HC Deb 21 March 1962 vol 656 cc372-4
17. Mr. Hannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state for each of the last three years the number of senior secondary school pupils gaining leaving certificates with qualifications necessary for entry to the universities.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)

University entrance requirements involve a great many possible combinations of passes in particular subjects and groups of subjects and I regret that the information asked for cannot be obtained from the statistics of the Certificate Examination.

Mr. Hannan

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that the number of senior secondary pupils with qualifications for entry has been increasing for some years back? Is it not crass folly on the part of the Government to cut back on university expenditure at a time when the nation needs more engineers, scientists and teachers? In view of this, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to procure and obtain a fifth university in Scotland?

Mr. Brooman-White

I think that that goes a great deal wider than the original Question.

Mr. Rankin

The hon. Gentleman will get a chance in Question No. 40.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson

There is a great deal of public interest in this matter. Will not the hon. Gentleman try to make sure that he assesses which of the people have the requisite qualifications to obtain a certificate of fitness from the Universities Entrance Board, even if it takes a certain amount of work to do so? Would that not be worth while doing?

Mr. Brooman-White

I entirely agree. There are other Questions on the Order Paper relating to this point and we want all the relevant information we can get. It is simply a question of the best techniques of getting that information.

18. Mr. Hannan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will take steps to ensure that the statistical reports submitted to him under the Universities (Scotland) Act, 1889, contain details of the number of students with certificates of fitness who have been refused admission.

Mr. Brooman-White

I understand that the universities do not have this information, firstly because there are many duplicate applications, and secondly because special qualifications are required for each faculty and some applicants may be refused for lack of these before it is know whether they will get the certificate of fitness. But, as my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury indicated on 8th March, the question is being further examined.

Mr. Hannan

Is the Under-Secretary aware that there is a growing feeling throughout the country that there should be a greater measure of public accountability by the university authorities so that the community and Parliament are better able to assess the situation? Can he confirm that the Government themselves were not adequately informed more than a year ago when they embarked on the present quite inadequate programme of university building?

Mr. Brooman-White

University building is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as the hon. Gentleman knows. We are most anxious to get all the information we can with a bearing on the problem of university entrance.

Mr. G. M. Thomson

Is it not scandalous that the Minister should be seeking to plan senior secondary education without having any proper idea of the number of qualified pupils from Scottish schools able to obtain places in Scottish universities?

Mr. Brooman-White

As I said, in this extremely complex matter of qualifications and entrance requirements we are trying to clarify the position as far as we can.

Miss Herbison

Questions such as these have been asked for years. As so many young people who are fit to enter a university are being denied a place in a Scottish university, it is not good enough for the Under-Secretary to tell us that the Government are still making efforts to find out this information. When does he hope to have this information, which is of such great importance?

Mr. Brooman-White

If the hon. Lady will look at recent answers given by my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, she will see some of the steps which are being taken.

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