HL Deb 30 June 1879 vol 247 cc931-45

in rising to call the attention of the House to the subject of University Education in Ireland and to the present arrangements under which University degrees are conferred in that country, and to present a Bill on that subject, said:—My Lords, in inviting your Lordships' attention for a short time to the question of University Education in Ireland, I think I ought at the outset to offer your Lordships' some explanation of how it has come to pass that, at this period of the Session, a measure on this subject is about to be laid before your Lordships, and is about to originate in this House. My Lords, the explanation is extremely short and simple. Her Majesty's Government have at various times had their most careful attention directed to the question of University Education in Ireland, the various demands made with respect to it, and the opinions which were entertained on the subject. Before the commencement of the present Session, they felt it to be their duty to consider the whole subject with great care and attention. My Lords, the Government at that time were of opinion—an opinion which we still entertain—that without entering on ground which was, to some extent, debatable—there was in the arrangements connected with University Education in Ireland—I will not call it a grievance, but a deficiency and an inconvenience which called for a remedy. My Lords, the Government have considered whether they would make a proposal for the purpose of remedying that deficiency in the present Session of Parliament, and they came to the conclusion that it was not their duty to do so—and that for two reasons. The first reason is, that the Government well knew that, however simple might be the proposals which they were prepared to make, the whole subject of Irish University Education, and all the opinions which were entertained with regard to it, must be thrown open by the introduction of any Bill whatsoever on the subject. The Government were, at the same time, conscious that there were other measures of great urgency and importance which it would be their duty, in the first place, to submit to Parliament, and upon them to have the judgment of Parliament pronounced, before they approached the question of University Education in Ireland. The other reason tended in the same direction. In the course of last Session of Parliament the Government carried through Parliament pro- posals, with which your Lordships are well acquainted, for the improvement of Intermediate Education in Ireland. At the commencement of the present Session the legislation on that subject had hardly begun to take effect, and may be regarded as being yet in its infancy. The Government were of opinion that, looking at the question of University Education as being closely connected with Intermediate Education, it would be extremely desirable and advantageous to have some experience of the working of the measure with regard to Intermediate, before they proceeded to legislate on the subject of University Education. It was for these reasons that the Government determined not to introduce a Bill dealing with University Education in Ireland among the measures which were to be presented to Parliament during the present Session. I believe that soon after Parliament met one of my Colleagues, in answer to a Question which was put, either in this or in the other House of Parliament, stated that it was not the intention of the Government to propose legislation on the subject in the present year. But, my Lords, the position of matters has changed since that time. A Member of the Legislature—a Member of great experience and ability—who upon this subject must be looked upon as occupying, to a certain extent, a representative position (the O'Conor Don)—acting entirely within his own right, introduced into the other House a measure on the subject of Irish University Education. My Lords, that measure is not before your Lordships, and it would be extremely improper for me, and it is not my intention, to enter into any controversy with regard to its provisions. Indeed, I am anxious to avoid, in dealing with this subject, every appearance of controversy—I wish to state merely those facts which are necessary to explain the position of the Government. In considering the measure to which I have just referred, the Government were of opinion that the financial proposals which it contained would have the effect of constituting an endowment for denominational Colleges in Ireland, contrary to what they conceived was the Parliamentary compact entered into in 1869 with regard to the funds of the Disestablished Church, and contrary, I may say, to that which they considered as having been the uniform policy of Parliamentary legislation with respect to grants of public money for the purposes of Collegiate education and instruction. In these circumstances, the Government felt that they could not support the Bill. There is no doubt that the Government might have contented themselves with opposing the Bill, and criticizing its provisions on the grounds which I have stated. They felt, however, that they would not be acting with candour towards Parliament if they did not make some statement with regard to what they themselves considered to be the great deficiencies in the case of University Education in Ireland, and if they did not, at the same time, state the extent to which they were prepared to propose a remedy for those deficiencies. No doubt, they might have confined themselves to such a statement; but they thought it fairer to Parliament, and fairer to those outside of Parliament, who would not be likely to be satisfied with a mere statement on the subject, that their views should be distinctly and clearly set forth in the form of a Bill, to which the assent of Parliament should be asked, as containing the remedy which the Government would advocate for the deficiency of the existence of which they were conscious. My Lords, for these reasons it was that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, a few days since, announced that it would be my duty, as the Representative of the Government, to introduce in this House, where the state of the Public Business admitted of its being done, a measure on the subject. My right hon. Friend—probably not bearing in mind our form of procedure—stated that I should be prepared to lay before your Lordships the measure I refer to on Thursday last. I greatly regret that your Lordships were inconvenienced by a misunderstanding on the subject. As far as I myself am concerned, it was a matter of perfect indifference to me whether I proposed the measure on Thursday last or to-night; but I found that Business was already arranged for last Thursday; and it appeared that it would be more for your Lordships' convenience that the Notice I gave on Thursday should be given, and that I should make, what I hope your Lordships will find, a very short and concise statement on the subject to-night. My Lords, that is the explanation—a clear and simple one—of the circumstances under which this Bill now comes before you.

Now, my Lords, in order to explain the proposals of the Government, I must ask your Lordships to refer for a moment to the state of matters in England with regard to University Education and University degrees. In England you at present have four Universities—Oxford, Cambridge, London, and Durham. I put aside Durham, because it is a University local in its operation, confined to the College and Hall of which it consists, and it does not in any way affect the general arguments which I wish to lay before your Lordships. I come to Oxford and Cambridge. Your Lordships are well aware that in order to obtain a degree in these Universities a student must become a member of the University—in other words, he must be matriculated. He must reside for a greater or less period of a certain number of years in order to qualify himself. By submitting to these conditions, and by proving the proficiency which he has acquired, he obtains in regular course the degree which he wishes to obtain. My Lords, it is, therefore, impossible for any person to obtain a degree in Oxford or Cambridge without becoming a resident in one of the Colleges or Halls of those Universities. I now turn to the University of London. The University of London proceeds upon a principle materially varying from that of Oxford and Cambridge. A student there must, indeed, matriculate as a commencement of his relation to the University; but he is not, after his matriculation, required to reside either in the University or in any College or Hall connected with the University. The University takes no account of how a student who may obtain his matriculation or his degree has obtained education. He is allowed to educate himself where he pleases, and as he pleases, in private under such conditions as ho may think proper, or in any private Hall or College. All that the University requires is that, at the proper time, he should present himself for his further examination, and show that ho has attained the standard of education which the University thinks desirable and necessary to qualify him for a degree. If, when the time comes, he can show that degree of proficiency, he receives a degree of the University. Now, my Lords, that being the state of things in England, let me also turn for a moment to consider what is the state of things in Ireland. There are in Ireland two Universities. There is the University of Dublin—that is to say, the University of Trinity College—and there is the University of the Queen's Colleges, called Queen's University. Let me explain separately the arrangements of each of these Universities. With regard to Dublin, the University and College are co-extensive. The members of the College are members of the University, and there are no members of the University who are not members of the College. In order to obtain a degree in Dublin University a student must be matriculated, as he would be at Oxford or at Cambridge. He must go through a certain amount of Collegiate education, which must either be done with residence in Trinity College, or, if he does not actually reside in Trinity College, he must, at all events, come up certain times within the year to undergo a periodical examination—not examination for a degree, but periodical examination to test his progress in the particular course of learning laid down by the College. During that time he must be on the books of the College, and he must pay the annual fees that the College requires. My Lords, the endowments of Trinity College are entirely open to every denomination. I am glad to believe that to some extent in practice the advantages of Trinity College are availed of by all denominations in Ireland. I speak myself as one who has been an alumnus of the University of which I have now the honour to be Chancellor; and I well remember that in the time of my Collegiate course several of my intimate friends were members of the Roman Catholic Church, receiving there the same education which I received—and I recollect that I had the advantage of having as my private tutor one of the most accomplished mathematicians of the day, who was a Roman Catholic. My Lords, the tests for the higher endowments of Trinity College which then existed have been entirely removed, and there is absolutely at this moment no disqualification to any person whomsoever with regard to any endowment or preferment in Trinity College. And your Lordships cannot have a more conspicuous proof of that than that which has occurred within the last few days. One of the great prizes of Trinity College had to be filled up—one of the Fellowships of the College. There was the usual examination for the purpose of filling up that vacancy. The successful candidate, I am informed, belongs to the Moravian denomination; and if there had been another vacancy, the next in order of merit was a Roman Catholic. Your Lordships, then, cannot but be satisfied with the complete openness to all denominations of the endowments of Trinity College. Your Lordships, at the same time, will understand that, although all the endowments are open in the way I describe, a degree cannot be obtained by any person in Trinity College without his becoming a member resident, or attending periodical examinations, in the University. Now, what is the case with regard to the Queen's University? My Lords, the history of the Queen's University is this:—In the year 1845 there were founded three Queen's Colleges in Ireland—one at Belfast, one at Cork, and one at Galway. They were founded, in the first instance, as Colleges, without any arrangements for conferring degrees. They were provided by Parliament with grants for building, and with considerable endowments for the foundation of scholarships and exhibitions. In a few years afterwards—I think in 1850—the Queen's University was incorporated for the purpose of conferring degrees upon those who were students of those three Colleges. Now, your Lordships will understand that the Queen's University itself has, what I may term, no local or real existence beyond that of its corporate character. What I mean to say is, it does not undertake to teach; it has no Professors, it has no Fellows. It is not provided with any scholarships or exhibitions—it is simply an Examining Body. But, then, your Lordships will observe the peculiarity of this Examining Body is this—it does not examine for the purpose of conferring degrees at large, but for the purpose of conferring a degree only on those who pass through a curriculum or course of study in one of the three Queen's Colleges. Now, with regard to the Queen's Colleges, as I stated of Trinity College so I say of them—they are entirely open. They are open to persons of all denominations, without any restriction whatever. And, my Lords, I am glad to say that, looking at the number of these Colleges, they appear to be availed of, to a considerable extent, by persons of all denominations. I have got the numbers upon the books of the three Colleges. I have here a list of the students who were attending in the year 1876-7, matriculated and not matriculated. As to Queen's College in Belfast, the number of members in it belonging to the Church of Ireland was 86. The Presbyterians, who are the greatest number in that part of Ireland—more particularly those who are to be ministers of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland—are generally educated there. The Presbyterians were 370. There was a very small number of Roman Catholics—only 13; of other denominations, 68. I turn to the Queen's College at Cork. I find that at Cork there were members of the Church of Ireland, 101; of Roman Catholics, 113; and of Presbyterians, 6: so that in Cork the Roman Catholics in Queen's College actually outnumber the members of the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church put together. All other denominations number only 13. In Galway I find the numbers are—Church of Ireland, 26; Presbyterians, 77; Roman Catholics, 89. So there, —again, Roman Catholics are, roughly speaking, equal in numbers to the members of the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterians put together. Taking the three Colleges together, the numbers are — Members of the Church of Ireland, 213; Roman Catholics, 230; Presbyterians, 387; and of all other denominations, 90. Now, my Lords, I do not stop to inquire how far these numbers are out of proportion, or in proportion, either with the whole population of Ireland or that part of the population which may be supposed to require University Education. I do not refer to it for any purpose of controversy—I wish to place your Lordships in possession of what the facts are; and it will be seen that in the Queen's Colleges there is a substantial—a very substantial—admixture of persons of all denominations. The result, therefore, of what I have stated is this: you have got in Ireland two Universities; you have got in those Universities all the endowments and privileges open to persons of all denominations; and you have got provisions for conferring degrees upon all the members of those Universities. But then comes this state of things which is entirely peculiar to Ireland, which does not exist in this country; you have got no means in Ireland of conferring a degree upon any person who does not submit to become a member of one or other of those two Universities. My Lords, that is a state of things which Her Majesty's Government consider to be a deficiency, and an inconvenience to those who do not wish to become members of those Universities, and which constitute just and reasonable ground of complaint. I ask your Lordships to consider what is the meaning of a degree. A degree in a University is, after all, just like any other honour proceeding from the Crown. It is a mark of honour given by the Crown. The Crown is unable, personally or immediately, to superintend the giving of degrees, because it is unable to conduct the examinations which are necessary for the purpose of conferring degrees. It is, therefore, necessary for the Crown, and it is the habit of the Crown, to delegate to a University the duty, responsibility, and privilege of examining for degrees and conferring degrees. But degrees are, in one respect, unlike other honours. With regard to other honours, you may have them or not have them; they are not absolutely requisite for the purpose of daily life. With regard to University degrees, the state of things is entirely different: for a University degree with regard to many Professions—indeed, with regard to all our great Professions—is absolutely requisite:—or, if not requisite, it is, at all events, an honour, an attribute, which carries with it certain advantages and privileges with regard to the terms upon which the holder of it enters the learned Professions. Therefore, it becomes a just matter of complaint to any member of the community if he is placed at a disadvantage compared with other persons in obtaining a degree which it may be necessary for him to have, having regard to his advancement in life. Now, we know there are in Ireland, as in England, many private Colleges—Colleges which do not choose to submit to the conditions and rules which must necessarily attach to public institutions like Trinity College and the Queen's Colleges. They may be able to educate young men with great success and advantage; and it is a considerable loss to them to be unable to secure the advantages arising from the power of conferring degrees, when those advantages are to be obtained elsewhere. Even with regard to private tuition the same observation applies. I am one of those who attach the greatest possible advantage to Collegiate education. I look upon it as undoubtedly the highest class and form of upper education; and I certainly should be sorry to put in comparison with a Collegiate education the education received under private tuition. I could understand it being said—" We shall give no degrees whatever unless those who come forward to claim them show they have been educated under a Collegiate curriculum." But you cannot say in England—" We will give degrees to all corners, wherever they have been educated, whether in a public College, in a private College, or under private tuition"—you cannot say that in England, and with any justice say in Ireland —" We will adopt a wholly different course. We will give no degrees here but for those who pass through Trinity College or one of the Queen's Colleges." That is a defect—a deficiency of the arrangements with regard to conferring degrees — of which the Government were sensible in Ireland; and the object of the measure which the Government are prepared to recommend to Parliament is to meet and remedy that deficiency.

My Lords, I will now state very shortly the way in which the Government propose to remedy that defect. In the Bill, to which I shall ask your Lordships to give a first reading to-night, provision is made for founding and incorporating a University in Ireland. The University is to consist of a Chancellor and a Senate. The Senate, of course, will be appointed by the Charter of the Crown; and the proposal of the Bill is that the Senate shall not exceed 36 in number, and that they shall be nominated, in the first instance, by the Crown. Arrangements will be made to fill up a certain number of the vacancies which afterwards occur, so that Convocation —the constitution of which I will presently describe—may have the power of electing six members of the Senate. We propose that the Convocation should consist of graduates who may obtain their degrees in this University, and any graduates who may be transferred and become graduates of the Uni- versity. We propose that the Senate should elect its own Vice Chancellor. We propose that the University, thus constituted, should make provision for such public examination of candidates for matriculation and degrees and such other University examinations in secular subjects as may be necessary, and shall appoint Examiners in the several subjects of secular learning usually studied in a University; that it should confer degrees in all faculties except theology, and confer these degrees without requiring, as a condition, residence in any particular College or Hall, or tuition under any particular form; that it should look in the examination to the standard of proficiency necessary for degrees, and confer degrees on those who have attained that standard. We propose that there should not be any Professors or Lecturers connected with the College—and, in that respect, we follow the example of the London University.

The question then arises, what do we propose with reference to the Queen's University? Your Lordships will remember that the Queen's University itself is but an Examining Body; but it is an Examining Body simply for the purpose of examining those students who are members of the three Queen's Colleges. It appears to the Government that it would be an arrangement not only inconvenient, but without precedent, to establish in one Metropolis three Universities—Trinity College (the University of Dublin), the Queen's University, and the University which is proposed to be created by this Bill—and that it would be still more indefensible to adopt that course, when you consider that two of these Universities would be performing exactly the same functions—namely, examining for degrees—with only a trifling distinction. We, therefore, propose that as soon as the University to which I have referred is constituted by Royal Charter, steps shall be taken for the dissolution of the Queen's University; that the graduates of the Queen's University should become graduates of the new University with all the privileges which they had before; and that all who are matriculated students of the Queen's University shall become matriculated students, with all the same advantages, of the new Universities. My Lords, I said that as to the Queen's University there were no endowments in the shape of professorships, or scholarships, or exhibitions. There is, however, a fund of moderate amount which has been collected by private contributions, and placed under the management of the Queen's University, for the purpose of supplying exhibitions for those students who come from the Queen's Colleges. Of course, that is a private fund, contributed for a specific purpose, and that will not be interfered with or diverted from the purpose for which it was intended. In other respects, the Vote of Parliament which is taken for the expenses of the Queen's University will, of course, apply itself to the University of which I have spoken. In what I have said your Lordships will observe that our intention and anxiety has been not in any way to interfere with the Queen's Colleges—we do not touch them in any respect — and if there is any change whatever, it is for their advantage, for they will be connected with a University larger and more extended, and, I hope, stronger than ever the Queen's University has been.

These, my Lords, are the proposals which your Lordships will find in the Bill for which I shall ask a first reading. They are extremely simple. They avoid much of the debatable ground connected with University Education in Ireland; and I can honestly say, however we differ as to endowments or other questions of controversy, so far as I can understand, there is not a single provision in the present Bill on which we may not all find it possible to agree. Whether that is so or not, Her Majesty's Government have thought it to be their duty to make this proposal to Parliament. They propose it in the hope of solving the difficulty connected with the University Question in Ireland. This is the first difficulty which ought to be solved, and I hope your Lordships will give this Bill your most favourable consideration. I have only to thank your Lordships for the patience with which you have heard a statement of some technicality and detail.

Bill to promote the advancement of learning and to extend the benefits connected with University Education in Ireland. — Presented. — (The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, whether this Bill is to be accepted or not, it is one which will certainly require the gravest consideration by Parliament. I can, however, conceive of nothing more inconsistent with that grave consideration, than that immediately after the statement of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack a debate should follow. I shall confine myself, therefore, to saying one word only on the subject. The noble and learned Lord has naturally thought it necessary to make some explanation to your Lordships of the circumstances under which the Government have found it desirable to bring in this Bill. The noble and learned Lord told us that his should be a short and simple statement. It was certainly not a long one; but, as to its simplicity, notwithstanding the great power of exposition of the noble and learned Lord, I am not sure whether I quite understood, at the moment, the reasons he has given for the introduction of the Bill. I understood him to say that this matter was carefully considered by Government during the winter, and that they came to the conclusion that they would not be able to deal with it any easy and simple manner; but now the noble and learned Lord says that he sees no reason why this Bill should not be agreed to by all parties. He stated, on the one hand, that there were more urgent matters to engage the attention of Parliament; and, on the other hand, that the Government wished to judge of the success which has followed on the adoption of the measure of last year. If I make any complaint at all, it is not that the Government have brought in this Bill and endeavoured to settle the question, but that they have brought it in at this particular moment. The noble and learned Lord has propounded what is to me a perfectly new doctrine—namely, that a Bill having been introduced into the other House of Parliament some weeks ago on the subject, it would not have been fair on the part of the Government for them to state their objections to it, but that, in fairness, they were bound to present a Bill themselves on the subject. I cannot conceive why, looking at the want of Business in your Lordships' House, this measure was not introduced before the very end of June. I wish now to ask one question of Her Majesty's Government, and that is, Whether it is their intention by this Bill, in the words which were used in " another place," merely to place on record their opinions in regard to this subject, or whether they intend to ask your Lordships to give it a second reading with the bonâ fide intention of passing it through Parliament this year? This is a question which I hope Her Majesty's Government will be good enough to answer.


I agree with the noble Earl that this is not an occasion on which it is desirable or convenient to enter upon a discussion of the measure which my noble and learned Friend has now asked permission to introduce, and I only rise to answer the direct question which the noble Earl has asked. It is certainly the intention of Her Majesty's Government to pass this measure, if it be in their power to do so. They will attempt to do so, and their chances of success to some extent depend on the support they receive from the noble Earl himself. In that case, they will not despair of being able to pass it even through the other House of Parliament. At all events, there is a bonâ fide intention to pass it through your Lordships' House, and to ensure its success in the other.


desired to enter his protest against the doctrine laid down by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that one Parliament should by its action bind all future Parliaments. The Act of 1869, which disestablished the Church of Ireland, set aside important arrangements which were contained in the Act of Union; and it was not beyond the power of Parliament now, if it thought fit, with regard to a future appropriation of the Irish Church funds, to apply them for the benefit of the Irish people in any way it might think fit. He thought that the fund should be so applied. He did not now express any opinion, one way or the other, as to how that fund ought to be appropriated; hut he protested against what was implied in the speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, that what was done in 1869 fettered the power and action of Parliament.


asked, When the Bill would be laid upon the Table, and when it was proposed to take the second reading?


said, he hoped the Bill would be in their Lordships' hands to-morrow; and, with regard to the second reading, he should be glad to place it on the Paper for a convenient day—he would say for that day fortnight, if not earlier.


hoped the Bill would be put down for second reading at an earlier day than was stated by the noble and learned Lord.

Bill read 1a; to be printed; and to be read 2a on Tuesday the 8th of July next. (No. 134.)


said, he would consider whether the Bill could be taken for second reading on an earlier day.