« ElőzőTovább »
with the exception of the two members for the Universities, now represent the interests of the lower classes to a preponderating extent, would resist it. Opposition to the higher instruction would become an electioneering cry, and acry which would not be altogether destitute of reason. Reasonable or unreasonable, however, he must know little of the temper of the present time who doubts either that it would be raised, or that candidates would listen to it.
But when the country taxes or assesses itself, it by no means follows that it taxes or assesses itself as a whole. All direct taxes, on the contrary, both local and imperial, are partial taxes, and yet these are taxes imposed mostly, some of them, like the poor-rate, wholly, for the benefit of those who do not pay them. If there be an object, then, in which, though an object to the community as a whole, a special class of the community is specially interested, there is surely nothing novel or unreasonable in the proposal that that class should pay for its attainment. Now, the support of the higher instruction is an object in which the higher classes, though not exclusively, are no doubt specially interested; and as it is an object which can be attained in no other way, my proposal is that the higher classes, in Scotland, should be assessed for it, just as the whole community is assessed for the lower instruction. By the higher classes, in this connection, I mean, of course, all persons in such circumstances as to be able, without charitable assistance, to avail themselves of the higher educational institutions of Scotland. All arbitrary lines, whether of taxation or representation, necessarily give rise to some cases of individual injustice, but such cases, in the present instance, need not be more numerous than in any other. Every man possessed, we shall say, of £500 a year, ought to give his children, or some of them, the benefit of a higher instruction in a country in which it is cheap, as it always has been, and I trust will continue to be, in Scotland. Suppose then that £500 a year were fixed upon as the minimum taxable income for the higher instruction, very few I think could, and what is more to the purpose, very few I do believe would, complain of being made to pay for a benefit which they did not share. Grumbling, of course, we should have, just as we have the east wind; but in general by reasonable men-who in the long run it is to be hoped are ruling men-the quid pro quo, I am persuaded, would be regarded as sufficient.
Let us try whether, in a very rough and general way, we can guess at the sum which might possibly be requisite. We have already four Universities, corresponding to the four portions into which Scotland naturally divides itself, and we have a Burgh School in each county. Very few new institutions, I think, would be requisite, and, where they were, exceptional local effort, either public or private, might be left to supply them. The general organization then is ready to our hands. All that we have to do is to see that it shall
grow to a stature corresponding to the present demands which the community makes on it. As regards the Burgh Schools scarcely anything else is needed to bring them up to the requisite state of efficiency except an increase to the salaries and other emoluments of the masters. Offer sufficient wages, and there will be no want of workmen in a country like this; and the workmen secured the work will be done. Place an educated gentleman, at the head of each school, with a salary, in the smaller towns of say £300, and in the larger of from £500 to £700 a year; give him a good house to live in, and permit and encourage him to take boarders: treat the inferior masters with corresponding liberality, make the possession of University degrees a sine qua non to the appointment of all of them, except those whose functions are of a very subordinate character: establish a system of strict inspection by Government or University officers, and impose an entrance examination at the gates of the Universities, and the thing will be done.
There are thirty-three counties in Scotland. In the smaller ones. an addition of £1000 a year to the existing emoluments would be amply sufficient. Where the great towns exist more would be requisite; but, if we put the whole sum at £50,000, thereby leaving £17,000 over for the latter purpose, we should probably attain everything that can be reasonably desired.
Then there are the four Universities, presenting, like the schools, in very tolerable completeness the skeleton of the institutions which we demand. But, like the schools, they are in a condition of semistarvation, and it is just as unlikely that their ordinary requirements will, and just as unseemly that they should, be met by private munificence. There is one circumstance, which, to a certain extent, conceals this state of matters from public view, but which it is quite indispensable to a just appreciation of the true position should be brought to light. Chairs in the Scotch Universities, from a variety of causes, have been, and I hope always will continue to be, objects of ambition. Unlike the schools, men of good social position can consequently always be got to accept them, and as it requires some amount of special qualification to render their tenure possible in the face of the abler students who annually come up, they can scarcely fail to be respectably filled. On their present footing there is, I admit, no risk of their either standing vacant or of their being filled by men who are not decently equal to the duties they impose. But, if the question be whether the best men in the whole community, or those who, in more favourable circumstances, would become the best, are obtained, or obtainable for them, with their present emoluments, I must reply in the negative. A very large number of the chairs, as matters stand, are maintained by the professors, and not the professors by the chairs. When a chair falls vacant the real, though not perhaps the apparent question, which is put to the patrons-be they who they may-is not, Who is the best man for the chair? but Who is the best man of those who can afford to accept the chair? The sphere of choice, which ought to range over the whole community, nay, I
think, ought to go beyond it, is thus limited, at the outset, to those who, from other sources, possess the means of supplementing the emoluments which the office ought to supply. The choice of the patrons lies, in short, between men of private means, and men who hold other offices, or exercise other avocations. In the practical chairs the latter alternative may sometimes offer a satisfactory solution. Many of the medical chairs are, no doubt, admirably filled by men in this position. But successful practitioners will not accept the theoretical chairs, or the learned chairs; and they would be useless in them if they did, because they could not possibly devote to them the time which they require. The choice for them, then, in so far as they are not self-supporting, is limited to wealthy men, and to men holding sinecures, and as sinecures no longer belong to our age, it is practically, for the future, limited to wealthy men. The limitation is one which is so little in accordance with the spirit of our time, that any arrangement which involves it may be dismissed.
But by way of meeting the argument it may be said-Why don't professors live more simply, and content themselves with the provisions which are made for them? German professors, of worldwide reputation, often live on less; though not so often as is commonly supposed.
I here come upon delicate ground; but as the subject is one which is not likely ever to affect me personally, and with which I cannot affect to be unacquainted, perhaps I may as well discuss it as another. The answer is, that men must, or at any rate men will, conform to the habits and traditions of the country in which they live. It is quite true that no man who is worthy of a chair will shrink from very considerable pecuniary sacrifices for the sake of it. But, where the interests of others are, or may be, involved, there are limits to the sacrifice which he is at liberty to make. If the minimum which it is usual for a married professor-and at present there is only one bachelor professor in the University of Edinburgh-to spend, be £1000 a year, very few men will feel entitled to become candidates for a chair unless they see their way to spending that sum; and unless the chair supplies it, you must choose your man from the number of those who can spend it, or supplement it, otherwise. Every £100 less deprives you of a candidate, and it may be of the best candidate in your possible leet. You cannot force men to buy luxuries; and if any man doubts that our chairs, on their present footing, are regarded more or less in this light, let him ascertain the circumstances, not only of those who hold them, but of those who have been candidates for them in recent years. It is by way of meeting this evil, to a certain extent, that the present monopoly of teaching is maintained. The arrangement is an exceedingly bad one, not only because it occasionally deprives students of the opportunity of obtaining better instruction than that which the University, for the time being, affords, but because it deprives the professoriate of the only source
from which its ranks, in general, can be satisfactorily recruited. Unless we are to have a graduation of ranks in the professoriate itself, like that which exists in Germany, an efficient extra-mural school ought to be encouraged and fostered by open teaching in all the faculties. It is the only form in which an ultimate career can be opened to young men in the present condition of society amongst us, and it is the want of this terminus ad quem, and not the difficulties of the journey, that drives them into the practical professions, and leaves the learned vineyard empty. No number of bursaries, scholarships, or so-called fellowships, terminable after two or three years, will ever convert Scotland into a learned country. Scotchmen are far too "canny" not to look beyond three-and-twenty! They know well enough that it is at thirty, and not at twenty, still less at seventeen, that the battle of life really begins; and unless learning can hold out some substantial and permanent prizes to them then, they will enlist, as heretofore, under other banners.
With good endowments there would not be the slightest hardship in exposing even the existing professors to open competition, and none of them who were of any value, I am sure, would object to it. But on the footing on which many chairs at present stand, if open teaching were declared, their holders would apply for their retiring allowances, and no suitable successors would be found for them. Nor would such an arrangement be of any material benefit to the extra-mural school, the success of which is mainly dependent on the inducement to enter its ranks which the slender prospect of ultimately obtaining a protected chair at present affords. Even if the appointments to the chairs were made exclusively from the ranks of extra-mural teachers, they would not tempt the abler class of young men to adopt a course of life which, in the medical profession partially, and in the legal profession wholly, involves an abandonment of their professional prospects; and to confine the chairs to them, or to any particular class of persons whatever, is now, and must always be impossible. Lastly, the professors, though constituting the chief body of the fighting crew, are not the whole of it. The librarians, particularly the under-librarians, are miserably paid. I have been on the Library Committee of the University of Edinburgh for many years, and I am absolutely ashamed to think of the remuneration which we give to accomplished and meritorious men. For these, and many other purposes which are not likely to enlist the interest of private donors, money is wanted by the Universities. Without entering into calculations which would be tedious and needless at the present stage of the inquiry, it is impossible to state any positive sum, but I should say that about as much as I have named for the higher schools might be expended on the Universities, with great profit to the whole community.
Nor are the Universities and the Schools the only organs through which the higher instruction is fed. The Advocates' Library possesses all the elements of a great national institution. More than the
skeleton is there. But though more than the skeleton, it is by no means the corporation which we desiderate; and every educated man in Scotland goes mourning and grieving for the want of what, with due combination, we should probably have for sixpence a-head. I cannot believe that people will continue to deprive themselves of things which they might obtain on such easy terms; and therefore I cannot think that the scheme of supporting the higher instruction, by assessment, if propounded by those to whom they are accustomed to listen, would prove unacceptable to the public.
The functions discharged by the School Boards in reference to the lower instruction might, in the case of the higher instruction, with great advantage, I think, be confided to the Courts of the four Universities, strengthened perhaps by a certain number of representatives elected by the ratepayers. These Courts, by obtaining a wider range of usefulness, would grow in dignity and importance, they would take a more serious view of their duties, and would thus become better suited than they are for the discharge even of their present function of reviewing the decisions of their respective senates. Their labours would, of course, be greatly increased, and some of their members might require to be paid. But the Principals, who at present have no stated occupations, with the aid of paid secretaries, would probably be able to undertake the heaviest part of the work, in consideration of which they would, of course, obtain. positions both of enhanced social importance and increased emolu
Each Court, with its corresponding district, ought to be entirely independent of the others. The utter failure of the centralized system in the so-called University of France, in comparison with the local system in the old French Universities, in the Universities of Germany, and of this country, is so generally recognised, as I trust to form a final answer to all schemes of centralization for the future. But even if the general answer were less complete than it is, no one who knows anything of the special circumstances of Scotland can doubt for a moment either the advantages or the necessity of maintaining, here at any rate, the local system in its integrity. It is said that Mr. Gladstone was at one time smitten with the attractions of a symmetrical system of examination for the whole of Scotland, if not for the whole kingdom. If he still cherishes such an idea it will be dispelled, I am sure, if he will reflect on the jealousy that would spring up in Glasgow alone, if it were placed, as it necessarily would be, under the direction of a board which had its local situation in Edinburgh! Nor would the jealousy be unreasonable. The University of Glasgow is more ancient, is almost as completely organized as that of Edinburgh, and is far better acquainted with the educational requirements of the Western district of Scotland than either the University of Edinburgh or any central