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The Spike or Victoria College Review June 1914



demon hammering nail through mortarboard

When, in January of 1914, the Senate of the University of New Zealand decided to abolish the Capping Ceremony, some comment, favourable and unfavourable, was passed on its action. Whatever may have been the feelings of those directly affected by this departure, there can be little doubt that, for reasons which we shall endeavour to explain, the governing body made a move in the right direction. Indignation was expressed by some at the fact that the graduates should be deprived of the right and privilege of being honoured by their fellow-students and by the public for their well-deserved success. Most people took it for granted that such deprivation would be the natural result of the Senate's decision. We do not think for a moment that such was the intention; nor can we believe that the men governing the University of New Zealand would stoop to such a piece of petty meanness.

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In a University constituted as ours is, there are necessarily many governmental difficulties. The Senate is a body not intimately connected with any of the four University Colleges of New Zealand. It is, of course, through the Senate alone that degrees gained by New Zealand students can be conferred; and for this reason the ceremony hitherto held was adopted to present publicly the diplomas won each year. Through no fault of its own, but owing to inherent difficulties in the constitution of the University, the Senate has no disciplinary powers. Since such a condition of things existed, it seems to us to have been a wise action to discard the capping ceremony, and to leave each College to adopt for itself some method of honouring the graduates of the year.

As far as Victoria College was concerned, the ceremony this year took the form of a presentation of "graduands" —those who had succeeded in the examinations of the preceding November. The meeting was held under the control of the College Council, the Professorial Board, and the Students' Association; the public of Wellington was invited to be present. The advantages of such a form of ceremony seem to us to be perfectly obvious.

We think that no one will cavil at the statement that it is only fitting that the graduates of the year should be honoured at a public gathering of this description; it remains to be shown that we think ourselves justified in stating that the ceremony was held this year is in form more suitable than that previously held.

In the first place, there is no doubt that Victoria College should be brought into reputable contact with the people of the city. Situated as the College is on the heights at Kelburne, it is far removed from the business thoroughfares of Wellington, and indeed is, comparatively speaking, little known. A University College should be one of the most important factors in the life of a city, and we hope that our own College, if not so already, is rapidly becoming so in Wellington. Unfortunately we do not often come into direct contact with the public; nor does the public get an opportunity of seeing what the College is doing. In the Capping Ceremony, however, we have an opportunity of meeting the page 9 people, and letting them see, to some extent, what the College has been doing in the past year. The ceremony was held this year seems to us to be an excellent method for so doing. The replacing of the set and formal type of proceedings by a conversazione is a move in the right direction. Instead of having to sit still until the ceremony is finished, the people present are given a certain amount of freedom of movement, which enables them to intermingle. Such an informal type of proceedings conduces more to ease, and breaks down the barriers of formality which necessarily existed at previous ceremonies. The College is proud of the fact that it is the University College of the Capital City: and it wants the citizens of Wellington to be interested in it and its doings. By means of a College function such as that held this year, we believe that the bonds of sympathy between the public and the students will be greatly strengthened.

But there is another advantage accruing from such a gathering—an internal advantage, if we may so call it. In order to make the function a complete success, it is necessary to have co-operation among the three bodies directly interested—the Victoria College Council, the Professorial Board, and the Students' Association. Fortunately, the most happy relations have always existed among these three bodies; and the students are under a. debt of gratitude both to the Council and to the Board; for each body has always been ready to help them in whatever way lay in its power. The students do not often have an opportunity of working with the members of the Council; and naturally, the Council occasionally cannot understand the students' point of view, nor the students that of Council. But by means of this function members of the Council, professors, and students are brought into closer contact. This has a consolidating influence on the inner life of the College, welding all into a united whole.

In all innovations there are necessarily some faults. We do not assert that the conversazione this year was perfect—far from it. There was undoubtedly room for improvement; but with the experience of the past year to page 10 guide them, those who are responsible will doubtless see to it that, in future ceremonies in honour of graduates, such errors will gradually disappear.

We feel that a wise move has been made, and may with reason express satisfaction at the success of the innovation, believing that the new function will prove of lasting value to Victoria College.

"A University should be the brains of the body politic. It should be an institution, a corporation for teaching the individual members of the body politic to think and act for themselves, and at the same time to point out what has been done for the advancement of knowledge by other thinkers and workers, past and present. It is to the University that the community should look for light and guidance in all matters that are concerned in the advance of human knowledge and happiness."

In these eloquent terms the University of Otago describes the function of the modern University. The description leads us by easy stages to consider what facilities have been afforded to Victoria College to carry out this function. It must be remembered that New Zealand has been divided into four districts or provinces for the purposes of University education, and that a grant to Victoria College has been made by Parliament for specialisation in science and law. Coming to our first point, we find that the four University Districts are Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, and Otago. Now the University District of Wellington comprises the six Provincial Districts of Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, Wellington, Nelson, Marlborough, and Westland. That is to say, that portion of the community which looks to Victoria College for "light and guidance in all matters that are concerned in the advance of human knowledge and happiness" comprises the populations of the six provincial districts we have mentioned. At this stage of our enquiry, a comparison of the populations of the four University districts will be of the greatest interest. Our page 11 figures are taken from the official census returns of 1911. They are:

Auckland 264,520
Wellington 379,371
Canterbury 173, 185
Otago 191,130

We contend that it is the Government s duty to recognise the number of the public "catered for" in each of the University centres. We say that it is essentially just, right, and equitable that, as in Wellington we have to meet the demands for higher education of a community twice the size of that of Canterbury or Otago, we should, unless there be good reason to the contrary, be given twice the facilities of Canterbury or Otago for meeting that demand; that is to say, we should have twice the revenue of either Canterbury College or Otago University.

There is no doubt that the objection will at once be raised to our argument that though Victoria College is theoretically compelled to face the demands of a community equal in number to the sum total of the communities of Canterbury and Otago, yet as a matter of fact there is no such demand for University education in the Wellington University District, that Wellington really is not a centre of education, but that the public in Nelson, Marlborough, Taranaki, Westland, and Hawke's Bay prefers to send its sons and daughters to one of the other three colleges; in a word, we shall be told that argument on a population basis is fallacious and misleading. To meet this objection we merely append a table showing the numbers of students attending each College in 1912. We take this from the last Report presented to Parliament by the Inspector-General of Schools. The numbers are:—

Auckland 279
Victoria College 546
Canterbury College 180
Otago University 502

From this Table it becomes abundantly clear that our contention was a sound one: we have a larger number of students in Wellington than in any of the other three page 12 centres, and we argue that our revenue should be correspondingly greater in order to cope efficiently with the greater demand, and more especially to develop the work of the College along the obvious lines of advance.

And now we are confronted with a most astonishing fact. The impartial observer would have thought from what we have said that the revenue of Victoria College would at least be equal to that of any one of the other three University Colleges. We cannot do better than let the damning figures speak for themselves. Here they are:—

Extract from the Inspector-General's report, page 14—

Present Revenue of the Colleges,
A.U.C. V.C. C.C. O.U.
£10,549 £9,846 £14.927 £17,615

This is a sufficiently deplorable state of things, but unhappily there is worse to record. From endowments, Canterbury College received in 1911, £9258; Otago University, £6547: Auckland University College, £743; and Victoria College, the munificent sum of £114. Now these endowments increase in value from year to year, consequently the revenue of the two Southern Colleges, as years go by, will proportionately increase, while the revenues of Victoria College, so far as her endowments are concerned, will remain practically unchanged owing to the insignificant nature of the endowments.

So far, then, we contend that we may justly say:—

(1)That Victoria College has to provide facilities for the education of a community greater than that of any one of the other three centres.
(2)That the revenue of the College is therefore manifestly inadequate.
(3)That the disproportionately small revenue of Victoria College, combined with the lack of proper endowments, renders just and imperative her claim that her revenues be increased and placed on a permanent and substantial basis.

But there is a further fact calling for mention. We have said that Victoria College is authorised to specialise page 13 in science and law. There is good reason for this. Otago specialises in Medicine, Mining, Dentistry, and Home Science; Canterbury in Mining and Engineering; Auckland in Mining. Thus the establishment of a Science or Law school in one of these centres would throw additional burdens on these Colleges. The establishment of these two schools at Victoria College was almost inevitable. It is an extraordinary fact that the Inspector-General, while apparently realising and approving the scheme of specialisation at the different Colleges, should have made no recommendation for a grant to Victoria College to enable specialisation in law and science to be carried out efficiently. He recommended that the sum of £7000 be voted the College to provide the additional space rendered necessary by the large influx of students during the last few years, and states that it would be "a very just thing for Victoria College to receive £500 a year" from the higher education reserves in Taranaki. But no grant, as we nave said, is recommended to enable Victoria College to specialise in the two faculties in which the Inspector-General himself thinks it right that the College should specialise. Briefly put, the Report proposes a revenue for each College for the teaching of Arts, Science, Law and Commerce of £11,000, quite irrespective of the number of students at each College and of the question of specialisation. This is all the more difficult to understand when we find later in the report a recommendation that an annual grant of £8000 be made to Otago University and of £3000 to Canterbury College to enable those Colleges to specialise respectively in medicine and engineering. In the same report the Inspector-General stated that some £10,000 was required by the Otago University for building additions. The fact will be fresh in our readers' minds that a few months ago the Minister of Education, totally disregarding all the other recommendations in the report, stated that a grant of £10,000 had been made to Otago. This is the more amazing because the Education Committee of the House of Representatives had adopted all the Inspector-General's suggestions, and recommended the House to carry out his proposals in full. We cannot and will not believe that the Minister for Education page 14 in voting this sum to Otago was influenced by any unworthy motive. Therefore we can place only one construction upon the action of the Govern it. The claims of higher education upon the public purse have at last been recognised by the Government. The grant to Otago is but a prelude to similar grants to the North Island Colleges. A year ago the Macarthy Trustees donated £2000 to Victoria College to found a Chair of Economics. A generous bequest by the late Mrs. Rhodes will also bring to the College a large sum. In consideration of the facts we have enumerated, in all hope and confidence, we look to Cabinet not only to carry out all Mr. Hogben's recommendations, but doubly, even trebly, to subsidise the Macarthy and Rhodes bequests.