HC Deb 20 February 1908 vol 184 cc1171-6

3. £6,000 (Supplementary), Board of Education.

*SIR PHILIP MAGNUS (London University)

said that before this Vote was passed there were one or two points on which he wished some information. After the somewhat dramatic discussion on the last Vote he was disinclined to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes. This was the first time a Vote on account of what was called the Imperial College of Science and Technology had been asked for. Very great interest had been taken in the foundation of this College because for a long time it had been felt that we in this country were very far behind other nations—especially Germany and America—in the facilities which were provided for the promotion of higher technical instruction. The Vote asked for was £6,000, but that was only part of the sum of £20,000 a year which was to be allocated by the Board of Education for the maintenance of the College. He would like to know how that sum of £6,000 had been arrived at as a first instalment. But there was another question of greater importance than that. He would like some information as to how much of the total grant of £20,000 a year which was promised for the College was in excess of the cost and maintenance of the Royal College of Science and the Royal School of Mines which since 1st January had been taken over by the Imperial College of Science and Technology with which they were to be incorporated. According to the Estimates of last year the administration by the Board of Education of the Royal College of Science cost, including salaries and wages, £15,762, and laboratory expenses, £3,750; or a total of £19,512. Now, that sum did not include, so far as he could make out, the sum of £900, which was the cost of heating and lighting the Royal College of Science, so that the total cost amounted to £20,412. It was true that in this Estimate was included £1,000 for the maintenance of the new building recently erected in Imperial Institute Road, a sum which he believed was far less than the building would cost to maintain. But, against this, he found that there was in the year preceding the sum of £4,450 as against £3,750 for laboratory expenses upon last year's Estimates. It would appear, therefore, that the Government, in undertaking to give £20,000 a year to the new Imperial College, had made on the whole rather a good bargain, because the expense of maintenance of the two institutions which they had taken over and incorporated was really less than the College of Science and the School of Mines originally cost. It was quite certain that a much larger sum than this must be placed at the disposal of the governing body if the new college was to fulfil the important objects which were set forth in Lord Rosebery's letter in 1902, and to give that aid to British industry which it was anticipated it would give. He saw that it was stated in the charter of incorporation of the new college that divers persons were prepared to make munificent contributions towards the establishment and support of this Imperial institution. He would like to know the amount of those contributions and what contributions had been promised since the Report of the Departmental Committee of which he was a member had been issued two years since. It was also said in the charter that the Royal Commissioners of 1851 were prepared to appropriate a certain portion of their estate for the erection of new departments, and new buildings, and he would be glad to know whether, in the opinion of the Parliamentary Secretary, the funds at the disposal of the governng body were adequate for the erection of those departments on the appropriated sites and also for the remuneration of the professors, assistants, and lecturers, who would be required to give instruction. Unfortunately, it too often happened in this country that money was spent in bricks and mortar which should be paid in teachers' salaries, and that expensive buildings were erected which were imperfectly equipped. It was necessary that he should ask for this information at the present time, because he was sorry to say it appeared doubtful whether the London County Council would now grant the whole of the £20,000 towards the maintenance of the Imperial College which had been conditionally promised; and it was quite certain that unless the college was adequately endowed it would be unable to fulfil the great expectations which had been raised with regard to it. We in this country failed to realise the large sums of money which were required for higher technical instruction. In the United States that necessity was far better recognised, as was shown by the fact that between 1890 and 1901 no less a sum than £23,000,000 was subscribed from various sources for this express purpose. The future of this Imperial College intimately concerned the University of London with which he was connected. In the Report of the Departmental Committee a recommendation was made as to the appointment of a Royal Commission to consider what changes might be made in the character and constitution of the University of London, with a view to the amalgamation of the Imperial College with the University. It was an urgent matter for the University to know what their relations would be with the Imperial College, because if they were under the apprehension of a Royal Commission being appointed, they were prevented from entering upon many spheres of activity and undertaking various departments of work upon which they would enter if they knew that their position was absolutely settled. Was it the intention of the Government to appoint that Royal Commission, and if so, would they give some approximate date as to when they would do so?


said that when the charter was granted to the College it was arranged that £20,000 a year was to be given to it practically out of the funds of the Board of Education. The bargain was made by the late Government, of which the hon. Baronet was a supporter. There were other advantages which the Imperial College would obtain besides the grant of £20,000. It would receive the fees which were paid by students, which came to a considerable amount every year, and which had appeared in their estimates as an appropriation in aid. This would be a considerable advantage to the College. Then the Government had certain students of its own who, according to the arrangement, would now become of advantage to the Imperial College, as the Board would for the future have to pay the fees of those students to the Governing Body. This would make a considerable difference in favour of the College, and make the bargain a good one. The Government were very glad to carry out the arrangement, all the more because it was the policy of their predecessors. He had every reason to believe that the main part of the funds promised would be forthcoming. He would also remind the hon. Member that there would be a more suitable opportunity for discussing this question when the grant-in-aid came up. He had been asked if any funds were available for the putting up of buildings. He might say that he believed that the College was going steadily on with its work, and there was not the slightest apprehension that it would not be able to discharge its function. With regard to the other grants which had been alluded to the Government was bound by the arrangements made by their predecessors.

*SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)

said that with regard to what had been said about the University of London, and the Imperial College of Science the uncertainty as to the future relations was embarrassing and disconcerting. As Vice Chancellor of the University of London he sincerely trusted that the Board of Education would at an early period be able to tell them something as to what the policy of the Board was going to be in regard to this question. The Departmental Committee, upon whose Report the Charter was given, was divided as to whether the College should be an independent institution or whether it should be incorporated in the present University. It was necessary in the interests of higher education that an early decision should be arrived at as to what steps should be taken to determine the relationship of the Imperial College to the University.

Vote agreed to.

Resolutions to be reported this day.

Committee to sit again this day.