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The Spike or Victoria University College Review June 1918

University Reform — A Plea for True Education

University Reform

A Plea for True Education

In 1910, there was founded the New Zealand University Reform Association, under the Presidency of the present Mr. Justice Herdman. For reasons into which I cannot now enter, this Association has not yet raised a very strong cry in pursuit of its original aim, though it has succeeded in paving a way for others to walk in, if they will. I wish to show cause why the way thus prepared should be eagerly followed by the student body of our College. Space prevents long discussion, but in the hope that the ideal of a true, high and enlightening education is cherished among all students of the College, I am quoting opinions of men whose judgment herein will carry weight. Attention has been directed to the system of awarding degrees, namely, by external examination.

Professor H. S. Foxwell, an examiner of the New Zealand University, writes: "The purely external form of examination has been the curse of the University of London, and the principal reason for the deplorable condition in which that University now finds itself."

Sir William Ramsay, K.C.B., L.L.D., D.Sc., Principal of Bristol University, writes: "I have examined for the University of New Zealand for four years; having examined in the London University before its reform, for five years. I have much experience of the system of external examinations, and do not hesitate to condemn it utterly. Its worst consequences are to be seen in the Indian Universities, which are thoroughly rotten, where all the work is examinational, and where the results are beneath contempt. The results of my experience in examining for New Zealand have confirmed my conclusions."

Professor Tucker, M.A., Litt. D. (Camb.), of the University of Melbourne, writes: "I should regard the present state of things page 39 in New Zealand as intolerable. It is cumbrous; it is humiliating; and it is educationally a drag."

Professor Arthur Dendy, D. Sc., King's College, London, writes: "... ... ... A man who is not fit to examine his students is not fit to be a professor. I felt this very strongly when I was myself a professor at Christchurch."

Similar opinions were invited and received from one hundred and fifty of the leading educational authorities of the world. With two exceptions, all answers were to the same effect.

I shall now cite some passages from a speech made by the Honorable Sir Robert Stout in the House of Representatives in June, 1886:—"Let me state this: that I think it would be fatal to the system (i.e., our educational system) to imagine that it did not require improvement. As the colony progresses, it must necessarily follow that our system must vary with the change in our conditions. . . . The main fault in our University system is that it regards examinations as the beginning and the end of the function of a University. . . . Nothing, in my opinion, could be more mischievous." After referring briefly to the trend of University life in higher learning, the learned speaker continued: "Our University has been confined to examinations, degree granting, and providing scholarships, and this higher path of University life has not yet been trodden. Nor do I see any chance of the N.Z. University becoming a real University in this respect so long as it has no permanent abode in the country, and so long as it consists of a mere perpetrate Senate meeting once or twice a year to pass statutes, disburse funds, award scholarships, and grant degrees."

Surely, then, the time is now come when those who are so materially affected by adverse conditions (I mean the students) should ask for fairer treatment. But thereby hangs a tale, and it is rather a sad tale.

Geo. T. Saker.