Religion and the Idea of a University

Clare College, University of Cambridge

3-5 April 2013


From John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University to recent work by Stefan Collini, Martha Nussbaum and many others, the idea of the modern research University has been the subject of a great swathe of intellectual debate, policy wrangling and rhetoric – circulating around conflicting models of intellectual and social formation, ideas of the public good, and claims about the place of knowledge in a utilitarian age.

As the idea of a university has been contested and reconfigured, so too have ideas about the place of religion in the public sphere, the nature and limits of secularity, and the relations between religion and intellectual work. In a complex multi-faith and multi-secular world, a re-evaluation of the relationship between religion and the idea of a university is pressing.

Interdisciplinary in structure this conference has a bold ambition – to examine the relationship between religion and the idea of a research University as we understand it now. And it is our hope that the programme – keynotes from scholars in Languages, History, Literature, Psychiatry and Theology; parallel panel sessions; discussions with higher education leaders and politicians; a public debate; and time for conviviality – will focus thinking on the interplay between religion and the idea of the University past and present.

Registration is now open.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Asma Afsaruddin (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana)
  • Professor David Ford (Divinity, Cambridge)
  • Professor Tal Howard (Center for Faith and Inquiry, Gordon College)
  • Professor Tomoko Masuzawa (History, Michigan)
  • Professor Isabel Rivers (English, Queen Mary, London)
  • Professor Ming Tsuang (Center for Behavioural Genomics, Psychiatry, California)

And, with the support of  The Association of Commonwealth Universities a panel discussion and debate with:

  • The Right Honourable Charles Clarke
  • Dr Jonathan Nicholls (Registrary, Cambridge)
  • Dr Theuns Eloff (Vice-Chancellor, North West University, South Africa)
  • Professor Prabhu Guptara (William Carey University, India)
  • Professor Atta-ur-Rahman (University of Karachi, Pakistan)


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