Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 67.djvu/653

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647
UNIVERSITY EDUCATION AND NATIONAL LIFE.

UNIVERSITY EDUCATION AND NATIONAL LIFE.[1]
By SIR RICHARD C. JEBB, Litt. D., D.C.L., M.P.

EVERY country has educational problems of its own, intimately dependent on its social and economic conditions. The progressive study of education tends, indeed, towards a certain amount of general agreement on principles. But the crucial difficulties in framing and administering educational measures are very largely difficulties of detail; since an educational system, if it is to be workable, must be more or less accurately adjusted to all the complex circumstances of a given community. As one of those who are now visiting South Africa for the first time, I feel that what I bring with me from England is an interest in education, and some acquaintance with certain phases of it in the United Kingdom; but with regard to the inner nature of the educational questions which are now before this country, I am here to learn from those who can speak with knowledge. In this respect the British Association is doing for me very much what a famous bequest does for those young men whom it sends to Oxford; I am, in fact, a sort of Rhodes scholar from the other end—not subject, happily, to an age limit—who will find here a delightful and instructive opportunity of enlarging his outlook on the world, and more particularly on the field of education.

As usage prescribes that the work of this section, as of others, should be opened by an address from the chair, I have ventured to take a subject suggested by one of the most striking phenomena of our time—the growing importance of that part which universities seem destined to play in the life of nations.

Among the developments of British intellectual life which marked the Victorian age, none was more remarkable, and none is more important to-day, than the rapid extension of a demand for university education, and the great increase in the number of institutions which supply it. In the year 1832 Oxford and Cambridge were the only universities south of the Tweed, and their position was then far from satisfactory. Their range of studies was too narrow; their social operation was too limited. Then, by successive reforms, the quality of their teaching was improved, and its scope greatly enlarged; their doors were opened


  1. Address by the president to the Educational Science Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, South Africa, 1905.