16 JUNE 1877, Page 14


who with respect to the University Bills of the present and past Session have felt more in unison with many Liberal speakers than with the leaders of the party to which I belong, I beg leave to offer a few remarks in defence of the University Conservatism which you find fault with in the former. I believe that as a matter of fact, the feeling in favour of the existing Fellowship system is considerable on both sides of the House, among those familiar with the University since the changes of the last Commission have borne fruit.

Most of the criticisms upon it, by the older of its opponents at least, are more or less founded on ideas drawn from the period when Fellowships were very partially prizes, and when their holders were possibly, though less often than is assumed, likely to have no aspirations in life which the attainment of a Fellowship did not satiate. But the real point at issue is raised by the doctrine that "idle Fellowships are in a very slight degree educational at all." The same argument was used by Lord Carnarvon that all the educational requirements of a College must be provided for, before a superfluity like Prize Fellowships could be thought of. What those who take a different view contend is that they are not a superfluity, any more than any of the other rewards of successful exertion offered either in the University or in other walks of life. You say that few men go to College on the strength of

so remote a hope as the attainment of a Fellowship. It might be questioned whether one at least of the advantages offered to a clever young man by a successful University career, which would have considerable weight with those who have to decide whether or not to send him to College, is the very considerable prospect, that success in his studies will bring him, for a term at least, a substantial reward. But if the prospect of a Prize Fellow- ship does not bring men to College, is it not a natural incentive to study when they are there ? With regard to the study of any special subject, I can imagine no more effective machinery than Prize Fellowships. It is admittedly useless to found Professorships where students are wanting. It is useless to double the number of Professors on any subject with a hope of doubling the number of pupils. But let a subject be the road to a Fellowship, and you bring into it all those whose sense of special aptitude leads them to feel that the rewards of that subject are more easily attainable to them than the rewards of any other. The connection of All Souls with law and modern history has, I have no doubt, attracted numbers of men to that school ; and why should the same not be the case with modern languages or natural science ?

The tendency of the proposed reforms appears to be to limit

all substantial rewards for study (except those obtained by under- graduates before their principal examinations) to those who intend to make teaching a profession. The anti-educational effect, so to speak, of such a policy, is to make University successes in appear- ance at least merely ornamental and unpractical to all who do not learn merely to teach others hereafter. Practical men, in the narrower sense of the word, may begin to ask if an Undergraduate, destined for any career in the outer world, is not wasting his time in attending to any studies neither directly professional, nor offering any prospect beyond a place in the class-list. That there are many men at the University independent of these con- siderations is of course true, and among them there are always some who seek University distinctions for their own sake. But

these, unfortunately, are a limited class, and therefore I con- tend that in "Idle Fellowships" are the best hope of the continu- ance of a connection between University culture and national life.

Of course the case is different where, as in many foreign countries, the Universities are the necessary entrance to public

employment or to the liberal professions. But with you, and probably with many University reformers, a model is rather sought in the Universities of the past. The disinterested pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is a nobler ideal than its pursuit for the sake of examinations and pecuniary prizes. But as- on the one hand, the patient, tranquil study pursued of old in the cloister or the college coexisted with ignorance and indifference to knowledge in most walks of active life, so. on the other, is it not best to take the present time as it is? We may regret the fact that the race for material advancement makes intellectual culture less the object of devotion for its own sake, but it is not wise for that reason, if substantial prizes under the present system fill the different spheres of English life with men who have profited by University culture, to sweep away hastily such prizes, while putting nothing in their place which will be open to any persons not destined to a life-long academical career.

[We are not aware that any one has proposed to sweep away all the "Idle Fellowship" prizes. The proposal is only to dimin- ish their number and value just so far as more genuinely educa- tional objects press for recognition.—En. Spectator.]