Institute of Ideas projects

Reminding us just what universities should be like and demonstrating the importance of scholarship through an examination of subjects in depth.


At a time when inclusivity and equality are the watchwords of government higher-education policy, and education seems to be valued for almost any sake except its own, we think it’s vital to take a stand for the value of the content of education instead of fixating on object and process.

The recent furore over tuition fees shows that both sides of the debate accept the idea that the aim of university education should be to give value for money, should ‘deliver improved employability’. Student protesters just want this ‘value’ for more and more students, for less money. Who dares to argue for the value of learning in itself? Few point out that treating subjects as investments in future earnings can hardly be an invitation to study the liberal arts and humanities.

We want to try and buck this trend: spending a long weekend doing nothing but educating ourselves. For its own sake. Not even for the sake of understanding the world today better (though, if that’s your aim, it can’t hurt to know more about the history of thought, of course). The aim is simply to cultivate ourselves with good books, good teachers and in good company. If you have ever thought, what a shame I never had time to study Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hegel or Hume, now’s your chance to better yourself, whatever your age or education. IoI members come from all walks of life and will bring different perspectives and genuinely interdisciplinary insights.

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The Academy 2014

7:00pm, Monday 21 July 2014, Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire

Debating matters because ideas matter. This is the premise of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition for sixth form students which emphasises substance, not just style, and the importance of taking ideas seriously.


The UK wide Debating Matters Competition is a schools debating competition for 16-18 year olds whose ethos is ‘substance over style’. It encourages teenagers to delve deeper into some of the big issues confronting society: from questions about energy policy to the latest developments in genetics, the morality of tax avoidance or the influence of social media. It’s about giving young people a tough intellectual challenge and getting them to examine and weigh up competing perspectives and evidence for themselves. It involves students being cross-examined on their arguments by a range of high achieving individuals from the worlds of science, business, law, journalism, and the arts. It runs throughout the school year, with nearly 300 schools competing in 12 regions from across the UK.

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Debating Matters National Final 2014

6:30pm, Friday 27 June 2014, British Library, London

The annual weekend festivaI where ideas matter: time to get serious


The Battle of Ideas (BoI) is an annual event in London that provides an open public space for debate on the core intellectual challenges facing the arts, politics, education, science, economics and society.The festival is unlike others in that the public attend all weekend and its focus is engaging public debate on the key political, social and cultural issues of the day, interrogating orthodoxies, and shaking up lazy thinking by taking a fresh look at contemporary controversies and challenging speakers and audience alike to ‘shape the future through debate’.  It draws together more than 350 international speakers each year and is attended by some 2,000 people from all walks of life. Launched in 2005, the BoI has expanded to include a programme of stand-alone Battle Satellite events in the UK and internationally. Our motto is “Free speech allowed” – and we mean it.

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Battle of Ideas 2014

10:00am, Saturday 18 October 2014, The Barbican, London

what's happening next

Battle of Ideas 2017

28 & 29 October 2017, The Barbican, Silk Street, London