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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter XI - Second Period (1583 - 1696). Edinburgh University


THE origin of the University of Edinburgh is a subject on which conflicting accounts are given, and which it is impossible here to discuss at length [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, vol. I. pp. 97-9 and 168-9.]. More cannot be attempted than a summarised statement of accepted facts. It is unquestionable that Bishop Reid in 1557 bequeathed 8000 merks for the purpose of establishing a college in which arts and law should be taught. There is no good reason for thinking that he meant by this the founding of a university, but simply such a school of "arts and jure" as is referred to in the act of 1496. But whatever was his intention, it is certain that it was not fulfilled. Through the neglect or mismanagement of his executors 2500 merks, after more than twenty years, fell into the hands of the Town Council, and were employed in helping to build "the Town's College" for which a charter had been got. Only to this extent, and probably without intention, can he be regarded as one of the founders of the university. In Craufurd's history of the university we are told that "the three older universities by the power of the Bishops bearing some sway in the Kirk, and more in the State, did let their enterprise [Craufurd's History of the University of Edinburgh, p. 19.]." In what way this opposition was operative, and how it was overcome, is not known.

For twenty years, from 1561 onwards, the Town Council, and ultimately the ministers of Edinburgh, made vigorous efforts for the promotion of advanced education by appeals to Queen Mary "to grant to the Town the place, yards, and annuals, of the Friars and Altarages of the Kirk, for maintenance of the Grammar School, as also for the Regents of a College to be built within this Burgh." In 1564 the Town Council, after negotiations with the Provost of the Collegiate Church of Kirk-of-Field for the purchase of that site, speak of "making a university." The purchase however was not completed. Two years later the Queen, probably under compulsion and much against her will, " granted her Charter conveying the Kirk-of-Field and all other monastic property in Edinburgh to the Town Council for the support of Protestant ministers and the poor [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, I, P. 103.]." This again was on the advice of James VI devoted to education. The founding of a college was not included in this grant. Queen Mary, besides, qualified the grant by a condition that the present incumbents were to have a life-rent of their benefices, the result of which was that in 1581 the ministers and citizens of Edinburgh, "having obtained," as Craufurd says, "a gift of a University, purchased their right of the Kirk-of-Field, to be a place for the situation of the intended college [Craufurd's History of the University of Edinburgh, p. 21.]."

It is on all hands admitted that James Lawson, in association with Balcanquhall, Little, and Charteris, was the man to whom the foundation of the Edinburgh College is due [" In the year after its opening its chief promoter, and best and wisest friend, James Lawson, was banished from Scotland by the influence of the Earl of Arran, and shortly afterwards died in London, to the great grief of all the godly." Sir Alex. Grant, p. 158.]. In 1578 and for several years thereafter the rivalry between the Presbyterian and Episcopal parties was keen. Craufurd, with probably some exaggeration, says, "the Bishops were then universally abhorred in the whole Kirk of Scotland," and that " the time being favourable, was well plyed by the ministers and citizans of Edinburgh." Lawson had very high qualities in respect of both piety and culture, and had the honour of being appointed successor to John Knox as Chief Minister of Edinburgh. " By his earnest dealing," says Craufurd, " the High Grammar School was compleated in the place of the ruined monastery of the Blackfriars, with some intention, if no more could be obtained, at least to make it scholam illustrem, with profession of Logick and the parts of Philosophie in private classes [Craufurd's History of the University of Edinburgh, p. 20.]."

The phrase "having obtained the gift of a University" has given rise to a question as to the possible loss of the original charter for the foundation of the college. Sir Alexander Grant discusses very ably and at considerable length this question, for which, because its bearing, though interesting, is antiquarian and speculative rather than educational, room cannot be found in this volume [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, r, pp. 107 - 120.].

About the genuineness of King James's charter of April 14th, 1582, there is no question. It has no resemblance to the Bulls founding the three earlier universities. It nowhere speaks of founding a studium generale, says nothing about privileges, faculties, or staff. Queen Mary's charter provides only for the ministry and the poor. To this King James, then a boy 16 years of age, doubtless by the advice of the Regent, adds "the furtherance of education and learning." It gives power to the Town Council to accept of endowments in support of the objects mentioned, to build schools and colleges for professors and students, and appoint suitable teachers with the advice of the ministers. But while the Council may provide for the teaching of humanity, philosophy, theology, medicine, laws, and other liberal sciences as in a studium generale, this name is not given to the institution nor is the word 'university' used. The early Reformers had little favour for such independent institutions in which heresy might be taught unchecked.
At the same time it must be admitted that for nearly a hundred years before it is designated as a university in the town's records of 1685 it did the work and discharged at least one of the functions belonging to a university. In 1587 degrees were conferred on 48 students. In this respect it resembled the Academy of Geneva which, though not recognised by the King of France as a university, conferred degrees which were recognised by some universities as valid.

Meanwhile in 1583 they began to "inclose the present precincts of the College with walls [Craufurd, p. 23,]," the chief part of which was "Hamilton House" on the north side of the present quadrangle. In this large house class-rooms, a hall, and sleeping apartments were provided. This house and a wing added by the Town Council represented all the building with which the Town's College opened its career.

This done, the Town Council "began to deliberate on a Rector to preside over the Academy," [Consultare de Rectore qui Academiae praeesset. Charteris, Life of Rollock, p. 42- Sir A. Grant, p. 130, is probably right in thinking that Charteris purposely used Rector and Academy from their ambiguous meaning, the former being applied to a high University Official, and also to the head of a grammar school, the latter being the word by which the Humanists designated a university, and also the name of the degree-giving Institution of Geneva, which was declared not to be a university. Charteris thus furnished himself with a defence in the event of exception being taken to the ambiguous words.] and their choice by the advice of Lawson fell on Robert Rollock, a young man of high reputation for both scholarship and character. He had never been out of Scotland, as the heads of the three older universities had been. He was the only teacher, and was engaged for only one year, subject to "using himself faithfully," at a salary of 40 Scots and fees, which, in the debased condition of Scots currency at the time, represented between 20 and 25 sterling. This beginning, humble in itself, and especially in comparison with the dignity and eclat derived from the intervention of Bishops, Kings, and Papal Bulls in the founding of the older universities, affords very strong presumptive evidence that, whatever may have been the more ambitious aims of Lawson and Charteris, the development of the Town's College into a famous University was a gradual process, not seriously, if at all, dreamt of by the King or Town Council at its inception.

The college from the outset aimed at a university standard. An entrance examination was prescribed, and as a number of students came up insufficiently acquainted with Latin, which was the language to be used both in lectures and conversation, Duncan Nairn was appointed a second master, to take charge of a preparatory or tutorial class, attendance at which did not count for graduation. The college opened with about 80 students, 50 under Rollock, the rest under Nairn. The college was residential. The students slept in it, and wore gowns. Neither of these regulations seems to have been fully carried out afterwards. The first was departed from probably from want of room, the second because a distinctive garb was disliked, but in both we have evidence of the survival of medieval usage. There is no information in the city records as to how the collegiate life in respect of food was conducted. Craufurd says that when the Abbey of Paisley became vacant by the forfeiture of the Hamiltons and Erskines, at the King's donation it was bestowed on the city, and that there was some intention of using part of it towards provision for household expenses, but "revolutions of State quashed the design [Craufurd's Hist. of Edin. Univ. p. 26.]."

After the establishment of bursaries in 1597 we have evidence of another medieval survival in the menial services demanded of the bursars, who in turns rang the bell for the assembling and dismissal of classes, and kept the stairs and passages clean by brushes attached to their feet. This was called "paidelling." The rigidity of the rules about play, work, religious observances, church attendance, and subsequent examination on the scope of the sermons, all suggest the same medieval origin. From ten to eleven months in the year every hour of a long day was spent under the constant supervision of a Regent. Notwithstanding these marks of a domestic or collegiate rather than a university constitution, degrees continued to be conferred with no apparent source for the assumption of an authority which had hitherto been derived only from either Kings or Popes. These degrees were recognised as valid, and the power to confer them was ratified by the Act of 1621. We are probably warranted in supposing that the Town's College gradually grew into a University by usage or prescriptive right.

It is beyond question that from its commencement under Rollock the college took the attitude and adopted the fashions of a university in respect of study, course for graduation, and nomenclature of classes-Bajan, Semi-Bajan, Bachelor, and Magistrand for the four years of the curriculum [Bajan from Bec-jaune, yellow beak, or unfledged bird. Bachelor from Baschevalier, indicating incomplete degree. The derivation is, according to Skeat, unsettled. In Aberdeen Tertian is the name for the third year student. The lines of study were much the same as in the older universities with improvements suggested by experience. The chief differences were that while literature and scholarship had little attention given them in medieval times, the first year was now devoted to Greek and Latin and that it was no longer sufficient to have Aristotle studied from Latin translations. The Organon and New Testament were to be read in the original Greek; the Dialectics of Ramus, the Rhetoric of Talaeus, Cosmography, and descriptive Anatomy formed part of the course for graduation. Geometry and History had not yet found a place in the curriculum.

As the number of students increased, one Regent after another was appointed, till in session 1589-90 there were, besides Rollock, who had ceased to be a Regent on being made Professor of Theology, four Regents appointed, each of whom carried the Bajan class, with which in rotation he commenced, through the four years to graduation. The Reformers wished to abolish this rotation of Regents, but it continued till the beginning of the 18th century, and was gradually given up as the subjects covered a wider range, each demanding more fulness and accuracy than could be expected from a teacher, much of whose time had to be devoted to other subjects.

In the examination for degrees no Regent was allowed to examine the class he had taught. This regulation, coupled with the strictness of discipline already referred to, the small size of the classes and frequent examinations seems to warrant the inference that the student who crowned his four years with the degree of Master was probably not inferior to the modern graduate. [It appears from Craufurd's History, p. 61, that the first ten graduations under Rollock give an annual average of 28. The candidates for graduation were arranged in classes or circles. The most distinguished were above the circles ; the next were placed in the first circle; the next were those who nearly approached the first circle; the next were placed in the second circle. All these passed with honours. The last contained the names of those who, though falling below honours, were worthy to be ranked as graduates.] We have here again a trace of medievalism. The backbone of the examination was Aristotle's Organon, Analytics, Topics and Ethics, the Dialectics of Ramus, and Astronomy. Greek as a specific subject was omitted, probably because the reading of Aristotle in the original was thought a sufficient test of that language. Other omissions are Hebrew Grammar, Anatomy, and Geography, which were apparently thought not essential for degrees.

The candidates for `honours' were arranged in five classes, the fifth or lowest being those who fell short of honours but were thought worthy of a bare pass.

The ceremonies connected with graduation were more elaborate then than now. On the day before it all the successful candidates signed the Confession of Faith, and solemnly promised loyalty to their Alma Mater. The next day, from the morning till six in the evening, was occupied with disputations on a Thesis drawn up by the Senior Regent, in the presence of the Lord Chancellor of Scotland, Privy Councillors, Lords of Session, and Advocates. They were conducted in Latin, several students being appointed to defend the Thesis against all antagonists, some of whom were frequently ministers and lawyers who had been educated in foreign universities. This exercise did not affect the graduation list, but was engaged in as being a useful and interesting test of expertness in argument. It is to such disputations that the academic term wrangler owes its origin.

Education in Theology was introduced in 1586 when Rollock was appointed Professor of that subject. It was not a class for graduation, but simply a course of lectures for the benefit of those who intended to become ministers. Into this work Rollock threw himself with all the earnestness and wisdom which characterised him throughout the whole of his career.

We see from the preceding pages that the college, which on 'the day of small things' started with a single Regent, had taken root, had its Regent changed into a Principal and Professor of Theology with the oversight of four Regents, and a power of conferring degrees after a curriculum of distinctly University type recognised as valid. It had not yet got a Professor of Law, but in 1590 an effort-unfortunately unsuccessful-was made in this direction. The circumstances that led to its failure are obscure and in some respects mysterious. Sir Alexander Grant has made an exceedingly able attempt to penetrate the mystery, but as it is not essential to our purpose it does not seem necessary to do more than state the facts [Grant's Story of Edin. Univ., I, pp. 184-9. It may be added here that no Professor of Law was appointed till 1707.].

Three parties, the Lords of Session, the Advocates and Writers to the Signet, and the Town Council provided each 1000, the Town Council obliging themselves to pay 300 a year interest on the 3000 towards the maintenance of a "Professor of the Laws." Adam Newton got the first appointment, and held it for four years, when, "not having the approbation of the Town Council," he was removed, and Sir Adrian Damman was appointed and held it for three years. "Both of them did only professe Humanitie publicly in the College without any mention of the Lawes [Craufurd, p. 35.]." The mystery iswhy did neither of them lecture on Law?

In 1597 the three parties to the proposal of a Professor of Laws resolved to give it up altogether. For this resolution no reason is recorded. The 300 destined for it was divided into two portions, 200 to establish six bursaries, and 100 for a salary to a private Professor of Humanity. The qualification of this appointment by "private" can only mean that the duties attached to it were tutorial and below university rank, for the Humanity class was not yet matriculated, and did not count towards graduation. The Professor or Regent of Humanity was on a lower level than the other Regents. We have evidence of this in the fact that it was by no means uncommon for him to exchange his position for the Rectorship of grammar schools such as the Edinburgh High School (p. 7), and even the Canongate grammar School.

Professorships of Latin in the modern sense were first established in St Andrews in 1620, in Glasgow in 1637, and in Aberdeen in 1839.

That it was thought expedient to appoint a teacher of Latin in connection with the University may seem to indicate a general falling off in acquaintance with Latin after the Reformation, but it must be remembered that medieval and especially conversational Latin was monastic and made no pretension to classical purity, and might be fairly likened to the working knowledge of French and German acquired by the average commercial traveller or domestic servant, who has spent a few months in France or Germany. Another reason for a preparatory Latin class in the college was that a habit-not yet outgrown-was gradually creeping in of sending boys to college at an age when they would have been better at school. To such an extent had this habit grown that in 1656 the Town Council proposed to abolish the Humanity class, "as prejudicial not only to the Grammar School but to the College itself." [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, I, p. 193,] Another reason is furnished by the desire for a purer Latinity created by the Humanists at the Renaissance, for which systematic teaching was indispensable.

In 1620 the joint offices of Principal and Professor of Divinity, which till then had been held first by Rollock and then by Charteris, were separated. For a discussion of this separation and the appointment of a layman to the Principalship, reference must be made to Sir Alexander Grant's History, I, 195-203. Suffice it to say that on the death of Rollock and the resignation of his successor Charteris, Patrick Sands, formerly a Regent, a layman who had been unsuccessful at the bar, was, by what many thought scandalous nepotism, made Principal. This arrangement involved the necessity of appointing permanently, as it turned out, an additional Professor of Divinity, who had nothing to do with the systematic teaching of Theology. As the ministers of Edinburgh had, by negotiation in 1608, a joint voice with the Town Council in the appointment of college officials, it is probably not unfair to allow the charge of jobbery to be shared between them. The separation of the two offices is the more indefensible, when we learn that in several cases the Professor of Divinity undertook the charge of a city church in addition to his college duties which were exceedingly light.

Step by step the college was steadily advancing towards the status of a university. One step was the foundation of this new Chair of Divinity, for which endowment and a house for the Professor were provided by a number of donations-some very large-during the early years of the 17th century. Others were the promotion of the senior and second Regents to the rank of public Professors of Mathematics and Metaphysics respectively. These Professors did not cease to be rotating Regents, but in addition to their former duties they delivered two lectures a week, presumably of higher type, to the two highest classes. There was no important change in the system of graduation. Yet another step was taken when the Act of Parliament of 1621 granted to the college and all its members "all liberties, freedoms, and immunities, and privileges appertaining to a free college, and that in as ample form and large manner as any college has or enjoys within His Majesty's realm [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, 1, p. 204.]." The terms here employed are practically identical with those by which the Charter of Marischal College (which could confer degrees) was confirmed and accordingly made the College of Edinburgh a University.

For ten years during which the Rectorship was held by Ramsay and Lord Prestongrange its duties were nominal, and the office fell into abeyance for nine years, when in 1640 it was revived and conferred on Alexander Henderson with important duties attached to it; see Dictionary of National Biography. These duties may be shortly described as a general supervision of everything connected with the college, financial and academic alike. This function he discharged with rare fidelity and judgment, raising for college purposes a loan on the security of the town, and securing to the college the assignation of "remnants of rents of the Deanery of Edinburgh and of the Bishopric of Orkney." To him was due the commencement of new accommodation for the library and other necessary buildings. By his advice the first appointment was made of a Professor of Hebrew to which, in spite of its importance in a College of Theology, little attention had hitherto been paid. By overtures to the General Assembly in 1645 he got provision made for the visitation of grammar schools, for more careful examination for degrees, for entrance examinations and for correspondence and uniformity of standard between Edinburgh and the older universities. He took an active and effective part in carrying out university reforms of all kinds.

On his death the Rectorship was again given to Andrew Ramsay and after him to Douglas, both eminent ministers. But in 1665 the Town Council resolved that in all time coming the Lord Provost should be Rector and Governor of the college. We have in this resolution evidence of the difference between Edinburgh and the older universities in respect of origin. In Edinburgh it was distinctly municipal. All its most important transactions-sometimes self-assertive and injudicious as in this instance-were due to the initiative of the Council.

Up to this point only incidental reference has been made to the foundation of chairs connected with the medical profession. We find vague and unsatisfactory mention of Professors of Medicine and Anatomy, but nothing definite as to their exact position and academic importance. And yet it is the fact that, ages before the idea of a university or even a schola illustris in Edinburgh had taken shape, earnest workers had initiated a movement, which was to have as its result in 1505 the incorporation of the fraternity of Barber-Surgeons, the earliest surgical corporation in the United Kingdom.

Long before this time monks, as being the only educated body, had charge of the treatment of disease. These early labourers in the field of medical or surgical practice had little, if any, help from the recorded experience of their predecessors. Printing was only thirty years old. The country was not more than half civilised, and only a small minority could read or write. Scourgings, hangings, and beheadings were surroundings little suited to encourage peaceable pursuits or scientific research. Notwithstanding these unfavourable conditions the pioneers of medical science had so far established an honourable reputation, that they were granted a charter confirmed by royal authority, by which they were invested with the right of not only practising and teaching medical science, but of deciding by examination the qualifications of all who wished to join the corporation of Barber-Surgeons.

The relation of barbers to the Church requires a word of explanation. Originally, and for centuries, barbers were little more than servants of the clergy for the discharge of certain duties, such as shaving of heads and letting of blood. But in the 13th century the Church issued a solemn edict for bidding its Clerics and Doctors to soil their hands with blood, "Ecclesia abhorret e sanguine." The inevitable effect of this edict was to split up medical practice into two departments, one for Surgery, the other for the dispensing of Medicine. The former of course fell to the barbers, the latter to the monks [Dr J. Smith, Royal College of Surgeons, pp. 7-10, 1905: an admirable account of the college published in connection with the Fourth Centenary.]. This edict does not seem to have been strictly obeyed, for, towards the end of the 14th century, we find some of the clergy practising the arts of both medicine and surgery with great success.

Meanwhile the Barber-Surgeons in the course of centuries had through experience and study accumulated practical skill, and could afford to disregard the attempts made by the practitioners of physic to debar them from practising surgery. They felt their own strength, and that it was from every point of view desirable that a remedy should be found for this irregular and uncomfortable state of matters. The "Seal of Cause" under which the Royal College of Surgeons was established furnished the remedy required. For a good many years after its establishment no records seem to have been kept of its proceedings, but that its course was one of steady and most satisfactory progress cannot be doubted. A clear proof of the estimation in which its members were held is found in the fact that, before the end of the 17th century, a number of them had been appointed surgeons in royal households. That the college had a large share in establishing the famous medical school of Edinburgh is beyond question.

The corporation was at first simply a civic institution and derived its powers from the local authorities. The document called a "Seal of Cause," for which royal authority had been obtained, provides that no one shall practise the craft of surgeon or barber unless he be a freeman and burgess, expert in all points belonging to the said craft, and has been examined and approved for his knowledge of anatomy and all the veins, so as to practise phlebotomy on proper occasions. It provides also that, once a year, the body of a condemned man be handed over to the craft for dissection. We see from this how far these early workers were ahead of their age, when we find that, many years after this, Charles V appointed an assembly of divines in Salamanca to discuss whether it was consistent with religion and conscience to dissect a human body for the purposes of science [Hutchinson's Biographia Medica, II, p. 472.]. We cannot but regard with pride and profound respect those who in a semi-barbarous age thus led the way in scientific research, and laid the foundation of this famous medical school.

The Physicians and Apothecaries were not yet incorporated, and viewed with a strong feeling of jealousy the success of the Surgeons in being practically the only legitimate teachers and practitioners of the healing art in all its forms. The apothecaries had naturally, to begin with, a closer connection with the physicians than with the surgeons, but in view of the vigour shown by the surgeons, and the somewhat offensive assumption of superiority and right of interference by the physicians, they thought it advisable to cast in their lot with the surgeons. Hence the institution by the Town Council of Surgeon-Apothecaries of Edinburgh to which all apothecaries, who were freemen and passed a specified examination, were admissible. This Act of Council was confirmed by ratification in parliament in 1695. Its subsequent development will be dealt with in our Third Period.

In the latter half of the 17th century the teaching of literature, science, and arts, was at a very low ebb, but a brilliant change was at hand. The Gregorys and Maclaurin early in the 18th century by their mathematical research made the college famous. Sibbald, Pitcairne, Balfour, Burnett, and others eminent in medical science laid the foundation of the now famous medical school of Edinburgh. A lease of the garden belonging to Trinity Hospital was got from the Town Council for the start of a Botanical Garden which in the course of a few years was incorporated into the college. Within five years of the end of the century a professor of Botany was appointed.

Sibbald and those associated with him meanwhile revived a proposal for the establishment of the Royal College of Physicians, towards which attempts had been made fifty years before. These were renewed in 1630, and again in 1656, but without success. After strong opposition by the surgeon-apothecaries and the town of Edinburgh, Sibbald got, with the full concurrence of the other universities, a patent signed by Charles II for the proposal. The conditions specified in the patent were:

Ist. That the College of Physicians should have no power to erect a medical school or confer degrees.
2nd. That its patent should be without prejudice to the rights and privileges conceded to the University or College of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
3rd. That graduates of the said universities might freely practise medicine in the other university towns. If they resided in Edinburgh they would be subject to the Bye-Laws of the College of Physicians; but all university graduates might claim to be licentiated by the college without examination and without fee.

This was followed by an Act of Council in March, 1685, in the following terms: "The Council considering that the College of this city being from the original erection and foundation thereof, by his Majesty King James VI, erected into a University, and endowed with the privilege of erecting professorships of all sorts, particularly of medicine, and that the Physicians have procured from his late Majesty, King Charles II, a patent erecting them into a College of Physicians, and that there is therefore a necessity that there should be a Professor of Physic in the said College; and understanding the great abilities and qualifications of Sir Robert Sibbald, unanimously elect, nominate, and choose the said Sir Robert Sibbald to be Professor of Physic in the said University, and appoint convenient rooms in the College to be provided for him, where he is to teach the art of Medicine [Act of Council, March 1685.]."

In September of the same year the Council appointed Halket and Pitcairne as colleagues to Sibbald as Professors of Medicine. Sutherland had already been elected Professor of Botany. A Faculty of Medicine was thus practically established. The Professors of Medicine had neither salaries nor specified duties. They taught how and what they pleased. The attainments in languages and philosophy which Sibbald expected from students attending his lectures would have been a stumbling-block to the average medical student of the present day. [In the Edinburgh Courant of 14th Feb. 1706, he published an advertisement, in excellent Latin, to those who wished to be admitted to his lectures on Natural History and Medicine, ending with a warning that he would not enrol as students any who did not know Latin and Greek, all Philosophy, and the fundamentals of Mathematics. Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, I, p. 227]

The college or university, as it may without impropriety now be called, expanded in other directions. Under the wise and energetic Principalship of Carstares a Chair of Ecclesiastical History was founded in 1702 and was followed by a Professorship of Law.

This and further expansions will be dealt with when the third and fourth periods are reached.

SUMMARY.

During the 136 years covered by this period university life in all the five Institutions was in a continual state of change and unrest. There were no fewer than seven alternations between Presbytery and Episcopacy. This was in many ways hostile to academic progress in spite of the generally beneficent influence of men of the type of Andrew Melville, Knox, Buchanan, Spottiswoode, Henderson, Arbuthnot, Carstares, &c. They had all been injured by the Reformation, and the greed of the nobility in appropriating funds meant for education.

The medieval character of the teaching underwent considerable changes. The Rector was no longer a teacher. The substitution of professorial for regent teaching was alternately adopted and rejected. Commissions were appointed and visitations made with little effect. Funds were wanting, the number of students was reduced, and the classes in Glasgow and Aberdeen temporarily broken up. In 1563 Queen Mary made to Glasgow a bequest which, though not intended for, was by King James devoted to education, and revived not the University but the Faculty of Arts, which practically represented it.

Melville on becoming Principal of Glasgow broadened and liberalised the curriculum, and by checking a habit that had crept in of conferring degrees too loosely, he stimulated exertion and caused graduation to be valued. The result of a conference between Melville and Arbuthnot, Principal of King's College, Aberdeen, was the production of new schemes of studies and administration for Glasgow and St Andrews. Earl Marischal, annoyed that more than twelve years had been wasted over the settlement of the nova fundatio for Aberdeen, founded in 1593 Marischal College. In four years thereafter the nova fundatio was sanctioned subject to revision by the commissioners. The antagonism between Episcopacy and Presbytery was very strong, the one party demanding, the other refusing, signature to the Covenant, and was a serious hindrance to progress, but the record of nearly thirty years of Episcopal ascendancy was very good.

By an Act of Parliament in 1641 King's and Marischal Colleges were united. The union was for many years merely nominal owing to mutual jealousy. Each college seems to have kept to its own administration. This jealousy was not an unmixed evil, but in some respects a healthy stimulus to progress, Marischal with youthful vigour leading the way. Some changes introduced by Cromwell in 1651 as the result of a visit he paid to the northern university were set aside at the Restoration.

On the re-establishment of Presbytery in 1690 a Parliamentary Commission, among several important changes, recommended consideration of a former proposal about the distribution of philosophical subjects among the four universities. This suggestion, called a "cursus philosophicus," came to nothing. The management rules of Marischal College were similar to those of the other universities. It received many contributions from private sources for the foundation of bursaries and chairs. Its character was distinctly Protestant, and its curriculum mainly post-Reformation, Aristotle still occupying a prominent position.

We have seen that the Town's College in Edinburgh commenced with no such high aim as the foundation of a university, that its origin was mainly municipal, owing nothing to Bishop's patronage or Papal Bull, and that step by step it reached University rank by the Act of 1621. But we have seen also that within four years after 1583 - the date of the King's charter for the founding of a college-graduation was conferred on 48 students, which shows that it was discharging one of the functions of a University, though still designated simply as a College. This it continued to do till its right to the title was beyond question. An account necessarily short, but perhaps intelligible, has been given of the establishment of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons and Physicians.


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