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Considerations on the Suggestions of the University

Commissioners with respect to Fellowships and
Scholarships.

SECTION 1.

The Cambridge University Commissioners have sent to the Masters of such Colleges as have applied for their approval of new Statutes a series of propositions bearing on the most important questions.

The period has not yet arrived at which the Commissioners can themselves propose Statutes to those Colleges which have not exercised the powers conferred on them by the Act to such extent as the Commissioners shall deem sufficient. It would, however, appear that they submit these suggestions to the Colleges with the desire of having them fully discussed, and of hearing the views entertained with respect to them, by those who are in a position to form some idea of the probable results of such changes. It is with a view to aid such discussion on the points relating to Fellowships and Scholarships that these considerations are put forward.

Many of the most important influences of University emoluments and of College life are so indirect and so little obvious at first sight to those who have not the working of the system as it is at present before their eyes, that persons who are honestly investigating these vexed and serious questions, must of necessity find frequent reasons for changing or modifying their opinions as they proceed. The University Commissioners are careful to express their sense of this by stating that their suggestions are in no way to be considered as final conclusions, but only as representing the opinions to which in the present state of their information they are more or less inclined.

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Before proceeding to details, a word or two is necessary on the letter of the Commissioners. They intimate that they consider these propositions to be applicable to all Colleges; and thus, since

s they embrace nearly all questions of any importance, we should have, if they were carried out, seventeen different Colleges all offering the same inducements to students, so that the chance of their all prospering would be about as great as that of seventeen shops in a row all dealing in the same wares *, but of which two or three surpassed the rest in magnificence of show.

Hitherto there has been great diversity in the advantages offered by the different Colleges,—one College had the best livings, another the best Fellowships; at one College the Fellowships depended on a special Examination, at another on the University Honours; at one Lay Fellowships were temporary, at another permanent; and the result has certainly been better for the public, and therefore more desirable for the University-for their interests are the same—than if the Colleges had been all modelled after any one of the existing forms.

In the present picturesque variety in the conditions of tenure and the values of Fellowships, each individual is able to find some College which suits his particular case better than the rest, and not only is a distribution of the reading men thus effected, and in some Colleges a certain professional tone given, but this very variety in the nature of the aids and inducements offered, extends the range of the University connexion, and increases the number of able men whom we attract.

Hence I think that even if a scheme of Statutes could be drawn up, which should be admitted on all hands to be perfect, yet that, taking into account the various circumstances, tastes and intentions of our students, the public would be best served by leaving a considerable variety in the regulations of the different Colleges: and in the actual state of things, when there is great difference of opinion upon many points,—when every year's experience,—when every addition to our insight into the motives which send men to the University and keep them at work there, discloses some new and unexpected way in which our system works; it is surely most ill-advised to try to shape all Colleges after a regulation pattern : it would be almost sure to follow that the Fellowships which could only be got in one particular way and held under one set of conditions, would lose their attraction for some class of particularly circumstanced men.

* It is true that a College might especially direct its attention to a particular Tripos, but as all requisite assistance for any branch of study might be obtained by any student in the University, this peculiarity, unaccompanied by advantages in the way of emoluments, would have very little effect.

For example, some of our best students are not able to come up till rather late, and can but just afford three years to study for their degrees; if then they had to spend two or three more in preparing for general Fellowship Examinations, this would often decide them not to read for Honours, or not to come here at all.

For some men, again, whom we should be very sorry to lose, the great value of a Fellowship lies in its being terminable only by their own act, in its affording the means of their pursuing their bent for science or literature without being distracted by having to struggle for money; or of playing the nobler game in their profession, by fitting themselves for its highest posts and biding their time, instead of following an inferior walk from immediate need or compounding with their prospects for some petty provision; and it would be a great pity that these should not find somewhere the inducement they most prize.

Instead, then, of destroying the existing variety, which has answered its end very well, we should endeavour to organise it, so that persons with different objects, and looking to different studies or professions, might find some College specially suited to their case; and it would be wise to leave in the hands of the several bodies a certain power of adapting their rules to the changes of society, for they would be the first to feel when their system became unsuitable, the most likely to see where it failed, and the most interested to set it right.

Again, since College legislation is a subject on which those who have thought most are the least inclined to dogmatize, it would be well to allow Colleges to vary from each other even in the most fundamental points, if they have arrived at different conclusions upon them, as the re-modelling now in hand must be considered as in some degree tentative; and, since the Act of Parliament affords facilities for future changes of Statutes, the marked success of any principle in one College would lead to its adoption Before proceeding to details, a word or two is necessary on the letter of the Commissioners. They intimate that they consider these propositions to be applicable to all Colleges ; and thus, since they embrace nearly all questions of any importance, we should have, if they were carried out, seventeen different Colleges all offering the same inducements to students, so that the chance of their all prospering would be about as great as that of seventeen shops in a row all dealing in the same wares *, but of which two or three surpassed the rest in magnificence of show.

Hitherto there has been great diversity in the advantages offered by the different Colleges,-one College had the best livings, another the best Fellowships; at one College the Fellowships depended on a special Examination, at another on the University Honours; at one Lay Fellowships were temporary, at another permanent; and the result has certainly been better for the public, and therefore more desirable for the University-for their interests are the same—than if the Colleges had been all modelled after any one of the existing forms.

In the present picturesque variety in the conditions of tenure and the values of Fellowships, each individual is able to find some College which suits his particular case better than the rest, and not only is a distribution of the reading men thus effected, and in some Colleges a certain professional tone given, but this very variety in the nature of the aids and inducements offered, extends the range of the University connexion, and increases the number of able men whom we attract.

Hence I think that even if a scheme of Statutes could be drawn up, which should be admitted on all hands to be perfect, yet that, taking into account the various circumstances, tastes and intentions of our students, the public would be best ser by leaving a considerable variety in the regulations of the different Colleges : and in the actual state of things, when there is great difference of opinion upon many points,—when every year's experience, when every addition to our insight into the motives which send men to the University and keep them at work there, discloses some new and unexpected way in which our system works ; it is surely most ill-advised to try to shape all Colleges after a regulation pattern: it would be almost sure to follow that the Fellowships which could only be got in one particular way and held under one set of conditions, would lose their attraction for some class of particularly circumstanced men.

* It is true that a College might especially direct its attention to a particular Tripos, but as all requisite assistance for any branch of study might be obtained by any student in the University, this peculiarity, unaccompanied by advantages in the way of emoluments, would have very little effect.

For example, some of our best students are not able to come up till rather late, and can but just afford three years to study for their degrees; if then they had to spend two or three more in preparing for general Fellowship Examinations, this would often decide them not to read for Honours, or not to come here at all.

For some men, again, whom we should be very sorry to lose, the great value of a Fellowship lies in its being terminable only by their own act, in its affording the means of their pursuing their bent for science or literature without being distracted by having to struggle for money; or of playing the nobler game in their profession, by fitting themselves for its highest posts and biding their time, instead of following an inferior walk from immediate need or compounding with their prospects for some petty provision; and it would be a great pity that these should not find somewhere the inducement they most prize.

Instead, then, of destroying the existing variety, which has answered its end very well, we should endeavour to organise it, so that persons with different objects, and looking to different studies or professions, might find some College specially suited to their case; and it would be wise to leave in the hands of the several bodies a certain power of adapting their rules to the changes of society, for they would be the first to feel when their system became unsuitable, the most likely to see where it failed, and the most interested to set it right.

Again, since College legislation is a subject on which those who have thought most are the least inclined to dogmatize, it would be well to allow Colleges to vary from each other even in the most fundamental points, if they have arrived at different conclusions upon them, as the re-modelling now in hand must be considered as in some degree tentative; and, since the Act of Parliament affords facilities for future changes of Statutes, the marked success of any principle in one College would lead to its adoption

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