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for intellectual services furnished by the learned
professions will absorb ? No student in the Queen's
Colleges who saw a prospect of success in one of
the learned professions would think of offering himself
as a candidate for the constabulary or the public
offices ; but the professions being, like most other
industrial walks in Ireland, much overcrowded, stu-
dents, not conscious of more than average ability,
but who have received some tincture of university
culture, will naturally prefer the constabulary or the
public offices to a mere mechanical or a purely rural
calling. This is the true explanation of the fact an
explanation so obvious that I venture to say no
one could have missed it who had not a theory to
support. Had it been Major O'Reilly's object to


prove that the Queen's Colleges had overdone their
work, the test which he proposes of his accuracy
would have been also much to his general purpose ;
his object being to prove that -their work has been
left undone, the verification of his accuracy necessarily
results in the defeat of his argument.

To the argument, in the position to which it has
now been brought, there is but one objection which
we can imagine a candid opponent of the Queen's
Colleges to advance the suggestion that, though
the Queen's Colleges have in fact succeeded, they
have succeeded only as a dernier ressort ; that the
Roman Catholics have gone to them because they
desired university education, and had no other means
of obtaining it. But unfortunately for the case of
the ultramontanes, they have, by the establishment
of their model institution, effectually estopped them-
selves from this reply. It can scarcely be said that
the Queen's Colleges are a dernier ressort, while
there is the alternative for students which this in-
stitution offers. If the Roman Catholics entertain
conscientious objections to the Queen's Colleges, is
there not abundant room for them in " The Catholic
University"? We shall be told "The Catholic
University" has not a charter; which is true; but
if "The Catholic University" cannot confer degrees
on its alumni, London University can, and does.*

* And it would seem by methods entirely in accordance with the views
of the extreme Catholic party, at least if Major O'Reilly may be taken
as an exponent of those views. In reference to this point he writes :
" The London University does not undertake to teach, or to regulate
the teaching of the different institutions whose pupils present themselves
at its examination ; uay, it carefully avoids, even in laying down the

T 2


It may not be generally known that, according to
a recent admirable arrangement entirely in keeping
with its true character, that body now holds its
examinations in all parts of the United Kingdom;
indeed in all parts of the British Empire. This
year one matriculation examination was held in the
Mauritius, another in the Irish town of Carlow. It
is a central institution with its centre everywhere.
Practically, therefore, as regards facilities for ob-
taining degrees, the students of the Queen's Colleges
enjoy no advantage which is not shared by those
of the rival institution. Nor can it be said that the
former are successful through the superior attrac-
tions which, as State institutions, they hold out ;
for it seems a fact creditable to the zeal of its
promoters that, even in the matter of endowments,
"The Catholic University" stands in a position
little, if at all, inferior to that occupied by a Queen's
College ; * and if we admit that there is something
in State prestige, it must be admitted, on the other
hand, that there is also something in spiritual

subject of examinations, anything like a dictation as to the opinions to
be taught : and for this reason a general statement of the subjects of
examination in moral philosophy has been substituted by the Senate
for an enumeration of certain works of Butler and Paley ; as the latter
might, it was thought, be looked upon as requiring an assent to the
teachings of those writers. . . . Thus education is left absolutely free
and voluntary ; and the State only interferes to ascertain results, and
that only through the medium of bodies wholly independent of Govern-
ment control."

* According to Major O'Reilly (" Progress of Catholicity," p. 15), the
sum raised (partly by subscriptions from abroad) for the first foundation
of "The Catholic University" was ,40,000, which has since been sus-
tained by an annual collection of ,8,000, about the income of one of the
Queen's Colleges.


So far the rival institutions stand, in regard to the
prospects which they open to students, pretty nearly
on a par ; but, over and above the considerations
which have been adverted to, there is one more which
must be taken account of, if we would fairly appreciate
the value of the experiment made by the Queen's
Colleges' system on the intellectual tastes of the Irish
people. The Queen's Colleges have succeeded not
merely against the legitimate rivalry of an institution
founded on different principles, but a cardinal fact in
this controversy against the illegitimate and tyran-
nical opposition of a priesthood, who have refused to
leave the decision to the unbiassed judgment of those
whom the question concerned, against an opposition
availing itself of all the arts at its command for
inspiring superstitious terror, of denunciation from the
altar, exclusion from sacraments, in a word, of expe-
dients resembling rather the spiritual appliances of
Jesuit despots dictating to Paraguayan savages than
remonstrances fitted to be addressed to reasonable and
civilized men. For example, every Roman Catholic
entering a Queen's College does so under a fire of this
kind :

" The Holy Father sees the conspiracy that has been organ-
ized to withdraw the education of youth from the influence
of the Catholic Church ; and in the anguish of his paternal
heart he declares that the result will be moral and intellectual
corruption. He invites us all, clergy and laity, to join with
him in deploring that Satanic scheme for the ruin of faith
in the rising generation. . . . Parents and guardians of young
men are to understand that by accepting education in them
[the Queen's Colleges] for those under their charge, they
despise the warnings, entreaties, and decisions of the Head
of the Church. . . . Adhering to the discipline in force in


this diocese, we once for all declare that they who are guilty
of it shall not be admitted to receive the holy sacrament
of the Eucharist, or of Penance, whilst they continue in their
disobedience." *

Am I unreasonable in concluding that popular suc-
cess, achieved against opposition such as this, proves
something more than simple preference for the de-
nounced system on the part of those who accept it ?
It seems to me that nothing short of singular adapta-
tion to the wants and aspirations of the Irish people
would account for so striking a phenomenon.

It would seem, then, that "the gap" in university
education in Ireland has yet to be discovered : in
plain terms, there is not a tittle of evidence to show
that any appreciable proportion of Irish Roman Catho-
lics are by conscientious objections, or by any other
cause than their social position and circumstances,
excluded from the existing Irish universities. Let
us now add to the presumptive proof, arising from
the absence of any apparent want, the positive
evidence of what has been performed. Omitting
details, then, the general results accomplished by
the Queen's University and its Colleges in a
career of fifteen years are these : they have in that
time educated 3,330 Irishmen, that is to say, 957
members of the Established Church, 938 Roman
Catholics, 1,197 Presbyterians, and 238 of other
denominations. They are at the present moment
educating more than at any previous time ; their
students now being within one-fifth as numerous as

* Pastoral of Dr. Derry, Bishop of Clonfert, addressed last March
to the faithful of his diocese.


those of Trinity College, Dublin, and within one-third
as numerous as those of the University of Oxford.
In a period of fourteen years the Queen's University
has conferred 886 degrees (exclusive of diplomas and
ad eundems) ; the number conferred by the London
University during the corresponding period of its
career being 841, or about five per cent, less.* The
Colleges have since their establishment trebled the
number of Roman Catholic laymen receiving university
education.! The quality of their education, as shown
by every available test, is not inferior to that obtain-
able in any of the older universities. Lastly, they
have eminently succeeded in what was a leading object
of their establishment the bringing together in the
same class-rooms of students from all the various
religious bodies in the country.

I have been anxious to dispose of the questions
of failure and practical grievance before engaging in
the discussion of the projects of university reform,

* I borrow these figures from a " Statement adopted by the Graduates
of the Queen's University in Ireland, assembled in Public Meeting in
Belfast on Wednesday, 6th December, 1865," a paper which gives with
admirable clearness and precision all the important facts of the question.

f At p. 47 of Major O'Reilly's pamphlet, the following passage occurs :
" On the other hand, the recognized authorities of the Catholic Church
would decide, with judgment and prudence, what changes were necessary
to remove the objections which prevent Catholics attending Cork College"
Considering that, when this was written, there were 123 Catholics on the
rolls as attending Cork College a fact with which Major O'Reilly would
surely not have failed to acquaint himself one is driven to suppose that
that gentleman refuses the name of " Catholics " to those who attend a
Queen's College. In this he may or may not be justified ; but it seems
to me that it would have been only fair, before adopting this course,
to have apprised his readers of this habit. I call attention to the
circumstance, because it may furnish a clue to his meaning, and possibly
to the meaning of others who share his opinions, when they assure as
that " the Queen's Colleges have wholly failed.'


which the announcement by the Government that they
were prepared to concede some modification of the
existing system has naturally brought upon the carpet.
The course of the controversy has already disclosed
the fact, that the ideas of those who criticise the
present arrangements do not run in a single channel.
Under the assumed banner of " freedom of education,"
two distinct, and to some extent conflicting, policies
are advocated ; one of these, that of the ultramontane
party proper, aims avowedly (its liberal watchword
notwithstanding) at the erection of " The Catholic
University" an institution, it will be remembered,
established at the instigation of the Pope, and now
worked through a committee of which two-thirds are
Roman Catholic ecclesiastics into a position of para-
mount and pervading authority over the whole higher
education of Roman Catholics in Ireland ; the other-
whatever may be our judgment on its general merits-
would seem at least to be conceived with a bon&-fide
desire to promote educational freedom according to
the ideas of those who support it. One might even
be disposed to suspect that its advocates (who, I may
observe, are Roman Catholics, but laymen) have, con-
sciously or unconsciously, not been uninfluenced by a
desire to counteract the aims of the parti pr&tre ;
though, I own, I have been led to this conclusion,
more from the violence with which the policy in
question has been assailed by that party, than from
anything that can be discovered in the proposals put
forward calculated to offer an effectual obstruction to
its designs. However this may be, my object now
is to place before the reader each of these schemes


of educational reform, so far as I have been able to
collect them from the manifestoes of the two sections,
and, without reference to a possible arri&re penste, to
endeavour to estimate, as correctly as I am able, their
real character and tendency.

Taking, first, what for distinction I may describe
as the lay proposal, its leading idea would seem to
be to remodel the existing institutions for the higher
education in Ireland on the pattern presented by the
London University and the various seminaries which
prepare candidates for its degrees. The adoption of
the principle in its integrity would require the abolition
of both the present Irish universities : on their ruins
would be raised a new university, to be called the
University of Dublin or of Ireland, which would be
in fact simply an examining Board, under which "would
be ranged as strictly co-ordinate institutions the various
teaching bodies of the country, including amongst
these as equal members Trinity College, the Queen's
Colleges, St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, " The
Catholic University," &c. These would send up can-
didates for matriculation and degrees to the central
institution, where, without reference to the antecedents
of their training, they would be received, examined, and
certificated. But this scheme, though " comprehensive,
well-founded in theory, and national in aspect," f it
is thought advisable, from considerations of practical

* " University Education in Ireland;" p. 3. This pamphlet, by a dis-
tinguished member of the Queen's University Senate, which I take as
the best exposition of the views I am now considering, has not been
published ; but as it has enjoyed a very large circulation, probably much
larger than if it made its appearance in the ordinary way, I do not
think that, in treating it as public, I am violating any rule of literary
etiquette which deserves to be held sacred.


expediency, suggested by the opposition which it
would be in the power of Trinity College to offer, to
relinquish, in favour of another less perfect but more
feasible. It is accordingly proposed to leave Dublin
University with its College aside as refractory
elements, but to throw the remaining educational
institutions of the country into the crucible. The
connection between the Queen's University and its
Colleges would be dissolved ; the University in its
present character would cease to exist ; and the out-
come would be an examining Board, to be named the
Queen's University, and a group of co-ordinate in-
stitutions, amongst which the Queen's Colleges and
"The Catholic University" would rank with a host
of preparatory schools now little conscious of the
dignity which is intended for them. These would
work together on an equal footing, engaged in the
common task of preparing candidates for the matri-
culation and degree examinations to be held by the
Central Board.

Such in outline is the scheme which has been
propounded, and which enjoys, I understand, in
Ireland, a certain amount of favour. It is also a
part of the proposal that the Senate of the University
should be increased from sixteen (the present number)
to thirty members, twenty of these to be nominated
by the Crown and to consist in equal numbers of
Protestants and Catholics, the remaining ten to be
elected by Convocation. Further, it is proposed
that the appointment of Professors in the Queen's
Colleges should be transferred from the Crown to
a local Board, constituted on a plan, as it seems to


me, equally complicated and unpromising. For the
present, however, I purpose confining myself to the
more fundamental and characteristic features of the

And in the first place, it occurs to me to ask, why,

supposing it is proper to abolish one or both of the

existing Irish universities, erect another in their

room ? According to the theory propounded, the

proper function of a university is to test actual

acquirement, without reference to the place or mode

of acquisition. A university is thus conceived as a

sort of intellectual mint to which all the pure metal

of knowledge in the country is to be brought to

receive the stamp which is to make it current. Well,

adopting this view, is there not already the London

University to perform the required office ? It is

not denied that it performs its office well : on what

principle, then, are we required to establish a second

mint for knowledge, and thus to introduce into the

economy of letters double standards and measures?

The writer who has advocated this plan takes

the "Jury Central" of Belgium (the exact position

of which in the Belgian scheme of education, by

the way, he seems to misconceive) as the model

of a national university ; and he tells us that the

London University is in this country the analogue

of that institution. Then why not act upon this

analogy, and re-organize the "unharnessed" Irish

seminaries under the London " Central " ? It cannot

be said that local convenience would require a

second Irish university ; for, as has been already

pointed out, under the arrangement which now exists


the staff of the metropolitan establishment is brought
to the doors, it may be to the halls, of the Irish
Colleges. Nor can it be supposed at a time* when
the mischief of keeping alive a distinct national sen-
timent is just receiving such painful illustration, when
even to the Irish Lord Lieutenancy everything which
looks in this direction is carefully discountenanced
that an Irish " Central " will be demanded on national
grounds. It seems to me, therefore, that the leading
feature of the scheme stands condemned upon its
author's own principles. The present universities
of Ireland, constituted as they now are, may have
something to say for themselves : how far this is
so I shall presently examine : an Irish university
constituted on the plan proposed, as a second " Cen-
tral Jury," would be absolutely without a reason for
its existence. Nay, there would be abundance of
reasons for its non-existence ; for what o.ther effect
could the creation of such a body have but to in-
troduce between it and the university already in
possession of the field a vicious competition for
candidates, such as this writer himself, in the case of
the medical schools, has shown almost necessarily
results in a degradation of the standard knowledge ?

But the policy of the scheme just described is
open to objections more fundamental far than this.
What is the conception of education which it pre-
sents to us ? Simply that of a preparatory process
for a uniform examination. For culture properly
so called, for the process by which the mind is
opened, liberated and rendered productive, for any

* [1865.]


results which may not be tested by categorical
question and answer, the scheme I have described
makes no provision : nay, there are abundant in-
dications that these objects lie absolutely outside
its author's mental horizon. It is laid down, for
example, that universities should " test the man
for what he knows, not where he learned it," ap-
parently under the impression that the object of
restricting University degrees to those trained in
particular institutions, is to create a " monopoly "
in favour of the institutions, or the localities where
they happen to exist. The same view is almost
grotesquely brought out in another passage :

"The student of St. Patrick's College, Carlow, passes
through Dublin, where the Queen's University ignores him,
on his way to the London University, which admits him
surely such an absurdity cannot be permitted to con-

I do not know whether the fact that the student of
St. Patrick's College, Carlow, can now obtain his
degree from London University without passing the
site of the Queen's University, will diminish in our
author's eyes the absurdity which he here discovers ;
but to my mind the only absurdity in the case and
it is a very great absurdity is the application of such
tests to such subjects.

la presence of arguments of this order, it may
perhaps be well to state that the end of a university
system the purpose by success or failure in which it
must be justified or condemned is not to bring aspi-
rants to academic degrees by the shortest route before
the nearest examining Board, much as criminals are


hurried before the nearest justice, but to furnish the
means for the largest, freest, and most varied develop-
ment of the human faculties. Now this is not to be
accomplished by a system which proposes no other
aim, and provides for no other result, than success at
an examination, a system which converts the entire
educational machinery of a country into an apparatus
for encouraging and facilitating " cram." I am not
one of those who regard with anything but unmixed
satisfaction the application in recent years of the
method of competitive examination to the public*
service. Employed within certain limits, and applied
with discretion, it is, I believe, an invaluable expe-
dient in working the machinery of administration.
But the method obviously, admittedly, has a tendency
to engender certain well-known intellectual defects, of
which the chief is the habit of loading the memory
with the mere results of knowledge rapidly accumulated,
and, when the pressure is passed, almost as rapidly
forgotten. Nor will it be denied that the evil is one
which many other modern influences powerfully con-
tribute to foster. This being so, it would seem to be
tne part of wisdom so to frame our educational ar-
rangements as to neutralize as far as possible this
besetting tendency. One obvious means I own,
so far as I can see, the only effectual means of
accomplishing this object is to supplement the ex-
amination test by others ; for example, by the condi-
tion that the student before presenting himself for
examination, shall have gone through certain prescribed
courses of study under the guidance of the best minds
which the teaching body of the time can furnish. This


is what the academic or collegiate system* seeks to do,
and what, with more or less success, it accomplishes ;
and this is the condition which the plan we are con-
sidering proposes altogether to annul. Under the
notion that it is placing all localities on a par, that
it is excluding the element " where " from the con-
ditions of the acquisition of knowledge, it in fact
places all methods of instruction on a par, and excludes
from the conditions required as evidence of knowledge
that one which forms the chief and almost the only
security for its thoroughness. Far from providing
checks against the prevailing intellectual vice of the
time, it makes a clean sweep of such inadequate se-
curities as now exist, and even invites the advances
of the enemy by opening to his ambition a new
and boundless field.

But perhaps I shall be told that these consequences
are not involved in the proposed scheme. The plan
so we can imagine an advocate might put the argu-
ment far from favouring any scheme of instruction
in particular, is essentially neutral as regards all, and
neither seeks, on the one hand, to discourage the
system of collegiate training, nor, on the other, to
promote private teaching. People under the new
regime, it may be said, might continue, if they thought
proper, to send their sons to colleges as now ; and no
doubt (such a reasoner might add), if the advantages
of this course are as great as is pretended, this is

* I may explain here, to avoid misapprehension, that by the " colle-
giate system" I merely mean instruction carried out through regular
attendance on courses of lectures delivered in institutions established
for the purpose of general mental cultivation. This necessarily implies
residence near a college, but not necessarily mensal residence.


what would happen. The essence of the scheme, in
short, it might be urged, is not protection or favour,
but freedom the extension into the field of knowledge
of that stimulus to effort and improvement which
healthy competition supplies in a word, "free trade
in education."

But this, however plausible, is, in reality, wholly

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Online LibraryJohn Elliott CairnesPolitical essays → online text (page 21 of 27)