Humboldt og den offentlige debat om universiteter


  • Sara Viftrup Hansen


Humboldt and the Public Debate on Universities
This article takes as its point of departure the observation that scientifically unsubstantiated claims about a tradition of university autonomy play a decisive role in the field of research into university affairs. This presumed „Humboldt tradition“ is used to define what makes a university a university and – on the basis of this premise – to criticize current government interference in university affairs.
Historical research cannot verify that autonomy has been a governing principle in university politics in Western societies, including Denmark. On this background, the article examines how government interference in university affairs is appraised in the public debate in Denmark. The analysis covers the period from 1993, when the Danish Ministry of Research was founded, marking the beginning of what would become a period of apparent intensification in legislation, regulations and administrative reforms on universities, through 2014.
While it quickly becomes evident that public debaters share the (unsubstantiated) idea of a tradition of university autonomy, this presumed tradition is invoked with contradictory intentions: one party uses historical precedent to criticise government interference, while the other uses it to justify increasing government interference.





Hansen, S. V. (2018). Humboldt og den offentlige debat om universiteter. Historisk Tidsskrift, 117(2). Hentet fra