“Education should be directed in reference to two objects;— the good of the individual educated, and the good of the world.” Wilbur Fisk, The Science of Education (1832, p. 420)
In the late 1800’s, two colleges were founded in the US based on German–not English–Universities. Oxford and Cambridge in England were, like Harvard and Princeton that modeled them, traditional universities emphasizing character development, abstract thought and rhetoric. The new German universities explicitly sought to conduct scientific research and dedicate themselves to the advancement of human kind.
This era marked a profound change in American higher education, perhaps as profound as the shift towards vocational education that has been happening since the 1980’s. During most of the 20th century, colleges and universities in the US separated themselves as ‘Research’ or ‘Teaching’ Universities. Many, including the small liberal arts colleges, did both. That practice continues to today.
Colleges that emphasize research see themselves as contributing to the advancement of human knowledge, not necessarily in the transmission of that knowledge to younger populations.