Address by Sir Robert Stout
(Chancellor of the New Zealand University),
Delivered at the Annual Ceremonial and Presentation of Diplomas to Otago University Students, in Knox Church Sunday School Hall, Dunedin, on Friday, July 11, 1913.
(Reprinted from Otago Daily Times, Saturday, July 12, 1913.)
I must first congratulate not only those connected with the Otago University, but the Provincial district of Otago and South-land, that the good work begun in 1871. when the University opened, is still continued. This year the record, of honours obtained is high, and the fact that in the department of science it transcends that of other colleges shows that the Otago University is well equipped with teachers of science. One of the students has obtained the Rhodes Scholarship; and, it was, I may say, unanimously awarded. I am sure all of us wish every success and prosperity to Mr Miles, not doubting that he will uphold his own honour and the honour of the Otago University, and that he will be a credit to the dominion. And to those students who are leaving the halls of learning behind them and entering into those larger halls, the halls of the world, may I be permitted to convey the best wishes of all.
I hope, however, it is not necessary to impress on those who have entered upon what may be called the real struggle of life that we look to them not to forget the past. All University matters should ever remain of interest to them, They should consider that its management and its welfare are their concern in an especial manner. When the foundations of Scottish education were laid by John Knox and the other Johns, the relationship of the student to the community was emphasised. The wealthier men were to send their sons—if they had capacity—to the University, not for their own welfare, but that they might better serve the State. And surely that is the highest ideal of education—that every youth according to his capacity—and capacities vary—should be so trained that be might do the State some service. To each and every student the State is in fact calling: "I have need of thee." See that you obey the call. Is our education system, that has trained and helped you to be maintained and improved from time to time as circumstances require? Or, is it to be put in the "melting pot," as it is termed, by those who know little of us, or of our history? To some people a suggestion that we should alter our system is favourable if it comes from one abroad. In fact, I have in my mind's eve one enthusiast who, after a two weeks' stay in Wellington, thought our education system was out of joint, and that he could set it right. His knowledge of even our geography was scant; of our history he had but a modicum of knowledge; and he knew nothing of the institutions which he had not seen, but his courage was great. Happily in university matters we have been preserved from theological controversy. We have believed in the wisdom of the following words of an eminent Anglican divine, the Rev. J. C. R. Ewing. D.D.. LL.D., vice-chancellor of the Punjab University, and principal of the Formen Christian College, Lahore: "In a universitv open to all creeds the compulsory teaching of the tenets of any particular creed is neither desirable nor possible. ... The principle of non-intervention in religion renders it imperative that there should be no teaching of the tenets of any particular faith in these schools and colleges maintained and controlled by the Government."
It is not necessary that I should point out to you how some of the less-experienced and youthful professors have depreciated and defamed our University. They apparently do not understand that charges made against the University are grave reflections on the graduates and on the professors. An able educationalist said that the teachers make the university, and if its teaching institutions have failed to train and teach their students the blame rests on the teachers, and not on the examiners. It would not be edifying to pointedly refer to all the vapourings to which during the past few years one has had to listen.
The fact is that the present government both of our colleges and of our University is threatened. Can we depend upon [unclear: the] graduates of the Otago University to do their duty to their Alma Mater in this crisis? If they think that the professors ought to examine their own students—if they think that such a method of examination will really be a fair test, and one that will give confidence to the public—then let it be so resolved. We live in a democracy, and we must bow to the will of the people, and what will be best for them and their institutions. But let us all clearly understand what is meant by the proposed changes. The demand for change is not confined to the question of appointing the teachers as examiners. The professors are to rule. The Senate is to do nothing unless by leave of the professors. That is, so far as I can gather, the idea of the leading reformers, and is their objective. I hardly think that any citizen of self-respect would care for a seat on the Senate under such conditions.
Our present University is controlled by a representative body. That body is representative of the graduates, of the affiliated bodies, of the professors, and of the Government of the State. The State is represented by four, the professors by four, the graduates by eight, and the affiliated bodies by eight members. If the State, the professors, the graduates, and the affiliated institutions choose to elect none but professors, that can be done. The professors are under no disabilities—they are eligible to be chosen. As a matter of fact, out of 24 senators, nine are at present professors, there are two other members who have been on the University staff, two others distinguished secondary school teachers—one of these being now Inspector-generals of schools, and one is head of colleges, The "lay element," as it is termed, is, therefore, not in predominance. In comparison with the constitution of legislative bodies of newer universities, the system of our Universitv occupies no mean position. The Senate has never refused to consider any suggestions from professors. As a general rule it has never made a programme of studies or altered the existing programme without consulting the teachers of the subjects affected. Of course, it would he idle to ask of one who is merely an expert in mathemathics about the programme in classics, or to ask an expert in chemistry to criticise the requirements of a pass in mental and moral philosophy. Specialisation has to be recognised in education as in other things, and a conference of professors might be no more competent to draw up, for example, a programme of studies than a conference of laymen. The majority might be ignorant of the subject. A committee of the Senate has sent proposals for an alteration in the constitution of the University to the councils, the professorial boards, and the convocations for the districts. At present the Senate, the four councils, the four professorial boards, and the four district convocations constitute the University-governing bodies. There has not been a meeting of general convocation for some years—not since the four district convocations were constituted. The Senate is representative of all these bodies and of the Executive of the Dominion. This is to be continued, but it is proposed by scheme A to create the following new bodies—a Board of Studies, consisting of 26 members; and five Boards of Faculties (arts, science, law, medicine, technology). The faculties include all the professors and lecturers who are member of the professorial boards. In the Arts Faculty there will be about 30 members; and if any effective consideration is to be given to matters before them they must meet at least once a year. And the Board of Studies will, I suppose, meet once a year, and the Senate will meet at least once a year. Under these conditions some of the professors will need to be travelling a good deal. There will then be 20 bodies to deal with university education, and the professors will dominate 10 of these bodies, or no outsiders will be members of any one of the 10. Another proposal—Scheme B—is a senate, four councils, four professorial boards, and a conjoint professorial board, and eight boards of faculties and four con vocations of graduates—altogether 22 bodies.
Under both these system, all power is vested in the professors, for nothing can be done by the Senate regarding degrees, diplomas, scholarships, prizes, courses of study, examinations, or the appointment of examiners, etc., without a recommendation front the Board of Studies or the conjoint Professorial Board, or without referring the matter to them. Under Scheme B the graduates will have to welcome to their convocations the graduates of other universities recognised by the Senate when they have been six months on New Zealand, judges and stipendiary magistrates, mayors of boroughs, presidents of learned societies and who is to define a learned society?—members of Parliament, and of education boards, governing bodies of Secondary schools, chairmen of school committees, head masters of secondary schools and of primary schools above a certain grade, the Council of the Accountants' Society, presidents of law and medical societies, of agricultural and pastoral societies, and of chambers of commerce, and such other classes of persons as the Senate, with the approval of the Governor-in-Council, may from time to time determine! It would take up too much time to detail to you other amendments suggested.
Why not frankly face the position? If the professors are to rule, have a constitution accordingly, instead of having 20 to 22 bodies to manage our University. Politicians often talk of the bi-cameral system, and some advocate a uni-cameral system. Or, if you view it from the University point of view, leaving out the affiliated bodies and their councils and their boards, we have dealing with University matters alone a Senate, a Convocation, a Board of Studies, or a Joint Professorial Board, and five to eight Boards of Faculties; this is, seven or 10 bodies to deal with purely University work. I do hope the graduates will in their convocations consider whether it would be an improvement to destroy our present University system, as would be done by handing it over to professors, excluding all extramural students, and making degrees obtainable by the grace of the professors. If the graduates decide for the reformers, then the dominion should not have to meet the expense and trouble of 20 or 22 bodies—for under Scheme B the councils as independent bodies will vanish,—and it would be better to have one chamber ruled by a constitution of professors exclusively.
The struggle in England during the past 50 years has been to get the older Universities placed under democratic control. Commission has followed commission, and committees of the Privy Council have framed statutes to liberalise their management. It is a pity that those who want the changes suggested in Schemes A and B had not been consulted. If we are to have a change in the constitution of our Universitv and its affiliated institutions it should be in the direction of more and not less popular election and control.
In an address I delivered in Christchurch I dealt with the question of external examinations, and explained that if the system proposed is introduced the State will have no guarantee that its highest educational system is efficiently conducted. We need independent examination to maintain the status of our University in the eyes of the public.
May I add one word in conclusion? I was one of the first, if not the first, to enter myself some 42 years ago as a student of Otago University. Who that was present then in what are called the Stock Exchange Buildings will ever forget the addresses of Macgregor, Sale, and Shand at the opening of the University and the enthusiasm of those days? Macgregor has passed away, but his memory is kept green by all his students. Sale happily is alive and in his native land, and may he live long! Those who were under him ever regard him with the highest respect. We hear now that the last of the three—Dr Shand—is to give up his work this year. He is present, and I know his nature; I therefore restrain myself. He does not ask and does not desire praise. But I know I am voicing the feelings of all those who have had the inestimable good fortune to be his students when I say that they wish him well, and they recognise his great services not only to them but also to education in this country. And in his retirement he has their esteem, their gratitude and their love. We all wish him many happy years of well-earned ease and rest.