The word comes from the Academy in ancient Greece, which derives from the Athenian hero, Akademos. Outside the city walls of Athens, the gymnasium was made famous by Plato as a center of learning. The sacred space, dedicated to the goddess of wisdom, Athena, had formerly been an olive grove, hence the expression "the groves of Academe."
By extension academia has come to mean the cultural accumulation of knowledge, its development and transmission across generations and its practitioners and transmitters. In the 17th century, British, Italian and French scholars used the term to describe types of institutions of higher learning.
In ancient Greece, after the establishment of the original Academy, Plato's colleagues and pupils developed spin-offs of his method. Arcesilaus, a Greek student of Plato established the Middle Academy. Carneades, another student, established the New Academy. In 335 BC, Aristotle refined the method with his own theories and established the Lyceum in another gymnasium.
The University of Timbuktu was a medieval university in Timbuktu, present-day Mali, which comprised three schools: the Mosque of Djinguereber, the Mosque of Sidi Yahya, and the Mosque of Sankore. During its zenith, the university had an average attendance of around 25,000 students within a city of around 100,000 people.
In China a higher education institution Shang Xiang was founded by Shun in the Youyu era before the 21st century BC. The Imperial Central Academy at Nanjing, founded in 258, was a result of the evolution of Shang Xiang and it became the first comprehensive institution combining education and research and was divided into five faculties in 470, which later became Nanjing University.
In the 8th century another kind of institution of learning emerged, named Shuyuan, which were generally privately owned. There were thousands of Shuyuan recorded in ancient times. The degrees from them varied from one to another and those advanced Shuyuan such as Bailudong Shuyuan and Yuelu Shuyuan can be classified as higher institutions of learning.
Taxila or Takshashila, in ancient India, modern-day Pakistan, was an early Buddhist centre of learning, near present-day Islamabad in the city of Taxila. It is considered as one of the ancient universities of the world. According to scattered references which were only fixed a millennium later it may have dated back to at least the 5th century BC. Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the 6th century BC. The school consisted of several monasteries without large dormitories or lecture halls where the religious instruction was most likely still provided on an individualistic basis. Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jātaka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century AD.
It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries BC, and continued to attract students until the destruction of the city in the 5th century AD. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.
Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.
Nalanda was established in the 5th century AD in Bihar, India. It was founded in 427 in northeastern India, not far from what is today the southern border of Nepal. It survived until 1197 when it was set upon, destroyed and burnt by the marauding forces of Ikhtiyar Uddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji. It was devoted to Buddhist studies, but it also trained students in fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.
The center had eight separate compounds, 10 temples, meditation halls, classrooms, lakes and parks. It had a nine-story library where monks meticulously copied books and documents so that individual scholars could have their own collections. It had dormitories for students, perhaps a first for an educational institution, housing 10,000 students in the university’s heyday and providing accommodation for 2,000 professors. Nalanda University attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey.
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Founded in Fes, University of Al-Karaouine in the 9th century and in Cairo, Al-Azhar University in the 10th century, and in Mali, the University of Timbuktu in about 1100. Mustansiriya Madrasah in Baghdad, Iraq was established in 1227 as a madrasah by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mustansir. Its library had an initial collection of 80,000 volumes, given by the Caliph. The collection was said to have grown to 400,000 volumes.
In Europe, the academy dates to the ancient Greeks and Romans in the pre-Christian era. Newer universities were founded in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the European institution of academia took shape. Monks and priests moved out of monasteries to cathedral cities and other towns where they opened the first schools dedicated to advanced study.
The seven liberal arts — the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic), and the Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astronomy) — had been codified in late antiquity. This was the basis of the curriculum in Europe until newly available Arabic texts and the works of Aristotle became more available in Europe in the 12th century.
It remained in place even after the new scholasticism of the School of Chartres and the encyclopedic work of Thomas Aquinas, until the humanism of the 15th and 16th centuries opened new studies of arts and sciences.
Academic societies or learned societies began as groups of academics who worked together or presented their work to each other. These informal groups later became organized and in many cases state-approved. Membership was restricted, usually requiring approval of the current members and often total membership was limited to a specific number. The Royal Society founded in 1660 was the first such academy. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was begun in 1780 by many of the same people prominent in the American Revolution. Academic societies served both as a forum to present and publish academic work, the role now served by academic publishing, and as a means to sponsor research and support academics, a role they still serve. Membership in academic societies is still a matter of prestige in modern academia.
Prior to the twentieth century, education was not as carefully structured in the United States as it is in the twenty-first. There was not a rigid division between high school and colleges. In many cases, educational records were not kept nor diplomas issued.
A reference to academia, in the United States, is to post-secondary education, especially the most elite or liberal arts part of it. However, an academy was what later became known as a high school. Some older high schools, such as Corning Free Academy, retained the term in their names (Corning Free Academy, demoted to a middle school, closed in 2014). However, the United States Military Academy is a college. A number of colleges began as (high school) academies.
Academia began to splinter from its Christian roots in 18th-century colonial America. In 1753, Benjamin Franklin established the Academy and Charitable School of the Province of Pennsylvania. In 1755, it was renamed the College and Academy and Charitable School of Philadelphia. Today, it is known as the University of Pennsylvania. For the first time, academia was established as a secular institution. For the most part, church-based dogmatic points of view were no longer thrust upon students in the examination of their subjects of study. Points of view became more varied as students were free to wander in thought without having to add religious dimensions to their conclusions.
In 1819, Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia and developed the standards used today in organizing colleges and universities across the globe. The curriculum was taken from the traditional liberal arts, classical humanism and the values introduced with the Protestant Reformation. Jefferson offered his students something new: the freedom to chart their own courses of study rather than mandate a fixed curriculum for all students. Religious colleges and universities followed suit.
The Academy movement in the U.S. in the early 19th century arose from a public sense that education in the classic disciplines needed to be extended into the new territories and states that were being formed in the Old Northwest, in western New York State, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Dozens of academies were founded in the area, supported by private donations.
During the Age of Enlightenment in 18th-century Europe, the academy started to change in Europe. In the beginning of the 19th century Wilhelm von Humboldt not only published his philosophical paper On the Limits of State Action, but also directed the educational system in Prussia for a short time. He introduced an academic system that was much more accessible to the lower classes. Humboldt's Ideal was an education based on individuality, creativity, wholeness, and versatility. Many continental European universities are still rooted in these ideas (or at least pay lip-service to them). They are, however, in contradiction to today's massive trend of specialization in academia.
An academic is a person who works as a teacher or researcher at a university or other higher education institution. An academic usually holds an advanced degree. The term scholar is sometimes used with equivalent meaning to that of academic and describes in general those who attain mastery in a research discipline. It has wider application, with it also being used to describe those whose occupation was researched prior to organized higher education.
Academic administrators such as university presidents are not typically included in this use of the term academic, although many administrators hold advanced degrees and pursue scholarly research and writing while also tending to their administrative duties.
In the United States, the term academic is approximately synonymous with that of the job title professor although in recent decades a growing number of institutions include librarians in the category of "academic staff." In the United Kingdom, various titles of academic rank are used, typically research associate, research fellow (also senior research fellow and principal research fellow), lecturer (also senior lecturer and principal lecturer), reader, and professor. The colloquial term don is sometimes substituted for teaching staff at Oxford and Cambridge.
Academia is usually conceived of as divided into disciplines or fields of study. These have their roots in the subjects of the medieval trivium and quadrivium, which provided the model for scholastic thought in the first universities in medieval Europe.
The disciplines have been much revised, and many new disciplines have become more specialized, researching smaller and smaller areas. Because of this, interdisciplinary research is often prized in today's academy, though it can also be made difficult both by practical matters of administration and funding and by differing research methods of different disciplines. In fact, many new fields of study have initially been conceived as interdisciplinary, and later become specialized disciplines in their own right - a recent example is cognitive science.
Most academic institutions reflect the divide of the disciplines in their administrative structure, being divided internally into departments or programs in various fields of study. Each department is typically administered and funded separately by the academic institution, though there may be some overlap and faculty members, research and administrative staff may in some cases be shared among departments. In addition, academic institutions generally have an overall administrative structure (usually including a president and several deans) which is controlled by no single department, discipline, or field of thought. Also, the tenure system, a major component of academic employment and research in the US, serves to ensure that academia is relatively protected from political and financial pressures on thought.
The degree awarded for completed study is the primary academic qualification. Typically these are, in order of completion, associate's degree, bachelor's degree (awarded for completion of undergraduate study), master's degree, and doctorate (awarded after graduate or postgraduate study). These are only currently being standardized in Europe as part of the Bologna process, as many different degrees and standards of time to reach each are currently awarded in different countries in Europe. In most fields the majority of academic researchers and teachers have doctorates or other terminal degrees, though in some professional and creative fields it is common for scholars and teachers to have only master's degrees.
Closely related to academic publishing is the practice of bringing a number of intellectuals in a field to give talks on their research at an academic conference, often allowing for a wider audience to be exposed to their ideas.
Within academia, diverse constituent groups have diverse, and sometimes conflicting, goals. In the contemporary academy several of these conflicts are widely distributed and common. A salient example of conflict is that between the goal to improve teaching quality and the goal to reduce costs. The conflicting goals of professional education programs and general education advocates currently are playing out in the negotiation over accreditation standards.
Putting theory into practice can result in a gap between what is learned in academic settings and how that learning is manifested in practical settings. This is addressed in a number of professional schools such as education and social work, which require students to participate in practica for credit. Students are taught to bridge the gap between theory and practice.
Not everyone agrees on the value of theory as opposed to practice. Academics are sometimes criticized as lacking practical experience and thus too insulated from the 'real world.' Academic insularity is colloquially criticized as being "ivory tower"; when used pejoratively, this term is criticized as anti-intellectualism.
To address this split, there is a growing body of practice research, such as the practice-based research network (PBRN) within clinical medical research. Arts and humanities departments debate how to define this emerging research phenomenon. There are a variety of contested models of practice research (practice-as-research, practice-based and practice through research), for example, screen media practice research.
Universities are often culturally distinct from the towns or cities where they reside. In some cases this leads to discomfort or outright conflict between local residents and members of the university over political, economic, or other issues. Some localities in the Northeastern United States, for instance, have tried to block students from registering to vote as local residents—instead encouraging them to vote by absentee ballot at their primary residence—in order to retain control of local politics. Other issues can include deep cultural and class divisions between local residents and university students. The film Breaking Away dramatizes such a conflict.
The goals of research for profit and for the sake of knowledge often conflict to some degree.
Among the earliest research journals were the Proceedings of Meetings of the Royal Society in the 17th Century. At that time, the act of publishing academic inquiry was controversial, and widely ridiculed. It was not at all unusual for a new discovery to be announced as an anagram, reserving priority for the discoverer, but indecipherable for anyone not in on the secret: both Isaac Newton and Leibniz used this approach. However, this method did not work well. Robert K. Merton, a sociologist, found that 92 percent of cases of simultaneous discovery in the 17th century ended in dispute. The number of disputes dropped to 72 percent in the 18th century, 59 percent by the latter half of the 19th century, and 33 percent by the first half of the 20th century. The decline in contested claims for priority in research discoveries can be credited to the increasing acceptance of the publication of papers in modern academic journals.
The Royal Society was steadfast in its unpopular belief that science could only move forward through a transparent and open exchange of ideas backed by experimental evidence. Many of the experiments were ones that we would not recognize as scientific today—nor were the questions they answered. For example, when the Duke of Buckingham was admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Society on June 5, 1661, he presented the Society with a vial of powdered "unicorn horn". It was a well-accepted 'fact' that a circle of unicorn's horn would act as an invisible cage for any spider. Robert Hooke, the chief experimenter of the Royal Society, emptied the Duke's vial into a circle on a table and dropped a spider in the centre of the circle. The spider promptly walked out of the circle and off the table. In its day, this was cutting-edge research.
Research journals have been so successful that the number of journals and of papers has proliferated over the past few decades, and the credo of the modern academic has become "publish or perish". Except for generalist journals such as Science or Nature, the topics covered in any single journal have tended to be narrow, and readership and citation have declined. A variety of methods for reviewing submissions exist. The most common involves initial approval by the journal, peer review by two or three researchers working in similar or closely related subjects who recommend approval or rejection as well as request error correction, clarification or additions before publishing. Controversial topics may receive additional levels of review. Journals have developed a hierarchy, partly based on reputation but also on the strictness of the review policy. More prestigious journals are more likely to receive and publish more important work. Submitters try to submit their work to the most prestigious journal likely to publish it to bolster their reputation and curriculum vitae.
Andrew Odlyzko, an academician with a large number of published research papers, has argued that research journals will evolve into something akin to Internet forums over the coming decade, by extending the interactivity of current Internet preprints. This change may open them up to a wider range of ideas, some more developed than others. Whether this will be a positive evolution remains to be seen. Some claim that forums, like markets, tend to thrive or fail based on their ability to attract talent. Some believe that highly restrictive and tightly monitored forums may be the least likely to thrive.
Gowns have been associated with academia since the birth of the university in the 14th and 15th centuries, perhaps because most early scholars were priests or church officials. Over time, the gowns worn by degree-holders have become standardized to some extent, although traditions in individual countries and even institutions have established a diverse range of gown styles, and some have ended the custom entirely, even for graduation ceremonies.
At some universities, such as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, undergraduates may be required to wear gowns on formal occasions and on graduation. Undergraduate gowns are usually a shortened version of a bachelor's gown. At other universities, for example, outside the UK or U.S., the custom is entirely absent. Students at the University of Trinity College at the University of Toronto wear gowns to formal dinner, debates, to student government, and to many other places.
In general, in the U.S. and UK recipients of a bachelor's degree are entitled to wear a simple full-length robe without adornment and a mortarboard cap with a tassel. In addition, holders of a bachelor's degree may be entitled to wear a ceremonial hood at some schools. In the U.S., bachelor's hoods are rarely seen. Bachelor's hoods are generally smaller versions of those worn by recipients of master's and doctoral degrees.
Recipients of a master's degree in the U.S. or UK wear a similar cap and gown but closed sleeves with slits, and usually receive a ceremonial hood that hangs down the back of the gown. In the U.S. the hood is traditionally edged with a silk or velvet strip displaying the disciplinary color, and is lined with the university's colors.
According to The American Council on Education “six-year specialist degrees (Ed.S., etc.) and other degrees that are intermediate between the master's and the doctor's degree may have hoods specially designed (1) intermediate in length between the master's and doctor's hood, (2) with a four-inch velvet border (also intermediate between the widths of the borders of master's and doctor's hoods), and (3) with color distributed in the usual fashion and according to the usual rules. Cap tassels should be uniformly black.”
Recipients of a doctoral degree tend to have the most elaborate academic dress, and hence there is the greatest diversity at this level. In the U.S., doctoral gowns are similar to the gowns worn by master's graduates, with the addition of velvet stripes across the sleeves and running down the front of the gown which may be tinted with the disciplinary color for the degree received. Holders of a doctoral degree may be entitled or obliged to wear scarlet (a special gown in scarlet) on high days and special occasions. While some doctoral graduates wear the mortarboard cap traditional to the lower degree levels, most wear a cap or Tudor bonnet that resembles a tam o'shanter, from which a colored tassel is suspended.
In modern times in the U.S. and UK, gowns are normally only worn at graduation ceremonies, although some colleges still demand the wearing of academic dress on formal occasions (official banquets and other similar affairs). In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was more common to see the dress worn in the classroom, a practice which has now all but disappeared. Two notable exceptions are Oxford and a society at Sewanee, where students are required to wear formal academic dress in the examination room.
We have to be extremely cautious in dealing with the literary evidence, because much of the information offered in the secondary literature on Taxila is derived from the Jataka prose that was only fixed in Ceylon several hundred years after the events that it purports to describe, probably some time after Buddhaghosa, i.e. around A.D. 500.