HC Deb 24 June 1965 vol 714 cc1930-2
26. Mr. Hamling

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will take steps to make regional colleges independent of local education authorities.

Mr. Crosland

No, Sir. As my hon. Friend knows, it is the policy of the Government to develop regional and other leading technical colleges as part of the public sector of higher education alongside the universities. I believe that this can be done most effectively within the local education authority system under arrangements providing for proper academic freedom.

Mr. Hamling

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that in many cases regional colleges cover a much wider area than typical local education authorities, some of them indeed having international reputations and that so often L.E.As are too parochial to govern an institution of that nature?

Mr. Crosland

We are doing the preparatory work and are about to set up a study group on the whole question of advanced work, in particular in the regional colleges and the whole technical college sphere, as well as to consider whether any changes are needed in the general structure. I hope that the point made by my hon. Friend will come within that general review.

Sir E. Boyle

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it really could not make sense to treat regional colleges differently from area colleges, which also do a considerable volume of full-time higher education? Would he not further agree that one gets a little fed up with a great deal of comment in the Press and elsewhere suggesting that no higher educational institution can be of national standing if it remains within the ambit of a local education authority? Would the Minister not agree that this is not true and make it plain that such views are not held by the overwhelming majority of hon. Members on either side of this House?

Mr. Crosland

I agree most strongly with the latter point made by the right hon. Gentleman. Anybody who has had the pleasure, as I have had in recent months, of going around and looking at both the technical colleges and colleges of education must get the incredibly strong impression of the enormous vigour, energy and experience which local authorities have put into the higher education system. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I feel strongly that it is not only important that we have a considerable sector of higher education under local control but that local authorities should maintain a considerable stake in higher education.