A WHITE ELEPHANT.
There has long been an impression that the Lincoln Agricultural College was a most expensively conducted affair, and that the results were by no means commensurate with the outlay ; indeed for two or three sessions past the late member for the district, Mr O'Callaghan, was persistent m urging upon the Government the necessity for a full and thorough enquiry into the working of the institution. Last session a promise was extracted that such an enquiry should be held, but as yet the enquiry promised has not been held, or at least no report of the result has, so far as we are aware, been made public. But thanks to £tr Talbot, a member of the South Canterbury Board of Education, a number of facts have been brought to light, which, assuming their correctness m all particulars, go to Bhow that affairs m connection with the Lincoln College are infinitely worse than anyone unversed m the myßterieß of that institution could possibly have imagined. How Mr Talbot came to dilate on the subject was m this way. There was a proposal before the Board to the effect that the Education Act should be amended so as to enable Education Boards to appropriate funds for scholarships tenable at the Agricultural College, but Mr Talbot opposed, and gave such excellent reasons for his opposition that the motion was withdrawn. He said that he did not believe that practical farmers would send their sons to the Lincoln Institution even if they were paid to do so, inasmuch as farming as carried on v at the College was not such farming as gave paying results. " Everything was very nice there, but very ruinous. There were five or six hundred acres of good land attached to it, and it ought, as a model farm, to be made profitable, but it was not." He then gave some extracts from the returns of the College showing that the year's operations on the farm resulted m the loss of nearly £1000, and he asked whether that would be considered a satisfactory result on a practical farm. " This (he went on to Bay), was allowing nothing for rent, or interest on cost, which at six per cent, on the value of the land would be about £1000 a year. He had seen a paddock or two of the ' model ' farm from the train, and remarked to a fellow-traveller that if it were a private farm under a mortgage, and the mortgagee saw it he would foreclose for the occupier's negleot of it. The crops were as much weeds as anything. Two gentlemen, practical men, who had reported officially on the place, said it was not creditable m the way of gates and fences. Probably the manager was short of funds and could not do what ought to be done. He (Mr Talbot) did not think the College of any practical use for farmers. The negleot of it by farmers showed that they thought so. The attendance had dropped from 86 to 20, and ten of the twenty were from England. It was absurd to suppose that they were Bent out to New Zealand to learn farming. The reasons might be imagined. The college was m the centre of an agricultural district, thickly populated. It was open to people living near it for £10 a year, and the students got paid for their work; yet how many Canterbury students were there ? Only four. An absurdity on the face of it. He was satisfied it was not of the slightest use, and he could only regret that so much had been wasted upon it. It waß opened m 1880. The funds were provided by allocating p§.ooo acres of Crown lands, valued at £186,000, of which 40,000 acres were sold at £2 an acre, producing an enormous amount of money. The land cost £17,000 for 660 acres, and the buildings £34,000. It was the largest Bet of Drick buildings m Canterbury, yet it only provided accomodation for ftQ pupils. That enormous capital of £186,000, equal at 5 per cent to £9000 per annum, was now utilised by only $0 pupils— they cost the country £450 a year it piece— and then did not pay their way. It was a monstrosity, and he was glad to see that a commission had been appointed to enquire into it The benefits derivable from it were quite disproportionate to the cost. He did pot mean to say that no benefits had been derived from Mr Ivey's experiments, by which he claimed to Jiave saved farmers many hundreds and thousands of pounds. Still, if the Government undertook to protect farmers against rubbish m seeds and manures, it would he better to appoint an analyst for the purpose. Jt was hardly worth while to carry on so expensive an institution for the sake of analysing seeds, and soils, and manures, The students after completing their studies received certificates of merit, certificates that they understood farming, both m theory and practice. How many such farmers had been turned put ? So far only 20 certificates bad been issued. And after all, of what value were they ? Would anyone employ a man m any branch of agriculture simply because he held a certificate from the Lincoln College? They would not ; they would rather employ a man whom they had seen at work, and knew what he could do. The men who had made asoccess of farming, the men who had transformed the plainß of Canterbury, did not come from such places. They were men who had risen from the plough ; who could not answer half a dogen of the college examiners' questions. Every branch of knowledge was supposed to be taught there, and some of them seemed to bo altogether useless for the farmer." In the course of the discussion which followed, Mr Talbot added that be only knew of one of the twentj holders of Lincoln College certificates who had been managing a farm. Altogether Mr Talbot's was a crushing indictment, and everybody will concur m the view expressed by one member of the Board that such institutions ought to. be made self-supporting, and also m the opinion of another member that " there was not muoh use m seodiog apypiie \q leajn, Jjqw fo toes
£1100 a year at farming," and nobody will be surprised that tho mover and seconder of the motion for the establishment of scholarships at Lincoln should, m face of such a disclosure, have elected to abandon it. But tho matter certainly ought not to end there, and m view of the facts brought out by Mr Talbot it is clearly the duty of Parliament to insist that the whole management and conduct of the Agricultural College should be reformed, or else that so costly and apparently comparatively useless an institution should be dispensed with altogether. Reform is, however, surely possible, and it is certainly imperative, for the colony cannot afford an expenditure of £450 per head upon a score of agricultural pupils. The thing is utterly absurd, and, wastef ally extravagant.
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A WHITE ELEPHANT., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2061, 12 February 1889
A WHITE ELEPHANT. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2061, 12 February 1889
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