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University Reform

Nature volume 13, pages 381382 | Download Citation



THE discussion in the House of Lords on the second reading of the Oxford University Bill cannot be said to have been satisfactory. Those who took part in the debate were, almost without exception, Oxford men with high honours; and they evidently represented the opinions of the majority of Oxford residents. It is, indeed, a singular circumstance that there should be among the peers so large a proportion of persons who have gained first-classes, and who have themselves held “idle fellowships;” a proportion greater than can be found in the House of Commons. But the experience contributed by them, however valuable, ought not to have monopolised the whole discussion of the matter in a legislative assembly. Such experience is of the nature of one-sided evidence, which should be heard and weighed before a decision is reached; but which cannot be permitted to substitute itself for a thorough discussion of a subject of national importance. This aspect of the debate is the more to be regretted, because it will tend to encourage the feeling, which seems to be already predominant at Oxford, that the limited vision of the present race of University residents, together with their own pecuniary interests, is to determine the course of academical reorganisation. The hopes raised by Lord Salisbury's first speech will be dashed to the ground, if such petty matters as the difference between the legislative functions of convocation and congregation, the influence of the parochial clergy on either body., or the period during which an “idle fellowship” should be tenable, are thrust forward as the supreme considerations. These subjects, no doubt, require to be discussed and settled, once and for all; and it is, perhaps, an omission that they have not found a place in the Government measure. But no misfortune would be graver than if it were to go to the country, as the Liberal peers seem to wish, that the Bill does not contain principles of reform, in comparison with which these details sink into their proper insignificance.

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