The German Universities -- By: Hermann Wimmer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 007:26 (Apr 1850)
Article: The German Universities
Author: Hermann Wimmer

The German Universities

Dr. Hermann Wimmer

An American university and a German “universität,” differ very much from each other. The fact is, that the name is here applied to colleges for general education, preparatory to professional studies (gymnasia or gelehrtenschulen), whereas it means in Germany an institution for theological, juridical, medical and philosophical learning. Consequently, the latter can be only compared with the divinity, law, medical and scientific schools of Cambridge or Yale college. There exists, however, a good deal of difference; and to give, beforehand, some idea of the peculiar organization of the German universities, we may be allowed to anticipate the following remarks. Each State or province has one university, where the graduates of all gymnasia (eleven in Saxony) meet together; whereas in Cambridge, the students of the four professional schools are mostly graduates of the one chief college. The university consists of four faculties, but is one complete institution, and the difference of the faculties does not exist for the student. He can attend theological and physical or philosophical lectures, according to his liking. There are no classes. The instruction is given by lectures, not by recitations. Several professors lecture generally on the same subject, or on similar subjects of the same branch. The student chooses the lectures which he will attend. The professor knows not his audience. Some professors have ninety hearers; others, nine. The “philosophical” faculty comprises all the philological, mathematical, physical and philosophical branches, and is destined as well for the students of the three professions as for those who prepare themselves for professorships in the same branches. Only practical exercises,

as chemical in the laboratory, chirurgical in the hospital, theological or philological in societies, etc, bring the professor into immediate relation to a smaller number of students. After a study time of three years or more, the student is, on his own application, examined; and if found sufficiently instructed, dismissed as a candidate. The students of medicine remain generally longer than others, and have, after the examination, to defend a printed dissertation in a public disputation, for their degree.

The oldest university of the German empire is that in Prague. It was founded in 1348, by the emperor Charles IV, in his favorite residence; and began soon to flourish, like her sisters in Paris, Oxford, and Bologna. At the end of the century, it is said to have numbered more than twenty thousand students (10,000 in Bologna, in A.D.1260). They were divided into four “nations,” Bohemians (with Moravians and Hungarians), Saxons (with Danes and Swedes), Bavari...

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