In 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, in the course of their tour of the Scottish highlands and islands, visited St Andrews. The University was then in a parlous state, with scarcely a hundred students. Things are very different now, but Dr Johnson’s comment has a resonance with the present situation in Britain, I think:
It was surely not without just reproach, that a nation, of which the commerce is hourly extending, and the wealth encreasing, denies any participation of its prosperity to its literary societies; and while its merchants or its nobles are raising palaces, suffers its universities to moulder into dust.
Luckily, things had improved a century later, when the university college of Dundee was formed as an offshoot of St Andrews. William Topaz McGonagall wrote these encouraging words:
“The College is most handsome and magnificent to be seen,
And Dundee can now almost cope with Edinburgh or Aberdeen,
For the ladies of Dundee can now learn useful knowledge
By going to their own beautiful College.”
“My son, get knowledge,” so said the sage,
For it will benefit you in your old age,
And help you through this busy world to pass,
For remember a man without knowledge is just like an ass.”
Lovely stuff! Someone else who rhymes “college” with “knowledge” (in the company of Bob Dylan and Steely Dan).
Charles Leedham-Green reminded me of the rhyme from The Masque of Balliol (ca 1880), on Benjamin Jowett:
I am Master of this College,
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.