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

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TENTH CONVOCATION.

(By The Honorable Mr. Justice Gibbs.)


Gentlemen of the Senate,—It is, I am sure, a subject of sincere regret that the pressure of important business in the Northern part of this Presidency has detained His Excellency the Chancellor, and prevented him from presiding over the present Convocation. It is an absence we the more regret, as the interest he takes in the education of the people over whom he rules has been manifested on so many occasions, while his thoughtful care for this University is shown in the foundation of that which it is hoped will be its highest prize, the Chancellor's Medal—a distinction which was offered for the first time at the examinations just over, but which I regret the Examiners did not feel themselves justified in awarding.

The present is the Tenth Convocation for conferring degrees, and I think I may be allowed, therefore, in a brief manner to review the past, and consider some of its results as guides to us for the future. In 1862 the first degrees were conferred; they consisted of four B,A's and four L.M's. These were the first eight names on the roll of graduates. Since then the numbers have increased yearly. Our first M.A^s were conferred in 1865; our first LL.B's in 1866 and L.C.E's in 1869. Our rolls show after the degrees conferred to-day, M.A., 28; B.A., 116; LL.B., 29; L.M., 25; L.C.E., 6 ; while 1,227 students in all have matriculated. In reviewing the returns for the past twelve years it appears that 4,567 students have presented themselves for the Matriculation Examination, of whom 1,227 only have been successful. This small proportion of passed candidates has often been the subject of comment, and blame has been sought to be attached to the Examiners for want of system or for over-strictness. Last year out of 839 candidates, 142 passed, and in the present year out of 877, 142 only were sucessful. Now the main cause of the failure of the 735 in the last examination was their being unable to qualify in English. I believe those who failed in other subjects, and yet qualified in English, were very few indeed. You will, gentlemen of the Senate, I feel sure, agree with me that Examiners more competent, more conscientious, more anxious to do their duty, both by the students as well as the University, could not have been chosen, than those who examined this year ; — and yet, without tightening the bands of the standard too closely, but after giving every chance to the candidates, the result as to numbers appears even worse than in the previous year, and has, I am aware, again formed the subject of comment. But the almost constant pro- portion of passed to unpassed which each year's returns from 1859 show, to my mind, point but to one cause — not the over- strictness of the Examiners or a too high standard, but the simple fact that the students come up before they are properly prepared. They have not profited by the advice of Sir Bartle Frere, when Chancellor, not " to attempt to grasp their academical honours by hurrying through their studies for the examination. This subject has led me to inquire into the results of the Matriculation at the other Indian Universities, and I find from the last "Statistical abstract relating to British India," laid before Parliament and made up to March 1869, that in Calcutta the percentage of passed men, calculated for the first ten years, is one-half or 50 per cent. In Madras it is greater than in Calcutta, being about 60 per cent., while in Bombay for the same period it is only rather over one-third, or say 34 per cent. These statistics have also enabled me to draw your attention to another very interesting circumstance; that is, a comparison of the numbers who in the first ten years presented themselves for Matriculation, compared with the male population included in the territorial ranges of the Universities. The figures from the same return show the following results : —

Males. Candidates for Matriculation. Calcutta, including Bengal, j Cenl/p.?vt elTn^ «'.0»0.0<"' 13,185 or 1 in 4.660 British Bormah. ) Madras... ... ... 15,000,000 2,993 or 1 in 6,000 Bombay, including Sind ... 7,000,000 2,679 or 1 in 2,600

Now, bearing in mind that under the sister Universities the Matriculation Examination is conducted at 33 places by Calcutta, and at 18 by Madras, while we conduct it solely in Bombay, to which place candidates come from Sind and Gujarath in the North, the Berars on the N. E., and the confines of Madras on the South, we may, I think, congratulate ourselves on the greater desire for a University education which the Natives under our own Presidency evince than those residing in either of the others.

The following is a comparative statement of the degrees conferred by the three Universities, including the Convocations of 1870 :—

M.A. B.A. LL.B. B.C.E. L.O.E. M.D. B.M. L.M. ^ 1,082 236 143

Here Bombay shows as to numbers at a disadvantage, but it must be borne in mind that we have, from the first, fixed and demanded a higher standard for most of our degrees than have Calcutta or Madras — in fact, they have within the last few years been raising their standard and are still considering the subject, so that any comparison drawn from the proportion of graduates to under-graduatGs would only be liable to mislead. The results of these few comparisons I have drawn between the three Universities will, I think, satisfy yon, gentlemen of the Senate, that Bombay has not failed in her duty, that although the number of her graduates is small, yet that having from the first fixed high standards for her examinatious, she has ensured that those who hold her degrees have merited their honours by the soundness and extent of their learning. On the report just read by the Registrar, I have but few observations to make. The most notable fact is that to-day the first European British-born subject has been enrolled among the graduates of the University, the son of one who long laboured in the cause of education in Bombay, who was a Fellow of this University, and a frequent Examiner of its students, and whose sudden removal from the scene of his labours was a matter of deep regret.

I next notice the submission for competition of two new prizes besides the Chancellor's Medal, viz., the James Berkley Gold Medal, unfortunately not awarded, and the Ellis Scholarship for the best proficient in English in the B.A. Examination, which has been won by a Muhammadan gentleman of the Khojah sect — one of two brothers who, having broken through the strong sectarian prejudices of their race, have competed in the ranks of the educated youth of the Presidency, and have both succeeded in their object. Some important changes have been made in the regulations. The Senate, approving of the measures proposed by the Syndicate, have done away with special examinations for the various scholarships and prizes and have attached them to the general examination — a course which, without lowering the standard required for their acquisition, is from convenience and economy much to be desired; all graduates in law have also been now permitted to compete for honours, and thus a greater impetus has been given for the study of the higher branches of legal science. These, gentlemen, seem to me to be the only observations the report calls for. Since I have come to this Convocation a letter has been placed in my hands with a request that I should notice it to you at this assembly. I have great pleasure in doing so, though it is an irregularity, as for such a course I have two pi-ecedents. I will, with your permission, state the purport of this letter, which is that a sum of Es. 6,000 in 5 per cent, notes is tendered to the University for acceptance, — the interest, Rs. 800 a year, to be devoted to a scholarship of Rs. 25 a month to be called the "Arnould Scholarship," in memory of Sir Joseph Arnould, who so long and ably presided as one of the Judges of the late Supreme and present High Court, the said scholarship to be held by the graduate who successfully passes the LL,B. Examination with the highest number of marks for a paper on Hindu and Muhammadan law. This is another instance of the yearly increase of the endowments of this University.

And now, gentlemen, let us in conclusion see what answer the experience of the past ten years enables us to make to the questions suggested by your late Chancellor in his first address. Has the University answered the great end for which it was founded, viz., "the encouragement of Her Majesty's subjects of all classes and denominations within this Presidency in the pursuit of a regular and liberal course of education"? — have those who have won its laurels proved themselves true children of their Alma Mater? — has the University established its reputation by providing men fit to be teachers of its students ? — has it proved, as Sir Bartle Frere hoped it would prove, that Oriental intellect is not worn out; that while it possesses great capacity to receive and retain knowledge, it also has the power to analyse and combine, that it can now produce the same results of a high order of intellect as those of which the ancient literature of the country gives such abundant evidence ? — above all, has it produced men who, while rising high in the ranks of scholastic ability and scientific learning, have shown themselves valuable citizens of the world? I trust the results of our past experience enable us to answer much of this in the affirmative. Already have three of the professorial chairs been filled from its graduates, besides many of those important posts, the headships of the High Schools; papers on abstruse questions have been produced; the ranks of the Bar and the Medical Services of the State have been recruited from its alumni. These are indeed subjects for sincere congratulations. But doubts have been breathed as to whether the University will turn out as valuable citizens of the world as did Professors Bell and Henderson, Harkness and Green, in the days of the old Elphinstone institution ; it has been hinted that our best men will prove to be but pedants; that, however full of classical and mathematical learning they may be, they are not so well fitted for mixing with the world, for taking their part in the government of the country, or for forming for their country a healthy and just public opinion, as were those who preceded them in their educational career. I mention these doubts as existing, and therefore as being worthy of a careful investigation by teachers, by graduates, and by students. At home most of our best men in all the professions, in Parliament and in the State, are drawn from our Universities; and while we have had our pedants, men from whose vast yet silent labours those training in the great schools at home have derived most important help, yet the leading men in England as a rule have been trained for their future distinguished careers by the Universities. Let it be so with us ; let it not be said that the University here is unable to produce public men as well as its sisters in Great Britain and Ireland. It has succeeded in raising the moral tone of our youth, as all who have been engaged in carrying on the government of this Presidency will heartily acknowledge. Let us add to this ; let us endeavour more prominently to induce in our students habits of active thought and independence of opinion, which, if combined with personal modesty, will lead to success in the world — success not only for the individual, but success for the country at large.