HC Deb 12 April 1946 vol 421 cc2294-318

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Joseph Henderson.]

3.16 p.m.

Captain Charles Smith (Colchester)

The question to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is one primarily of long-term importance, although some of its aspects are of great urgency. It is the question in the broad sense of the financial provision for university education. The Government's broad and comprehensive plans for reconstruction of this country and for development in the Colonial territories will make essential the provision of a larger number of trained specialists and personnel than the country has ever had in the past. As reconstruction and the development plans are carried through, the need for specialists in medicine, architecture, town planning administration and many other fields will become increasingly clear. Already in some fields the immediate shortage is making itself felt. For example, we have to deal with the recruitment of teachers on an emergency basis. To take another example, in matters of Colonial development long-term plans are being held up now because of the shortage of personnel capable of carrying out the preliminary investigations. The first annual report of the Colonial Social Science Research Council published last year makes reference to the great difficulty of organising research, because of the present shortage of personnel trained for investigation in social problems, and says: This is not merely the result of the war, but is partly due to the fact that before the war provision for research and social science was less adequate and less well organised than it was in comparison with natural science.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

On a point of Order. Would it not be appropriate for some Minister to be on the Front Bench to answer the points raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman?

The Parliamentary Secretary to- the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)

I am here for that purpose.

Captain Smith

That example from the report of the Colonial Social Science Research Council can no doubt be paralleled by other hon. Members from other fields who can give examples of projects which are of essential importance and which are held up by the shortage of skilled, specialist personnel at the present time. Both as institutions of higher training, and as centres of research, the universities of this country are clearly of key importance, and the first question I would like to ask is, What is the machinery, if any, for relating the expansion of the universities to the continuous long-term needs of the country for these specialist professional and technical personnel?

There is, I am sure, no desire on these benches or in any part of the House to diminish in any respect at all the independence and the freedom of the universities but, at the same time, it is clear that it would be of value to the universities, to the students, and to the community as a whole if some machinery could be devised for ensuring that there is an adequate relating of the long term needs of the country to the expansion of the universities. All kinds of reports bearing on this are being issued at the present time. We had one a few months ago on higher, technological education, another on agricultural education. Many of us are now awaiting with considerable interest the report of the committee under Professor Sir John Clapham. Are we to have any survey of the field as a whole, or is the approach to this matter to he purely piecemeal? Such a survey is very necessary if we are to avoid hampering ourselves in the future by shortages which cannot be easily and quickly overcome, because they will be shortages of people who must have a long period of training, and who must acquire experience in addition.

We have already, as a piece of administrative machinery, the University Grants Committee, standing between the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the one hand, and the universities on the other. I have no desire to criticise the activities of that Committee within its present terms of reference and in fulfilling its present functions, but are the Government satisfied that those functions are adequate, or does the University Grants Committee need to have its functions expanded, or should there be devised some other piece of machinery for carrying out these purposes that I have mentioned? The obvious and most straightforward form in which the question can be put is to ask how many students at the universities the Government anticipate there will be in the immediate future, in five years, in ten years, and so forth.

The proportion of university students to the total population in peace time in this country was appreciably smaller than the proportion in other advanced countries. That is a most important fact to be taken into account. The Chancellor told us in December that he hoped for a substantial increase in the number of students. Can we he given any indication of the measure of the substantial increase that is to be expected, bearing in mind that, generally speaking, those who enter the universities next autumn will not take their degrees and so will not complete their training until 1949? This is a matter on which, taking the period of time involved into account, we must plan carefully and well ahead. -If we cannot have any specific figures on this matter, can we at least have an assurance that it is being seriously considered?

Now it follows from any intention to increase the number of students in the universities appreciably that the question of access to the universities has to be taken into account as well, because we want to effect this increase without lowering the quality of the university population. Such investigation as has taken place into this matter suggests that it can be done. Many Members will be familiar with the very careful investigation on this matter which was undertaken in the years before the war by Gray and Glass. They will be familiar with the much more recent investigations under the auspices of the University of Manchester, which suggested that a trebling of our university population was possible in this country, without any lowering of the standard, provided that genuine equality of access to the universities was secured. It is true there has been a great improvement over a period of time, and that something like one-quarter of the male undergraduate population begin their education in public elementary schools. But that does not look quite so impressive when it is borne in mind that the overwhelming majority of the population—appreciably more than a quarter—begin their education in public elementary schools. On the question of access the Government must take into account the disparity between the number of women and the number of men in the university population.

Both university numbers and access to the universities depend on finance, taken in its broadest sense. The direct Government grants to the universities are of two kind', those for capital expenditure and those for recurrent expenditure. So far as grants for capital expenditure are concerned, I think that all of us, on both sides of the House, would wish to express a warm welcome to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's pronouncement on policy on this subject made in February in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for the London University (Sir E. Graham-Little). Not only did he indicate the substantial grants he was prepared to make; even more satisfactory was his announcement that he had told the University Grants Committee that lie would be prepared, if good cause were shown, to ask Parliament to vote even larger capital sums. While cordially welcoming this pronouncement, I should like to ask whether consideration might not be given to furnishing us with a good deal more information about the expenditure of these grants within the universities. Before the war it was the practice of the University Grants Committee to present annual statistical statements and also to present quinquennial reports, which were much more comprehensive, and which were admirable and useful documents to those large sections of the public who are interested in the general policy being pursued in the universities as a whole. Could not consideration he given to some form of publication of reports from the University Grants Committee? It is obvious that some of the material supplied to the Chancellor is not of sufficiently general interest to merit publication, but more information than it appears we are to get, so far as present announcements indicate, about the expenditure in detail and how the policy Of the University Grants Committee is implemented, would be very welcome.

Lastly, I turn to recurrent expenditure. Here, I would direct the attention of the Government to the fact that fees of one kind and another in colleges throughout the country are showing a marked tendency to increase. The latest information I have, which was compiled some months ago, shows that at that time 14 colleges had increased or were considering an increase in fees, 17 had increased, or were considering increasing, their charges for accommodation, and seven were increasing their fees for both accommodation and tuition. Now, those increases make it more difficult for students of working class, lower middle class, and middle class families to get the benefit of university education. That education often involves a very great sacrifice to many families in spite of the financial provision which has already been made by way of scholarships from universities and local education authorities. I hope the Government will keep this matter of the rise in fees very closely under review and will not leave it out of account when making up their budget for the University Grants Committee or when exercising influence on the policy of local education authorities.

Clearly, there are many problems which it has not been possible in this short space of time to touch upon. These include the question of the relationship of the universities to adult education, and of whether any extension in the universities should be concentrated in present university institutions or whether the Government ought to consider the foundation of one or more new universities. There are many other matters which I am conscious that many hon. Members in this House wish to discuss in relation to university policy in the broadest sense. Accordingly, I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider, with the Government, the possibility at a later stage of considerably more time, perhaps a whole day, being allotted to the discussion of this subject. I can assure him that there are many hon. Members who wish to contribute their views on the matter. Above all, I hope that the guiding policy and principle of the Government will be that the provision of university education should not be an opportunity for a relatively small section of the population to acquire a social veneer, but should be an opportunity for those who are most fitted to benefit from it to secure training to serve the community in the way in which they are best fitted to serve it.

3.33 p.m.

Mr. Corlett (York)

I think it is rather fortunate that we should be discussing this matter in Budget week. We would all like to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the very generous provision he has made for university education. We are now reaching a stage when it will no longer be possible to level the reproach at us as a nation that we are not university minded. I must confess that I have always been puzzled at the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be the Minister responsible for university education, and that the University Grants Committee should be an outpost of the Treasury. And, quite frankly, I am mystified at the secrecy which surrounds the whole question of university finance and the University Grants Committee. I would not for one moment dare to suggest that we should remove these duties from the control of the present Chancellor. We on this side of the House at any rate are so delighted with him that we would do nothing in any way to take any powers away from him. We think he is pre-eminently suited to the task of looking after the development of our universities on modern lines. We have no suggestion that he should no longer be the Minister for university education.

I am not so happy, however, about the machinery with which we have provided him. We are all aware, of course, that the machinery of the University Grants Committee came into existence after the last war. Our idea of university education in those days, and certainly our conception of the financial contribution that the State should make, was very different from what it is today. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should be asked to look again at the constitution and the functions of the University Grants Committee. It is very necessary, and there are many reasons why he should do it. There is, first, the financial reason. The State and the local authorities are making increased expenditure to the universities. It was stepped up to one-third; it is now two-thirds, and there is no doubt from the promise of the Chancellor that it will be much higher in future. This House arid the public will want to know whether that money is being spent wisely. I do not think there is any possibility of knowing that unless we know how it is being spent. I agree with the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Capt. C. Smith) that, from looking at the University Grants Committee's Report and asking questions in this House, one does not get the sort of information which one would require to satisfy oneself that this money is being spent to the best advantage. In fact. I do not know of any public money which is spent with so little inquiry into its expenditure. That is one reason why the Chancellor should look into this question of the University Grants Committee.

Another reason is that it is not merely a matter of spending more money on the universities. That might be a good thing in itself, and it might not be, but we are providing for extensive university development, which is an entirely different matter. Who is planning for it? We know there is to be development in some form or other. We know local authorities are being encouraged to send to universities not only youngsters with State scholarships and major scholarships, but to consider sending every student in their schools who shows a particular aptitude. That means an increased supply of students to universities, but where are they to go? Many of them, for social and educational reasons, will want to go to the older universities, but surely the older universities have now reached their maximum size for development. It is difficult to realise what is the maximum size for development, but there must be a law of diminishing returns for universities.

I believe that one of the reports of the University Grants Committee dealt with this question of size and accommodation in relation to one of the universities. The reply received from the university was that it should be "slightly more than we have now." That is very understandable, but not very satisfactory. It does not suggest that there is any form of real planning of what should be the size of a university. Further, it is not desirable, even if Oxford and Cambridge could take these students, that they should take too large a proportion of the most able students in the country. It is not fair to the older universities, or to the provincial universities, or to the students themselves. Some overall planning must be devised whereby we can cater for all students who are going to universities, and at the moment we have not got that planning either with regard to numbers or quality.

With regard to the question of quality and who should go to the universities, one would have thought that the principle should be to send to universities only those who can profit from their attendance, and that those who cannot profit from their attendance should be excluded. But neither of those conditions obtains at the moment. We must devise some sort of scheme whereby we can be absolutely sure that all who can benefit from university training should go to universities, and that only they should go. The strange thing is that throughout the whole of the educational system as we know it today, we take steps to secure that position. We have a new education Act under which we plan in great detail. The authorities are asked to provide detailed development plans. and they are asked to look at every child of 11-plus in their schools and say which type of secondary school he should attend, according to his aptitude and ability. That is very necessary and wise, but why not do it at 18-plus too? If we are to plan at 11-plus, why when we come to the very top—the coping stone—do we make no attempt to secure that the only students who enter universities are those with aptitude and ability? There is every reason why.

My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester said that there should be an overall plan. Today it is all piecemeal. The University Grants Committee have taken considerable trouble to get the facts in these matters. They go round to the universities and ask them what they would like. Individual universities put forward their plans and the University Grants Committee do their best to satisfy the requirements, but that is merely leaving the initiative to each university. It is not an overall plan. Other aspects are dealt with nationally, but again piecemeal. There are the Barlow Committee to consider training of scientists, the McNair Committee to consider the training of teachers, the Good-enough Committee to deal with fees of medical students, and the Teviot Committee to deal with dentists. I would not mind this piecemeal business if it were all dovetailed into an overall plan.

I suggest that the Chancellor should look at the matter very carefully. I would not suggest for a moment that he should be limited in his choice, because we have confidence in him and his choice should not be taken from him. I agree too, with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the University Grants Committee would not dream of interfering with the autonomy of the universities collectively or individually. Universities can only retain their vitality in an atmosphere of freedom. University autonomy is a principle of peculiar sanctity. We should hesitate for a very long time before we tried to interfere with it in any way. We have seen too much of that taking place in other countries to want to do it here. I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to overhaul this university grants system, to modernise it, and to streamline it, if he likes. Only in that way will universities be able to play their proper part in the new world which we all envisage.

3.43 p.m.

Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)

I did not know till half an hour ago that this subject was to be raised upon the Adjournment. I cannot therefore pretend that I have any considered observations to make. At the same time, as I believe I am the only University Member in the Chamber at this moment, I think it is incumbent upon me to add a few words to what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Captain Smith) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. Corlett). Those two speeches have made clear how vast a subject has been opened up. We have to remember that the output under the Education Act will be great, when it is in full operation, and that it must inevitably stimulate a great flow, if not actually of university entrants, at any rate of potential university entrants. There will be a demand for greatly extended accommodation in our universities. That will raise, as has been stated, the question of whether the aim should be to enlarge the existing universities or to increase the number of universities. Probably the answer to the question is that both courses must operate to some degree. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for York emphasise the importance of limiting entrants to universities before the numbers got too large to be handled effectively. That position has been reached at Cambridge. It is felt that an undergraduate population of 5,000 or 6,000 is quite as large a society as can profit by the opportunities available. On the scientific side, in particular, laboratories will become hopelessly inadequate and have to be extended, if the number of scientific students is to be largely increased.

On the other hand, there is the geographical aspect of the distribution of universities. The South West of England, for example, is ill provided with university opportunities. There is, of course, the University of Bristol, but there is a strong case, as it seems to me, for elevating the University College of South-West Exeter into a university that will serve Devon, Cornwall and other parts of the Southern counties. These large subjects must, as the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester said, be adequately surveyed. At the same time, I think it would be a pity for this House to receive the impression, and still more a pity for it to create the impression outside, that there is anything really seriously amiss with the arrangements which at present exist.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

Oh, yes, there is.

Mr. Harris

The University Grants Committee is a body which, as far as my knowledge extends, is doing very admirable work. Hon. Members opposite have expressed themselves as well satisfied with my eminent constituent, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor has said he is well satisfied, as he clearly is, with the University Grants Committee. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If, as I believe, the universities themselves are also well satisfied with the University Grants Committee, then I do not think there can he anything very seriously wrong in its working. At the same time, there are certain obvious difficulties in the situation. We have here the usual problem of wedding private enterprise to Government assistance, and a certain amount of supervision. After all, the universities of this country are, in a sense, private institutions. They have arisen through very splendid private benevolence. That applies to not only the older universities of Oxford and Cambridge, but to the modern universities which are doing such admirable work. One has only to think of the name of Wills in connection with Bristol University, or of T. R. Ferens in connection with the University College of Hull, to realise what contributions successful business men have made, by their benefactions, to higher learning in this country.

It is a very delicate matter for the Government to give the necessary assistance without impinging, to some degree, on the freedom of the universities, on the importance of which the hon. Member for York has so rightly laid much stress. That is one of the problems which will have to be solved when this whole question is surveyed afresh. It is true that the fees of, I suppose, all universities have been raised recently. I know that has been done very reluctantly, but it has been quite inevitable in that sphere, as in all spheres. The salaries of professors at Oxford and Cambridge, and no doubt other universities, have been necessarily increased. Other kinds of expenses, such as the wages of the college servants, replacing furniture and expenditure in regard to necessary rebuilding, have all increased. As the accounts must be made to balance, it has been necessary, with however great reluctance, to raise the fees of the students. In some cases that makes little difference. The holders of State scholarships are provided for completely, no matter what the fees may be. It is a change that falls most heavily on those parents who send their sons to universities without any assistance whatever. They have to pay what is, in itself, a very large sum, and which, when it is recognised what has to be earned to find that sum with Income Tax at the present level, is a very serious burden indeed on those families. Therefore, the question of any further contribution the Government can make which will enable the universities to keep fees within a reasonable limit must, of course, be very fully and very carefully considered.

Mr. Blackburn

Is the hon. Member in a position to enlighten us on this point? It is at the moment thought that Cambridge University has not taken the initiative at all in asking the University Grants Committee to include in their block grant some provision for maintenance grants to students as a whole. Therefore, the university which the hon. Gentleman represents is not taking any action at all in this vitally important matter.

Mr. Harris

That, of course, is a very arguable matter. I am not clear how far the University Grants Committee undertakes, or should undertake, to make grants for the maintenance of individual students. It seems to me that provision for individual students is better made, as it is being made now, from State scholarships and grants from local education authorities and so on. My information is that the work of the University Grants Committee consists, rather, in making provision for better scientific equipment, for better teaching facilities in universities, for the foundation of a chair in a particular subject, and so forth, and I am not at all convinced that the maintenance of individual students would be within its proper sphere. I say quite frankly that it is not a matter on which I am fully informed, bat I will certainly make inquiry into it.

When we consider a subject of this kind, it is inevitable that we should tend to take to some extent a utilitarian point of view. We recognise the need of this country for trained industrialists, technicians arid administrators. But let us not lose sight of the function of the universities in providing a humanistic training which will qualify men, not merely to be good engineers or good lawyers, but to be good citizens. After all, an education which teaches something of the democracy of ancient Athens is not a bad preparation for those who have to operate a democracy today. The study of ancient languages has its value, and the study of modern languages equally has something of a more than merely utilitarian value. When it comes to history and economics, the teaching on, these subjects is useful at least in the making of Members of Parliament, if for nothing else. That is one of the considerations which must be taken into account when this survey is made. There are the financial side and the question of the distribution of universities, their size and the content of their education. I cannot help feeling that the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester has done a good service in raising this question today, and I hope that this necessarily brief discussion will be only a prelude to a longer and wider Debate over a larger field.

3.52 p.m

Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)

Like most other hon Members, I am grateful to the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Captain Smith) for having raised this vitally important subject. We must all agree that the question of the universities and the right of access to them by those who are qualified to have such access, is something which touches the core of our democracy. If I do not follow the lion and gallant Gentleman in the major issues which he raised, it is merely in order to draw added attention to one particular aspect which I have wished to raise ever since I was an undergraduate. We all know that, particularly in the older universities, the undergraduate who comes from a workingclass family arrives at the university by a very long and arduous route. Humbert Wolff once referred to the "upward anguish" of the workingclass child who ultimately arrives at a university from a grammar or secondary school. We must recognise that, despite the many improvements which have been made to facilitate the journey from the elementary school to the university, the workingclass child still has an extremely difficult and painful task. He begins at an elementary school with access to a secondary school which is now much easier than it used to be. But when he arrives at a university, it is only by scraping together scholarships which, though enlarged during the last few years, are inadequate for him thoroughly to enjoy the opportunities, particularly those which the major universities can offer.

Every person who has been to Oxford or Cambridge is familiar with the hermit of the upper attics, the person who, having come from a secondary school, finds himself deprived, through lack of,funds, of the opportunity of taking part in the multifarious activities of a university. Such an undergraduate finds himself compelled to study unduly hard. I think we all agree that a university is not merely a place for concentrated study; it is a place for enjoying the amenities to which the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) referred. At a university, a person should have the opportunity of joining clubs and taking part in social life, associating with other persons in the university both as an economic and as a social equal. In short, I feel that we must achieve what was achieved in the Army during the war, namely, the democratisation of an organ of public life which is vital to the community.

In order to do that, in the past, we have given a secondary schoolboy or schoolgirl something of the nature of £230 a year with which to go up to Oxford or Cambridge, but I believe that there is a sort of means test after a schoolboy or schoolgirl obtains a State scholarship. If that sum, before the war, was inadequate to enable an undergraduate to take part fully in the life of the university, and was only enough for him to live on, to pay his fees and confine himself in his room, working hard and ultimately trying to get a first in tripos, then it is clearly not enough now. I suggest that the amount is increased by whatever agency it is, whether it is the University Grants Committee, the local authority, or the university itself by subvention in some form or another, so that the undergraduate may have something nearer to £260 which, at least, would be a reflection of the rise in the cost of living, and would give him a chance to take a greater part in the life of the university. Only the other day, I had a case in my constituency of a brilliant youth who has just won a scholarship to Cambridge. His mother is a waitress in a British Restaurant, and his father is unemployed. As a result of this youth obtaining a scholarship, the father's unemployment benefit is being reduced. I make serious complaint of that, although is it a matter not directly related to this discussion. If that boy is to reap the benefit of going to the university, and is not to emerge as some kind of babu clerk crammed with book learning, ultimately obtaining a degree, he must not be a burden on his parents. He must go there as an independent person who can pay his own way; thus, when he obtains his degree, he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he was no charge on his parents.

Whatever is the restriction on the number of people sent to the universities, it is our responsibility to see that they do not go there without the opportunity to live fully and freely. I believe in that way we shall really be able to have a democratic university system. I agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge University, when he said that a technical degree is not in itself a guarantee that the university has fulfilled its major purpose.

It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn." — [Captain Michael Stewart.]

Mr. Edelman

The major purpose of the university is to provide an education in living, and not merely an education in the application of tools. Although I think that the courses of our universities could be brought more in line with modera needs, and that technical education should be further developed and associated with the practice of industry through a link-up with industrial firms, or even with organs of the Government, I still believe that the basis of our education must remain classical and liberal. It is by a combination of this tradition of voluntary universities—and I agree that the voluntary quality of our universities is quite as important as that of our hospitals—associated with the benefits which the State can offer that we can achieve, in our own time, the fulfilment of that liberal and democratic education which was the aspiration of ancient Athens.

4.1 p.m.

Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)

I intervene only to congratulate the two hon. Members who raised this very important subject on the Motion for the Adjournment this afternoon. I should like to assure both hon. Members that on this side of the House there is a very large measure of sympathy for the proposals which have been suggested during the discussion. I apologise to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury because I did not realise that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was more responsible for the University Grants Committee than the Minister of Education. I should have been glad had the Minister of Education been on the Front Bench because this question of facilitating the march from the humblest state—if intellect and character justify—to the highest opportunity the nation can offer is something which concerns him even more than the Treasury.

I believe that the former Chancellor of the Exchequer made a very forward move in his provision to facilitate research and to release from the imposition of taxes certain contributions made to the development and expansion of university and technical school life, both in technology and on the humanistic side. This has been referred to by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Wilson Harris) and by the hon. Gentleman opposite. I think that as the result of the former Chancellor's action, which is supported by the present Chancellor, a very substantial contribution is now being made by the State to the realisation of that objective which we all have in view. We on this side of the House are largely in sympathy with the proposition made this afternoon by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and endorsed by the hon. Member for Cambridge University. I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary, in making representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, can say that he has the full sympathy of the House of Commons in every step that may be taken to develop and extend opportunity in this country to enable the humblest boy or girl in the land to achieve a high place in our educational system. It is a great pity that this subject has been brought forward on a Friday Adjournment. I wish we had had the Debate in a full House, for I am sure that the two speeches which have made so much impression upon me would have made the same impression on other hon. Members.

4.4 p.m.

Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)

The first point I wish to make is that nobody who has discussed the matter of technical education has, as far as I know, suggested at any stage that all education should he technical. No one has ever suggested that one should concentrate on science to the exclusion of any other branch of human knowledge, but I think it is generally agreed—and I hope it will be recorded by the Committee sitting on the matter—that it should be accepted as a principle by the Government that the number of technical and scientific graduates turned out by the universities should be doubled in the next 10 years.

Secondly, I should like to refer to the question of maintenance grants for students. As was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester (Captain C. Smith), to whom the House is so much indebted for raising this matter on the Adjournment, it is a fact that Manchester University has recently conducted a kind of poll of the people who are being educated there, and have produced what they describe as an intelligence quotient of their students. The inquiry has been conducted very carefully by properly qualified people, who have found that one half of the students at Manchester University have an intelligence quotient of 127 or more. This is the standard for a fairly good science degree. The number of young persons of this standard in the age group of the population as a whole is no less than six times as great as those at the universities. In other words we are succeeding in educating at the proper standard only one boy out of six throughout the country. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply will be good enough to give some indication of Government policy in this sense, and will say that the Ministry of Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who clearly have to work as a team in this matter, are prepared so to adjust the system of secondary school education, maintenance allowances and scholarships that a much larger proportion of the best children will be made available for uni-

versity education regardless of the means of their parents.

4.10 p.m.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)

I shall detain the House for only a few minutes, because I feel that some of the ground has been fairly adequately covered and that in the time at our disposal, we are not in a position really to deal with this subject adequately in every sense of the term. There are one or two points that might usefully be considered by the Government, and while thanking the hon. and gallant Member for Colchester (Captain C. Smith) for having raised the subject, I want also, if possible, to assist him in the appeal which he has made.

As we have heard, the University Grants Committee is in a position to recommend the extension of grants, and on the application of universities, which present their needs and requirements, together with details, they do in most cases consider the applications very favourably. It is, however, a fact that they cannot have before them the full picture of the requirements of the universities in so far as the general public might wish, and in so far as the population outside the immediate circle of the respective universities themselves would consider essential if sufficiently informed. Some little time ago, I raised the question whether there was any possibility of the House providing that the particulars of the grants for which the respective universities had applied could be examined by Members or by others with a view to seeing if the good sense and knowledge of the House and of the those outside the House could be utilised for the purpose of making suggestions to assist the universities in the conduct of their work and in the extension of their activities. It is unfortunate that these applications are treated as of a confidential nature and that even Members representing universities are unable to see such applications or to examine them in any way. I wonder whether some system could be devised whereby we could have an opportunity, either in some committee or in some other place, of seeing these very important details, so that we might possibly add our own contribution towards the advancement of the universities.

Dr. Morģan (Rochdale)

Could we ask that these accounts should be sent for examination to the Public Accounts Committee?

Mr. Janner

That might be one method, but I rather gather that the Public Accounts Committee check expenditure in order to reduce the same, rather than in the sense of creating new expenditure. In those circumstances, perhaps it would be hardly appropriate for the Public Accounts Committee to deal with a matter of this description. It might be that another committee more appropriate to the purpose could be found. This is where the difficulty arises no doubt with regard to the question of maintenance. I doubt whether any hon. Member knows whether any university has applied for maintenance grants. That they are essential, there is not the slightest doubt, but it is hardly fair that my hon. Friend who represents one university should be asked a question about this matter. First of all, I do not know whether he has access to the documents to be presented by his university—

Mr. Wilson Harris

The answer is in the negative. Moreover, I think the applications by the universities are not as definite as the hon. Member suggests The initiative lies much more with the University Grants Committee.

Mr. Blackburn

It was, in fact, recornmended in January, 1915. by a very important committee of the Royal Society that the procedure to which I have referred should be accepted, and it was recommended by them that the university should make application in that sense to the University Grants Committee.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

May I remind my hon. Friend that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an answer to him on 26th March, pointed out that the procedure is for the universities to put in statements of their estimated revenue and expenditure, and, in the light of these, and of the total resources at their disposal, the Committee fixes the grant.

Mr. Janner

I hope my hon. Friends will refrain from interrupting further, so that I may proceed with my remarks. What has been overlooked is that it is the universities themselves which make the respective applications individually and, consequently, even they cannot perhaps fully see the whole field of the activities which are essential for the purpose of promoting university education in the country. I agree too that the humanistic side is highly important, but we need advancement on the scientific side as rapidly as possible I think the community as a whole realises the importance of this, and is prepared to support that steps be taken in that direction. I hope that, in spite of the increased allowances which have been made to the universities, this will be kept in mind at the present time, and that the Government will assist to the fullest extent financially and otherwise in promoting that very important aspect of university education.

May I speak for a moment of the university college in my own constituency? Its history is typical of that of a number of provincial universities. The building of provincial universities and their general rise are often due to the benevolence and assistance of worthy citizens and the assistance they receive from the coffers of the town itself. Leicester stands high in this regard.

Take this University College. About £250,000 was contributed by the Leicester citizens, and, in addition, the college buildings and site, which are worth approximately £160,000, were given by the late Mr. Fielding Johnson. Then there was a grant of 1d. rate from the local authority. From 1918 to 1944, 110 application was made to the University Grants Committee, but in 1944 such an application was made. Whilst it is perfectly true that a fairly generous allowance was made by the Committee, the University College has before it in the near future a very large expenditure, for the college needs hostels, a union building, new equipment, more staff, more classrooms and the hundred and one things essential to make it fit the needs of a large industrial city like Leicester, a centre which requires not only a university college but, in my respectful submission, a full university. These needs are all essential and I have no doubt that in the near future applications will be made for the purpose of meeting these requirements.

There is one other point I should like to raise. Competition arises between the universities and industrial concerns for staffs. The universities must be placed in such a position that they can command the services of men and women of the highest and best scientific knowledge and experience in teaching. In order to do that, the universities must not be stinted or starved, but they must be given sufficient funds to enable them to pay proper and adequate salaries. By means of the services of these teachers we shall train the scientists, technologists and classical students who are best suited to the country. I hope that the Government will take full notice of the points raised and I am sure they will have the support in so doing of all parties in the House.

4.17 p.m.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

I hope to condense into two or three minutes a few remarks on this very interesting subject for the raising of which we are indebted to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester (Captain C. Smith). The universities of this country have had a long and honoured history and enjoy a very high reputation among academic institutions throughout the world, but they have become and to an increasing degree are becoming matters of national concern and national importance. Therefore, His Majesty's Government must show an increasing interest in them and take an increasing initiative in the lines of their future development and expansion. I want very briefly to focus the mind of the House on the point which was emphasised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Colchester, the necessity for devising appropriate machinery for dealing with this matter. The importance of the subject has been dealt with at length, but if one may crystallise it, there are two distinct aspects. On the scientific side, it is probably true to say that the economic and industrial future of this country in the next few years depends upon increased facilities being made available at the universities for scientific education and producing properly trained industrial leaders. As the Percy Committee reported: The position of Great Britain as a leading industrialist nation is being endangered by the failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry, and this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education. The other aspect is the cultural aspect. In my view thee conception of a Socialist community does not make sense without provision for greatly increased opportunities for university education for the young people of this country. The deficiency compared with other civilised countries is already very considerable.

That being the problem—on which we are all agreed—what is, if any, the machinery which exists to solve it? Whose responsibility is it to plan ahead in this matter? There is a division of function between the Ministry of Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The responsibility of the Ministry of Education for the educational system of the country stops short at the university stage. The Chancellor's function in regard to the universities seems to be merely to grant a sum of money. Quite rightly there is very little control over the administration by the universities of their affairs; they cherish their independence and autonomy and may it long be preserved. I hope that as a result of this Debate His Majesty's Government will devise better machinery, either by extending the functions of the Ministry of Education, or otherwise, to see that the initiative of extending university education is not left to the universities, but is assumed as a Government responsibility.

4.21 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Whiteley)

This Debate, raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Colchester (Captain C. Smith) has brought out so many important points that I am quite certain itneedsnot only one day's Debate but many days' Debate to find a system suitable for the needs of the day. There is the question of the shortage of personnel, as to whether the universities should be the key to supplying scientific, industrial, and all other avenues of manpower for the country. From that point of view I think it can be regarded as a very important matter for discussion on some future occasion.

As the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) said, it is really a matter of machinery. The position at the present time is that the financial provisions for the Universities are voted as a grant in aid, and this is paid into a deposit account and left entirely to the discretion of the University Grants Committee. During the war there has been an annual grant of £2,140,000 but of 13th February last the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) increased the sum available for recurrent grants to £5,650,000. As regards capital development, he himself accepted the estimate of the University Grants Committee and the Inter-Departmental Committee on Medical Schools. Now these estimates amounted to £28,750,000 at prewar prices. He recoģnised that a very substantial proportion of the money for capital development would have to be provided by the Exchequer but, as the war was then still in progress, only £250,000 was provided for capital grants in 1945. The total provided in 1945 was thus £5,900,000. On 21st February this year my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced that the sum to be provided for 1946 would be £9,450,000. That is made up as follows: There is the provision for recurrent grants, as promised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Scottish Universities, of £5,650,000. To this is added, for dental education, £100,000. The present year's grant will not be fully required, but to the extent to which it is not issued Parliament will be asked to re-vote it, to the sum of £1,200,000, and there is the provision for capital grants, £2,500,000 —a total of £9,450,000.

It is true that this is a question of machinery, and how best the machine can be fitted to meet modern conditions. Reference has been made from time to time to the new Education Act. That Act is for the purpose of giving every boy and girl the opportunity of a secondary education. Naturally if and when we are able to do that, we are bound to develop a system whereby there will be more calls on the universities in the future, because no one in these days will be anxious to reduce the number of students, or even to get back to the prewar figures. It is in the minds of everybody that the figures should go well beyond those of prewar days and increase the university population to a considerable extent. Here, again, one encounters the same difficulties as exist in other directions. Professors and lecturers are required, and there is a shortage of them. Until university accommodation is increased, and probably until our review is made of how we are to spread our university population in the future, and obtain the necessary manpower to deal with the students who will come along from time to time, these difficulties will continue and it will take some time to deal with them. It is one of those things that must be considered at the earliest moment, if we are to do what we have set out to do, for the young population of this country.

University education for all is an ideal, but we have a long way to go before we can get that. First, we want, while we are increasing the university population, to get into operation the machinery for ensuring that every boy and girl has an opportunity of the best secondary education that can be provided in this country. We must also keep in mind those students of high capacity and ability, who, because of want of means, might miss a real opportunity in this direction. Therefore, the development of scholarships in the future must be concentrated upon, in a far different sense from that in which it has been dealt in the past, in order to see that no boy or girl who has ability and capacity misses an opportunity, for want of the necessary money for university education.

Many other points have been raised of which I have notes. I will convey these to my right hon. Friend. I hope that as a result of this short Debate there may be opportunities in the future for further Debates on this important matter, and that we may be able to establish machinery that will give a real opportunity for an increase of our university population on right lines, with full opportunities for university life, so that they may become real citizens in the future.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-nine Minutes past Four o' Clock.