Determination was a great day in the student’s University life. It retained much of its primitive character of a student’s festivity. It was not, it would seem, till the middle of the fifteenth century that the student’s Master was required to be officially present at it. The Speech-day of a Public School if combined with considerably more than the license of the Oxford Encaenia or degree day here in May week would perhaps be the nearest modern equivalent of these medieval exhibitions of rising talent. Every effort was made to attract to the Schools as large an audience as possible, not merely of Masters or fellow-students, but if possible of ecclesiastical dignitaries and other distinguished persons. The friends of a Determiner who was not successful in drawing a more distinguished audience, would run out into the streets and forcibly drag chance passers-by into the School. Wine was provided at the Determiner’s expense in the Schools: and the day ended in a feast [given in imitation of the Master’s Inception-banquets], even if dancing or torch-light processions were forborne in deference to authority.
I may add here in parenthesis that the thirstiness, always so remarkable in the medieval man whether it make him strange to you or help to ingratiate him as a human brother, seems to have followed him even into the Tripos. ’It was not only after a University exercise,’ says the historian (Rashdall, Vol. II, p. 687), ’but during its progress that the need of refreshment was apt to be felt.... Many Statutes allude—some by way of prohibition, but not always—to the custom of providing wine for the Examiners or Temptator [good word] before, during, or after the Examination. At Heidelberg the Dean of the Faculty might order in drinks, the candidate not. At Leipsic the candidate is forbidden to treat [facere propinam] the Examiners before the Examination: which seems sound. At Vienna (medical school) he is required to spend a florin “pro confectionibus".’
Now when we come to England—that is, to Oxford and Cambridge, which ever had queer ways of their own—we find, strange to say, for centuries no evidence at all of any kind of examination. As for competitive examinations like the defunct Mathematical and Classical Triposes here—with Senior Wranglers, Wooden Spoons and what lay between—of all European Universities, Louvain alone used the system and may have invented it. At Louvain the candidates for the Mastership were placed in three classes, in each of which the names were arranged in order of merit. The first class were styled Rigorosi (Honour-men), the second Transibiles (Pass-men), the third Gratiosi (Charity-passes); while a fourth class, not publicly announced, contained the names of those who could not be passed on any