« AnteriorContinuar »
the East India Company's service, or others of literary taste, to matriculate for the sole purpose of attending the lectures of some distinguished Professor in the higher branches of philosophy, science, or letters. These are not students in the proper sense of the term, though they enrol themselves as such. Nevertheless, their attendance is a manifest advantage, as it is also a decided compliment to the University.
Next, as to the amount and nature of the work which the students are required to perform. This differs in kind according to the character of the class. In the three classes which rank first in the curriculum of Arts-Latin, Greek, and Mathematics - the business is conducted for the most part by teaching, not by lecturing. Each of the students is brought frequently, though not daily, under the eye of the Professor, and they are examined orally as well as through written exercises. In the other classes — Logic, Moral Philosophy, Natural Philosophy, and Rhetoricthe business is principally conducted by means of lectures; but, in addition, there are examinations upon the lectures, or upon some special subject prescribed for study, and also written exercises. In these latter classes it almost invariably happens that a certain number of the students do not offer themselves for examination, and do not write the exercises. When this occurs they receive no certificates, beyond a simple one of attendance, at the close of the session; and of course they are not allowed to compete for class honours, which are eagerly coveted by arduous and intelligent students. For this there is no remedy. Once past school, there is an end of coercion; and even at school, coercion, if pushed too far, degenerates into positive cruelty. True is the adage, that though one man can lead a horse to the water, twenty cannot force him to drink. The motive power lies with the Professor. If he can invest his subject with interest, and really attract the attention of the students, there is very little fear but that the greater part of them will obey his bidding, and exert themselves to become proficients in that special branch of
knowledge or science which it is his duty to explain. If, on the contrary, he is indolent, tiresome, or monotonous, they turn to something else, and few have the patience to extract profit from his long-winded dissertations.
A stranger, on first visiting Edinburgh, must necessarily be much surprised by the very motley aspect of the crowd which issues from the College gates when the bell tolls the hourly signal for the dismissal and gathering of the classes. Boyhood, adolescence, manhood, and even age, are there represented. Two generations are mingled together; for they may be counted from fourteen to forty. First, perhaps, a group of juniors, full of animal spirits and fun, charges down the steps. Then comes a knot of grave young men, evidently destined for the ministry, to whom education is a serious matter, for their future livelihood depends upon it, and, in the mean time, the resources of their friends, far away in Angus or Dumfries, have been taxed to give them the advantage of a course at the University. Then strides forth an unmistakable native of the north, older than the others, and with the marks of stern determi nation on his brow, though somewhat uncouth in appearance. That is a specimen of a class of whom Scotland has cause to be proud, and of whom she is sometimes even not sufficiently proud. For the man whom the stranger remarks there, has received no preliminary education which laxity itself could denominate classical. Born of obscure parents, in an exceedingly remote parish, and apparently destined to win his bread by manual labour, he has received, many years ago, the common elementary education of a Scottish peasant, and from that has passed to a handicraft. But something tells him, as he measures himself with his fellows, that he is intended for a higher career; and, accordingly, he has worked double-tides, saved, pinched, almost starved, throughout one or more summers, in order that he might be able, during the winter session, to attend the University classes.
This is no exaggerated picture; nor are such instances uncommon. Livingstone, the African missionary and
traveller, was enabled by such means to take that degree in medicine which was the foundation of his success; and many other men, eminent in science and literature, or who have afterwards risen to the summit of their professions, have in like manner been indebted to that freedom of entrance which hitherto has been a distinguishing and peculiar feature of the Scottish Universities. This is a point which we are anxious to note carefully, because any rash change, which should have the effect of preventing such men as we have described from becoming students, is, in our opinion, deeply to be deprecated. Such a change, however, has been advocated, with a certain show of plausibility, by some who profess themselves desirous to promote the cause of "high education"-a term lofty in sound, but oftentimes contracted in signification.
The Tutorial system, as in force at the English Universities, was never part of the Scottish educational scheme. Obviously it could not be so-for this simple reason, that there are no endowments to support tutors independent of casual fees, and but few students who could afford to pay for extra-mural assistance. Of late, however, a great deal has been said and written regarding the propriety of introducing a Tutorial system; and the Senatus Academicus of Edinburgh has so far sanctioned that view, as to give a small grant, from limited funds at the disposal of that learned body, for maintaining what are called Tutors, in connection with four out of the seven classes which we have specified as belonging to the curriculum of the Faculty of Arts. Tutors, however, they are not. They are merely assistants to the Professors, and, as yet, they have no recognised University rank or position. Whether or not a new order of this kind should be instituted, is a question which deserves serious consideration.
One thing we must note in passing -that those who wish for the establishment of Tutors, as part of the Scottish University system, do not profess to connect it in any way with the preparation for taking a degree. The proposed Scottish Tutor is not required to assist the advanced or
alert-his function, when he comes into play, is to push forward the retarded and the slow. To him, certain students, whose previous attainments do not qualify them to keep pace with the progress of the class, are to be remitted for extra drill, until they can come up with the others who have been more favoured by their course of preliminary education; and beyond this, he is to relieve the Professor of some drudgery in the correction of exercises. But there he is to stop. We are very far from disapproving of the nomination of Tutors in this sense. On the contrary, we think that, in the preliminary-that is, the teaching classesassistants of this kind are absolutely necessary; but we demur to carrying it farther. In classes which are conducted mainly by means of lectures, every Professor must have his own system, and his own views; and from him alone the students ought to receive an opinion as to their progress in his peculiar branch, and their relative proficiency.
A very few words relative to the granting of degrees in arts, will terminate our explanation of the course and method of study presently pursued at the University of Edinburgh. At the close of every winter session, seven days are set apart for the examination of candidates who have passed through the curriculum of arts, one day being devoted to each subject in rotation. Papers prepared by the Professors, and containing such questions as they may consider most fit to test knowledge and acquirement, are delivered to the candidates when they enter the examination room; and they are required to write the answers in the presence and under the eye of the examinator, so that there is an effectual check against collusion or extraneous assistance. The answers, when returned, are carefully noted; and each Professor frames a list according to merit, by a system of marks, corresponding in value to the accuracy of each answer. When these lists are prepared, the Professors meet, and the numbers of the marks are counted. In this examination of lists, a certain number represents the minimum for a pass, and if, in any one of the seven
examinations necessary for the degree of M.A., or of the five examinations necessary for the degree of B.A., a candidate is below that minimum, the degree is withheld. But there is a further test of acquirement; for the mark system is so constructed that a candidate may be above the minimum in each separate examination, and yet not be entitled to a degree, on account of his not having obtained the aggregate number of marks which are requisite for a pass. This method, which must appear complex when related, is really very simple in practice, and, we venture to think, very efficacious; since while it requires from the candidate at least a respectable knowledge of every branch of learning upon which he is examined, it excludes him from a degree, if his knowledge with regard to some of them is not far higher than respectable. Indeed, we are bound to express our conviction that the degree of Master of Arts as granted by the University of Edinburgh, implies the possession of a greater amount of varied and useful attainment than is demanded at the present day in any of the Universities of England, and that, if fault there be, it lies in the over-strictness of the examinations, and not in their laxity. Certainly, in regard to granting degrees in Arts, the examination in Edinburgh is higher and more stringent than in some other Scottish Universities. This may, or may not, be a practical mistake, but it is a fact which should be kept in mind, and to which we attach no little importance, for reasons which we shall presently assign.
Having given this explanation, the accuracy of which we venture to think will not be challenged; and premising that the Edinburgh system represents, at least in broad features, though differing somewhat in detail, that which is pursued in the other Scottish Universities-let us consider what are the deficiencies, neglects, or shortcomings, which it is now proposed to remedy or supplement.
The first and most articulate complaint is that the system is unfavourable to erudition, and that Scotland does not produce its quota of pro
found and distinguished scholars. We shall not stay to question the postulate, because that would merely involve us in a vain discussion. We shall therefore admit at once that what is called high scholarship is not so assiduously or successfully cultivated in Scotland as in England; that we do not produce so many commentators on Greek plays, or so many elucidators of Aristotle; and that our University training may not be such as to excite the admiration of a Scaliger. In short, that we do not boast of having among us men of that stamp who were represented in England by Bentley, Porson, or Parr. But we deny that this admission affords any good or sufficient ground for advocating a radical change of system. Profound scholarship is no doubt a great accomplishment. was held in much reverence in the days when its function was imperatively required to explain what was dubious in the works of the ancient authors; and even now, when the mass of commentaries exceeds by an hundredfold the volume of the text, it is regarded with sincere respect. But then, under the most favourable circumstances, it would be preposterous to expect simultaneously the apparition of more than a limited number of active and famous scholars that is, of men who, having gained erudition, do not rest satisfied with the mere acquirement, but bequeath to posterity the results of their learned labours. We do not admit that it was solely, or even mainly, with a view to the production of such a class, that the Universities either of Scotland or of England were instituted; although we concede the fact that, out of the latter, more scholars of eminence arise than are to be found in the northern kingdom. But it requires no great penetration to discover a reason for that. Take away from the English Universities their Tutorships and Fellowships, deprive them of their large ecclesiastical patronage and munificent endowments, and what stimulus would be left for the acquirement of profound erudition? On the other hand, if it were possible or advisable (for even that may admit of a doubt) to give Scotland such temporal advantages and
means of prosecuting study, we are thoroughly convinced that the product would be such as to satisfy the cravings of even the most enthusiastic and extravagant worshipper of the Classics. The simple truth is, that, in England, splendid provision has been made for the cultivation of learning, without regard to ulterior purposes; while in Scotland there is no provision whatever. So long as this continues, it is most unfair to impute inefficiency to the Scottish Universities, because they do not exhibit a phalanx of renowned scholars, who owe nothing whatever to fostering elsewhere. The sun that shines so pleasantly in the South, does not afford sufficient heat to ripen the grapes upon our Northern wall. But the vines thrive well enough under our care; and when transplanted to a more genial climate, their produce is abundant. Let us select, not invidiously we hope, a recent and remarkable instance. Dr Tait, the present Bishop of London, received his first university education in Glasgow, where he took the highest honours. From Glasgow he passed to Oxford, became Fellow and Senior Tutor of Baliol College, was appointed Master of Rugby, rose to be Dean of Carlisle, and finally, while yet comparatively young, was elevated to the Metropolitan see of England. We do not say that Dr Tait was indebted for his success in this brilliant and almost unexampled career solely to his classical attainments; but this much is evident, that, but for these attainments, he could not have taken two of the important preliminary steps which led to so high a dignity. Had he tarried in Scotland, the highest prize accessible to him on account of his learning would have been some Professorship, yielding the modest return of £300 or £400 per annum.
"Laudatur et alget" is an apothegm which, in Scotland, is peculiarly applicable to abstruse scholarship; and so, we fear, it must remain, for as yet there are but faint symptoms, notwithstanding the multitude of reclamations, that a more generous treatment will be substituted. But these remarks or admissions have
not necessarily any bearing upon the question of academical teaching. Let the degree of Master of Arts be taken as the culminating point of teaching, and we should not hesitate to test the comparative attainments of those who have acquired degrees in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with the like number from Oxford and Cambridge. We believe that, in science and mental philosophy, the Scottish graduates would have a marked advantage, and that, even if defeated in classics, they would make an honourable appearance. And we say this in the full knowledge that young men in England, when they present themselves for their degrees, are on the average more advanced in years than are the Scottish candidates, who are for the most part compelled to make good use of their time while they tarry at the University, because, immediately after that, they must be absorbed by the active vortex of their professions. In the absence of Tutorships and Fellowships, the northern student, after he has taken his degree, has no reliable source of livelihood. He must vend his goods where he can. Scholastic learning commands but a low price in the general market when offered in its own shape. Combined with other material, it becomes of much higher value.
But while we make this assertion in behalf of our graduates, who, be it remarked, are very few in number compared with the non-graduating literary students, we do admit that there are certain matters connected with the teaching of the classics in all the Scottish Universities, which require consideration. And first arises the question, which has already been keenly debated, whether it would be advisable or not to require that all students in arts shall undergo an entrance examination in Greek and Latin. We shall endeavour to state succinctly the arguments on either side.
Those who insist upon the necessity of an entrance examination, lay much stress upon the fact, which is undoubted, that amongst the multitude of students who present themselves at College for the first time, there is a gross disparity in attain
ment. That while some of them have received the advantage of a careful and minute classical preliminary education at such seminaries as the High School and Academy of Edinburgh, or other gymnasia of undoubted reputation, others emerge from remote parish schools, where the teaching is of inferior description, or in which, if well taught, the pupil has not remained long enough to acquire more than the merest rudiments of the ancient languages. They argue that in classes so constituted, the interests of the more advanced students must necessarily be sacrificed for the sake of bringing up the others; and that, moreover, it is beneath the dignity of a University that within its walls the rudiments of the classics should be taught. They think that an entrance examination would be useful in so far as it must deter mere boys from coming to the University unprepared, as well as men who are unfortunately without preparation.
Their opponents say that an entrance examination on the classics would, unless it were merely nominal, change altogether the nature of the Scottish Universities; and instead of leaving them as heretofore essentially popular institutions, would confine their benefits to a limited class of the community. The elevation or improvement of certain schools is not, they maintain, any just or adequate reason for altering a practice which has remained in full force throughout Scotland ever since the Universities were founded; and they distinctly and strongly object to the exclusion of any person who may offer himself as a student, on the ground of his previous want of attainment. They say that the effect of such compulsory examination for entrance, would be to drive intending students away, to narrow the sphere of the usefulness of the University, and to deprive young men, whose previous education, by reason of their poverty, had been neglected, of the opportunity of rising to distinction.
Such are the main arguments on either side; and the reader will probably be of opinion that they are very nearly balanced. Such, certain
VOL. LXXXIII.—NO, DVII.
ly, would be our opinion, were we convinced that the premises assumed by the advocates of an entrance examination were in all respects correctly laid down; but we apprehend that in this, as in other keenlycontested matters, the battle-ground has not been accurately surveyed. For we find, on referring to the Edinburgh University programme for the present session, that there are two distinct classes of Latin or Humanity, the junior and the senior, with the former of which the Professor is occupied two hours each day in the week, Saturdays excepted; and that there are no fewer than three Greek classes-the first, second, and third; the first, as in the Junior Latin, having two hours each day assigned to it. Now, there is no University regulation extant which compels students who are entering for the curriculum to join the junior or rudimental classes, in which the method of teaching does not greatly differ from that practised in the schools. If they have already attained that amount of proficiency in the languages which enables them to dispense with grammatical exercitations, they are free to enter at once into the Senior Humanity, and second, or even third, Greek classes, in which the teaching becomes more of a Professorial nature, and in which occasional prelections are given; and this being the case, the difficulty arising from the acknowledged disparity of the previous attainments of the students disappears, or at all events is very materially lessened. Certainly it would be a great, almost an intolerable hardship, and very detrimental to the prosperity of a University, if well-educated pupils, coming from the Academy or High School, should find themselves so swamped by a horde of classical illiterates, that they were compelled to remain idle until the others had worked themselves up to their standard; but such is not the prescribed method now, nor was it so, many years ago, when we entered as an alumnus of the Edinburgh University. Then, as it still is, the Chair of Humanity was occupied by Mr Pillans; and we do no more than a simple act of justice to that vener