The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIV. The Victorian Age, Part Two.

XIV. Education

§ 39. Universities and research

Apart from its administrative character, the relation of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge to the universities underwent no great immediate change in consequence of the legislation of 1854–6. The energy of college tutors was expended on the education of undergraduates; it was almost a commonplace of speakers and writers that, in striking contrast with some foreign universities, Oxford and Cambridge produced but little original work in science or learning. No reformers were more dissatisfied with the state of affairs than many of the university teachers themselves. Newman believed that a university could not at the same time be a place of education and a home of research and learning; Mark Pattison, on the contrary, boldly asserted that, unless teachers were actively engaged in advancing knowledge, their teaching would be inadequate and barren.

  • All attempts to stimulate the teaching activity of [Oxford] without adding to its solid possession of the field of science will only feed the unwholesome system of examinations which is now undermining the educational value of the work we actually do.
  • As Pattison read the early history of colleges, their founders intended them for the promotion of learning and the technical instruction of priests, ecclesiastical lawyers and men of affairs; the most urgently needed reform was the appropriation of a large part of the college revenues to the encouragement of research and the provision of the highest type of scientific technical instruction. It was Pattison’s hope that such a readjustment of finances would ensure a numerous body of fairly paid teachers, who would have time and opportunity to continue their own studies, to the advantage of the world beyond their own lecture rooms. The act of 1877, which appointed, in both universities, commissions with executive powers to deal with college statutes, rendered possible the partial realisation of this policy. The abolition of religious tests at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham in 1871 removed the last disability which rested upon nonconformists, with the double advantage of admitting them into the full current of national education and of rendering university life a truer mirror of the life of the nation at large. The greatly increased activities of both universities since 1870 are reflected in the number and variety of “schools” and “triposes” instituted since that date.