Speeches & Writings
The Universities Bill
In supporting the following Resolution of the nineteenth Indian National Congress held
at Madras in 1903, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:
That this Congress, while welcoming any wisely considered scheme for the reform of the educational policy of Government, is of opinion that the Universities Bill, if passed into law, will have, as recommended in the report of the Universities Commission, the effect of restricting the area of education and completely destroying the independence of the Universities upon which largely depend their efficiency and usefulness, and turning them practically into departments of Government.
That this Congress is of opinion that the provisions of the Bill will not remove the shortcomings of the present system of higher education, but that provisions for funds and improvement in the standard of teaching by the agency of a superior class of teachers are imperatively needed in the interests of higher education.
That this Congress prays for the following modifications :-
(a) That each University should be dealt with by a separate Act.
(b) That in the case of the older Universities the number of ordinary Fellows should not be less than 200, of whom at least 80 should be elected by registered gradates, and 20 by the members of the Faculties and that in the case of the Universities of Allahabad and of the Punjab, a similar provision should be made-
(c) That the ordinary Fellow should hold office as at present for life, but should be liable to dis-qualification for absence during a fixed period.
(d) That the provision of a statutory proportion for the heads of the Colleges on the Syndicate be omitted.
(e) That all graduates of ten years standing in a Faculty be declared eligible to vote.
(f) That the section making it obligatory upon Colleges which apply for affiliation for have been affiliated to provide for residential quarters for Students and Professors and for the permanent maintenance of the College be omitted.
(g) That as regards affiliation and disaffiliation the decision should, instead of being the direct act of Government as under the Bill, be as at present the act of University, subject to the sanction of the Govt.
(h) That as regards the inspection of Colleges it should be conducted by persons specially appointed by the Syndicate unconnected with the Government Educational Department or any aided or unaided College.
(i) That the power of making bye-laws, and regulations should as at present be vested in the Senate, subject to the sanction of the Government.
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN:-
I rise to support the resolution which has been so ably moved and seconded by other speakers. The resolution is one which I need hardly say, is of great and lasting importance; and we cannot be blamed if we try to discuss it at some length at this meeting. Gentlemen, the one thing that we have to consider in connection with this question of University reform is, what was it that led to the enquiry being instituted? What was the state of things with which fault was found? What was the state of things which it was sought to remedy? And then, consider what the remedies are which have been suggested and what the remedies are which the Government now propose to apply. Gentlemen, we must all ask ourselves and ask the Government what the faults of the Senates and the Syndicates of the existing Universities were which led the Government to appoint a Commission to enquire into the state of University Education. You will wade through all the literature connected with the Universities of this country in vain, to find that during the past many years, there never have been serious complaints made regarding the constitution either of the Syndicates or the Senates except in some trifling particulars or on some occasions. Speaking generally, you will find that the Syndicates and the Senates have done their work very satisfactorily- (Hear, hear). Now, gentlemen, when the Government of Lord Curzon appointed a Commission, there was no doubt, complaint was made by him that the results of University Education were not altogether satisfactory, and were not as satisfactory as they ought to be Gentlemen, in the same breath every speaker who has discussed this question of the unsatisfactory character of the results of University Education, every responsible speaker, has admitted that the Universities have produced men eminent for learning, men who have distinguished themselves in the various walks of life into which they entered, men who have upheld the honour and intellect of the country and men who have served the Government with honour and credit. If there were some unfortunate young men who did not succeed in getting just the number of marks necessary to enable them to pass, that does not justify their being condemned as unworthy and dishonourable men who ought to be shunned like moral lepers. The line between a passed candidate and a failed B.A., as has been called, is a very short line and if a. candidate has not succeeded, certainly we may he more charitable than we are, and not condemn him as altogether an unworthy and undesirable person whose existence ought to be provided against by the legislature taking up the task of introducing a new enactment.
Then, the other complaint was that the University Education imparted in this Country was not as high as it ought to be. On this point, I think, Anglo-Indian officials, European scholars and natives of this country were all agreed. I do not think that there is a single man who has said that the education imparted in our Universities is as high as it ought to be. On the contrary, we poor natives of India, have been crying hoarse with the prayer that the Government should make provision for the highest teaching being imparted in the different branches of study, which ought to find a place in a University. So far as this complaint is concerned, I will deal with it further later on.
But I want to point out that so far as this Bill goes, it deals with both these questions. It enters at great length into the question of the constitution of the Senate and the Syndicate. It confers a variety of powers on the Syndicates; it transfers a great deal of the power of control to Government and makes also a small provision to enable the Universities to appoint professors and teachers. Now gentlemen, you are all aware that the Bill is taken up in a great measure with questions concerning the constitution of the Syndicate and the Senate and the vast powers conferred upon the former. Let us examine these provisions briefly and let us then see whether there is no justification for the united opposition which all educated Indians have been offering to this Universities Bill. Gentlemen, I am anxious that the matter should be considered with as little prejudice and bias as His Excellency the Viceroy desires it should be let us take the provision regarding the constitution of the Senate. We in the United Provinces have got a Universities Act. The Allahabad Universities Act has never been said to be a faulty Act. Its provisions are liberal to a large extent as compared with the provisions of this Bill. There were no complaints made, and no complaints also in Bombay as we have heard from various speakers. We, then introduce a Bill which will make a clean sweep of these Acts with have worked well, and which have given no room for complaint. Why deal with the whole country as if it were one Province? In the Allahabad University the provision regarding the constitution of the Senate is this. There are certain Fellows who are appointed ex-officio; the remaining Fellows appointed, half by Government and half by the Senate by election. Now, gentlemen, if in 1887 the Government saw the wisdom of permitting members of the Senate to elect half the Fellows of the Senate, where is there any reason shown or suggested for now depriving them of the right of electing Fellows to the Senate? I thought, gentlemen, that system of nomination had long ago been found to be faulty, and buried in England. The Government had also in this country during the last fifteen years shown that they do not believe entirely in the system of nomination. In the matter of Municipal Boards the principle of election has been introduced; in the matter of District Boards the elective principle, is working. In the matter of Legislative Councils only a few years ago the Government admitted the reasonableness of the demand for introducing the elective principle. Now the Senates, which were the first body in this country in which the principle of election was first introduced and worked, are going to be deprived of their power in the beginning of the twentieth century. You cannot help feeling that the hand of the clock is being put back forcibly. Gentlemen, this is the state of things so far as the Senates are concerned. What is it that is going to be done? Nominations are going to be made largely by Government to the Senates. Gentlemen, I have the greatest respect for gentlemen who constitute the Government individually. But when you come to consider them in their capacity as representing the various departments of Government, then you cannot speak of them with the same confidence and the same esteem, not because they have not the desire to do the best thing in the best way, but because they are not brought into touch with the great majority of those from whom they should make the selection and of whose ability and willingness to co-operate in this great work they should obtain first hand personal knowledge. Therefore I do apprehend that, in making the appointments, the Government will largely be guided by the recommendations of the Director of Public Instruction and also by the recommendations or selections of the Secretary who may be in power at the time. None of these methods I need hardly say, can bring to the Senate half the men of ability and capacity expected to advise the Government and the public it matters of education that would come in through the channel of election. What then can be the justification, for this retrograde step? Has it been proved, is it alleged that the Fellows appointed in Madras, Calcutta, Bombay or Allahabad have been appointed? Has it been proved that they were not just the men who, in the great majority of instances, would have been picked up if proper selection had been made, men who have know ledge of the people and of the requirements of the Province? Why then put in this provision which militates against the principle upon which all other assemblies constituted by Government are worked?
Now, gentlemen, so much for election. Let us now consider w hat .is the position of the Senate. Here, while I am dwelling upon this aspect of the question, let me say that it is stated that now the power to return Fellows will be legalized. Very thankful for this kindness, but we would much rather that the power were not legalized. There are many unwritten Jaws in England which have led to great prosperity and have conduced to the benefit of the people. We are not so much in Jove with statutory provisions. What we want is the substance and not the name. If without any legal provision, the power, which the Government recognized reasonableness of election conferred upon the members of the Senate and graduates to return fellows, has been well exercised, the Government ought to allow it to be exercised in future. Now, gentlemen, comes the question of permitting graduates to elect. They are to elect seven in the Province from which I come; seven in the Province, of the Punjab. Now, gentlemen, at present half the number of Fellows is elected by the Senate. Why should graduates be not given the opportunity of exercising the privilege of returning such of their fellow-men as they know to be able and competent to manage the business of the University. You have given the privilege of returning Members of Council to Municipal Boards and District Boards who, in turn, have been returned by people who have got no education and whose income is very small. And you will deny to the products of your University-of whom you ought to be proud you will deny to them the privilege of returning a few Fellows to the University where there are no political considerations involved, or at any rate, where there ought not to be any political considerations.
Let us see what the case of the Syndicate is. The Senate, having appointed the Syndicate, becomes practically dead; it is only to come to life practically when it is to appoint a Syndicate. Now, gentlemen, I do not pretend to be familiar with the constitutions of the Senates of many Universities, but I have studied the constitutions of some Universities and it seems to me preposterous, to say the least of it; to say that a body which is really the executive of the larger body of the Senate ought to sit over the heads of the Senate and pass on measures to Government and decide many questions of importance without any reference to, the Senate. Gentlemen, if you are going to have a reconstituted Senate, why this great feeling of distrust? Trust begets, trust, and the reverse also holds good. You complain that we are very uncharitable in criticizing you; you complain that we attribute motives. Very well, we are sorry if that should be so. But here you are. You will not trust us with these smaller powers when along with a number of European professors and Government officials, we want to exercise the privilege of electing such men we consider to be best qualified to work on the Syndicate. What does the statutory provision for the representation of the teaching faculty mean? I have the highest respect for the body of professors under whom instruction is being imparted in this country. I have never been disobedient to my professors (Laughter); and I can tell you that I consider it a high privilege to sit at the feet of learned men and imbibe the learning that they are able to impart. I think, good and true are the men who are in the Senate; all men connected with the Educational Department who ought to be on the Syndicate, will by force of circumstances be elected over the heads of any other men that might be there. The Senate has not in the past failed to discharge this duty in my part of the country, in Bombay the constitution of which I have studied to some extent, and in Bengal, as my friend says, why now tie down the Senate to the necessity of electing a man whether it considers him competent or not? In my own province the Principal of a College-I don't want you to know his name-was very keenly anxious to get on the Syndicate. There were many other learned men and those who were as keen in thinking that he ought not to come on the Syndicate. He was defeated on more than one occasion. You can just consider that, if you make it compulsory on the part of the Senate to elect a certain proportion of men, the danger is that men who are not competent will be put on the Syndicate and that the entire management of the University must suffer to some extent. Therefore it is that we pray to Government to remove the clause which makes this statutory provision regarding the representation of professors, and to trust to the good sense of the members of the Senate to elect not only half the proportion but a major portion of those who will deal with the executive affairs of the University.
Gentlemen, so much for the constitution of the senate and the Syndicate. Let Us see what other powers are going to be conferred upon the Syndicate under the Bill. The syndicate is going to deal with the important question of affiliation and disaffiliation. Gentlemen, knowing as we do in our part of the country what difficulties the Colleges undergo in getting affiliated where this power is entrusted to the Syndicate, I must strongly protest against this provisions Gentlemen, you have other conditions Pitt in. There is the provision for the residence of students in Colleges. Now I may tell you that I am whole-heartedly in favour of the residential system. In my own humble way in connection with the Muir College at Allahabad 1 have been, working along with other Members as Secretary of the Committee which has raised Rs. 1,60,000 to build a boarding house. We are endeavouring to raise three lakhs and provide accommodation for 200 students. Gentlemen, while I am so keenly in favour of that system being introduced, I do feel that it will be a wrong thing to make it compulsory upon College to provide the system of residential quarters because they are affiliated. I will tell you my reason. The Muir College at Allahabad was established in response to the wishes of certain leading gentlemen and with the help of subscriptions paid by several native chiefs, the Maharajah of Vizianagaram contributing one lakh. Of the two lakhs raised, a considerable sum, the Government said, would be reserved for residential quarters. That was at the time of Lord Northbrook. That was in 1871. You will find, in the history of the college, that not until the time of Sir Antony Macdonnell, were any steps taken to really build a boarding house to accommodate students. For nearly twenty years the Government which had spent nine lakhs upon the Muir College buildings did not see its way to build a boarding house for accommodating students. I do not blame the Government of the North-Western Provinces. I have my reasons. No partiality. The Government of the United Provinces have been given such small pittances in the shape of provincial grants and contracts that they did not find the money to invest. Not only, but worse, the Government of India in many years actually scolded the Government of the United Provinces for having spent much money on higher education’s and less on other kinds of education. If Government with all its mighty resources, have recognized the utility of the residential system after twenty years, does it not seem violent, to require all institutions which now- want affiliation to show a splendid row of residential quarters for students, before they are to be affiliated ?We must proceed slowly we must have patience. If the Government there have not been able to workup that system it is not they alone that have failed; but they have failed in other provinces-if the Government Colleges have not their rooms for students, then they ought to pause, allow public opinion to grow and allow people time to make preparation for these things.
Gentlemen, I will not take up your time by going into any more details so far as the provision for residential quarters is concerned. I will claim your attention for a few short minutes while I submit my remarks with regard to the other aspects; namely the teaching function of the University. There is a provision regarding teaching in the Universities Bill. When the Viceroy complained that our Universities did not produce men of as high ability as it ought to, he forgot that the Universities of this country were not in the least degree to blame. Young men of this country have shown aptitude enough to receive the benefits of the highest kind of education imparted in this country. Those that have gone out of India have proved it further. While the Government have been conscious that this system ought to be introduced, they have never yet been able to make up their minds to do so. So far back as 1854, you will find that this was what was said with regard to higher teaching in the dispatch of that year. "It will be advisable to institute in connection with the Universities, professorships for the purpose of the, delivery of lectures in. various branches at learning for the acquisition of which, at any rate, in an advanced degree, facilities do not now exist in other institutions in India." The Education Commission that was appointed also dwelt upon its necessity, and commented thus." That in order to encourage diversity of culture, both on the literary and on the physical side, it is desirable in all the larger colleges, Government and aided, to make provision for more than one of the alternative courses laid down by the Universities." Now when you come to the Punjab University Act, you find that a provision is made therein regarding teaching. In the Allahabad University Act which was passed in 1887 a more clear and more liberal provision is made to enable Universities to appoint professors and lecturers to give lectures for advanced degrees. What has come of it? Who is to be blamed for it, if this provision is not worked? It is not in a spirit of unfair criticism, but only to point out the fact, I submit that it is the Government to blame for it. If the Government had only found the money, or if the Government had realized its duty in the way of providing high instruction, these Universities would long ago have resounded with lectures of learned men brought from England and Germany. But Government had failed to do so unfortunately, and now the natives of India, the graduates of these Universities and failed B.A.s are all blamed and punished for the omissions and sins of Government. What is the provision that is being made in so far as teaching is concerned to advance our learning and promote research? Mr. Raleigh said that some of the schemes which have been submitted to Government involved an expenditure which the Government were not prepared to incur. He said that five lakhs would be set apart for five years for the purpose of giving instruction in aid of the Universities and Colleges whose claims to special assistance in carrying out reforms, which we have in view, have been established. You can understand how this small sum will be distributed in driblets to the different Universities. This is not the way in which you can expect higher teaching to be provided for. You will remember that Sir Normon Lockyer gave an estimate of 60 lakhs. Can we not ask the Government of India reasonably to give us at least one-fourth of that sum, namely fifteen lakhs a year, to have higher teaching in all the various Universities? The country is considered to be fit enough to have the services of the best men of the Civil Service; the country is considered fit enough to have the best soldier the British Government can have. Are not the youth of this country qualified to receive the benefit of instruction from the best professors that can be brought to this country? We natives of this country, have certainly no voice in expending the money which is raised from us. But if Lord Curzon's Government will be pleased to consider the moral aspect of the question and take into consideration the feelings of the educated people of India from one end of the country to the other, he should, in justice to their claims and in conformity with their prayer, set apart a much larger sum for higher education than he thinks of providing.
I will now conclude, I think, we have seen that we are not to blame for not getting the benefits of the advanced type of education that we desire. Lord Curzon is a University man; he understands certainly the benefits of higher education. I will say to him, give us Universities and provide in them for the highest instruction being imparted; provide for the development of talents, for the cultivation of literature, for the elevation of professional standards and provide also a place where learned men can find their calm repose which is to be seen only in seats of learning. A great American writer speaking of Universities-you will pardon me for quoting the passage which is so pertinent to the subject-says, "A man of varied, experience in public affairs has said that a great University should be at once 'the best place of education, the greatest machine for research, and the, most delicious retreat for learned leisure." This is doubtless the truth, but it is only a half truth. Universities, with ample resources for the support of investigators, scholars, thinkers and philosophers, numerous enough, learned enough, and wise enough to be felt among the powers of the age, will prove the safeguards of repose, not only for those who live within their learned cloisters, but for all who come under their influence. A society of the choicest minds produced in any country, engaged in receiving and imparting knowledge, devoted to the study of nature, the noblest monument of literature, the marvelous abstractions of mathematical reasoning, the results of historical evidence, the progress of human civilization and the foundations of religious faith, will be at once an example of productive quietude and an incitement to the philosophic view of life, so important to our countrymen in this day when the miserable cry of pessimism on the one hard, and the delightful but deceitful illusions of optimism on the other hand, are in danger of leading them from the middle path, and from that reasonableness of mind which first recognizes that which is, and then has the hope and courage to strive for the better."
Gentlemen, Lord Curzon has been in our midst for Jive years. Great hopes were raised in our minds from the high and noble utterances of His Excellency. His Excellency's career for all that we can see, is now coming to a close, and may I appeal now to him to immortalize his name by leaving behind him an institution which will keep up his name better than the Victoria Memorial Hall. Gentlemen, it were much better if Lord Curzon was not going to introduce real good Universities. I do wish that he had not taken up the subject like his predecessors who did not take it up and had not recognized what was needed. He might be pardoned for not having done so. But for him to have recognized the truth and then to have failed to rise to the occasion will be a thing to be much deplored. Let us yet hope that His Excellency will see the reasonableness of our claims and make ample and liberal provision for real high education, for real Universities, which will enable our young men to acquire something of that education which second class Universities impart in other countries.