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The Government Scheme of University Reform

Nature volume 13, pages 341342 | Download Citation



THE speech of Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords on Thursday evening, on introducing a Bill for regulating the reform of Oxford University, will probably satisfy the expectations with which the declaration of the Government policy has been awaited. It is a fortunate circumstance that the conduct of the measure should be placed in the hands of one who is, at the same time, Chancellor of the University, a minister in whom both his party and the country have entire confidence, and also a well-known friend of the physical sciences. The Government scheme, therefore, is introduced under favourable auspices; and, in itself, so far as it has been yet revealed, it seems calculated to disarm all opposition. It is true that much yet remains to be learned concerning the modes in which the scheme is to operate. The names of the Commissioners, to whom a certain degree of control is apparently to be entrusted, will be looked for with anxiety; and the details, which will only be understood when the bill is printed, will also be of much interest to those who will be directly affected by them. But the general public, who are after all the party most concerned, is contented with the enunciation of principles which Lord Salisbury's speech contains. He argued, with great ingenuity, that it is not possible for Parliament to dictate to the University and College authorities the precise lines of reorganisation along which they are to proceed. This argument suggests much that a party critic may object to as involving an abnegation on the part of Ministers of their own proper responsibility. However that may be, it is certain that people at large are totally incapable of giving an intelligent approval to anything more definite than the proposals which Lord Salisbury has sketched. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the absence of complete knowledge to which Lord Salisbury himself pleaded guilty, though it may somewhat surprise and disturb Oxford residents, will not have the effect of bringing him into closer harmony with the general feeling of the country. The case for reform does not rest upon minor matters of detail which require research to discover and particular experience to appreciate, and of which the meaning might be altogether altered by further research and wider experience. The plain statement of the facts is enough, and upon that plain statement Lord Salisbury has wisely relied.

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