Humboldtian model of higher education  

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The Humboldtian model of higher education (German: Humboldtsches Bildungsideal, literally: Humboldtian education ideal) or just Humboldt's Ideal is a concept of academic education that emerged in the early 19th century and whose core idea is a holistic combination of research and studies. Sometimes called simply the Humboldtian model, it integrates the arts and sciences with research to achieve both comprehensive general learning and cultural knowledge, and it is still followed today. This ideal goes back to Wilhelm von Humboldt, who in the time of the Prussian reforms relied on a growing, educated middle class and thereby promoted the claim on general education.


Humboldt's educational ideal developed around two central concepts of public education: The concept of the autonomous individual and the concept of world citizenship. The university should be a place where autonomous individuals and World Citizen are produced at or more specifically, produce themselves.

  • An autonomous individual is to be an individual who attains self-determination and responsibility through his use of reason.
  • "The Weltb├╝rgertum is the collective bond, which connects autonomous individuals, irrespective of their social and cultural socialization: Humboldt says: 'To transform the world as much as possible into one's own person is, in the higher sense of the word, living'. The endeavor shall aim at working through the world comprehensively, and thereby unfold as a subject. To become a citizen of the world means, to deal with the big questions of humanity: to seek peace, justice, and care about the exchange of cultures, other gender relationships or another relationship to nature." University education should not be job-focused, but educational training that is independent of economic interests.

Academic freedom describes independence of the university from outside governmental and economic constraints. The university is to evade government influence. Humboldt demands that the scientific institution of higher education should lose itself "from all forms within the state". Therefore, his concept of university planned, for example, that the University of Berlin should have its own goods in order to finance itself and thereby secure its economic independence. Academic freedom also demands, next to independence of the university from outside governmental and economic constraints, the independence from within; i.e. free choice of study and free organization of studies. The University should therefore be a place of permanent public exchange between all involved in the scientific process. The integration of their knowledge shall be pursued with the help of philosophy. Philosophy is supposed to represent a kind of basic science, which allows members of different scientific disciplines to bring an exchange of their discovery and to link them together. Humboldt's educational ideal formed German University History decisively for a long period, albeit it was never realized practically in its entirety or cannot be realized. Great intellectual achievements of German science is linked to it.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Theodor W. Adorno and Albert Einstein confessed themselves to it.

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