George Birkbeck Norman Hill.

Harvard college, by an Oxonian; online

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donations, but they stir up the liberality of their friends. They
everywhere preach the gospel of endowment. Though the
appomtment of the Professors and other teachers nominally
belongs to the Corporation, under the approval of the Over-
seers, it is by the Faculty in each branch and the President
acting together that every vacancy is filled up. The name that


he in concurrence with them submits to the Corporation, and
through them to the Overseers, is ahvays accepted. No better
mode of appointment could be devised. With the men most
competent to judge of a teacher's merits and who have most at
heart the welfare of their own School, acting with the Presi-
dent, the choice lies. Jobbing and favouritism seem unknown.
Not a breath of suspicion ever reached me.

By the side, therefore, of the two powers recognized by the
Charter, two others have gradually grown into great importance
— the President and the Faculty. The President, it is true,
from the first belonged to both the original Governing Bodies,
being a member of the Overseers and presiding over the Cor-
poration ; but he has, as it were, two persons, one in which he
is a member of these bodies, and one in which he is an inde-
pendent power. In this second position he has no absolute
authority, but he rules like a wise constitutional monarch of the
earher type, who, keeping within the lines of the constitution,
nevertheless was a real and strong governor. In every measure
theoretically the President can be overruled first by the Corpo-
ration and next by the Overseers, but practically in almost every
measure connected with discipline and instruction he has his
own way, so long as he is supported by the Faculty. If he
may justly be compared to a King or a President of a Republic,
it is to a King like William III., or to a President like Lincoln,
each of whom was his own Prime Minister. The Faculty
exists by the vote of the Corporation and the Overseers, and
by their vote could theoretically be abolished. Nevertheless,
as I have shown, it has gained a position of great authority
and stability. With the management of the property of the
University, the Faculty has nothing directly to do, that f.illing
within the province of the Corporation. They leave it mainly


to the Treasurer, who by virtue of his office is a member of
the Board.

In nothing does Harvard differ more thoroughly from Oxford
than in the perfect organization which exists in her army of
teachers. In Oxford the teachers are divided into two main
bodies, entirely independent of each other and under no central
government — the University Professors and the College Tutors.
Over the Professors scarcely any control exists ; they rival the
Cyclopes in their independence. The tutors are governed each
by the Corporation of his own College. Of this Corporation he
is commonly a member. The Colleges are twenty in number.^
To the Professors and Tutors must be added the University
Readers,^ who are under a special Board ; the Assistants and the
Demonstrators in the Museum who are under the control of
their Professors ; and the teachers of the Unattached Students

— the students, that is to say, who are undergraduates of the
University, but are not members of any College. In all the
confusion of such a system as this, if system it can be called,
there is a great waste of labour and of money, and an unfair
inequality of payment. There are, or there have been till lately.
Professors of great learning who have lectured to empty benches

— I might say to empty chairs ; for, unable to face the forlorn
look of the lecture- rooms, they have given their instruction in
their own studies. Even there there has been an appearance
of vacancy. On the other hand, there are Tutors who, never
failing to draw together a large number of students, are never-

1 I exclude Keble, for it is not a College in the sense in which the word
has always been used at Oxford. It is governed by a Board of outsiders.
Neither do I reckon the two Halls.

2 They, roughly speaking, answer to the Assistant-Professors, but they
are independent of the Professors. In some departments indeed there is
only a Reader and no Professor.


theless miserably paid for their work, and see no sure opening
before them of advancement. In our army of learning there
is no Field- Marshal's baton in every soldier's knapsack.
There is no clear and well-marked path of promotion, on which
a young man can with confidence set his foot, sure that high
merit will in time bring him to a high position. However able
he may be, he has chance fighting heavily against him. 'llie
learned author who is at present throwing a stream of light on
the reign of the first two Stuarts and of the Commonwealth,
skilled though he is as a teacher, has never been made a Tutor
in the College, or a Professor in the University, which he so
greatly adorns. From the College at the beginning of his career
he was shut out by religious intolerance, just as from the same
College another distinguished student and teacher, many years
later, was thrust forth. From a University Chair he has been
excluded mainly through the absence of organization in the staff
of teachers. He is by no means a solitary example. Mr. Free-
man was not made Professor of History until he was too old to
learn the teacher's art ; Mr. Froude, when he succeeded him,
had passed the Psalmist's limit of three-score years and ten.
The two distinguished scholars who have recently been raised
to the Chairs of Greek and Latin, in a wealthy and properly
organized University would have been made Professors twenty
years earlier. So often does it happen in Oxford that men are
not promoted till they are past their prime, that not uncommonly
a Professor's salary is looked u[)on, not as wages, but a reward.
Little surprise is caused by the nomination of a man from whom
fresh work can hanlly be expected. That he has ilone good
work is, with many, a full justification of his appointment. It
is his claims, and not the claims of the students, that arc
examined. His well-earned pension as a hard and successful


worker in the field of learning is to be provided at their expense.

Through the whole of the University far too much is spent in
rewards and far too little in wages. Were the wealth of the
foundations more wisely used, teachers would be more fairly
remunerated, and learned men and students of nature, who
may have no gift for teaching, would be able to count on a
decent maintenance whilst they laboriously advanced the boun-
daries of knowledge. In Harvard, provision for such men as
these is as yet but very imperfectly made. The millionaire
who shall endow research has not as yet appeared on the stage
of the New England Cambridge. Perhaps he is within the
prompter's call.

It is in the organization of the great body of teachers that
Harvard excels. An undergraduate who greatly distinguishes
himself, after taking his degree, with the help of a scholarship,
if he is a poor man, will continue his studies in the Graduate
School or in some foreign university. In due time he joins the
staff of teachers as a Lecturer, Demonstrator, or Assistant. His
appointment is but for one year. In all likelihood it will be
continued if he shows his fitness for the post. If he does not,
he is weeded out while he is still young enough to seek his living
elsewhere. The University is not saddled with an incompetent
teacher, who, as sometimes happens in our Oxford Colleges, is
kept on through pity, to the great injury of the students. He,
however, who successfully passes through this period of proba-
tion may hope before long to become an Instructor or a Tutor
with a longer engagement ; and, later on, an Assistant-Professor
with much higher pay and an engagement for five years. At
last he arrives at the full Professorship. He can rise no higher,
unless he is made President ; but with length of service and with
merit his salary increases up to a certain limit. The average


age at which a man becomes full Professor is thirty-five years.
If in any of these grades of advancement there is no vacancy
in Harvard, an able teacher may count on receiving a " call "
from some other University. Should he there greatly distinguish
himself, he is scarcely less sure, when a vacancy does occur, to
be recalled to his old College. The chance of promotion has
greatly increased of late years, not only by the foundation of
other seats of learning, for each of which a whole staff of Pro-
fessors is needed, but moreover by the rapid growth in all
the chief departments of the University. This has indeed gone
on by leaps and by bounds. In the last twenty-five years the
number of students, as I have said, has increased by more than
two thousand. Instead of forty-eight Professors and Assistant-
Professors there are now one hundred and eighteen, and instead
of thirty-three Tutors, Instructors, Demonstrators, and Assistants
there are now two hundred and four. Twenty- five years ago
there were in all eighty-one teachers ; they now number three
hundred and twenty-two. This augmentation is still going on.
This year there are eighteen more Professors and Assistant-
Professors than there were two years ago, while the lower ranks
of teachers have in the same short time been increased by fifty-

In the method which is followed when a vacant Chair has to
be filled up or a new Chair is created, Har\'ard, in common, I
believe, with American universities in general, sets us an excel-
lent example. No application is made for the post by a crowd
of eager candidates ; no testimonials are sent in — testimonials
in which one side of the shield only is shown, in which truth so
often is divided from falsehood by the thinnest of partitions.

1 Harvard University, by F. Uollcs, p. 12; Calalc^te, 1S91-92, p. 454;
lb. 1S93-94, p. 536.


The members of each Faculty have made themselves acquainted
with the merits of the most eminent teachers in other seats of
learning ; should Harvard herself not furnish the right man,
they know where he is to be found. He is offered the post ;
he is not exposed to the loss of dignity which invests a suitor.
One man is honoured by the selection which is made of him ;
none are wounded in their feelings by being passed over. The
selection is not confined to citizens of the United States. Two
years ago two new Chairs were founded at Harvard, one of
Economic History, the other of Experimental Psychology. To
fill them an invitation was sent across the Canadian border to
an Oxford Master of Arts, a Professor in the University of
Toronto, and across the Atlantic to a German Doctor of Phi-
losophy, a teacher in the University of Freiburg.

How happy would a University be where, with a perfect sys-
tem of subordination by which merit is sure of recognition,
should be combined the social hfe and the friendly intercourse
and all the opportunities for the interchange of thought and
knowledge which are found in every one of our Oxford Col-
leges. Each one of them is the gathering-place, the home, of
a small knot of learned men. Each of the Common-Rooms
is a centre of kindly feeling and hospitality. Of these we have
twenty ; Harvard has not one. It will be easier for Oxford to
take to herself all the good that there is in the Harv^ard system,
than for Harvard to add to her vigorous and admirable organi-
zation all that charm and pleasantness of life which make an
Oxford man's College scarcely less dear to him than Oxford
herself. By an Act of Parliament the one reform can be
in great part effected ; the other could only come about by
the slow changes of long years.


Graduate Schools in Oxford and Cambridge. — Respuhlica Literatomm. —
American Students in English Universities. — The Old Home.

THE Senate of our English Cambridge, I read, has issued
a report in favour of graduate study. It is proposed
" to estabhsh two new degrees, those of Bachelor of Letters
and Bachelor of Science, open to graduates either of Cam-
bridge or of other ' recognized ' universities, who shall have
given evidence that they have pursued at Cambridge, for at
least one year, a course of advanced study or research, and
shall also have presented an original dissertation for approval
by the board of studies." I hope that this scheme will be not
only adopted but greatly enlarged, and that in an amended
form it will be transferred to Oxford. The Schools of Arts,
Natural Science, History, Law, Medicine, and Theology, in
fact, of all that is taught, should be equally opened to these
graduates, and the higher degrees in each Faculty should be
conferred on those who deser\-e them. The day perhaps is
far distant when at Oxford and Cambridge the Master's degree
shall no longer be given as a matter of course, after a certain
lapse of time, and on the payment of a certain sum of money.
In Oxford a beginning has been made with the degrees in I^iw.
I have the satisfaction of knowing that no one possessed of
an ignorance equal in amount to that which I had when I
took the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor would have the least
chance of gaining these distinctions now. With these graduate



Students the first step in reforming the Master's degree might
very properly be made. Their fitness for it should be tested
either by examination, or — which is far better — by some
piece of original work. The residence which is proposed of
one year — of five and twenty weeks, that is to say — seems
much too short. Among the " recognized universities " all
should be recognized which are worthy of recognition, whether
they belong to one of our colonies, or to a foreign land. That
Respublica Literatorum, that great Commonwealth of Scholars
to which Bodley dedicated his noble Library, should not be
bounded and divided by seas, rivers, and mountains, and all
the limits which part nation from nation. For its citizens no
passports should be needed, and no letters of naturalization
should be required. In every university the scholar should
find his home ; in every seat of learning he should have his
right of domicile. Like the Roman State, this commonwealth
should extend over the whole civilized world, and its citizen-
ship should be obtained, not by birth, but with a great sum —
the toil of years. Wherever the standard of learning is on a
level with ours, the graduates of that university, when they
come to study with us, should hold the same rank as they had
held at home. The Bachelor of Arts from Harvard or Yale
should at Oxford or Cambridge wear the Bachelor's gown. If
he disgraced it by idleness or misconduct, he should at once
have it stripped from his shoulders. He should wear it on
sufferance, but on a noble and generous sufferance. The gra-
duates who came from the inferior seats of learning, whether
English or foreign, might very properly be placed in an inferior
position till they had gone through a certain amount of study.
This is done at Harvard. I was told of a young Bachelor of
Arts from one of the Canadian universities who would have


had to enter as a Senior had he not appealed to the high
honours which he had taken in his final examination. Even the
undergraduates, who, at the rate of about fifty a year, flock in
there from other universities, do not, by any means, altogether
lose whatever standing they had already acquired. They go
before the Committee on Admission, who, measuring the work
which they had hitherto done and the position which they haii
held " by Harvard standards," determine in which of the four
Classes they shall each be placed.' Almost all of them, I was
told, would be admitted " a year short." A Senior, that is to
say, would be reckoned as a Junior, a Junior as a Sophomore,
and a Sophomore as a Freshman. Those, however, who come
from Yale, and perhaps from one or two other Universities, are
not thus degraded.

I hope that the day is not far distant when the never-failing
stream of American students which, like the Gulf Stream, sets
eastwards, shall be diverted from Germany and flow towards
England ; when the graduate of Harvard and Yale and of many
another University shall wear the gown in the Colleges of Oxford
and Cambridge, and tread the cloisters which were trodden by
their forefathers. Towards England, the mother-country, the
Old Home, the land of the Pilgrim I'athcrs, whose towns,
streets, rivers, fields, hedge-rows, lanes have by poetry, histor)',
biography and fiction been made scarcely less dear and scarcely
less familiar to the gentle reader than his own New England,
this stream would surely naturally set. How their scholars
have loved " this little world, this precious stone set in the sil-
ver sea, "this dear, dear land," in spite of our coldness, in spite
of our unkindness, in spite of our arrogance, in spite of all the
sufferings of the War of Independence, in spite of the insolence

J Harvard University, by V. r..'ll

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Online LibraryGeorge Birkbeck Norman HillHarvard college, by an Oxonian; → online text (page 24 of 26)