Thun-Hohenstein, Leo, Count

(1811–1888)
   Serving as Austrian minister of education from 1849 to 1860, Count Thun was the Habsburg Empire’s most important academic reformer in the 19th century. An enlightened conservative aristocrat from Bohemia, Thun had served as the governor of the kingdom in 1848. It was this experience that underlay his strong support for bilingual education in Czech and German in territories of the empire where both populations were heavily represented. He also thought that if the empire were to survive in an increasingly modern Europe, it would have to encourage multinational political parties. This idea, however, remained little more than a suggestion.
   Following the ideas of thoughtful collaborators such as Franz Exner (1802–1853), Thun undertook the modernization of Austrian secondary and university education. He promoted the revision of the curriculum in the classical Gymnasium and the creation of the Realschule, a secondary school emphasizing the study of modern languages and technical and scientific subjects. On the university level, Thun introduced a greater number of fields leading to terminal degrees. He supported and won for faculty greater academic freedom than had been the custom in the empire and a policy of appointing professors on the basis of their scholarly credentials, not on their political or religious preferences. Though a devout Catholic, Thun allowed Jews and Protestants to hold university teaching positions. Protestants could have their own theological faculties as well. The law curriculum was also updated under Thun’s aegis.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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