To accompany his lecture Dr Paul Shrimpton, provided us with the some thoughts and sayings from the writings of St John Henry Newman.

Excerpts from the Idea of a University:

defining a liberal education: “This process of training, by which the intellect, instead of being formed or sacrificed to some particular or accidental purpose, some specific trade or profession, or study or science, is disciplined for its own sake, for the perception of its own proper object, and for its own highest culture, is called Liberal Education. […] to help forward all students towards it according to their various capacities, this I conceive to be the business of a University” (p 152).

the benefits of a liberal education: “the man who has learned to think and to reason and to compare and to discriminate and to analyse, who has refined his taste, and formed his judgement, and sharpened his mental vision, will not at once be a lawyer, […] a man of business, or a soldier, or an engineer but he will be placed in that state of intellect in which he can take up any of these sciences or callings […] with an ease, a grace, a versatility, and a success, to which another is a stranger” (pp 165–6).

on residential student life: “When a multitude of young men, keen, open-hearted, sympathetic, and observant, as young men are, come together and freely mix with each other, they are sure to learn one from another, even if there be no one to teach them; the conversation of all is a series of lectures to each, and they gain for themselves new ideas and views, fresh matter of thought, and distinct principles for judging and acting, day by day.” [Life at university] “is seeing the world on a small field with little trouble; for the pupils or students come from very different places, and with widely different notions, and there is much to generalise, much to adjust, much to eliminate” (pp 146–7).

the purpose of a university education: “a University training is the great ordinary means to a great but ordinary end; it aims at raising the intellectual tone of society, at cultivating the public mind, at purifying the national taste, at supplying true principles to popular enthusiasm and fixed aims to popular aspiration, at giving enlargement and sobriety to the ideas of the age, at facilitating the exercise of political power, and refining the intercourse of private life. It is the education which gives a man a clear conscious view of his own opinions and judgements, a truth in developing them, an eloquence in expressing them, and a force in urging them. It teaches him to see things as they are, to go right to the point, to disentangle a skein of thought, to detect what is sophistical, and to discard what is irrelevant. It prepares him to fill any post with credit, and to master any subject with facility. It shows him how to accommodate himself to others, how to throw himself into their state of mind, how to bring before them his own, how to influence them, how to come to an understanding with them, how to bear with them. He is at home in any society, he has common ground with every class; he knows when to speak and when to be silent; he is able to converse, he is able to listen; he can ask a question pertinently, and gain a lesson seasonably, when he has nothing to impart himself” (pp 177–8).

on education in freedom: “If then a University is a direct preparation for this world, let it be what it professes. It is not a Convent, it is not a Seminary; it is a place to fit men of the world for the world. We cannot possibly keep them from plunging into the world, with all its ways and principles and maxims, when their time comes; but we can prepare them against what is inevitable; and it is not the way to learn to swim in troubled waters, never to have gone into them. [..] Today a pupil, tomorrow a member of the great world: today confined to the Lives of the Saints, tomorrow thrown upon Babel” (pp 232–3).

on gaining a true view of things: “one main portion of intellectual education, of the labours of both school and university, is to remove the original dimness of the mind’s eye; to strengthen and perfect its vision; to enable it to look out into the world right forward, steadily and truly; to give the mind clearness, accuracy, precision; to enable it to use words aright, to understand what it says, to conceive justly what it thinks about, to abstract, compare, analyse, divide, define, and reason, correctly” (p 332).

the exalted nature of education: “Education is a higher word; it implies an action upon our mental nature, and the formation of a character; it is something individual and permanent” (p 114).

a crucial distinction: “knowledge is one thing, virtue is another” (p 120).

The purpose of education: “to fit men for this world while it trained them for another”. (Historical Sketches, Vol III, p 152)

Personal influence: “The heart is commonly reached, not through the reason, but through the imagination, by means of direct impressions, by the testimony of facts and events, by history, by description. Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us. Many a man will live and die upon a dogma: no man will be a martyr for a conclusion.” (“The Tamworth Reading Room”, 1841, Discussions and Arguments, p 293)

Personal influence of the tutor: “the two are led into conversation, speculation, discussion: there is the intercourse of mind with mind, with an intimacy and sincerity which can only be when none others are present. Obscurities of thought, difficulties in philosophy, perplexities of faith, are confidentially brought out, sifted, and solved; and a pagan poet or theorist may thus become the occasion of Christian advancement”. (“Scheme of Rules and Regulations”, 1856, My Campaign in Ireland, p 119)

“In this idea of a College Tutor, we see that union of intellectual and moral influence, the separation of which is the evil of the age. Men are accustomed to go to the Church for religious training, but to the world for the cultivation both of their hard reason and their susceptible imagination. A Catholic University will but half remedy this evil, if it aims only at professorial, not at private teaching. Where is the private teaching, there will be the real influence.” (“Scheme of Rules and Regulations”, 1856, My Campaign in Ireland, p 120)

The disjunction of the academic and moral is the evil of the age: “I wish the intellect to range with the utmost freedom, and religion to enjoy an equal freedom; but what I am stipulating for is, that they should be found in one and the same place, and exemplified in the same persons.

I wish the same spots and the same individuals to be at once oracles of philosophy and shrines of devotion. It will not satisfy me, what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. It will not satisfy me, if religion is here, and science there, and young men converse with science all day, and lodge with religion in the evening. It is not touching the evil […] if young men eat and drink and sleep in one place, and think in another: I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. […] I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.

This is no matter of terms, nor of subtle distinctions. Sanctity has its influence; intellect has its influence; the influence of sanctity is the greater on the long run; the influence of intellect is greater at the moment. Therefore, in the case of the young, whose education lasts a few years, where the intellect is, there is the influence. Their literary, their scientific teachers, really have the forming of them.” (“Intellect, the instrument of religious training”, first sermon preached at the Catholic University Church, Dublin, Sermons on Various Occasions, pp 13–14)

Control of education: “The clergy are not to be considered as controlling education in their own right; but as representatives and instruments of the general body of Christians, for whose good God has appointed them to the office of superintendence. […] It seems indeed to be a fundamental mistake in a system of education, when the instructors of youth in general knowledge are not also their religious instructors.” (“On general education as connected with the Church and religion”, unpublished sermon preached in Oxford on 19th August 1827)

Some educational maxims of Newman:

“it is better to learn a little, but well, rather than pick up a smattering of many things”;

“it is advisable to secure a balance between being self-taught and totally reliant on teachers; regular testing can be a very useful way to identify what has been learnt and understood, but if overdone it tends to create prigs”;

“reading is to be encouraged, but if done without evaluation or analysis it can easily become mere gratification”;

“study is not amusement, but hard, as is life, and we should not disguise this from young people”;

“considerable understanding and patience is required for the fitful process of adolescent maturation”;

“do not be over-eager for quick gains, as teenagers cannot be forced like plants — each will bear flower and fruit in his own season.”

The danger of novelty: “A chief error of the day [was to think] that our true excellence comes not from within, but from without; not wrought out through personal struggles and sufferings, but following upon a passive exposure to influences over which we have no control. They will countenance the theory that diversion is the instrument of improvement, and excitement the condition of right action; and whereas diversions cease to be diversions if they are constant, and excitements by their very nature have a crisis and run through a course, they will tend to make novelty ever in request, and will set the great teachers of morals upon the incessant search after stimulants and sedatives.” (“The Tamworth reading room,” 1841, Discussions and Arguments, p 266)

Genius loci: “It is scarcely too much to say that one half of the education which young people receive is derived from the tradition of the place of education. The genius loci, if I may so speak, is the instructor most readily admitted and most affectionately remembered.” (Report for the Year 1854–55, My Campaign in Ireland, p 40)

Educated laity

“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold, and what they do not, who know their creed so well, that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity; I am not denying you are such already: but I mean to be severe, and, as some would say, exorbitant in my demands, I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism, and where lie the main inconsistences and absurdities of the Protestant theory.” (Present Position of Catholics in England, p 390)

“Gentlemen, I do not expect those who, like you, are employed in your secular callings, who are not monks or friars, not priests, not theologians, not philosophers, to come forward as champions of the faith; but I think that incalculable benefit may ensue to the Catholic cause, greater almost than that which even singularly gifted theologians or controversialists could effect, if a body of men in your station of life shall be found in the great towns of Ireland, not disputatious, contentious, loquacious, presumptuous (of course I am not advocating inquiry for mere argument’s sake), but gravely and solidly educated in Catholic knowledge, intelligent, acute, versed in their religion, sensitive of its beauty and majesty, alive to the arguments in its behalf, and aware both of its difficulties and of the mode of treating them. And the first step in attaining this desirable end is that you should submit yourselves to a curriculum of studies, such as that which brings you with such praiseworthy diligence within these walls evening after evening; and, though you may not be giving attention to them with this view, but from the laudable love of knowledge, or for the advantages which will accrue to you personally from its pursuit, yet my own reason for rejoicing in the establishment of your classes is the same as that which led me to take part in the establishment of the University itself, viz the wish, by increasing the intellectual force of Ireland, to strengthen the defences, in a day of great danger, of the Christian religion.” (Address on “Discipline of the Mind” to the young men of the evening classes at the Catholic University, November 1858, Idea of a university)


Most of Newman’s works can be found at:

Do visit the official canonisation website at:

Passages on education can be found on my website:

For more on Newman and education, you might like to consult some of my books and articles:

A Catholic Eton? Newman’s Oratory School (Leominster: Gracewing, 2005)

The ‘making of men’: the Idea and reality of Newman’s university in Oxford and Dublin (Leominster: Gracewing, 2014)

Conscience before conformity: Hans and Sophie Scholl and the White Rose resistance in Nazi Germany (Leominster: Gracewing, 2018)

My campaign in Ireland, Part 1: Catholic University reports and other papers, ed W Neville (1896); critical edition (Leominster: Gracewing, 2020)

“Newman the educator”, John Henry Newman in his time, P Lefebvre & C Mason (eds), (Oxford: Family publications, 2007), pp 131–45

“Newman and the formation of the laity”, The Legacy of John Henry Newman, Grandpont Papers 2 (2012), pp 27–45

“Newman’s pastoral idea of a university”, The Legacy of John Henry Newman, Grandpont Papers 2 (2012), pp 63–81