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opening of the shutters in the chamber of a sick man who has slept till midday. Hence the flood of reform which broke over Oxford in the next few years following 1845, which did not spend itself till it had produced two Government commissions, until we had ourselves enlarged and remodelled all our institutions.
Despite Lord Sherbrooke's eight years at the Antipodes and his keen interest in Australian public affairs, the memory of his Oxford life, and what he considered the time-honoured abuses of the place, were still very vivid in his memory. It was an exciting time for Oxford. Notwithstanding the powerful opposition of Mr. Gladstone, Lord Selborne (then Mr. Roundell Palmer), and Sir Robert Inglis, the Tory M.P. for the University, Lord John Russell appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into and report fully on the State, Discipline, Studies, and Revenues' of Oxford. The head and front of this commission was Dr. Tait, then Dean of Carlisle, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury; and among the members were Dr. Hinds, Bishop of Norwich; Dr. Jeune, Master of Pembroke (afterwards Bishop of Peterborough); the Rev. H. G. Liddell (late Dean of Christ Church); Mr. J. L. Dampier, and the Rev. G. H. Johnson, afterwards Dean of Wells. These names must have sounded ominously Liberal and reforming to the heads of houses; and, what was worse, the secretaries were no less persons than Arthur Penrhyn Stanley and Goldwin Smith.
When the commissioners (whose place of meeting was Lord John Russell's official residence in Downing Street), wrote to the heads of houses and others for the requisite information and data on which to found their report, they were in many cases not even favoured with a reply. Dr. Tait, however, as he sufficiently proved in after years at Lambeth, was a man of tact as well as courage. Having put his hand to the plough, he had no intention of turning back, even though the mighty Henry of Exeter' declared that this inquisition' into the affairs of the University had no parallel since the fatal attempt of
James the Second.'
Then came- as so frequently comes at such crises-a change of Ministry, and Lord Derby stepped into the place of Lord John Russell.
The commissioners went on steadily with their work, collecting all the statistical and other information concerning Oxford, which often reached them from somewhat unexpected quarters. Among the most important of the letters sent in was the following from the former Fellow of Magdalen and late member for Sydney. It is taken from the Oxford Commission Report evidence, pages 12 and 13 in the Blue-book presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her Majesty in 1852,—' perhaps,' remarks Archbishop Tait's biographers, 'from a literary point of view, the most remarkable Blue-book of our time.'
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER I
ROBERT LOWE ON OXFORD REFORM
Answers from Robert Lowe, Esq., M.A., Barrister-at-law, late Fellow of Magdalen College.
2 Paper Buildings, Temple [no date].
Sir, I have thrown together the results of my own experience (which, you know, has been as a private tutor pretty extensive) in the form of a letter, finding it easier to explain myself so than to answer questions, and availing myself of the permission given to take that course.
My observation has been that Undergraduates seldom read but for examinations, and seldom attend to instruction except from a private tutor, whom they select and pay for themselves. I do not think that you can alter this state of things, and the next best thing to be done is to direct and modify it so as to cure the defects and increase the efficiency of the system. As long as a degree at Oxford and a place in the class list shall be looked on as an important step in life, and as long as private tuition shall be looked upon as the readiest way to attain these objects, the one will be the end to which study is directed, the other the means resorted to for its attainment. It is only when students are too poor to afford this assistance that it will be foregone, and even then I have known very great sacrifices made to obtain it, and that by persons whose college tutors were men of unquestioned attainments and ability.
I entertain the strongest objections to the present tutorial system. It is a monopoly of education given to the colleges at the expense of the efficiency of the University, and has very often been grossly abused by the appointment of incompetent persons. The tutor has no stimulus to exertion beyond his own conscience; let his success be ever so brilliant, the termination of his career is not likely to be affected by it. The expected living drops at last, and, idle or diligent, learned or ignorant, he quits his college and is heard of no more. The plan also of teaching in large lectures, while it gives but little instruction to the less advanced, is inexpressibly tedious and disgusting to the more forward student. I shall never forget the distaste with which, coming from the top of a public school, I commenced construing, chapter by chapter, the 21st book of Livy. This has a bad effect on the mind. A boy-for he is nothing more-finds the requisitions of college incomparably easier than those of school; he becomes arrogant and conceited, the tutorial system has not only taught him nothing, but has actually given him no idea of the course of study required for a high degree, and in the plenitude of ignorance and self-sufficiency he wastes at least one most valuable year in idleness, if not in dissipation. The instances in which the tutorial system has worked really well are when the tutorship of a college has fallen into the hands of some celebrated private tutor-a success which affords an indirect homage to the superior system of private tuition. I am therefore opposed to the continuance in any shape of the present college tutorial system.
Of the system of private tuition the advantages are manifest. The power of selection has great efficacy in attaching the pupil to the tutor, and I can speak from experience that the tendency is strong to overrate the abilities and industry of a private tutor, a leaning which I have never observed in the case of public tuition. The unfettered intercourse, the power of stating a difficulty without incurring ridicule, the greater equality of age and position, all tend to give the system efficiency, and whether desirable or no, I am convinced that it will be the working system of the University: the Dean of Christ Church issued an order that no man of his college should read with the tutor of another college. I do not think the order an unreasonable one, and I doubt not that Christ Church contained plenty of competent persons; but I know that all the time onehalf of my pupils came from Christ Church. The system of private tuition is a necessary and unavoidable concomitant to any examination. No sooner were examinations established for the masters and mates of merchant ships, than there arose a class of men whose business was to cram the candidates.
The system of private tuition has, however, many defects. The persons into whose hands it principally falls are young men of unformed character, knowing little of the world, or probably of anything except the course of study by which they have gained distinction. They have, nevertheless, very great influence over their pupils, and are, from their youth, their sincerity, and their earnestness, the most dangerous missionaries of whatever opinions they take up. They are the persons who are
really forming the minds of the undergraduates before they have formed their own. The University knows nothing of them except their names in the class list; in their colleges they have no status, and it is quite optional with them whether they enter the society there or no. Everything is entrusted to them, and no caution whatever is taken for the execution of the trust. As regards the private tutors themselves, I cannot but think it bad for them that the moment they have taken their degree, they should be considered as at once elevated to the highest intellectual eminence, and spend their whole time in teaching that which they have only just barely learnt. The tendency to narrow the mind and generate habits of self-conceit is obvious. It also stands seriously in the way of their acquiring much useful knowledge, though I think this is in some degree compensated by the ardent desire to learn which the habit of teaching is almost sure to produce. Young men are often at this time pressed by college debts, or otherwise in narrow circumstances, and the temptation is irresistible to labour to any extent so as to avoid these embarrassments. I have myself taken ten successive pupils in ten successive hours term after terin, a task neither fitting for the tutor nor just to the pupil.
The result of this is that I think the system of private tuition ought to obtain a recognised place in the institutions of the University of which it is the mainspring-that it ought to replace the inefficient system of public tuition that the collegial monopoly ought to be abolished, and a free choice of a tutor left to the undergraduates individually. I think that the University ought to have some power over the tutorial class, so as to ensure, as far as possible, their moral and religious fitness for the trust which they are to execute their intellectual fitness would have to be ascertained, as hitherto, by the unerring test of competition. I think the number of hours ought to be limited, as well as that of pupils, to be taken by those who are still in statu pupillari: after that I would not attempt any such limitation. Those who were unable to pay the amount required for an hour a day might easily combine so as to reduce it to a sum which they could afford. I think also the absence of pupils from lecture ought to be made known to those to whose care they are entrusted in matters of discipline. To make such a system work well, the number of examinations must be increased, so that the student should never feel himself free from this stimulus: and I cannot help thinking that with such superior provision for instruction, a little more might be required than the very moderate quantum which now forms the standard of the University.
Of the Professorial system I cannot speak from experience, as during my residence in the University it was almost totally in abeyance. I have no very great hopes that it will be of very much service as a means of University education: the only chance will be to make it subservient to the examinations, which would materially detract from its dignity and general utility. University success is in my experience rather the reward of memory than of mind, and is more likely to be secured by fixing facts and doctrines firmly in the memory than by drawing from them remote and subtle inferences, or by establishing between them refined and logical
distinctions. But the benefits of the Professorial system to those who, after having passed their examinations, are commencing the task, which every intellectual person must achieve for himself, of self-education, and for those who resort to our Universities without the purpose of taking degrees, cannot be overrated. The Professorships are the natural and appropriate reward of those who have distinguished themselves as tutors and examiners, and their multiplication and efficiency would tend above all things to raise the character and promote the efficiency of the University. There is nothing more hopeless than the career of a private tutor at present. He has nothing to look forward to from his occupation but endless labour, leading to no result, and with much more labour and higher acquirements is not so well paid as a country schoolmaster.
I have always looked upon the colleges as clogs to the efficiency of the University, whose benefits they contract within their own limited circle. Without offering any opinion upon their internal reform, I think that the most efficient reformation would be a reformation by competition from without. I am, therefore, clearly of opinion that it ought to be the privilege of every Master of Arts of good character who is so minded to open a hall in connection with the University, subject to such general rules as may be laid down for the government of such institutions by the University authorities. I would leave it to him to provide the buildings and accommodation for the students, and I would trust to competition to lower the expenses of living to the proper point. I am not in favour of allowing very young men to attend lectures, or belong to the University, without being attached to some college or hall, from an apprehension that it would be found impossible to subject them to efficient coercion. My view is, that the University ought to be thrown open as wide as is consistent with the due maintenance of academic discipline.
I regret to see that Sanskrit, for the study of which the bequest of Colonel Boden offers such liberal encouragement, has not been included among the subjects for a proficiency in which honours can be conferred. I must also, as a sincere well-wisher to the University, express my hope that the Physical Sciences will be brought much more prominently forward in the scheme of University education. I have seen in Australia, Oxford men placed in positions in which they had reason bitterly to regret that their costly education, while making them intimately acquainted with remote events and distant nations, had left them in utter ignorance of the laws of Nature, and placed them under immense disadvantages in that struggle with her which they had to maintain. With these remarks,
I am, Sir,
Your obedient servant,