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Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1876

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, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to make further provision respecting the University of Cambridge and the Colleges therein, said, that as a Bill had been introduced to reform the University of Oxford, he desired to ask the House what were the objects that ought to be aimed at in proposing fresh legislation for the Universities; what were the circumstances which rendered that legislation necessary; and what was the machinery by means of which the object of the legislation might be attained. The answers to those questions would be found in the Reports of two most valuable Royal Commissions that had been appointed to report on the subject of the Universities. One of these was appointed to inquire into all institutions within the United Kingdom which were connected with the study, the pursuit, and the advancement of science. The other was appointed for the purpose of inquiring into the revenues and property of the two Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. At the head of the first of these Commissions was the Duke of Devonshire, the present Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. The Commissioners had made no less than eight Reports, and the third of these was addressed to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. They described in the minutest detail the facilities for the study of science afforded by means of the Professoriate, and by means of the inter-Collegiate system of lectures and classes, under which Colleges were combined for educational purposes; and they pointed out, notwithstanding all that had been done, there were yet many requirements to be met in the course of instruction in science. Without entering into details, he might say that the Commissioners recommended an extension of the Professoriate, a completer organization of the inter-Collegiate system of lectures and classes and a larger provision of museums, libraries, and other buildings and of the apparatus necessary for the prosecution of scientific investigation. Perhaps these recommendations went rather far, but there was no doubt that considerable improvements would have to be made before the idea embodied in the Report of the Commissioners could be carried into effect. Science would include organic and in organic subjects, the science of magnitude and numbers, including observations and experiments, but excluding mental and modern science. They would have to look to these departments of study before they could have the studies completed. A Cambridge Syndicate which was appointed last year had made a Report, and it was drawn up by those who had made the theory as well as the practice of teaching the business of their lives. It was a most instructive, elaborate, and well-prepared document. It was founded upon the different branches of study, and the conclusion which was arrived at, and pressed upon the University, was that in all departments of science there were many other requirements that would have to be supplied besides those which he had referred to. It was quite demonstrable to his mind that the Universities only wanted the means to fulfil the great duties that were entrusted to them in this respect. He need not say, with regard to Cambridge University, how lively an interest she took, and had always taken, in this subject; and he need not point out the things she was doing, and had done, to make University teaching as complete and comprehensive as she was able to make it. It was not the want of will but the want of means that stood in her way, and so long as the want of means existed so long would it be impossible to do all that was requisite to do—that which the University desired to do. This led him to consider what were the circumstances that rendered legislation necessary. It was, in plain words, a money question that loomed in the background, and the extreme difficulty of adjusting the proportion that the Colleges should bear in contributing money for the common benefit of the University at large. This brought him, not only to the Report of the second Commission, but also to make a remark as to what the Science Commissioners had said. They had said that the revenues of the University as compared with those of the Colleges were comparatively small, and that they had reason to believe that the Colleges would be willing and anxious to contribute towards supplying the deficiency that was not at the command of the University. They would desire that the appointment should be adjusted equitably between the Colleges, and in a way that would be reasonable for the University. The Report of the second Commission which inquired into the revenues and property of the University and Colleges contained two broad facts. The first one was this—that the immediate property of the University, as distinguished from that of the Colleges at Cambridge, was only about £14,000 a-year, whilst the property of the Colleges derived from the same sources amounted to not less than £265,000 a-year. The second fact was this—that a prospective surplus of property was to be expected in the University from doing away with the system of renewable leases. The estimate was that the property that would accrue to the University might be put down as nil, whilst the property of the Colleges in 1885 would be £30,000 a-year. The University, as distinguished from the Colleges, had not the necessary means, and the Colleges had a right to say that these means could only be apportioned by an equitable adjustment under the direction of somebody who could fairly adjust the proportion which should be contributed by the various Colleges. When the Cambridge Act was passed in 1856 there was an express provision in that Act which enabled the Colleges to surrender such portion of their property or income as might be available for the purposes of the University at large. The difficulty in adjusting the proportion that the Colleges should bear had been so great that virtually that provision had been a dead letter. Putting all these things together he believed that he had established his two propositions—that the object to be aimed at by legislation should be first to enlarge the sphere of the University itself; and, secondly, that the difficulties that lay in the way of enabling the University to effect its object could only be got over by some further legislation based on equitable principles, which would, he believed, meet all the requirements of the University and Colleges, and greatly extend their usefulness. What, then, was the machinery by which those objects were to be accomplished? On that part of the case he could feel no doubt whatever. They must go back to the principle adopted in 1856—namely, an enabling and requiring power vested in Commissioners, who, in conjunction with the Universities and the Colleges, should arrange among themselves what changes would be advisable so that those great academical institutions—those great intellectual centres of science and learning—should be able to meet the wants of the times. The Bill which had come down from the House of Lords with reference to the University of Oxford was based on that principle, and the Bill he had now the honour to propose, in concurrence with and at the request of Her Majesty's Government, was drawn on the same lines, and contemplated the same objects. If it should be adopted, the effect would be this—Parliament would clearly indicate the general direction which would have to be given for making good and supplying the wants and requirements of the University of Cambridge to which he had adverted, while the particular mode in which those requirements would be met should be determined and settled by the Colleges and the University themselves. He laid it down as a universal truth in matters of this description, that whatever was done voluntarily and willingly would be always better done than that which was done under extraneous influences. He knew that there were some who wished to go further than this; some who would like to prescribe in the statute itself the changes that Parliament should specifically require, and which they should enable the Commissioners to enforce. He could not agree with this in the least degree; on the contrary, he thought that it would only add to delay and disappointment, and be a legislative mistake. The question of Fellowships had been very much agitated for the last few months. Some would regulate them now, and prescribe the conditions on which they should be conferred and held, and state distinctly the term that they should continue in the possession of the holders. He believed that these were matters which should be regulated with a due regard to fresh circumstances as could only be known to those who were interested in this question, and that those alone who had this knowledge would be likely to come to a just conclusion. There were those who thought they could specify the precise rewards for Professors; but he thought that if they wished to encourage the same high standard of culture which had been maintained at the Universities of late years, if they wished to secure the highest amount of teaching, lecturing, and tutorial power in the University itself, if they wished to encourage original research and scientific investigation, they could not do better than leave to the University to settle for themselves how these things could best be managed. His belief was that if they had not three classes of Fellowships they would fail to make the most of the opportunities they now had of improving the University. If they did away with prize Fellowships altogether they would not have the same standard which the students at the University now aimed at. They would not have the same means of encouraging, rewarding, and setting out in their career in life some of the ablest and most distinguished men, who not only reflected honour on the University, but conferred great benefit on the country at large. So, if they did not have another class of Fellowships which would properly reward lecturers, tutors, and readers for the time and labour they bestowed on the education of the students at the University, they would lose that resident class of men who, he hoped, would always be resident at the University, and by whom education was more promoted than it could be in any other way. Lastly, if they had not a third class of Fellowships which would give encouragement to those who were willing to remain at the University and pursue scientific investigation, a blank would be left in the University which it would be impossible hereafter to fill up. He had ventured to speak strongly on that part of the subject, because he thought that no compromise was possible upon it. The two Bills for Cambridge and Oxford were drawn on the same lines, and, although the former might deviate in some of its details from the latter, the two Bills in point of principle were substantially the same. Still, it was desirable that the Parliamentary charters of the two great institutions should be kept, as heretofore, distinct. However much they resembled each other in all the main principles of University life, there were distinctions between them that would have to be adverted to and observed in any legislation which Parliament might bring to bear upon them, particularly with reference to the appointment of the Commissioners, so that they might be perfectly familiar with the peculiarities and wants of that University for which they were appointed. With reference to the Noblemen and Gentlemen to be selected as Commissioners, it was usual to give their names just before going into Committee on the Bill; but, to avoid mistake on a matter of so much importance and interest to the University and the country, he would now take the liberty of reading their names. The Commissioners who would be nominated for Cambridge University would be the Bishop of Worcester, Lord Rayleigh, the Lord Chief Justice of England(Sir Alexander Cockburn), the Right Hon. Edward Pleydell Bouverie Professor Stokes, the Rev. Dr. Light foot, and George W. B. Hemming, Q.C The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

said, that on the whole, he approved of the Bill; but he suggested that, though it was brought in by a private Member, it could not but be regarded, after the language of Her Majesty's Speech, as a Government measure. He hoped, therefore, that in future stages it would be put next on the Paper to the Oxford Bill sent down from the Upper House, so that the two Bills might be discussed together. The Gentlemen whose names had been mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman would, he was sure, command the confidence of the House, of the country, and of the University of Cambridge.

said, he could not agree with the suggestion of the noble Lord. On the contrary, he thought the two Bills should be discussed separately—each upon its own merits. He regretted to hear that the Bill would not deal with the reform of the Senate of Cambridge any more than the other Bill dealt with the reform of the Congregation of Oxford. He regretted, also, that the Bill did not touch clerical Fellowships. If it had dealt with those two points there would have been a settlement of the question, which now would be sure to be re-opened in two or three years. He begged to give Notice that in the event of the right hon. Gentleman obtaining leave to introduce his measure he should on a subsequent occasion move a Resolution to the effect that, in the opinion of that House, no measure of reform affecting Cambridge University would be satisfactory which did not propose the abolition of clerical Headships and clerical Fellowships.

said, that although the proceeding might be justified by the Rules of the House and the practice of Parliament still it was unfortunate that the general principle of the Bill should, on the first reading, be thrown on the floor of the House by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke). He was glad to hear from the speech of his right hon. Colleague that this Bill confined itself to that which the nation was looking for—namely, the development of the University in its teaching, its educational, and its scientific aspect. There was another aspect of the University, also of great importance, which he would call its social one, as an institution ramifying throughout the land and pervading the whole community with a wholesome and elevating influence. The University in this aspect was composed not merely of the teaching residents, but of its whole body of graduates wherever found, or, in other words, of its Senate. This Senate which the hon. Baronet was so anxious to reform was the connecting link between the University in its strictly scientific aspect and the more social and harmonizing elements which made it so great an institution in our complex social and political system. This Bill seemed to be drawn up on practical and reasonable lines. It dealt with the University as a place of education, and as connected with the intellectual system of the country, and expressed by the present system of Scholarships and Fellowships. As to Fellowships, he had heard with peculiar pleasure his right hon. Colleague so clearly defining the distinction which ought to exist between the different uses of Fellowships—a distinction which, so to speak, worked itself out in practice, as the classes into which Fellows parted themselves off came into prominence subsequently to the common examinations from which the choice was made. Educational Fellowships were necessary, with well-defined rules of residence, and there was good reason for re-considering the tenure and emoluments of the non-resident or Prize Fellowships in the future; but any idea of extinguishing or seriously diminishing them would be fatal, for if all Fellowships were made merely educational, then one of the best elements of the University would be lost. Fellowships were now respected from the high proficiency which the acquisition of one implied. But if the temptation of competing for them was to be taken away from all who were not aspirants after the one profession of resident teachers, it was plain that the general standard of competition would be most injuriously affected, while the results would of course re-act upon the quality of the teaching itself. The whole system in its complexity must be jealously maintained, or the teaching, and in consequence the learning, of the University would be lowered. He thought his right hon. Friend had exercised a wise discretion in thus early publishing the names of the Commission, and he believed he might say on behalf of his constituents that they would be contented when they saw that the University would be in the hands of Commissioners who had in their previous careers given such pledges of capacity as made them deserving of the confidence now about to be reposed in them.

observed, that though the Bill was in his charge, it was virtually a Government measure. It would appear in the Orders next to the Oxford Bill, and though the Bills would be practically considered together, it would be open to the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.

, in reference to what had fallen from his right hon. Friend, desired to say that the subject was one which ought to be dealt with by Her Majesty's Government, and practically the measure might be considered as one brought in by the Government on their responsibility. The Bill had been placed in the hands of a private Member who was practically acquainted with all details relating to the University; and therefore, considering the connection of his right hon. Friend with the University of Cambridge, the intimate knowledge he must possess from his connection with the University, and of everything regarding its welfare and usefulness for the country, as well as his high character and standing in the House, the House would agree with him (Mr. Cross) that it was a matter that should be brought in by one so competent to explain every detail connected with the subject as his right hon. Friend. It was the intention of the Government that this and the Oxford University Bill should be considered together, except when they had to consider the details.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to make further provision respecting the University of Cambridge and the Colleges therein, ordered to be brought in by Mr. SPENCER WALPOLE, Mr. Secretary CROSS, and Lord John Manners.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 151.]