HC Deb 27 November 1962 vol 668 cc335-63

10.0 p.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

I beg to move. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the University and Other Awards Regulations 1962 (S.I., 1962, No. 1689), dated 1st August 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th August, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled. I must confess that the concluding words on education spoken in the previous debate very much tempt me to continue the previous debate, but unfortunately that would be out of order. I must, therefore, confine myself to one aspect of investment, but a very important one, namely, investment in people. The three sets of Regulations which I now move to annul are all concerned with grants to students—university students, students in other establishments—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady cannot move to annul more than one set of Regulations at once. If she so desires and the House wishes, it would be in order to discuss the other Regulations with this one— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the State Scholarships Amending Regulations 1962 (S.I. 1962, No. 1868), dated 22nd August 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th August, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled. That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Training of Teachers (Grant) Amending Regulations 1962 (S.I., 1962, No. 1867), dated 22nd August 1962, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th August, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled.

Mrs. White

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. It would be for the convenience of the House if we discussed all three together. You are quite correct to call me to order. However, all three sets of Regulations are concerned with grants to students, either in universities, other establishments of further education, or teacher training colleges.

We had very considerable discussion in Committee on the Education Bill last year. The Regulations which we are considering tonight arise directly out of it. I do not wish to go over too much of the ground again. I want tonight to make one or two points of general importance, and also to use this opportunity to mention one or two categories of students who, in our view, have been rather hard done by and for whom we think that better conditions are urgently required.

I want to deal with one group on which I should like to have the comments of the Minister. I have already raised this matter in correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary. I should like the Minister to assure the House that urgent attention will be given to the position of dental students. We all know the scandalous state of the school dental service. The Minister should take a special interest to ensure that nothing is done to deter those who might be concerned with entering upon a career in dentistry. At present the grants to these students for equipment are covered in Regulation 11 (1, f) of Statutory instrument 1689 of 1962. This allows only £15 once-for-all payment for equipment, the prices of which vary from one university establishment to another. I have four representative prices here—London, £97; Leeds, £129; Birmingham, £83; and Liverpool, £131. Towards this the student is offered a grant of no more than £15. It is true that some of the instruments will be of use to him in later professional life, but the investigations that have been made make it dear that the makers of these instruments reckon that the depreciation during the clinical years of training is of the order of 70 per cent., which means that a grant of at least £56 ought to be paid on the basis of depreciation towards the cost of these instruments.

The variation between different establishments is considerable. I have other figures here with which I do not propose to weary the House. All kinds of things are different from one place to another. In some universities laundry is provided free. In others a student has to pay for it himself, and so on and so forth. It appears to me that this has been dragging on for a long time. This is a relatively small but quite important body of students. I welcome this opportunity to draw the attention of the House to this anomaly, which should he looked at by the Minister and his Advisory Committee with some urgency.

There are several groups of students which we believe are not being fairly treated under the existing Regulations. During the Committee stage, we on this side very strongly urged that better arrangements ought to be made for students taking courses other than the straightforward university degree courses. The latter are properly covered in the Regulations, and we have no complaint to make about them, but there are many students who are taking courses that are not full degree courses. They may he taking diploma courses, post-graduate courses or post-graduate professional training.

I have had representations through the National Union of Students, and from other sources, that there is still a wide discrepancy in the treatment by local education authorities of students wishing to take courses in professional training following on a degree. There is no justice about the treatment. Whether these people get any award at all, and, if so, what amount, is completely haphazard as between one local education committee and another. We think that much firmer advice should be given by the Ministry to cover these students' needs.

I want also to draw attention to postgraduate work for students in arts subjects. As the Minister knows, the D.S.I.R. provides about 1,400 awards for science students, but for the arts subjects the Ministry itself awards a certain number of State studentships. I understand that these number no more than 275, and that for the last year for which we have records there were more than 700 applicants for those studentships. It is quite clear that the arts student trying to pursue post-graduate work is much less favourably placed for public awards than is the science student. What is even more worrying is that because there are these studentships, limited though the number may be, local education authorities are apt to say, particularly if they have already given a grant for first degree, "We have already helped you up to a point. If you are any good at all, you should be able to get one of the Ministry's State studentships."

The arts student seems to be put at a particular disadvantage here. The Ministry should either increase the number of studentships under its own aegis, or send much clearer and more emphatic advice to education authorities so that qualified students who are properly recommended by the academic authorities may obtain adequate help for the later stages of their career. Otherwise, we shall in many cases be frustrating the full value of the initial award for the first degree, because we are not enabling the student, if properly qualified to carry on. We are not at all satisfied with the provisions in these respects.

I know that several of my hon. Friends wish to speak about special categories, so I shall not attempt to carry further the difficulties encountered by different groups of students which, we believe, are not adequately provided for in the proposals, but I want to raise one matter which is of considerable importance, and on which, although it does not affect a very large number of students, I am getting an increasing amount of correspondence.

In the Regulations as framed, a student may not obtain any payment towards a spouse or dependent child unless the student satisfies the conditions in paragraph 12 of Statutory Instrument 1689. That makes it quite clear that a dependant's grant will not be made unless the student was married before the award was made and is over the age of 25, if a man, or 21, if a woman. For a man who normally shoulders family responsibilities the age is 25. Alternatively he should have regularly supported himself out of his earnings during the three years immediately preceding the year in which the course begins, towards which half of any period of national service may be counted. We must face the fact that social customs are rapidly changing and that the present tendency to early marriage affects men as well as women. Whether we like it or not, and whether or not we think it wise, the fact remains that people are marrying younger. We may say that it is unwise for anyone who is still a full-time student to undertake matrimony. The Minister of Education has managed to avoid the toils for nearly forty years and therefore he may be prejudiced against it, but whatever may be our private opinion about the wisdom of anyone in full-time education marrying, the fact remains that an increasing number are doing so. If they do so and if there should be a child of the marriage, the position is that unless they were married before the award was made, and unless they fulfil the other conditions I have mentioned, they can obtain no financial assistance if they come under these arrangements.

Certain universities, of which Cambridge is one, give mature student scholarships without bother at all about age, but under these Regulations unless students fulfil these conditions they can receive nothing. Nor are they entitled to National Assistance, because a student is one of the few persons who cannot obtain National Assistance. He is not available for work. The only condition under which he could obtain National assistance would be if he gave up his studies altogether.

It seems to me unrealistic to keep these two conditions, both the age of 25 and the fact that the student must be married before the award was made. It would be much more in line with modern conditions if the age were reduced to 23 for a man, even if the Government are not prepared to bring it down to 21 as it is already for women. I do not fully understand why it should be thought not disadvantageous for a woman to enter into family commitments at the age of 21 but, as it affects studies, it is for a man.

In any case, it seems to me that this matter should be looked at seriously again. We cannot amend these Regulations, but the number of cases being brought to my notice is increasing. Whether we like it or not, if this trend is now really well established it seems to me that we are not making things any better by saying to a man, "If you get married after the granting of an award that is too bad. That is your look out." We shall only put him in a position where his studies may suffer not so much by his marriage as by the financial worry and the endless trying to make ends meet that follow.

I have in my constituency a sandwich course student at a technical college who had no knowledge of the regulation that he had to have got married before the award was made. He married later and now has a child and is in the greatest possible financial difficulties. It may be said that he ought to have looked at the Regulations before deciding the date of his marriage, but he did not, and it does not seem to me that we serve any public purpose in making life more difficult for him than it otherwise would be. I feel strongly, therefore, that this is something which should be looked at with some care. The age of 25 and the insistence that marriage must take place before an award is made is unrealistic in present circumstances.

Although. these Regulations embody much more generous grants than previously obtained, which we freely admit, we ask, therefore, that these various points, and the points which I am sure my hon. Friends will wish to raise, shall be looked at so that in due course we shall have further amendments of the Regulations which will be more satisfactory to us.

10.15 p.m.

Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)

I welcome, even though I shall criticise, the University and Other Awards Regulations, the first of those which we are discussing tonight, and I thank the Minister for carrying out almost everything that his predecessors promised us during the Committee stage of the Education Act, 1962. I refer to his predecessors because I wish to pay a tribute to the former Minister of Education and his Parliamentary Secretary who were, with some others—for what purpose we do not even yet really know—recently butchered to make a Roman holiday. They were responsible for carrying on the negotiations with the local authorities which resulted in the Act which these Regulations tonight implement. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend served education faithfully. The Minister whom we all esteem tonight will agree, I am sure, that it is the fruit of their labour which he is explaining and defending to the House now.

I spoke of our being given almost everything. We failed in Committee to abolish the means test on university awards. That is regrettable, but we cannot fight that battle now over Regulations which the Minister is empowered to make under the Act. I only say that the new scales in these Regulations are a tremendous advance on the scales which have obtained hitherto. They will relieve many Parents of the financial burden of providing for their child's university education. Indeed, in every aspect, as one looks at the scales, the provision made for the second child at university and all the rest, one finds that they mark a real improvement and move towards the spirit of Anderson.

Let us remember, nevertheless, that, even if the full cost of a child's university education is met by the State, the university scholar does make a sacrifice. After a long time in grammar school, when he is not a wage-earner, he goes to the university, and even the new scales merely give him subsistence income. True, it is a much better one than ever before, but we are not yet as generous to the parents of university students as I should like us to be.

We failed in Committee to get every further education award into Section 1 of the Act, but I hope that the local authorities will be encouraged, when they study the Regulations, to accept their responsibilities under the permissive powers provided by Section 3 in exactly the same way as the Minister is exercising his powers under Section 1 and as the local authorities will have to exercise their powers in the matter of finance under that part of Section 1 in which they have the option of providing a number of extra places.

These Regulations apply only to university courses in the United Kingdom. Here again, we failed to persuade the Minister to widen the scope of his compulsory grants to cover European and world universities. However, under Section 1 of the Act, which is referred to in the Explanatory Note, there is a permissive power for local authorities to include courses other than those specified in Regulation 3. The Explanatory Note tells us that these Regulations, apart from Nos. 4 and 5, which are mere details, apply to such awards also.

I hope that the local authorities which, although they are not compelled to include universities other than United Kingdom universities, are permitted under Section 1 to do so, will interpret this power in the light of Anderson and our discussions in Committee, occasionally making such grants as we are discussing tonight to students who take their first degree courses in universities other than British universities. I believe that the day will come when all students of foreign languages will take their first degree in the appropriate foreign universities, and I hope that we shall begin to prepare for that.

I have been asked to raise a serious point about Regulation 9. Incidentally, I have been asked to do so by the National Union of Students, of which I am proud to be a vice-president. It provides that a student's award shall include, among other things, the various fees which he has to pay, his subscription to his students' union or to his junior common room, if such subscription is obligatory, as most of them are.

The president of the Durham University Union has been to see me and my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) today, and he tells me that the amount paid under this heading has been fixed by whom neither he nor the National Union of Students knows at least for some universities, including Durham University, whereas increases in the fees for membership of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions have been permitted in the grants made to university students of those universities. Some other universities and certainly his own University of Durham have not been permitted to raise their union dues, or if such a university does raise them any extra amount will have to be provided by the students themselves. I am quite sure that there is some mistake here, possibly some error of interpretation by Durham University itself.

I understand that the National Union of Students has taken up this matter and failed to get any satisfaction. Durham University has a flourishing union, an active union, one of the keenest in the country, it is cramped for funds, and so far the freezing of the amount permitted under this Section has jeopardised the expansion of the university union's work.

I do not expect an immediate answer on this question, but I hope that the Minister will look into the point that there shall be no freezing of union dues. It may be that some escape the freeze just as some people escape the wage freeze when claims for wages were being made. I do not think that I need to argue the case for parity as between university and university and union and union.

I come to the most serious point. I am very troubled about Regulation 17. This gives a student who is a member of a religious order a payment of £30 per annum for books, a payment to cover travel, a payment for medical or dental apparatus if he is at medical or dental school, payment of his tuition fees and of various fees listed under Regulation 9, but gives him nothing at all for maintenance. The Minister will remember that some of us, including my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), approached him with members of the Catholic community and also on behalf of the National Union of Students, pointing out the unjust discrimination occurring up to the moment against such students. The Minister received us very sympathetically, but unless I misread Regulation 17 he has conceded very little indeed, if anything.

Indeed, the position under these Regulations seems to be worse than I had imagined in that if anyone who is a member of a religious order goes to any university, although he has to be qualified under Regulation 3, to pursue a full-time course as designated under the First Schedule for a university degree, a diploma in technology, or for all the courses listed in subsection (4) of the First Schedule—architecture, chemistry, pharmacy, optics, art and music—he receives no payment whatever for maintenance if he is a member of a religious order. If I am right, this seems to me grossly unjust.

I know that many of these religious orders are avowed to poverty, but even if they are poor they have to live and exist. The financial responsibility which we take entirely from the shoulders of many parents who wish to send their children to university and from all parents to some extent we thrust on the shoulders of some merely because of their deep religious faith and passionately held convictions. Somebody must feed them. We are placing this full responsibility on the religious order to which they belong which we do not place on the shoulders of the parents of other children. They are entitled to be treated like any other university student. I am dismayed to find that they are the subject of a separate Regulation and, as I interpret it, a very ungenerous one. I should have thought that we had long since passed the days of religious tests for State aid to university students. I hope that I am mistaken and that somewhere in these Regulations these Catholic, and, indeed, some Anglican, men and women are covered in some other way. If not, I urge the Minister with all the force that I can to think about this matter again.

Regulation 15 exempts from parental contribution the student who has previously earned his living for three years before going to university and who is 25 if a man or 21 if an unmarried woman or a married woman. As a lifelong feminist, I object to these disparities which make no sense to anyone who believes in equality of the sexes.

For a man, National Service counts only half time towards the three years' independence which he must have in order to entitle him to be independent of his parents. I ask the Minister why we should distinguish between National Service and other forms of work. The conscientious objector who does other kinds of work alternative to National Service is able to count those two years as two full years of independence, but the National Service man who has, perhaps, risked his life for his country during those two years can count them only as one year.

This is not the only instance in which we seem to penalise people who at least have been decent enough to serve their country. We still penalise some ex-Service teachers of the First World War when calculating their superannuation.

If the argument is that a man doing his National Service is not self-supporting and that he has to be subsidised by his parents during National Service, that is a condemnation of what we pay to the National Service man who gives two years of his life in the defence of Britain.

I hope that the Minister will consider this matter seriously. It seems almost an insult to the National Service man to put in a special category his two years' work in the Army, work which matches any other kind of work done by any other young man in civvy street, and then count it only as half.

If it were not for the many excellent features in the Regulations, the defects about which I have spoken would make me almost inclined to vote against them. I hope that the Minister will be able to "shoot me down" on some of them. If he cannot, I trust that he will undertake to look again at some of the points that I have raised. It is a pity to spoil a ship for a ha-porth of tar, but that is what the Minister seems to be doing. Training college students are now starting a regular three-year course. Anyone who believes in education, as the Minister and, indeed, everyone present for this debate tonight believes in it, must believe that we must march towards parity between the training colleges and the universities, particularly as the training colleges now do as their main course what is the minimum course for a first degree.

There are no first- or second-class citizens in further education. I hope that the Minister, having introduced these Regulations, will turn his attention to the parallel legislation which governs training college students and see that in every way they march in step with their brothers in the universities concerning the awards and the various supplements that we give to them.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I congratulate my hon. Friends upon taking steps to have these Regulations discussed. I wish to raise one or two matters on 1689—not the Bill of Rights, but Statutory Instrument 1689, The University and Other Awards Regulations. I must first declare an interest. As the father of two sons who are at present at university, I suppose that I should derive some modest benefit from the Regulations, for which I thank the Minister on behalf of hard-pressed parents. I naturally, therefore, welcome those parts of the Regulations which will be of benefit in relieving their burden.

Not out of personal interest, but on principle, I hope that these Regulations are a step towards establishing the financial independence of all students in higher education. In that matter, I agree with one of my hon. Friends that this is a modest step forward. I hope, however, that it is a step forward to recognising, not mainly for the financial benefit of parents, but for the sake of the dignity of students, that we ought to move towards establishing their financial independence, not giving extravagant grants from the State, not even giving generous grants from the State, but giving adequate grants from the State, taking into account students' capacity to earn, so as to enable them to be able to conduct their lives in higher education on a basis of independence as adults with an adult sense of responsibility, which is what they really are.

My reason for speaking tonight is on behalf of those who will not benefit from the Regulations. Statutory Instrument No. 1689 lays down, in Regulation 3, that The educational qualifications requisite for an award in respect of any designated course shall be any of the following—(a) passes at advanced level in two subjects in the General Certificate of Education examination". The main people whom we should have in mind are the more than 5,000 potential students who are rightly suffering from a deep sense of frustration, who ought to be eligible—one could say, who are eligible—for an award under the Regulations, but who, unfortunately, in this academic year, will be unable to benefit from the Regulations because the Government have not provided a policy that enables them to get a place at universities.

I hope that the Minister has read the ably-produced report of the Association of University Teachers, on which I base my remarks. That report, which inevitably is a limited survey of the position this year about university students and their awards, is based on replies from 1,362 out of 2,400 schools who were circulated. It certainly covers a fairly large sample. It shows a welcome response to the official calls for more pupils, and also for more parents to take an interest in their children going forward through the sixth form to higher education and applying for university and other courses.

Unfortunately, it also shows that 5,289 boys and girls this year, who had passes in Advanced level in two subjects in the G.C.E. examination, making them eligible for awards under these Regulations, will be frustrated from applying for such benefits because they have been unable to find places. They form 26 per cent. of all those who are trying to get into university and, my goodness, we want more of them to be able to do so.

According to the Association, out of these 5,289 young people, about 2,400 at least had passed very well in one or more subjects in the G.C.E. Advanced level, were at least 10 per cent. above the pass mark and were, therefore, entitled to expect to get both a university place and a university award under the benefits given by these Regulations.

But 10 per cent. of the boys and 15 per cent. of the girls with more than the minimum qualifications required have been unable to find places in universities or schools of higher education because the Government have cut the number of places. We all know the reason. The Government some months ago imposed a cut on university finance, which caused the universities to reduce their intake in this academic year.

We have to face the fact that, in the next academic year, many of these students, not having been driven completely to despair of the possibility of getting in, may form themselves into a queue in the competition for places and awards then. Thus there is a possibility of there being an even deeper frustration next year as an even higher proportion of those eligible are denied places by a Government who have reduced drastically the expansion of places.

The Minister of Education (Sir Edward Boyle) indicated dissent.

Mr. Swingler

I hope the right hon. Gentleman is not querying the point. He may provoke me to quote figures concerning Keele University in my constituency, showing that the Government's policy has had the effect of drastically reducing the expansion of places.

If it is, therefore, the aim of these Regulations, as apparently it is, to encourage more pupils to stay on at school in order to try to get university places, and to encourage parents in turn to encourage their children to do so, it cannot be fulfilled unless, comparably, the Government provide the resources to accelerate the expansion of places in higher education, so that we get, in the next five or ten years, the increasing numbers of university and technical college trained young people we need.

We welcome many parts of these Regulations. I support also the criticisms my hon. Friends have made of many of their defects and shortcomings. But their basic purpose will be frustrated unless the Government are willing immediately to review their policy on the provision of finance to universities in order to provide the places that are necessary for students who can fulfil the basic entrance qualifications.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

I should like to support my hon. Friend in his criticism of the Government for their restriction of the number of university places in view of the increasing numbers that are passing through the grammar schools and demanding entrance. It certainly will, I think, be ironical for students to read these Regulations which provide the conditions under which they can apply for grants when they cannot get the places for which to use the grants.

However, I wish to refer to three matters, but, first, I should like also to support my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) in her plea for the married student who happened to make the mistake of getting married either too young or after he had acquired the award. I do not think that this really takes account of the changing social habits, and I think that when Governments or society fly in the face of known biological or social trends they invariably come to grief. They will not prevent a student marrying but will only, as my hon. Friend said, cause a great deal of anguish and a great loss of intellectual effort and intellectual achievement.

I want to refer, however, to the growing problem which I think will have to be faced by the Ministry and the education authorities in the case of the college of advanced technology students, those students who are taking sandwich courses either at colleges of advanced technology or other colleges. As the Minister knows, the total number of these students is now, as in the last year or two, rising very steadily. The number of first-year students is now 2,360.

When this award was introduced and the sandwich courses were encouraged, particularly in the colleges of advanced technology, there is no doubt that the policy was a piece of Ministerial expediency. It was expected that the students would follow the pattern of technical college students in the past, who were mostly technical students or one-day release students, whose courses were paid for by their firms. It was anticipated that the firms would continue to pay for students now at a professional level working at sandwich courses and that the students would be works-based, that is to say, they would, first of all, he employees or apprentices of the firms and then, if they had the appropriate qualifications in A level passes or the ordinary national certificate, the firms would send them to the college of advanced technology and would pay their fees as well as their wages during the industrial period.

Right from the beginning a high proportion of students taking these sandwich courses were not works-based students but college-based students, that is to say, the students at the colleges had to find a firm to take them. The proportion of work-based students was higher in engineering—more than 50 per cent.—but in applied science and technology there were frequently more college-based students.

It was quite obvious to anybody who looked at the problem that with the growth of numbers we should come to the end of firms who were able or willing to pay for works-based students. The result is that an increasing number of new students are college-based students. Quite rightly, the Ministry has provided that local education authorities should give grants to these college-based students equally as to those who go to university.

What has happened? Quite naturally, the large firms—I know two or three who have done this already and one is a nationalised concern—who have in the past supported works-based students, have now said to those students, "Look here, these other firms are not paying the students and we do not see why we should. You go to the college and to the local education authority and get a grant and you can come back and work herein your work period." That practice is growing very rapidly, indeed.

I draw the Minister's attention to this because it means that the number of grants which will have to be provided by the local education authorities for diploma in technology students will rise very rapidly indeed, more rapidly than expected, and I want him to assure us that the local education authorities will get 100 per cent. recompense from the Minister in these cases, as I think has been promised. That is extremely important, because local authorities cannot afford any increased educational burden. Already, as the Minister knows, there are substantial pressures to reduce education rates and put more of the burden on the national Exchequer, and I want an assurance that the Ministry will pay the full value of the increase in grant which will face local authorities because of the growth in the number of students.

This is an issue of the utmost importance. We want to encourage the growth in the number of these students. The growth has begun, but the number has not nearly reached the figure which the Minister originally planned for diploma in technology students and there must not be any deterioration because in future the number of works-based students falls, not only relatively, but absolutely as more and more firms realise what is taking place.

I want briefly to refer to one other matter which my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East mentioned in passing, and that is the matter of postgraduate awards. As I understand it, under these Regulations local education authorities will not even have a discretionary power to make a grant for a post-graduate award, or far postgraduate professional training. I am not sure about this. The Minister has power under the Act to make such grants and in the case of the sciences and technologies grants are made by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, although they are quite inadequate.

However, in a number of scientific subjects, particularly the applied sciences and technology, it is increasingly being recognised that the three-year course is insufficient and that what can be done in the first three years is to give, as it were, merely the scientific basis of the technology or profession and that another year is needed for the specialisation which the engineer or applied scientist is to practise, and that a fourth year course, probably a master's degree course, is not very different from a four-year first degree, if we consider, as we have always considered in this country, that professional training is taken at the university by means of a first degree. In other countries, notably the United States of America, this graduate award, as it would be called, is given to those who follow up their initial education by a professional university education.

With the growth of highly specialised technologies, we will have to consider this question of awards for post-graduate work—not for any very advanced research work or anything like that, but merely for a year in a speciality, particularly engineering. Staffs and professors in universities now complain that half and even more than half of the post-graduate students in their departments are foreign students—and I know that to be true in some cases—because not sufficient British students can afford to take the courses. If they are to become increasingly important courses, they must always be considered as a continuation of the first degree and not as some very advanced degree or some sort of research work.

This is obviously a matter which will become of increasing importance and I cannot see that the present regulations will permit local education authorities to have even a discretionary power to make awards of this kind. I do not know what the Minister intends to do with his own powers, but I hope that he will be able to tell us the answers to some of the problems which we have raised tonight.

10.50 p.m.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

These Regulations are a great move forward, the greatest since the raising of the school-leaving age to fifteen under the Education Act, 1944, for they make the university ladder so wide as almost to give equality of opportunity throughout the education system. But having said that, I should add that it ought to be accompanied by raising the school-leaving age to 16 and corresponding regulations for compulsory day release.

I am aware that to discuss this would be out of order, but the background of this should ensure that within these Regulations the "boat missers", the people who because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler) said, have not been able to take advantage of the Regulations at this stage, that is, they have their two G.C.E. "A" levels but cannot get into a university, ought to be supported in some other way, some unorthodox way, especially if at a later stage they try to come back into the general swim of things. In the same way, people who are a good deal older—35 to 40—who work in their own time to get the minimum qualifications ought to have the Regulations made as easy for them as for the sixth former. I therefore want to address my remarks to designated courses, Regulation 2, and the accompanying Circular No. 9 of 1962 which went with it. It seems to me that Schedule 1 is drawn much too tightly. In the Committee we discussed Trinity College, Dublin. I cannot see why it should not be in the list of designated courses. I cannot see why all the Commonwealth universities should not be in this list. It is not quite the point that was made in Committee, because the Ministry then objected that if it listed every university which was acceptable it would be invidious and it would be necessary to make unpleasant distinctions between some American Universities and others. But I think that every Commonwealth university, since many of the new ones have been established by this country, could be within the scope of the Schedule 1 Regulation. This would establish a very good principle. I think that if we entered the Common Market every university in Common Market countries would have to be included in this list, but at the moment I should have thought there was no reason in principle why this should not be so.

I find it anomalous that there is no reference to the Bar examination. Do I take it that the Ministry of Education has some objection to the system of education provided by the Inns of Court? The late Lard Dalton, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, abolished the Government tax on registration for the Bar. It has always been very difficult for grammar school students to qualify at the Bar. In addition, there have always been the mediæval financing obstacles which are less now but which are still there, plus the fact that having qualified there is a long waiting time before a young person can earn his living. It seems that this is a great anomaly, the sort of thing which ought to be guarded against. Here is a quite easy thing to add to the list. It says that at a later date the current list will be extended. Why not add the Bar examination students registered with the Inns of Court?

Page 3 of Circular No. 9 of 1962 says that qualified teachers who wish to improve their qualifications by taking a designated course will be able to do so under the local authority regulations, but not compulsorily as in Regulation 2. Again I cannot see why, especially in the present situation, if a teacher, especially a two-year trained teacher, who wishes to complete a degree course, having got the two A levels should not be treated in the same way as any other student.

I raised this point during the Adjournment debate at the end of the last Session, and I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary gave me an assurance that teachers who had received grants for teacher training would not be barred from being able to receive grants for the completion of a university degree.

Under this regulation they are not barred. A local authority can make a discretionary grant. But I cannot see why the teacher should not be included in the designated courses under Schedule 1 and the award given to a teacher as of right. It would do a great amount to improve the morale of the teaching profession and towards advancing us to the day when that profession is much closer to being a graduate profession.

Again, there seems to be an anomaly under Regulation 3—"Educational qualifications". Under the old type of university admission somebody who has qualified for the intermediate external degree at London University, and possibly other universities, and who has tour subjects at intermediate level but not two subjects at the higher school level, as in Regulation 3 (d). could be regarded as qualified. Is this no longer to be so? If, under the old regulations, somebody has completed an intermediate B.A., will that be regarded as such other educational qualifications as the Minister may from time to time specify under this regulation under sub-paragraph (h)?

What will be the position of the student taking a correspondence course and getting two A levels by working at home, and who is refused admission to a university because of the present pressure? Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that he is eligible for maintenance, working for a London external degree but in his own home? It would seem to be reasonable and just that if a person has two A levels and wishes to get an external degree by working on his own, full-time, he should have the same award of the maintenance allowances as he would if he went to the university.

The Ministry of Education must consider this matter, and also the other matter of the students who have tried to get into a university and failed, because of the pressure, but are as virtuous characters, from the academic point of view, as the young boy or girl who goes straight up from school.

I now turn to Regulation 12, referring to dependants. It seems quite wrong that there should be a discrimination, running through all the Government scales and grants, between the first, second and third children. I know that second and third children are supposed to inherit the clothes of the first child, but we are passing out of the age when this sort of discrimination should exist, and I take strong exception to the fact that the grant is to be £60 for the first child, £40 for the second and £35 for each further dependent child. Equally, the allowance of £55 under sub-paragraph (e) is quite insufficient for an older married person with children, who perhaps lives in a new town and pays a rent which is very much higher than that.

Regulation 14 (2, c) refers to work done in vacations. I am not at all happy about exempting from the means test remuneration for work done in the vacations. There should be a limit on the amount of such work, in the students' own interests. I do not suppose that many of them need such protection, but some do, and some students certainly spend too much time in the vacations in working purely for financial reasons. The vacations should be used for private work. A lot of rubbish is talked about university students working in canning factories, and so getting experience of the hard, wide world, which makes them better students. A limited amount of that is all right, but there should be a financial limit on it, to prevent abuse.

Under Schedule 1, relating to designated courses, I believe that it is contemplated that the Royal Naval College, and possibly other Service colleges, will be able to admit non-Service people. I do not know whether this has reached the stage at which it is a practical proposition, but it should be considered. If there are vacancies at the naval college or the engineering college at Devonport or similar places, then it is right that they should be taken by nonmilitary people. If this is so, I ask that these should be added to the designated list of courses so that this is an open door for engineering students, too.

By the same token, it seems to me wrong to exclude from the list of designated courses the adult education colleges, although we failed to have this included in the Act. It would be easy to list them. If they are listed and if we made acceptance at a college a reasonable qualification for grant, there could be no abuse.

11.1 p.m.

The Minister of Education (Sir Edward Boyle)

May I begin by thanking hon. Members for the tributes to my predecessor and the previous Parliamentary Secretary, which were well deserved. It so happens that in my former activity as Financial Secretary to the Treasury I was fairly intimately engaged in the discussions leading up to the 1962 Act, and, having read the debates of that time, I congratulate hon. Members opposite on the skill with which they have managed to raise in a debate of an hour all the points which were raised during eight days of Standing Committee on that Act. I cannot answer all the points which have been made, but I will answer some and will look through the report of the debate to see whether there are any further points which I can answer later.

I think that on the whole the new rates of grant and these new Regulations have been reasonably well received. They will increase the total expenditure on university and comparable grants and on those for training college students by 15 per cent. No individual rate was increased by less than 10 per cent. But it is not only the amount of money involved, which is important, and the general increase in cost; in addition, there are a number of important new features which give greater flexibility and show greater awareness of individual need, and before I answer hon. Members opposite I want to point out three or four features which seem to me important.

First, there are new weekly allowances payable in addition to the basic period of 30 weeks, or 25 weeks at Oxford and Cambridge, which take account of extra weeks of study and field work in the vacation. Secondly, those whose terms last longer get a similar increase. This benefits, in particular, training college students—35 weeks—and technical college students—36 weeks. Previously these latter received the same grant as university students, although they had to keep themselves for six weeks longer. This equality between all these various types of student was an important issue in the debates during the passage of the 1962 Act. Thirdly, similar additional payments are now made in cases of hardship to free students who are in a difficult financial position from the need to take up casual employment in the vacation at the expense of their studies.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) complained about Regulation 14 (2, c) and said that there ought to be a limit on the extent to which we disregard work in the vacation. Apart from anything else, there is a practical difficulty; I refer to the difficulty of policing the earnings from vacation work. The hon. Member will appreciate that in practice this difficulty is considerable, and we have to consider that practical aspect.

A special allowance is paid for mature students, for example to help those who return to technical teacher training from industry and so have higher financial and domestic commitments. They also benefit from the bigger dependants' allowances. I hope that in all these ways these new grants and the new grant regulations will take more account of individual needs.

I am not going to debate university expansion with the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler). I had my say on this subject in a debate last April. It does not fall within my direct responsibilities now. However, I think that this would be generally accepted by the House. Whatever the future of full-time higher education in this country, it is clear that universities, colleges of advanced technology, regional technical colleges, and teacher training colleges all have their parts to play. We are seeing already a growing tendency to an overlap of standards between these various types of institution. These grant Regulations which we are rightly discussing this evening recognise the extent to which one must look at our system of full-time higher education as a whole. We have always had the tradition of a very much more highly articulated system than other countries. It still is a more highly articulated system, but it was certainly clear to all of us who took part in the discussions leading up to the 1962 Act that one had to look at the system as a whole and look at the needs of all kinds of students today who are receiving full-time higher education.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) raised the question of medical and dental students. She has already expressed her concern to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary about the cost of special instruments for dental students. At present dental and medical students can claim up to £15 extra. The annual maintenance grant contains an element for ordinary instruments and materials, together with books, of £30. They can get £15 above this. My Department is at the moment conducting a survey of what I might call special needs of this kind. I am perfectly prepared to look at this matter.

The hon. Member for Southampton, lichen (Dr. King) raised the question of grants for members of religious orders. The hon. Member and a number of other right hon. and hon. Members came to see me about this matter and put some proposals to me. I said that I would examine the question. It is a more complicated question than some people, including myself, realised at first sight, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I still have it in mind. I am examining it. I have not overlooked it. It was necessary to produce these Regulations at the start of this term. I am sorry that I was not able to come to a final conclusion before the Regulations were published, but I still have this question very much in mind.

The hon. Gentleman also raised the question of designated courses. This is another matter which raises a number of questions, but I can give him an assurance that any case that is put forward on these lines will be examined carefully on its merits.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East and the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) raised the question of postgraduate awards, which I agree is a point of some importance. The Ministry and the D.S.I.R. cover the field of research in the arts and sciences respectively with studentships whose value has risen appreciably. The new rate applicable wherever it is held is now £450, or £340 for those living at home. The number of these studentships is greater on the science side, as the needs there are different. Roughly speaking, one can say that our State studentship scheme is meant to produce university teachers, while D.S.I.R. is interested in the spread of research, and training in research, as well. We are reconsidering the number of these studentships that we grant ourselves. Further, my Department is meeting the local authority associations only this week to see what can be done about their part in the postgraduate field. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is an important matter. I think this is the very last matter I found myself discussing with him in the House the night before I went to my present office, so I can assure him that I shall not overlook it.

The hon. Member for Edmonton asked about sandwich courses. I am not quite sure that I got the point correctly, but if I did the answer is this. When sandwich students are doing that part of their sandwich course in the colleges of advanced technology, if the firm is not paying for them it is the responsibility of the local authority to do so. I want to make that perfectly clear.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East then raised the familiar question—I am sorry that I am not taking this in exactly chronological order, but I am trying to deal with some of the points—that our insistence that a student, whatever his age, must be married before the course begins is arbitrary and unfair. I hope that I am not in any way an antifeminist, but all I can say is that the line the Government take is the same line as is taken by the Anderson Report. We have always taken the view that a student should not, as it were, just be able to marry during his course at the taxpayers' expense. I recognise that, at the margin, this may give rise to some hardship but, on the whole, I think that there is a good deal of ground for the present view.

On the post-graduate course, we take a different line. On the arts side, of course, the post-graduate course usually follows on the first degree course, and I feel that we could hardly refuse to acknowledge a marriage for another two or three years. Therefore, in the case of those arts students, we pay dependants' grant at age 25, irrespective of when marriage takes place.

The hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East raised the question of sandwich-course students who married after starting the course and did not understand the Regulations. I have had that looked up and, in fact, find that the point about not being eligible for a marriage grant if the marriage takes place after the start of the course is on the form that the student receives for his application for grant, so I think that any student could reasonably be expected to know about that.

The hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen referred to a point put to him by the National Union of Students on Regulation 9. Incidentally, I had myself the great pleasure of speaking at the National Union of Students annual dinner the other night. I then apologised, and I repeat the apology now, about the late payment of some grants this year. But on this other point I am puzzled, because Regulation 9 (g) refers to … subscriptions to students' unions, amalgamated clubs and junior common rooms, membership of which is obligatory. I know of absolutely no reason for discriminating here between one university and another, and if the hon. Member would like to send me further particulars I will be only too pleased to have the matter investigated. To the best of my knowledge, there is no reason at all for making any discrimination between one university and another under these Regulations.

The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked about Trinity College, Dublin. The answer there is that Trinity College ranks as overseas, and local education authorities in this country have a discretion, though not a duty, to pay grant for a course at Dublin or anywhere else under Section 2 (2) of the 1962 Education Act.

I think that the only other point to which I have to reply tonight is to say to the hon. Member for Itchen that I fully understand the views expressed in Committee about the difference between Sections 1 and 2 of the 1962 Act. I do not want to cover that ground again now, except to say that I think that the really important point now is that the Regulations do, broadly, carry out—fairly, I think—what was said by my predecessor during the debates on the 1962 Act in that the teacher-training awards are identical with university grants.

While I am sure that we can all think of good and reasonable ways of spending more money under the Regulations, and for doing still more for individual students, I think that the House will agree that the Regulations do mark an epoch, in the important respect that as we go into the 'sixties we fully recognise, as a House of Commons, that the system of university awards must not only avoid gross inequalities as between students in one local education authority area and another, but that it must be a system which fairly covers the whole range of full-time institutions of higher education. From that point of view, at any rate, I hope that we have laid the basis of a system which will stand the test for many years to come.

Dr. King

Would the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point I made about National Service?

Sir E. Boyle

I remember that the hon. Member raised a point about one of the Regulations. I am told that Regulation 15 as it concerns National Service directly follows precisely the recommendation in paragraph 260 of the Anderson Report.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Wiley (Sunderland, North)

I am sure that the House is greatly obliged to the Minister for his reply. I was a little concerned to hear of the part he played in connection with the Education Act, 1962. Most of us suspected at the time that the Treasury had too powerful a voice, but the right hon. Gentleman seems transformed in his new office and I hope that he will vigorously resist pressures upon him that will be exercised now by his former Department.

I should like to refer to one omission in the debate. It is rather odd that no one spoke of the Standing Advisory Committee. I wish its members all strength in their work and I hope that they will set a pattern to these Regulations. As to the two major themes of today's debate, this is not the occasion on which we can deploy arguments adequately but I emphasise that we do not accept the present parental contributions and we are concerned about the disparity between the number of students qualifying for university education and those who will enjoy it. This will become an aggravating problem over the next few years and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider two factors which are now arising.

One is that we should have a much greater concern now about the criteria which are effective in the selection for university education. We recognise the autonomy of the universities and that they are selecting from a large number of students who patently have the qualifications for university education, but we should like to hear more about the criteria of selection. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will help us in determining what they are.

Another factor to which the right hon. Gentleman should pay serious attention is the rapidly changing pattern of the sixth forms. In effect we are now getting substantially three-year sixth forms. I do not express any opinion as to whether this is desirable or not, but this fact should be considered because it is the result of present conditions. I was delighted, as I am sure was the House, to hear the right hon. Gentleman's expression about the desirability of more broadly treating higher education as a whole. Again recognising the autonomy of educational institutions, I hope that we shall pay more considered attention to the social amenities provided in different institutions. We were dealing with a composite subscription and that sort of thing, and it is remarkable that there is a marked distinction between the different universities and the provisions which they make.

I have mentioned the Standing Advisory Committee which I regard as of great importance in this context. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind two things which have come out of the debate. He mentioned flexibility. I know the difficulties, but he should seek to provide more flexibility and the exercising of discretion, because in the application of Regulations like these there is need to avoid personal hardship.

I hope also that we shall have not merely annual Regulations but, where necessary, amending Regulations. I know that grants and awards are made annually, but anomalies have been mentioned in the debate and it is important to know well in advance whether changes are to be made, for instance, where we are dealing with the question of the institutions at which the awards would be applicable. If the Minister is advised that an anomaly should be ended, I would welcome it if, instead of waiting for the issue of the subsequent annual Regulations, we had amending Regulations so that the student who is considering taking higher education should know what the provisions would be.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind these points, because they were emphasised in tonight's debate. He should try to devise within the Regulations some exercise of discretion. He should be reinforced in this by the fact that the Standing Advisory Committee is there to help him. Secondly, if changes are to be made, they should be made well in advance. The students who are looking forward to taking advantage of these awards next year are already submitting their applications and they wish to know whether Trinity, Dublin, might be in a different category to that which it enjoys today.

Having said that, I again thank the Minister for the care he has taken in replying to the debate. The Minister having expressed the view that he is keeping these matters under review, I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to rest satisfied and advise us to withdraw the Prayer without a Division and that the Minister will bear in mind all the points which have been raised tonight.

11.21 p.m.

Sir E. Boyle

I should like to make one remark in view of what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has said. I echo what he said in his tribute to the Standing Advisory Committee on Grants to Students. I should have said that in my opening remarks. I pay tribute to the work of the Committee, whose advice lay behind many of the changes to which I have referred and who advised upon the designation of courses and on A-level equivalence.

The hon. Member for Sunderland, North, raised two highly important questions: the machinery of selection for universities and sixth-form studies. There are a number of opportunities in the Session, if hon. Members choose to take them, for discussing educational matters and I shall be pleased rather than sorry if, when we debate education, we cover a slightly wider curriculum this Session than we have always done in the past.

Mrs. White

In view of the assurances given by the Minister that he will look at a number of the points which have been raised in the debate tonight, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

Is it desired to move either of the next two Motions?

Mrs. White

No, thank you, Mr. Speaker.