Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 January 2021
A student wakes up groggily, rolls out of bed, grabs some food, and rushes to a required lecture. It's been at the same hour since time immemorial, and attendance is mandatory. The lecturer is pretty wellknown and highly regarded, unlike the stultifying stumblebum yesterday. A second lecture ensues. A few hours later, the student has a tutorial, and then some group work for a presentation. In between, the student might study, might rush to a parttime job, might hang out with fellow students, might engage in some physical activity or in one of many extracurricular options. The tutorial, in a small group, will be supervised by another, often more junior, member of the faculty. The evening might be spent studying, but the student is young and the pub beckons enticingly. After all, this is the time to grow up, learn good patterns of life (by encountering and embracing the bad patterns for a while), and make friendships that will last a lifetime. At set times, there will be tests or examinations to see what the young student has learned. At some point, the student will have learned enough to sit final examinations and graduate. And another generation of students arrives for the same procedure. Other than the free time, which is more than would be permitted by any spiritual mentor, this is a highly ecclesiastical structure, and it is the basic structure of the medieval university. It is also, of course, the basic material of the modern university. We might wake nowadays to the warblings of a digital device, and more senior students will be hopping a bus or arriving on campus by way of personal transportation more sophisticated than walking, but the fundamental elements remain the same. Students are dislocated entities, having to figure out a new pattern of life, preferably very quickly, and engage in independent study (as little as possible—it's always good, and sometimes very smart, just to figure out what the received wisdom is as far as the professor is concerned, and just provide that, since it prevents both charges of heresy and low grades). Time at university is time apart, dislocated (even perhaps epiphanic) time, the opportunity to grow, to learn. That has not changed in nearly a millennium. Moreover, the basic pattern and structure of the university has changed far less than many modern commentators believe.