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Scottish Education - Schools and University
Chapter VIII - Second Period (1560 - 1696). Glasgow University


IN dealing with the condition of Glasgow University up to 1560 we saw that it was very unsatisfactory, and that the Reformation troubles had added to its further decay, as shown in Queen Mary's letter in 1563 (p. 57). On being desired to do something for its improvement she founded bursaries for five poor scholars, and gave for their support some property which belonged to the Preaching Friars. This was the first foundation of bursaries. [Munimenta, I, 68.] Some years later she granted a charter assigning all the monastic property in Glasgow to the town council. This gift was to be handed down to posterity as " Queen Mary's Foundation for the Ministers and Hospitals of Glasgow." Though intended by Mary for the ministers and poor, the town council in 1572 on the advice of James VI made a present of it to the college of Glasgow. The deed conveying it bore the title of the "New Foundation of the College or Pedagogy of Glasgow by the Town [Ibid. 1, 82.]," and was shortly afterwards ratified by parliament. At this time the existing Pedagogy was said to be a ruin and its studies extinct. This foundation did not in any way affect the constitution of the university. It was simply an attempt to strengthen or revive the Faculty of Arts. The town council seem to have contented themselves with the right of presentation of poor students for bursaries in return for their gift.

When this gift came to be dealt with by the university authorities with the help of George Buchanan, its value had been enormously reduced by the fraudulent sale and alienation of lands and benefices, and also by a clause in the charter providing that the chaplains, friars, and other Catholic officials should have the life-rent of their benefices. The property, secured against fraud and carefully administered, would have been sufficient to give to the scheme proposed under the " New Foundation by the Town " a favourable start, and sufficient maintenance for a more complete staff. It turned out that the annual revenue from the long list of monastic buildings and lands was only £300 Scots. [M'Crie's Life of Melville, 1, p. 70.]

In view of such meagre provision it was arranged that the staff should consist of fifteen members-a Principal, two Regents, and twelve Bursars. Regents were graduates who were anxious to become teachers in the university, and were pledged to continue in office for six years. Each Regent, as already mentioned, took his pupils with him through all the subjects of the curriculum, which has been described as a" dreary single-manned Aristotelian quadriennium." Being generally young men they were satisfied with the slender emoluments of their office. In the absence of funds required to secure teachers of eminence the university had to be content with such raw materials for much of the staff, and must have had its efficiency impaired. There was usually no scarcity of candidates for the office, and competition for it was sometimes exceedingly keen. We find that in 1690 no fewer than nine candidates presented themselves for a vacancy, all of whom acquitted themselves so well and so equally, that the examiners could not decide which was best, and settled the election by lot. The other eight received each five pounds " because they had behaved very well and had been at charge in attending the trials [Munimenta, II, 351.]."

For sixteen years the university had been preserved from extinction mainly by the efforts of Principal Davidson. As the New Foundation furnished maintenance for only the two Regents and scarcely anything for the Bursars, "the students gradually dispersed, and on the death of Davidson the classes were completely broken up [M'Crie's Life of Melville, I, p. 71.]."

Brighter days were not far off. In 1574 Andrew Melville returned from the Continent where he had been a student in Paris, a regent in Poitiers, and a professor in Geneva, stimulated by the renaissance atmosphere, full of enthusiasm and new ideas, in the vigour of youth, and of overmastering energy. His reputation preceded him, and his needed help was eagerly contended for by both St Andrews and Glasgow. The sad plight of the latter had the stronger claim, and he accepted the principalship. His duties as Principal under the "New Foundation" above mentioned were merely supervision and lecturing on Sunday. This was not enough for him. He saw what a heavy task he had undertaken, and resolved to reform the course of study and train teachers fit to maintain it at a high level.

To cover even superficially such a vast range of subjects his knowledge must have been encyclopaedic, and his industry untiring. Greek is said to have been taught in Montrose School in 1553 but Glasgow seems to be the first Scottish University in which it was taught. His teaching combined appreciative and advanced humanism and a more or less vigorous revolt against scholastic philosophy. The selected portions of Aristotle were read in the original text. His work as described by his nephew is characterised by a freshness, vigour, and modern spirit entirely new in Scotland.

His four years' curriculum in Arts differs little from the 19th century curriculum of Scottish universities.

1st year. Humanity (i.e. Greek and Latin) and the dialectic of Ramus.

2nd year. Mathematics, Cosmography and Astronomy.

3rd year. Moral and Political sciences.

4th year. Natural Philosophy and History. [Sir A. Grant's Story of Edinburgh University, i, 82.]

The comparison in respect of breadth is in Melville's favour. Cosmography and astronomy are not yet included in all the Arts courses, and history has but lately, and not universally, found a place.

The theological course covered two years, and included Hebrew, the Chaldaic and Syriac dialects, several books of the Old Testament, the Epistle to the Galatians, and all the commonplaces of theology.

The above programme of studies is a fairly correct summary of the work described in Melville's Diary, and was probably that with which Andrew Melville commenced on his appointment to the principalship, but the exact description of the work assigned to the three Regents on the establishment of the nova erectio was the following:-one was to teach Greek and rhetoric ; another, dialectics, morals, and politics, with the elements of arithmetic and geometry, and a third, physiology, geography, chronology and astrology [University of Glasgow, Old and New, p. 34].

This did not represent the complete Arts curriculum of medieval times which as already mentioned consisted of two portions, the Trivium and Quadrivium-the three Arts (grammar, dialectic and rhetoric), and the four sciences (music, arithmetic, geometry and astrology).

The Regent, now for the first time in Scotland, was confined to a prescribed department. The professorial system was introduced and continued till 1642. Regenting was reintroduced and continued till 1727, when a return was made to the professoriate which continues till now. In 1688 common tables were discontinued, but a few students lived in college for some time thereafter. In the same year the Snell exhibitions to Oxford were founded, their original values being £70 for 10 years to each of 10 students. Their present value is £80 for five years.

Under the enthusiastic management of Melville the fame of Glasgow spread throughout the kingdom. Outside the lecture room he found a field for the profitable exercise of his energy. By his efforts the valuable living of Govan with all its revenues, lands, &c. was secured for the university, and amply compensated for the benefices and emoluments that had been swept away at the Reformation. The nova erectio had for its object, as described in the deed, the collecting of the remains of the university (colligere reliquias Academiae). This expression is apparently inconsistent with James Melville's account of his uncle's early success, viz. that "the name of the college within two years was noble throughout all the land and in other countries also [James Melville's Diary, p. 49, ed. 1842.]" and that the students were so numerous that the rooms were not able to receive them. As Andrew Melville became Principal in 1574, and the nova erectio did not take effect till 1577, the collecting of the remains had been already accomplished. Whatever the explanation, the success is unquestionable. Given that James Melville had an adequate acquaintance with the other universities of Europe, and allowance being made for a not unnatural exaggeration of his uncle's merits, he had still some justification for saying that at the end of his six years' principalship " there was no place in Europe comparable to Glasgow for good letters during these years for a plentiful and good cheap market of all kinds of languages, arts, and sciences [James Melville's Diary, p. so, ed. 1842]."

The nova erectio, which was mainly the result of a conference between Arbuthnot, Principal of King's College, Aberdeen, and Melville, sanctioned all the changes already made, and provided for the maintenance of twelve persons who should reside in the college-the Principal, three Regents, an Economus (Steward), four poor students and three servants. Among the other duties falling to the Principal was the maintenance of scholastic discipline between the students and the Regents. For this purpose he received "the belt of correction." We have in this provision for corporal punishment an indication of the boyish age of the students [M'Crie's Life of Melville, i, 82. In English universities as late as the 17th century corporal punishment was inflicted on gentlemen who wore swords and were about to commence the study of law in an Inn of Court in London. Huber and Newman, The English Universities, vol. 1, 206.]. Melville assigned the disagreeable duty to the Regents. Such harmless and healthy amusements as playing at ball and bathing were regarded as criminal, and were punished by whipping and expulsion [Munimenta, 11, 48 and 50.].

Bursars were to be maintained for three years and a half, which was the time required for taking the degree of Master of Arts. The Rector, Dean of Faculty, and the minister of Glasgow were to visit the college four times a year, examine the accounts, and see that the intentions of the foundation were properly carried out. As already mentioned Melville was transferred to St Andrews in 1580, but the impulse he had given was long afterwards conspicuous in the successful efforts of his successors. In 1581 the Archbishop of Glasgow gave to the college the customs of the city which provided funds for a fourth Regent, and we find a new division of the Chairs in Arts. The distribution of subjects among the four Regents was the following. The highest Regent, Professor of Physiology (Doctrine of Nature); the second, Professor of Moral Philosophy; the third, Professor of Logic and Rhetoric; and the fourth, Professor of Greek [Statistical Account of Scotland, vol. xxi, p. 26, ed. 1799]. It is noteworthy that mathematics is not represented in this programme.

The number of graduates continued to increase. In 1595 greater value began to be attached to the title of Master of Arts, and those who graduated were arranged in the order of merit. As a stimulus to the growing habit the graduation ceremonial was made an important function, at which guests were present and entertainments of various kinds were provided. There was on all hands evidence of healthy interest and vitality. This state of matters remained practically unchanged for a considerable time. In 1621 we find the Chancellor and other officials awarding to the four Regents for their faithful work 1000 marks to be divided among them in certain proportions over and above their fixed emoluments. There was no Chair of Humanity till 1637 [David Munro is referred to as "Maister of the Humanitie" in a document of 1637. Munimenta, 111, 379-380]. In the same year a Professor of Medicine was appointed.

In 1640 a commission of visitation ordained the following course of study.

1st year. Besides Greek a compend of Logic.

2nd year. Besides Logic, 7rept epµnveias, to be taught with the elements of Arithmetic.

3rd year. Besides Logic the 5th and 6th books of Aristotle's Ethics. A compend of Metaphysic, more advanced Arithmetic and Geometry.

4th year. Besides Physics, Aristotle de anima [Glasgow University Old and New, preface, p. xx.].

A comparison of this course with that for 1581 shows a very considerable widening of the field of study during sixty years.

In 1664 to Arithmetic and Geometry, Geography, Astronomy, and Anatomy were added. The session lasted for ten months, from October to July. October was mainly devoted to examinations and revisal of previous years' studies. Saturdays were occupied partly with revisal of the week's work, and partly with public exercises in oratory and declamation.

In 1641 Charles I gave to the college the temporality of the Bishopric of Galloway, and the career of the university was up to the time of the Restoration on the whole prosperous. The ever-recurring alternations of Episcopacy and Presbyterianism [We may give as an example of these obstacles to progress, the sequestration in 1660 of the salaries of Principal Gillespie and three ministers for refusing to sign the "band for keeping the peace and disowning the Remonstrance." Munimenla, II, 328.], and the disturbing elements of the civil war, by which a great part of the 17th century is characterised, were doubtless unfavourable to university success, but many English students, the sons of dissenters, who were refused admission to Oxford and Cambridge, found their way to Scotland for education during the Commonwealth. Cromwell took an active interest in the prosperity of the Scottish universities, renewing all their immunities and privileges, and confirming former foundations and donations.

The re-establishment of Episcopacy at the Restoration had a most injurious influence on the college by depriving it of such a large part of its revenues that its staff of eight professors was reduced to five [Statistical Account of Scotland, xxi, p. 26, ed. 1799]. In 1660 the college was deep in debt [In 1655 bursars of philosophy were ordained to give each a silver spoon for the "plenishing of the house," and bursars of theology to pay at entry ten marks for "augmenting the public library." In 1687 the Humanity Chair was suppressed, because the "college haill revenues are super expendit." Munimenta, II, 323, 325, 347.], and at a visitation ordered by parliament in 1664 it was found that about £4000 Scots yearly was needed to keep it from decay and ruin. In 1672 the King with consent of parliament ratified and confirmed the gift made to the university of the sub-deanery of Glasgow with the annexed kirks of Calder and Monkland. At this time all the students for whom there was room had chambers in the college and dined at the common table. The Regents in turn visited the chambers before six in the morning, and in the evening before nine, to see that none of the students were "playing, talking, or doing worse in their chambers, or wandering about the court, or going from chamber to chamber [Glasgow University Old and New, preface, p. xxi.]."

It seems tolerably clear that the visitations which followed the various ups and downs in ecclesiastical predominance between 1560 and 1696 were only to a limited extent effective in practical results. Many of the recommendations were but partially and temporarily adopted, and not a few were entirely disregarded. Regulations as to graduation were not strictly observed. In 1691 two men whose education had been wholly private wished to enter the ministry in the north of Ireland, into which none were admitted who were not graduates. As these men had passed their trials for the ministry, and had good testimonials to character, the Irish authorities requested the Faculty to confer on them the degree of Master of Arts. The request was granted, though the men professed no shred of university culture. Such serious departures from rule were however rare [Muninrearta, II, 362.]. Discipline seems to have been administered with commendable strictness. We find that a student was expelled for absenting himself from the college for ten days. On another occasion the magistrand (4th year) class wishing to distinguish themselves from the other classes took to wearing knots of ribbons on their hats. When the Principal and Regent forbade this, it was found that the students had formed a combination to stand by each other and resist authority. The result was a riot in which a number of students in the other classes took part, some of whom were imprisoned in the Tolbooth. When brought to trial all humbly confessed their fault and promised good behaviour. The magistrand class were compelled, each with his own hand, to remove the knot of ribbons from his hat and cancel his signature to the combination that had been formed. Further punishment was in the meantime withheld, but warning was given that any similar conduct would be followed by expulsion [Munimenta, II, 365.].

In 1693 it was found necessary to check unreasonable expense at laureation, and it was arranged that those intending to take their degrees should meet and choose nine of their number to be stentmasters, who should impose a stent proportioned to the ascertained ability and circumstances of each student. The amount contributed went to defray the charges of public laureation, and what was left over was to be given to the Regent as a honorarium. [Munimenta, ii, 370.]

After a visitation of all the universities in 1695 on the question of a printed course of Philosophy for general use, the Commissioners answer that no course already printed is suitable. No complete course is written by any one man, and the different parts are written by popish professors who cunningly insinuate heretical tenets. In some the Logicks and Metaphysicks are barren, the Ethicks erroneous and the Physicks too prolix. Moor is grossly Arminian, Le Clerc is merely sceptical, and Descartes, Rohault and others of his gang are rejected for specified reasons. They therefore recommend that " the method hitherto keeped may be continued till our printed course be ready [Munimenta, II, 530-1]."

The condition of the college during the quarter of a century previous to the Revolution was in all important respects unchanged. The discontinued professorships were then replaced, and in the following century fresh additions were made. And now a career of prosperity commenced. Thanks to Carstares who, from his influence with William III, was called 'Cardinal Carstares,' an annual grant of £1200 was in 1693 obtained from the King for equal division among the four Scottish Universities. We have satisfactory evidence of progress in the fact that at the commencement of the 17th century the number of students was about 100, and a century later 400 [Glasgow University Old and New, preface, p. xxiii.].

How far and on what lines this success was continued will be dealt with in our third period.


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