The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1910
Universities of the Empire
Universities of the Empire.
Queensland has just celebrated its jubilee as a self-governing colony by the establishment of a University at Brisbane. This is the fifth body which exercises the functions of a University in Australia, and we believe that the establishment of another is contemplated in Western Australia. We are sure that we but echo the feelings of the students of the University of New Zealand generally when we wish the new institution-every success, and express the hope that it will occupy a worthy and prominent part in the national life of the Commonwealth. Perhaps the most noteworthy circumstance attending its establishment was the enthusiasm for the spread of higher education which seemed to permeate all classes of the community. At the Congress which was summoned to consider the question of a Constitution, no fewer than 149 delegates attended, representing the Government Departments, local bodies, learned societies, trade unions, and friendly societies. In the draft Bill which was formulated by this Congress, Commerce, under the influence of the delusion that Labour had no need for the "Arts" side of university education, was erected into a separate faculty, and occupied a place co-ordinate with the faculties of arts and science; but, in the statute which finally incorporated and established the new University, the faculty of Commerce has no place at all, the original faculties being arts, science, and engineering. This is scarcely regrettable since, however suitable commerce may be as a subject for University training, it is far better that a few faculties should be well provided for, than that many should exist in a stunted condition. It is to be deplored, however, that the exigencies of finance have given the Government so great a share in the administration of the affairs of the new University as to make it practically a branch of the Department of Education. Such conditions, of course, are not conducive to the best interests of higher education, as the stability and permanence of any policy which may be embarked upon by the authorities may be greatly impaired by the supposed necessities of party politics. As Lord Curzon said some time ago, speaking in particular of the Indian Universities, where the financial conditions are somewhat similar, "Higher page 34 education ought not to be run either by politicians or amateurs. It is a science—the science of human life and conduct—in which we must give a reasonable chance to the professor." We trust, however, that the new University will be able, as have the other Universities in Australasia, to free itself from the shackles which threaten, even from its birth, to impede its progress.
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In view of the agitation which has manifested itself in some quarters to secure a more "practical" training in our colleges, our readers must have read with interest the cabled summary of the report of the Royal Commission which was set up to consider the question of the establishment of a University in Western Australia. The report stated that the chief solicitude of such a University must be for "the primary arts of production on which the life of the State depends. Instead of putting classics in the chief rank, it must aim at teaching living languages and pure science."
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South Africa, too, seems to have caught the "University fever." The Transvaal Government intends to establish a Provincial University at Pretoria, with a mining college at Johannesburg. In connection with this scheme, it is intended to spend £100,000 as an initial outlay for the establishment of an agricultural college which, according to General Smuts, "will give men a higher education—a university education—in agricultural subjects, which will enable boys to study for their degrees in agriculture, and which will make them agricultural experts, and give them the highest equipment necessary in such a country as this for agricultural research." The proposal had occasioned great dissatisfaction at Capetown, since it was understood that one of the chief consequences of union would be the establishment of a great national and centralised University in that city. It is urged with some force that there are already too many bodies which exercise the functions of a University in South Africa, and that in order to attain efficiency there must be a greater degree of concentration. There is some ground for this, seeing that only within the last few mouths a new University has been founded in Natal. It is claimed that whilst there is room for many institutions which give a training in agriculture, i.e., technical schools for agri- page 35 culture, there is no necessity for more than one institution which can provide facilities for agricultural research. The problem of university education in South Africa is the same as that which besets Australia—a great area and scanty population. Everyone can see that the more centralised university education is, the more efficient can it be made; but what of the interests of those communities which are so unfortunate as to be situated many hundreds of miles from our supposed central University?
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We notice that the stately pile of buildings which is occupied by the University of Toronto is shortly to be added to by the erection of three new Gothic buildings—one for use as a gymnasium, another for the Students' Union, and the third for the Young Men's Christian Association in connection with the University. The total cost of these buildings is to be in the neighbourhood of £200,000—a sum which has been provided by the bequest of a citizen of Toronto. The University is now a very flourishing institution, and well able to hold its own with any similar institution in the New World. In addition to those who attend the affiliated denominational colleges (which are four in number), there are no fewer than four thousand students attending lectures, a number considerably in excess of the number of students at Oxford. A remarkable fact is that the most popular course seems to be Applied Science, about one-half of the students attending lectures in that branch. This compares somewhat favourably with the fifty students, more or less, who are pursuing a similar course in New Zealand.