UIC Barcelona establishes the Institute for Culture and Thought

The new Institute for Culture and Thought (CIP) is a unique space in which personal transformation and critical reflection go hand in hand. Inspired by the concept of liberal education and the values of Christian humanism, the CIP seeks to provide a solid humanistic education to all students of the University

According to Andrea Rodríguez Prat, director of the Institute, “Beyond the transmission of technical knowledge, the CIP seeks to enable students to ask the larger questions about human existence, to nurture educated citizens with ideals who are capable of understanding the challenges of today’s world.” Miquel Bastons, deputy director of the Institute, also commented, “Its mission is to help transform the person (whether they be student or teacher) to make them grow.” This transformation, which he defines as flourishing, is based on the integral development of the individual, both in their intellectual, moral and existential facets. 

Accordingly, the Institute for Culture and Thought intends to deploy a range of subjects of philosophical anthropology and ethics in a cross-disciplinary manner across all bachelor’s degree courses at UIC Barcelona. In addition, from next year, students of different degrees will meet in the classroom to study subjects such as Women in History, Destiny and Freedom in Greek Tragedy, Justice and Power in Popular Cinema, or Religion, Change and Modernity. With the help of “great minds, great books and great conversations”, as Strauss says, the CIP wants to contribute to the intellectual formation of students.

The curriculum promoted by the CIP is inspired by liberal education, a model deeply rooted in Anglo-Saxon universities, such as Harvard or Columbia, for over a century. It focuses on the development of a core curriculum: a common programme for the entire university, which seeks to avoid the excessive specialisation of the current university system, and instead look toward a more comprehensive education of the individual.

Through the CIP subjects, spaces are being created for students to cultivate comprehensive knowledge, reflect on the human condition, as well as on the roots of culture and the great social, scientific or philosophical challenges of the past and the contemporary world.

Referencing the famous quote by Kant, Sapere aude! (‘Dare to think!’), Bastons explains, “It is an expression that has become very trivial, but the idea is to encourage one to reflect on oneself and the environment around them, with the help of the great sages of history.” And he adds, “Great books and thinkers can be an invaluable help in this process.”

The impact of the CIP is not limited to the implementation of cross-disciplinary subjects, but seeks to impregnate all teaching activity with its values and principles. Bastons stresses that “it would be of little use to put ethical subjects on the curriculum if the teachers of Anatomy, Didactics, Construction, and did also not include this perspective in their teaching.” This implies encouraging them to reflect on the fundamentals of their disciplines and incorporate a humanistic vision in their teaching.

This is what Ortega y Gasset explained in his book Mission of the University, in which the philosopher quotes Chuang Tse, a 4th century BC thinker “How can I talk about the sea with the frog if it hasn’t left the pond? How am I going to talk about ice with the summer bird if it is contained in its season? How can I talk to the wise man about life if he is a prisoner of his doctrine?” Ortega y Gasset underlines the importance of culture as a tool to navigate the “jungle of life”, stating that only a deep understanding of our time and space can guide us with success.

Culture and critical reflection: the CIP seeks to encourage the recovery of interest in truth and intellectual curiosity. In the words of Andrea Rodríguez Prat: “The individual is the central concept of the model of liberal education proposed by the CIP and can be understood as a spiritual self, with an inner existence that is open to both others and transcendence.”

The Institute for Culture and Thought is created as a space for reflection on the mission of the University and the implications of its identity. It is an innovative and transformative educational proposal. Its commitment to the comprehensive education of the individual, its emphasis on critical reflection and its commitment to the values of Christian humanism make it a unique example on the Catalan university scene.