ADOCUMENT has been recently published at Oxford, which suggests a hope that the two great Universities may yet resume the control over liberal education throughout the country which they once possessed. This is a report drawn up by a smell Committee, of which Mr. Goldwin Smith is the chairman, and by them submitted to the general Committee on University extension, which we had occasion to mention last week in connection with the Keble College scheme. The plan recommended by Mr. Goldwin Smith and his colleagues, is that colleges situated anywhere in England, Wales, or the Channel Islands be allowed to affiliate themselves to the University of Oxford, the pupils to receive instruction, and to pass examinations equivalent to those of the University called "Moderations," and then to reside in Oxford for the latter part of the academical course. The " Moderations " examination, which comes at the end of the student's second year, is really the final test of that course of education which was begun at school. The aspirant for honours is examined in a consider- able list of classical poets and orators, in Greek and Latin composition, and in the grammatical structure of those lan- guages, in fact, he is expected to show a good working know- ledge of the Greek and Latin languages, which is the end towards which the classical side of his education has been always tending. Similarly in mathematics the amount of knowledge required for a first class in Moderations is the completion of that taught in schools ; it stops short of any application of pure mathematical knowledge to physics. It is assumed by the report on which we are comment- ing that the several colleges will be able to carry their teaching up to this point, and that therefore the University may be satisfied, with some slight guarantee for the efficiency of their systems, to let the pupils there educated enter at once on the higher course of study for which residence at Oxford is especially desirable. The subjects of examination in the final school of the University are to a great extent new to the student who has just passed Moderations, and are special rather than general. For these studies, and especially for moral philosophy (the most important branch of the final Classical Examination) and physical science, the teaching of a University professoriate is practically necessary. There are, of course, many eminent men and able teachers among the professors elsewhere, but such men would be much more usefully placed at the Universities. If instead of being ex- pected to teach several branches of physics, or the whole range of philosophy or history, they were at liberty to devote themselves each to his own specialty learning and science would gain much, and the students would have the advantage of studying each subject under the man best qualified to teach it. Moreover, there would be great advantage to the pro- fessors themselves in living in the midst of a large society of men devoted to kindred pursuits, capable of appreciating and criticizing their work, to say nothing of the stimulus afforded by having a considerable number of pupils to instruct. At present, half the professors waste their energies upon miser- ably small classes ; if the great majority of youths throughout the country desirous to study each subject were assembled at one or two centres, there would be at least enough to fill a professor's lecture-room respectably. It has been objected that this scheme is neither on. e thing nor the other, that it neither gives to the students the full benefits derivable from Oxford, nor sets them entirely free from all need of residence, like the London University. In truth, however, it combines in no small degree the advantages of both systems. As the report points out, "It is the special duty of the Universities, a duty which they cannot decline, to educate the youth of the wealthiest class, who can seldom learn either the habit of labour or self-denial in their homes, whom, at the age at which they come here, it is impossible to keep under a very rigid discipline ; and, who, from their social position, must to a considerable extent regulate the habits of the place and fix the general scale of expenditure." Poorer parents feel severely both the expense, and the risk of their sons learning extravagance, and it would be a great boon to them to dimi- nish by one-half the time of residence, and to fix that for a period when the lads not only are somewhat older and more ex- perienced, but also have the most work on their hands to keep them out of mischief. On the other hand, the London Univer- sity, useful as it is in affording academical degrees to those who,
for whatever reason, decline Oxford and Cambridge, gives none of the social advantages, and enjoys as yet but a small share of the prestige, of the two old Universities. There is very little chance that any change in Oxford will be ruinous to the University of London, none whatever so long as Oxford maintains her pre- sent system of tests, and the Church of England remains what it is. London will always supply a sufficient number of academical students to give its University a wide field of use- fulness, but London alone is large enough to do so. Owen's College, Manchester, and similar institutions have proved, by affiliating themselves to the London University, that they are not strong enough to stand alone. The experiment of Durham has been a melancholy failure, and the theological colleges have scarcely professed to give a general education. If the scheme proposed is carried out, the pupils of the affiliated colleges will have the option of obtaining a degree from Oxford after residence there for a year or two, or from Lon- don without residence, as may best suit their inclination and circumstances.
Queen's College, Birmingham, which by a happy coincidence is just now altering its constitution, has already determined to petition the University of Oxford for affiliation. The Man- chester and Liverpool Colleges are likely to accede to the scheme as soon as it is matured ; and it is hoped not only that Durham may possibly in time do the like, but that the Lampeter- and Birkenhead Theological Colleges may do so, and thus put an end to the pernicious idea of a Welsh University. Thus there seems a good prospect of the plan being warmly supported by those institutions which it is intended to connect with Oxford, and there ought to be little danger of its being rejected by the University itself. The fact of a measure being proposed, or a candidate for any office nominated, by those who differ from themselves in theology or politics, has too often been sufficient to induce the powerful party of obstruction at Oxford to take an opposite line ; but there can be no motive, except blind party spirit, to induce them to negative this scheme of affilia- tion. It has no bearing whatever on religion, for students who come to reside in Oxford must submit to the existing regulations, and all who desire a MA. degree must conform to the existing tests. It does not touch the question, second only in their eyes to that maintaining all existing barriers round the Established Church, of favouring classical study in pre-. ference to all others, or rather it will bring a larger number of youths under their favourite discipline of Aristotle and Livy. It will help to raise the standard of general education in all the professions, and especially in the Church,—a result which they profess ardently to desire,—and which none can dislike except those who in their secret hearts love darkness rather than light.
The experience derived from America, where there are numerous Universities, none of them possessing any command- ing inffuence, is eminently favourable to a plan which will unite as far as possible all the institutions in the country where a real liberal education is offered. A degree in America may mean anything or nothing, for the standard varies consider- ably in the different colleges ; an English degree implies that the holder of it has come up to a tolerably certain and not very low standard. Thus it would be a real advantage if Oxford and Cambridge, with the aid of the London University, held a complete and uniform control over all the higher edu- cation of the country. They have already assumed, by means of the so-called middle-class examinations, the supervision of the teaching of boys, and the beneficial effects of this super- vision have been very widely felt. To assume the same con- trol over the education of young men is the natural comple- ment of the former undertaking, and more immediately the duty of a University than examining mere boys. Supposing Oxford to originate such a system, Cambridge must imme- diately follow, as she did in the case of the middle-class examinations, or forfeit her share of influence over the mind of the nation. It is far more likely that the practical wisdom of Cambridge will improve upon a plan devised by the restless ingenuity of Oxford, than that she will be blind alike to her duty and her interest.