THE NEEDS OF OXFORD.
THE formation of new Universities, and the stimulus they have given to the newer lines of study in the North and the Midlands, have been attended with one dis- advantage. They have diverted attention from the old Universities, and especially from the University of Oxford. There is a natural disposition to assume that bodies so famous and so ancient possess already those implements of learning which the new Universities have to ask for in all directions. That these last should want money is only what Was to be expected. They have had to begin from the beginning, to build up the whole edifice at one effort, and for such undertakings as these money is indispensable. If it is not forthcoming, the University will not be founded. There is no such visible emergency in the case of the older Universities. They were founded long ago. They have been in existence for centuries. They have sent forth Whole armies of famous men. They have educated genera- tions of Englishmen. What they have done in the past, What they are doing now, why should not they go on doing ? They have all the instruments and appliances which they have ever had; what is to prevent them from making an equally good use of them ? Just this,—that education is a progressive science. It is continually unlocking new doors and opening up fresh fields, and to make the most of these new ventures—to make anything of them indeed—requires a very large outlay, an outlay to which the revenues of the old Universities are altogether unequal. The cost of bringing them up to the same level in all departments, of providing an education in the new subjects which shall be equal in all respects to that which they have so long provided in the old, is not trifling even by the side of what is required to found a new University.
This is the burden of the appeal from the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford which appeared in Thursday's newspapers. Education, as we now know it, is a very costly business. When it was almost confined to classics and mathematics the student wanted nothing but his teachers and his books. He found the, one in the staff of his College, and the other in the University libraries. Even within this restricted field be is no longer so well off as he 'once was. Learning has become cosmo- politan. It is not enough for the scholar to be familiar with the work of his own countrymen ; he must know what the learned men of other countries are doing in the same direction. The study of history, for example, has been trans- formed since the days when it was concerned only with printed books. It now takes in that vast body of unprinted material to which we have only been introduced in recent years. This is what Lord Acton described as the part of history which is precious because it is inexhaustible,"— the part which has made the study so progressive " that the best master is quickly distanced by the hotter pupil." There is no need to dwell on the change which the development of this single subject has made in our libraries. It is no longer enough that they should contain the beat of what has been written in the past ; they must also contain all that is being written from day to day. The student cannot wait until time has tested the constantly growing heap, for it is by him that the work of discrimina- tion will in part be done. The shelves of a great library must welcome all corners, and leave the weeding out of what is less valuable to a later time. The Bodleian, says the Oxford appeal, " is an institution of national importance, the resort of scholars from all parts of the world." But to what sort of a library do they come ? To one in which the books it already possesses cannot be stored in a way which shall make them convenient for reference, in which the readers cannot work in comfort, in which their researches are constantly checked by the want of some newer work, manuscript or printed, or by the absence of a printed catalogue of the books already within the building. Here
is a University which possesses a library " the fame of which is worldwide," and yet has not the means of making its contents properly accessible and of keeping them com- plete by constant purchases.
The picture is not even now complete. We have only set out what is wanted to make Oxford properly furnished on the literary side. On the scientific side the defects are equally glaring. There are whole subjects which cannot be properly studied at Oxford. She has no electrical laboratory. She cannot give men the training which will fit them for the profession of the engineer. For this reason men who would otherwise come to Oxford and benefit by the atmosphere of "a University pre- eminently of the `humane' studies and literary culture" are forced to go elsewhere, to their own loss as well as to that of Oxford. The appeal mentions also the study of hygiene, which in an age of great cities, of multiplying diseases, of a civilisation which does not always minister to health, gains new importance every year, and of scientific agriculture, which has a special claim upon a University in which the students are largely drawn from the landowning classes. And these are but examples of what must be supplied if Oxford is to hold in the future the place which she has held in the past.
Lord Curzon's appeal mentions £250,000 as the limit of the amount which it is now sought to raise, and this is barely enough to meet the absolute necessities of the situation. Stated as a quarter of a million, it seems a large sum ; stated as at most £10,000 a year, we see at once how little ground it will cover. At all events, it compares but poorly with the £40,000 a year which the Colleges contribute to the University chest from funds not ordinarily too large for collegiate purposes. But Lord Curzon rightly thinks that the appeal will have a better chance of success if it is " kept within the most moderate dimensions." How, then, is this sum to be raised ? The University can do nothing, for its balance in 1905, follow- ing upon a succession of deficits, was only £5 17s. 6d. Even this was the result of raising fees, which is at best a very doubtful policy. The Colleges, as we have seen, are doing all that they can. " In this country," says the appeal, " it is of no avail to look to the State " for help, and we fear that the truth of this statement must be admitted. We say " we fear," because we do not ourselves hold that the State is well advised in making no grants for University purposes. On the contrary,- we should willingly see some portion of the vast sums annually spent on elementary education with no very satisfactory result diverted to higher education. We hear a great deal of the ladder which is to enable young men to pass from the Council school to the University, but the assistance thus given will be of little use if Universities are left to die for want of financial support. As things are, how- ever, it is useless to look for help in this direction. And we can but echo the hope that among our wealthy citizens may be found those who will listen to the appeal. It is strange that this source has not hitherto "proved as fruitful in Great Britain as elsewhere." Perhaps the explanation as regards Oxford is that up to this time the teaching element in the University has overpowered the research element, and that to give money to Oxford does not present itself to the donor's imagination as a way of helping scientific progress. But one of the two chief objects of the present appeal is to increase this side of University activity. The way to do this is not to divert the resources of Oxford from the objects on which they are now' spent, and spent quite rightly, but to provide new resources out of which other equally important objects may be furthered. There must be a considerable number of men in Great Britian to whom the gift of £1,000 would mean no real inconvenience, and if out of them two hundred and fifty could be found with a real desire to spend money in putting science at Oxford on a level with science at some newer Universities, what- is wanted would at once be obtained. In this case, too, there is another chance out of which something may come. Among the wealthy classes there are a fair proportion of old Oxford men, and from these we may hope that subscriptions will come in, if not in thousands, at least in hundreds. Last chance of all, is there no very wealthy man who would like to earn the grateful thanks of all lovers of " sound learning and useful science" by giving the whole quarter of a million at once ?