University Residences

Residential living: a corrective to care-free living

For Newman, university is a place of transition from boyhood to adulthood and therefore entails responsibilities for the maturing individual, as well as greater freedom. While providing an emancipatory experience, college life brings with it the baggage of rituals, disciplinary restrictions, spatial constraints, domestic requirements, academic duties, a daily timetable, and shared living, all of which serve a formative purpose.

There was a time when religious or charitable organisations saw the provision of student accommodation and oversight as a mission worth undertaking and a service worth providing; but nowadays attention is directed at welfare activities which are deemed to be more deserving: the collapse is both one of supply and of demand.

Concern about suitable residential conditions is not on the agenda for most students or parents; few bother to consider which arrangements might be most conducive to human flourishing, let alone where they might be found.

In Britain there is a dearth of chaplaincies and university residences along Newman’s lines – and the absence is barely noticed. Newman would have drawn attention to this, and argued that there is a need for discipline and training in that art of virtuous living which has been handed down through the generations in order for civilisation to be nourished, renewed and passed on as an integral whole.

Residential living: an apologia

‘I have been saying that regularity, rule, respect for others, the eye of friends and acquaintances, the absence from temptation, external restraints generally, are of first importance in protecting us against ourselves. When a boy leaves his home, when a peasant leaves his country, his faith and morals are in great danger, both because he is in the world, and also because he is among strangers. The remedy, then, of the perils which a University presents to the student, is to create within it homes, “altera Trojæ Pergama” [i.e. “a home from home”], such as those, or better than those, which he has left behind. Small communities must be set up within its precincts, where his better thoughts will find countenance, and his good resolutions support; where his waywardness will be restrained, his heedlessness forewarned, and his prospective deviations anticipated.’

‘Ties of loyalty and friendship can develop in a college setting when a student goes to university, when the mind is most impressionable and the affections are warmest, when associations are made for life, when character is most open and the feelings of reverence most powerful. There he forms friendships and spends his happiest days; whatever he achieves academically during his time at college, when he looks back in later years, he finds himself bound by ties of gratitude to the memories of college life.’

‘He has received favours from the Fellows, he has dined with the Warden or Provost; he has unconsciously imbibed to the full the beauty and the music of the place. The routine of duties and observances, the preachings and the examinations and the lectures, the dresses and the ceremonies, the officials whom he feared, the buildings or gardens that he admired, rest upon his mind and his heart, and the shade of the past becomes a sort of shrine to which he makes continual silent offerings of attachment and devotion. It is a second home, not so tender, but more noble and majestic and authoritative.’ (Rise and progress of universities)

The importance of a residential university

Newman’s main educational objection to the newly-founded colleges of London University was that neither college nor university aimed at the ‘philosophical idea of education, which was fulfilled in the old Universities’. In a stinging contrast, he remarks that Oxford and Cambridge ‘were emphatically places of residence for those who came to them, the residence of many years: the University was an Alma Mater, and College was a Society. But a University which is scarcely more than a board of Examiners and an apparatus for Degrees, and a College which is but a collection of lecture-halls, open to young men who need never see each other or their professors elsewhere, in no way rise to the height of the ancient idea, of which they usurp the title.’ (‘University and King’s Colleges in London’)

The University of London effectively became an ‘open’ or distance-learning university in 1858, but a campaign to turn it back into a teaching university eventually made it not just a metropolitan university, but a national and imperial – as well as a residential – one.

The question of domicile

The question of domicile goes to the very heart of what Newman sought to establish in Dublin: a university that was capable of providing each student with a deep formation, precisely because it was residential.

Initially there were three types of students attending the Catholic University: interns, externs, and auditors. The latter were non-matriculated students who merely attended lectures and so did not come under the jurisdiction of the university. The externs were supposed to attach themselves to a collegiate house and put themselves under the dean of the house, while their home or their lodging was regarded ‘as an integral part of the academical domicile; so that the young men so situated are as simply under the jurisdiction of the Dean as if they resided under his roof’.

The plan only met with partial success, as few of the students had tutors, so Newman altered arrangements for the start of the fourth academic year. In the new system, the externs would either become non-resident students or else ‘quasi interns’. The latter were those who sleeping and taking their meals at home should be accounted interns so long as they were ‘bonâ fide present in some Collegiate House during the business hours of the day, say from 9 till 3’, effectively placing themselves under its jurisdiction for that period of time; they would also be provided with tuition. To ensure that there was still a bonus on residence, and to prevent the administration of the University falling into the hands of those who had never resided there and were ignorant of its traditions, Newman proposed that degrees taken by non-residents, though bona fide and to the outside world possessing all the advantages of a degree, were little more than honorary within the University. In other words, they did not qualify the person for holding office at the University, as would a degree gained after residence.

Though it might seem that Newman was obsessed with the notion of ‘jurisdiction’ and laying himself open to the charge of attempting to apply a legal concept to a setting where it was inappropriate, his preoccupation was more than a legal quibble. Legally, indeed, he was on strong ground, for most of the students were minors (majority was then twenty-one years), and the University was therefore legally in loco parentis. But more importantly, Newman held strongly that the University undertook a grave responsibility of oversight for those who entered its doors; it acted on behalf of parents in its attentiveness to growth in virtue; it was ‘an Alma Mater, knowing her children one by one, not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill’. For someone with such an elevated understanding of the role of the university, it was not a matter of indifference whether jurisdiction could be exercised or not. This also explains why Newman had originally entertained the idea of the University and its collegiate houses being configured as a (personal) diocese.

Collegiate living

Newman defines the term ‘college’ to mean a body of students not merely living together in one dwelling, but belonging to a single establishment; it suggests a foundation invested with authority, public recognition and an endowment.

A college (of its equivalent) is a household which ‘involves the same virtuous and paternal discipline which is proper to a family and home’. Being a domestic establishment in which teachers and taught live together as one family, the college ‘is all, and does all, which is implied in the name of home’. Young men leave the family home to find another – a home from home; because they do not know the world and so are easily discouraged by the difficulties of life; because they still have to learn how to cope with the temptations of the world; because they have not yet learned how to learn.

Ideally, the ‘collegiate home’ assumes the characteristics of the family home, and thus becomes ‘the shrine of our best affections, the bosom of our fondest recollections, a spell upon our after life, a stay for world-weary mind and soul’.

There is no contradiction between these homely images and the disciplinary role Newman gives to the college, because by ‘discipline’ he means not an externally imposed code of behaviour but the discipline of a regular and ordered personal and social life, a self-discipline that is intellectual, moral and religious. In this way college would take over where family leaves off by providing a place of refuge and companionship, and also prayer and instruction.

Newman established a medical lodging house in 1857 after the medical faculty wrote to him of the ‘lamentable consequences resulting from the exposure of inexperienced youth without guidance or restraint to the moral contagion or a large city at a time when temptation is strongest and a wholesome check most needed, namely after the business hours of the day when students come together and are left to determine for themselves how and where the night shall be spent.’

If the family is ‘the primary place of “humanisation” for the person and society’ (Benedict XVI, Message on World Day of Peace, 2008), then the university hall of residence can surely be regarded as an extension of the family to the extent to which it acts on behalf of parents in offering their offspring a second home. There, habits and character are formed, and personal growth takes place. If the university teaches students how to make a living, then the college teaches them how to live.

A university is an institution, but a college (or its equivalent) creates a family environment which educates the heart, because it forms young people by engendering good dispositions, healthy loyalties and upright affections. Newman’s efforts to ensure that this took place were of paramount significance: it is what he meant by ‘education, in this large sense of the word’.

Newman’s collegiate plan for Dublin

Newman envisaged lodging houses which would hold up to twenty students each, presided over by a dean, each with its own private chapel and a chaplain, one or two lecturers, and resident tutors. ‘Thus there would be some sort of governing body in each house, or what would ultimately become such.’ If possible, each residence would also have two or three scholars, who would act as ‘a sort of medium between the governing body and the independent [i.e. ordinary] students’.

When a student was admitted to the University, he ‘is at once put under discipline, and he is required to join himself to some particular House or Community, of which he becomes a member’. Each house was under the rule of a dean, assisted by a number of tutors, each had its own chapel and common table, and each a working-day timetable that ran approximately as follows: Mass at 8 am, followed by breakfast; attendance at lectures from 9 am to l or 2 pm; dinner at 5 pm; and the students’ presence indoors by a fixed hour in the evening, which varied according to the time of year.

What about students who expected to live at home or with friends of the family?

Newman’s solution was that, ‘it should be in the power of the Dean or President, under sanction of the Rector, to permit young men to live at the houses of their parents or friends, if they wish it; but in the case of such externs, their home, or abode, whatever it is, must be considered as a licensed lodging house, or rather as an integral part of the academical domicile; so that the young men so situated are as simply [i.e. completely] under the jurisdiction of the Dean as if they resided under his roof.’ (Report for the Year 1854–55)

‘A large College of lay students will be found impenetrable and unmanageable by even the most vigilant authorities. Personal influence requires personal acquaintance, and the minute labour of a discretionary rule is too fatiguing to be exercised on a large number.’ (Report for the Year 1854–55)

Collegiate house: role of the dean

Newman’s idea was that the dean of a collegiate house would be the governor or the president of the house, ‘with jurisdiction over all persons in it, with responsible care of the young men in intellectual as well as moral respects, with the duty of seeing that they have sufficient private tuition’, and with a seat on the University Senate.

Newman summarised the dean’s overall responsibilities as follows:

The Heads of Houses are charged with the moral and intellectual advancement of the Students of their Houses, who are strictly committed to them as pupilli, and are under their tutelage. They are responsible for their religious and correct deportment, for their observance of the Rules both of the House and of the University, and for their acquitting themselves adequately both before the Professors and the Examiners. (‘Scheme of Rules and Regulations’)

Newman refers to the pastoral responsibilities of the dean when speaking of the college as ‘a place of residence for the University student, who would then find himself under the guidance and instruction of Superiors and tutors, bound to attend to his personal interests, moral and intellectual’. (Rise and progress of universities) All this he describes at length in rousing images of security and sanctuary.

Newman found that ‘Deans are too hard to be got – they are either as strict as Prefects in an Ecclesiastical Seminary, or they are indulgent and lax.’ (Newman to Bellasis, 6 April 1858)

Newman as dean of a collegiate house

Nos 85 & 86 Stephen's GreenLittle do the outer world know how beautifully the family was managed. I can see the Father sitting in his little room receiving first this one and then the other, directing, guiding, calling each by their names as if he were their very Father’. (memoir of the house manager of St Mary’s House)

Collegiate house: spiritual training

It was laid down that all those residing in the collegiate houses should receive ‘spiritual direction’, usually from the dean or chaplain of the house, and that they should go to confession regularly with one or the other of them. At St Mary’s, the students seem to have gone to Newman (the dean of St Mary’s) for confession, though they were free to choose another confessor.

Each collegiate house had its own chapel and Mass was celebrated there each day.

Championing the tutorial system

Newman’s working rule is ‘that the principal making of men must be by the Tutorial system’. In this way the professor, acting as a tutor, ‘on a smaller number at a time, and by the catechetical method, will be able to exert those personal influences, which are of the highest importance in the formation and tone of character among the set of students, as well as to provide that the student shall actually prepare the subject for himself, and not be a mere listener at a lecture’. (‘Report on the Organization of the Catholic University of Ireland’, October 1851)

In one of his Oxford University sermons Newman voiced one of the key ideas shared by the three Tractarian tutors at Oriel: that truth is preserved and communicated ‘not by books, not by argument, nor by temporal power, but by the personal influence of such men […] who are at once the teachers and patterns of it’. He spoke of ‘God’s noiseless work’, that is, of the effect of unconscious holiness on others (‘Personal influence, the means of propagating the truth’, sermon preached at the University Church, 1832). This sermon is considered by some scholars to mark the beginning of the Oxford Movement.

A. H. Clough of Oriel spoke convincingly of the deficiencies of the professorial system and the need of the tutorial, especially for the discipline of the student’s mind. Lectures lead to students catching the flame of intellectual ardour, he maintained, but the effects are transient; eager rather than steady studies result. ‘For chastening and correcting, for sobering and undeceiving, the undersoil cultivation which brings more than the mere spontaneous growth, some closer than Professorial contact is needed; needed by the clever, who go beyond, as much by the dull who fall behind.’ Benjamin Jowett of Balliol proposed that by a division of labour – Latin and Greek taught by the tutor, ethics and logic by the professor – they would end up ‘acting in connexion with each other’ (Royal Commission Oxford, 1852).

Tutor at Oriel

Newman had the knack of breathing life into tutorials. From the testimony of his pupils we know that he challenged each of them to think for himself, to understand what he was reading, and to articulate his ideas; to compare and contrast, to challenge and contradict, to reduce an argument to its simplest form, to test it against historical examples, to recast it in his own words or in a different style, and to make comparisons with the present day.

The ideal that Newman aspired to as a lecturer appears in a novel he wrote two decades after scribbling these lecture notes. There he describes a ‘capital tutor’ at Oxford who ‘knew his subject so thoroughly’ that some of his lectures were ‘a masterly, minute running commentary on the text, quite exhausting it’. Nevertheless, the tutor ‘never loaded his lectures; everything he said had a meaning and was wanted’. (Loss and gain)

‘Each tutor knows all his pupils personally, with more or less intimacy according to the dispositions of each party, &c.; but still, in many cases, with an intimacy bordering on friendship. The tutor is often the means of forming his pupils’ minds, of setting up a standard of thought and judgement in his society, and that, of course, in accordance with, or rather based upon, the doctrines of the church.’ (British Magazine, 1834)

At one and the same time tutors needed to be kindly to their charges and understanding, while remaining firm, demanding and unyielding.

‘Beware of repenting indeed of idleness in the evening, but waking next morning thoughtless and careless about it’, Newman wrote to one of his tutees in 1827.

Newman’s scheme for Dublin

Ideally the tutors would be young men, not more than two or three years older than their pupils, who had recently finished their own course of studies at the University and gained honours in their exams, or else were (or had recently been) holders of scholarships.

They would be ‘half companions, half advisers of their pupils, that is, of the students; and while their formal office would be that of preparing them for the Professors’ Lectures, and the Examinations […], they would be thrown together with them in their amusements and recreations; and, gaining their confidence from their almost parity of age, and their having so lately been what the others are still, they may be expected to exercise a salutary influence over them, and will often know more about them than anyone else.’ (Report for the Year 1854–55)

As at Oxford the ‘real working men were, not the Professors, but the Tutors’; they ‘will be the real strength of the institution. Being ‘young men who go through the drudgery of preparing the students for examination, and see that they profit by the Professors’ Lectures’, the tutors needed to live alongside their pupils. ‘They will have nothing to do with discipline, but be as much as possible the friends of their charge. They will not be responsible for their conduct, but for their intellectual proficiency’.

Newman expected them ‘to gain the confidence and intimacy of the young men – and, in this way, to smooth the Dean’s work’, hence the insistence that they ought to have nothing to do with discipline, ‘for else, good bye to the confidence I speak of’.

While the college was the main setting for general discipline (in the wider sense of ‘training’), the college tutorial was the ideal vehicle for the student’s intellectual discipline: ‘his diligence will be steadily stimulated; he will be kept up to his aim; his progress will be ascertained, and his week’s work, like a labourer’s, measured. It is not easy for a young man to determine for himself whether he has mastered what he has been taught; a careful catechetical training, and a jealous scrutiny into his power of expressing himself and of turning his knowledge to account, will be necessary, if he is really to profit from the able Professors whom he is attending; and all this he will gain from the College Tutor.’ (Rise and progress of universities)

Newman’s idea of the tutor’s role touches on much that makes him special as an educational thinker – and much that is characteristic of him as a person: his recognition of the importance of education for the development of young people; his love of his fellow human beings; his caritas; his stress on the formative value of personal influence; his appreciation for the personal element in the process of understanding and embracing knowledge and faith; his patience with human weakness in the fitful process of maturation; his grasp of the obligations and rewards of the universal; his insistence on the practical. In particular, Newman held that moral and religious truths were best communicated and most likely to stir the heart by the power of personal influence, and that tutorials should be conducted on this basis. These views were not the outcome of research or reading, but rather the result of many years in education, during which he had tried to live out his high ideals and to observe critically and ponder on what he saw around him.

Tutors at collegiate houses in Dublin

The work of a tutor ‘is more of influence than of instruction. But at the same time influence is gained through the reputation of scholarship etc, and the very duty which comes on a Tutor is to do that which the pupil cannot do for himself, e.g. to explain difficulties in the works read in lecture, and to give aid in the higher classics, or to cram for examinations.’ (Newman to T. W. Allies, 1857)

Ideally, Newman hoped that each collegiate house at the Catholic University would have a residential tutor, who by being on the spot could more easily care for and supervise the students in their studies and moral development; by associating more with them, he would have greater opportunity of forming the minds and manners of his pupils, and thereby would give more assistance and moral support to the head of house.

Newman as tutor

Charles de la Pasture, one of Newman tutees in Dublin, recalled, ‘I learnt more as to the writing of Latin from a few classes given privately to the men of his own house by Newman as its tutor than I did from a longer course’ of lectures under the two professors of Latin, Robert Ornsby and James Stewart. He added, ‘to read the Greek tragedians in the same manner with Newman was, indeed, a classical treat I love to recall’.

The role of the college tutor

‘It will be prudent in him to anticipate, in the case of many of his charge, little love of study and no habit of application, and, even in the case of the diligent, backwardness and defective or ill-grounded knowledge. Towards them, as well as towards the studious and advanced, he will have to address himself according to the needs of each. He will select for them their course of reading, recommend them the lectures which they are to attend, and the books and subjects which they are to present for examination.’

‘As to the more promising, he will superintend their reading. He will set them off, for instance, in private informal lectures and conversations, at the commencement of new and difficult authors. He will then let them go a while, and bid them bring him their difficulties. He will keep his eye upon them, and from time to time examine them, take them in hand again when they come to more difficult portions, and bring to their notice points which would otherwise escape them. He will direct them to works in illustration of their subject, help them with analyses and abstracts, or teach them how to make them; and, as their examination draws near, he will go over the ground again with them, and try them to and fro in their books.’

‘On the other hand, in the case of the backward, he will ascertain their weak points, and set them on remedying them. He will force upon them the fact of their want of grounding and other defects, and, without annoying them, will be jealous and importunate on the subject in proportion to their indisposition to amend. He will try to keep them up to the mark of the Professors’ Lectures which they attend, and prevent them from showing ill there. As to the idle, he will be in [the] practice of sending for them, will ask them if they have prepared to-morrow’s lectures, oblige them to come at a certain hour for examination in them, treating them throughout with good-humour, but with the steadiness of a superior. In like manner, he will bring before them their approaching examination, confront them with the disgrace of failure, and impress upon them their ever-accumulating loss of time, and the extreme difficulty of making up for it.’

‘All this involves a real occupation on the part of the Tutor, but it is close rather than great, and continual rather than continuous; it does involve, however, a sustained solicitude, and a mind devoted to his charge. And because of the serious importance, and the really interesting nature of the office, when understood and entered into, and again, of the difficulty some persons have in understanding it, its duties have here been drawn out somewhat in detail. The way to a young man’s heart lies through his studies, certainly in the case of the more clever and diligent. He feels grateful towards the superior, who takes an interest in the things which are at the moment nearest to his heart, and he opens it to him accordingly. From the books which lie before them the two friends are led into conversation, speculation, discussion: there is the intercourse of mind with mind, with an intimacy and sincerity which can only be when none others are present. Obscurities of thought, difficulties in philosophy, perplexities of faith, are confidentially brought out, sifted, and solved; and a pagan poet or theorist may thus become the occasion of Christian advancement. Thus the Tutor forms the pupil’s opinions, and is the friend, perhaps the guide, of his after life. He becomes associated with the pupil’s brightest and pleasantest years, and is invested in the hues of a past youth.’

‘In this idea of a College Tutor, we see that union of intellectual and moral influence, the separation of which is the evil of the age. Men are accustomed to go to the Church for religious training, but to the world for the cultivation both of their hard reason and their susceptible imagination. A Catholic University will but half remedy this evil, if it aims only at professorial, not at private teaching. Where is the private teaching, there will be the real influence.’

‘To fulfil this idea, however, the Tutor must have no part in the College discipline, nor any academical authority over his pupils. Should he be invested with these additional duties, he will often find it expedient to commit the Tutorial care of certain of his pupils to externs [i.e. outside Tutors]; on the principle on which the offices of Ruler and Confessor are separated in Religious communities.’ (‘Scheme of Rules and Regulations’, 1856)

Share This: