The Spike or Victoria College Review, October 1903
The Rhodes Scholarship
The Rhodes Scholarship.
The daily press has of late been very much busied with the question of the Rhodes Scholarship as it effects New Zealand, Views the most divergent have been expressed by educational enthusiasts, who sometimes seem almost to forget that we are engaged in trying to carry out, to the best of our ability and in consonance with our local conditions, the clearly recorded and easily ascertainable conception of the great ernpire-builder. Obviously the idea of endowing postgraduate research is one that must particularly appeal to professors and their kind, who can conceive no means of wisely and advantageously utilising a scholarship fund under present conditions. But it must be equally obvious and certain that Cecil Rhodes contemplated nothing of the kind : that he intended his Colonial, American, and German Oxonians to live the Oxford life in its full sense, and be Undergrads among Undergrads : and that his mind conceived of them as returning to lead an active and perhaps a public life in the countries of their birth—he fancied them as men with something of his own caste of mind and his own outlook on the world. No doubt, again, that Mr. Rhodes, without going into detailed thought on the question of age, had in his mind young fellows fresh from school as was he himself on going up to Oriel : young fellows of, say, eighteen-and-a-half, the normal age of the Oxford or Cambridge freshman. I say the normal and not the average age: the average age is very much higher, as exceedingly few students join earlier than eighteen, and for a variety of reasons there is always a large sprinkling of older and even much older freshmen. And it is a conspicuous example or the extraordinary power and rapidity with which the Minister for Education can grasp and deal with the questions not familiar to him, that he should immediately have seen and luridly expressed this aspect of Mr. Rhodes' instruction. Rut the question is so complicated by Oxford as well as local conditions, that it is doubtful whether Mr. Seddon, with all his insight, could be expected to strike as satisfactory a solution as a com page 41 mittee of experts. There are at least half a dozen valid reasons for not taking a New Zealand boy absolutely fresh from school. In the first place, most schoolboys leave school a year or more than a year earlier than the average public schoolboy at home. The difference between seventeen and eighteen in suitability for getting the best, out of an Oxford career is very considerable indeed. Then, only the pupils and a very small number of secondary schools could enter into competition, owing to the necessity of qualifying in Greek. T might even add that exceedingly few boys of seventeen could hope for success in the qualifying examination without receiving some sort of special tuition. The proposal to limit the Scholarship to boys leaving school therefore seems exceedingly undemocratic, besides so limiting the scope of the Selectors as very probably to exclude many desirable candidates. Besides, there is a great difference between sending a student to Oxford from his home in England, and from New Zealand, and the actual practice of colonial parents who send their sons home confirms the theory that it is best to wait, a year or so longer in the case of the colonial student. I knew a number of colonial students at Oxford, and none were quite as young as the average. Those separated from the rest of us by a year or two joined absolutely in the life of the College : older men than that necessarily lived somewhat apart. And this brings me to the last point: the fact that we have to consider not only the best advantage of the scholars themselves, but also to some extent the predilections of the College and University authorities who are going to receive them. This may not seem to present serious difficulties here; but at Oxford I feel sure the practical disciplinary difficulties are looming very large in the eyes of the authorities. An Oxford College stands about' half-way between a school and a university. The Victoria College undergrad, enjoying boundless liberty, as far as his University and College are concerned, to dispose of himself and his time as he pleases outside lecture hours, possibly fails to realise that the Oxford man is only a glorified schoolboy after all, whose hours and occupations are rigidly circumscribed by despotic authority. He may not leave College after 9 p.m. or stay out after midnight; he must attend a certain number of "chapel services at inconveniently early hours; he must wear academic costume at certain times; may not travel anywhere by train; may not play billiards in the morning; and so on ad infinitum. Now under these circumstances it is obvious that conflicts between the authorities and those in statu pupillari are frequent, and often dreaded even more by the tyrants than bv their subjects; and fines, gating, rustication, are not infrequent occurrences—they have all fallen to the lot of so law- page 42 abiding an individual as myself—which minor punishments are occasionally crowned by absolute ejection. Now it ia obviously a very different thing to inflict disciplinary measures on a student whose homo and parents arc close at hand, and to deal with the case of a New Zealander. And though we here know perfectly that, provided a Victoria College student be elected, no disciplinary measures need ever be applied, the Oxford Dons can't be expected to realise that Tact as yet, and will naturally welcome somewhat older and therefore presumably more sedate scholars,
Another reason for preferring somewhat older men is the necessity for providing for six months vacation every year. To a man who has no fixed home in Great Britain this may become a serious difficulty. Some of the Colleges are very generous in allowing students to reside during vacation, but none of them like doing it, as it means compulsory residence for at least one of the fellows : besides involving a good deal of trouble to various officials. The late Master of Balliol, Professor Jowett, objected to the practice very strongly. As soon as he found men of the "reading" stamp visiting the College in vacation, he used to give instructions that the chapel service should be lengthened, and two daily attendances made compulsory; also that the cook should take off one of the courses from the flail dinner. "This kind" said the reverend professor "goeth not out save by prayer and fasting."
[We are indebted to Mr. Isaacs, and Messers Wriggles worth and Binns, Photographers, for advance copies of the Hockey and Football Photographs for reproduction.]