29 MAY 1936, Page 36



THE references to Scottish education in the recently published- Report of the, Universities Grants Com- mittee for the five years 1929-30 to 1934-35 may profitably give, rise to serious reflection in educational circles in Scotland. At the very outset of Report comes the surprising and possibIy .ominous Tact that.since_1928-29 the number of full-time --students. in Scotland. has dropped by ,701; while thenumber in England has increased by nearly 5,000, an advance likely to be at least maintained in the future, in spite of a declining birth-rate, according to careful calculations by the Board of Education.... -- Stands Scotland where she did ?

. Before seeking an explanation it is well to stress the comforting fact that in the proportion of full-time students to the total population, Scotland surpasses all countries except. Switzerland and the United States. TI1C relative figures are; for England 1 in 1,013 and for Scotland 1 in 473. It may well be that Scotland in this matter has reached saturation point, and a slight decline may be a sign of health, 'a recognition that for effective University standards the net . has, already been cast too wide. It would certainly be strange if the enormous increase of secondary education in England, with its machinery of advanced courses, State scholarships and the like, the spread of the newer Universities and the development of the old, were without their counterpart in the increasing proportion of University- students. This very fact militates against Scottish gradu- ates, because it inevitably closes avenues formerly avail- able to them. Further the development of new industries like radio, to which there is no parillel in Scotland, provides scope and encouragement for Science graduates.

The decline of 701 can he explained by the drop of 858 in the number of women students, a figure corre- sponding closely to the estimated reductiOn of 800 in the number of prospective teachers. The raising of the school age may bring back teaching vacancies and therefore places in Training Colleges, but there are signs that the policy of a degree for all teachers, which has been vigorously preached in the past by the Educa- tional Institute, will have to be departed from. It may be that University education has been touching strata too low for effective intellectual work. There is much to be said for raising the quality of students at the expense of numbers, especially as Edinburgh and Glasgow Uniyersities.. at least are too large and _too cumbrous - for the development of an real rcOrpoirate spirit or aCtivity, this in ''spite of an extensive:prop:lion Orhostel, Winch in Edinburgh for instance accommodate 13.9-per cent,' as against- 18:9 for the whore of:England, excluding Oxford and Cambridge. - There are two further reasons of a general nature for relative decline in numbers. There -is now u greater awareness of other possibilities and boys of first-rate -University calibre are drafted . off to insurance fur instance, or to service with municipalities which, oddly enough, avoid taking into their own service the graduates they .have subsidised perhaps 'too lavishly. There is also an increase in the habit of sending Scottish boy, to English schools or to Scottish schools with a bias towards.- Oxford and Cambridge. This not only reduces the numbers going to Scottish Universities,. but, more unfortunately, reinoyesLfroni their midst Undergraduates with freer and more -cultured backgrounds and ampler social advantages. This disturbs the reality of a Univer- sity democracy which can exist only through a mingling on equal terms of all classes.

There are, however, two facts that suggest that not only the numbers but perhaps the level of quality too : may be falling behind—(1) that 28 per cent. of Scottish students Join the Universities while still under 18, as against 10 per cent, in England, and (2) that (a) no -less than 68 per cent. in England take Honours degrees as against 261 per cent. in Scotland, while (b) 6.7 per cent. take post-graduate work as against 2.7 per cent. in Scotland. Possibly in Scotland culture is spread over a wider area and is correspondingly thin.

The explanation ptrtly lies in the very different school arrangements followed in the two countries. In England the School Certificate Examination, which if taken on an appropriate standard gives admission to the University, is taken normally at 16: and thereafter there is a highly specialised course covering normally two years. This school specialisation not only. leads to a specialised degree at the University. but largely governs the choice of subject.

One result of this, and not a fortunate one, is seen in the History Schools : no fewer than 517 men and 178 women took Honours degrees in History as against a total of 275 in Mathematics, 240 in Geography and 506 in English. Small wonder that some of the Universities are considering" schemes of reform requiring a wider range of subjects and lightening the syllabus in such a way as considerably -to diminish the demand on information while somewhat increasing the demand on intelligence." More students should take an ordinary degree on a good standard and a "Combined Honours degree would be most helpful, particularly for those likely to be teachers. "It is by no means," says the Report, "the weaker brother only who might benefit more by a broader type of education." _ Scotland, on the other hand, makes Sure of the broad basis There is only one certificate ,examipation and that on general lines, normally taken at .17, with a much stiffer *las- 'Standard. Prospective HonOurs candidates may take a single ,i3ost-cert4ficate -year, which unfor- tunately is unexamined and unrecognised, without any focus. of effort..apart:frora the casual and widely varying Bursary Examinations of the four Universities. And the University may -allow nothing for.is-O-rk atcOtilplished then. In medicine, for instance, no one is allowed to escape the First Year ScienceL,snbjects, however ,dis- tinguished his capacity in Science. Probabt? there is no reform in Scottish education more urgent than this. it cannot be right that the bright boy, who passes the higher L.C. at 16, should be ignored thereafter by the titate system of education. A reinstatement of the told Honours certificate, or some substitute, is overdue. - - The genius of Scottish Universities is in fact essentially different from the English. "The sense that the value_ or learning bears some proportion to the arduousness Of its attainment and the tradition of -an intimate union between the plainest of living and the highest of thinking" quote the words of the Report—is not a bad summing up of the situation. Vigorous and purpOseful- effort_ and firmness of grip are its charaeteristies, Tatlier-than the easy graces of culture._ It is, niore, controlled by vocational needs (a suitable job at the end is for most a grim necessity), and for such purposes the feettire systenri, With its power of compression and concentration upon the mastery of essentials, is a fitting instrument— not a bad one if the zest of achievement is added , and `a---"FiVe -orlEIJOliS" "and the possession of them created, Ii conclusion .refeienee may be made to some financiid 'comparisons :- (1) 45.1 per -cent. of the students in Scotland are assisted by grants of some sort, mainly from the Carnegie Fund. England, though probably more generous in its gifts, provides for 39.2 per cent. only. '(2) Scotland has the advantage in the provision of post. 'graduate scholarships from the Carnegie and other Funds. Indeed recent benefactions for this and similar purposes have actually equalled those in England, but (3) in the lavish provision for new buildings, as for instance ii Oxford, Cambridge and London, Scotland lags far behind-1821,743 as against £2,537,455. (4) In Scotland there are no contributicins from local authorities such as there. are in England. There is here an untapped and possibly promising- satiree of revenue, though it is difficult to-see why the simpler expedient of increased fees: is: not resorted' especially in Arts, where they amount only to 15 guineas with a Matriculation Fee cf 24 guineas. A large share of such an increase would be passed on to the local authorities and a reluctant generosity thus stimulated: