Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Higher Education

( Originally Published 1912 )

"The university touches all human interests, is concerned with the past, the present, and the future, ranges through the whole history of letters, sciences, arts, and professions, and aspires to teach all systematized knowledge. More and more, as time goes on, and individual and social wealth accumulates, it will find itself realizing its ideal of yesterday, though still pursuing eagerly its ideal for to-morrow." — ELIOT, "University Administration," p. 254.

GREAT has been the development of the university curriculum since the days of ancient Rome. The measure of this development is, of course, but the measure of the advance in civilization, in the accumulation of scientific data, in the interest of humanity in research and experiment, and in the ability of the human mind to analyze and to generalize. Again, as in our review of secondary instruction, we must take account of the time-long contest between classics and science, between humanism and realism. Is it, indeed, stretching a point to date this back to the Roman university? Is not their grouping of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic into the trivium, and of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music into the quadrivium, but the precursor of the modern contraposition of the humanities and the sciences ? All that we have said as to the war between the two camps over the secondary schools is equally descriptive of the campaign in the university. The universities of the world constitute the battleground ; and as we glance over that ground it would seem that the classical forces are strongest in conservative England and weakest in adventuring America. England is by no means given over to the orthodox, however, and the temper of the attack is illustrated by the following quotation from the pen of Mr. Norman Lockyer: " We must arrange our education in some way in relation to the crying needs of the time. The least little dip into the history of the old universities will prick the bubble of classical education as it is presented to us to-day. Latin was not learned because it had the most magnificent grammar of known languages. Greek was not learned in consequence of the transcendental sublimity of ancient Greek civilization. Both these things were learned because people had to learn them to get their daily bread, either as theologians or doctors or lawyers, and while they learned them, the ` nature of things ' was not forgotten."'

In the United States, it was in 1868 that Cornell University was founded " in no small degree as an unconscious protest against the limitations of the traditional classical education."' This date, while significant, cannot be taken as at all definitive. The changes in the curriculum here, as abroad, have come about gradually.

From " the earliest to the latest record of the course of study in our colleges, an unbroken chain of development can be traced, a logical sequence of events can be established, and the causes that led to the inevitable consequence can be clearly shown."Harvard, Yale, Wesleyan, etc., " started as schools and became colleges through the improvement of their curriculum so as to give collegiate degrees, but the pupils were long considered as children."' The earlier colleges were boarding schools; boys entered at about thirteen and were graduated at seventeen. "The college course was not at first for culture, but was primarily for moral training, and next a strictly professional or semiprofessional course ; on graduation the students were practically prepared for their professional life ; and their preparation was relatively magnificent, and the only one that could be obtained in the colonies."' " For almost two hundred years after the foundation of Harvard College its course of study remained, in essential elements, unchanged... . But, beginning with the first decades of the nineteenth century, the course received significant enlargement. From that time to the present, the development has been constant . Today science dominates our schools. Our colonial ancestors studied and taught in an atmosphere of religion which they had inherited from the Middle Ages. For centuries the pedagogic aim had been to point the road to Heaven." 3 For almost two hundred years after the foundation of Harvard, nearly one-half of its graduates were clergymen.

" The ordinary ' college course ' which has been handed down from generation to generation is purely conventional. It is a result of a series of compromises in trying to fit the traditional education of clergymen and gentlemen to the needs of men of a different social era. The old college course met the needs of nobody, and therefore was adapted to all alike."

" The history of the studies which have constituted the educational course in the forty years is characterized by enlargement, by consequent variety of subjects, and by enrichment," I says President Thwing. He calculates that the enlargement of the course of study has been sixfold, due to the "vastness of the enlargement of the field of knowledge itself." Among the chief additions have been general history, ancient and modern ; economics, political science, and government; chemistry and kindred sciences ; English literature ; and the higher mathematics. Among the landmarks in the history of the collegiate curriculum are : economics introduced at Harvard in 1820, Yale in 1824, Princeton in 183o ; professor-ship in modern languages established at Bowdoin, 1825 ; first chair of history established, at William and Mary, 1822, at Harvard, 1839, at Yale,1865.

Whatever the arguments for and against the elective system, we must recognize the fact that at the present time it is to some degree at least the " prevailing condition at all well-equipped colleges." This has necessitated the introduction of the "point" system in determining qualifications for graduation. Fifteen hours of lectures and recitations per week is the minimum requirement. Thus sixty such units in four years is required for graduation ; or if the year is divided into semesters, 120 points ; or if into three terms, 18o points. The statement of the University of Indiana is typical " A recitation or lecture is regularly fifty minutes in length, and the outside work of the student is estimated at an average of two hours for each class exercise. In laboratory work each exercise is from two to two hours and a half in length, with outside study to make it as nearly as possible equivalent in its demands to the conventional hour defined above." This university may also be taken as an average type as to the proportion of prescribed to elective work. Each student must pass in : —

A. Six hours of English Composition.

B. Three hours of hygiene.

C. Thirty hours of language — options of Greek, Latin, French, Spanish, German, and comparative philology.

D. Fifteen hours of mathematics or physics—any one of five stated combinations may be chosen.

E. Fifteen hours in one of the remaining sciences — philosophy, chemistry, geology, zoölogy, botany, anatomy, physiology. At least ten hours of this shall be laboratory work.

F. Twenty-four hours from among history and political science, economics and social science, English literature, Greek literature in English, translation, philosophy, education, fine arts, history of English language.

It will thus be seen that 93 of the 18o hours required for the bachelor's degree (Indiana has three terms to . the year) are prescribed. This prescription is only in general terms, for within each prescribed group, excepting the first two, are many options. Thus we may venture a general statement that the American student can secure his bachelor's degree from the average college in good standing upon the completion of four years' work in subjects the larger number of which he has himself selected.

Some institutions distinguish between the degrees of bachelor of arts and bachelor of science, granting one or the other according to the character of the subjects pursued others make no such distinction. The University of Michigan confers the arts degree, except that " a student who has earned at least 6o of the 120 hours in mathematics and the physical and biological sciences may, at his option, receive the degree of Bachelor of Science, instead of Bachelor of Arts." The indeterminateness of the average college diploma is set forth by Dr. Flexner in flowing language : " On the face of the diploma there is usually nothing to show where in the wide universe of science or scholarship the individual's preference lay.

He may have adhered closely to the traditional classical scheme ; or he may have entirely ignored the humanities in favor of political science ; or he may have ignored all the sciences but one; or he may have cultivated philosophy or modern literature ; or finally he may have made a sort of gentlemanly ` grand tour' through the capitals of the chief provinces of intellectual interest."'

As the colleges make use of the point system in calculating quantity of work done by their students, so, too, " the colleges are largely adopting the free. election or ' point system of admission which has developed almost entirely since 1897. While adopting the principle, the colleges differ in its application. ... They agree in publishing a list of twenty to thirty subjects, to each of which a value (point) is attached, and candidates for admission must secure a certain number of points. But the colleges differ (a) as to the number of points to be offered, hence there is a difference in the amount of option afforded ; (b) in their definition of the same subject ; (c) in the method of rating subjects; (d) in making a distinction between elementary and advanced subjects; and most important of all (e) in not agreeing as to the meaning of the term point. "

Prior to 1800 there were but three subjects required for ad-mission to any American college. They were Greek, Latin, and arithmetic. There have been added : geography, at Harvard, 1807 ; English grammar, at Princeton, 1819 ; algebra, at Harvard, 1820 ; geometry, at Harvard, 1844 ; ancient history, at Harvard and Michigan, 1847 ; United States history, at Michigan, 1869 ; physical science, at Harvard, 1872 ; English literature, at Harvard, 1874; modern languages, at Harvard, 1875.

Most of the colleges accept for admission, without examination, graduates of recognized secondary schools. Usually there is a rigid system of accrediting" these schools which maintains the standard of applicants at a high level.

The elective system commends itself to those who favor collegiate coeducation. For by this means may the students of both sexes be kept together in the life of the college and at the same time be given instruction more specifically adapted to the individuals of both sexes. In many of the coeducational colleges there has been created the office of " Dean of Women," occupied by a woman of the faculty who devotes all, or nearly all, of her time to the interests of the women students. Under her guidance it may be possible for the student to secure for himself a curriculum that shall express a satisfactory compromise between the two views, " on the one hand, that education of women should be determined principally by their function in perpetuating the life of the race, and, on the other hand, that as the laws of mind are identical for the two sexes the education of women should be the same as that of men."

The curriculum of the American university, as distinguished from that of the college, may be characterized as one even more liberal in spirit. It is liberal in fact only as the resources of the particular institution enable it to live up to its aim to offer advanced courses in all departments of human learning. The instructions issued by the University of Colorado may fairly be taken as indicative of the spirit and policy of the better equipped institutions.


Graduates from any college or scientific school of good standing are admitted upon presentation of diploma and certificate of good character.

Upon entrance, the student confers with the Dean of the Graduate School regarding the selection of a chief subject of study; the minors are elected on consultation with the professor in charge of the major.

Candidates for the degree Doctor of Philosophy must have a reading knowledge of both French and German. Candidates for the degree Master of Arts must have a reading knowledge of French or German, but the professor in charge of the major subject may require both French and German.

Requirements for Degrees

Candidates for the degree Master of Arts or Doctor of Philosophy must present credits for at least one year's residence at this University, and evidence of having completed a course of study approved by the Dean and Graduate Committee.

Master of Arts.— The work required is one full year. Six copies of the Master's thesis or dissertation, printed or type-written and bound, are to be placed in the University library.

Doctor of Philosophy. — The work required is three years of residence, which shall include as a minimum, 5 semesters of 12 hours each and a thesis. The first two years may be spent at other universities in actual residence; or the first two years may be done here and the third spent in the preparation of a thesis at some approved university.

The thesis for the Doctor's degree must show power in original investigation ; it is printed and one hundred and fifty copies placed in the University library for the use of the University.

Students applying credits from other universities should bring letters from their instructors showing quality and amount of work. The final examination covers all subjects presented for the degree, whether done here or elsewhere.


Students admitted to the Graduate School may pursue any course in the College of Liberal Arts, College of Engineering, and professional schools for which they are qualified.

The Graduate Faculty does not put hindrances in the way of mature students ; almost any reasonable program of study will be approved if it forms a consistent plan of work or is to be pursued with some definite aim.

But courses will be counted towards a degree only when recommended for that purpose by the professors in charge of such courses.

The courses of study offered especially to graduate students may be grouped as follows : —

I. Greek Language and Literature.
II. Latin Language and Literature.
III. Germanic Languages and Literature.
IV. Romance Languages and Literatures.
V. Literature (in English).
VI. English Language.
VII. Mathematics.
VIII Civil Engineering.
IX. Electrical Engineering.
X. Mechanical Engineering.
XI. Physics.
XII. Chemistry.
XIII. Biology.
XIV. Geology.
XV. Philosophy.
XVI. Psychology.
XVII. Education.
XVIII. History.
XIX. Law.
XX. Social Science.
XXI. Music.

The degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doc-tor of Science from the better-class universities are held in high esteem. The character of the work demanded is well expressed by the University of Michigan circular : "It is not intended that the doctor's degree shall be won merely by faithful and industrious work for a prescribed time in some assigned course of study. The candidate must also evince ability to carry on independent research." The proof of this ability and the fruit of the student's work is the thesis. " The thesis is of great importance. It must exhibit credit-able literary workmanship, and a good command of the resources of expression, but its acceptance depends more upon its subject matter than upon its formal or rhetorical qualities. It must be an original contribution to scholarship or to scientific knowledge. The inquiry should be confined within narrow bounds. The treatment should be as concise as the nature of the subject permits, and show familiarity with the history of the problem treated, with the literature bearing upon it, and with the latest methods of research applicable to it. Every thesis should contain a clear introductory statement of what it is proposed to establish or investigate, and likewise a final resume of results. It must be preceded by an analytical table of contents, with page references, and a full list of the authorities made use of. The larger divisions and the more important minor divisions should be indicated by suitable headings. It is expected that the preparation of an acceptable thesis will usually require the greater part of an academic year."

The average American student is fourteen years of age upon graduation from the elementary school, eighteen upon graduation from the high school, and twenty-two from college. If now he prepares for a profession, he is twenty-five or twenty-six upon completing his professional schooling. Several years are required in specialization or in establishing himself in his profession, so that he virtually reaches middle age before his professional training can be said to be completed. To modify this condition, without sacrificing any of the interests of true education, has been the thought of several university leaders and the object of some experiments with the traditional college course. The bachelor's degree is given to the student who, let us say, completes four years of three terms of twelve weeks, a total of 180 college hours. Why not, it is asked, give him the opportunity of doing the same 180 hours of work in three years of four terms of twelve weeks ? The question is answered both ways. Thus far, few institutions have been willing to commit themselves openly to a three-year course,' though the exceptional student, insistent upon traveling faster than his colleagues, rarely fails to receive the opportunity and encouragement to do so. Several universities gain the extra year for their students by so combining the work of the last collegiate year and that of the first professional year as to reduce the length of the professional course.

President Thwing expresses the conservative thought as follows : " It is to be said that a year in one's life and in one's professional career is of great value, and it is also to be said, and with emphasis, that a single year is not of value in comparison with the value of one's professional service. It is far better to enrich the value of that service than to lengthen out the time of that service by a few months." 1 President Harper opposed the proposition to reduce the course to three years, along these lines : —

1. It is a mistaken supposition that the college course is university work.

2. It is unnecessary to shorten the college course to pro-vide for an extension of the professional course.

3. " The correct appreciation of the modern high school and its proper adjustment to the situation as a whole makes strongly against the proposed three-year course."

4. " It would be followed immediately by an increase of requirements for admission to the first year of college work."

5. It is based " upon the supposition that the essential thing is the time requirement."

6. It should " be opposed because of its deleterious influence upon the smaller colleges."

7. " For a boy who enters college at the right age, sixteen or seventeen, less than four years is too short a time."

8. It " ignores the culture value of the subjects in the first year of professional work."

9. It " subordinates the college almost wholly to the professional school.”

10. " It is in general contrary to the drift of educational movements, and the very things which it proposes can easily be secured by other means."


At the German universities the spirit is such that the student "may study what he will, when he will, or need not study at all." No regular course of study is prescribed, each professor offering such courses of lectures as seem warranted. The student makes his selection, not only from among the lectures at any one university, but from those at several. The best idea of the extent of the opportunity open to students may be gained from the following tabulation of the number of teachers of all grades lecturing in all the German universities during the winter session of 1910-1911. (The university year is divided into winter and summer semesters.)

The ordinary professors are highest in rank. The Privatdocent is peculiar to Germany. He "is the great source of vigor and renovation to her superior instruction. . . . The Privatdocent is an assistant to the professorate ; he is free to use, when the professors do not occupy them, the university lecture rooms, he gives lectures like the professors, and his lectures count as professors' lectures for those who attend them. His appointment is on this wise. A distinguished student applies to be made Privatdocent in a faculty. He produces certain certificates and performs certain exercises before two delegates named by the faculty, and this is called his Habilitation. If he passes, the faculty names him Privatdocent. . . . He is then free to lecture on any of the matters proper to his faculty. He is on probation, he receives no salary whatever, and depends entirely on his lectures ; he has, therefore, every motive to exert himself."


At the French Universities the degree of licencie is conferred only upon examination. The candidate must qualify in one of the following series:

1. Philosophy : includes Latin translation, history of philosophy, general philosophy, psychology, logic, ethics, sociology, oral analysis of philosophical texts in German or in English.

2. History and Geography : Latin translation, ancient history, medieval history, modern history, contemporary history, geography, analysis of text in history or geography in English or German.

3. Classical languages and literatures : Greek, Latin, French.

4. Modern languages and literatures : Latin translation, language chosen by candidate.


The English university student has large options within well-defined limitations. For his B.A. degree he studies for three years or more, going up for examination when he deems himself prepared. At Oxford, where there are four terms to the year, he must remain in residence at least twelve terms in order to qualify for the degree. He must then pass three successive groups of examinations : (i) Responsions, before the Masters of the schools ; (2) the First Public Examination, before the Moderators ; and (3) the Second Public examination, before the Public Examiners.

The University of London grants degrees to all persons who pass the prescribed examinations and pay the fees, whether they have prepared in a college or otherwise. For internal " students the required study is 810 hours for the B.A. and 1260 for the B.Sc. For matriculation, the student must pass in English, elementary mathematics, and one from each of the following groups : (1) a foreign language ; (2) history, geography, drawing; and (3) advanced mathematics, science. At the end of a year from matriculation he may take the Intermediate Arts examination, qualifying in each of these five groups : (i) Latin or Greek language and history;

(2) French or German or the other language of (I) ;

(3) pure mathematics or applied mathematics or physics or chemistry or botany or logic; (4) another from (3), or history or Italian or Spanish; (5) English literature and essay. Two years later he may come up for his degree, qualifying in one subject in each of the following groups : (I) Latin, Greek; (2) Latin, Greek, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Sanskrit, Hebrew ; (3) Pure mathematics, applied mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, philosophy, economics ; (4) Latin, Greek, French, German, pure mathematics, applied mathematics, physics, chemistry, botany, modern history, geography, education. These regulations are for the " Pass" degree. There is also an elaborate system of "Honors " to be gained by showing special scholarship in single groups of subjects.

Such institutions as Birmingham, Durham, Manchester, etc., however, more nearly resemble the American college than does either classic Oxford or Cambridge at one extreme or the London University with its licensing plan at the other. The regulations for the bachelor's degrees in arts and in science at Birmingham are typical, requiring three years of attendance on lectures. Also, "The work of candidates is estimated (I) by means of periodical exercises, class examinations, and inspection of laboratory notebooks throughout the session, and (2) by means of examinations at the end of the session. At the end of each session every undergraduate is required to present a certificate of qualification, stating that he has attended to the satisfaction of the professors concerned not less than two thirds of the lectures, laboratory and exercise classes, and that he has passed such class examinations and performed such other exercises as his teachers may prescribe in connection with their own courses, to the satisfaction of the Faculty, before being admitted to the University Examination." At Durham, "Candidates for the Modern B.A. Pass Examination are required to keep nine terms, i.e. three academical years, and to pass an Intermediate Examination and a Final Examination."

Home | More Articles | Email: