The problem that faces the college and university authorities of Oxford and Cambridge is how to make an institution pay which has only twenty four weeks income to fifty two weeks expenses in a year. This problem is largely solved by sending in such fantastic bills that the student remembers with regret that the great universities were founded as a refuge and alma mater for penniless seekers of learning in the eighth century of our Lord. Nevertheless, the authorities still find themselves with an empty university on their hands, for a greater part of the year, notably the finest summer months from June until October.
At Oxford, the colleges let themselves out as headquarters for conferences and congresses. Verse speaking associations, brewers leagues, teachers unions,--anything but nudists, live in the hallowed quads of learning and probably behave far more decorously than the bona fide students of term time.
Long Vacation Term
At Cambridge, a superior system is in existence. There is a long Vacation Term. This nebulous assembly does not count as full term, there are no proctors, no bursarial charges, few lectures and few official sports. Officially an opportunity for extra study and vacation work amidst suitable surroundings, this Long Vac Term is a godsend to the man who has no plans for the summer but does not wish to stay at home. Of six thousand undergraduates some thousand are usually in residence for the Long Vac Term. A few of them work, having failed exams in June which they are to take again in October. Others work because they are made that way. But for most people the Long Vac Term is a rollicking affair when there are just enough rules to be broken to make life worth while. Chiefly in evidence are medicals, engineers, agriculturists and botanists. The last two named spend the term in touring the countryside, looking at farms, seeking for specimens.
Starting the week after Henley, the Long Vac Term goes on for roughly six weeks. But one may stay for two, three or four as one likes, and it is common to hear an undergraduate say: "I'm fed up with this place. Tomorrow I'm off to Salzburg." Off he goes, with the blessings of his tutor and supervisor.
Henley Regatta Held
Henley regatta was held in a blaze of sunshine again this year. It is the finest function of the year to those who know it, although it does not rank with Ascot and Cowes in the debutantes programme. Cambridge crews were victorious in three events, and Cambridge blazers everywhere in evidence on the bank. The Diamond sculls, held by a German, have gone to Switzerland now. The rowing world hopes it will be able to welcome an American crew next year to the regatta. But the rowing is only a part of Henley; there are meetings of old rowing men in pink Leander caps, society picnics outings on the river, and above all the fair which lines the banks, where Gypsies patronised by King Edward tell your fortune, where young Etonians in grey suits are fleeced by sharpers and tricksters.
Cambridge is hot and empty at present. The Long Vac Term is over, and the Michaclmas term does not begin until October. But somewhere throughout England or the Empire are scattered fifteen hundred young men who look forward to October with hope, trepidation or determination, when they will form the 1935 Freshmen.