A Professorial University of London


    THE recent history of the London University question affords decisive proof that the new University, which is to be the outcome of the labours of the Royal Commission now sitting, must be much more than a merely exclusive or merely local institution. Of the two main objects of a University in any English sense of the expression—the promotion of the higher education, and the advancement of learning—both must be equally subserved; and neither will be attained if the new University be established on other than the broadest possible basis, or if its development be controlled and hindered by rivalries that could not but become of an ignoble character. In the course of discussion it has been made abundantly clear that a duplication of Universities in London would be a misfortune of the first magnitude, dividing resources and diverting energies into channels that would lead to many undesirable results. It is equally clear that a University, consisting of a federation of local educational institutions existing within the same narrow area, would be wanting both in unity and force: its government would tend to become a succession of compromises effected between the interests, almost wholly of a financial nature, of its constituent Colleges. It may, then, be taken as a conclusion accepted by the great majority of those who have given special attention to the subject that there should be one University, and one only, in London, and that it should not be of a federal character. To this position it is a simple corollary that the government of the proposed University should be vested mainly in a professorial body. Much the most important work of the University would be the enactment of curricula and syllabuses and the control of teaching and examination—work that can only be efficiently performed by those specially familiar with the subjects taught. With the Professors a proper number of Crown nominees should be associated to act as moderators and as representatives of general educational policy, as well as to guard the interests and assure the continued confidence of the public. With the mode of creation and with the functions of the usual Faculties, and with the details of examinational systems, we need not at present concern ourselves. In fact, the less the new University is fettered by any Charter or Act the better, and it would be a misfortune were the precedent followed of the complicated and minutely detailed Charter recently rejected by the Convocation of the London University. On that occasion, it must be admitted, Convocation made good use of its veto, but its continued possession of such a power would, we think, be a source of disquiet and danger, without any corresponding advantage to Convocation itself, or the University—especially a professorial University—or indeed to the public. A much more useful provision would be the grant of a power of appeal to some such Committee of the Privy Council as that by whose aid the Scotch Universities are enabled to settle their differences.

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    A Professorial University of London. Nature 46, 121–122 (1892) doi:10.1038/046121a0

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