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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter XVII - Third Period (1696 - 1858). St. Andrews University


IN proceeding to deal with our third university period repetition will be avoided by pointing out some features which were approximately common to all the Scottish universities during the 17th and, in some of them, during a large part of the 18th century, a period in which university education had in many respects reached its lowest position [Report of University Commission of 1831, P. 22 1.].

Some of these were a general adherence to education on medieval lines: the Trivium and Quadrivium, grammar, dialectic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy, as subjects for graduation ; the teachers being officials of both college and university; the aggressive, or if that is too strong a word, the successful character of the Faculty of Arts as compared with other Faculties and the practical independence of its attitude towards the university; the general discontinuance, with gradual but varying rapidity, of residence and a common table, due probably to want of accommodation, which took place in Glasgow towards the end of the 17th, and in St Andrews and Aberdeen near the end of the 18th century [Cosmo Innes, Sketches of Early Scotch History, p. 307.]; the system according to which each Regent undertook the entire instruction of students in all the subjects of a four years' curriculum, which was kept up till past the middle of the 18th century; the gradual change from that system to the establishment of a professoriate and specialised teaching for each separate subject : a most important reform imperatively demanded by the ever-growing area covered by every branch of university study, the exhaustive treatment of which was completely beyond the efforts of a single individual of even the most encyclopaedic attainments. Latin was not yet a university subject. [In 1620 a Chair of Humanity was founded in St Leonard's College by Sir John Scott of Scots-Tarvet, but, owing to a dispute, it did not become active till about 1644. The authorities of St Salvator's College objected to St Leonard's having a chair that they did not possess, but by arrangement with the Earl of Cassillis, the patron of some old college chaplainries, they succeeded in getting one also, and thus both were satisfied. Acts of Scots Parliament, VI, r, pp. 105, 108, 184. Teachers of grammar schools however complained that by these appointments their province was unfairly invaded. Evidence, Vol. 111, p. 212.] The schools were supposed to give sufficient preparation in that language, and claimed a monopoly of teaching it, just as the universities claimed a monopoly of teaching Greek. This was found to be unsatisfactory, and recourse was had to tutorial or private classes in Latin, presumably to enable students to profit by the lectures which were all delivered in Latin, with, it is to be feared, only moderate comprehension and much weakened effect. As merely an elementary knowledge of Greek was asked for, the only imperative studies for a degree were logic, metaphysics, and natural philosophy. The two former were simply medieval scholasticism, and the latter included Aristotle's Physics and the Spheres of Sacrobosco. With philosophy pneumatics was combined, a subject which dealt with such questions as the nature of angels, the human soul, and the being and perfections of the one true God [Natural philosophy probably included mathematics.]. In these circumstances - the neglect of linguistic studies, and the unceasing repetition of scholastic subtleties utterly destitute of human interest-it is not difficult to understand that the condition of academic life was one of arid dreary stagnation.

There was no specialised professor of Latin till the beginning of the 18th century. Regents were changed into Professors in Edinburgh in 1708, in Glasgow in 1727, in St Andrews in 1747, and in Aberdeen not till the beginning of the 19th century. Professors Geddes in King's and Clerk Maxwell in Marischal College, Aberdeen, were the last men appointed under the name of Regents in Scotland, but their work in Greek and natural philosophy respectively was specialised. Latin had now ceased to be infra-academical, and students taking it were for the first time allowed to matriculate. The students in all the universities lived in college chambers. When this was gradually discontinued, the rights of Bursars to residence and the common table were commuted for a money payment [Kennedy's Annals of Aberdeen, II, p. 391.].

With respect to St Andrews there is, as already mentioned, no trustworthy information between the time of Melville and the end of the 17th century. The manuscript sources are mostly confined to formal lists of names and to legal and fiscal documents. Records in narrative form were either not kept or have been lost. There are several documents connected with visitations in the `evidence' published by the Royal Commissioners of 1826, but these and the acts of parliament affecting the university have little, if any, educational aspect.

There has lately appeared the first of a series of volumes of the matriculation rolls of St Andrews by its very competent librarian, Mr Maitland Anderson. These volumes when completed will furnish materials for a tolerably exhaustive history of the university, of which nothing in the form of Fasti exists. The task is one which can be successfully undertaken only by a man who has at hand all the minutes and hitherto unpublished documents. For this task Mr Anderson is admirably qualified. These volumes will cover three periods, the first from 1411 to 1579, the second from 1579 to the union of the colleges of St Salvator and St Leonard in 1747, and the third from 1747 to 1897. For certain reasons it has been thought expedient to begin with the volume which covers the period of 150 years (1747 to 1897), a period marked by many important changes, and of greater interest from its nearness to our own times.

In the following attempt to narrate what is known about St Andrews, copious use has been made of the highly instructive and detailed introduction which accompanies the matriculation roll just referred to.

Some idea of the imperfection of the records may be gathered from the matriculation entries. Geography seems to have been very faulty, the students matriculating having in some cases assigned their native towns to wrong counties. Some ages remain stationary for a year or two. In others the students become rapidly older in the course of a single year, while some become younger between successive years. The youngest entrant is 12, the oldest 62 years of age. The questions of age and place of birth were evidently non-essential, for a few had been born in two or more places, the explanation probably being that the students' parents had removed from one parish to another during their residence at the university.

In Roman Catholic times and after the Reformation, as often as Episcopacy was in the ascendant between the Reformation and the Revolution, a Bishop or Archbishop was Chancellor and official head of the university. There is no clear evidence as to when and how lay Chancellors were elected, but in 1599 the Earl of Montrose was appointed to the office by the King [Evidence, Vol. in, 1837, P. 199], and from 1697 to 1858 the Senatus Academicus made the election, and invariably appointed a layman. His chief function then as now was to confer degrees, but he was often consulted on matters of importance affecting the welfare and privileges of the university, and his sanction was required for internal arrangements. Residence was not necessary, and the office became what it is now, practically an honorary appointment for life. In his absence the Vice-Chancellor or the Rector as `promotor' presided at the graduation ceremonial. The office of Vice-Chancellor, however, was not always filled. For more than 100 years no reference is made to the existence of such an official in connection with degrees, and during that time the Rector or Dean of the Faculty of Arts undertook the graduation duties. In 1862 a Faculty of Medicine was established, but the conferring of degrees had for a long time been under the control of the Senatus, and all that the Faculties could do in this respect was to recommend to the Senatus worthy candidates [J. Maitland Anderson's Matriculation Roll, p. xv.].

The negotiations for the union of the Colleges of St Salvator and St Leonard extended over nine years. It was at first proposed that all the three colleges should be united, and with a view to this, each was asked to send in an account of its general condition in respect of revenues. St Mary's declined and sent in no statement. The other two did. In 1741 the arrangements were so nearly completed that a movement was made for raising a sum to meet the expense of having an act for the union passed,

but some difficulty emerged which was not overcome till 1746. In 1747 the royal assent to the union was received. The union was necessary because of the poverty of both colleges, part of whose revenues had been used for increasing church stipends. The buildings were dilapidated and the salaries were very small. But union was desirable on other grounds. There were professors of the same subjects in both colleges, and consequently great waste of teaching power, for in no subject were the combined classes too large for one professor. Two sets of buildings had to be kept up although one set was sufficient. The United College continued to be residential, the number of its members being one Principal, eight Professors, and 16 bursars on the original foundation, with possibly others, and the college servants.

The Principal of St Leonard's became Principal of the United College. The professorial staff was made up of three from St Leonard's, three from St Salvator's, and two who were Professors in the university, but previously not attached to either college, one being Professor of Mathematics, and the other Professor of Medicine. A saving was effected by this reduction of staff.

When the colleges were united the constitutional arrangements for the management of the university were somewhat complicated. There were four bodies each with functions apparently special, but at the same time such as could scarcely be discharged without collision arising over matters in which, to a greater or less extent, some of the other bodies were interested and for which they thought themselves responsible. The four bodies were the Comitia, which consisted of the resident members of the university, and had at least one special function, the election of the Rector. The next was the Senatus Academicus, which consisted of the Principals and Professors of both colleges, whose power seems to have been absolutely autocratic, covering matters academical, financial, and disciplinary. The next body was the two colleges which in certain business matters were independent of the university. " Each held its own meetings, managed its own property, appointed its own officials, and exercised discipline over its members subject to an appeal to the Rectorial Court [Anderson's Matriculation Roll, p. xiii.]." This Rectorial Court was the Senatus. The next and last was the Faculty of Arts, which consisted of the  Principal and Professors of the United College, administered its own revenues, and could grant degrees in Arts independently of the Senatus. In these arrangements there was little change till 1858.

For more than 100 years after the union the usual course covered four years, during the whole of which attendance in the Latin and Greek classes was imperative. In the second year mathematics and logic were added, mathematics and moral philosophy in the third, and mathematics and natural philosophy in the fourth year. History and chemistry were recommended as subjects to be studied, but they were apparently not imperative. This curriculum continued in force till 1858, when considerable changes were introduced.

The election of Rector seems to have undergone more changes in St Andrews than in the other universities. By the original constitution all the students took part in the election. The first change was introduced in 1475, when the " election was confined to Doctors, Masters, and Graduates," but on the occasion of a royal visitation in 1625 a return was made to the original plan [Evidence, p. 203]. "From 1747 to 1825 the right of election was confined to the Principals and Professors, the students of St Mary's College, and the third and fourth year students of the United College [Evidence, p. 9, and J. Maitland Anderson's Matriculation Roll, p. xviii.]." In 1826 it was restored to all matriculated students, and in I859 the election was made by 'nations' as in Glasgow and Aberdeen. The four `nations' were:

Fifani - Natives of Fife, Kinross, Clackmannan, and Perthshire south of Tay.

Angusiani - Natives of Forfar, Perth north of Tay, Kincardine, Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, Nairn, Inverness exclusive of the Isles, Ross, Sutherland, Cromarty and Orkney.

Lothiani - Natives of Linlithgow, Edinburgh, Haddington, Peebles, Selkirk, Berwick and Roxburgh.

Albani - Natives of Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Wigtown, Ayr, Renfrew, Bute, Lanark, Dumbarton, Stirling, Argyle, the Western Isles, and all who were not natives of Scotland.

Each nation elected an Intrant as its representative, and these four elected the Rector. In the event of equality of votes by the Intrants the retiring Rector had a casting vote.

After the union of the colleges only four persons were eligible for the office of Rector, viz. the Principal of the United College, the Principal of St Mary's College, the Professors of Divinity and of Church History [Anderson's Matriculation Roll, p. xix.]. This restricted choice was disliked by the students and objectionable on other grounds for the dispatch of business at college meetings. The students, tenacious of what they believed were their rights, boldly elected in 1825 an outside Rector in the person of Sir Walter Scott, who was of course declared by the Senatus Academicus to be ineligible [Principal Tulloch when a student at St Andrews was the leader of a protest by the students against the election to the Rectorship of "certain professors in rotation without any reference to the wishes of the students." Mrs Oliphant's Memoir of Tulloch, 3rd ed., Edin. 1889, p. 10.]. To describe in detail the contest between the Senatus and the students from that time forward would be tedious. Suffice it to say that in 1843 the Intrants elected Dr Chalmers, a former Professor of Moral Philosophy, as Rector. The contest had now reached an acute stage, and the Intrants were called to account by the Senatus for violating the statutes, and threatened with expulsion, which however was not carried out. Undaunted by previous failures two Intrants, 15 years later, voted for Professor Buist, and two for Sir Ralph Anstruther, and Professor Brown the retiring Rector gave his casting vote for the outsider. The validity of the election being again called in question, the matter was referred to Lord Advocate Inglis, afterwards Lord President of the Court of Session, who recommended the Senatus to install Sir Ralph Anstruther. In 1859 the commissioners finally settled the question by ordaining that the election was to be decided by a general poll of the matriculated students, and that all Principals and Professors were ineligible for the office [Ordinance, No. 4.].

From the union of the colleges up to t859 the Rector was the resident head of the university and president of the Senatus Academicus, and not as now an honorary official.

At the time of the union the Chair of Civil History was founded by the Act of Union. It was the only new chair introduced into the United College, all the other subjects having been previously taught in the university. It was one of the eight professorships which formed the original teaching staff of the United College. The Chair of Mathematics, founded in 1668, was also at the union transferred from the university to the college. No enlargement of the foregoing professorial staff was contemplated by the Act of Union. It was against the interests of the eight Professors to have new chairs founded, and the Professor of Chemistry was deliberately kept out of the membership of the college until he was put in by ordinance. For the Chair of Civil History there was neither a regular class, nor satisfactory continuity in the work proposed to be done by such a professorship.

Muddle is perhaps the only word descriptive of the policy pursued. It is difficult to assign the cause or allocate the blame. Civil History having failed to attract students, one of the occupants of the chair is said to have taught Modern Languages instead. Three successive Professors up to 1850 had no better success, one of them admitting to the commissioners of 1827 that the chair had been a sinecure, so far as lecturing was concerned, during the 42 years he had occupied it. When a vacancy occurred in 1850, the Patron, acting on the suggestion of the Senatus, appointed a Professor who was to add Natural History in all its branches to Civil History. As might be expected from this unnatural combination, though sanctioned in 1862 by Ordinance 21, section 8, failure was the result. This Professor in the course of 25 years is said to have had one class in Civil, and six classes in Natural History. In the latter subject he delivered 50 lectures in which were included Mineralogy, Geology, and Zoology [Anderson's Matriculation Roll, p. xxxiii.].

Towards the end of the 18th century the Town Council and university authorities entered into negotiations for the payment of a teacher of French. The movement apparently was not a successful one for, after the experience of a few years, we find the United College agreeing to give the teacher 5, and St Mary's College half that amount, provided "he shall remove himself peaceably without giving them any trouble." It may be presumed that he accepted the offer. At any rate we hear nothing more about French till 1794 when a Frenchman was appointed and taught the subject till 1802. Falling ill he was succeeded by a Mr Hunter who for 15 years combined with French teaching lectures on Logic. From 1817 to 1854 a second Frenchman. held the appointment with, presumably from the time covered, satisfactory success. There is however no record of the number of his students.

The story of the origin of the Chair of Medicine by the `Princely Chandos' is very curious, and is told in detail by Mr Maitland Anderson in an admirable article in the Scottish Review of January 1895. It is much too long for our purpose, but a summary of it may be given and not be out of place in view of the interest taken in and the kindness shown to St Andrews by that somewhat eccentric but generous nobleman the first Duke of Chandos. How the interest arose is purely a matter of conjecture, the most probable explanation being that it had its origin in his friendship with the Duke of Atholl, then Chancellor of the University. Be this as it may, the outcome of it was an offer to found a Chair of Eloquence or Rhetoric. The Senatus, in thankfully accepting the offer, suggested that a Chair of Medicine and Anatomy would be more useful, especially as they knew no one who could satisfactorily fill a Chair of Rhetoric. The Duke, in a letter couched in terms of a charming old-world courtesy, left it absolutely in the hands of the Senatus to substitute a Chair of Medicine for a Chair of Eloquence or Rhetoric. This however did not settle the question. It is tolerably clear from a pretty large correspondence that a Dr Stuart, who had probably been tutor to the Marquis of Carnarvon, son of the Duke of Chandos, had originally suggested a Chair of Rhetoric in the interest of an intimate friend, Francis Pringle, Professor of Greek in St Leonard's College. Dr Stuart thought Pringle could be Professor of Rhetoric without interference with the professorship he already held. In the meantime a small minority of the Senatus drafted regulations for the proposed Chair of Rhetoric, and another committee did the same for a Chair of Medicine and Anatomy. A proposal to submit the drafts for his Grace's judgment was negatived, Mr Pringle and another dissenting. In this way the Chair of Medicine and Anatomy was founded in 1721, but it had no better success than the Chair of Civil History. The first three Professors seem to have "demonstrated the skeleton," and given occasional lectures on Practical Pharmacy. From 1811 to 1896 a succession of three or four Professors lectured on Chemistry, Anatomy or Physiology, apparently in a general way, but Medicine seems not to have been touched.

In 1808 Dr John Gray left a sum of money to found a Chair of Chemistry, but no appointment was made till 1840, when by accumulation the required amount was reached. The chair however had no status either in college or university till 1844, when the Professor was admitted as a member of the Senatus, and in 1862 became a Professor in the United College.

In Greek, Humanity, and Mathematics there were no changes except the addition of a third more advanced class, the addition to Mathematics being made in 1822 and to Greek and Humanity in 1853. The course of instruction in Natural and Experimental Philosophy was considerably expanded.

When the colleges were united in 1747 St Salvator's had six and St Leonard's 10 foundation bursars. There were also four servers who, like sizars in the English colleges, originally had certain menial duties to perform in connection with the college tables, for which they received payments on the same terms as the foundation bursars, viz. from 5 to 6. The payments were gradually raised till, in 1829, they reached 10, an amount which remained unchanged till the passing of the Act of 1889, when 10 were combined to form five bursaries of 20, the others retaining their former value. At the union of the colleges these were the only bursaries open to competition by students entering the university.

During the second half of the 18th century only three additional bursaries were founded, but in the 19th century the increase was so great that in 1896 more than 100, ranging from 5 to 50, were open, in the awarding of which there was a steadily growing tendency towards competition rather than presentation, a tendency both healthy in itself and the natural result of the establishment of a preliminary entrance examination in 1892.

A feature probably peculiar to St Mary's was the daily meeting for morning and evening prayer in the Prayer Hall, where the services were conducted entirely by students, no Professor

being present. In the course of time these meetings lost much of their devotional character, and were sometimes accompanied by serious irregularities in the behaviour of the students, who "assembled there under the pretext of attending prayers, and adjourned to the lodgings of their fellow-students or to taverns, where they spent their evenings in idleness and dissipation [Report Report of Commissioners, 1837- Evidence, p. 96.]." In consequence of this, evening prayers were in 1824 discontinued, and morning prayers were conducted in the class-rooms before the commencement of lectures. The buildings were at this time sadly dilapidated but thorough renovation followed shortly thereafter.

From the union in 1747 to 1814 there were nine bursaries tenable for four years, the holders of which were maintained at the public table. In the latter year maintenance was changed into a money payment, an arrangement which continued for 6o years, when the number of bursaries was reduced to six, and 20 years later to three, tenable for three years and of the increased value of 24. There was no examination for foundation bursaries in Divinity till 1855; certificates of character and success in the Arts course determined the selection. Early in the 19th century residence had practically ceased. There were only a few prizes of values ranging from 10 to 21 to be competed for by Divinity students. Till 1855 they had no fees to pay. In that year and up to 1873 a fee of 1 11s. 6d. was charged. The Divinity session covered five months including a short vacation at Christmas. In 1826 it was reduced to four months.

After the union up to 1843 fairly successful attempts were made to keep alive and, as far as possible, restore the ecclesiastical tradition of the university by making attendance at public worship by the students a quasi-university function. This was doubtless one of the original aims of the university, and was longest retained in St Andrews. The selection of a church for this purpose depended on circumstances in respect of convenience and condition of the buildings. For some time St Leonard's, and subsequently St Salvator's Church, was that to which the students were conducted. Towards the end of the 18th century dispensations from attending church were granted to non-Presbyterian students on their giving assurance to remain indoors and not behave improperly during the time of divine worship. Before long greater freedom was asked for, and a petition largely signed by students was in 1824 presented to the authorities craving permission to be allowed to worship where they pleased. This request was refused. Students who were late or absent, and had not got dispensations, were fined, the fines going to the poor of St Leonard's parish. Compulsory attendance ceased in 1843, and when the church was renovated in 1862 the students' gallery was done away with.

The buildings of both St Leonard's and St Salvator's Colleges, but especially of the latter, were at the time of the union in a more or less dilapidated condition, but after examination it was decided that, for certain reasons, repairs could be on the whole more profitably made on the more ruinous structure. Sundry reconstructions and additions were accordingly carried out, but though 5500 had been expended, the Commissioners of 1826 pronounced the buildings to be in a lamentable condition. It was the unanimous opinion of Commissioners, Professors, and tradesmen that they were unsatisfactory and even discreditable. Professor Chalmers said they "should not only have a complete suite of class-rooms, but a fabric of somewhat creditable aspect, that would announce itself to be a college, and not be mistaken for an old cotton-mill [Evidence, p. 163]."

An appeal for funds was made to Government by Lord Melville who was then Chancellor, and in 1828 authority was given to the Barons of Exchequer in Scotland to proceed with the works. The addition of a new east wing on ground chosen by the Government was a great improvement, but far from successful in respect of taste, convenience, and sanitation. Dry rot set in, and made it necessary to renew the flooring of the lower rooms. Nothing more was done towards completing the repairs till 1843, when Sir. Hugh Lyon Playfair, Provost of St Andrews, took the matter in hand with such energy and heartiness that new plans were prepared and sanctioned, and the reconstruction completed in 1851. The buildings were then taken over by the Treasury, and in 1889 transferred to the University Court.


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