the first European women enroll in college, and -- while the average college student is still likely to be extremely affluent -- an increasing number of working-class people attend college as the curriculum shifts to train individuals for trade jobs. Colleges began offering courses taught in English (rather than Latin or Greek) and the subjects of instruction expand to include math, science and engineering. Professors narrow their focus, and become single-subject specialists; Only Cambridge and Oxford hold on to the masters-degree-student tutors. As universities struggle to redefine what makes them relevant in a technological society, the research institution is born. This fundamentally changes the types of degrees granted, the role of professors, and higher education funding sources. This change also transforms an academic BA into a degree that carries with it a certain skill set.

Take Aways

  1. University education in Europe shifts towards developing practical and relevant job skills.
  2. The demographic of the average college student shifts, as women and poorer students enroll.
  3. European universities move towards a research-based teaching and learning model.

References