Robert Anderson

Examinations and university models in nineteenth century Britain

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Examination and assessment are a relatively neglected aspect of university history. In the nineteenth century the growth of examinations was central both to universities' function as degree-awarding bodies, and to the social principles of merit and competitive individualism. The development of «honours » examinations at Oxford and Cambridge had long-lasting effects on British academic culture and teaching practices. They also established the principle that teaching and examination should be separate, and the University of London founded in 1836 as an examining university reinforced this idea, which by the 1860s was accepted as the standard English practice. But it was rejected in Scotland, where examining was seen as an integral function of the university. English and Scottish ideas were championed politically by Robert Lowe and Lyon Playfair respectively. In England and Ireland the examining university saw further developments in the late nineteenth century, but by 1914 the integral university had become the predominant form. The paper also discusses how Britain fits into the organizational models through which nineteenth-century university history has generally been interpreted.

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