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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter XVIII - Third Period (1696 - 1858). Glasgow University


ON the re-establishment of Episcopacy at the Restoration the university was deprived of a large amount of its revenues, in consequence of which three professorships were temporarily discontinued, one of Theology, and those of Humanity and Medicine. The staff accordingly was represented by the Principal, one professor of Theology, and four Regents. From this time till the Revolution there was no change.

When at the Revolution Presbytery was re-established, many of the Professors were removed from their chairs, and their places were taken by men of no special distinction. As a consequence of this the end of the 17th and the first quarter of the 18th century was, as we have seen, a period of stagnation in university life. There was however no scarcity of students. Professor Reid, on the authority of Principal Stirling's diary of 1702, informs us that, owing to the great demand for clergymen to fill the charges left vacant by the ecclesiastical change, the number of students was 402, of whom 323 were Arts students [Old Statistical Account of Glasgow University, p. 27, 1799.]. Regenting being still the fashion, the Regents, as a rule, knew a little of all university subjects in the Faculty of Arts, but none so thoroughly as to make important contributions to learning or arouse healthy interest in the subjects taught. This was followed by idleness, lowered tone in the students, and want of loyalty to the chief authorities on the part of the Regents.

A perusal of the Munimenta dealing with that period warrants the inference that the condition of the university was very far from satisfactory. On many occasions during the next twenty years students were either expelled or severely censured for long absences from lectures, breaches of the peace, indecency, drinking in ale-houses with disreputable people, and scandalously irreverent behaviour in church. One student was expelled for stealing a book, another for appropriating church collections meant for the poor. Up to 1725 scarcely any year was free from rowdyism incurring expulsion. Blasphemous language and abuse of the Confession of Faith were indulged in. The Principal received insulting letters calling him a "greeting [weeping] hypocrite." When a student was imprisoned in the steeple for such conduct, his friends broke open the doors and released him. Even the Rector was not safe from insult, and his house was attacked by a riotous rabble. Students challenged each other to fight with swords. Town and gown riots were marked by a violence far exceeding the licence usually permissible and leniently winked at on such occasions. Barbarous assaults were made on citizens who, by way of reprisal, entered the college "drawing their swords and shooting among the unarmed students." The college authorities admit "there were faults on both hands," and in a conference with the magistrates "conclude an act of oblivion for what is past and endeavour a regulation for the future [Munimenta, 11, 372, 410, 415, 423]."

The classes were opened with prayer by the students in turn. The prevailing tone being such as has been described, it is not surprising that this practice was found to be so little conducive to edification that, "upon weighty considerations," the authorities recommended its discontinuance, or if continued, that only students of the greatest gravity and sobriety should be chosen [Munimenta, II, 375].

We find a similar disregard of law and order in the conduct of some of the Professors, two of whom were on more occasions than one "guilty of insolent carriage and contempt against the Principal.. .and the Faculty suspends them from their functions as Regents " till they crave pardon, which they do and the suspension is removed [Munimenta, II, 384, 387].

At this time Professors were usually appointed by examination and competition, but the candidates seem to have been few and

the test of competency strongly medieval [Three or four subjects were prescribed and assigned to the candidates by lot, e.g.

Quodnam sit criterion veritatis?
Num mens humana sit materialis an immaterialis?
Quodnam sit fundamentale praeceptum juris naturalis, aut quaenam, si plura sint?
Quae sit causa variorum colorum in corporibus naturalibus?

Munimenta, II, 413.], and when not medieval, ludicrously simple. A Professor of Greek was duly appointed after delivering within five days an analysis of ten lines (171-181) of the 8th book of the Iliad, and a Professor of Latin on producing after three days a translation of a passage from the Annals of Tacitus, and a Latin version of Lord Loudoun's speech [Munimenta, II, 385, 389.]. In neither case was there a competition.

The Latin teaching had been discontinued for nearly twenty years owing to want of funds. When it was now revived the salary was 240 Scots, and was soon afterwards considerably increased to about 20 sterling. In order not to injure the grammar school " the Professor of Latin was forbidden to teach Latin grammar, that being proper and peculiar to a grammar school." No students were admitted into the Latin class "unless they have learned at least the three parts of grammar [Munimenta, II, 390.]." This considerate tenderness for the welfare of the grammar school had its consistent counterpart in the university's protection of its own interests by forbidding, as in Edinburgh [Grant's University of Edinburgh, I, 208.], the grammar school to teach Greek. This prohibition, if it existed in Glasgow, seems to have been somewhat ignored, for we are told that in the High School of Glasgow there was given "a little insight into Greek." It is at any rate certain that the Professor of Greek had a class in which the work commenced with the alphabet [In Cook's Life of Principal Hill, p. 62, we are told that in 1760 Professor Hill spent much time in teaching the alphabet and parts of speech in Greek.]. In point of fact till well past the middle of the 19th century this was the case in Glasgow. As late as 1875 the Calendar states that the Tyrones or youngest class commence with the grammar.

During this unpromising period however we are not without evidence of earnest efforts being made by the authorities to brace up what was loose in the general management. There were proposals for the increase of salaries. Professors were requested to give to the Principal and Dean of Faculty "An account of their way of teaching and managing their several provinces." Strict rules were laid down for preserving the instruments for experiments in Natural Philosophy. The professors of Greek and Humanity of themselves proposed very sensible suggestions for improvement in the teaching of these subjects [Munimenta, II, 407.]. Bursars neglecting their studies were to forfeit their emoluments. Nor were friends outside the university indifferent about its interests. Within thirty years there was an addition of seven chairs, some of them revived, some newly founded, viz. Mathematics (1691), Humanity (1706), Oriental Languages (1709), Civil Law (1712), Medicine (1712), Church History (1716), and Anatomy 1718). [University of Glasgow Old and New, xxiv.]

In 1708 Queen Anne made a grant of 42I0 yearly for increase of professors' salaries, a gift which was renewed by her successors. King William's grant of 300 a year was employed for extinguishing debt and for the support of four bursars. Subsequently part of it was used to provide salaries for the Professor of Civil Law and the Professor of Medicine, and George I furnished; 170 a year for the Professor of Church History [Old Statistical Account of Glasgow University, p. 28, 1799.].

In several directions we see the growth of a spirit of earnestness and of creditable effort on the part of the university authorities. They check a tendency to needless and injurious expense on entertainments at graduation, the stenting [assessing] for which is forbidden on pain of expulsion. They placed their patriotism and pluck above suspicion when, in view of a threatened "invasion by French and Irish Papists sent and supported by the French King," they agree to furnish from among them 51 soldiers and pay them each sixpence a day [Munimenta, II, 393.].

Up to this time there seem to have been no candidates for the degree of M.D. In 1711 a skilful surgeon asked to be examined for that degree. The authorities "considering that they might still want professors of Medicine "consent to examine him, but as there was no Medical Faculty, nor even a single medical professor, a board of examiners had to be improvised for the occasion consisting of two physicians practising in the city, and some lay assessors, who did not put him to an unduly severe test [Munimenta, II, 401, and Duncan's Memorials of Glasgow Faculty of Physicians, p. 117]. They reported that he had acquitted himself well and was worthy of the degree. In the following year (1712) regulations were made for reviving the professorships of Medicine and Law, which had fallen into abeyance for a considerable time, and the reviving of which had been recommended at the visitation in 1664 [Munimenta, II, 408].

The university still maintained its exemption from the jurisdiction of the city magistrates in connection with offences charged against students, and on several occasions ordered proceedings to be taken against the magistrates should they refuse to restore fines imposed on students who were noways under their jurisdiction [Munimenta, II, 400].

In 1714 a proposal, ultimately successful, was made to get a printing press for the university, and about the same time the morals of the students were safeguarded by a prohibition against acting of plays. These measures are satisfactory evidence of honest intention on the part of the authorities to improve matters, but one is led to question their breadth of view, on learning that they gave the Provost hearty thanks for the interest he had taken in the students, by refusing to a gentleman from England permission to give a course of Experimental Philosophy in the city [Munimenta, II, 429].

An act for the better regulation of the university in 1727 deals with the election of Rector, meetings to be held, bursars, factor, accounts, professors, teaching and degrees. The stringency of the regulations (which occupy 12 pages) affecting the condition of the university at all points shows that the commissioners considered drastic measures for its rehabilitation absolutely imperative [Munimenta, II, 569].

Instruction in Aristotelian philosophy continued to be imparted in Latin to boys of from 13 to 15 years of age [Principal Hill and Colin Maclaurin were 11, Principal Robertson and David Hume were 12 years of age when they entered college.], the language being largely, and the subject almost entirely, beyond them. It is difficult to conceive of anything more deadening. The wonder is that it proved to any extent workable.

Prospects began to brighten with the appointment of Hutcheson to the Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1728. He was not the first to see the lamentable waste of teaching power involved in lecturing to lads in a language of which many of them had not a working knowledge, but the first to have the independence to assert it and act accordingly. By lecturing in English and discarding old text-books of barren scholasticism he stirred up intellectual life, invested his subject with fresh interest, and gave the first hearty impulse to the pursuit of philosophy in Scotland. The example he set was followed, at first slowly, but in course of time generally, by Simson in Geometry, by Adam Smith and Thomas Reid in Philosophy, by Cullen and Black in Chemistry, and by Leechman in Theology. Lecturing in Latin was continued longer in Law than in other subjects.

Salaries were small in the early years of the 18th century, the Principal receiving 60, and his four Regents 25 each and "board at the common table," and the Professors of Latin and Greek, subjects not necessary for graduation, 15 and a small fee from their pupils. Towards the end of the century the salaries were increased but only to a small extent. The emoluments of the Professors depended largely on fees which Professor Reid thought greatly promoted their zeal and diligence, adding with gentle cynicism, "few persons are willing to labour, who, by doing little, or by following their amusement, find themselves in easy and comfortable circumstances [Old Statistical Account of Glasgow University, p. 33, 1799]."

Residence and a common table though much approved by some members of the Faculty were not regarded with general favour by the students. The rigid espionage of a lad's every movement, extending even to discovering "what conscience each makes of private devotions morning and evening," and the penalties attached to uttering a single word in the vernacular were vexatious [Munimenta, II, 489. The Regents in turn took weekly office as Hebdomadar, whose duty it was to visit the rooms of every student and take note of the breach of any of the intolerable rules.]. This insistence on countless frivolous observances, combined with a bill of fare the reverse of attractive, resulted in a gradual falling away, and at last in a discontinuance of both residence and a common table. A system so unnatural and fruitful of hypocrisy was certain to die out. It was not given up in St Andrews till 1820. In Glasgow, students who could afford the expense, often boarded in the families of the Professors. This continued also a long time in King's College, Aberdeen and also in Edinburgh.

The next chair founded after those already mentioned was that of Astronomy in 1760. The university now showed signs of considerable activity. Professor Reid, writing in 1764 to his friend Dr Skene, states that there are commonly four or five college meetings every week, that a literary society met once a week, and that the other Arts Professors are quite as busy as himself. There are now fourteen Professors all of whom, except one, teach at least one hour a day. Nearly one third of the students are Irish, many of them, like the Scots, very poor. There are also a good many Englishmen and some foreigners. The session is just commencing and all have not yet come up. When fully convened about 300 are expected. The Professors have fine houses and live harmoniously with each other, managing their political differences with decency. An astronomical observatory and a printing house have been supplied. His (Professor Reid's) salary has touched 70 and may reach 100 this session [Reid's Works (Hamilton's edition), I, p. 40.]. How far even this modest salary would cover household expenses may be gathered from what Boston has said of his student expenditure for three years. He states that for sustenance, fees and college dues it amounted to 11. 18s. 8d. sterling. This was probably supplemented by the supply of oat and barley meal, which students often took with them from home. In view of their narrow means this meal was exempted from the toll of the "ladleman" who exacted one ladleful from every sack of meal. It is not irrelevant to suggest that Boston's extremely frugal habits, combined with exhausting work, seriously injured his health and probably account for the depressed and depressing character of his religious views.

As we approach the end of the century there appears a large increase in the number of students. Within thirty years it had grown from about 300 to 700 [University of Glasgow Old and New, xxiii.]. In 1790 a voluntary subscription for an Infirmary was commenced. In the following year a Royal Charter and a site were obtained for it. In 1793 the building was completed, and in 1794 opened [Old Statistical Account of Glasgow University, p. 50, 1799.].

Before the century was ended funds were bequeathed for the foundation of medical bursaries and lectureships, and there was added to the university the noble donation of the Hunterian Museum for which a building was erected in 1804 [Old Statistical Account of Glasgow University, p. 31.].

The opening of the Infirmary was marked by a large increase in the number of medical students. In the first fourteen years of the 19th century the increase was astonishing, though there was yet no Professor of Surgery or Midwifery. In 1790 the number of medical students was 54. From this time there was a large and steady growth till in the session of 1813-14 it reached a maximum of 352, owing to the demand for army surgeons during the protracted Continental wars in which Britain had a share. In 1860 the number was 256. It had rivals to contend with in the Andersonian and Portland Street Schools. There were considerable fluctuations in the attendance according to the respective popularity of the professors in the university and the two schools just named. There was no love lost between the university and these rivals. Into this our limits forbid us to enter. The Andersonian is still a medical school with a high reputation. The other has disappeared [Duncan's Memorials of Glasgow Faculty of Physicians, pp. 171-3].

Though a medical incorporation had been founded in Glasgow at the end of the 16th century, and though the university was an examining and degree-granting body for nearly fifty years before there was in it practically any effective medical teaching, it was not till the middle of the 18th century that medicine was systematically taught [At that time [before 1750] to serve an apprenticeship was almost the only way in which a knowledge of medicine could be acquired in Scotland. Professorships for teaching some of its branches had been established in our universities, but in none of them, except in that of Edinburgh, had a regular school for teaching medicine been as yet formed. Thomson's Life of Cullen, 1, 3.]. For this there were several reasons. The Kirk was still the predominant partner in university matters, and had its main interest in the Arts Faculty as furnishing candidates for the pulpit. Another was that there was not yet an Anatomy Act, and materials for dissection were scarce. Yet another was the want of means. Stimulated probably by rivalry of Edinburgh which had a medical school in 1727, encouraged by the increase in the number of students, and stirred into life by the vigour and versatility of William Cullen and his successor Joseph Black, Glasgow was in possession of systematic, if still incomplete, medical teaching shortly after 1750 [Duncan's Memorials of Glasgow Faculty of Physicians, pp 12 5-8.].

In the first sixty years of the 19th century twelve new chairs, the majority of them in the Medical Faculty, were founded, viz. Natural History (1807), Surgery (1815), Midwifery (1815), Chemistry (1817), Botany (1818), Materia Medica (1831), Institutes of Medicine (1839), Forensic Medicine (1839), Civil Engineering (1840), Conveyancing (1861), English Literature (1861), Divinity and Biblical Criticism (1861)[University of Glasgow Old and New, xxiv.].

Notwithstanding the great advances made in medical equipment it must be admitted that quackery was rampant, and degrees were conferred in the most culpably loose way till early in the 19th century. Degrees were bought by absolutely illiterate people without examination or evidence of medical study. None of the universities were blameless, but Glasgow was not worse than her neighbours St Andrews and Aberdeen, which were the greatest offenders. By the College of Physicians in London, Scottish degrees were regarded with contempt, and it was a long time before even the high reputation of Edinburgh and Glasgow lived down the ill repute,

A comparison of the English and Scottish medical training furnishes no warrant for this superior contempt. In 1617 apothecaries in England were formed into a distinct corporation, and from that date the English student commenced his medical career by being apprenticed, about the age of 14, to an apothecary. Except for the few who graduated in medicine at Oxford or Cambridge, this was the only channel of approach to the position of licentiate. The Act of 1815 made this course imperative. The apprenticeship was originally for five years, the first of which was often spent in doing the work of a surgery boy, compounding pills and potions, running errands and so forth. During the remaining years he acquired empirically some knowledge of such medical practice as came in his master's way. After this a year's medical study in hospital or elsewhere followed by a single successful examination gave him the position of licentiate. The course was subsequently modified, three years being given to the apprenticeship, and nearly three to regular medical study, and the examination might be passed at the age of 21. In 1858 the Medical Act abolished apprenticeship, and four years were given to medical study. In Scotland the medical student seldom commenced his studies before 17, and the "changes introduced by the Act of 1858 into English medical education were, in a great measure, those which had been in operation in Scotland long before, under the influence of the three teaching universities, and the medical schools associated with them in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen [Sir William Gairdner's Introductory Address in 1882.]."

Better times were at hand. The medical professors were less tied down by tradition and the prejudices of old institutions than some of the other members of the academic body and adapted their teaching to the progress of knowledge and discovery in the subjects of botany, natural history, and chemistry. Professor Reid writing near the end of the century shows that then a position in organisation and graduation fairly similar to present day arrangements had been reached. The Arts curriculum was Latin, Greek, Logic, Moral Philosophy, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, which remained unchanged for graduation in Arts for nearly a century, the only addition being English Literature, the chair of which was not founded till 1861. Candidates for degree or entrance on the study of Theology were required to have attended the classes in the curriculum. To defend a, thesis by public disputation was part of the ordeal for graduation, but it gradually became a formal proceeding, and was discontinued or made optional. Examination in all the subjects was imperative. Similarly for degrees in medicine a complete attendance at the medical course, and an examination public and private [probably individual and oral] on all the different branches of medicine were necessary for degree. In Theology and Law degrees were conferred honoris causal [Old Statistical Account of Scotland, Vol. xxi, pp. 46, 47, 1799].

Professor Reid's account may be summarised by saying that after many ups and downs, the university was by favourable conjunctures prosperous, its situation satisfactory, its revenues sufficient with economy for its wants, and not so large as to encourage idleness or learned indolence, its institutions open to all, and its discipline moderate by substituting parental watchfulness for vexatious espionage.

At the end of the 18th century the number of its students was 800.

Before the passing of the Act of 1858 the business of the university was managed by three bodies-the Faculty, the Senate and the Comitia. The Faculty, consisting of the Principal and Professors of all chairs founded before 1807,, administered the whole property of the university, and with the assistance of the Rector and Dean of Faculties appointed professors. The Senate consisted of the Rector, Dean of Faculties, Principal, and all Professors, including those chairs founded between 1807 and 1840. They met for conference about degrees, libraries, &c. The Comitia was the same body as the Senate with the addition of matriculated students. Meetings of the Comitia were held for the election of Rector by the four `nations.'

Students in Arts were obliged to take classes in a certain order, passing by means of the Blackstone examination [This examination was meant to test in quite a gentle way how far the student's past work fitted him for entering the next class in the curriculum. It derived its name from the chair on which the student sat, part of the seat of which was a black stone.] from Latin to Greek, from Greek to Logic and so on, till they reached Natural Philosophy, after which they were open to examination for degree, and were called magistrands. The fees payable for graduation varied according to the circumstances of the students, and were fixed by stentmasters who ascertained their respective means. Each `nation' named a stentmaster.


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