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Monday 23 February 2015, Rob Lyons

Big ideas, small price

There’s still time to get a discount Early Bird ticket for this year’s Academy.

With a general election in the UK just around the corner, politicians once again have to turn to the public for support. Yet the involvement of the public in the running of the country has not been as weak as it is now for centuries. Our rulers increasingly seeming like a class apart from the rest of the population, as illustrated by the way the already degraded debate about tax avoidance has been reduced to the question of whether we should get a receipt from the window cleaner.

So this is an apt moment to consider some more fundamental questions. What is ‘the public’? How did it emerge as a force in the life of societies across Europe and then the world? These are questions that will be considered at this year’s Academy, the Institute’s annual residential event, which has the small ambition to remind us what universities should be like.

Running from 18-20 July, the Academy takes place at Wyboston Lakes in Bedfordshire, about an hour’s drive north of London. Now in its fifth year, the Academy is open to anyone from 18 to 80+. Attendees range from new undergraduates through to pensioners looking to gain the kind of education they missed out on earlier in life. The only qualification to attend is a desire to learn, discuss and engage with big ideas.

The theme of the emergence of the public will be examined in a core series of lectures on political philosophy. In addition, attendees can then choose one of three strands to examine the question from different perspectives – in the classics, in literature and in history. You can listen to the Institute’s director, Claire Fox, talking about the changing face of theatre and its relationship to the emerging public on the Podcast of Ideas here.

The Academy creates a unique atmosphere for learning and debate, combining thought-provoking lectures with the chance for informal discussions over dinner or on the terrace over a drink. If you would like to find out more about this year’s event, visit the Academy 2015 page. Early Bird tickets are available until Wednesday 4 March.

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