Education and episcopacy : the universities of Scotland in the fifteenth century
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Educational provision in Scotland was revolutionised in the fifteenth century through the foundation of three universities, or studia generale, at St Andrews, Glasgow and Aberdeen. These institutions can be viewed as part of the general expansion in higher education across Europe from the late-fourteenth century, which saw the establishment of many new centres of learning, often intended to serve local needs. Their impact on Scotland ought to have been profound; in theory, they removed the need for its scholars to continue to seek higher education at the universities of England or the continent. Scotland’s fifteenth-century universities were essentially episcopal foundations, formally instituted by bishops within the cathedral cities of their dioceses, designed to meet the educational needs and career aspirations of the clergy. They are not entirely neglected subjects; the previous generation of university historians – including A. Dunlop, J. Durkan and L. J. Macfarlane – did much to recover the institutional, organisational and curricular developments that shaped their character. Less well explored, are the over-arching political themes that influenced the evolution of university provision in fifteenth-century Scotland as a whole. Similarly under-researched, is the impact of these foundations on the scholarly community, and society more generally. This thesis explores these comparatively neglected themes in two parts. Part I presents a short narrative, offering a more politically sensitive interpretation of the introduction and expansion of higher educational provision in Scotland. Part II explores the impact of these foundations on Scottish scholars. The nature of extant sources inhibits reconstruction of the full extent of their influence on student numbers and patterns of university attendance. Instead, Part II presents a thorough quantitative and qualitative prosopographical study of the Scottish episcopate within the context of this embryonic era of university provision in Scotland. In so doing, this thesis offers new insights into a neglected aspect of contemporary clerical culture as well as the politics of fifteenth-century academic learning.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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