HC Deb 19 March 1913 vol 50 cc1038-40
47 and 48. Dr. ADDISON

asked the President of the Board of Education (1) whether he is aware that in October, 1912, the council of Bristol University conferred 63 honorary degrees on a single occasion; that of these degrees about one-third were conferred on persons of no previous academic standing whatsoever; and that the council of thirty-three members has already conferred honorary degrees on fifteen of its own members, and five on members of the chairman's family; and whether, in view of the Government's Grant to Bristol University, he will take steps, by advising a revision of the charter or by other means, to prevent the recurrence of these abuses; and (2) whether he is aware that the council of Bristol University, a non-academic body, has conferred honorary degrees under ordinance at the recommendation of a sub-committee of its own without reference to the academic senate; whether, although the Statute states specifically that it is one of the powers of the senate to nominate to the council names for honorary degrees, he has received any report from the Advisory Committee as to whether this practice is detrimental to the academic prestige of the university honorary degrees and reacts unfavourably on the degrees earned by examination and research; and, if so, whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of EDUCATION (Mr. J. A. Pease)

I have no information with regard to some of the matters referred to by the hon. Member but I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of his figures. The Board are concerned only with the work done at universities, and it is not within their province to interfere with the discretion of the university authorities in the distribution of honorary degrees. I have received no report from my Advisory Committee on the practice, and I am not proposing to take any action in the matter.


asked the right hon. Gentleman (1) whether he is aware that the Chair of Physics in the University of Bristol has been vacant since the summer of 1910; that the vacancy was then advertised and applications from candidates duly received, but that no appointment was made; and that the reason given for no appointment being made was that no physicist of standing had applied for the post; whether he is aware that, about the time that this vacancy occurred, three professors had been threatened with dismissal and one of them dismissed, and that the Chair of Physics was subsequently offered to physicists of repute and declined by them on the ground of the insecurity of professorial tenure in the university; and, if so, what action he proposes to take; (2) whether the members of the Board of Education's Advisory Committee have made any Report to him on the fact that after the dismissal of Professor Cowl from the Chair of English Literature by the council of the University of Bristol in 1910 he was apointed at a reduced salary on a two years' tenure to a Research Chair, to which neither the status of a university professor nor any duties whatsoever were attached; whether, if Professor Cowl was rightly dismissed, the council of the university was entitled to or had received the sanction of the Board of Education to use public funds in this manner; and whether, in view of such an appointment, he will institute an inquiry as to whether Professor Cowl was justly treated or not; and (3) whether his attention has been called to the fact that the Grant from the Board of Education to the University of Bristol is £2,000 per annum; and what safeguards he proposes to require in order to ensure to the professors and other teachers a proper security of tenure and freedom of opinion and discussion?


I have no knowledge of the matters referred to in connection with the Chair of Physics in the University of Bristol. It is not within the province of the Board of Education to inquire into the particular appointments made to the teaching staff by the authorities of a university to whom they allot a share of the Exchequer Grants. The amount of the annual Grant to the University of Bristol is £9,450 in all, and I am satisfied that my Advisory Committee were justified by the standard of the work done by the University of Bristol as a whole in recommending it. Before making their next recommendations in 1916 my Advisory Committee will, in determining the allocation of the Grant, in the case of all universities, take into account the status and security of tenure of professors, and I do not think I need do more than call their attention to the statements which have been made.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will have inquiry made into the points raised before he makes any further Grants to the university?


No, I do not think I have got any province to inquire into the points to which the hon. Gentleman refers in his questions.