• Our History

  • The New School was founded in 1919 by a group of progressive intellectuals looking for a new, more relevant model of education, one where faculty and students would be free to honestly and directly address the problems facing societies. 

    The founders, among them Charles Beard, John Dewey, James Harvey Robinson, and Thorstein Veblen, were teaching at Columbia University during the First World War. When they took a public stand against U.S. entry into the war, they were censured by Columbia's president. The outspoken professors resigned from Columbia and joined with other progressive educators to create a new model of higher education for adults, a school where ordinary citizens could learn from and exchange ideas freely with scholars and artists representing a wide range of intellectual, aesthetic, and political orientations. They called their school The New School for Social Research, later renamed The New School. 

    From the beginning, The New School maintained close ties to Europe. Its founders had, in part, modeled the school after the Volkshochschulen for adults established in Germany. Then during the 1920s, Alvin Johnson, The New School’s director, became co-editor of the Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. While working on this massive undertaking, Johnson collaborated regularly with colleagues in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. It was they who made him aware of the danger the Nazi movement presented to democracy and the civilized world before many in the United States had grasped the seriousness of the situation. In 1933, when Hitler came to power and began to purge Jews and politically hostile elements from German universities, Johnson responded. With the financial support of philanthropist Hiram Halle and the Rockefeller Foundation, he obtained funding to provide a haven in the United States for scholars whose careers (and lives) were threatened by the Nazis. This University in Exile was given a home at The New School and sponsored more than 180 individuals and their families, providing them with visas and jobs. Some of these refugees remained at The New School for many years and some moved on to other institutions in the United States, but the influx of new people and new ideas had an impact on the U.S. academy far beyond any particular university's or institute’s. The University in Exile was fully incorporated into The New School in 1934, later renamed the Graduate Faculty of Political and Social Science, and eventually called The New School for Social Research (NSSR).

    As a group, these leading intellectuals helped transform the social sciences and philosophy in this country, presenting theoretical and methodological approaches to their fields. Today, NSSR continues to attract distinguished and socially active faculty who challenge long-held theories and push scholarship and social discourse in new directions. NSSR remains true to the idea of a school of free inquiry for students and faculty of different ethnicities, religions, and geographical origins who are willing to challenge academic orthodoxy, connect social theory to empirical observation, and take the intellectual and political risks necessary to improve social conditions.

    Scholars who have graced the school’s halls include economists Adolph Lowe and Robert Heilbroner, political scientists Arnold Brecht and Aristide Zolberg, sociologists Emil Lederer and Peter Berger, psychologists Max Wertheimer and Jerome Bruner, philosophers Hannah Arendt, Leo Strauss, and Reiner Schürmann, and historian Charles Tilly.

    1933: Max Wertheimer comes to the United States and joins the faculty at The New School. There, he challenges behaviorism, the dominant paradigm in American psychology, with his Gestalt, or cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychology has become a major subfield in the discipline today. 

    1940s: The New School gives a home to the École Libre des Hautes Études. With an official charter from de Gaulle’s Free French government-in-exile, the École Libre attracted refugee scholars, including the philosopher Jacques Maritain, anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, linguist Roman Jakobson, and political thinker Henri Bonnet. After the war, this institution returned to Paris, where it evolved into the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

    1950: Hannah Arendt begins teaching at The New School. Her work had a tremendous influence on theoretical and policy debates about revolution, totalitarianism, and democracy.

    1955: Hans Jonas joins the Graduate Faculty following the war. Virtually ignored early in his career, his work now frames many of the questions of scholars writing on bioethics and the environment.

  • Contact Us

    General Admission Contact
    The New School for Social Research
    Office of Admission
    79 Fifth Avenue, 5th Floor
    New York, NY 10003
    212.229.5600 or 800.523.5411

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To apply to any of our Bachelor's programs (Except the Bachelor's Program for Adult Transfer Students) complete and submit the Common App online.

Graduates and Adult Learners

To apply to any of our Master's, Doctural, Professional Studies Diploma, Graduate Certificate, or Associate's programs, or to apply to the Bachelor's Program for Adult and Transfer Students, complete and submit the New School Online Application.