Convocation Addresses of the Universities of Bombay and Madras/Part 1/The Hon. Mr. Justice Gibbs (Eighteenth Convocation)

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(By The Honorable J. Gibbs, C.S.I., F.R.G.S.)

[An address was read by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts to the Vice- Chancellor, the Honorable Mr. Gibbs, expressing the deep sense of the obligations he had laid the University of Bombay under by the valuable services he had rendered it during his nine years' tenure of office as Vice-Chancellor.]

Mr. Dean, and Gentlemen of the Senate,—It would be affectation on my part if I were to begin without admitting the great gratification with which I have listened to this Address, and thanking you most cordially for the indulgent spirit in which you have been pleased to review my action during the lengthened period I have had the honor of holding- the office of Vice-Chancellor of this University, — a period which will ever form one of the most cherished recollections of my long sojourn in this Presidency,—and for the kindly terms in which you have given expression to the judgment you have formed. I have listened to the Address with the greater pleasure, because, although I do not delude myself with the idea that I deserve all you have said about me,—for I cannot but acknowledge, as I review the years of my Vice-Chancellorship, that I have in many things fallen short of what I might and perhaps ought to have done,—yet I recognise in the broad principles, for my fidelity to which you are pleased to praise me, principles to which it has been at least my constant aim to adhere. Your appreciation of my services would in any case have been exceedingly gratifying, but the terms in which you have been pleased to express that appreciation is evidence that, in spite of my many shortcomings and imperfections, I have been able to some extent to be of service to the University. It was not without diffidence that I accepted at the hands of Sir Seymour Fitzgerald an office which had been filled by such eminent men as Sir Alexander Grant and Dr. John Wilson, to name only my two immediate predecessors. The former of these brought not only the resources of scholarship which had won for him high honour in his own venerable Alma Mater, but a grasp of educational doctrine and practice which was of the greatest value in laying the broad and deep foundation of our system, and which had found an appropriate recognition in his elevation to the highest post in the Educational Department of this Presidency. While of the latter, who looked on his appointment of Vice-Chancellor as his most cherished distinction, it may be said that he brought to the performance of his duties a most intimate knowledge of India and its people, a life-long experience in the cause of education, and a keen and catholic interest in all branches of knowledge, combined with a sympathy broad as the University itself with all the many races whom we desire to attract to our portals. To follow such men without a feeling of diffidence at the thought that I should be judged by the high standard to which they had accustomed the public mind, would have argued presumption on my part; but I was encouraged to think that the principles they had laid down would prove a sure foundation on which to raise the superstructure, while a pretty long experience in the public service would, I ventured to hope, give me some special qualification for the duty.

It has been my privilege to preside over the meetings of the Syndicate and Senate for a longer period than has fallen to the lot of any previous Vice-Chancellor, and it is with peculiar satisfaction that I learn from you. Sir, that the spirit in which I have endeavoured to discharge this and other functions appertaining to my office has commended itself to my colleagues on the Syndicate and to the body of the University. With you I am glad to believe that the progress of the University has been satisfactory during the period I have presided over its counsels. On that point I hope to touch in detail presently. In the mean-time I cannot do better than borrow the language of this Address, if you will first permit me briefly to make some adequate recognition of other services to the University which have had no small share in contributing to this success. For I could not omit this opportunity of putting on record my high sense of what the University of Bombay owes to the unbought exertion of the Syndicate. On this point I fully concur with what Sir Bartle Frere said in his farewell address at the Convocation for 1867, when,, after pointing out that "it is a noteworthy circumstance that this University stands almost alone among the great institutions of this country, as managed by the unbought exertions of those who direct its action"; expresses his strong conviction and that of his colleagues in the Government, "that here, as in every part of the world, men will serve their fellow-men truly and laboriously for honour, for love, and for conscience sake," and thanks them "for teaching this among other truths that great service may be done the State, though it be not paid for in money." Nor can I refrain from noticing the care and discrimination with which the Senate has justified the wisdom of the arrangement which made the choice of the executive body devolve on it. With these additions then, Sir, I say confidently, in the language of this Address, that the practical working of our University has been made more systematic and efficient, the purposes of its executive, gaining in precision and persistence, have exercised a wider and deeper influence on the Colleges and Schools of Western India, the teaching of these Institutions has been moulded to greater symmetry and thoroughness, the beneficial influence of the University has been felt through every grade of the educational scale; and with you I rejoice to see the fruit of our labours in the replenishment of society with intelligent and cultivated representatives, both of the ancient learning and of the last won conquests of modern thought.

For my share in the work that has been done your gratitude would have been ample reward. I have a warm appreciation of the kindness which has prompted this expression of your gratitude in a form which I cannot but consider as in itself a high distinction, and I have peculiar pleasure in the thought that your regard and that of other friends outside the University, may be permanently commemorated in the way which of all others is the most gratifying to me personally, by the addition to the University of a collection of books and a Library endowment fund, which I am confident will prove no small accession to its means of usefulness.

On the first occasion of my addressing the Senate as Vice-Chancellor, so far back as 1871, Results of 9 years, 1871-79. I reviewed the results of the previous ten years of the University, and showed the progress it had made in the number of its graduates, the wealth of its Endowments, and its influence on the progress of High Education in the Presidency. I think I cannot now, at the close of my Vice-Chancellorship, do better than pass in review the results of the nine years which have elapsed since my appointment to that high office, and thus as it were give you an account of the stewardship which has been confided to the Syndicate over which I have presided for that period. It appears that while for the first ten years up to 1871, 176 degrees were conferred; in the eight following, including the present Convocation, the roll of graduates has increased to 571, while the total number of students who presented themselves for the Matriculation have increased from 4,567 to 12,931, and those who succeeded in passing that test from 1,227 to 3,565. While the B.A. degree has been progressing in a satisfactory manner, the scientific degrees of L.M. & S., M.D., and L.C.E. have increased in a greater proportion. I think this is a fact on which the University may well congratulate itself, as it shows that a large number of the young men of the present generation are educating themselves for the purpose of gaining a professional livelihood. It further shows, from the results of the Matriculation, that the University has maintained that high standard for its entrance which has distinguished it from the beginning from its sister Universities. It will be seen that while in the first ten years the ratio of successful students was about one-fourth, the same proportion has been maintained during the succeeding eight years. Our great object has been to prevent in the first place Matriculation and afterwards the attainment of degrees, being made too easy. We have preferred a few comparatively highly trained men to a multitude of an inferior quality. I trust that when another decade draws to a close, when one of my successors may have to submit a similar review, that the results may be, especially as to the standards, equally satisfactory.

In 1870 the University was in the possession of Courses of Study and Regulations for Graduations in the various Faculties, Courses of Study. over the elaboration of which much thought had been spent, and which had stood the test of experience on the whole very satisfactorily. But it need cause no surprise that as time went on some modifications suggested themselves, and no small part of the attention of the Governing Body has during the last five years been directed towards the task of removing inconsistencies, adapting our courses of study more and more to the surrounding circumstances, and giving fuller recognition to the great advances that have been made in recent times in certain branches of knowledge. Chief among the changes to which I refer have been the modifications introduced, on the recommendation of a Committee presided over by Mr. Justice West, into the course of the degree of Bachelor of Arts. There are special reasons why the curriculum for that degree should be—I do not say more important—but a matter of great anxiety and debate than the courses in the professional faculties of Medicine, Law, and Civil Engineering, in which the question as to what ought to be demanded of the student finds an easy solution in the reference that can be made to the standard of professional knowledge of the day. The Faculty of Arts has a different and more difficult task to discharge in laying down such course or courses of study as shall best conduce to the special end it has in view, that of securing by more direct means the general cultivation of the mind. In the main principle which guided the deliberations of this Committee,—that of the desirableness of permitting in the later stages of a student's career and after having taken guarantees for a certain basis of general culture—considerable latitude in the courses of study open to him—I cordially concurred. We have not closed the door to those who may still wish to take their B.A. degree a range corresponding to the width of the old curriculum, though to do so effectively is a difficult task for the student in days like ours when knowledge has lengthened her stakes and stretched her borders on all sides. It is not, however, the business of the University to make that which is difficult impossible. But the majority of students, it is to be expected, will avail themselves of the permission accorded to them to specialise to a greater or less extent their studies after they have passed the First Examination in Arts. We have not as yet gone so far in this direction as other Universities. To three subjects we still attach an exceptional degree of importance, inasmuch as without a knowledge of English, one of the languages which we technically call classical, and Mathematics, it is impossible for any student to obtain the Degree of Bachelor of Arts. English it will always be necessary to retain on this list. But I think it deserves the anxious consideration of the Senate and Syndicate whether it may not eventually be advisable to extend the principle of specialisation further by permitting a candidate to go up in any one of the five branches of knowledge which at present constitute our optional subjects for the B.A. To a further though yet future development of this principle of specialisation I may perhaps be permitted to allude for a moment. Moved by His Excellency the Chancellor, whose interest in all that concerns our welfare deserves our grateful acknowledgment, the Syndicate are at present discussing a scheme for giving the Physical and Experimental Sciences in our Courses of Study a more distinct plaice. These sciences deal with subjects of an interest inferior to none. Their value as educational instruments has always been recognised in this University. But there have been practical difficulties in the way of giving them that full recognition which we all admit to be desirable. That this University has never been indisposed to concede to science, in the restricted sense of that term, a place among the other instruments of education, is proved from the position the physicial and experimental sciences have all along held in its Matriculation Examination and its scheme for the M.A. Degree. But the increasing perception of the vast benefits which science can, if we give her room, offer to India, and the desirability of giving full and unfettered scope to those among our students who are attracted towards her by the bent of their own mind or the hope of doing service to their country, combine to form a loud call to the University to institute new and exclusive courses of study in science and to grant new scientific degrees. The matter is still sub judice, but I have no doubt that the Senate will join the Syndicate in the hearty response they are prepared to make to the call of the Chancellor. Passing to the other Faculties, the schemes for degrees in them have received from time to time consideration and some modifications, but not to such an extent as to call for further allusion on the present occasion.

Greater changes have been made in the Matriculation Examination, For many years we stood alone in requiring the attendance of all candidates for that examination in Bombay. The year before last the experiment of conducting a portion of the examination at certain centres was tried, followed in the year just concluded by the entire examination being conducted in the above manner. It is too early to form an opinion as to whether the alteration has been successful. But on this point I may venture to throw out a suggestion as to whether an entire modification of our entrance examination should not be made. My own opinion inclines to making the English portion of the examination more searching and more practical and reducing the number and the importance of the other subjects. There is no doubt that one of the greatest difficulties the student finds on joining the Colleges is to understand the lectures and the text- books. Whether the University should confine itself to the English test, leaving the other subjects to be dealt with by the Colleges, is a matter for consideration. But at all events I think that proficiency in a great portion of the other subjects in the present Matriculation Examination might be postponed to the F.A. I will now turn to the Endowments, and present a comparative statement of them of the three Indian Universities:—

The University now possesses and administers no less than 32 separate endowments, which is more than double the number that existed in 1870. Their aggregate value has risen from Rs. 1,15,000 to Rs. 2,47,000, and the annual income stands at Rs. 11,049 as against Rs. 5,110. It is at once highly creditable to the public spirit oi Bombay, and a good omen for the future, that the decade less prosperous, in a mercantile point of view, which began with 1870 has been as fruitful in these gifts of an enlightened zeal as the decade on which that year closed. Much, however, remains to be done, and I trust that this flow of liberality may go on steadily for years to come. The Wilson Philological Lectureship, on the lamented death of Dr. Wilson, assumed its final form, and became the first of what we hope may prove a goodly series of endowments, which are calculated, by the encouragement they give the scholars and the advantages they secure to the public, to be of the greatest service to the development of original literary research in this Presidency. Is it too much to expect that the friendly rivalry between the Arts and Sciences which is making itself heard within our walls may soon take the form of one or more scientific lectureships. The list of benefactions shows no increase. And we may perhaps admit that in the Bombay of our day the University can hardly look for such benefactions from private individuals as the four lacs to which we owe the adjoining magnificent building.

Though I trust that in better days to come we may see, through private beneficence, other academical buildings clustering round these graceful piles, and forming the large open space to the East into a quadrangle which shall be sacred to learning and research. But while no increase has been made during the period we are reviewing to a list of benefactions, which at its commencement already presented an aggregate of more than five lacs of rupees, we must not omit to notice that the University has entered on the full enjoyment of the munificence of its benefactors. The first Convocation was held in this Hall in 1874 and the Library was handed over to us last month.

I cannot, however, conclude this allusion to our being now in possession of our own buildings without one word of personal regret that I shall not be here to see the first movement of the hands on the dial marking the march of time towards eternity, or to hear the first peal from the melodious "joy bells" which are to cheer and enliven this city with their voices. May both be emblematic—the one of the march of this University towards that perfection which should be the end of all our aspirations, the other of the harmony which will attend on its deliberations and the joy with which the people of the Presidency will hail the results.

I may now allude to the Constitution of the University. Although, no change has hitherto been made in this important point, I may, Improvement in the constitution of the University. I think, express an opinion that the time is not far off when some change will be called for in this direction. An infant Institution of this nature had, at its commencement of course, to look to the general public whence to choose its directors, and it was not until comparatively a late period that it had men who had grown up within its own borders that could claim to take a part in its management. But that time has now come, and the claimants are increasing in numbers yearly; and I venture to think that the views which the S3mdicate are now about to lay before Government, recommending that steps should be taken to secure in future the presence in the Senate of a greater proportion of graduates of this University, and further to limit the selection of others to those who have distinguished themselves in their literary or professional careers, are most wise. I also venture to think that the Senate may, especially when so strengthened, admit Reporters to its meetings, and so court the voice of public opinion on its proceedings. I do not think an enlargement of the Syndicate, save perhaps to admit the representative of a new Faculty, is advisable; but I hope as time progresses the Senate may make its power more and more felt, not only in its selections for the Syndicate, but in supporting and it may be occasionally in modifying the measures of that body. Amongst the miscellaneous matters which, have occurred during the past eight years, I may mention that the University has had the honour to present addresses to Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales, and to receive their gracious replies, the latter ceremony having taken place in this Hall.

Having thus brought to a conclusion this review, Advice to graduates. I will take this the last opportunity I may have of presiding over a Convocation to address a few parting words to the Graduates and Students. In so doing, I shall doubtless repeat what I have said on previous occasions, but I feel that for this the importance of the subject will be sufficient excuse. Let me then impress on you. Gentlemen Graduates, not only the necessity of bearing in mind the charge given you on receiving your degrees,—namely, that you ever in your lives and conversation show yourselves worthy of the same—but that you bear in mind that when you can place after your names the letters of your degree your education is not finished—in truth, it has but just begun. It is now your duty to pursue with steadfastness of purpose the line you have chosen to follow—and, be it what it may, go on in that line towards perfection therein. Look at some of the bright examples which we have had in our educational institutions. Witness particularly the two brothers, Bahu and Narayan Daji. See how they never tired of acquiring knowledge—how they sought to make the knowledge they were daily gaining a means for benefiting their fellow-men. I pray you each to remember such examples, and whatever profession you may choose,—be it Law, Medicine, Engineering, Science or Art,—let it be taken up firmly, pursued thoroughly, and with a fixed purpose to excel therein and so benefit others. Let this University have a list of graduates of whom it may be proud, as showing that one result of its exertions is the preparation of a fitting class of men to render services not only in the administration of the Empire in every department of the State, but the more important work of spreading civilisation amongst their fellow countrymen.

To you, students, let me offer a few words of advice. Avoid, above all things, Advice to students. being satisfied with a smattering of many subjects—make up your mind to take up one profession or one branch of a profession and stick to it, and become thorough scholars in the subjects of your choice; and while striving for the mastery over a foreign language, without which success in your profession is impossible, do not forget that you have a vernacular of your own, through which you must mainly look at to spread abroad to others the benefits you have gained in your own course of education. Remember also the responsibilities which a good education places upon you, namely, that you should be examples of loyalty, truthfulness, industry and sobriety, that when you are known as graduates of the University, men may find in you—as in the majority of the present graduates I trust they can now find—that the old Latin lines in praise of learning are still true:

" --- iugenuas didicisse fideliter artes
Emollit mores, nee sinit esse feros."

Finally, I would, ere I close, say to those who are still in the schools—of whom some may be here present—seek not High Education simply for the sake of Government Service. Higher Education and Government service. I see the Native Press still harping on this point and blaming Government for not providing for all graduates. In the first place, such a view of the value of High Education is insulting to it—it would lower, nay, prostitute the highest instrument of civilisation. Learning, Science, Art, all or any, must be courted for their own sakes. But I may also add that if Government were willing to take a view which is too common, they could not possibly find employment for a tithe of the Graduates this University has passed. Speaking as a Member of Government, I may say we have, following indeed in the steps of our predecessors, opened more widely the gates of our service to Graduates, and we are willing to do even more ; but this is not so much to encourage our youth to seek High Education, as to enable Government to benefit by it in obtaining as public servants the men best fitted to fill these posts with loyalty, honesty, and ability.

And now, Gentlemen of the Senate, brother-Fellows of this University, the time has come for me to say farewell. We have worked together for many years; we have seen, in some respects, our labours bearing the fruit we hoped for; but the great success of this Institution is, I feel, yet in the future. May many of you remain here to see it approach more and more to what we would have it become, and witness the beneficent result of its civilising effects spread more and more generally over this portion of the Empire. May your efforts be blessed by Providence to this good end, and while saying again the words 'farewell,' "floreat Academia," let me assure you that my thoughts and the affections of my heart will ever recur to the happy time we have worked together, and that no one will hail with greater satisfaction each prosperous step this University may take in the spread of learning and science than he who will hereafter be your ex-Vice-Chancellor.