HC Deb 27 July 1840 vol 55 cc1054-7

On the resolution granting 5,418l. for the expense of the London University.

Mr. Hume

approved, in every way, of the intention of this institution, but he complained of the manner in which it seemed to be resolved to carry its object into effect. He thought that the charter limited too much the places from whence, and the patties who were to be examined. He held that there ought to be no restrictions, but that the University ought to be open to persons from all parts of the kingdom, whereas, as yet, no one could apply for examination for honours unless he came from one of the schools or places of education which had received the sanction of the Secretary of State, with the single exception of medical schools to students from which the admission was in the discretion of the council. In this respect he trusted that the new charter, which it seemed likely must be had, or at least that some modification of the present, would establish a complete alteration. With regard to the management of the University, the scale of expenditure seemed to him to be altogether unwarranted by the number of students to be examined. One of the first acts of the body was to appoint a secretary with 1,000l. a year, and this was for some time persisted in, contrary to the wishes of Government, though afterwards the salary was reduced to 600l. a-year. This showed a disposition to extravagance on the part of the council, and the necessity of the Government having some check and control over them. Another of their acts was to resolve, that examiners, with salaries, might be appointed from among themselves. This was most objectionable, being liable to abuse of the worst kind. This had been passed by a majority of seven to two. Letters were written before the day of voting to each of the members of the council to know whether he would agree to be appointed an examiner in case the election should fall upon him. This was a most inconsistent proceeding, but only one member, Mr. Thirlwal, refused, alleging that such an office was inconsistent with his situation as a member of council. He was willing to make considerable allowance for the defects of an infant establishment, but really he thought there was no excuse for the mode in which the examiners were appointed. He had the list of appointments now before him, and he must say that the scale of salary, compared with the work to be done, would be enormous, if the institution were endowed with funds like Oxford and Cambridge; but, considering that it depended upon the public money voted to it on the promise that it should proceed with the utmost economy, there was gross violation of the principles upon which it was established. The list stated the aggregate sum for the examiners for 1841 to be 3,221l. There were fourteen or fifteen, and several professors were examiners, in two or three cases each. The professor of chemistry for two days' examination, three hours each day, had 50l. Professor Henslow had 50l. for examining in arts, and another had an equal sum for another examination. He did not mean to undervalue the merits of the examiners, who were paid; but he did think that examiners could be obtained who would be content to serve in such an institution for the sake of the honour and reputation the connexion would bring them, without any stipulation for profit. Several professors had 250l. each, others had 150l. One professor had 250l. for twenty-seven hours' examination. The professors of anatomy and physiology had 2502. each for five days' examination, or fifteen hours each. This scale was certainly a great deal too high; but, to be sure, the gentlemen had the power of appointing their own salaries. He was sorry to say anything that might give them pain, but he spoke in the wish to bring back the institution to that sound state in which it should have commenced. Whether it was with the Secretary of State or the Chancellor of the Exchequer the right of control rested, something should be immediately done to put a stop to such extravagant expenditure by preventing the senate from appointing the examiners or fixing their salaries. But most of all he objected that the University should refuse its degrees to students from any place of education. It should be open to all, without any distinction of place, regarding them only according to their acquirements. He was sorry that it was so limited in the number of its students. He was willing to make great allowances for an institution in its commencement; he had no intention to oppose the vote, but he hoped henceforward to see the institution conducted with economy, and with a closer adherence to the principles upon which it was founded.

Mr. R. Gordon

was quite sure the hon. Gentleman did not mean to do any harm to the institution. It appeared to him that the great complaint was, that the board of examiners fixed their own salaries; but this was in accordance with the original constitution. If gentlemen were brought from a distance, and were induced to give up their professions for some five days, whilst employed as examiners, he thought it not too much, and it was hardly fair in an institution of this kind to estimate the pay by the small number of candidates. In the present year the number of candidates for examination were doubled in medicine, and more than doubled in arts.

Sir R. Peel

thought it very absurd that the gentlemen of the senate, out of their own body, should find all the examiners, and themselves fix the salaries

Mr. R. Gordon

said, the whole number of the senate fixed the salaries, and a certain number were appointed examiners.

Sir R. Peel

said, there was no authority for their fixing the salaries without the control of the Treasury. He must say, that a more extravagant remuneration for the amount of business done and the number of persons examined, he never saw in an old establishment, or in which the number of persons employed appeared so disproportionate to the number of persons examined. He thought that an infant establishment ought to have an infant number of examiners. He hoped that there would be some alteration in the power given of fixing the salaries. He could only express his heartfelt thanks that, instead of having twenty examiners, they had not forty, and that some of the examiners had been satisfied to take so little pay, considering the power as to the points which was vested in them.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

did not think the remuneration of these gentlemen very high in reference to what they were expected to do. He readily admitted that the salaries were large for the present amount of duties to be performed; but the question was this, they had to form an infant establishment, and he thought that in order to have an establishment whose endorsement should carry weight with the public, they should appoint persons of great weight and character, with the view that the examination might be such as to give a guarantee to the public that the degree was not merely a name.

Vote agreed to.