« PreviousContinue »
by others, and we should then be enabled to perfect our system by the result of actual experience.
I believe, then, that even if it were possible for the Colleges to agree beforehand on certain propositions, such as those suggested, or any others going into the like particulars, as a common basis for their legislation, that they would start in a wrong direction by such a proceeding.
Some general truths of a broader character there may be, applicable to all legislation for Colleges; and I believe that most of those who for the last few years, seeing the task before them, have looked at the workings of our various systems with especial reference to proposed changes, agree on some such principles as the following as a basis for all re-modelling of Statutes.
Take every precaution by your Statutes to obtain an able, zealous, and disinterested governing body, and then leave as much as possible in their hands, trusting to the identity of interest between the College and the public as a guarantee for your body doing the best for both.
The difficulty of legislating with respect to Fellowships arises very much from their fulfilling at once several distinct purposes, so that it often happens that some scheme for increasing their efficiency in one respect seriously impairs it in another.
Some of the chief of these purposes are as follows:
1. The governing body of the Colleges is formed of Fellows, and in the smaller bodies it generally comprises the whole society, so that a majority would have absolute power in all matters of administration.
2. Fellowships offer almost the only means in this country by which men can give any time to study in their riper years. It is therefore among those who have held them that we are to look for persons qualified for high educational or scientific posts, and it is from this class that the Church draws its more learned divines.
3. They are nearly the only rewards for learning in this country, so that if it were not for them there would be no Honour Triposes in the University, a much smaller number of students, and indeed no high education of a public character whatever throughout the country. In
the words of the Royal Commissioners, "they cannot but be regarded as the chief source of life and vigour to the whole academical system."
The last point of view is naturally the chief, often the only one in which they are regarded by the public at large, because their effects as rewards are felt everywhere, and the other two functions they perform attract little observation except among residents here.
But while we are all fully alive to the vital importance of preserving and, when possible, increasing their efficacy as inducements to study, yet we are no less sensible of the injury which would ultimately ensue to the cause of education and learning from any changes which should make these governing bodies careless or ineffective, or diminish the warm attachment of individual Fellows to their College, and that rare disinterestedness which is spoken of so highly in the Report of the Royal Commissioners. Many have been led, as there stated, to sacrifice not only their pecuniary interests, but much time and exertion for the benefit of those societies, a love for which has stood to them in the place of other ties of affection, raised them above mere personal and selfish considerations, and by its purifying and exalting effect on them has shed an excellent influence on the whole tone of the University at large, and contributed in no small degree to the "manly, free, and truth-loving character of her sons."
The value too of Fellowships as affording a means of study is very imperfectly appreciated. Their importance in this point of view is in fact daily increasing, especially with regard to the clerical profession. The absorbing daily duties now required from a young man who enters on parish duty are such, as to leave positively no time for any liberal or valuable course of reading. If we are to have any learned clergy among us they must be sought from those who, having proved their ability by obtaining Fellowships, have used the assistance thus afforded them as the means of laying in the necessary apparatus for effectually applying themselves to theological studies. Abundance of evidence might be brought forward to show, that at the clerical meetings now commonly established throughout the country, it is upon late Fellows of Colleges that these societies
most often depend for elucidations of difficulties in the original texts of the Scriptures, and for access to the results of the researches of foreign Divines.
Perhaps there never was a time when it was of more vital importance for the Church of England to possess in her ranks a body of able and liberally-minded men well versed not only in Biblical Scholarship, in Ecclesiastical History and patristic lore, but in continental languages and other subsidiary studies. Theology is now so extending her range, that she is in the closest contact in the way of illustration and analogy with a number of sciences and with many branches of knowledge, which would have been thought quite beyond her boundaries in former times. And it is only through University endowments that any large number of men can obtain the leisure, the requisite access to books, or the intellectual and enlightened social atmosphere, which are necessary for the training of those who are to be our oracles on a subject which-whatever we may say of the age we live in-is regarded with as deep and as widely-spread an interest as it ever was.
There is also a class which has lately so increased in numbers and importance as to call for separate mention. It is that of men who look to learning and education as their profession; who become Professors in the Scotch Universities and those lately founded both at home and in the Colonies, Government Inspectors of Schools, and principals of various educational establishments. It will be seen by the Calendar how large a proportion of Fellows of Colleges find their occupation in this channel; and this accounts very satisfactorily for the fact, that fewer men of high University degrees than formerly are found holding prominent positions in those professions which offer only precarious chances of success. It is through these men that the University is really the teacher of the nation at large; and most desirable it is that they should not altogether leave us, till they have had some time for calmer and more thoughtful study than is consistent with the usual age of Undergraduates, or with the excitement of working for a competitive Examination.
When a man has had time to review his knowledge and to widen and deepen its foundations, so that the broad outline of his science stands boldly and clearly before him; when he has per
fected his knowledge of those modern languages which are now essential aids for the thorough mastery of any branch of learning, and when his views on all subjects connected with education have ripened by his living in a place where the effect, moral and intellectual, of schools and schooling is best seen; where the training of young men is the staple subject of interest, and much thought and great experience have been brought to bear on it; then surely he must be better qualified, both to advance science and employ it as an educational instrument, than if on first taking his degree he had been induced from pecuniary considerations to take some inferior scholastic place, the daily drudgery of which would have absorbed all his thoughts and time.
And it may be fearlessly asserted that a very large proportion of Fellows of Colleges, all those with hardly an exception who are not engaged in making their way in their professions, are thus beneficially employed. Nothing can be more at variance with facts than the notion, still entertained apparently in some quarters, that among the Fellows of Colleges there are to be found a number of idle men; it is not probable à priori, for the having won a Fellowship shows that its possessor must have been an active-minded man, and such activity is more likely to become habitual than not; neither can it, I maintain, be borne out by existing cases.
Nearly all the resident Fellows are engaged, and very heartily and zealously engaged, in College offices and tuition, and the advertising sheets of our principal Cambridge publishers show that there is as much bookmaking going on among this class as is at all desirable, particularly when it is recollected that the great majority of Fellows are young men.
But we must not suppose that if a Fellow of a College is not engaged in College work or in writing a book, that we do not benefit by his presence. It would be of great advantage to the University if we had several more residents, whose time was not occupied in College so much as it is. There is a very large amount of work to be done in the University; besides the New Council and many University Examiners and other officers, there are five permanent Syndicates, managing each some important department (of course gratuitously), besides several occasional ones appointed to report on important subjects for legislation,
and these duties press so heavily on our small body of residents, that many men find their whole time taken up day after day for a great part of each term *.
Further, the University has it in contemplation to extend its sphere of action in a way which it is hoped may prove very beneficial to the country, by exercising some supervision over the education of the Middle Classes. To do this effectually will require the services of a large number of persons, and it is to the resident Fellows of Colleges that we inust mainly look. The present numbers are not sufficient to meet the demand which we foresee, and any measure which would materially diminish that number, or which would render them less liberal of their time and trouble than they now are, would make it impossible to carry out the scheme with success.
And now before considering in detail the suggestions of the Commissioners, let us suppose that this scheme has been in operation for some years, so that its effects begin to show themselves; and let us further suppose, that one of the small Colleges was still in existence and still a place of education. The governing body would consist of the Master and all the Fellows--let us consider how it would be formed.
At the head of the list of Fellows we find two or three retired Tutors or Bursars; men who at a certain period had chosen a life-interest in their Fellowship, free from the condition of celibacy, in lieu of all prospects of preferment. Whether any person fit to be Tutor, according to our present views, could have been found to retain the office on the complicated conditions prescribed, is a point which we will leave for the present.
These men would have arrived at an age which is seldom met with amongst Fellows of Colleges now; they would have
A vast amount of labour which makes very little show is expended in the contrivance of problems and examples for the College and University Examinations. Upwards of 500 printed papers are set in the College Examinations in the course of the year, and half that number in those of the University: assistance to the former is frequently contributed by resident Fellows not engaged in the tuition. These papers represent a great amount of industry and ingenuity which happily is not all lost. They supply a vast store from which the examples in all Mathematical books, not only in Great Britain but on the continent, are drawn. Our published collections of problems are generally translated, and Cambridge can claim this branch of scientific literature as especially her own.