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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 68

Higher Education

page 16

Higher Education.

The Province of Canterbury has from its foundation given great prominence to higher education. The Canterbury Association intending as it did to make it a colony of members of the Church of England, set apart a certain proportion of the proceeds of its land sales for the establishment of a church college and grammar school. And Christ's College Grammar School was started early in the history of the Province and flourished for many years as one of the best, if not the best of its kind in New Zealand, drawing a large number of its pupils from other provinces. But as the exclusively Church of England character of the district disappeared it became clear to the Provincial Council that its collegiate education must be founded on wider basis, and in 1873 large reserves were set apart, and by the Canterbury College Ordinance, vested in a Governing Body, whose twenty-three members were drawn from all sects. Thus an undenominational University College was founded, under the name of Canterbury College, and a staff of professors, able to give a complete liberal education of a university standard, was brought from England and commenced work in 1875.

Along with Otago University, the new college succeeded in gradually reforming the recently-established University of New Zealand, and putting its constitution and degrees on a more satisfactory footing; and now that institution practically consists of the three University Colleges in Auckland, Christchurch, and Dunedin, and has all its degree, senior scholarship, and honour examinations conducted by the most eminent examiners in the British Universities.

For several years the number of students was small, though increasing, as Christ's College still adhered to its original idea of adding collegiate education to its grammar school education, and there were no other secondary schools in the province to prepare students for matriculation. But in 1877 the Girls' High School was establish with a small endowment, and in 1881 the Christchurch Boys' High School with an ample endowment, and High Schools at Timaru, Ashburton, Akaroa, and Rangiora, with portions of the former primary school reserves to support them. The two former were placed under the governing body of Canterbury College, and along with the others were intended to prepare students for that institution These schools give great prominence to practical training, although they pay special attention to preparing pupils for entering on a University course. The last few years the Boys' High School has page 17 had a workshop in full operation, for teaching the pupils skill in various mechanical trades; whilst the Girls' High School has had for five or six years a highly successful cooking class, and as successful a class scientific dress cutting. It also insists on the physical training of the girls, gymnastics, drill, and swimming being part of the curriculum. In both schools there are offered every year a number of exhibitions for pupils entering them, and a few for pupils already in them.

Canterbury College draws numbers of students from the districts of Nelson, Wellington, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui, Westland and South Canterbury. And it has become the largest of the three University Colleges, having had during last session 165 matriculated students, and 153 unmatriculated students (in all 318) attending its lectures. Some of its classes, such as English Composition, have often above 150 students in regular attendance.

Of its students the great majority are merely pursuing a liberal course of education towards a degree in arts, a few are proceeding to a degree, and still fewer to a science degree or an engineering certificate. There being a small law faculty and a small engineering faculty in the College.

One of the features of the College that has made it so great a success has been the admission of ladies, not only to the lectures, but to all the privileges of undergraduates and graduates. The consequence is, a large number of the graduates, and some of these the most successful in gaining scholarships and honours, are ladies; it was the first University College in the British dominions to have a lady graduate; and nearly half of the undergraduates and almost as large a proportion of unmatriculated students attending lectures are ladies. No difficulty has ever arisen as to the two sexes attending the same lecture at the same times, and the effect on the male undergraduates has been the almost complete absence of discourtesy or breach of discipline on their part. It is one of the few colleges in the British Empire where ladies are seen daily in the lecture-rooms and courts in cap and gown, and it undoubtedly led the way in this.

Most of the lectures are so arranged that men in business, clerks, artisans, and teachers from the country, can attend them without giving up their daily avocations; and a single lecture per week may be attended during a term of fourteen weeks for a fee of half a guinea, as there is no matriculation or entrance fee. The consequence is that every session large numbers attend and study, who have no page 18 intention of proceeding to a degree; and the influence of the College on the professions, and the general culture of the neighbourhood, is much wider than might be judged from the number of its graduates. Most of the teachers of the district and a large proportion of the young clergymen and lawyers pass through its classes.

But in degrees, scholarships, and honours, it stands easily first amongst the colleges of New Zealand, as will be seen by the following extract from the last annual report of the Chairman of its Governing body:—

"Out of 199 who have taken degrees in the University of New Zealand, 83 belong to Canterbury College; out of 71 who have taken M.A., 40 belong to it; and of 35 who have taken first-class honours 24 belong to it. Of the 66 senior and third-year and John Tinline Scholarships awarded by the University of New Zealand, during the last twelve years, the period during which the present scholarship regulations have been in force, 45 have been awarded to students attending Canterbury College, and of the 14 Bowen Prizes which have been awarded by the University for an essay on a subject connected with English History, and open to all undergraduates of the University of New Zealand, nine have been gained by students trained in College."