HC Deb 29 August 1893 vol 16 cc1442-56
MR. BRYN ROBERTS (Carnarvonshire, Eifion)

rose to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her assent from the Charter of the University of Wales in its present form, and until it be amended so as to enable students connected with the University Colleges of Aberystwith, Cardiff, or Bangor, to present themselves for the examinations for degrees. He said, he wished at the outset to point out that there was nothing of a Party character in the Motion. Members on both sides of the House supported the Charter as it at present stood, and also Members on both sides of the House desired the alteration and amendment he was now proposing. Not only was the Motion of a non-Party character, but the proposal was not directed against the Charter. None of them wished to see the Charter rejected, and the solo object of the Motion was to extend the basis of the Charter so as to include all Welshmen who desired to avail themselves of the advantages of the Universities, and to present themselves for examination. The Petition for the Charter was presented by the three Colleges of Aberystwith, Cardiff, and Bangor, and it was only necessary to read the Charter itself to see that it was proposed absolutely and exclusively for the benefit of these three Colleges. That was the ground of complaint against it. He and those who supported him were desirous that the benefits of the University of Wales should not be confined to these three Colleges, but that every man competent to pass an examination for a degree should be allowed to present himself for such examination. There were a large number of other Colleges besides these three. There wore several denominational Colleges which had also Arts courses; there were also Intermediate Schools to be established under the intermediate system, as well as many private students, and all these ought to be entitled to present themselves at the University examinations; but if the Charter passed without the Amendment suggested, they would be completely excluded from the benefit of this University, the Charter for which, as it stood, was designed solely and exclusively as a measure of protection for these three Colleges, and to confine degrees solely to these Colleges. This was done under the semblance of having a teaching University; but the University, as such, did not profess to teach at all, and it had not got a single Professor or Lecturer, but it assumed the semblance of a teaching University by confining its degrees to the three Colleges. There were large numbers of men in Wales who were unable to afford the time and money to go to any of these three Colleges. Many who were anxious to obtain University degrees could not spare the time to go to College, because they would have to do so at that period when they were leaving some occupation or profession. Such a class of young men, he submitted, were deserving of every encouragement. Many elementary teachers in Wales had already gone through the University of London or Ireland, and had been able to obtain degrees, while, at the same time, carrying on their calling as elementary teachers. There were also many ministers of religion who had started their education in grammar schools and other institutions, who had been unable to afford the time to continue at a College, but who desired to continue their studies and go in for a University degree. By this Charter all such classes would be completely excluded, and no one would be entitled to go in for a degree in the Welsh University except students who attended one of the three Colleges. He was in no way against these Colleges, but he thought it would be an evil to unduly force the students to go there. Let the Colleges rely on their own merits. They were excellent institutions, with good teachers; and, that being so, they ought to have sufficient reliance upon their advantages without making the present Charter a measure of protection by enacting that no one should go in for these degrees except students of these Colleges. It was cruel kindness to some young men to require them to study at these Colleges before they had learned a profession, so that after they had attained the age of 21, 22, or 23, they found they had probably exhausted their means. If the Charter was passed in its present form, young men such as he had described would be told that they could not obtain degrees in their own native University, and they would be driven either to Ireland or to London. The only objections that were raised to this Amendment were these—it was said it was important to have a University training before a degree was granted. But if examinations were of any value, or were any test at all, he submitted they were a test of educational training. He admitted the advantage of young men going to the older Universities like Oxford and Cambridge, and mixing with, representatives of every class of society; but it was different in the present case. It was, no doubt, of great value to young men to go to the older Universities, and come in contact with men of different classes of society, from different parts of the country, and of the highest intellectual attainments. But the Colleges in Wales were small, local Colleges, situated at a distance of 100 miles apart, and between which there was no common life or communion. They were non-residential—at any rate, two of them, Cardiff and Bangor, were. The students came from certain prescribed areas surrounding the Colleges, and were all of the same class. It was also said that, unless a training by the Colleges was made compulsory, there was a danger of the examination being vitiated by the system of "cramming." He objected as much as anyone to the evils of "cramming," but it was assumed by those who differed from him on this matter that those evils were confined to private students and private schools. But it was notorious that "cramming" existed to a very large extent in the great English Universities. The evils of cramming extended quite as much to the students of the Universities as they did to private students. In fact, these evils would be felt less by the class of private students that would present themselves in this University of Wales, because the latter belonged to a class of men who were engaged in other pursuits and devoted their leisure hours to the prosecution of their studies. The evils of cramming were chiefly found where there was an attempt to learn too quickly; but these Welsh students would not be subject to its influence, for the reason that they would be devoting their leisure time to their studies. The system that was now sought to be adopted by the University College of Wales had been tried and found wanting by other Universities. The University of Loudon was founded on the same basis in relation to the two constituent Colleges connected with it; but the plan was proved to be unsatisfactory, and in 1858 a new Charter was granted to the University placing it on its present basis, so that any student, whether connected with an affiliated College or not, was entitled to present himself and obtain his degree if he was able to pass. The Royal University of Ireland simply absorbed the Queen's Colleges of Ireland, which up to 1880 were residential Colleges to some extent, and the University degrees were confined to students who were presented from those Colleges. But in 1880 an Act was passed throwing open the University degrees to every student. The condition of Wales was much the same as that of Ireland. A number of men were to be found there who had neither the time nor the money to enable them to go to these Colleges. All they asked was that the University of Wales should be established on the same principle as the University of Ireland. He simply wanted an analogous provision in this Charter to the one which existed in the Irish University Education Act, and which was as follows:— No residence in College nor attendance at lectures or any other course of instruction in the University shall be obligatory on any candidate for a degree, save for a degree in medicine and surgery. He gladly avowed that the feeling in Wales was strongly in favour of a National Charter. They felt, and they had felt for years, that they had as much right to have a Charter for a University for Wales as Ireland, Scotland, or England had, and that they were quite within their rights in asking for such a Charter. On the question whether the Charter should include private private students, or be confined to the three Colleges of Bangor, Aberystwith, and Cardiff, the opinion of Wales was almost unanimous in favour of the views he had advanced. If they excluded the opinion of those interested in the three Colleges named, and appealed to the mass of the Welsh people, their opinion was over- whelmingly in favour of broadening the basis of the University, so as to include artisans, elementary school teachers, Dissenting ministers, and other private students. He merely wished to amend the Charter, not to defeat it. He hoped the Government would take no part on this Motion, but that they would let it be decided by the House. If the Motion were passed there was nothing in the world to prevent a Departmental Committee being appointed to see how the clause he had moved could be included, the Charter might then be passed, and its passage would meet with the approval of all sections of the community in Wales. He begged to move the Motion.

MR. D. A. THOMAS (Merthyr Tydvil)

seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her Majesty to withhold Her assent from the Charter of the University of Wales in its present, form, and until it be amended so as to enable students, unconnected, with the University Colleges of Aberystwith, Cardiff, or Bangor, to present themselves for the examinations for degrees."—(Mr. Bryn Roberts.)

MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)

, in supporting the Motion, agreed that there was no Party feeling in this matter, and all that the friends of Wales desired was the good of Wales. They desired that this question should be settled and argued upon its merits. As had been said by the Mover of this Motion, they felt that this Charter was drawn upon too narrow and too illiberal a basis. As the hon. Gentleman had said, it was nothing but a Charter for the protection of the three constituent Colleges of Bangor, Aberystwith, and Cardiff. What were these Institutions? They were new Institutions of hardly 10 years old, some of them less. They were Institutions which were supported and backed up by £4,000 a year from the State, and were not self-supporting. Bangor was under such a cloud at the present moment that it was questionable whether it would ever be able to raise itself again in public estimation, and Aberystwith was at a standstill. In the year 1887 there were 99 Welsh students there. In 1891, which was the last Report he had been able to get hold of, there were only 85 Welsh students, and the numbers were just kept up by the English students, who in 1887 wore 48, having risen to 64 in 1891. As for Cardiff, which was a great British seaport, and only geographically in Wales, almost the whole of the students who were there were there for a very short period; they seldom remained in residence very long—sometimes not even six months—and a very large proportion of them were English. Possibly these growing Institutions might eventually do some good educational work, but at present they were simply sowing very wild oats. Success with regard to Universities, as every one knew—and no one knew better than the Vice President—was very slow. They could not turn out a College ready made like they could a coat. The last Report on Welsh Higher Education was famous on account of the weakness of the Chairman and the strength of the other Members. Lord Aberdare was a changeable man; he changed with every gust of opinion. He did not hold the same opinion he held 10 years ago. He ventured to say that he did not hold the same opinion now as when the Report was published. The dominating spirit in the Report was that of Mr. Henry Richard, the great representative of Welsh Methodism—

An hon. MEMBER

He is not a Methodist.


What is he, then?

An hon. MEMBER

A Congregationalist.


A Methodist Congregationalist. At all events, he was a liberal-minded man. The Report proposed that the Charter conferred on St. David's College should be withdrawn, and a new Charter granted to a Syndicate or Board consisting of representatives in equal numbers of St. David's, Aberystwith, and any other College being a place of advanced secular education that may be affiliated for the purpose. Why had not the Charter followed that wise recommendation of that unanimous Report? Lampeter, as the oldest Welsh College—founded 60 years ago—had grown in importance; its standard was that of Oxford and Cambridge; it was affiliated to those Universities; it had no religious tests, and educational character should be the test of inclusion among the constituent Colleges. How was it that Lampeter had not been heard? Lampeter had been closured. They had been refused a hearing before the Privy Council. He appealed to the Vice President (Mr. Acland) to say if that were not so. This Charter was nothing but a scheme prepared by a caucus of these three Colleges, and nothing but a method of protecting them. There would be the greatest advantage in having among the constituent Colleges a College with a residential system. This was to be a Teaching University, and theology a subject to be taught—a subject for which a degree was to be given—but, would it be believed? not one of the three constituent Colleges had power to teach theology at all. It was prohibited in the curriculum, and Lampeter alone was enabled to give theological training to its students. Lord Aberdare's Report held the field until some other Report was presented. There was another Report, which gave facts, figures, and other information; but it was in the pocket of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Acland), who refused to show it. The Charter was intolerant and illiberal in character; it did not represent the aspirations of Wales; it was vigorously opposed by a large section of Nonconformists as well as Churchmen, and by every enlightened supporter of higher education, and he begged the Government to reconsider the question, and not force the Charter in its present form.

MR. D. B. JONES (Gloucester, Stroud)

said, he would occupy just a few moments replying to the observations of the hon. and learned Gentleman who moved this Resolution. The hon. Gentleman did not object to a University for Wales, but to this particular University, and on the ground that it did not confer degrees as a result of examination under it. This objection was founded on the idea that there was a demand for such a University as the hon. Member wished for; but anyone who took the trouble to look at the history of the educational movement in Wales would see that there had never been any serious demand for the creation of a University independent of the three University Colleges. Those Colleges were created to meet the demand for better intermediate and University education in Wales, and the demand for a University was merely subsidiary. The people of Wales had contributed largely to the support of the Colleges; they were governed by Representative Bodies; and—notwithstanding what the hon. Member opposite had said—they had met with a remarkable amount of success, since they had turned out a large number of young men who had received a University training quite as good as that to be had in any other College in the Kingdom. It was said they should be allowed to confer on their students the same symbols of academic distinction as other such Bodies granted. That was a demand the Council and the Government had yielded to. But the demand to-night was for another kind of University—an Examining University. But it was to be remembered that these Colleges in Wales would object to an Examining University on the same ground that University College, London, and King's College were objected to by the University of Loudon. The question arose—was there any need for an Examining University in Wales? The London University was at this moment in Wales performing the very functions which his hon. and learned Friend wished to see performed by the Charter as amended. What, then, became of the grievance to which his hon. and learned Friend referred? He (Mr. D. B. Jones) would not like to see an examining University established in Wales which would enable students to take degrees easier than at the London University. That being so, what plausible reason could be urged for the establishment of a new Examining Body in Wales? Nearly all the persons who went up from Wales for the London University examinations went up from one of the three Colleges. In fact, a short time ago one-eighth of the students who obtained the B.A. degree in the London University in that year were students from these University Colleges. And the hon. and learned Gentleman would see that the Board might, under the Charter, take measures to institute extra-University courses, and to hold examinations in connection therewith; and attendance at those courses would exempt from the full period of attendance at the College course. In this Charter there was a further provision to meet the case of the persons on whoso behalf the hon. and learned Member had spoken. It was proposed to be enacted that the Court might grant diplomas or certificates in such subjects and under such provisions as might be determined by Statute. That seemed to him to meet the case which the hon. and learned Member had in view. A very important educational scheme was involved in this Motion—the question of an Examining University as opposed to a Teaching University. He believed the best educational authorities—the majority of cultured men—were opposed to the granting of degrees simply as a result of examination. The London University had encouraged the practice of cramming—a practice which cultivated the memory at the expense of the judgment. The object of a Training College or a University was not to make a man a walking encyclopœdia, but to train his faculties for use in after life—that he might be able to pass judgment on the faculties of life. He felt it necessary, for the reasons he had stated and in the interests of Wales, to oppose the Motion.

MR. KENTON (Denbigh)

said, he would confine his remarks to one or two of the points raised by the Mover of the Resolution. Lord Aberdare had been twitted with a change of opinion on this subject, but he would venture to point out that the circumstances had changed—that at the time Lord Aberdare's Commission sat there was only one College in Wales, whereas now there were three Colleges—Bangor, Aberystwith, and Cardiff—all doing good work. It was said the edifice was not to be crowned, because certain gentlemen had laid down a law that a certain constituent College was to be included in the University. What was that College? It was a Theological College. Why was not the claim of the particular College to be included in the University Charter made in proper time—namely, while the discussion of the Charter was proceeding? To-night, in another place, it was stated that the tribunal was incompetent. As a matter of fact, that tribunal was representative of all the best educational interests in Wales; if the claim was to be made, it should have been made at the time the Charter was being discussed, when it would have been entitled to, and would have had, fair consideration. That incompetent tribunal took into consideration the question of Lampeter College, but Lampeter College made no claim to be included. The hon. Member opposite said he resisted the Charter because he wished particular terms made with Lampeter College. Did he not know that particular terms had been made?


asked whether the remarks of the hon. Member were in Order? They were directed to the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division to include Lampeter College, and that was not his (Mr. Roberts') Resolution at all.


The hon. Member for the Oswestry Division gave as his reason for supporting the Motion for the rejection of the scheme the exclusion of Lampeter College; therefore I can hardly stop the hon. Member from referring to that point.


said, that what he had been going to say was that a particular clause was inserted in the Charter for the express purpose of including in the future any constituent Colleges which might commend themselves to Her Majesty for inclusion. That disposed of the argument of the last speaker. He could only say that the hon. Member's policy was of a dog-in-the-manger kind. Wales wanted this Charter, and, what was more, she intended to have it. He would appeal to his English friends not to resist the Welshmen on this occasion. A deputation, of which he had been a member, had waited on the late Government, and their application was favourably received, but nothing came of it. Well, he was an educationalist first and a politician afterwards, and if he could get a Charter from a Liberal Government he would take it, while regretting that a Conservative Government had not seen fit to accord it.

*MR. S. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

said, he wished to give a few facts in answer to the Resolution of his hon. and learned Friend. He had no time to discuss whether it was better to have in Wales a Teaching University than one which consisted simply of an Examining Board; but his hon. Friend had contended that poor lads, students for the ministry, and elementary teachers would not be able to avail themselves of this University education. The facts concerning the three constituent Colleges entirely disproved that argument. Notwithstanding what had been said by the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division, there had been a large number of students educated at the three constituent Colleges—nearly 3,000—though two of the Colleges were of recent date, only one of them having been in existence any length of time—that was to say, about 20 years. With regard to Aberystwith College, 1,214 students in all had passed through, of whom 413 consisted of the sons of the commercial class—not of the wealthy commercial class, but of the class of shopkeepers and small tradesmen; of the farming class there were 188, and of the class of labourers 184. From these classes alone 785 out of the 1,214 had been educated there. At Cardiff College the total number of students had been 940. Of these, 299 had come from the tradesman class, 84 were the sons of farmers, and 285 were the sons of labourers, and this would give 668 from these classes out of the 940. In the case of Bangor College, the total number of students had been 564; 183 students had come from the tradesmen classes, 78 had come from the farming class, and 143 came from the labouring class. That was to say, there were 404 of these classes out of a total of 564. Lumping the three Colleges together, they found that out of a total of 2,718 students 1,857, or more than two-thirds of the whole, had come from the lowest walks of life. Then with reference to the case of elementary teachers. It was a fact that many of these had been educated in the three constituent Colleges. The number would be greater in the future than it had been in the past, for the Carnarvon (Church) School had removed to Bangor to avail itself of that College. Until lately schoolmasters and mistresses could only get training at Bangor (Normal) School, Carnarvon (Church), Carmarthen (Church), and Swansea (Girls), but arrangements had been made whereby Aberystwith would be paid by the Education Department to educate 120 elementary teachers, and Cardiff would be paid to educate 150. As to the objection that Nonconformist ministers would not be able to attend the University Colleges, it was the fact that nearly all the Nonconformist Colleges had already removed to the places at which the University Colleges were situate. The Pontypool Baptist College had removed to Cardiff, the Haverford west College to Aberystwith, the Llangollen College to Bangor, the Brecon Congregational College sent art and science students to Cardiff, the Bala College had removed to Bangor, the Bala Methodist College sent students for everything save Theology to Aberystwith and Bangor, the Trevecca Methodist College would soon adopt a similar course, and Lampeter Church College had its own degrees. Thus nearly all candidates for the ministry would reside and qualify in the University Colleges. With regard to the feeling in Wales on this question, there would be no better test than the attitude of the Welsh Members. So far as he was aware, the hon. Member who moved the Resolution had only one Member to support him on the Ministerial side of the House out of the total number sent to represent the Principality. The Charter had been considered by 12 out of 16 Welsh County Councils, and only two had objected to it, and in one of those cases the influence of the hon. Member who moved the Resolution was observable. Therefore, Wales was not far from unanimous on the question. If the Charter were not obtained now, it might be delayed for years, for the Departmental Committee suggested by his hon. and learned Friend would probably take a long time to inquire and Report. Even if a Departmental Committee were appointed forthwith they all knew that a large amount of time would be consumed by such an investigation.


About three months.


said, that was not our experience in connection with other Departmental Committees. Besides, there was no knowing what Government might be in Office when the Inquiry terminated, and whether it would be in favour of a University for Wales. He hoped, therefore, that all who desired to see higher education extended in the Principality would vote in support of the Charter.


said, that as so much of the subject had been so fully dealt with, he would confine himself to one or two points, which he thought he must allude to on behalf of the Government. This subject had now been before the Principality for a number of years. As the hon. Member for the Denbigh Boroughs had said, a deputation of all Parties had waited upon the late Lord President of the Council to invite his attention to the matter. The noble Lord had received them in a friendly spirit, but had said that the right course to pursue was to go back and draw up a Charter for presentation. Well, the University Colleges and those persons interested in working out intermediate education in Wales had been engaged for many months in considering the matter, and they had now presented their Charter, which had been considered by the Committee of the Privy Council. The hon. Member for the Oswestry Division had complained that he (Mr. Acland) had not laid on the Table the Report which had been furnished by a gentleman who was an impartial man in this matter, and a very eminent Welshman. He would not go into the matter, but would merely point out that all the Petitions presented in this matter were laid before an impartial Committee of the Privy Council, composed of the Lord President, Sir H. James, Lord Knutsford, Lord Playfair, and himself. He thought that was a guarantee that the matter had not been treated in any partisan spirit. Those who had had the advantage of hearing the remarks of Lord Knutsford in another place would know that he was with them. The Principal of Lampeter asked to be heard before that Committee by counsel, but that could not be permitted, as it was contrary to the usual procedure. All Petitions were considered in the same way by the Committee, and the Committee formed their own judgment upon them. He could assure the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. S. Leighton) that the whole of the case of Lampeter College was before them. The object of the scheme was to draw the poorer students to the University Colleges by means of the Act of the late Government for intermediate education, and he was convinced that the Scotch system was the best for that purpose, and that the people of Wales would find that it would meet all their wants. There might still be a few poor students who would stay away from the University, yet by means of bursaries and exhibitions almost all private students I who were able to take University degrees would be brought up. As to the arrangement proposed being a measure of protection, and all the work of the Conference being for the benefit of these Colleges, he thought that when they considered who had been gathered together at the Conference, and that the Governors of the Colleges were men of all Parties and creeds, and that all had tried to foster these Colleges, and had joined to obtain this Charter, the idea of protecting special interests might be dropped. With regard to Lampeter College, it was governed in a very limited manner, and was primarily a Theological College, the Principal being selected by the Bishop of St. David's from a selected list. No Government would admit that College to the position of a constituent College of the University while it was managed as at present. If it altered its constitution, then there were words in the Charter which would permit a supplemental Charter to be granted to meet the case. The Government had taken the wisest and the only possible course. If they had attempted to set up an Examining University, rivalling London, and exciting the jealousy of Victoria University, and other such Institutions, the scheme would have been doomed to failure. The Government had no doubt that they were meeting the wishes of Wales and of a large number of persons on both sides of the House. He only hoped that the House would sympathise with that zeal for education which distinguished every part of the Principality, and which the late Government had done so much to forward by their admirable Intermediate Education Act. All the present Government were doing was to develop that admirable Intermediate Education Act of the late Government, and he hoped the House would be unanimous in supporting them.

*MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)

said, he fully recognised the conciliatory tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, but he had hoped that the Government would have availed themselves of the opportunity of broadening the basis of the Welsh University. He could not agree that the line advocated by the hon. Member for the Oswestry Division (Mr. S. Leighton) was a dog-in-the-manger policy. It was not a policy to exclude anybody, but to include as many as possible. The object now in view was to enlarge and liberalise education in Wales, and he thought the Government should have availed themselves of this Charter for the purpose. He trusted that in future higher education would be put on such, a footing that no Educational Institution giving efficient education and affording protection to freedom of conscience would be excluded from the University. If that were the case, those who had taken part in the Debate to-night, and had urged the widening of the basis of the Welsh University, would not have spoken in vain.

Question put, and negatived.