*THE LORD BISHOP OF BIRMINGHAM
My Lords, I rise to ask whether, in view of the changes that have taken place in English higher education since the Report of the University Commission of 1877, and the difficulties experienced by the older Universities as at present constituted in adapting themselves to modern conditions, the Government will advise His Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the endowment, government, administration, and teaching of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and their constituent colleges in order to secure the best use of their resources for the benefit of all classes of the community. I suppose that it would surprise no one that there should be a number of people anxious that such a Question should be asked and that such a Commission should be appointed. The principle of the right of the nation to inquire by means of a Commission may be regarded as having been established by the Commissions of 1855 and 1877. Most people would be disposed to admit that, while those Commissions made some mistakes, their appointment marked definite stages of progress in the reform of the Universities. It is partly because they undoubtedly made mistakes that some of us are anxious to be able to look forward to the appointment of another great inquiry to inaugurate or assist another great period of reform.
But there is another and a larger reason. Undoubtedly within the last thirty years immense changes have taken place in the higher education of the country—changes so immense that, unless the University is to fall out of the relation which it ought to hold to the whole education of the country, it is inevitable that reforms should be required.
1527 To an even greater extent, a fundamental change in the balance of power in the classes which form the English nation has taken place. It has always been the honour and the pride of the old Universities that they trained the governing classes of the country. We have heard that said very often, and indeed it is a noble function to assign to a University, but it is impossible to consider the present situation in the country without seeing that the term "governing classes of the country" has received a very wide extension. For example, it includes now the working classes. There is a very real desire for the diffusion of higher education, and it is hardly possible to exaggerate the need for permeating those classes which are playing, and are destined to play, so increasingly an important part in the government of the country with the best education which we have to offer.
We want to know whether the University could not be brought into more immediate, direct, and effective relations to all chose who really desire to be students and to profit by the best education the country can afford. I am asking this question of the Government at the request of a number of persons both inside and outside the Universities, and besides those for whom I am allowed to make myself the mouthpiece there are others, such, for example, as the writers of the letter in The Times this morning, who experience the same desire. There is a desire that the Government should intimate an intention of appointing a Commission, but at the same time should delay its actual appointment for a year or two to give the Universities, as it were, a period of time to reform themselves.
But I desire, if your Lordships will allow me, to indicate somewhat more at large what seems to me the grounds on which this kind of inquiry can rightly be asked for. First of all—and I begin where I think the need for reform strikes most obviously on the eye of the outside observer—I venture to think that there can be no reasonable doubt that at present our ancient Universities are allowed to become to an extent altogether beyond what ought to be tolerated a playground for the sons of the wealthier classes. Every now and then there is a disturbance—a row—at a University, which is taken hold of by the newspapers and 1528 causes people to hold up their hands. That kind of local disturbance will occur from time to time wherever there is a large collection of high-spirited young men. But all the time that these things are at suitable intervals held up to reprobation, there is another far deeper and more real evil which passes almost altogether unobserved, and that is, that as at present constituted the Universities are to a very large extent not in any serious sense places of study at all. We go about among those whose sons are at the Universities, and it would be comic, if it were not much too serious a matter for comedy, to find how normally it is supposed that the young men go to the Universities to amuse themselves. Our sympathy is constantly asked for Tom or Charles because the poor boy has got to work so hard for an examination, it being manifestly supposed chat this interval of strenuous study—which, when you examine it, you find to be not so very strenuous—is only an unnatural interruption of the more ordinary and normal occupations of that agreeable place of residence. Though we are very familiar with all that, yet if you seriously consider the extent of it, it altogether passes the limits which ought to be tolerated.
There are a vast number of young men who never in any kind of way attain to the position of students—they never acquire the instinct or the power of getting knowledge out of books. The Universities should have far more stringent and effective machinery for getting rid of those who have neither the ability nor the intention of becoming students. This means a very wide reform in the methods of the Universities, but it is only one of the many forms in which the well-to-do classes to-day are being asked whether they mean to take life and its obligations seriously. I believe that if we had this machinery in an effective form for getting rid of those who have no real intention of becoming students, then there would follow easily and inevitably an immense change in the system of examinations and the system of teaching in the Universities. Tutors and other conscientious people have somehow to get these young men through their examinations, and thus it comes about that much too large a part of the energies of the 1529 teaching staffs at Oxford and Cambridge is occupied in getting for these young men knowledge out of books and presenting it to them in a form to which they ought to be required to reduce it for themselves. If those who had no real intention of becoming students were got rid of, the teachers would have more time for study and for the teaching which more properly belongs to a University; and a great deal more teaching power would be liberated for the system of University extension in the real sense—namely, for the purpose of teaching, not popular audiences, but trained and sifted students in different parts of the country, so that the influence of the University might be extended to those who are hungering and thirsting for that sort of knowledge and training which a University is able to supply.
Then I come to another matter, and one which is always thought of prominently when the reform of the Universities is in question—the use of endowments. We are all alive to the fact that the endowments of the colleges were given in very large part for the training of poor students; and we are also alive to the fact that people of very humble origin have been enabled by these endowments to get an education which it would have been beyond the means of their parents to afford, and to rise to the highest place in Church and State and to do the greatest service to their country. I suppose it will not be denied that a very large part of the endowments of scholars and exhibitioners at the present time goes to those who could in any case be at Oxford or Cambridge. It is very difficult even to give any kind of approximate suggestion of the state of things in regard to numbers, but the other day someone well acquainted with both Oxford and Cambridge calculated that two in five of the scholars of the colleges did not in fact need the endowment in order to enable thorn to go there. I do not think it can be denied that the unlimited belief in open competitive examinations which characterised the last Commission has had effects which the reformers of those days never contemplated. Open competition has not really proved to be competition open to all classes; it has given an immense advantage to those whose parents were in a position to supply 1530 them with education of the more expensive kind. As a matter of fact, I expect it would be found that the Universities do less now than they did generations ago to provide the crown of the educational ladder of the country.
There is a large number of people who believe it was a great mistake to destroy altogether the local connections of the colleges, and that it would be an advantage to re-establish them if they were re-established over a wide enough area. If the Universities could get rid of the great body of those who have not the slightest intention of using the University as a place of study, there would be room for the employment of the endowments to do what we should all admit is the highest function of a University—namely, to provide a centre for the educational aspirations and desire for knowledge of the whole country.
It is often said that Englishmen do not believe in knowledge. But there is in every class of Englishmen a very large number of individuals who have a passion for knowledge. The Workers' Educational Association and the Ruskin College at Oxford are signs and evidences that among the working classes there is a very considerable body of people who desire to be students and are capable of becoming students. What we want is that the Universities should be so reorganised and that their endowments should be so used as that, whatever there is of real intellectual aspiration and real desire for knowledge, should find its home and instruction in Oxford and Cambridge; and that, and nothing else, should be the real object which the Universities manifestly exist to serve.
As to the use of post-graduate endowments, there seems to be wide agreement that the system of prize Fellowships as it was established by the last Commission was a mistake—that post-graduate endowments should be used to subsidise either those who are to be teachers or those who are engaged in researches such as are worthy of advanced students. It is a complete misuse of University endowments to give them to young men simply that they may carry them away and tide over the years of briefless barristership or the time before they arc able to get into practice in medicine, or in any other profession. These kind of 1531 exhibitions may be very desirable things, but, if so, they should be supplied from some other quarter than from the endowments of a University
In order to redress the balance between the wealth of the colleges and the poverty of the University the principle has been established that the colleges should contribute to the needs of the University. But there is a widespread idea that certain colleges have in recent years grown very wealthy, and that the subsidies from the colleges to the University are in a number of cases very inadequate. If another Commission were appointed it would be part of the duty of that Commission to inquire into the uses made of the college endowments, as well as the University endowments, and, perhaps, carry further the principle established by the last Commission of contribution from the colleges to the University.
There are other points on which I should like to say a word by way of removing the objection which would undoubtedly be felt with regard to such a proposal as that which I am venturing to make. First of all, it is sometimes said that what we want to do by these proposed reforms is to divert Oxford and Cambridge from the kind of education which they have supplied and fostered and to make them like the Universities of Birmingham or Leeds—that is to say, largely technical and professional. I venture to say that nothing is further from the minds of those who are known as reformers in Oxford and Cambridge. They desire, and I desire, and in my experience those of the working classes who are most interested in this movement desire, that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge should not assimilate themselves to the younger Universities, but should retain that colour and character which merciful traditions have stamped upon them.
Oxford is specially distinguished in the study of philosophy, in literature, and in history. By all means let it be in studies of this kind that Oxford should continue to be distinguished. It is by this kind of studies that it can best do the work the country wants it to do. There is one particular direction of study which I desire to see brought to the front in our old Universities, and that is what I may call political, or social, or economic 1532 science. One chief defect in our public schools is that they have really done as nearly nothing as possible to train young Englishmen in the idea of citizenship. The same thing is true about the Universities. The best of those who are engaged in municipal life feel that the Universities, by their professed and official training, and by the spirit they impress on the men who come out of them, are doing very much less than they might do to supply and enrich municipal and public life.
There will be those who will say, let the Universities reform themselves. Some of those most ardent for reform have written to me saying, We want great and drastic reform, but do not let us have a Commission for a year or two; let the subject be examined and let it be in the air; let the Government announce that it is manifest that such a Commission will be required; but let the Universities have a little time to set their house in order, and do what they can do themselves. If His Majesty's Government think that that kind of delay is desirable, 1 for my part should be wholly in favour of giving the Universities time, under some external stimulus, to do the best for themselves. But in the long run it is quite obvious that if the Universities are to reform themselves there will be points where a commission of inquiry must be necessary; or, at any rate, something must be necessary which prepares the way for legislation, without which some of the most manifestly necessary reforms cannot be accomplished.
Almost the most unjustifiable method of government which could be imagined for a great institution like a University is that which is provided in the ultimate dominance of convocation in the University of Oxford. A miscellaneous body of persons like that are sure to look upon proposed changes with that unwillingness for change which we are all apt to feel towards anything in which we have ourselves been interested and occupied in our youth. They are the very last kind of body to be an effective judge of necessary or unnecessary changes. But that is a matter which cannot be altered without the assistance of Parliament. What I suppose we all desire is that the old Universities should become what 1533 at times in past history they have been—the real centre for the intellectual aspirations and the desire for knowledge of all classes of the community, and that the endowments of the Universities should be used for those whose parents could not otherwise provide for them the advantage of the best training, consecrated by the highest tradition which the country affords. It is because I love Oxford as one only could love it who has passed some sixteen years of his life there, and because I desire that Oxford and Cambridge should again take, or should continue to take, their proper place as the centre of the intellectual aspirations of the whole country, that I put to the noble Earl the Lord President of the Council the Question standing in my name.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL
My Lords, there are two words in the question of the Bishop of Birmingham on which it seems to me necessary that something should be said. The two words are "and Cambridge." Our Chancellor the Duke of Devonshire is not able to be here. I wrote to the one surviving member of the late Cambridge Commission, Lord Rayleigh, to ask him if he could be here, and he replied that he could not. It therefore seemed to fall to me, as having been secretary of that Commission, and having for a number of years had as much as any other single person to do with the work of the Cambridge University, to say something on this occasion.
The impression which was made upon me by the Bishop of Birmingham's speech was that, as far as Cambridge is concerned, the right rev. Prelate must have been exceedingly fast asleep for the last twenty-five or thirty years; and he seems to be still asleep. My object will be to put some facts before your Lordships to show that Cambridge has adapted itself to modern conditions. In reading the Question on the Paper I was very much puzzled by a number of things in it. The right rev. Prelate refers to the Report of the University Commission in 1877. I do not know of any such Report. I remember asking the chairman of the Commission whether we should draw up a Report, and he said "our statutes are our Report." It is true that the Commission was appointed in 1877, but the late 1534 Queen confirmed the Statutes in 1882, and there is a great difference between the two years. The Bishop of Birmingham also speaks of the constituent colleges of the University. That is to me a surprising constitutional position, for the University of Cambridge is independent of the colleges.
Then it is proposed to inquire into our endowment, government, administration, and teaching. No inquiry is wanted in any one of those particulars. I have in my hand a publication, which can be obtained for 3d., where you can see every single detail of the endowments of Cambridge; and a like publication, at the same cost, giving the details of the income and expenditure of all the colleges. As to government, about three pages in the University calendar will tell you all about that; and as to teaching, information is easily available from an interesting little book called the "Students Guide to Cambridge." Therefore I hope that, so far as Cambridge is concerned, His Majesty's Government will not trouble the Commissioners with an inquiry.
I now turn to the great point—namely, that the Universities as at present constituted experience difficulties in adapting themselves to modern conditions. I have been at pains to prepare a list of the various honour examinations in the University of Cambridge, and this shows in what a very large proportion the men now enter for the new triposes as compared with the old, the University having adapted itself to modern conditions. Last year 180 men presented themselves in the two old triposes, mathematics and classics, while 465 men presented themselves in the new triposes. Instead of Cambridge being as the right rev. Prelate suggested, a place for poll men, more than half the whole number of men belonging to that year took their degree in an honours tripos. The relative numbers are interesting. Dealing only with Part I. of such triposes as have two parts in two successive years, seventy-three men came out in the mathematical tripos (the number was 140 in Lord Courtney's year, 1855), ninety-six in the classical, four in moral science, 137 in natural sciences, thirty-four in theology, ninety-two in law, fifty-nine in history, four in oriental 1535 languages, ten in mediæval and modern languages, twenty-seven in mechanical sciences, and five in economics; 541 men in all. In the more advanced and specialised parts of four triposes which have two parts, the men of one or two years higher standing came out to the number of ninety-four. Besides these more advanced parts of triposes, we have that which the right rev. Prelate desiderated, a very close link with research. In the last ten years, of the many men who have devoted themselves to post-graduate study and research, sixty-six have passed through a complete course and have received their certificates as "advanced research students," forty-seven of them in the very costly laboratories, and nineteen in other fields of research,
I should like to give a little information in regard to the two latest triposes— mechanical science and economics. The buildings of the mechanical science department now contain lecture-room accommodation which seats about 360 students simultaneously, a drawing office for a class of ninety, two rooms for elementary heat and mechanics, a boiler-room, an engine-room with ten heat-engines of different types, arranged so that the measurement of all quantities concerned may be systematically made by the students, a large room for dealing with strength of materials and with hydraulics, a dynamo-room fitted with various kinds of dynamos, a motor-room fitted with motors of all the usual types, and several other rooms for special purposes. That sounds to me rather like modern conditions, and I cannot imagine that the Bishop of Birmingham is aware of all these things. As to economics, the most recent of all the triposes, I will give a list of what may be studied there. The advanced portion of it includes such subjects as modern methods of production, transport, and marketing, trusts, the recent development of joint-stock companies, railway and shipping organisation and rates, banking systems, stock exchanges, foreign exchanges, investment markets, international aspects of credit and currency, tariffs, and so on. That, again, sounds to me fairly modern.
In addition we have boards for Indian Civil servants and for Foreign Service students; for agricultural sciences, with professors and readers and diplomas; geo- 1536 graphical studies, military studies, mining engineering with diplomas, forestry, and, for teachers, a day training college. Besides this we have our hands upon all the various classes of the community, so far as education is concerned, to whom the Bishop of Birmingham referred. By means of affiliated colleges and local lectures—the local lectures were instituted by Cambridge for the special purpose of doing precisely what the Bishop of Birmingham has described—we send skilled men from Cambridge, accustomed to teach there, down to the great centres, and there students are collected to whom these men lecture exactly as they lecture in their own college or University rooms. That has had the most wonderful effect in drawing the University and various classes of the community together. A little time before we did that there was a proposal that one or two of the Cambridge colleges should be suppressed and the funds devoted to a big centre in the Midlands or elsewhere; but the result of two or three years working of local centres was this, that if anyone proposed to touch any of the old institutions in Cambridge, those very people who had been clamouring for the money would say, "No, we will have the prestige of the University maintained."
The examination of Public Schools and the local examinations cover all the secondary, and very much of the higher, education; and the training of teachers touches down to the elementary school teachers, and gives them two or three terms at least at the University. How in the world the University, or any body in existence, or that could be introduced, could have its hand more completely on all classes of the community so far as education is concerned I am at a loss to conceive. To such an extent is our external work carried that last year the syndicate of which I was secretary for a great many years had passed through its hands no less a sum than 31,000, received from local examinations and lectures, and disbursed to examiners, lecturers, and so on. That is in itself no small testimony to the fact that we have in a most remarkable degree got our hands educationally on all classes of the community
We have heard a good deal about large endowments Last year I find that the 1537 endowment of the University of Cambridge from its own property, which it can spend as it will, is half as much again as when I left the University, and that it has now reached the large sum of £1,965 6s. 4d. The quarterly payments from members are £14,500—the right rev. Prelate spoke with contempt of non-residents; I do not feel contempt for £14,500 a year—fees for degrees £28,000; and oddments £1,000; which, with £30,300 received from the colleges, make altogether a total receipt of £75,000 or £76,000. There are besides trust funds for various professorships, scholarships, studentships, and prizes. The estates of the Colleges produce £220,000. while fees, rent of rooms, etc., amount to £90,000. The estate management of that £220,000 cost only 7 per cent., but the management, rates, taxes, improvements, and cost of the great national monuments, which the College buildings are, come to £130,000. This leaves a net amount for all purposes of £180,000. Of this, scholarships absorb £32,000. The. Bishop of Birmingham said that the two Commissions had done much harm in alienating and really putting into the hands of wealthy people the scholarship fund which was meant for the poor, and thus deprived poor men of the advantages of a University education. It was not the Commissioners who did that. The mischief was done when the country grammar schools were deprived of the right to teach Greek during school hours, and thus ceased to be feeders of the Universities. In the old times, whenever a poor man's son was found to have marked ability, a local school was available and he was passed on to the University. In this way the nation gained some of the ablest men in history. It was not the Commissioners who altered that
As to scholarships and fellowships falling to the sons of wealthy parents, it was a statute of the Commissioners that those who did not need the emoluments might surrender them, while retaining the honour that they had won. I repudiate the suggestion, as far as Cambridge was concerned, that the Commissioners took what was intended for the poor and gave it to the rich. They devoted much time and most sympathetic consideration to the remedy of the evil which they found established. But there 1538 must always be a difficulty in taking poverty into account in an examination. The Master of Trinity declared that it was impossible, "for,"said he,"how much poverty makes up for a false quantity?" The average emolument of the heads of houses is £882, and that of the Fellows is £200. Nor is this the result of agricultural depression. I only held my fellowship for two years, for in those days it was thought worth while to surrender a fellowship for a wife. In my first year I received a pound or two less than £200, and in my second year a pound or two more, and I had to pay for everything I ate and drank out of that sum, so that these things are not the enormous prizes they are supposed to be.
The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham spoke of the Commissioners having created a system of prize fellowships. It is not the case that the Commissioners created prize fellowships. They cut them down. Before the Commission, a man could get his fellowship, go out of residence, never come near the college again, and draw the income of his fellowship all his life. The Cambridge Commission cut that down to six years. There are few prize fellowships now, and they are becoming fewer. Out of forty fellows in two colleges only two are non-resident, and one of these two was lately elected to a, professorship in another University, so his could not be a very bad case.
It is to be remembered that an enormous army of college servants has to be maintained, and on this item alone £34,000 a year has to be spent. Altogether a balance of £32,000 is left of the income of the colleges, and of that sum £30,000 goes to the University.
My object has been served if I have at all shown that we in Cambridge at least have adapted ourselves, even under our supposed restrictions and limitations to modern conditions. Indeed, I cannot conceive that it is possible to adapt ourselves more to modern conditions than we have done. But if His Majesty's Government determines to issue a Commission to Cambridge, it will be received, not only respectfully, but willingly; for a Commission may cut some knots which the University cannot, or will not, cut for itself. One of these is the question of Greek. Science students ought to be allowed to pass their 1539 examinations without a knowledge of Greek. As to voting in the Senate, it is seldom that the non-residents take any part at all. For twenty-one years I myself drafted every regulation with regard to the external work of the University, all being in direction of progress, and in no single case was there a vote in the Senate against any of those regulations. Only this morning the chief creator of the important school of mechanical sciences told me that his experience was exactly the same.
I only desire His Majesty's Government to be quite clear that a Commission to inquire is not wanted at Cambridge. All the facts are known. The stricter and closer the reference, and the shorter the time during which the University is kept in a state of unrest, the better. I suggest a small statutory Commission which would be able to make statutes having the force of law. It should be composed of experts who are not faddists, and who have full sympathy for the new as well as full respect for the old. The Government would, I trust, issue two Commissions, one for Oxford, and one for Cambridge. Let them give the Bishop of Birmingham all he asks for; but not one-tenth part is necessary for Cambridge. The Government might well, in grateful recognition of the remarkable manner in which Cambridge has adapted itself, in spite of restricted means, to modern conditions, reply to this question that they will secure to the University an additional £75,000 a year.
My Lords, in spite of what the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Bristol has said, I think there is need for a thorough and searching examination by a Royal Commission. If I am rightly informed compulsory Greek is required at Cambridge—against the wishes of the more enlightened graduates who reside there—by the Bœotians of the University, by men who earn their living by teaching Greek in other places, and who, as protectionists of their own trade, are desirous of seeing the study of that fetish enforced on all undergraduates so as to prevent their wares becoming unsaleable.
These Bœotians form the most mischievous trade union in the United Kingdom, and it would pay this country 1540 well to double the emoluments of nine-tenths of the teachers of the Greek language on condition of their abandoning their profession, as they cannot exercise it without wasting the valuable time of the flower of our youth. Furthermore, I consider that the greatest enemies of Greek culture are those who make use of Greek poetry in teaching Greek grammar, thereby causing its beauty to be lost in a jungle of rules unknown to Homer or to Sophocles. These rules have mostly been invented by men who could neither speak nor pronounce correctly a word of the language they presumed to teach
The injury to education caused by this universal study of dead languages extends far beyond the limits of Oxford and Cambridge. Public schools chiefly prepare for the Universities whether the parents wish their sons to go on to one of them or not. Private schools prepare in like manner for the public schools. The result is that thousands of boys have their minds cribbed, cabined, and confined, because other boys wish to compete for scholarships. They are thus specialised for the Church and the Bar at an early age, contrary to the wishes of many of their parents, so that later in life they find themselves heavily handicapped when they come into competition with men who have been educated at what are considered to be lower grade schools.
The chief advantage of what is called a classical education consists in the acquisition of a knowledge of history. This is generally taught concurrently with the dead languages. It is much to be regretted that technical and middle-class schools so seldom give their pupils sufficient opportunities and inducements to learn history. If every voter knew something of the political successes and failures of other nations and of their causes, this country would be much better governed. The man who has studied history has a large fund of human experiences to draw upon in addition to his own. It is the knowledge of history that distinguishes the statesman from the politician and the stump orator. I do not wish the teachers of dead languages to starve, and I think that there is an opening for them if they would undertake the task of teaching history. To paraphrase the words of an old holiday song—Let them cease to teach the dog dog-latin; but continue to tell the cat of Catiline.1541 Professor Ewing, Director of Naval Education, wrote as follows in The Times on the 3rd March, 1905—We were approached at Cambridge by a gentleman who wished to found a Professorship of Naval Architecture and endow it liberally, with the fullest equipment for experimental work. Such a Chair would have been an element of strength in the University. It would have been a great national possession. But he withdrew when he learnt that students could not be admitted with the prospect of graduating except under conditions which it is now sought to modify.Think what naval architecture! is to this country, how our food supply, our commerce, and all that makes us an independent nation, is contingent upon our finding the right solution of many problems of naval architecture! Is it a study to be discouraged at Cambridge for the sake of those non-resident Bœotians, who are too groovy to allow other people to learn anything new ? Are they afraid of the students of naval architecture describing dead languages as the "barnacles" of education?
I have no doubt that some Athenians studied ancient Egyptian just as a few persons in England study it now, but I cannot find that either Solon, Themistocles, or Socrates ever insisted that the builders and designers of Athenian triremes should be examined as to their knowledge of the cuneiform literature of the Babylonians, or forced to translate into Greek passages from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, before they were allowed to exercise their profession at the Piræ us. Although the ancient Greeks did many silly things they were too wise to do that. They do not appear to have studied foreign languages much, but to have been content with their own. Unfortunately, many teachers of dead languages still do what they can to show their contempt of the English language, and insult their mother tongue by calling it the vulgar tongue. They forget that they are living in the reign of Edward VII., and talk as if they were living in the reign of Edward VI. when there was scarcely any English literature. In consequence of this many men who have spent years at public schools are unable to express themselves clearly or correctly in their own language. The results of the Army examinations are a sufficient proof of this.
1542 Greek scholarship has also inflicted other injuries on education. For instance, it has invented a number of scientific terms derived from that language when plain English words would have been more suitable. Students of Greek have thus done their best to make the sciences more of a mystery, and to increase the difficulties connected with their study. In future I hope that they will confine themselves to inventing names for hair-restorers and other patented articles
As long as attendance at lectures is insisted on at Universities it would seem more reasonable to make a knowledge of shorthand compulsory instead of a knowledge of Greek. Unless a young man has unusual powers of memory he may attend lecture after lecture and remember very little, and if he attempts to write notes in the ordinary manner he runs a great risk of missing subsequent points of importance and of losing the thread of the lecturer's argument. If, however, it were decreed that in seven years time a knowledge of shorthand would be required at Universities, boys would be taught it at schools at an age when memory is at its best and the mind is like an unbaked brick ready to receive any impression. Then they would be able to acquire knowledge at the University with greater rapidity. As, however, shorthand is useful in after life its study would probably be anathema to the professor whose highest ideal in life is to meditate on an ancient Greek tragedy seated in a modern easy chair, sub tegmine fagi.
How can we expect to be able to hold our own in the twentieth century in industry, war, or commerce, if we educate all the sons of the well-to-do on theories based on the dreams of ancient tragedians, thereby giving them no time to acquire modern knowledge? The Japanese waste no time on dead languages. How can we hold our own against them in any walk of life if we deliberately waste the time of our youth? Some men are wont to point to the careers of certain statesmen of marked ability as a proof of what their respective colleges can do in the way of practical education. But if they were to take a tour round our Colonies and look at their far more 1543 numerous failures it might put them into a more humble frame of mind. We ought to discontinue specialising for the Church and the Bar at an early age, and leave Greek and Latin to be taught later to those intended for those professions. When the Act for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children comes up for revision I hope that clauses will be added to it making the taking of money for teaching Latin to children under the age of nine and Greek to children under the age of twelve offences punishable by a month's imprisonment without the option of a fine. Both Houses of Parliament have of late spent much time on questions connected with the education of the poorer classes. I wish that they would spend one-tenth of the time in dealing with questions connected with secondary and University education.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF HEREFORD:
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I desire, very briefly, to associate myself with the appeal of the Bishop of Birmingham, and like the right rev. Prelate I speak exclusively as an Oxford man. Oxford and Cambridge men are sufficiently conscious of each others infirmities, but we are not always very familiar with each others needs; and therefore I feel that anything I say should be taken as having reference to Oxford alone. The Bishop of Birmingham represents to your Lordships to-night more particularly what we might call the younger Oxford, and I cannot but congratulate Oxford on the enthusiasm for improvement and reform which is to be found there among the younger generation.
I speak as a somewhat older man. I entered the University of Oxford in 1854, when the great Commission had just concluded its labours, and I was the first Fellow elected in my college under the new statutes. I have felt all through my life that I could never be sufficiently grateful to the men who, in Parliament and in the University itself, conferred on the University and the nation the inestimable fruits of the work done by that Commission, such men as MR. Gladstone and Lord John Russell, Dr. Tait, MR. Jeune, Mark Pattison, Jowett, and in particular Arthur Stanley and Goldwin Smith. As MR. Mark Pattison well said, the progress 1544 and good influence of Oxford were greater during the succeeding twenty years than they had been during the previous 200 years, and I do not think that anyone who has made a study of Oxford life would for a moment doubt the truth of that statement.
And now to-day, through the Bishop of Birmingham, we ask His Majesty's Government to consider whether the time has not come for a new Commission in view of the vast changes that have come about in almost every department of English life during the last half-century. That period, in Oxford as well as in Cambridge, has been one of very active internal reform and marvellous progress, so that the Oxford of to-day is an entirely different place from the Oxford of sixty years ago. I hope that all who take note of our appeal on this occasion will remember that fact, and will by no means underrate the amount of internal reform which has taken place. It would be quite impossible for any foreign visitor to pass the sort of verdict on the University of Oxford which was passed by a distinguished German visitor sixty years since, who said—Oxford cannot be considered a place of research. We cannot look upon it as a home of scientific education. It is not even distinguished as a home of liberal education, but it has one remarkable and unique distinction—it is a training place for gentlemen—and he added, with a touch of malice it may be,especially for Tory gentlemen.Whatever may have been the case with Oxford then, that is not a verdict which could be passed to-day. We who are approaching His Majesty's Government in the hope of a Commission being issued by and by—not immediately—must be understood to come with a full consciousness of the vast amount of good progressive work which has been done.
But while many reforms have been brought about, yet we feel, as the Bishop of Birmingham has put it, that there are a great many important particulars in which it is not possible for a University to reform itself. Reform from within any institution is very difficult if not impossible, and it is almost always inadequate. With regard to Oxford there are a large number of most far-reaching and important changes which can only be made through legislative action from 1545 outside. I will indicate two or three of them by way of selection. There is, first of all. the entrance examination, which really determines a great part of the secondary education of the country. The entrance examination at Oxford simply consists of a rather miserable modicum of arithmetic with a little Euclid or algebra, of a book or two of some classic, the elements of Latin and Greek accidence, and the never-to-be-forgotten attempts at Latin prose. That examination is a survival from early or mediæval times which no one would think of establishing now; and yet the University finds it very difficult, in its relation to the colleges, to alter it. One of the fundamental reforms we might expect from a Royal Commission would be that new subjects of study would be recognised, and Greek would disappear as a compulsory subject. Then, I think the pass examination a bad system, because the student works to attain only a minimum standard of knowledge, and it would be more beneficial if in every University examination students had the opportunity of winning some mark of distinction. To my mind, the passman ought to have no existence in the University. He should be transformed by this offer of distinction
As to endowments, I wish to associate myself with every word that the Bishop of Birmingham said as to the waste of endowments on scholarships at present. Many of those scholarships go, not to the most deserving, not to those who, if they had the opportunity, would do the greatest service to the nation, but to those who, from the circumstances of their homes, have been provided with the most expensive education, who have been, so to speak, over-trained during the early years in most expensive establishments, and in many cases these men could have gone to the University without the aid of scholarships, which wore in most cases intended only for poor and deserving men.
One of the greatest mistakes made by the Commission of 1852 was the throwing open to the unrestricted competition of all the counties of England of endowments and scholarships intended as a stimulus to learning in certain districts. This took away from many able boys the opportunity of obtaining the kind of education which might have made them very valu- 1546 able servants of the State. Then further a Commission would deal with the whole question of higher education of women, and also, of course, with the powers of convocation and possibly the vexed question of Parliamentary representation
Probably the most important work the Commission would have to do would deal with the relations to be established between the old Universities and the new city Universities which have sprung up, and, through them, with the new democracy. How are the ancient Universities to be brought into closer touch with the leading elements in the new democracy represented in the great labour movement? A Commission would find some very interesting problems in this connection, and the discussion that would be raised throughout the country would be of the highest value to future education. MR. Chamberlain has, intentionally or unintentionally, done very great service in effecting two great revolutions in English life. When he raised the flag of tariff reform ho split his own Party, but he set the nation thinking, and started flowing a new wave of liberal progress. That was one revolution; the other was the foundation of Birmingham University. Each of them has been directly or indirectly beneficent. By establishing the University of Birmingham as the centre and crown of the life of a great city MR. Chamberlain destroyed the idea of a federal University, which had prevailed in the Midlands and the North of England, and every great city became ambitious to have its own University—Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, and Bristol MR. Chamberlain has done very great service to the nation by creating in English cities this new interest in higher education, and by setting flowing this interest through every grade of the community. He has affected and influenced the life of all in the new democracy—raising them with new hopes, new expectations, new ambitions. That was one of the greatest services lately done to English life.
But these new city Universities are still in their infancy. We have not yet had time to know with any certainty what sort of relationship they ought to bear towards the older Universities. We may have our visions, but we have not yet had sufficient experience. I have a vision of all these city Universities being 1547 connected by an open high road of communication, and of students passing from one to the other, following some famous teacher or to study some special subject under the most favourable circumstances, so that we may have an education such as we have never had before. But as yet they are very young, and as I hold that this relationship is by far the most important part of what would be the work of the new Commission, I am not in a very great hurry to have such a Commission. I should be quite content to have it next year or the year after; but I do hope that, for the good of the future education of England, before he leaves his office the Lord President of the Council will take care that this new Commission shall be set on foot to take in hand this most important part of the educational work of the people, for the happiness of the generations to come.
§ *LORD BURGHCLERE:
My Lords, I hope I may be allowed for a few minutes, as a layman and a supporter of His Majesty's Government, to associate myself with those who hope that Ministers will hesitate before advising the Sovereign to appoint the Commission asked for, at any rate at the present moment. I should not have risen at all had it not been for the concluding words of the Bishop of Birmingham. At the commencement of his speech the right rev. Prelate indicated, I thought, that he would be content with the appointment of a Commission some two or three years hence, but at the conclusion of his speech he spoke of its appointment in the near future. I am certain that there is no one on either side of the House who has been at Oxford or Cambridge who is not anxious for any inquiry which would lead to the greater educational efficiency of the two Universities, or would in any way help them in their financial straits; but I hope that if His Majesty's Government consent to recommend this Commission they will not do so for at least two or three years.
I should like to be allowed to say a few words in defence of that class, I mean the passmen, who have been spoken of somewhat disdainfully. I have had amongst my friends some of those who have won the highest honours in the great Universities, but I venture to think that a University composed of senior wranglers and senior classics would 1548 not have its due effect upon the life and character of the nation. The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham spoke of strenuous work. Strenuous work leads to knowledge, but character alone leads to wisdom; and I venture to think it is in the atmosphere of these ancient Universities that many of our most useful citizens learn what character means. Surely it is amongst those who have not perhaps attained to the highest standard of learning the right rev. Prelate desires, but who bear away from the Universities that impress of character they so often give, that we find those useful citizens who fill voluntarily and with so much efficiency the minor administrative offices of the State. I therefore think with all submission there is something to be said even for the despised class referred to by the right rev. Prelate
There is another reason why I venture to hope His Majesty's Government will not consent to the immediate appointment of this Commission. Your Lordships well know that the revenues of Oxford and Cambridge have not of late years been absolutely sufficient for their needs. Appeals have been made by the Chancellors of both Universities in order to meet that deficiency by private effort—by the Duke of Devonshire as Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and by Lord Curzon as Chancellor of the University of Oxford. One subject for inquiry by the Commission will doubtless be how you are further to tax the endowments of the colleges so as to aid the Universities as a whole and the prospect of such an increment of their revenues may well check the generosity of the outside subscriber. In my opinion the financial needs of the Universities cannot be supplied either by further taxing the endowments of the colleges or from subscriptions from private purses alone. They really want to get both. If this Commission is appointed at once the effect may be to stop, or at all events to diminish, the flow from private purses. Private subscriptions should be allowed to come in first. I therefore hope His Majesty's Government will pause before recommending the appointment of this Commission at the present moment, because by doing so they may unconsciously injure the educational prospects of the two Universities.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF OXFORD
My Lords, I will not detain the House long, but before I hold my present office I had the privilege of living for thirty years in Oxford, and I therefore hope I may be allowed to say a few words in this discussion. I should like to confirm what fell from the Bishop of Hereford with regard to the claim that we can make for Oxford, that in the matter of bringing itself up to modern requirements it really has kept pace with the University of Cambridge in the brilliant career which the Bishop of Bristol has described. We have not the finest Chinese library, and I am not certain that it is really necessary, nor have we what sounded in the Bishop of Bristol's speech like a sort of scientific garage. But, speaking generally, great changes have taken place in Oxford, and generous efforts have been made to bring the University as nearly as possible to the level of the advancing requirements of the time. I think there is no real indifference in Oxford in that regard. I have heard complaints made that working in Oxford was like pursuing study in a house that always had workmen about, so ceaselessly active were we in developing this and that modern method of education. I do not think we have been so fast asleep as people sometimes imagine.
I wish to say a word with regard to one special point in the Bishop of Birmingham's speech. He spoke of his great desire that endowments which were originally intended for the benefit of poor scholar should be now so used; and with that desire I associate myself most heartily. But I cannot help thinking that the Bishop of Birmingham has underrated the degree to which that is already secured. He spoke of there being two-fifths of those who now hold scholarships who could go to the University without such assistance. That is 40 per cent. Another estimate which has been made with some care reduces the number to 10 per cent. I am not prepared to insist upon 10 per cent. as being quite accurate, but if 10 per cent. understates the number I think 40 per cent. overstates it. Whatever needs to be done in that regard can be done by the colleges, and I do not think that if the need is clear the colleges will be slow to do it. If it can be shown that there is a considerable number of really necessitous 1550 men able to benefit by University education, I do not believe that it would be withheld. The colleges could themselves in certain conditions pass statutes which, receiving the approval of the King in Council and of Parliament, have the force of law, and therefore without any fresh legislation that great and salutary change, if it be needed, can be brought about
As to the Bishop of Birmingham's indictment against us of idleness, I will not attempt to deny that there is a great deal of pleasure-making in Oxford, and I will not deny that there is a certain amount of idleness. But we must not put that down for blame to the University. We must consider one great source of encouragement towards idleness to which the Bishop of Birmingham himself dramatically pointed. He spoke of the language which you will hear in many homes—language of compassionate regret that the son of the house is called away so seriously from the important avocations of cricket and football by unreasonable claims that he should work. I think that that language is sometimes hurtful, and I think that the feeling which lies behind that language—the exaggerated enthusiasm for athletics—has really a very great deal to do with the idleness of which the Bishop of Birmingham complained. All through, at private school and public school, and at the University, the boy knows that it is a very close thing whether he will be bringing more delight home if he can say that ho has got a prize or if he can say that he has got into "the eleven." I think there is very little doubt that "the eleven" would sweep the board; and as long as that is the state of mind in the homos of England you must not wonder that in the public schools or the University there is the same thing. At all events, that the Universities do not generate it I am sure. Then I wish to associate myself with the plea for the passman. There is a certain amount of intellectual Pharisaism in the way that people talk about the passman: and it was with a shudder that I heard from the Bishop of Hereford the bold statement that the passman should be abolished.
*THE LORD BISHOP OF OXFORD
I am afraid the passman would come to an 1551 end if the examination were abolished. If you speak of waste of time it is not the passman who does all that. The honour man, who might get a first and gets a third, who might learn to think and only learns to talk, who might really get hold of great authors and stays on the surface of them and writes cleverly about them—he is wasting his time, his gifts, his wits, far worse than the industrious passman, who really gets hold of as good an education as he could. I would plead for the passman that he goes out from that complex process of University education very well qualified to do his work in life. Up and down England many of the men who are doing the best public service were passmen. When the Bishop of Birmingham speaks of the great need of developing in a University the study of social science I feel that we might have learned at the University very much more to guide us in regard to many problems than we did. But I feel also that very many men now learn how to think, they learn how to keep their tempers, they learn to work with others, they learn to do justice to other people's convictions; and if you imperil that kind of learning you had better be very sure that you have got something better to put in its place.
With regard to the appointment of a Commission, I do not for a moment deny that changes may be necessary, and I would be most sorry to separate myself from the educational enthusiasm which has been expressed by those who prompt the desire for a Commission. Only I have been anxious for two things—first, that justice should be done to the Universities as they are, and to the men that they now turn out; and, secondly, that a Commission should not be appointed without due weight being given to the enormous expense of time and trouble that will be involved.
§ *THE EARL OF CREWE
My Lords, I think it cannot be disputed that the subject which was brought before your Lordships' House with so much power by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham is one which comes home to many of us as a subject of the first interest. Very many of us—I should think the majority of us—studied, or otherwise, either at Oxford or at Carn- 1552 bridge, and this discussion brings back to us the days when we too—vexed the souls of deans,And caught the blossom of the Hying terms.' There is no doubt that for some time what may be called University reform has been in the air. That is due to a variety of causes. The fields of study have been widely expanded in the manner so fully described by the Bishop of Bristol. Then there has been the up-springing of the new provincial Universities with all their consequences; and there has within the last few years been impressed upon the public mind the whole question of University extension and the methods by which the endowments of the Universities can in some way be applied for the benefit of those poorer citizens of this country for whom, as has been so truly said, they were originally intended. And of late the matter has been brought to something of a focus by the publication of a series of interesting letters in The Times, written by Oxford tutors, which have been republished in pamphlet form under the title of "Oxford and the Nation."
I do not propose, in the few words I have to say, to enter into any of the details of the work as it is now carried on at either of the two great Universities. Still less do I propose to make any comparison between the work of Oxford and Cambridge respectively, or the progress that those Universities have made. As a loyal Cambridge man, I know that comparison could have but one result. On the other hand, the noble Marquess opposite, an equally loyal Oxford man, would no doubt arrive at entirely different conclusions. What I have to do, on behalf of the Government, is simply to answer the question as to whether the Government is prepared to advise His Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the affairs of the two Universities.
The appointment of a Commission is urged upon various grounds. We are told that it is important to deal with the problems of study, both as regards the nature of the different studies carried on, and what I may call the financial side of the question—such matters as scholarships and prize fellowships. Then, again, it is urged that the relations between each University and its colleges, and 1553 between college and college —with special reference, of course, to endowments —demands a close inquiry. We are reminded too, that it is almost thirty years since the last Commission sat, and that even if the Universities desired to reform them selves from within, yet it would not be possible for them to do so without the intervention of a Royal Commission And it is further pointed out that the very work of the last Commission has in some cases proved to be pf an actually hampering nature, and that the errors into which as human beings the Commissioners in some cases naturally fell could only be set right by legislation founded on the report of a further Commission.
Those are the reasons for which we arc told that a Commission ought to be appointed. On the other hand, certain objections have been made, both in the course of the debate and outside. Lord Burghclere dealt with the question of appeals for money. He specially alluded to the requests which have been publicly made by the Chancellors of both Universities for those who have been educated at each respectively to come to their aid. They no doubt bear in mind the fact that if such a movement is to succeed it must be to some extent of a national character, because the old Universities cannot make those appeals to local patriotism which have been responded to so freely in the case of the newer Universities. I have no doubt, also, that they compare the state of things somewhat sadly with what obtains in the United States, where it is estimated that during the last thirty years £48,000,000 sterling have been privately subscribed for the benefit of the Universities of America. And my noble friend argued that, if we were now to accede to the request for the appointment of a Royal Commission, the flow of money which has come in to some extent, and which, it is hoped, will come in to a greater extent, would be, if not stopped altogether, seriously checked.
Then, again, the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down spoke of the delay which would be caused by the appointment of a Royal Commission in carrying on what I may call the ordinary progress of the University, and the state of uncertainty which would arise, hampering the every-day work either of Oxford or Cambridge to a very considerable extent.
1554 I have been reminded of a case in which a college at one of the Universities desired to amend its statutes in 1875 and was prevented from doing so on he ground that a Royal Commission was shortly to be appointed, with the result that the statutes were, as a matter of fact, not actually amended until the year 1882, a delay of seven years, when the statutes of the Royal Commission passed through Parliament
Further, it is urged against the appointment of a Royal Commission that, although it is true, as stated, I think, by the Bishop of Bristol, that there are certain things in the direction of allowing greater flexibility to colleges and Universities which the new Commission might effect by undoing what has been done by the last one, still you cannot have any guarantee that the Royal Commission would undertake that duty, and that it might imitate its predecessor in making very distinct and positive suggestions which would have to be carried out, and some of which might prove, as former ones have proved, to be erroneous and unfortunate. And, again, we have been told that really more time is wanted to watch the effect upon our national life and our education generally of the foundation of the now Universities. It is urged that it is only after some experience of their work that we can decide what place Oxford and Cambridge really ought to take in our national life. Everyone will, I think, agree that we do not wish these Universities to plunge into a competition of science and technology with such Universities as those of Leeds and Birmingham, and consequently we are asked to wait in order to see what the next few years at any rate may bring.
Those are the various opposing views which are set before his Majesty's Government. I may remind the House that the Government, as such, has only had the opportunity of considering this matter at all since the right rev. Prelate placed his notice on the Paper, which. I think, was some ten days ago, and we certainly do feel that the appointment of a Royal Commission, like other important events in life, is one which is not to be undertaken lightly or inadvisedly. We have, as a matter of fact, only what I may call casual evidence of the feeling which actually exists either at Oxford or 1555 Cambridge, such intimations as people have been kind enough to send before this debate began, and we have also learned much from what the various speakers in the course of the discussion itself have said.
But it is important for us, before arriving at a final conclusion, to know what the most thoughtful and the most competent opinion at both Universities really demands, and we also must either inform ourselves or be informed exactly what the Universities cannot do of their own motion and for what purpose legislation would be required on the recommendation of a Commission, and we should also desire to be informed as to whether there does exist at the Universities anything, like a deadweight of obstruction against reforms which is of a character which could only be removed by statute. Consequently, therefore, we desire time to consider this matter in the light of the best information which we can receive, and we look with confidence for help and suggestions as to the best methods of proceeding from those of both Universities who are most competent to give it.
In the meantime I am quite confident that this discussion will of itself have done good and have been useful. This is one of the subjects on which, in Carlyle's famous phrase, "we differ only in opinion." Happily, no political questions enter into the discussion, Neither, I am happy to think, do any theological differences arise. It is merely a question of honest differences of opinion as to what is the best way to proceed in order to do what we all wish to be done; and certainly it does seem to mo that the best minds of those who are either at the Universities, or who are interested in the Universities cannot possibly be applied to: a higher object than that of putting! these ancient homes of learning, which many of us so deeply venerate, with all their splendid traditions, to the fullest possible use, and, where necessary, of bringing them, into closer conformity with the needs of the country, and with what, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, is the truest conception of learning as it should exist to-day.
§ *The Marquess of LANSDOWNE
My Lords, if 1 agree, as I do, with the conclusion which has been arrived at by 1556 the noble Earl, it is certainly not because I remain unmoved by the speech in which the Bishop of Birmingham introduced this subject to your Lordships this evening. All who had the privilege of listening to that speech will, I think, agree with me when I say that it was one of the most eloquent appeals to which we have over listened, and a speech which, of itself, is a very notable contribution to the cause of University reform—a speech of which 1 would almost say that, if you could take it at its present value, it may do more to advance the cause of University reform than the announcement that a Royal Commission might be appointed, let us say, somewhere about the year 1910, with the prospect that the public would have its report before it somewhere about the year 1915.
This evening's debate raises many important questions, questions with which I certainly shall not attempt to deal at length in the few words I have to say—Do the old Universities need reform? If so, in what direction should we look for such reform? Is a Royal Commission the best mode of bringing about such reform? And, if so, should such a Commission be appointed now or hereafter? With regard to the need for reform, I am quite ready to accept what fell from the Bishop of Birmingham when he told us that immense changes had taken place during recent years in the higher education of this country, and that it was necessary for Oxford and Cambridge to take their proper place in the new order of things. That is freely admitted by all whose opinion is worth having as representatives of the older Universities. Such reforms might have relation to the constitution of the Univeristies, to the relations of the Universities and the colleges, to the widening of the scope of University studios, to the encouragement of research, and to similar matters
In regard to all those there is no doubt much to be done, but I was very glad when I heard the right rev. Prelate tell us that he had no desire to assimilate the old Universities too closely with the more modern institutions with which we are familiar in other parts of the country. I trust, that, whatever is done the old Universities will be allowed to retain something of that distinctive character which, after all, has rendered them famous throughout the civilised world 1557 and that no attempt will be made to place them upon exactly the same footing as those technical and professional Universities which have been brought into existence with such admirable results in other parts of the country.
The only point on which I feel inclined to complain of the right rev. Prelate was when he took the old Universities to task because they did not instil into their students a sufficient appreciation of the duties of citizenship. It is quite true that the old Universities have no special chairs whose duty it is to inculcate the proper functions of a British citizen, but I do think that we have a right to claim that the men who have passed out into the world through the portals of Oxford and Cambridge have carried with them as strong a sense and as high a standard of the duties of citizenship as youths educated in any other institution in the United Kingdom. It would not, I think, be very difficult to point to the cases of those who, all over the world, as well as at home, are, and have been, upholding the honour and reputation of this country and to trace amongst them men who owe whatever qualities and character they possess to the education which they have received as youths at Oxford or Cambridge.
Then I ask the question —If it be admitted that reforms are necessary, is the appointment of a Royal Commission the best mode of obtaining such reform? I agree with the Lord President in thinking that the appointment of a Royal Commission is not a thing to be lightly undertaken, and I should be extremely sorry to see such a Commission precipitately and without the fullest consideration imposed upon a reluctant University. We are of ten told, and sometimes there is a trace of truth in the statement, that Royal Commissions are appointed when a particularly tough and difficult subject has to be disposed of and when it is not altogether convenient to those concerned to dispose of it or pronounce an opinion on it at the time. Without suggesting that the appointment of a Commission in this case would be merely a means of shelving the difficulty, I do suggest that such an inquiry could scarcely fail to be one of great length, and, while it was proceeding, it would certainly arrest altogether that movement in favour of reform which, I believe, is proceeding at 1558 this moment with excellent results in both Universities. There is always this risk, too—that the Royal Commission might issue a Report which would be thoroughly inconclusive, representing the views of a number of different authorities who had arrived at some lame and impotent compromise, of no great use for the guidance of Parliament.
There is some force in the argument that the appointment of a Commission would arrest the progress of reform, because it would be untrue to suggest that nothing is being done to bring about reforms at this moment. At Oxford of late years there has been an extremely liberal expenditure on buildings, many new lectureships have been founded, new courses of study have been introduced, students have been admitted from outside in much greater number, attempts have been made to promote research, and, lastly, I would call attention to the fact that the candidates for local examination have increased to an enormous extent. In 1877 the numbers were 2,300; in 1906 they were no fewer than 16,200. Therefore it would be altogether unjust to Oxford to represent her as though she were a sort of Sleepy Hollow in which the spirit of reform did not in any way prevail. It would be still more unjust to suggest that the general attitude of the University authorities is one of obstruction to the cause of reform
There is one other matter connected with Oxford which it is not inappropriate to mention. The Chancellorship of the University has lately been assumed by a distinguished statesman, a courageous administrator if ever there was one, and one who is not likely to fail in his duties on account of excessive timidity. He is already engaged in an effort to improve the financial position of the University. Your Lordships are well aware of the great financial difficulties which the Universities have lately encountered. In both Universities a determined effort is being made to appeal to the public for an amount of pecuniary assistance sufficient to place the Universities in a sounder financial position. These appeals have already achieved a considerable amount of success, and I cannot help feeling that the announcement at this moment of the appointment of a Royal Commission might have the 1559 effect of drying up the stream of this liberality. Therefore, on the whole I am certainly doubtful whether it would be politic at this moment to encourage the idea that a Royal Commission should be appointed in the near future. I should be myself inclined to rely to a great extent on the desire of the two Universities to Introduce reforms of their own accord; nor do I wish to exclude the idea of legislation which might have the effect of facilitating such reforms. Reference has been made to a remarkable letter in 'The Times this morning from a number of gentlemen connected with the University of Oxford, and I observe that in that letter they express the desire not only for a Royal Commission, but also, as an alternative, for legislation which might have the effect of removing any obstacles in the way of the introduction of the kind of changes that they desire. Only one word more. On this occasion, and not for the first time, I deeply regret the absence of the Duke of Devonshire, who had he been here this evening would have spoken to us, not only with the weight of authority which characterises all his speeches, but with the additional weight of authority which belongs to him as Chancellor of one of the two Universities whose affairs we are debating.