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The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, June 1913

University Reform

page 22

University Reform.

"The blood on the altars of the ignorant is the blood of the ignorant."

Interest in this movement has been well sustained during the year, and substantial progress has been made. The retrogressive action of the Senate at its last annual meeting made it clear that no reform of nay value could be expected from that body as at present constituted; consequently the movement for reform has received a considerable impetus in all four University centres. The demand for Royal Commission of a competent and impartial character is steadily growing, and signs of immediate action are not wanting. Such an inquiry is the only means of ending the present deadlock.

The Education Committee of the House of Representatives, reporting on the petition of some members of the Victoria College staff for a Royal Commission decided;

(1.)That there was need for reform, but that the setting up of the Professorial Conference by the Senate in 1910 was evidence that the Senate was anxious to undertake such reform.
(2.)That the Inspector-General of Schools should report on the libraries and finances of the College.

At the 1912 meeting of the Senate, the Report of the Committee of the following resolution, moved by the Hon. Jas. Allen:—

"That the Senate arrange for an annual Conference of representatives of the Professorial Boards of the affiliated institutions, to be held in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, at times to be fixed by the Senate."

The first Conference was set down for November, 1912, and the staffs of the College gave the questions of the pass courses for degrees and of examination methods their careful and continuous consideration; so that page 23 When the Conference actually met, it falsified the hopes of the prophets by producing moderate but valuable recommendations on both issues.

The Conference proposed that the present six subject degree-course should continue for those who desired to take it; that the University should also make provision for a course of correlated subjects and, by permitting repetition in two subjects, encourage students to aim at a mastery of a small group of subjects rather than a smattering of many.

The Conference condemned the system of purely external examination; suggested that it should be abolished within five years (a period in which the Senate could make equitable arrangements with its examiners in England), and approved of a board of examiners consisting of the teachers of a subject.

The reply of the Senate to these proposals was unambiguous : it threw out the proposals and, on the motion of Mr. Von. Haast, abolished the Conference. The position now is, that after more than five years of work, worry, and struggle, the problem the Senate set itself to solve—the modification of our pass courses so as to bring them into line with those of modern Universities—still remains "a riddle of the universe," and the Senate has proceeded to seek its immediate amusement in the much more intricate problem of the constitution of the University : Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat.

It is of interest to note that the last Royal Commission on the London University (upon which the New Zealand University was modelled) has, after four years inquiry, presented its report. "The London Times" devotes its leading article in its issue of April 16th to this question, congratulates the Commission on the success of its labours, and then says : "Their recommendations will be censured and attacked; proposed reforms always are. Vested interests are strong, and can make themselves heard; and the more chaotic an organization is the more elements there are to feel aggrieved by the introduction of a rational order."

page 24

Concerning the two problems that face the N.Z. University, degree courses and examination methods, the Commissioners say : "We are convinced that both a detailed syllabus and an external examination are inconsistent with the true interests of University education, injurious to students, degrading to teachers, and ineffective for the attainment of the ends they are supposed to promote. . . . . The effect upon the students and the teachers is disastrous. The students have the ordeal of the examination hanging over them, and must prepare themselves for it, or fail to get the degree. Thus the degree comes first, and the education a bad second."

The Report is full of information and guidance on the problems that face the New Zealand University, and could not have been published at a more opportune moment.

The Inspector-General of Schools has presented his report, which has been printed. It is a very valuable document; it brings together and sets out in logical order a mass of data that has never before been considered as a whole. When impartially viewed, this report itself is perhaps the most convincing evidence there could be that a Royal Commission is necessary. One thing is certain, that with this official document and the report of the Commission on the London University before it, the Government cannot refrain from doing something. It is no longer a question of whether anything should be done, but how that which must be done ought to be done. A Royal Commission seems the only satisfactory solution of the difficulty.


"A violent charge over resulted in a race between Carrad and H. Marshall. The Melrose man won. Another charge and a Red indistinguishable in the melee kicked dead. The battle swayed back to midfield."—Evening post.

It is only fair to the referee to say that the corpse's team was awarded a free kick.