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wives and families and limited incomes; they would probably have been Tutors of the Colleges, when the seniors among those holding terminable Fellowships were born, a circumstance which they might possibly mention as conclusive when the juniors differed in opinion from them; and they would have sons among the candidates for Scholarships and Fellowships, for which emoluments they would be among
the most influential electors. Next to these we should find Tutors and Bursars, on their renewed five years' leases, dependent for their future support on keeping in good odour with two-thirds of a body of men nearly all much their juniors.
Then would come, those whose ten years had not quite run out, men who had been elected from elsewhere, and whose ties of friendship and Undergraduate recollections bound them to a different College, men who had necessarily resided away from Cambridge, engaged in providing for the time when their Fellowships should fail, and whose interest in the College amounted only to this, that they had a terminable annuity payable out of its estates, while they would look on the required attendance at College Meetings simply as a burden to be got through with the least possible labour.
These men would be apt to forget that the College was a place of education; they would care nothing for its numbers, nothing for the distinction its members might win. They would no longer be as they now are centres of attraction, urging on their friends and relatives the advantages of the University and of their College in particular; and thus this source to which the smaller Colleges especially owe such a large proportion of their Students would with most others be dried up.
Much of what I have said would apply equally to all the Fellows on the ten years' lease, but it applies especially to the seniors among them, those whose judgment would be most valuable, and to whom we should look to counteract any want of experience in the younger ones. They being on the point of vacating, would be most absorbed in their professions and least interested in the College. The rate of vacancies would be on the whole much the same as now,
about one in a year
twelve Fellowships, so that a majority of the body might very well be under thirty years of age, rendered more liable to take up with wild and superficial views, if they cared to take any at all,
because they would mostly be driven to reside away from Cambridge, and they would continue to regard matters as they did when Undergraduates, a time when they are unconscious, and it is well and healthy for them to be so, of the influences which are really taking effect upon them, or of the aims and machinery of the whole scheme of the University.
We can judge pretty well from the different examples which the Colleges with their present variety of institutions present to us, as to what principles work well or ill, and I am sure that a society constituted as I have described would have most serious organic defects.
It is an axiom that there should never be different sets of Fellows in a College on different footings. The objection to Bye Fellows is valid, and it rests chiefly upon this; yet in the case proposed we should have a few seniors, who in position and interests would be altogether differently situated to the rest.
If we had had any number of family men of small incomes in our societies, we should no more have got rid of the beneficial lease system than did the Deans and Chapters with whom our disinterested conduct contrasted so favourably. Not that I mean to say that a married man may not in general be as liberal for his means as a bachelor; but it is true that he cannot so easily merge his individual existence in that of a body, and that the prosperity of the corporation apart from all personal advantages will not be the presiding idea in his mind.
These men would in every College form a stronghold of obstruction; one cause of the many improvements that have been of late introduced in the administration of the Colleges is that a main share of the government has fallen into the hands of men in the prime of life; these proposals would give the preponderance to men very much farther advanced in years. Though numerically weak they would be very strong in other ways, they would be the sole depositaries of all knowledge of past proceedings, their years and their position as fathers of families would command deference from young men, of the age perhaps of their sons; and besides they, from long association, would have in their own way a strong attachment to the College, while the younger ones would be quite indifferent, and this would very rightly carry weight; they would probably be resident and take an interest in College business, which the younger ones would never have thought of till they met, so that the government of the College would in general be in their hands liable to occasional violent interruptions from a very young majority, if any matter should happen to rouse them into action, and thus a steady, liberal and consistent course of College governinent would be impossible.
But perhaps it may be thought that the governing body is of little importance, that their hands may be so tied by statute that they cannot do harm, that they will not be required to do any good, and that the machinery of the College being once for all framed by the wisdom of those empowered to do so, and once put in motion, will go on very well of itself. If this could be so,-if the administration were to matter nothing, so that the constitution were perfect, a College would differ very much from every other human institution.
Besides managing the funds and electing to Fellowships and Scholarships, the societies have hitherto had considerable power of adapting themselves to changing times; they have procured in many cases the abolition of restrictions, they have augmented their Scholarships, they have sometimes established new forms of endowment, they have built largely, they have established funds for various purposes, and they have regulated the whole of the College Examinations,—one of the most really effective parts of our University course.
It would rest too with them to encourage any particular branch among the new studies which we are endeavouring to get to take root. And if our institutions are to remain plastic, and plastic they must be if they are to remain at all, still further powers and responsibilities must be given to the governing body. We shall not make them trustworthy by binding them by restrictions which constantly remind them that they are not supposed to be so.
I have known many schemes for the government of Foundation Schools drawn by the Court of Chancery with some minuteness of provision, and their effects on the institutions have been so generally disastrous, that I strongly deprecate any similar attempt with regard to the Universities.
Let us now consider separately the suggestions of the Commissioners with respect to Fellowships :
*.* The Commissioners are of opinion that Fellowships generally should be thrown open to the competition of the whole University after public notice and Examination.
My conviction that the reduction of all Colleges to a uniform system is very impolitic, is particularly strong with regard to this point.
The existing system which, though it may be susceptible of some modification, I hold to be far preferable to that proposed, is as follows:
At Trinity College there is a special Examination for Fellowships every year; at present Scholars of the College only can be candidates, and no one can compete after he is of standing for the M.A. degree. The election is understood to depend on the results of the Examination. At St John's College there is I believe no limitation to Scholars, and the results of the University Triposes are allowed to have considerable weight.
The practice in the other Colleges is generally to judge of the merits of the candidates for Fellowships by their places in the University Triposes. If a member of the College is unexceptionable in character, and has come up to an understood standard, which is in all cases good, and in some Colleges a very high one, it is usual to elect him; if no such candidate be found, it is usual to elect a member from another College. The Colleges are at liberty to have recourse to an Examination in all cases; and there are instances in the smaller Colleges of persons having been elected who, having failed in passing in mathematics, had by the old system been debarred from obtaining that distinction in the Classical Tripos, which they by other means had shown themselves to deserve.
Students of one College are at liberty to move to another, and this practice of “migration” is very common among the higher men. We find that the proportion of the candidates in each
College to the emoluments is kept pretty steady. The Royal Commissioners recommend that no College should keep a Fellowship open for more than a year. If this were carried out so that two or three more Fellows were elected out of College every year, (as would probably be the case) the scarcity in vacancies of one College would be supplied from the glut of another, and the good effect of the proposed plan would be obtained, in the only cases where any effect except a mere transference would be produced, and the many evils attaching to it would be avoided.
Of course a College thus seeking its Fellows elsewhere would get the best men it could; whether it proceeded by Examination or by any other test, such as University distinction, there would be no fear of its lowering its standard and taking an inferior man of its own, because we find that Colleges have adhered closely to their standard of degree, and that the tendency is always to raise it; moreover, public opinion in the University watches over the disposal of Fellowships, and there is a strong conviction of the impropriety as well as of the impolicy of admitting inferior men. Not only does it lower the credit of the position, but it is found that the ablest men, if not engaged in College, vacate the soonest, and so, that the election of inferior ones diminishes the stock of rewards.
It is said that by taking men according to degrees we are setting them to risk their all on one event. This might be thus obviated: the new Triposes admit men in successive years, and I should propose that the Examination for the Smith's Prizes and Chancellor's Medals be placed at a year or more after the B.A. Degree. This would afford to classical and mathematical men the same chance of retrieving themselves, if they felt that they had not done themselves justice in the Triposes, which is afforded to the Middle Bachelors in the Honour Examinations of the Moral and Natural sciences. The Examination would have a definite character, and would be serviceable in guiding the reading of those men who wished to pursue those subjects further, an advantage which a variety of Fellowship Examinations would not afford. I conceive that a riper and more philosophical knowledge might be expected than can be looked for in the Tripos, where a wide range is necessarily taken, and where many questions must be set within the reach of the lower men. Not only might the prizes in question