§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House takes note of the Fifth Report from the Estimates Committee in the last Session of Parliament and of the Third Special Report from the Estimates Committee, relating to Grants to Universities and Colleges.It is appropriate that I should begin by expressing my gratitude to you, Mr. Speaker, for having selected for debate today, a day which, in sporting parlance, is rather a bye-day for normal House of Commons business, a subject on which the Sub-Committee over which I had the honour to preside reported to the House at the end of the last Session.
It is 15 years since the Estimates Committee last reported on the activities on the University Grants Committee and during that time expenditure under this head has risen from only £23 million to something approaching £200 million. It is also significant that the intake this year alone into the universities is the equivalent of the entire university population of 1939. This shows the dimensions which this subject has now reached. I think that it also shows that it is probably time for the House of Commons to have another look at it.
I think it right for me to begin by expressing on my own behalf thanks for the good fortune which has enabled me now to present for the third time the Report of the Sub-Committee for debate on this Floor and at the same time to thank my colleagues on the Estimates Committee for their forbearance in allowing Sub-Committee B, of which I had the honour of being Chairman, to have this distinction.
223 I also wish to go on record, because this is a Report which is critical in certain ways, as being extremely grateful to the very large numbers of people from whom we were able to take evidence. In this connection, members of the University Grants Committee were outstanding, particularly that great public servant, Sir John Wolfenden, who made such a vital contribution to this work. On behalf of the Sub-Committee, it might be appropriate for me to convey to him our great sympathy in the recent tragic bereavement that he has suffered.
I should like also to thank the numbers of academic leaders of very high standing who were willing to give up a great deal of time to giving evidence to us, not only for their courtesy but for their real desire to help us in our investigation, who treated our inquiries with great frankness and showed a real willingness to see the problems with which we had to deal. Lastly, it is appropriate that I should say my own personal thanks to the members of my Sub-Committee B, whose names are on the Order Paper, for the very great support and help that they gave in the compilation of the evidence and preparation of the Report.
I should like to include in that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton), who is the Chairman of the Estimates Committee and gave much of his time and most useful counsel. Lastly, the Clerk to the Sub-Committee did an outstanding job and it was a matter of regret to members of the Estimates Committee to hear that he is very soon to leave this place himself to take up an appointment in the educational field. We shall miss him very much. I should also say that I appreciate the presence not only of the Minister of Education and Science, but also the Minister of State, Department of Education and Science. To them I say that although we shall shortly be losing their services I contemplate that with great deal less regret than that of the Clerk.
I have to ask the House to consider not only the Fifth Report of the Estimates Committee, but also the reply made to it by the Minister, which is the Third Special Report of 8th December. On page 8 of that Report there is a note from the Estimates Committee which, 224 I think, is worth reading aloud. The comment of the Estimates Committee on the reply of the Department is as follows:Your Committee feel bound to inform the House that in their opinion these Observations are unsatisfactory. In particular, several of the Observations ignore the reasoned arguments made by the Committee and repeat points already made in the course of the inquiry. In the view of your Committee, the answers to some of the Recommendations in the Report are not a substitute for the action which the Committee made clear is urgently needed.I feel it my duty to justify to the House these strictures which, at our instigation, the Estimates Committee was good enough to accept. Sub-Committee B of the Estimates Committee made 16 specific recommendations. In answering those 16 recommendations the Department bracketed two of the recommendations together for the purpose of answer. It therefore made 14 observations. Of these, 14 observations no fewer than 10 in the opinion of the Estimates Committee were unsatisfactory—not because they rejected the recommendation of the Committee but because, in the reply, the Department either ignored or evaded specific points the Committee had stressed or readduced arguments already presented to the Sub-Committee in evidence, arguments which the Sub-Committee had found unconvincing and had been at pains to give its reasons for rejecting. In other cases the answers seemed no substitute for the action which, the Committee felt, was urgently needed.
It is my duty to justify the Committee's strictures and this will mean dealing, if only briefly, with all the recommendations. I am conscious of the large number of hon. Members who wish to speak in this debate. I therefore propose to keep my remarks to a minimum, but I feel it proper to cover the ground. Very briefly, the University Grants Committee consists of a full-time chairman who is paid and a deputy-chairman who is part-time and a substantial number drawn from the academic profession unpaid, and it has a duty laid on it of collecting from the universities their bids for grants in aid from the Government to assess them and submit them to the Department of Education and Science.
In due course the Department then submits them to the Treasury. When the Treasury decision is made, the allocation to the U.G.C. is, of course, affected by 225 the national resources available and the U.G.C. has the responsibility of dividing among the universities the total amount allotted and then harmonising the allotment with the original demand. Although there is one inclusive grant, it is made up of two elements. One is the recurrent grant, whose job it is to finance the day-to-day running costs of universities, and this includes salaries, maintenance costs and wages. This recurrent grant is fixed for five years, a quinquennium, subject, of course, to supplementary grants which are sometimes made in respect of alterations in academic wages, changes in rents and other matters to which I shall refer later.
The capital grant is, therefore, to provide new buildings, furniture and equipment of new buildings, the purchase of sites and properties and professional fees. The capital grant is controlled by the University Grants Committee by cost limits on buildings and building norms and the purchase of sites is subject to approval by the district valuer. That probably is sufficient background for the House to consider the specific recommendations made by my Committee and the answers we received from the Department.
The first recommendation we made was that the deputy chairman of the U.G.C. should be made a full-time appointment. The answer we received was that this was still under consideration. I remind the Minister that the Robbins Report has now been in the hands of the public for more than two years, nearly two and a half years, and it recommended two full-time deputy chairmen. I suggest that when one considers the very great pressures under which the Chairman of the University Grants Committee has to operate—the Committee described his duties as "an awesome task"—to take three years to consider whether or not there should be a full-time deputy chairman does not give any confidence that this problem will ever be dealt with.
The second recommendation of the Committee was thatThe timetable of the U.G.C. visitations should be rearranged so that they are spread over the whole quinquennium; two visits (if possible, of greater length) should be paid to each university.As the Minister knows, the quinquennium is the period during which the recurrent 226 grant runs and it is fixed for the next period partly by a visitation which has to take place about 18 months before the quinquennium expires to fix the grant for the coming quinquennium.
The impression which the Committee got from the evidence was that in this last 18 months of the quinquennium the University Grants Committee was working under very great pressure indeed. It therefore made the recommendation that instead of having only one visitation, namely, at the end of the quinquennium, there should, if possible, be two in order to keep in closer contact with the university and to take decisions without being under the stress of time to such an extent.
In its observation, the Department says that it acceptedthat the programme of visitations should be spread on a more continuous basis and thereby enable the Committee to increase and deepen its contacts with the universities.But the Department absolutely ignored the suggestion that there should be two visitations in the course of a quinquennium.
Recommendation (iii), which deals with the financial provisions, I shall come to later. It is one of the most important parts of the whole Report and I want to deal with it at slightly greater length. I come to Recommendations (iv) and (v), which deal with the architects' division. This was singled out by the Chairman of the U.G.C. as the greatest single weakness of this structure. In Question 1916, I put to him:What do you feel are the weaknesses in your present organisation?He replied:The most pressing one is quite simply that we have not got enough professional staff—architects and quantity surveyors. It is on that side of our organisation that we are at the moment weakest.This was confirmed in the evidence of Sir Robert Matthew, Past-President of the R.I.B.A. and a former member of the U.G.C. In answer to Question 1537, he said:I happened to be a member of the U.G.C. some years ago when we persuaded them to set up a small unit, and it took a lot of persuasion even to do that. It has proved totally inadequate. They have managed to set some standards on halls of residence and even to build one building, as you know, in Reading, as a cockshy; but it has gone so slowly 227 that things become out of date before they really get them done.This comes from a most distinguished architect, himself a former member of the U.G.C.
Finally, Sir Douglas Logan, Principal of the University of London, said thatwhat we have found most irksome is delays in processing our building programmes.One would have thought that this was a good reason for strengthening the architects' division of the U.G.C. In fact, four new posts were authorised. A witness for the Treasury said, on Question 1776:I am very conscious that the difficulty of filling some of these posts is causing a certain amount of work, which ought to be done, not to be done.I would like to draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the urgency of this problem, and I think that in the light of that it is disappointing that all the Department could say at the time was that the Treasury had carried out a review of the architects' division and its recommendations were awaited.
The fact is that the architects' department of the U.G.C. is under strain, and it is known to be under strain, and it is known that this is a source of weakness in the organisation, and I can find nothing in the observations of the Department to show that the Department is conscious that there is a real urgency in this position.
In Recommendation (vi) we suggested thatThe functions of D.E.S. in relation to collecting and processing information about national needs for graduates in industry and other sectors of the economy should be enlarged.We got a really dusty answer. The Department said, very shortly, that this issue goes beyond its functions. Our view was that the functions should be extended.
In Recommendation (vii) we said:The U.G.C., D.E.S. and the Treasury should undertake urgently a review of the quinquennial system and the changes should be put into effect early in the next quinquennium.We got from the Treasury confirmation that this should be done. The answer, I think, is a remarkably poor one, namely, that that work had already begun. The quinquennial system was instituted in 1889, instituted at a time when the sums 228 dealt with and the institutions to which they went bore no real resemblance to the situation we have to cope with today, and we would have thought this to be something which would have been almost continuously under review and on which action could be taken, in view of the extra work now going to the U.G.C.
As to Recommendation (viii), the Department simply has not seen the point we were trying to make. As I mentioned earlier, recurrent grant is supplemented by supplementary grants made from time to time in respect of unforeseen expenses which are falling on the universities between the years of the quinquennium in such matters as changes in academic salaries, and the universities having to bear a charge for rates, which have to be corrected if the universities are to do the work which they are supposed to do.
In addition, there is a sort of university cost of living index known as the Tress Index, from Professor Tress, of Bristol, and which deals with what I would describe as almost the non-academic costs of universities—the wages and salaries of non-academic staff, National Insurance, cost of books, maintenance, fuel and light. As we very well know, there has been a constant movement in the costs of all these items. The Tress Index has been accepted by the Treasury as statistically sound, and our Committee's view was that the object of it was to insulate the universities to some extent from the erosion of their means by price increases, and that at each quinquennium they could be evaluated fairly.
What happens now is that if there is such a change in the Tress Index the U.G.C. considers it. It is then passed on by the U.G.C. to the Department, which likewise considers it; and in due course the Department passes it on to the Treasury, which also considers it. So that far from this being an automatic increase to offset effects of inflation there are three separate acts of judgment on any recommendation, or any proposal, in Governmental parlance; there are three additional delays.
The Vice-Chancellors we talked to felt that if the Tress Index was accepted as statistically sound it should be used to help the universities to defray these rising costs. Our recommendation was that we 229 should put it to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors to deal with this, and that when they consider that rises in the index justify an increase in grant it should not then be a matter for further discussion with the U.G.C., the D.E.S. and the Treasury, but that the recommendation of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors should be sufficient to activate the grant. The only reply we got to that was:The Government consider that it is one of the responsibilities of the University Grants Committee to advise them when, in the Committee's view, additional grants are required in connection with increases in costs.The comparative analysis available in future to the University Grants Committee will increase the value of this advice in this respect.But that misses the point of our recommendation, which was to try to give the index a very much more automatic effect than it has under the present régime, and, without having the regulatory effect that I have mentioned, I doubt whether it serves any useful purpose in convincing the universities that they are being protected against a rise in costs.
Recommendation (ix) dealt with our suggestion thatThe U.G.C. should invariably receive confirmation of the Government allocation of building starts not less than four years in advance and, as soon as possible after this has been done, the U.G.C. should make its allocation to individual universities.Then we had the trite observation thatIt is the Government's intention to give as long notice as possible of the amount available for capital investment.However, having made that observation the Minister is to be congratulated on the fact that he announced in a Written Answer on 22nd December the building starts that he proposed to authorise for the next four years. That fulfils our recommendation. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) will have some questions to raise on that later, if he succeeds in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker. Nevertheless, we congratulate the Minister on having taken our advice, even if he did not say so in answer to our recommendation.
Then I move to Recommendation (xiii), in which we suggest a survey of obsolescent equipment. We got a reply which indicates that a working party comprising representatives of the 230 Treasury, the Department, the University Grants Committee and the Science Research Council has made its report, which is being examined. It goes on:The University Grants Committee's suggestion that there should be a special allocation to help those departments with obsolete equipment was considered by this Working Party and is therefore, within the scope of the present examination.The point that I would like to try to put across is that, unless one has actually got a survey of obsolescent equipment to work on, I do not see how any of the other things will function. A survey was what we asked for, and a survey is not apparently being made.
Recommendation (xiv) was thatThe level of students' fees should be raised to meet 20 per cent, of current university expenditure.The Department's observation is thatThe level of students' fees is now under examinationThe Minister will recall that it was one of the recommendations of the Robbins Report that the level of students' fees should be raised from 10 to 20 per cent. of university costs. I do not need to go into the arguments, but it has to be said, first of all, that it must be to the good of the universities that they should have slightly more funds on which they can depend, irrespective of the recurrent grant.
Secondly, we are giving education away very cheaply to people who come from abroad. When we send students abroad, they pay full university fees, and although we have a tradition of welcoming students to these shores, at the same time I do not think that the tradition would lose anything if the level of students' fees was raised from 10 to 20 per cent. This matter should have been under examination now for more than two and a half years, and it does not give one any confidence that a decision is to be made to be told that it is still under examination.
Recommendation (xv) is connected with the provision of computers to the universities. It is a complicated and difficult matter. It arose in our Report mainly because of the experience of London University with the Atlas computer. The university applied for a grant and was given not the £2 million it asked for, but £500,000. It then entered into a commercial transaction on its own. 231 It financed the purchase of the computer through a bank loan, it made an arrangement with the British Petroleum Company to share the use of the computer, for which British Petroleum paid over £600,000, and the balance it proposed to work off by farming out the computer for other businesses.
What happened was that the computer had teething troubles, the commercial hirings never materialised, and London University now owes £1 million for its computer. We examined the position rather fully, and our recommendation was that any further plans for the purchase of computers which included commercial utilisation should be scrutinised very carefully indeed.
I was interested to see that the Minister made a statement in the House on 21st December indicating the programme for computers and indicating, moreover, that there was to be an expenditure of £3 million in the current year, but not making any reference to the debt of £1 million which hangs over London University in respect of the computer already purchased. In our Report we said that it looked as if, at the end of the road, London University would have received by the back door the additional £1 million which, when it had applied for it overtly, had been refused to it. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to supplement the Written Answer which he gave on 21st December and tell us how London University's £1 million fits into the £3 million to be spent this year, or whether the matter is being left in suspense despite his announcement about the computer programme.
I want to return now to the third recommendation which we made. It really boiled down to strengthening the financial divisions of the University Grants Committee by the addition of a statistician and a cost accountant. It reflected a good deal of uneasiness about current grant spendings on alterations which is shared by the University Grants Committee and the Treasury. Having reread our Report, I am bound to say that I am not convinced that the introduction of a statistician and a cost accountant will deal with these matters in a satisfactory way.
As a Committee, we were seeking some objective criterion of value for money.
232 It is something which escapes the ordinary statistical approach, and I feel that the information derived from statistics, howeved intelligently compiled, cannot have greater validity than the accuracy of the facts upon which they are based. We had an extraordinary piece of evidence on the point from Mr. Parker, the auditor of Cambridge University and a highly skilled and experienced man, and I will read to the House his answer to Question 1324, because it goes down to the roots of the problem with which we were faced. He said:If my profession could be helpful to the U.G.C. and the universities behind them and to the Government in exploring ways and means of devising tests and ways and means of setting out after the event what has happened in such a way that the application of those tests could be made, there is no doubt we should be very ready as a profession to co-operate in that. What I do not think is that accountants, as accountants, would ever be good judges themselves of what has been well spent or not well spent.That seems to me to be an absolutely crucial piece of evidence, because it shows that the view of a very experienced and learned man is that the search for an objective test is not one that can be reached through the normal channels of accountancy. We have included in our Report at Appendix E what we describe as faculty costs per student. This is a thumbnail guide, and clearly it is not entirely a satisfactory one, but I was rather impressed by the evidence of Sir John Wolfenden, who, referring to the Sanders Working Party, said:I think this publication of what people nowadays are beginning to call league tables is very salutary inside the universities.In The Times recently there has been some indignant correspondence from a number of gentlemen in the academic profession who are aghast at having to divide their time between teaching and research, but in the academic world, as in the legal profession, there tend to be differences of opinion. I recall what the late Lord Justice Bowen said when members of the Bench were presenting a tribute to Queen Victoria on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. The proposed tribute began with the words, "Conscious as we are of our shortcomings …". One of his colleagues said that he was not conscious of any shortcomings, and Lord Justice Bowen said, "I suggest that we say 'Conscious as we are of one another's shortcomings'".
233 I think that that applies also to the academic profession, and I was not surprised when I saw a letter from G. J. Hills, who said:I have, as usual, been disappointed by the correspondence from my outraged colleagues.I share their concern that the present essay in cost-analysis has over-simplified the problem, occasionally to the point of absurdity, but I also note the lack of alternative proposals from those who reject the present scheme.This is where we really produced something, and he has praised the attitude of this House better than anyone. He said:The danger is that their contemptuous and negative attitude will be rightly interpreted as selfish irresponsibility by those whose unpleasant task it is to apportion out this country's limited resources. The universities are not so sacred or so delicate as your correspondents suggest.They and their activities are as subject as any other branch of the state to careful scrutiny which may determine where best the public monies should be spent. The University Grants Committee questionnaire may not discover the truth but at least it is an attempt to do so.My last point is on the question of academic freedom. Universities do not submit to the Comptroller and Auditor General. As the Comptroller and Auditor General was himself dealing with these matters, we as a Committee did not consider this point. In fact, we said in paragraph 8:Your Committee … do not regard it as part of their remit to re-open this controversy.When the Public Accounts Committee reported to the House on 7th December, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury behaved with a circumspection which no doubt did great credit to his legal training, but did not show any advance whatever in the position. He said:There is no doubt that we want to see that the most up-to-date techniques of control and management are employed. This is not always an easy matter, but real progress has been made in this field, and it does not follow—like the right hon. Gentleman I do not want to pre-judge the question at all—that these things would be better achieved by making the University Grants Committee accountable to Parliament, or that they ought to be gained—if they would be so gained—by any restriction of academic freedom.He went on to say:… the House will not expect me to comment one way or the other. I do not want to give the impression either that I am 234 slamming doors, or opening them. I wish to leave the door where it is, without specifying too precisely what that point is."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th December, 1965; Vol. 722, c. 278.]We are having a debate today during which we might try to advance from that position, and I shall stick my neck out a little further on this point. In this House we do not want to tell the universities whom to teach, or how to teach, or what to teach. This is for them, and them alone, to decide, but I do not think that if we make them accountable to the taxpayer for the taxpayers' money which they spend we will infringe any principle of academic freedom. Let them be as bold as they like in spending their own money, but let us end the pretence that the arrival on the scene of the Comptroller and Auditor General with his very limited remit is the first step to the secret police. I hope that the Minister will be able to commit himself a little further on this point than his colleague did, and with that fervent hope I should like to leave the problem with him, having expressed my own view.
I apologise for having kept the House for so long, but I should like to quote from a letter which I received from the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, who was a former Minister of State, and who is now enjoying a more congenial occupation in the academic world.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether he is in support of universities being subject, at any rate in certain matters, to the Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General? Is this his personal opinion? I ask that because, as a member of the Committee which is to consider it, it would be valuable to have a clear statement whether the hon. Gentleman is in support of it.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I am not qualified to speak for anybody but myself. My own view is that no great damage would ensue, and that many benefits would be gained if universities were accountable to the Comptroller and Auditor General for the expenditure of the public funds which they enjoy.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I am sure that the House is grateful to my hon. Friend for speaking so frankly and giving us his views. Is 235 my hon. Friend taking that view equally of the whole range of university expenditure, or would he differentiate within the total?
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
I would differentiate within the total in that universities may have to be bolder in the expenditure of their own funds than they would be in the expenditure of public money, but this I think would be an encouragement to collect some endowments. Secondly, we might also succeed in making them more in favour of higher fees. This is a personal view and I cannot take my Committee with me on this because we did not discuss it in Committee, thinking it was being dealt with by the Public Accounts Committee.
In his letter to which I referred earlier, Lord Bowden said:I have spent many hours reading the Fifth Report of the Estimates Committee and I hope you will allow me to congratulate everyone concerned in the preparation of what must be counted on any standards a most important State document.You have unearthed a tremendous amount of information which would not have been available or accessible to anyone else, and the preparation of the summary and the report by presumably some anonymous civil servant is quite masterly. I think in fact that it is in many ways as valuable as the more famous report prepared by Lord Robbins.Even if we are not very popular with the present Minister and the Minister of State, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor appreciated our Report, and I thank the House for giving me this opportunity to discuss it.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Anthony Crosland)
I should like to start by paying a tribute to the hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) for the very remarkable Report which the Committee has produced. He would be quite unsuccessful in trying to drive any wedge between Lord Bowden, on the one hand, and myself and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, on the other, because Lord Bowden showed me that letter before he sent it and I said that I agreed with every word of it.
It is a very remarkable Report indeed, extremely thorough and very enlightening. I personally learned a great deal from it, as I think that many others did. 236 It has provoked a very fruitful and thorough debate throughout the university world. I genuinely believe—I say this with no trace of flattery—that it will be a major landmark in the continuing discussion of these extraordinarily intricate matters.
As the hon. Baronet observed, my Department made certain replies to the recommendations of the Estimates Committee and these elicited a rather stern stricture from the Committee on 8th December. I personally make no complaint of any kind about this. The fact is that the Report of the Estimates Committee came at a time when the U.G.C. and my Department were already reviewing their procedures, and the Report persuaded us to carry this review a good deal further. So when we made our observations we were not yet in a position to give the answers fully. I hope, however, that what I say this afternoon and what my hon. Friend the Minister of State will say in winding up, will satisfy the hon. Baronet and the many other members of his Committee who are here this afternoon that we have fulfilled the objectives they had in mind.
I think that this debate takes place, by chance, at an extremely suitable moment. There seems to be a wavering of confidence—some people would even say a crisis of confidence—between, on the one hand, the universities and, on the other, public, parliamentary and governmental opinion. The universities, for their part, are in a rather sensitive, and even apprehensive, frame of mind, while public opinion is unusually ready to display a certain impatience with the universities. I personally am not too disturbed about this. I think that it is an inevitable consequence of the unprecedented growth in recent years, which leads people to wonder whether a system and a relationship which was designed for a small and intimate university sector can possibly survive in the vastly expanded higher education world of today.
What I would like to do this afternoon is to take, first, the anxieties on the university side and then the anxieties on the side of parliamentary and public opinion and see what I can do to allay them. I shall try all the way through to link my comments with those of the Estimates Committee.
237 I want to start by discussing certain fears, or what I prefer to call misunderstandings, on the part of the universities. The first one relates to the machinery of government, which is discussed in paragraph 16 of the Report of the Estimates Committee. As the House well knows, the Robbins Committee recommended that there should be separate Ministers for education and for arts and science, the latter being made responsible for the universities. The Conservative Government did not accept this recommendation. They took the view, as had Sir Harold Shearman in his note of reservation on the Robbins Committee, that education must be considered as a single whole.
Therefore, they announced in February, 1964 that there was to be one Minister—a Secretary of State for Education and Science, with responsibility over the whole educational field—I mean the whole field in England and Wales, obviously not covering Scotland. Under him would be the single Department but with two Ministers of State and two administrative units, each headed by a Permanent Secretary. Broadly, one of these units would be responsible for the work of the old Ministry of Education and the other for universities and civil science.
Apart from adjustments relating to the creation of the Ministry of Technology, the Labour Government continued these arrangements, but adding to them responsibilities of the arts, which my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary looks after, of sport and—a particularly important responsibility which comes high in our sense of priorities—of the university of the air. However, we made one change which has caused some comment in the universities. This was the transfer of one of the two Permanent Secretaries to other duties so that a single Permanent Secretary became accounting officer for the whole Department. This was not in any sense a structural change. There remain two Ministers of State, one of whom is my hon. Friend who will be replying this evening, and who is particularly concerned with universities and science.
The grants to the universities continue to he borne on a separate Vote from the rest of the Department's expenditure. This Vote retains the special feature, referred to by the hon. baronet, relating to non- 238 accountability of the universities. The Chairman of the U.G.C. enjoys the same access to the Secretary of State to press the claims of the universities. And final decisions on spending as between different parts of education lie, as they did before, with the Secretary of State. The fact of one or two accounting officers is entirely a matter of machinery and in no way implies that one sector or the other is more or less favoured than it otherwise would be. I hope that this explanation will finally allay any remaining anxieties in the universities on this point.
The second anxiety concerns the relationship between the universities and other parts of the higher education system. It concerns the so-called binary system. Perhaps I was rash in my Woolwich speech to philosophise about the proper shape and system of higher education as a whole. Yet we must discuss these things. I was relieved perhaps to see Sir Peter Venables say this in the current edition of the University Quarterly:Whatever reservations there may have been about the Woolwich speech of the Secretary of State"—I have to admit that there have been some—there can be little doubt that it was most timely in focusing attention on issues of far-reaching importance in higher education.However, the immediate controversy about binary has been a particularly unreal one, because nobody has ever proposed a unitary system. The Robbins Committee recognised that a great deal of higher education goes on outside the universities. Indeed, this formed part of its design for the future, since it accepted that in the main further education should remain under the control of the local authorities. Indeed, to strengthen this it recommended the creation of the C.N.A.A.—I quote the Robbins Committee—to operate for the benefit of the regional and area colleges.We have, therefore, enunciated no basic new doctrine, any more than have the Opposition. I think that there has been broad agreement on this point.
The recent argument has been about the severely practical point of whether at the present stage of development of higher education a few local authority colleges should become, or be merged in, 239 independent universities. We decided against this, for reasons which I think have commanded widespread support on both sides of the House. It is sometimes said that, because we talk of an autonomous and a social sector of higher education, therefore we do not believe in the social responsibility of the universities. Of course we believe in it. Anybody who has observed the development in the university world over the last few years must recognise the growing sense of responsibility throughout the universities, from the oldest to the newest.
Whenever the Government, through the U.G.C., have formulated some national need—whether for more scientists and technologists, whether for an increasing number of doctors, whether for enlarging expertise in East European or Oriental Studies,—the universities have responded with wholehearted enthusiasm. In general, over recent years the initiatives of the universities themselves have become far more outward-looking, far more concerned with their environments, with society as a whole. My hon. Friend the Minister of State will give examples of the readiness of the universities to meet national needs whenever these are clearly expressed.
One last point on binary. When, after consulting the U.G.C., I decided that it would not be right to support the proposed merger between Lanchester College of Technology and Warwick University I made it absolutely clear that I did not wish in any way to discourage collaboration between the two institutions. It seems to me that such things as shared student amenities, collaboration over research projects, common access to expensive equipment and, in fact, plain, downright academic discussion, are wholly desirable.
In fact, I even made it clear to the technical college that, if it wanted to, it could look to the university for some of its degrees. And our decisions over the Schools of Architecture and of Planning in Birmingham have shown how far we are from wanting to suggest, let alone impose, rigid or divisive patterns. I want to see the greatest possible interchange between the different parts of the higher education system, and in this connection I want to say again how glad I am that the universities are responding 240 so readily to the request to establish B.Ed. degrees with colleges of education.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
In view of the considerable indignation which is felt in Wales over the decision which has been made concerning the college of advanced technology, would my right hon. Friend, while dealing with the question of the relationship between colleges of technology and universities, explain why this eccentric view, which is quite contrary to what has been adopted in the case of all the other C.A.T.s, should have been made in regard to Wales?
§ Mr. Crosland
I am aware that this decision has aroused a good deal of discussion and that different views are taken of these decisions. It had occurred to us that this point might come up, and, lest it should, I took the precaution of asking my hon. Friend the Minister of State if he would be good enough to reply to it, in case it comes up in more detail, when he winds up the debate tonight.
The third anxiety in the university world is of a rather more specialised kind. It has been suggested, though not I think very widely, that there has been some neglect of science and technology within the higher education field. I want to answer this by quoting a few facts, to one or two of which the hon. Member for Walsall, South referred.
On 29th June I informed Parliament that special supplementary recurrent grants would be made to the universities for technology up to a total of £1.4 million. On 21st December I announced the Government's general approval of the ambitious Report of the Flowers Committee on computers for universities and research councils, the cost of implementing which will be some £30 million over six years.
Turning to pure science, I remind the House that in addition to the support which the Government give through the U.G.C., their expenditure on the research councils this year is estimated to be 20 per cent. up on last year, compared with increases of 16.6 per cent. and 19.9 per cent, in the previous two years. Next year the growth of expenditure in real terms will be at least maintained.
Again, my hon. Friend the Minister of State will elaborate on the detail of 241 some of these points when he winds up the debate, but here and now I must say that these large increases in expenditure —on university computers, on technology, and on the research councils made at a time of considerable strain on our resources are an eloquent proof of how high a priority the Government give to science and technology.
As a final optimistic point, I may add that the famous 1,500 missing places which we discussed some time ago and which caused such alarm last year have not reappeared this year. When the Report of the Council on Admissions is published this afternoon the vacancies in technology will be found to be negligible and in pure science about 400. The expansion in these faculties was remarkable, being well over 20 per cent. up on last year's entry.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Can my right hon Friend give any information on the number of places outside the autonomous sectors and say how many places were unfilled in the regional colleges?
§ Mr. Crosland
I will ask my hon. Friend to answer that when he replies to the debate. This is a debate on universities and, therefore, I have not the figure with me.
The fourth anxiety of the university world relates to the capital building programmes generally and in particular, obviously, to the effect of the deferment measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer last July. The Government, of course, regret that it was necessary to defer a number of important university projects, but the economic situation was extremely serious and we had to take stringent measures to ease the pressure on resources. We made these measures as selective as possible, not only by exempting projects in development districts but by further exemptions in a variety of special circumstances. About £10 million worth of university projects were exempted from deferment. We felt, however, that higher education could not be totally shielded from the economic pressures any more than other forms of desirable social expenditure.
There has, therefore, inevitably been some set-back in university building programmes and a loss of building starts; 242 some £15 million worth of building which would have started in 1965–66 will not be started until 1966–67. I do not want to deny this fact or to minimise its importance. However, the building programmes which the hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, South mentioned, and which I announced on 22nd December, have reduced the permanent loss to less than £3 million, thus fulfilling the recommendations of the Estimates Committee Report. We were able, at the same time, to assist university planning by adding a further year, 1969–70, for which a firm figure of £25 million starts have been approved. Therefore, the universities have now building programmes for at least four years in advance.
I hope that we can look in future to the programme going steadily forward every year and that the universities will accept that the postponements have not been as severe as they originally feared. In difficult circumstances for the country, from which none of us can contract out, much has been retrieved for the universities. Out of the revised programmes for 1966–67 and 1967–68 totalling £70 million the U.G.C. has decided to give priority to the provision of additional medical places to meet the urgent national need. It will also give priority to the development of the new universities, to the three technological institutions which I mentioned earlier and to those C.A.T.s—Bath, Battersea and Brunel—which are moving to new sites.
The question of building is intimately connected with the next anxiety in the university world: do the Government still accept, and will they fulfil, the Robbins targets? The answer to the first part of the question is unequivocably yes, and to the second part equally firmly yes, given, as we shall unquestionably have, the continued support of the universities themselves.
I should like to look at the figures of expansion, because they are remarkable. In 1939, the total number of university students was 50,000 and the entry 15,000. In 1960, the number of students was just under 108,000 and the entry nearly 30,000. Today, the number of students is 168,000 and last October's entry was over 52,000. This year's entry is one-seventh higher than last year's. It is 500 higher than the 243 universities told the U.C.C.A. last May that they would be able to admit. It is in line with the recommended Robbins figure of 48,000 places for United Kingdom students. And there seems to be no doubt that the Robbins target for 1967–68 is now assured.
Taking higher education as a whole, the Robbins target of 290,000 students in October, 1965, has been exceeded by 5,000. This rapid expansion of the universities represents a remarkable achievement and all those concerned deserve enormous praise. When the Robbins Report was published in October, 1963, few people expected that the target would be reached in such a short time. It is also worth noting that this huge expansion of university students has been accompanied by a substantial recruitment of academic staff so that the current ratio of one full-time member of staff to every seven and a half full-time students is virtually the same as at the beginning of the quinquennium.
I should like to pay tribute to the development of the Universities Central Council on Admissions. This, which was barely more than an idea in 1960 is now a classic example of inter-university cooperation to achieve a socially desirable end. Few countries in the world have a more efficient and more comprehensive procedure than the U.C.C.A. computerised system, and Lord Fulton and his successor, Dr. Templeman, deserve great praise for this achievement, which is an achievement of the universities themselves.
Lastly, discussing the anxieties of the universities, one can detect an occasional but in my view quite unnecessary fear that in this age of rapid expansion Governments may begin to encroach on the basic academic freedoms of the universities to which the hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, South referred. Let me therefore make a clear declaration of faith, which I think will be echoed in all parts of the House, that we respect and treasure the essential academic liberties as much in 1966 as we ever did before. We have surely all of us learned if we needed to, the lessons of Lysenko in Soviet Russia and McCarthyism in the United States, and we all equally want to preserve the central university tradition of freedom, heterodoxy and dissent.
244 The Government, like the Estimates Committee, unreservedly accept the system and the principle of the U.G.C.—the principle of the so-called "buffer-state". Under this system the U.G.C. has three essential functions. They are, first, to be the Government's general adviser on university matters, secondly, to be the counsellor and guide of the universities on national needs, and thirdly to be a grant-allocating body. The combination of these three functions in an independent committee, with practising academics among its membership, served by a professional secretariat, constitutes the U.G.C. system.
It is important to distinguish between these functions. The first two are advisory. Even so, it would no doubt be a very bold Secretary of State and a very bold university that flouted U.G.C. advice, but one must not be too formal about how this works in practice. Advice will often emerge from discussion and need not be tendered on a "take it or leave it" basis. There is one essential matter which the hon. Baronet the Member for Walsall, South mentioned on which the U.G.C. advises the Government but on which the Government specifically reserve their position. This is the total amount that can be assigned by the Government for distribution between the universities. On that the Government alone can decide after weighing the claims of the universities against all the other competing claims on our resources.
On the distribution of the total amount available, on the other hand, the U.G.C.'s advice, by long-standing convention, is invariably accepted. This is a system which this Government, like the last Government and like the Estimates Committee, wholeheartedly accept.
I turn now to the other side of the current dialogue, the fear on the part of parliamentary and public opinion that we may not be getting value for money in our large expenditure on the universities. This fear was reflected in the Third Report of the Public Accounts Committee, it was reflected in the Report of the Estimates Committee which we are discussing today, and it is reflected, perhaps, in a certain general public questioning, which I might sum up in this way, quoting an imaginary man in the street.
He might say—perhaps he does say—"£200 million is a lot of money, and, if 245 it is to remain non-accountable, at least some university people might show a bit more readiness to adopt checks of their own instead of showing themselves lukewarm about O and M and loudly hostile to the most elementary attempts to establish cost analysis. I read reports", he might say, "not always wholly reliable, of course, about under-employed dons, about under-utilised plant, about unco-ordinated expansion and about a reluctance to cooperate with one another and with industry. So it is no wonder that I feel uneasy as a taxpayer about value for money".
That is, perhaps, partly a caricature—perhaps not—of a certain general questioning which is now going on. It all raises the question of the role of the U.G.C. in detail and the specific recommendations of the Estimates Committee, and I shall devote the rest of my speech to discussing these.
It seems to me that the essential objectives of the Government and of the U.G.C. in seeking to ensure value for money while protecting basic academic freedoms are these. First, there must be a reasonable degree of control over the spending of public money on both capital and current account. As regards capital grant, a great deal has been achieved recently in improving the control of expenditure—and I refer here to Recommendations (x-xii) of the Estimates Committee. The U.G.C. has collected comprehensive information on the accommodation likely to be available in the universities in 1967–68, and it has also undertaken a survey of university sites. This information will give it, for the first time, a complete record of both buildings and sites and so provide a firm base for future planning. Moreover, the U.G.C. is conducting a comprehensive review of its procedures for controlling expenditure on university building. This is being done as a joint exercise with my Department, and the pooling of experience has already produced valuable results in revised joint standards and cost limits for residential accommodation; and work is now well advanced in relation to the simpler types of academic building.
There is also, of course, a continuous dialogue with the universities about value for money in relation to capital grant. They have been made aware of the potentialities of industrialised building techniques. They have been brought into contact with the National Building 246 Agency. Perhaps it is not generally realised just how rapid the advance is in this direction. Seven universities are now using or planning to use industrialised systems for halls of residence and for other buildings.
A particularly striking example is York University, which chose to use the CLASP system originally developed for school building. But the CLASP system is not entirely suitable in its present form for science and technology buildings, and the U.G.C. is, therefore, collaborating with my Department and the Bristol College of Science and Technology in what I think will be an exciting new experiment. A joint team of professionals drawn from the Department, from the U.G.C. and from the College's architects is developing modified components which will be of use not only for the college's new buildings at Bath, but also to meet the general requirements of other universities for this type of accommodation. These new components will be compatible with the CLASP system and will thus extend its range. I hope that this will set the pattern for further joint development projects.
The universities themselves are also getting together to share their building experience. The Vice-Chancellors' Committee has established a building subcommittee which acts as a clearing house for the exchange of information. Since the Estimates Committee reported, discussions have already taken place between the U.G.C. and this sub-committee about the possible organisation of groups of universities for the bulk buying of industrialised building components.
Of course, a responsibility falls on the Government so to act as to make efficient planning possible. As the Estimates Committee says in Recommendation, ix, already referred to,The U.G.C. should invariably receive confirmation of the Government allocation of building starts not less than four years in advance and, as soon as possible after this has been done, the U.G.C. should make its allocation to individual universites".We accept the spirit of this recommendation. As I told the House on 22nd December, programmes of building starts have now been authorised for four years ahead, and I hope that it will prove possible in the future to roll these programmes forward year after year. The U.G.C. has told me that the allocations 247 for 1966–67 and 1967–68 will be notified to universities early next month. Allocations for 1968–69 and 1969–70 will be made as soon as the universities have had an opportunity to survey priorities in the light of their allocations for the first two years.
Buildings at universities come into use, on average, about two years after they are started. The programmes now approved will, therefore, in general, produce buildings which will become available for use in the years from 1968–69 to 1971–72, and this will enable the universities to sustain the level of student numbers envisaged by the Robbins Report and to prepare for the next quinquennium. I hope that on this extremely important recommendation—perhaps the most important of all—the hon. Gentleman will feel that we have met the Estimates Committee's argument.
Turning to current expenditure, it is, of course, much harder to find effective criteria for the allocation and control of recurrent grant. About half of universities' recurrent expenditure is in respect of academic salaries, which are on scales approved by the Government. A further check is provided by an agreed ratio of senior to junior staff. For the rest, the U.G.C. must rely on the effectiveness of its own comparative analysis of university expenditure and on the good sense and responsibility of the universities themselves. Here, the matter was extremely well put in paragraph 70 of the Estimates Committee's Report.
However, the Government can again help here. I refer to Recommendation vii of the Report:The U.G.C., D.E.S. and the Treasury should undertake urgently a review of the quinquennial system and the changes should be put into effect early in the next quinquennium.As I said on 20th December, the Government have decided on one important improvement which will remove the uncertainty which, until now, has existed at the end of a quinquennium and which has inhibited the universities from planning effectively. We shall now make provisional allocation of recurrent grant for the first year of the next quinquennium, that is to say, the academic year 1967–68, well in advance of the final settlement for the quinquennium as a whole.
248 I hope to announce it towards the end of 1966. This will give universities a firm basis on which to make their plans, particularly in relation to staff recruitment, for 1967–68. Again, I hope that this goes a considerable way to meet the view of the Estimates Committee.
We shall, of course, continue to review the system to see whether we can improve it, but I think that it would be wrong to promise further early or dramatic changes. The fact is that the present arrangements have a number of advantages both for the universities and for the Exchequer. Quinquennial block grants enable the universities to plan developments well ahead and give them freedom to order their own affairs within the total resources made available. There would be no virtue in making a change if we were to lose these advantages.
I turn now to say a word, as did the hon. Member for Walsall, South, about the recent attempt of the U.G.C. to provide more meaningful comparative analyses of recurrent expenditure. The hon. Gentleman summarised the position. As the House will know, early last year the U.G.C. set up a working party, under its Deputy Chairman, Sir Harold Sanders, to review the content and layout of the returns submitted to the U.G.C. by universities. The working party had the advice of a number of university registrars and finance officers and, in addition, it had expert cost accountancy advice.
As a result of its recommendations, the chairman of the U.G.C. wrote to the Vice-Chancellors in May drawing their attention to the revised annual financial returns. The hon. Baronet has already mentioned recent correspondence in The Times about this exercise I would largely echo the comments that he made, very trenchant comments, on this correspondence. Some correspondents have suggested that the revised return is the result of unreasonable pressure by my Department on the U.G.C. This is not so. The U.G.C. was itself responsible for setting up the Sanders Working Party and for implementing its recommendations, which were made to it and not to my Department. It was the U.G.C., and not my Department, which devised the new form of financial return and then introduced it.
249 But, having said that, I must make it clear that, like the hon. Baronet, I welcome and support the initiative of the U.G.C. in trying to analyse and compare expenditure on similar services in different cases. Of course, there are complaints about this particular questionnaire, and that is not surprising considering that it is a first experimental effort, but Sir Harold Sanders has made it clear that the U.G.C. is well aware of the difficulties and will be very ready to consider any suggestions for improving the return.
As the hon. Baronet remarked, the correspondence was very barren of any suggestions for improvement. It had a rather negative tone about it, even if a number of people did not object in principle to some such idea. But the Committee of Vice-Chancellors has appointed a working party under the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster to examine possible alternative ways of obtaining the information and will be discussing the outcome with the U.G.C.
I turn to another anxiety felt by public opinion about the universities, and that is whether they are using their plant efficiently enough. We now know for the first time, as a result of U.G.C. surveys, the full extent of university building in Britain. It will amount in 1967 to about 60 million square feet of accommodation of all kinds. Some of this, of course, is quite unsuitable; about one fifth needs money spent on it to make it suitable. Nevertheless, it represents a considerable capital investment, and at a time of acute pressure on student numbers, we must make the best use of it that we can, as we are currently trying to do in the colleges of education and the technical colleges.
This raises extraordinarily complex problems of what constitutes productivity or higher output or efficient plant utilisation in the universities. There is no agreement on these matters; the economics of higher education is still in its infancy. But some study has been given to this complicated question in the universities and elsewhere. Hon. Members may have seen articles by Carter, Bruce Williams, Blaug and others. My Department's economic adviser is now collaborating with the U.G.C. in examining the implications of a number of different organisational and procedural patterns to see which of them, 250 if any, might be most helpful in the search for maximum productivity, for, obviously, while we must preserve the guarantees and the freedom of choice implicit in our present system, we must at the same time continuously consider how new and existing buildings can be used to maximum effect.
I pass to another question which more and more engages both university and outside opinion, and that is the growing need for some rationalisation of courses and concentration of effort. This arises especially, naturally enough, in the scientific field, where the range and cost of research are continually increasing, and, at the same time, specialisation is necessarily intensified. I had the pleasure of going a fortnight ago to a conference in Paris of Ministers of Science, and their attention was drawn in every country to the long-term problems that this creates, and to the need for each country—I quote from a report presented to the conference:to initiate long-term studies of university and research development with a view to selecting a limited number of research centres of quality, and building these up by selective financing. Such a system of 'growing-points' would safeguard against dilution of effort over a larger number of smaller, weaker units and could do much to establish strength and higher achievement in national research activity.In this country we have been moving in this direction for some time. It has been the policy of the U.G.C. and the research councils to limit the provisions of costly nuclear physics research facilities to five universities. Radio-astronomy has been developed in a big way in Manchester and Cambridge, and there is a growing tendency to develop regional centres in other kinds of research. The Flowers proposals for computer provision in the universities, now accepted by the Government, reflect the same tendency. Indeed, there must be increasing pressure towards specialisation and the creation of centres of excellence in an age when effective research requires more and more sophisticated equipment and larger and larger teams of people.
But the problem, as we are beginning to realise, goes far beyond the field of scientific research. Including the C.A.T.s, we now have 42 universities compared with only 21 in 1960 and 16 before the war. With the best will in the world, 251 not all these 42 can have equally strong and lively departments in everything from Chinese through sociology to technology. There must be some division of effort and some degree of rationalisation—not only because we lack the resources to build up 42 equally strong departments in every single subject, but also for another reason. If every department, say, of economics, convinced of the present shortage of economists, tries to expand in ignorance of what all the other departments are doing, the present shortage will give way to glut in five years' time, and that glut will lead to an equally unco-ordinated and undesirable contraction.
So we must have some degree of coordination, consistent with the academic freedom which we rightly treasure. This is a problem which exercises many of the universities themselves, as will be known to those who attended the very remarkable conference organised by Sir Nevill Mott, in Cambridge last summer. It also exercises, as I found in Paris, all the Ministers responsible for univerisities in other countries; they are all conscious, with the growth in the number of universities, of the need to concentrate resources and to build up particular centres of excellence.
The U.G.C. is equally conscious of this need. It has advised on the concentration of the additional funds which the Government made available for technological development. It is now considering how the existing pattern of agricultural schools might be rationalised, following the Bosanquet Report. The same thinking is found in the Parry Report, with its recommendations of five centres for Latin-American studies. The U.G.C. now accepts it as one of its functions to distribute its funds selectively so as to ensure the most effective deployment of resources.
The Estimates Committee draws our attention to another point. Are the universities sufficiently aware of national manpower needs, and are the Government sufficiently active in expressing them? In Recommendation (vi) the Committee says:The functons of D.E.S. in relation to collecting and processing information about national needs for graduates in industry and other sectors of the economy should be enlarged.252 I am in very strong sympathy with this, but in saying so I do not minimise, any more than I imagine the Committee would minimise, the formidable difficulties of forecasting in this field—difficulties that are as much conceptual as statistical. The previous Government will remember the serious errors made at different times in forecasting the demand for doctors and for scientists and technologists. We need a great deal of work still to find out what we can do efficiently in this field.
We must make it clear that we do not want to imply—I do not think that the Committee wanted to imply—that the sole criterion for the expansion of higher education should be national needs. On the contrary, these must be woven in with the Robbins principle, which I personally entirely accept, that all young persons qualified by ability and attainment to pursue a full-time course in higher education should have the opportunity to do so. However, as I say, I am in very strong sympathy with the approach of the Estimates Committee, and the Department already plays a very full part in the Government's manpower planning work.
Over the largest part of the field, that of science and technology, needs are surveyed by the Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology under the chairmanship of Sir Willis Jackson. This Committee is staffed jointly by the D.E.S. and the Ministry of Technology, and reports to both Ministers. The U.G.C. is directly represented on it. It published an interim report in October, together with a report of an inquiry into post-graduate courses for engineers and technologists, and is continuing with very detailed studies.
The Willis Jackson Committee is solely concerned with scientists and technologists, but I should like to extend this sort of study, as the Estimates Committee wishes, over the whole field of highly-qualified manpower. At the moment we try to make projections and predictions for particular groups, such as teachers and doctors, but there is no machinery for surveying the wider fields of nonscientific national demand or need.
I am discussing with my right hon. Friends the First Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the next steps might be in formulating 253 a wider manpower policy on these lines. If the hon. Member for Walsall, South has studied the question of manpower and seen what has happened in other countries—the United States for example—I am sure that he will not think that this is a delaying answer, for it is an extraordinarily complex problem, as the National Science Foundation in the United States, for example, has found.
I come now to the final question underlying many of the Estimates Committee's recommendations. Is the U.G.C. fully equipped in its present membership and staff to carry out the increasing demands made upon it? I deal first with the membership. The U.G.C. has itself been closely considering this question. The problem as put by the Estimates Committee is one of relieving the burden on the Chairman and bringing the Committee into more frequent contact with universities and giving it a much greater degree of expertise. The Estimates Committee rightly describes the present load on the Chairman of the U.G.C. as "awesome" and recommends, as the hon. Gentleman said, that the part-time post of Deputy Chairman should be made full time.
I am not certain that this is the best solution. We and the U.G.C. are attracted by the possible alternative of having two part-time Deputy Chairmen—one, like the present Deputy Chairman, academic, and the other non-academic with management experience. This would bring the U.G.C. further industrial or commercial experience and give greater flexibility in the organisation of work between the Chairman, the Deputy Chairmen and the officers.
As to membership, we fully accept the need for further reinforcement of the Committee in order to meet its growing responsibilities. But we should not, I think, necessarily achieve this by further increasing its membership. Size has its dangers as well as its benefits. The view of the U.G.C., which I accept, is that the present membership of 20 plus two for salary questions is about right, and that any increase would impair the Committee's effectiveness. The Estimates Committee suggested that more of the members might be full time. Surely the answer to this deficiency lies in providing more full-time staff expertise, and 254 this is a point I should like to come to in a moment.
How, then, should we reinforce the Committee? The U.G.C. now proposes two radical changes which I believe will achieve the object we all have in mind. First, it proposes that in future the academic members of the Committee should undertake, as part of their terms of appointment, to make one-fifth of their time available for U.G.C. business and that this should be formally recognised both by the members themselves and by their universities. This will make it much easier for the Chairman to call upon the time of members for particular jobs and for members to respond to such calls without embarrassment on any side. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors has said that these arrangements would be acceptable to the universities.
Secondly, the U.G.C. has decided to extend the system of expert advisory subcommittees and panels on which it already relies to a considerable extent. In addition to the existing standing subcommittees there will, in future, be subject-groups covering the entire range of academic subjects, both arts and sciences. It also proposes to extend the use of small ad hoc panels or study groups to examine particular problems.
These new sub-committees and groups will consist jointly of Committee members and outside experts. This will increase the number of people concerned with the work of the U.G.C., without adding to the membership of the Committee itself and it will ensure that the assessment of university developments and the formulation of guidance to the universities, while becoming more purposeful, will continue to be through a "judgment by peers". I believe this to be a most significant concept which will be further developed under the new arrangements. These arrangements are already under way and I hope that they will lead to a major improvement.
There is one other change which I should like to mention. The Estimates Committee recommended that the timetable of the U.G.C. visitations should be spread over the whole quinquennium. The increased call which the Committee will now have on its members, and the introduction of a full range of subject sub-committees and panels, will make 255 this possible and the visitations can now be largely divorced from the quinquennial cycle.
Lastly, the Estimates Committee also made a series of recommendations about the staffing of the U.G.C. We all—the U.G.C., my Department and the Treasury —accept the need for proper staffing to match the continuing increase in the range and complexity of the Committee's responsibilities. The growth of the secretariat is proof of this.
In January, 1953, the staff numbered 22. In the next 10 years it doubled, and since 1963 has more than doubled again. The authorised complement is now 116 compared with 106 at the time that the Estimates Committee reported and this includes an increase of two—an architect and an engineer—in the Architects' Branch following the review carried out by the Treasury, as suggested by the Estimates Committee. There may still be one or two points where some further strengthening will be required, especially to take account of the changes in the Committee structure, but, by and large, I believe, as does the U.G.C., that, once existing vacancies are filled, the staff will be well equipped to deal with its present responsibilities.
The hon. Gentleman referred to specific recommendations by the Estimates Committee for two particular posts, apart from the architect and engineer I have mentioned—that of a full-time statistician for the Finance Division and a full-time cost accountant. The essential thing is to make sure that this professional advice is fully available to the U.G.C. while also ensuring that scarce professional talents—and all these talents are desperately scarce —are used in such a way as to make the maximum use of their skill.
As the hon. Gentleman will know, inside the Civil Service it is rare for professional staff to be deployed individually or in twos or threes in particular administrative branches. Normally, professional advice is provided as a central service available to all branches of a Department. So the U.G.C. can and does call on any of the specialist services in my Department. It does so all the time.
For example—to take up the point about statistics—the U.G.C. already has a 256 statistician on the staff who works in the closest co-operation with the Statistics Branch of my Deparment, which is almost certainly the outstanding branch in the whole of Whitehall. I have gone into the Statistics Branch carefully and I am certain that nothing more needs to be done in that respect. The same is true of the cost accountancy and of the Architects' and Building Branch. The two sets of services must be considered as a single whole and so considered they now meet, I believe, the requirements of the Estimates Committee.
The major part of the credit for the changes must go to the U.G.C. and especially the Chairman, Sir John Wolfenden. I was glad that the hon. Gentleman referred to him, quite rightly, as a great public servant. Burdened by his "awesome" load and recently bereaved, as the hon. Gentleman said, Sir John never losses his humour or vitality or his incredible capacity for work. If any one man deserves praise for the successful maintenance of the "buffer state" principle, it is surely Sir John. For this principle of the "buffer state" is now accepted almost everywhere.
There may be a few extremists in the universities—one of them indeed expressed such a view in an article in the Listener a week or two ago—who still resent the intrusion of the outside world. There may still be a few extremists in the outside world who resent the independence of the universities. But the huge majority of us in every party have confidence in the present system and confidence in the U.G.C. to administer it.
Of course, the system will and must change and adapt to changing needs and changing circumstances. The subject groups I have described themselves represent a major adaptation on the part of the U.G.C. But it will adapt within the framework of two principles.
On the one hand, we must reassure the universities that we believe profoundly in their freedom and in their expansion. On the other hand, we must reassure the taxpayer and Parliamentary opinion that the nation receives full value for this large expenditure. I hope that what I have said this afternoon will help to reassure both parties to this vital and fruitful partnership.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)
I should like first to support what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about Sir John Wolfenden. Any of us who have had first-hand contact with Sir John Wolfenden will feel very strongly what an enormous service he gives. I particularly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that there can be very few people in public life who not merely bear a bigger load, but actually work quite so hard as Sir John persistently does.
I also very much agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said in his congratulations to the Sub-Committee and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid). I think I have read not only the Report, but all the evidence in the Report. It is one of the most valuable Estimates Committee Reports which we have had in very many years and my hon. Friend and his colleagues are to be greatly congratulated.
As I go along, I shall be taking up some of the points which the right hon. Gentleman made in his speech. I think that my hon. Friend will feel that it was worth while to put out that slightly tart comment on 8th December when on a number of subjects this afternoon the Secretary of State has been rather more forthcoming than was his Department in its Departmental Observations. However, there is one point which the right hon. Gentleman made in his initial remarks which l should like to take up straight away.
He used this occasion for making a reference to the binary system, as it is sometimes called; I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman were making his Woolwich speech again he would probably express some parts of it a little differently, and I am not so sure that I would go quite so far as the right hon. Gentleman went this afternoon in ruling out institutional links, almost on principle, between the universities and other higher education institutions. For example, I have said before that there was a strong case on purely geographical and historical grounds for continuing the link between Birmingham C.A.T. and the College of Commerce. Even so, I repeat what I said in the debate which we had last March—I hope that the 258 right hon. Gentleman will continue strongly to resist the proposition that only a university degree confers educational and social status. I was very glad to hear him point out this afternoon, contrary to what is widely believed, that the Robbins Report did not propose an entirely unitary system of higher education. Although people in higher education all too often seek to denigrate the Council for National Academic Awards, to do so is absolutely not in accordance with the Robbins Report. The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct in his Woolwich speech to point out that the establishment of a separate degree system under the Council for National Academic Awards was exactly what was proposed in Robbins.
I make two further comments. It was remarkable that in one very lengthy speech delivered in another place on this subject, colleges of education were discussed for two full columns of HANSARD without one mention of children. Let us always remember the object for which these institutions exist and what the Newsom Report, for example, said about the success which college-trained teachers had had in teaching the Newsom sector. It was even more remarkable last week that in three or four full pages of the New Statesman we had a blast on this subject without a single reference to part-time higher education—part-time Higher National Certificates and Diplomas. The great difficulty about the Lanchester and many other projects is precisely that in the regional colleges—in nearly all of them—and in a number of area colleges there is degree level work and part-time advanced level work going on side by side; I cannot see that it would be sensible to adopt a pattern of organisation which devalued part-time advanced level work, and split thriving existing institutions.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I agree with everything the right hon. Gentleman is saying, but can he suggest on one issue of principle why such part-time degree level work cannot be done in a university?
§ Sir E. Boyle
I doubt very much whether universities would want to take this work on. These things must come gradually.
259 I was glad to hear the Secretary of State speak of the value of closer relations between institutions. But if the object of those who are for a unitary system is to say that the only thing that should really count is degree level work, and that we want to aim at a completely unitary system for degree level work, then I say that they are greatly under-rating the difficulty of making a split in our system of higher education at the point where they would make it.
I come now to make a rather less friendly reference to the Secretary of State. As he must agree, there was a certain irony about the timing of the Report we are discussing. The final paragraph of this Report says thatIf the Robbins target is to be achieved without prejudice to accepted standards of university education, a further large increase in the capital grant, which the Estimates Committee had been investigating, would appear to be unavoidable.What actually happened? Only two or three days after we had this Report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced his six months' moratorium on the starts of all educational capital projects other than schools, and it is now clear from the right hon. Gentleman's answer just before we adjourned for Christmas that the Government's handling of university building has been even more severe than anyone could have supposed from the Chancellor's statement.
What the Government have decided is that the universities are collectively to get a smaller capital grant over the three years ending with the financial year 1967–68 than we on this side when we were the Government, had already sanctioned in 1964. I should like to remind the House of one or two figures. Chapter 18 of the Robbins Report on the short-term emergency showed that we needed to plan for more than 20,000 extra university places by the academic year 1967–68. Incidentally, I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman pointed out the rapid increase since the war both in university education and full-time higher education, and I am not sure that the figures which he gave this afternoon quite bear out the 1963 comment of the Prime Minister that "education had been the whipping boy of the stop-go economic 260 policy". None the less, the Robbins Report made it clear that we needed a considerable number of extra university places if we were to meet the demand for places during the critical years of the bulge.
What was the reaction from the universities to this? They first said that they needed £60 million worth of additional capital grants over and above what had already been authorised if they were to cope with the extra numbers. The U.G.C. scaled down these university bids to £40 million. And the then Government, for their part, offered an extra £36 million—that is to say, an extra £15 million for projects to be started in the calendar year 1964 and an extra £21 million for the 15 months January, 1965, to April, 1966. The U.G.C. acquiesced in this offer by the Government, but made it plain that in its view the revised programmes of £48.5 million for 1964 and £54.4 million for 1965–66 were the absolute minimum which it considered essential if the universities were to meet the demand for places as estimated by the Robbins Committee.
I remember that a very strong case was also put to us that the value of work authorised to be started in the calendar year 1965 should not be less than in 1964 and that only £6 million of the £54.5 million should be held over to the first quarter of this year. That seemed reasonable, on the ground that if 1967–68 was to be the peak year of the short-term emergency, the level of starts in the calendar year 1965 was crucial if we were to get the number of people we wanted in the universities in 1967–68.
What in fact has happened? Last year, as a result of the moratorium, the value of university buildings started in 1965, far from being the same as in the calendar year 1964, was actually a little less than in the last pre-Robbins year, 1963. I leave it to the imagination of hon. Members, if anyone could have forecast such an eventuality on the morrow of the Government's acceptance of the targets in the Robbins Report, just what a storm there would have been. And over the 15-month period January, 1965, to April, 1966, instead of the programme already authorised of £54.5 million, we have had a programme of only £39.5 million.
261 It is true the right hon. Gentleman has announced, as he was really bound to do, a larger programme of starts for 1966–67, increased from £33½ million to £40 million, and an increase of £5 million for 1967–68. But this means that in terms of work carried out, even by 1970, the universities will still not have fully recovered from the effect of the cuts made in the building programmes which the Conservative Government had already authorised in 1964.
In any case, the right hon. Gentleman's announcement, before Christmas, was really considerably less generous than it sounded for a number of reasons. First of all, the effect of the Government's decisions must mean not just a small cut, but a substantial reduction in the value of university building work actually carried out during the crucial years 1966–67. The effect of the cut in starts in 1965 must affect the work done in the two following years.
Secondly, and more important still, when we were in office we always recognised the £25 million figure for 1967–68 as provisional and subject to review in the light of the results of the enquiry by the U.G.C. into obsolescence. Sir John Wolfenden made this quite clear when giving evidence in reply to question No. 369, he said:The present arrangement is that there is a £25 million floor, and that will be lifted if we can show cause.Much later in the inquiry at Question 1950 lie pointed out that this is exactly why the allocations for 1967–68 had not been made. He made the very sensible point that if the provisional total that had been allocated had been distributed, this could well have meant giving a university a second-priority project, whereas if it turned out that more money became available, it could then get its first priority project after all.
Sir John Wolfenden was perfectly clear that we had never reached a final figure for 1967–68. There was one thing about which I was disturbed in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. Is he saying that we must now not only accept the final figure of £30 million for 1967–68, but that we must also accept, as an absolutely final figure, £25 million for 1968–69? I hope that when the Minister of State winds up tonight he will be able to tell us that we have not got an absolutely 262 final figure here, and that in the light of the inquiry into obsolescence it may be possible to add a little to the last year of the four-year period of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke.
§ Mr. Crosland
May I settle this point? It is not an absolutely final figure. I have said that this will be a roving programme and this figure is subject to adjustment.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I am very relieved to hear that. I hope that we can get it clearly established that the position of the last year in the 1968–69 period is in the same position as was the 1967–68 period before the right hon. Gentleman made his Christmas announcement. There is also one other factor, namely, that since we announced these programmes in 1963–64 there has been a rise in the cost of university building, estimated as being as high as £4 million. I have given these figures to the House because I think that they ought to be appreciated.
We should also recognise what these figures are going to mean to the universities and to their staffs. I accept the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that, despite the actions of the Government, we shall reach the Robbins target in 1967–68. Surely the task which faces universities is not just that of reaching a numerical target, but sustaining these numbers without sacrificing standards which they, as autonomous institutions, consider essential. I understand the feelings of the universities that they should not be penalised for the tremendous efforts which they are making.
On this point, I thought that Lord Fulton—whom I am sure we would all wish to congratulate on his recent honour —put this right in an answer he gave to the Sub-Committee. He said at Question 589:After Robbins there was an air of confidence in the universities; they thought 'Now we can expand, we shall have the money to do it.' … The universities had got into a state of mind in which they felt that if they expanded they would only be lowering their standards … I think they thought that the Robbins Report and the way in which it was received was a new kind of guarantee this was no longer going to happen …It is quite true that Lord Fulton was a little gloomy about the staff-student ratio, which has not bent at all but has stood up throughout this quinquennium. But I am bound to say that I think that 263 Lord Fulton is right in saying that there is not the same confidence today in universities as there was when the Robbins Report appeared. If the universities are to have less money we ought to recognise the consequences, both for a more rapid degree of obsolescence in the older universities and a slowing-down in the building-up of the new ones.
I would like to say a word, first, about the new universities. At present we have the national task of building up no fewer than 20 new universities, including the colleges of advanced technology. This is not just a matter of constructing so many square feet and providing lecture rooms and communal facilities. There is also the need to attract first class academic staff. On this point I am inclined to agree with the article in the New Statesman last week, that staff and students are often attracted to what is new. But surely building programmes are very important here too?
In this context I was impressed by an answer which Sir Peter Venables gave in reply to Question 981 when he said:Until we get our expanded buildings, allowing for more and more research, you will not reinforce this salary position adequately.I was glad, also, that Sir Peter Venables made it quite clear that the C.A.T.'s should not come off too badly under the old Ministry of Education, that our stewardship of them had been good. Sir John Wolfenden also said at Question 549 that the difficulty with the C.A.T.s… is going to be in relation to hopes that they are entertaining now on the basis of development projects of their own which they have discussed in the past with the Department and the Ministry of Education …The C.A.T.s were expanding very rapidly before they came into the U.G.C. set-up. There building programmes went up from about £1 million a year at the start of this decade to the figure of £4.7 million in 1964–65.
Not only are buildings important but there is the need for adequate libraries, which are also highly important from the point of view both of capital and recurrent grants. Each new university receives an initial library grant of £175,000. We obviously need to get a balance between expenditure on libraries, including often expensive text books and periodicals, and on science equipment.
264 Thirdly we should not forget the problems of residence experienced by the new universities. The supply of convenient lodgings is not unlimited. I am told that the new University of Canterbury is already thinking in terms of lodgings as far away as Whitstable—not just Herne Bay, but Whitstable. When, as at Brighton, 85 per cent. of the students live in the town one has to provide a very large car park. And I do not believe, as I have said in earlier debates, that one can altogether arrest the fall in the proportion of home-based students. From all these points of view the building up of new universities is bound to be an expensive business.
But I am even more concerned with the position in the older civic universities—that is universities like Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and London. If I have a criticism of the Sub-Committee's Report, it is that I am sorry it did not spend a little more time on these. I think that the Committee visited Birmingham, but I believe that this was the only one. These are the universities, which, more than any others, are bearing the brunt of the Robbins expansion.
What must surely worry the Secretary of State is that, with the present level of building programmes, when sufficient resources have been earmarked for bringing new universities and C.A.T.s up to a viable size, and also for technology—we are in the course of spending a total of £18½ million on Imperial College—there is going to be too little left for the older civic universities. These universities are offering some of the most important courses in the arts and fundamental science. We must not forget the continuing importance of university-orientated fundamental research, tempting though it is to concentrate in scientific debates on what the Minister of Technology is up to. But the university-orientated research is extremely important.
Also, we should not forget how much harder it is for an established university to go on moving forward. I am sure that if Lord Fulton were taking part in this debate he would wish to contrast the problem of getting Brighton to its present size and the problem, after a certain numbers of years, of advancing inch by inch at Swansea.
265 I have talked about the university institutions, but perhaps most important of all are the students themselves. We should remember that Robbins, if anything, under-rated the demand for full-time higher education.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the very important question of the older civic universities, may I ask him whether he has any idea of the policy or definite commitment which his party would make in the extremely expensive job of providing land for them on which to expand? It is easy to say this in the House, but, on the spot, places like Leeds are fearful problems.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I accept that land is sometimes a problem. I will come to the question of priorities for education expenditure generally. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. We must think not only of building programmes but of land, fees and equipment. I very much agree with the attitude taken in the Report about fees.
The purpose of this part of my speech has been to make two points. First, I believe that the programmes which we approved as a Government were the absolute minimum needed by the universities. And, secondly, we can all too easily forget the problem of the older civic universities which are particularly bearing the brunt of rising numbers.
I was saying that I thought that Robbins, if anything, under-rated the demand for full-time higher education. The targets were based on the assumption that 10.8 per cent. of the university age group would get two or more A levels by 1973. Even the Department's statistics for 1963 showed that this figure was already out of date. The new prediction is 13 per cent. The U.C.C.A. Report to which the Secretary of State referred—and I do not think it is out of order to refer to it since it came out officially an hour ago—suggests very strongly that as we pass the peak of the bulge pressures on universities will not lessen. This is the clear intimation of that Report. The trend is that those staying on in the sixth form will catch up the declining population in the secondary schools.
We see more and more the force—although some writers on education do 266 not—of what is said on page 89 in Appendix One of the Robbins Report:… it is impossible to circumscribe with a formula the potentialities of the future.All this, including the Report which we are discussing, emphasises the need to consider this matter in terms of priorities in the education service. I feel, as the House well knows, that we got this utterly wrong last year. Whatever the economic situation, how can it make sense to cut back university and college building and at the same time plan to increase the indiscriminate subsidy on school milk and meals from £84 million to £99 million?
While I wholly share the view about the quality of the Department's statistics, the chapter on education in the National Plan was thin and unsatisfactory. This Report shows the need to look not just five years ahead but ideally even longer ahead and to ask ourselves this question: assuming that we shall have a specific rate of increase each year in the amount of real resources available for education, how can we get the best value for this money in the national interest?
I should like to pass to some other specific issues contained in this Fifth Report. I agree with the Sub-Committee that the Department's observations were too perfunctory in tone and substance. That is why I am glad that the Secretary of State has been more forthcoming today on a number of points. I agree with the clear indication in the Report that the University Grants Committee needs to be more professional in many of its operations; and I have no doubt that the Committee itself would agree with that. I thought that Sir John Wolfenden's evidence throughout was extremely frank and helpful.
On Recommendation (1) on the full-time deputy chairmanship, I should be inclined to feel that there was merit in the alternative suggestion which the Secretary of State made this afternoon about two part-time Deputy Chairmen. I say that for two reasons. First, anyone like myself who has spent a number of years as a Junior Minister will know that on large issues people are not prepared to accept a "no" from a number two. This must always be remembered. It would probably be true of powerful Vice-Chancellors, also.
267 Secondly, I agree with the Secretary of State that there is a strong case for saying that the U.G.C. should have one nonacademic Deputy Chairman who can concentrate on those activities which universities have in common with other institutions and one Deputy Chairman from the academic world who can concentrate on those activities unique to universities. The broad distinction between the sphere of influence of the two Deputy Chairmen makes sense to me.
But the Sub-Committee was surely on strong ground in complaining about the answer which it received to its recommendations regarding the architects' division. I am glad that on Recommendations (4) and (5) the Secretary of State still had an open mind and certainly did not regard the matter as closed.
It is easy to criticise the Treasury, but I felt that the Treasury's evidence was a little unsatisfactory on this point. One Treasury witness said, at Question 1704:Certainly the Treasury does its best to meet the claims of the U.G.C., but it has a great many competing claims from other departments who would certainly claim that the work for which they need staff is equally important. We have to balance the claims of government departments here and do what we can to meet all their high priority needs.This was not quite the point which my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South was on. The Treasury is the sponsoring Department for the machinery of Government, and this answer rather begged my hon. Friend's question as to whether the needs of the U.G.C. as an institution—not quite part of the Government but not right outside the Government, do not need to be looked at today, with its vastly increased scale of operations, more closely than ever before. I do not think that it met my hon. Friend's point to imply that this is just one more branch of one more Department wanting to increase its establishment, so that it should put forward its claims through its own sponsoring Department like anyone else. That is why I am glad that the Secretary of State was more forthcoming this afternoon.
Turning to Recommendation (12), it is obviously important that the Building Sub-Committee of the Vice-Chancellors' Committee should remain in close touch with the U.G.C. I like the idea in the 268 Report that both the U.G.C. and the Vice-Chancellors' Committee should try to forge close links with the National Building Agency. The Departmental reply on this point was more satisfactory. The Department referred to the research at the Bristol College of Science and Technology on the modification of the CLASP system for technological building. I hope that this need not be strictly confined to technological building. I can think of other types of building also in which this research could be useful.
On the question of value for money, it is not always easy to persuade experienced bursars that public bodies, or those of us taking part in these debates, know their job better than they do. The bursar of university X feels that he knows how to get chairs straight from the maker at a good price and then learns that his friend at university Y has a similar line on curtain fittings. We should remember that the capital equipment grant is a stated sum of money and that universities have an incentive to be economical. But it is equally true that they may not always be good at being economical. This points to the need to increase professionalism in all those activities which universities have in common with other institutions.
That leads me to my next point. The difficulties come at the frontier between these activities and academic activities. I wish to comment briefly on the reaction to the University Grants Committee's request that university staff should declare an apportionment of their time between undergraduate teaching, post-graduate teaching and research. Like the Secretary of State, I have been a little surprised at the sharpness of this reaction because when the Robbins Report was being carried out an inquiry of this kind was made in rather more detail than has now been undertaken by the U.G.C.
Nevertheless, we want, if possible, to avoid a situation in which there is a sort of divide, with the U.G.C. on one side of the divide feeling that it is being unreasonably criticised and that the university world cannot expect to contract out of what in any other walk of life would seem to be a normal operation; while, on the other side of the divide, university staff feel equally strongly that 269 those outside do not sufficiently realise the ways in which universities differ from all other institutions. There is a danger here of too sharp a divide in opinion. We need a bridge, and we surely have one in the Vice-Chancellors' Committee.
I am told that the working party which produced the offending forms included university registrars and finance officers and that there has been a clear understanding that the Vice-Chancellors' Committee should have the opportunity of discussing this whole exercise with the U.G.C. after a few months. I hope that when this discussion takes place, every effort will be made to restore confidence across this divide. This is particularly important at the present time, because we are clearly discussing the Sub-Committee's Report today at a time of changing and evolving relationships between this House, the Department of Education and Science, the University Grants Committee, the research councils and the universities themselves.
I was one of those lucky enough to attend the discussion at Caius College last July at the kind invitation of Sir Nevill Mott and also to some extent at the invitation of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), to whom I am extremely grateful. I think that all of us who attended the conference felt that it was well worthwhile and would like in retrospect to say how grateful we were to Sir Nevill for his hospitality and initiative. A record of the conference has been most skilfully put together by Mr. Tudor David, now edior of The Teacher, and it is shortly to appear in "Minerva".
I hope and believe that all of us at that conference were believers in certain essentials of academic freedom—as the Robbins Report says, freedom with regard to appointments, curricula and standards, the admission of students and the balance between teaching and research. The Minister this afternoon rightly said that these are essential freedoms. They are under threat in many other parts of the world.
There is nothing like even a short visit to South Africa to make one realise how important it is to stand up firmly for these principles. I could not help thinking, when the Robbins Report reflects upon the fact that any institution that puts a closed number on a particular 270 racial group could hardly expect to be supported from public funds, that it is a most remarkable experience to go to a country which actually enforces racial segregation in universities by law. I do not think that I should be going too far to say that Lord Robbins and his colleagues, who were not "way-out" English Left-wingers, but mostly inheritors of broadly liberal traditions in this country, would have regarded such a possibility as too horrible to contemplate unless one was actually thinking in a South African context.
We were also agreed at the conference that there must be, to use the rather happy phrase of my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway), "public dialogue" regarding the universities, and that this House will want to take part in that dialogue. We in this House must be concerned not merely with student numbers, with the universities' share of total educational resources, with the machinery for determining university salaries—a very important point in itself—and with the many important issues contained in the Estimates Sub-Committee's Report.
I suggest that we as a House cannot disregard, either, the ways in which the universities impinge upon the rest of the education service: for example, what Mr. Peterson, speaking at the conference, would call the "blithe indifference to distorted school curricula" or what I would call, rather more cautiously, the effect of university entrance requirements on sixth form studies and on the trend towards early specialisation. Whatever one calls it, this is a subject which we cannot simply disregard and forget about in the House of Commons.
If, however, we are to debate the universities more frequently in the House of Commons, the work not just of the Secretary of State, but also of the Universities Branch of the Department of Education and Science, will grow more important. I regret a little that the Sub-Committee, in its excellent Report, did not probe this one aspect just a little more.
The Department's evidence given by the Under-Secretary concerned was extremely interesting as far as it went. In answer to Question 1747, Mr. Carswell said, in effect, that the single most important job of the Universities Branch was 271 to brief the Secretary of State to see that he was well informed when it was a matter of deciding the level of resources that the universities should receive. He put it very well when he said:The U.G.C. must have some point in the government machine to which it comes and through which its detailed allocations and demands are channelled. The U.G.C. itself holds no money and has no finance officer of its own. We are, in effect, the U.G.C.'s finance officer.That was a good answer on a crucial part of the work of the Universities Branch.
The same official went on to say, a few questions later, that the U.G.C.are the Government's professional advisers on university matters.I was very glad that he went on to say, in answer to Question 1762, thatof course, the Minister can call on advice in relation to the whole educational system. His educational advisers from other parts of the Ministry might well have a contribution to make to any substantial change in university policy. This was one of the arguments that were strongly urged in favour of transferring this work from the Treasury to the Ministry.Equally, it is one of the strongest arguments for the Secretary of State covering the whole educational field, from the primary school to research work at the university. Despite what has been said by some people, I am sure that there is an unanswerable case for having one Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman usefully was able to point out this afternoon that it had been decided to have only one accounting officer, and that this was purely a matter of machinery and in itself involved no change of policy.
One more matter which I should have liked to see emerge in evidence is the importance of a good working relationship between the Department's bureaucracy and the U.G.C. bureaucracy. I do not suggest that this does not apply now, but it is very important. I referred to this is a passage quoted verbatim in the "Minerva" Report. I said:It is the departmental officials, the University Branch, who actually brief the Secretary of State for day-to-day purposes. I think the important thing is that they should not come to be thought of by the universities as people who are just there to brief the Secretary of State with the U.G.C. point of view. They should be to some extent creative thinkers on their own account, like the rest of the administrative class.272 In using those words, I was thinking precisely of the point that they will be in touch with the rest of the Department and so will see the university in its relation to the whole of the rest of the education system.
Coming on to the U.G.C. itself, surely the value of the U.G.C. system, to which the Secretary of State rightly paid tribute this afternoon, was very well put by Sir Eric Ashby at the same conference when he said that the secret of the success of the British university system lay in the fact that it maximised the degrees of freedom of the universities to come to a decision and minimised the ability of other people to circumscribe this freedom. I would add that it has never been the job of the Chairman of the U.G.C.—it is not his job today, as Sir John would be the first to insist—to be a sort of director-general of universities. That is not his function at all. We want, however, to help the U.G.C., and this is the purpose of the Report that we are debating, to carry out its functions more professionally.
It is, I think, true that in certain ways the U.G.C. must play a more positive rôle in future quinquennia. The Secretary of State referred to the Bosanquet Report and to the fact that there are more schools of agriculture than there should be. He also spoke about the need to concentrate resources and to rationalise the provision of costly equipment. I also feel that this House will ask for more information about the universities. I agree with what was said at Cambridge about this both by the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby).
I do not believe that any of these developments need infringe the basic principle of academic freedom: that is to say, the more frank recognition of a creative rôle for the Department in its Universities Branch, the importance of close relationships at official level between the Department and the U.G.C. and a more positive rôle in certain respects for the U.G.C. These things seem to me to be perfectly consistent with the maintenance of the essential academic freedoms, to which the Secretary of State and I have paid tribute today.
One other set of bodies which has not been mentioned and which I mention 273 only briefly are the research councils, which are the only major sources of public money besides the U.G.C. and local education authority grants to the universities. I am glad that the Sub-Committee considered at some length the question whether research council grants are in danger of distorting the pattern of research. It is, of course, true that a research council can continue a grant into a second quinquennium even if the U.G.C. does not give the project priority. The research council can keep the grant going as one which it would like to support.
On that point there was, I thought, a very good answer on the rationale of this by Mr. Walker at Question 810, when he said:The University Grants Committee provides for university education and general support of universities. It is provided under circumstances which leaves the universities free to decide how they will spend it. In the case of funds from D.S.I.R., a research grant, for example, is given to support work which is deemed to be of scientific merit, not because of the contribution it will necessarily make to education and the general running of the university.This distinction is a fair one and I regard this as a right situation. In other words, the research councils are to some extent trustees for the interests of the outside world to see that there is an outside body which can put up particular projects to universities that they believe will be of value. My opinion is, on the whole, in favour, even today, of a little more openness in some respects of the universities to the outside world. I should like Government Departments, for example, to have rather more opportunity of putting up research projects that could prove to be of value.
Finally—I come to this only because it is the logical order—there are the universities themselves with their three great functions. There is, first, their teaching function. The Robbins Report in this regard was a document of historic importance in our national history. Surely, the desire to increase the proportion of the university age group enjoying full-time higher education from 6 per cent. to at least 16 per cent. over a single generation was a right and worthy endeavour. It was a right endeavour from the point of view of the young people themselves concerned and from the viewpoint also of our whole society, because 274 I like the idea of many more trained minds and a wider consensus of discussion of values and institutions in our society. Surely this is right.
As I ventured to say at a recent meeting, it is not enough simply to make the general statement that in a democracy everybody counts. What we want is many more people counting for distinctly more than they do. This is why I believe that the expansion of higher education is vital.
Do not let us forget that this applies to postgraduate as well as undergraduate teaching. It also is important to remember that the least able and fortunate will gain from this expansion. People sometimes used to say that the Robbins Report was dependent upon accepting the Newsom Report. There is a sense in which it is much more true to say that the Newsom objectives are dependent upon our going right ahead with Robbins.
Secondly, there is the importance of research at the universities—fundamental research no less than applied research, a subject on which Sir Peter Medawar recently gave such a memorable and right-minded lecture; and also universities spreading out into new branches of learning and new subjects, particularly perhaps in the social sciences.
I welcome the fact that so much work has been done, irrespective of whether one agrees with or likes the results, on the sociological aspect of education, and the subjects of crime and of sentencing. One thinks of the enormous ways in which our knowledge of society today is greater than it was ten or even five years ago as a result of university work. Speaking for myself, I find in Opposition that a great many people at the universities are only too ready to share their discoveries and, perhaps, their tentative ideas with those of us in this House if we like to discuss them and ask for them.
Last, but by no means least, there is the ferment of discussion at the universities and the degree and intensity of intellectual life in those institutions, quite apart from their strictly research or teaching functions. It is my belief that this degree of intensity of intellectual life, and this ferment of discussion in our universities, was never more needed in our British society than it is today.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
As a member of the Committee which passed the comment which perhaps might have been thought to be a stricture on the Department of Education and Science, I personally am satisfied that the Secretary of State has fully earned his discharge from those strictures this afternoon in some of the very important announcements he has made particularly on the machinery of the University Grants Committee, and it is on that that I wish briefly to speak.
My right hon. Friend has said that the U.G.C. is asking its members to spend a fifth of their time on the work of the Committee. It is quite possible that rather more time would be needed initially. I wonder whether the proportions of time in the first year or two of service might come nearer to half or even full-time as the new member gets to know the university world rather better. A more important question is on the sub-committees themselves. The best model for these are the sub-committees of the science research councils, which are well regarded in the scientific world and respected for the judgments they make, even if particular scientists may not always agree with those judgments.
This is a considerable departure from the existing sub-committees of the U.G.C. The technology sub-committee has met only once a year in recent years and has a quite intractably large membership. I hope that the U.G.C. sub-committees and subject groups will be modelled on the sub-committees of the scientific research councils and will achieve equal respect. The U.G.C. would become a more effective body with properly serviced sub-committees exercising their responsibilities as the research councils do.
This would make the Vice-Chancellors' Committee an even more problem body than it is now. It has turned out to be something of a mass meeting with 40 or more Vice-Chancellors present. It has no firm decision-making function, but those who are members of it say that they feel it has an important consultative rôle and they are very unhappy about the way in which it has discharged that rôle. It will become all the more difficult if it is coping with a more highly organised U.G.C. I wonder whether it 276 should be extended so that either it or the pyramid of which it is the head could speak more authoritatively about current views in universities. I do not see why there should not be a structure of very loose consultative committees whose job would simply be to express university opinion and in no sense to make decisions on the allocation of expenditure which is the function of the subcommittees of the U.G.C.
The only other specific point which I mention is one that I am provoked into by the specific reference by the Secretary of State to priorities on the special institutions and relocation of Brunel, Chelsea and Bristol Colleges of Advanced Technology. I notice that in the first place this will not increase the numbers of students at a time when we are having to make the most efficient use of our capital and that also they are all outside the development districts. They are, therefore, perhaps concentrating the catalytic element of industrial growth in a part of the country where for economic reasons we do not wish to see it most encouraged.
I am sure the Secretary of State realises that I have in mind the proposal for a North-East university on which the Government are reserving their opinion and which is possibly to be discussed through other channels. On the allocation of public expenditure posed by the recent White Paper on investment incentives, Tees-side will benefit to the tune of £16 million a year from the Government provision at a time when the North-East still is not able to get perhaps £2 million a year needed to launch a new technological university.
The debate today will necessarily be more on the machinery for control and machinery for administering public expenditure in the higher education field, but when we look at the development of higher education and the points referred to by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) about greater public interest in this field, it is quite clear that the public needs to consider the shape of institutions which we shall require in the late seventies and eighties when the number of university students will be increasing by 25,000 per annum. It seems that the debate about the future shape of institutions needs to start now. We have been working on this 277 in proposals for new developments in technology very notably with reference to the C.A.T. at Bristol and also Lancaster and we have had discussion also in the North-East.
I hope very much that before long we shall have an occasion for a debate when we shall be able to pay more attention to institutions and the view of those in them not seeking to dictate from Parliament, but rather to understand and to allow the universities to feel that when we exercise our function in control of expenditure we are fully cognisant and sympathetic with the points of view within the education field itself.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
Those who have the honour to serve on the Committee have welcomed the far less truculent line which the Minister took this afternoon. I hope that his bark was less bad than his bite. Certainly the reply the Committee received was staggering in the lack of going any way to meet the conclusions of the considerable labours which we carried out throughout the country.
I wish to preface my more detailed remarks by referring to what the right hon. Gentleman said when he talked about the general attitude to education in this country today. I must confess that, like my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), I find a considerable degree of apprehension going round the universities as to whether or not we would succeed in achieving the Robbins targets. Also unlike the right hon. Gentleman—one always talks from the experience of very small Gallup Polls—I found that the bulk of the country is determined that Robbins should go through and be a success. Twenty years ago education was something in which the public was not generally interested; that is not true today.
We are faced today with a very great problem as to how Robbins' programme can be made effective. I refer to two points in the Report which we submitted to the House. The first has reference to obsolescence of some equipment in universities and also the fact that so pushed are the universities and the U.G.C. that some of the buildings are finished off in such a way that their maintenance costs are getting right out of measure to the 278 actual capital construction. These facts emerge clearly from the Report and indicate a programme which is heavily under strain. That is why, like my right hon. Friend, I regret the fact that this Government have had to adjust their building programme although overall the universities for the next three years will lose only about £3 million. That has meant an adjustment of £15 million downwards in this very critical year of 1965–66. Also in this term when the universities are desperately pressed for money whether one looks at the smaller universities such as Keele or the larger universities such as Oxford, or talks to one's friends in London, one finds there is no question that there is colossal pressure on funds to carry out the Robbins plan.
I hope that when the Minister of State replies he will clear the air, if that is the right phrase to use, about the idea of the University of the Air. There is no room for a capital investment of £25 million in the next two years even if the hon. Lady the "Minister of the Nine Muses"—I do not know her exact nomenclature—is to have charge of it. It would be helpful if the Government could say this evening that the question of the University of the Air at a time when we need scores of millions more for the regular university programme is to be put aside for some time.
Many of us when we started this investigation of the U.G.C. thought that possibly the University Grants Committee was something of a fifth wheel to the coach, but the more we went forward the more we became convinced of the view expressed from both Front Benches this afternoon that it is an essential part of the education equipment of the country. I believe that to be so first because the U.G.C. should be powerful to protect the universities in the widest sense against the follies of politicians which is very important. Ministers of Education from both sides of the House are very apt to build up the exteriors of education and express it merely in square feet or numbers of students or of institutions rather than seeing that those institutions aim at true perfection in themselves.
Secondly, I believe the U.G.C. has proved an extremely effective filter of public money. As the Minister and my right hon. Friend said, there was under 279 the D.E.S. very great progress made in colleges of advanced technology, but I think the D.E.S. was sometimes too lavish in what is allowed to go forward in those colleges. Certainly it will find it much more difficult under the U.G.C. to get money which is not properly deserved. That is why I believe the U.G.C. needs strengthening on the technical level. I am sure that even though the Minister has come some way to meet us there are still considerable distances he may have to come. The question of a rolling quinquennial should be further considered. We find that the brain drain occurs almost always in the fourth year of the quinquennial and in that year people do not know where they stand.
I ask the Minister to look at the evidence again on the technical side, first on the technical side of the architects' department and on the building side. If they were better equipped the U.G.C. could see that there are better designs and better co-ordination between universities and that we were getting better returns for money than we are today. On the statistical and planning side I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the D.E.S. has a very high reputation in the country today, but on future thinking and project thinking, of which the hon. Member for Middlesbrough, West (Dr. Bray) spoke, the U.G.C. could be better equipped to carry out this sort of research than the D.E.S. Therefore, I believe that we have to go further in giving to Sir John and his committee considerably greater technical assistance than is so far proposed.
I believe that this body as it exists is a very English solution to this problem. I think it is a body which needs strengthening to protect the universities, protect their academic freedom, and to make certain—for I believe this is the best way it can be done—that the enormous public funds which have to go into the universities over the next few years are properly protected and well spent.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
I must, first, apologise for the fact that much of my speech will probably be given behind the shelter of a handkerchief. This is one of the occasions when 280 I regret the fact that the well-known luxuries and amenities of the House do not run to such things as glasses of water for back benchers.
I should like, as was anticipated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, to speak about the decision which was made on the future of the Welsh College of Advanced Technology and about the structure of the University of Wales, because I have the honour to represent the constituency in which one of those, the Swansea College, stands. I can see no disadvantage in Swansea obtaining its own independent university.
However, in developing what I have to say I can only say that I regret the fact that I have to make this speech at all, first, because I have a high personal regard for both the Secretary of State and for the Minister, and, secondly, because the need for this speech could so easily have been avoided by, if I may say so, a little more tact. I am now being well looked after with supplies of water, and I think that we are now in danger of flooding the House. It could easily have been avoided with a little more consultation with the back benchers who have a special interest in this problem.
I think that I should point out at this stage that I have given lectures in the Welsh College of Advanced Technology for four and a half years, so I could not claim to be speaking from an unprejudiced position. On the other hand, I hope that what I am putting forward today will be put forward in a conciliatory manner, although I hope that that will not be interpreted as implying a lack of strength of feeling on the subject.
The need for this speech arises from an Answer to a Question on 23rd December. In the Answer an announcement was made by the Secretary of State that the Welsh College of Advanced Technology would be the only C.A.T. which would not be given independent status. In my present generous frame of mind I am quite happy to say that I accept as a coincidence that this controversial statement was made on the very last day before a rather lengthy Recess. I am even prepared to accept that it was a coincidence that it was in reply to a Written Question, and I am willing to 281 accept as a coincidence that this Question was tabled only the day before, so that other back benchers had not an opportunity to see that an Answer was about to come. Indeed, I am even willing to accept that it was a coincidence that there were so many coincidences.
However, the question which arises is: why was it so urgent that a statement was made on that particular day? After all, only 10 days before I had a letter from the Minister in which he gave no indication that any decision was pending. Indeed, he told me then that the only representations he had received were from a little-known student organisation in Wales and from the Association of Teachers in Wales, which happens to have a total membership of six in the College of Advanced Technology, out of a total staff of 190.
I am bound to question what happened within that space of 10 days that determined the Minister to make the statement and why it was that this statement could not wait. Why was it that he did not feel able to consult the Welsh backbench Members? After all, he cannot know our opinion, because he has never been to visit us in our own group and he has never discussed this problem with us.
Alarmed at the announcement, I wrote to the Secretary of State early in January and I pointed out to him that a substantial number of back benchers from Wales disagree with the decision which he had made, and I simply asked him, with an open mind, to meet us when we returned to Parliament—I stressed that in the letter, with an open mind—to discuss the problems. Yet, far from being confronted with an open mind, I found that just three or maybe four days ago in a Press interview with the Western Mail my right hon. Friend the Minister had said—I use as close a paraphrase as is possible in this House—that the decision is final for the foreseeable future.
If the decision was final and this was so final that it was to last for the foreseeable future, surely the need for consultation became even greater. Therefore, it is even more difficult to understand why, in fact, an unnecessary strain was imposed on the loyalty of the Welsh backbench Members in this matter.
282 During this interview the Minister answered a series of questions, and one of the points he made was that this decision on the Welsh College of Advanced Technology would have no effect on the courses which would be offered at this college. I feel I must ask the Minister: how does he know?
§ Mr. Williams
It could well have an effect on the courses because it is the University of Wales which will decide whether it will be those courses which are to be available, or whether those courses which are already in existence within the college will remain. If he knows that the University of Wales will accept courses in their existing form, why has he not done anything to notify the college of this? Because the college only today is having a meeting of its own governors, and, no doubt, this information would have been highly relevant.
In this situation, where the college would be asking the university, if it comes into the university, to accept the courses already in existence in the C.A.T., he has, by precommitting the college by saying it has either to do this or it will not get university status, reduced the bargaining power of the C.A.T. in dealing with the University of Wales.
The Minister was further asked in the interview how far the decision would affect existing students. This newspaper report is readily available in the Library. I am afraid he has not answered this question, but it must be answered because the students concerned, particularly those who started in the last two or three years, were promised that if they went in for courses such as the Diploma in Technology these courses would become degrees on the college obtaining university status. Therefore, those students have joined the college on an assumption which proves not to be valid, and the college is put in the situation where, in good faith, it has invited those students to join it and has, in fact, been guilty of misleading them about the qualifications which they are likely to obtain.
I must ask the Minister several further questions, because they are very important to everyone concerned with the college. First, is he aware that the 283 matriculation requirements of the university, the very basic qualifications for degrees, differ substantially from the current entry requirements of the Welsh College of Advanced Technology, because the college has based entry requirements upon those of London University and the new red-brick universities? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, for instance, one University of Wales requirement is one language for matriculation? So many technologists will find themselves deprived of opportunity for technological degrees simply because they do not have this language requirement at O level.
My right hon. Friend must bear in mind that students who have gone in for courses which were to become degrees will find that the courses on which they started will not obtain degree status. The University of Wales Charter has no provision for this retrospective award and yet the C.A.T. will have to conform to the University of Wales Charter. Under the Charter, retrospective degrees can only be granted to those students who have not been on a course for more than 12 months. How, then, will he cater for those students who have been on courses for two or even three years and who have made their investment in study and time and now find that they will not get the return that they were led to anticipate?
We are entitled to ask the Minister if he can assure us that retrospective provision will be made, that the University of Wales will be bound to accept the past entry requirements of the College of Advanced Technology and that the courses already under way at the C.A.T. will not be affected by his decision. If he cannot give those assurances, he should not have made a final decision, because they are imperative before a final decision can be taken.
Hon. Members on this side then asked for a Royal Commission to be appointed, and the Minister turned that down. He gave us his reasons and argued that the academic issues are already known.
It is in paragraph 685 of Robbins, though I have not the Report before me, that one sees the faults of a federal structure listed. Power tends to become concentrated at the centre, the links 284 between colleges are too weak, and too many boards and committees have to exist to co-ordinate, rather like a poor administrative structure in a business firm, with liaison committees which distract the members who have to serve on them from their main academic function, which is to teach. Robbins goes on to point out that many delays arise because the university as such becomes the official channel through which negotiation takes place on so many points with the national system.
My right hon. Friend claims that he knows these facts, yet a commission was set up by the University of Wales which virtually corroborated that most of those points can be levelled against the existing federal University of Wales. The majority report recommended that the university should be defederated, but it was not accepted by the university and no major changes in the charter have taken place since, so that criticisms levelled at the time of the majority report must be substantially true today.
Anyone who knows the Welsh background must accept that there are many other issues involved in the future of the University of Wales. My right hon. Friend said that for that reason a Royal Commission would not be an appropriate organisation to make decisions and recommendations. If a Royal Commission is not an appropriate organisation, how can the University Grants Committee be an appropriate organisation? It will have all the shortcomings in dealing with these valued judgments in relation to nationhood that a Royal Commission would have. In fact, it would have more limitations than a Royal Commission. But since he recognises that there are these valued judgments and these Welsh nationalist considerations, he should have come to the nearest available source of guidance, namely, the Welsh back benchers. After all, we are supposed to be here because we represent Welsh opinion. Without any loss of Ministerial status, he could easily have discussed his decision with us before making any irrevocable move.
To those of us concerned about the future of the Welsh College of Advanced Technology, our first worry is that once the C.A.T. goes into the University of Wales it will never get out again in that 285 there is no provision made for contracting out within the charter of the university. Therefore, that step should not be taken until every argument has been analysed.
Secondly, if it goes into the university the college may not be able to develop courses which differ substantially from the more formal type of academic course available at the old type of university, and it is the new type of course which is so essential to a new technological university.
Furthermore, if it is forced into the University of Wales, far from meeting the nation's need, which was said to be one of the major requirements, it could be that the C.A.T. will be denied the opportunity to meet the nation's need, because there are substantial pressures within the court of the University of Wales which say that the university has already expanded too much. They say that it should not be allowed to expand any further, and I believe that there is a motion before the next meeting of the court of governors to contain the growth of the university. We say as a nation that we need more university places and more technologists, and now we are to hand over a new technological institution to the restricted atmosphere of the court of the University of Wales.
I put forward those points because they may not have been heard by the Minister before. I do not know the source of his information, but I can assure him that much of the advice that he has received is out of touch with the feeling of Welsh back benchers. Before he divides the Welsh Labour group, I would ask him first to discuss this matter with us and, secondly, to be more flexible in his approach until he is sure that the statements he has made can be substantiated.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
First of all, I want to apologise to the Minister for not being present during his speech on this interesting subject. I was engaged upstairs with a Select Committee. Perhaps his hon. Friend will make my apologies to the Minister.
I am not pretending that I can enter into the little revolt of the Welsh back benchers opposite, and I will confine myself to the Estimates Committee's Report, because I was a member of the Sub-Committee dealing with it.
286 I want to take up four interrelated subjects which give me some concern and which I will detail as follows. The first of them is the obsolescence of many university buildings. The second is the planning of new buildings. The third is the need for research into industrialised building techniques. The fourth is the obsolescence of some of the scientific equipment that we saw at the universities.
We went to look at two of the older universities, Edinburgh and Birmingham, and we heard evidence from some of the others. Many of us know some of the other universities as well. Undoubtedly, when one looks at them with a fresh eye there are many inadequate buildings as a result of obsolescence which is only slowly being made good at the present time. Obviously, there is a long backlog since the war, and the oldest universities are the hardest hit in respect of buildings because, naturally, the new universities started with new buildings.
The University Grants Committee gave us evidence that it is setting about a Domesday survey of the buildings at present, and that should be very valuable. The U.G.C. went on to say that it has scheduled 1967–72 as a period for the repair of obsolescence in buildings, and the Chairman told us it had put on a floor of £25 million a year for that purpose. But since he told us that, there has been the six months' deferment in building and there has come to the fore the need to expand our universities to take in the Robbins estimates of the expanded university population.
If I might have the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary, having thought about these obsolescent buildings the question I would ask him is, will the period 1967–72 which the Chairman of the U.G.C. told us was going to be a period for the repair of obsolescent buildings now be used for the repair of obsolescence, or will it be merely used to take care of the Robbins expansion? That is a very important point, and it should be answered. In other words, are they going to be replaced? Can we start replacing in 1967, or not? I think that many of us would like to know the answer to that.
It is a truism that universities should know their building allocations as far ahead as possible. This enables them to plan ahead, to avoid extra professional 287 fees which come about through deferment, through staging, and to avoid cutting down on the quality of finish, which happens because of delays, because if a sum of money is set aside for a building one year and, in fact, it has to be built in four years' time, by the time one gets round to building it the price has gone up, and therefore the standard of building has to come down.
In 1958, new building allocations were known about four years in advance. We were told that the information now is given only 18 months in advance. Sir Robert Matthew, a past President of the Royal Institution of British Architects, called the present positionthe worst condition for economical buildingand said that the uncertainty of this programme wasa very big factor in inefficiencyat the present time.
That is why we brought forward Recommendation (ix), that confirmation of building should be given four years in advance of their being built, and we were sorry to see that the Department was not able to adopt that. In its reply the Department said:It is the Government's intention to give as long notice as possible of the amount available for capital investment",and so on, but it did not commit itself to this four-year programme which we would like to see, and which was available to the universities in 1958.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)
The hon. Gentleman was not here when my right hon. Friend made his speech and modified and added to what was said in our comments on the Fleck Committee's Report. My right hon. Friend pointed out that we had announced a four-year programme and hoped to make this a rolling programme and therefore to meet the points made by the Select Committee.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am pleased to hear that, because we were told that it was very expensive to cut down the period. Canterbury said that it cost £118,000.
I do not know whether the Minister dealt with industrial building techniques and Recommendation (xii). Here, again, 288 I was concerned at the weakness of the Department's answer. We recommended:The U.G.C. should invite the National Building Agency and experienced contractors to pool all available information on industrial building techniques and to combine with them to discover which systems are suitable for the different regions, categories and conditions of individual universities.The Department replied:The professional staff of the U.G.C. already have considerable knowledge of existing systems of industrialised building and their advantagesand so on, but it went on to say:However the particular problems involved in using industrialised building techniques in universities merit further investigation, and the Department of Education and Science and the U.G.C. are engaged, jointly with the authorities of the Bristol College of Science and Technology at Bath, in a piece of operational research on the modification of the CLASP system for technology buildings.I would not have thought that that went far enough. We know that the CLASP system is excellent, but will it take into account all the new ideas of industrialised building which are thrown up and exhibited every year at Crystal Palace? I hope that the Minister of State will say that this is going to be treated as a matter of urgency and that it will receive earnest attention, because, obviously, great improvements can be made. Many new methods of industrialised building have come to light within the last year or two, and great improvements can be made if they are adopted.
Lastly, I should like to say a word about the obsolescence of scientific equipment, which has been referred to once or twice already. One must admit that obsolescence is a national fault. We all love to see a machine which has run for 100 years. We are ashamed if we have to chuck it out after 10 years, although for many reasons we should perhaps do so. Perhaps I might give a homely example. A person buys a stair carpet for his home. It probably costs about £30, and will need to be replaced in about 15 years' time. He knows that the cost of replacing it might be almost double, about £60. Theoretically, he should put a penny in the box every time he goes up and down the stairs so that in, say, 15 years, there is enough money to buy a new stair carpet. But that does not happen and the U.G.C. has no penny box by which to 289 replace its scientific machinery. Much of it is out of date.
In Recommendation (xiii) we say:The U.G.C. should undertake a survey of at least all major scientific departments in universities to determine the degree of obsolescence in equipment …The rate of obsolescence in scientific machinery at the present time is very rapid. Some people say that the rate should be about 5 per cent. per annum for the changes that one has to make in machinery in any event to keep up with modern machinery that is coming in.
Professor Swann, the Acting Principal of Edinburgh, and Mr. Stewart, the Secretary there, told us that there was no rule about obsolescence. They said "Just grab what you can from the quinquennial grant, and any grant from outside." As I understand it, there is no regular grant for obsolescence. There is a rigidity of classification between recurrent grant and capital grant, but there is no recurring annual grant for depreciation. As a business man, I felt that there was rather a lack of appreciation of this issue in the U.G.C. itself, or rather its staff was not strong enough to deal with it.
The U.G.C. does not have a cost accountant on its staff,. There is not very much technical expertise in accountancy on this side, and it ought to have more help on this issue. It used to get more help when it was under the Treasury than it does now under the D.E.S., because it sometimes had the assistance of Treasury accountants. Statisticians should be attached to the recurrent grant division of the Department, but in its reply the Department said that the working party composed of representatives of the Treasury, the D.E.S. and the U.G.C.has now made its report which is being examined.It does not say whether there will be a survey of obsolescent scientific machinery. We would like to hear the result of this examination of the working party's report. Can the Minister of State give us a little more information about that?
The things which concerned me more particularly in the report were the obsolescence of many of the buildings in the older universities, the planning of new ones, the feeling, which I am glad the Minister shares, that we should have a four-year programme, the need for re- 290 search into industrialised building techniques—I think we need more research into that—and the obsolescence of scientific machinery. We require a survey, and we require an annual obsolescence grant to enable universities to keep ahead in this rapidly moving, changing and expanding field of scientific machinery.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I have some notion of the sheer work involved in preparing this sort of Report. It is up to some of us to say "Thank you" to the members of the Estimates Committee for the amount of hard work they have done on behalf of the House. What strikes one, on reading through the Report, is the extraordinarily high quality of the work done by members and officials of the University Grants Committee. Clearly, they are dedicated people who, whatever the faults may be in the system, and whatever the shortage of staff may be, make it work pretty well.
Take, for example, the evidence referred to by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) from the University of Edinburgh and from Mr. Stewart. In addition to what the hon. Gentleman quoted, perhaps I may quote from the answer to Question 1427:On buildings in particular there has been a great increase in the amount of liaison, and only a week ago the Factorial Secretary received a good many people from the building side of the Grants Committee.Again, Professor Swann, in answer to Question 1431, said this:In general on the building side, I think it is felt that the contact is fairly intimate.In answer to Question 1433 Mr. Stewart said:Members of the Committee do visit individual professors or groups of departments, a practice which has been increasing in recent years.All this is on the good side. I know that there are grave shortcomings, particularly in relation to the shortage of staff. One witness implied that he had trawled the service and advertised outside, with lamentably small success. It is true that bad buildings in fact make the requirement of staff greater and that with good buildings the same results can be obtained from perhaps a less favourable student-staff ratio.
291 I welcomed what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had to tell us about CLASP at York, and in particular his statement that seven universities are now taking seriously industrialised building techniques. The hon. Member for Twickenham was somewhat critical on this score, but those of us who have been the guests of Eric James in York and who have seen CLASP have the highest admiration for the work that is being done there. I personally, from what I saw on admittedly only a two-day visit, would not share the reservations about which the hon. Gentleman spoke.
All of us must agree, I think, with the Secretary of State's comments on the way in which the universities have given a social response to the needs of government. We must agree with him again when he talked about their outward-looking initiatives and their readiness to meet national needs when these are expressed. I welcome, too, what he said about bulk-buying.
I subscribe to the theory which the Secretary of State called the "buffer-state theory of the U.G.C.". Those of us who organised the Caius meeting would very much welcome the Peer Group technique and also welcome the fact that it operates inside the University Grants Committee itself. One would assume that it has money to disburse—obviously, this would be necessary if the Peer Subject Group is to have the rationalisation effect which is claimed for it. I would argue that this announcement of the Secretary of State's looks after the problems of the mechanism of shrinkage in universities and also the mechanism of expansion, about which Bondi, Flowers, Sir Nevill Mott and I have been in correspondence with the Secretary of State.
Just as we are against small universities—I hope that we do not have any more small universities starting in perhaps the next 20 years—we also, I think, are against small university departments. The Secretary of State spoke about the "small, weaker elements", and this constitutes a very real problem. We give welcome to the concept of "centres of excellence". Particularly, we welcome the sub-committees made up of U.G.C. members, and of co-opted members with the specialist professional expertise.
292 I think from what my right hon. Friend said that he does not merely intend them to be expert advisory committees. He was rather explicit as to their function, that they would, in fact, as subject groups make visitations to university departments, though I would hope that there will be perhaps not too many visitations, because it is important that the subject groups attract the services of really top class people in their profession who can command the respect of, say, young physicists and young economists.
Presumably, they have a considerable power of decision, including the power of decision to close down a department on the retirement of a professor. Again, it presumably will be up to the chairmen of these committees to establish a nationwide case for their particular subject. The subject committee is mostly, as I understand it—perhaps I can be corrected by the Minister of State when he winds up, if I have misunderstood this—to decide and not merely to advise; perhaps in this country we have a surfeit of advisory committees. The subject committee, too, presumably will be able to pave the way for the U.G.C. when it perhaps makes a later visitation on a particular knotty problem.
Having subscribed to the buffer-state theory of the U.G.C., I recollect that there was a McCarthy period in the United States—in many ways the most advanced country in the world—and that for American universities it was an extremely chastening experience. In British history, fortunately, we have been free from this sort of thing. Nevertheless, if it can happen to the United States, the lesson for many of us is that it would be a good thing to keep the universities separate, as we have done.
What it seems to me is important is the establishment of confidence between the universities, on the one hand, and the public and their representatives, on the other, especially when public expenditure on universities has mounted to about £200 million a year.
If I refer in some detail to the present fierce controversy surrounding the actions of the University of Glasgow, it is because it illustrates what can happen when there is a crisis of confidence, to borrow a phrase from the Secretary of State, between the university and the community, 293 when, in fact, a sense of trust has been destroyed; because the so-called "affair of the banned students" really does constitute a crisis of confidence in the University of Glasgow.
I have given a great deal of thought to the propositions that I am now putting forward. It looks—I repeat, it looks—as if the university authorities in Glasgow, angered by malicious, odious and disgusting notes, using vile and filthy language, left by a student or students for an elderly employee, and conscious perhaps of an unsavoury reputation acquired by previous student representative councils, decided to clamp down on all the students concerned. In parenthesis, I say that I would be quite happy to see whoever wrote these notes imprisoned, treated as a teenage thug, given tough corrective punishment. In all this controversy I have never condoned this gruesomely unkind action.
But it looks—I repeat, it looks—as if at least two or more students have been found guilty when, in fact, they are innocent. It looks as if their careers, academic and post-graduation, have been seriously and wrongly damaged. It looks as if charges to the effect that certain students took inadequate steps would have been too nebulous to convince any court of law. It looks as if charges of taking inadequate steps against students who went to the police and to the university authorities are grotesque.
It looks as if the procedure adopted by the University of Glasgow Court is contrary to basic natural justice and that, in particular, the students were not told of the charges against them. It looks as if they had no opportunity to defend themselves. It looks as if the procedure in the university was so slothful that by the standards of Glasgow 1965 the Dickensian circumlocution office was a pretty efficient set of lawyers.
Against the background of young men's future being at stake, the protracted correspondence between Mr. Andrew Heron, the lawyer acting on behalf of certain of the students, and the Clerk of the Senate makes appalling reading. It looks—I repeat, it looks—as if an appeal court consisting of distinguished men, including a Fellow of the Royal Society, found one or more of the students not guilty and that their unanimous decision 294 was overturned by a squalid fixing operation by the Vice-Chancellor and the Clerk of the Senate.
It looks—I repeat, it looks—as if the authorities of the famous and ancient University of Glasgow, having made a serious mistake in the first place, for which I personally would not condemn them in public, have sunk deeper and deeper into the bog of evasion, smokescreen and silence by trying to cover up the original error when the world would have thought the more of them for admitting that they were wrong.
Yes, I want the universities to remain independent, but the universities, in turn, must understand that as the fastest growing sector of public expenditure there is at least an unwritten two-way contract, that if they are to be uniquely free of public control they must not only keep their house in order, but they must be seen to keep their house in order, because as of now the reputation of the great University of Glasgow is spattered in mud.
There is the mud of gossip of a corrupt and vicious line of Students' Representative Councils. There is the mud of gossip of students using S.R.C. money for improper purposes. There is the mud of gossip of members of the Senate kowtowing to an autocratic Vice-Chancellor who, like a caliph of ancient Baghdad, has in his hands the future of their departments and research students. There is the mud of gossip of a Vice-Chancellor circulating rumour by innuendo among the staff that the real trouble among the banned students was financial argy-bargy with S.R.C. funds, which, incidentally, casts something of a slur on the chartered accountants who examined the S.R.C. books.
There is the mud of gossip about the allegedly vindictive contents of a letter of 9th July from the Clerk of Senate to the Scottish Council for the Training of Teachers and the Principal of Jordanhill Training College, alleging that the former president of the Students' Representative Council was unfit to look after young people while the case was still sub-judice; I repeat, while the case was still sub-judice. There is the mud of gossip of a Vice-Chancellor and Clerk of Senate being allowed to manipulate the law administered by the university to save their own faces.
295 I regret to tell the House that in the view of many of my constituents and those concerned on the fringes of the academic world of Scotland—and by virtue of the remarkable public service done by the Press on this issue—the great University of Glasgow at this moment lies in the sewer. And if the universities think that in this sort of situation all they need do is to refuse to give explanations, the case for public control, which I do not like and to which I do not subscribe, has to become a serious possibility.
Let the House of Commons say to the Vice-Chancellor, the Clerk of Senate, members of Senate and members of the Court of the University of Glasgow, "If you can justify your actions you would do well to come out in the open and do so" and I for my part, such as it is, would be the first to acknowledge it in public if they prove that they have done right over these past very difficult months. But, on the other hand, we say to them, "If you remain aloof as to the past and if perhaps you know in your heart of hearts that you have created a serious injustice, Scotland will think the more of you if you 'come clean' and admit that you have been wrong, offering the students whom you may have wronged a chance to start again on their honours degrees, repaying legal expenses, and publicly restoring the good name of those students."
To re-establish confidence, we must have a full and frank picture of what has taken place. In the light of an exclusive interview that the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow gave to the Glasgow Herald, I would say to Sir Charles Wilson that good intentions in the future are not enough. If this appeal is ignored some of us are pledged to fight and fight on, month after month, and year after year by every means open to a politician until justice is seen to be done. We will bring to the notice of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors the behaviour of their own Chairman in his own university. We will seek to have an interview with Sir John Wolfenden and we will urge that the U.G.C. make a token, say £5, withdrawal of grant from the University of Glasgow.
So far, I have advised those who have approached me against taking the Vice- 296 Chancellor and Clerk of Senate of the University of Glasgow to the High Court. I have advised against this because I do not relish the spectacle of a famous university in a monumental court case, but there are those, with the financial resources to conduct a long and arduous court case, who are beginning to take a different view in the absence of a full statement from the University. Alternatively—and this is a specific question to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—I would ask the hon. Lady to tell us whether the students are entitled to legal aid and under what circumstances there is a ceiling. This is a question of which I have given my hon. Friend prior notice.
If this case has become a cause it is because unless one has the understanding that the universities will keep their own house in order and behave honestly and openly towards the community, the really wonderful British set-up of universities independent of Government is to be jeopardised. This is not, in my view, a party controversy, because last night I welcomed the opportunity of mentioning the affair to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). After outlining the position in the briefest terms I suggested that he might care to get his own information from his own sources, and to this he willingly assented. When the right hon. Gentleman himself talks about "openness on the part of universities", as he did in his speech today, it seems to me that this is extremely relevant to the Glasgow affair.
Finally, there is the general question of university discipline. There are certain offences which, by their nature, are university offences, for example, cheating in examinations. On the other hand, are not there a whole range of offences in which university students ought to face the same civil courts and police action as their contemporaries? If students commit crimes of malice and of vandalism why should not they be treated as any other hooligans among their contemporaries? This is a deep issue which arises at the present time.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has referred to a crisis of confidence in the University of Glasgow. I 297 shall confine my short speech to another crisis, though of a very different nature, which has arisen between the city authorities of Oxford and Cambridge and the universities themselves. On 25th February, 1964, under the Ten Minute Rule, I submitted to the House a Private Member's Bill the purpose of which was to include the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge in the First Schedule to the Rating and Valuation Act, 1961. As hon. Members may recall, under this Act the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were rightly classified as charitable institutions. In consequence they were liable to a lower rate of local rates, but in consequence, also, the citizens of Oxford and Cambridge were compelled to find the measure of money which the college rates had formerly supplied.
When I submitted my Bill, I told the House that my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Woodhouse) would have been a more able advocate, but he was tied by a vow of silence on the Front Bench as Minister at the Home Office, and I, therefore, did my best to put the case as clearly and briefly as I could. We argued that the situation could be remedied and the which had arisen between the universities and the cities be allayed only by putting the colleges into the First Schedule. This would have had the unfortunate result for the colleges that they would have to pay higher rates, but they would, on the other hand, have been able to obtain a compensating grant from the University Grants Committee.
We argued the case on several grounds. First and foremost, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford had pointed out in previous speeches, we referred to the number of colleges, principally in Oxford, already receiving grants direct from the University Grants Committee as distinct from the university itself. Second, we argued that the Minister need not fear the creation of a precedent because the Cities of Oxford and Cambridge were peculiar in this, that the colleges occupied a very large area of the cities and, therefore, a large proportion of the rateable value. Third, we argued that, with the expansion of education, our two oldest universities played a vital part and aroused loyalties not only in this country but on many college campuses overseas, in Africa, America and Asia.
298 As a result of the discussions arising on the Bill, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), then Minister of Housing and Local Government, undertook to summon a conference of the authorities of the two cities in conjunction with the college authorities to see whether some agreement could be reached. Nothing has happened. This unfortunate tension still exists in the two cities. I therefore ask the present Minister to be good enough to ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether this conference is near reaching a conclusion. Second, if it fails to reach a conclusion, would it be possible to accept the original thesis, that is, for a grant to be made available from the University Grants Committee? Finally, if those two solutions are not feasible, could the problem be tackled in some general scheme for the reformation of rates?
It is most unfortunate that tension should exist between the colleges in these two great cities and the city authorities. Luckily, the days are past of town and gown rows when the colleges saw bloody noses and cracked heads, but it is most regrettable that in our two great university cities a state of tension should exist between the city authorities and the universities. Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to undertake this inquiry?
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Judith Hart)
If the House will allow me, I should like to answer one or two of the points which my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has just put to me on the specific subject of events in the University of Glasgow.
My hon. Friend spoke very strongly. Clearly, he has felt very strongly, and, equally clearly, he has felt it his duty to draw the attention of the House and the public to this matter. I know, and I think that the House will know, that it has not been easy for him to do so because of the great respect and good will he has towards our universities. I wrote to my hon. Friend a few days ago about this matter, but he has raised other points today and I have a little further information. It is right that I should 299 give him what factual answers I have on questions of fact which are properly the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
I received today from the Chief Constable an account of the steps taken by the police in Glasgow. On 22nd February, the secretary of the Students' Representative Council sought the advice of the police on what action he should take about an obscene phone call which had that day been received by the lady who was the secretary of Pearce Lodge. The police called at the S.R.C. headquarters that day at Pearce Lodge, and made certain inquiries on 25th February. The matter was reported by the police and by the secretary of the S.R.C. to the university authorities on 2nd March.
In deference to the wishes of the victim of these obscenities, it was generally agreed that the police should not proceed to an official inquiry forthwith but that a solemn warning should be given to the members of the S.R.C. at their meeting on 4th March that a police and university inquiry would be held if the behaviour which had occasioned the report to the police were to continue.
There were further incidents on 4th and 5th March, and on 8th March the university authorities asked the police to undertake an official inquiry. As a result, the circumstances were reported to the procurator fiscal of the police court, but on 27th April he decided to take no proceedings because of the lack of corroboration. His decision was reported by the police to the university authorities.
My right hon. Friend considers that in this unsavoury affair the police acted perfectly correctly. They carried out the appropriate inquiries when they were asked to do so and they reported the circumstances in full to the appropriate prosecutor.
My hon. Friend spoke of the disturbance in the careers of students who have been subject to disciplinary action by the university. I should point out to him that there is nothing to prevent students who have been suspended for a year from completing their degree courses when they return; nor is there anything to prevent those who are reprimanded on any occasion from completing them.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Do I have an assurance then that, if he wants to, the former secretary of the S.R.C. may continue his honours degree which he is now not engaged on?
§ Mrs. Hart
I can say that there are no circumstances involved in this matter which would seem to prevent this, but, of course, it would have to be looked at in exactly the same way as we look at any continuance of student grant. I could not give an absolute undertaking, but there would seem to be nothing to which my hon. Friend has referred which would interfere with that.
My hon. Friend asked a specific question about legal aid. In the event of this whole matter being actionable and if, in that case, any person or persons were to decide to bring an action in the Court of Session—I must emphasise that it is for the students themselves and their legal advisers to decide whether they should take any action—they would not be entitled to apply for legal aid in an action for defamation but they would be entitled to apply in an action for declarator or reduction. If the appropriate legal aid committee were satisfied that there was a prima facie case—obviously, I can make no judgment on that—the application would be granted. While there is no maximum figure for legal aid in respect of any court action for which aid is granted, the assistance given depends, as always, on the financial resources of the applicant.
My hon. Friend asked also about correspondence with the Jordanhill College of Education. The president of the S.R.C. completed, but failed, his course of professional training at Jordanhill in June. The only correspondence which the college has received about him from the university was, I understand, a letter formally reporting the disciplinary action which had been taken, and this was received early in July after the student had left Jordanhill. The letter has in no way prejudiced him. Since it came in, he was allowed, in September, to re-sit the subject in which he failed, and, unfortunately, he failed again. He has been encouraged to consult the college authorities about the work he should do to overcome the particular subject difficulty which has so far prevented him from qualifying as a certificated teacher.
301 My hon. Friend referred to the extent of the Secretary of State's responsibility. In order to clarify this, I must distinguish between several aspects of the affair. First, on matters involving criminal offences and on matters in respect of which investigation of possible criminal offences is carried out, my right hon. Friend is in the habit of answering for the action of the police. I have outlined our findings on this already. Secondly, on matters affecting the Students Representative Council and the conduct of its officers in their capacity as officers, the Secretary of State clearly has no responsibility whatever. How far the university court has responsibility is a question for the university, acting within the context of its constitution, to determine for itself.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Would my hon. Friend, then, take advantage of opportunities which are available to her and to the Secretary of State to make sure that this will be instituted in future?
§ Mrs. Hart
I think that my hon. Friend is anticipating discussions in Standing Committee on a Bill now before the House. I cannot comment on that at this moment.
Thirdly, on matters affecting the conduct of individual students within the university, leaving out of account conduct which may involve an offence against the law, the university, again acting within the framework of its own constitution, whether that constitution is under the 1889 Act or under our new Bill, to which I think my hon. Friend was referring, or under a charter, is wholly responsible. It is not, and cannot be, accountable to the Secretary of State for its own discipline. But it is of some relevance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has been in correspondence recently with the National Association of Students about provisions in the interests of students in draft charters, and in a letter to the President of the National Union of Students, which was published in the Press on 19th January, my right hon. Friend said, among other things, that the Privy Council is putting to the sponsors of charters the desirability of making certain provisions in their charters. One of these is relevant. I quote from my right hon. Friend's letter: 302Provision should be made whereby a procedure will be laid down for a right on the part of a student suspended or expelled to be formally heard by the Senate, or a body appointed by the Senate, before a decision becomes final.I mention that to indicate that the rights of students in matters of this kind are very much in the minds of the Privy Council.
I think that I have answered all my hon. Friend's questions. He will recognise that I cannot possibly comment on the merits of the points made in the anonymous booklet of which he and I have copies and which has provided the basis for a great deal of the discussion of this matter. I must, however, agree with him in one thing, that the behaviour of the students responsible for the vexatious telephone calls, for the letters, for the advertisements and particularly for the obscenities involved was clearly disgraceful. I must say how warmly I welcome the announcement made on Monday by the Principal of Glasgow University, Sir Charles Wilson, that the Senate is soon to review the problems of discipline, including questions of procedure and method, for it is clear that the whole affair has provoked a great deal of concern within the university and among the public.
I hope that the university will very soon be in a position to regard this distressing business as past history. Some strong words have been spoken on the subject in this debate. I would say to the House and to my hon. Friend, as I know he recognises, that the University of Glasgow has a most distinguished past and it has a proud future. It has, moreover, a distinguished Principal with a very long record of very considerable public service, and I am sure that it will be the concern of both him and the university to put this business in the past as soon as possible.
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. C. M. Woodhouse (Oxford)
I have been interested to learn from the last three speeches from the other side of the House that university troubles are not confined to any one part of the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) and his Sub-Committee did not visit the University of Wales or the University of Glasgow, but it is clear that if they had done so they would have found themselves in even deeper water 303 than they have found themselves in in the rest of their investigations.
I will not, for obvious reasons, say anything more about matters which have just been brought out in the debate, but they give me the cue for saying that, while I join in the congratulations which have been offered to my hon. Friend and his Sub-Committee, I feel also, after carefully reading the whole of their Report and the evidence, that one should at the same time commiserate with them. I felt, as I watched my hon. Friend grappling with the academic leviathan, that he was in rather the same position as Peer Gynt grappling with the Boyg, that shapeless, invisible, all-embracing monster in Ibsen's play.
Perhaps if I quote one short passage from that play my hon. Friend will recognise the position that he finds himself in:Backward or forward, it's just the same;In or out, there's no way through.It's there—it's here—it's all about me!I think I've got out, and I'm back in the midst of it.This feeling of helplessness grappling with invisible forces must have been particularly strong when the Sub-Committee was dealing with the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. I should have liked to congratulate the hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Merlyn Rees), if he were here, on his own determined efforts as revealed in the evidence, to try to make sense of the relation between the two ancient universities and the University Grants Committee. I would remind the House and the hon. Gentleman—I hope that this may give him some encouragement—that both these ancient universities, one of whose representatives has already eloquently addressed the House, are unavoidably different for historical reasons. They are not the only ones that are unavoidably different, because, as the Report points out, the Scottish universities are also somewhat different. Both Oxford and Cambridge have been making determined efforts to modernise their own structure from within by means of what one might describe as a sort of self-appointed, quasi-Royal Commission, under Lord Bridges in the case of Cambridge and Lord Franks at Oxford.
304 Having mentioned those two universities, I should like briefly, in parenthesis, following upon what my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) had to say, to deal with the slightly disagreeable criticism of the local authorities at Oxford and Cambridge implied at one or two points in my hon. Friend's Report. Paragraph 106 of the Report says:A comparison was obtained of rates with contributions from which it is clear that the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are still regarded as a source of revenue by local authorities.This point comes out even more emphatically in the tables in Appendix G, which reveal in the case of Oxford and Cambridge—and Oxford and Cambridge alone—that these local authorities make no financial contribution at all to the universities in their areas.
The implication of these two points in the Report is to overlook the fact, which is emphasised elsewhere in the Report, that, in the first place, at Oxford and Cambridge alone the colleges are distinct from the universities, and so figures relating only to the universities do not give a complete picture, and, secondly, that both the Oxford and Cambridge City Councils make what I can only describe as a large forced contribution to the colleges by way of mandatory rate relief for the reasons which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge has already outlined and which constitutes an increasing burden on the local authorities every year. Indeed, in this respect—and in one other respect which I shall mention—the table in Appendix G is somewhat misleading. Not only does it fail to reveal the fact that the local authorities at Oxford and Cambridge have to make a financial contribution to the colleges but it also fails to reveal that sums shown in the second column as rate payments by the universities are not paid by the universities at all but are paid by the taxpayers through the University Grants Committee, whereas the forced contribution by the city councils at Oxford and Cambridge to the colleges are a real loss to the ratepayer.
In fact, the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge are the only university institutions in the country—I think that I may say this without fear of contradiction—which pay rates out of their own pockets. 305 All the others have their rates paid for them by the U.G.C. out of the taxpayers' money. This anomaly, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, is a source of great annoyance to Oxford and Cambridge, both in the local authorities and in the colleges, and I hope that it will be removed. But, while it lasts, it is unjust to say that at Oxford and Cambridge the ratepayers make no contribution to the cost of the universities.
§ Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid
My hon. Friend is making rather a false distinction. The facts are clear. The colleges of Oxford and Cambridge may pay a reduced rate but they pay something. They make a rating contribution. I am unable to trace any rating contribution by the local authorities of Oxford and Cambridge either to the universities or to the colleges.
§ Mr. Woodhouse
I do not want to elaborate the point. It is a subject on which I could keep the House until 10 o'clock if provoked, but it is a fact that the mandatory rate relief that is imposed solely on Oxford and Cambridge and in respect solely of the colleges amounts to a forced contribution. In addition, as a result of revaluation, there has beer a very great reduction in the amount of rates received by the local authorities of Oxford and Cambridge from both the universities and colleges in comparison with a few years ago.
The point is the existence of the anomaly and the desirability of removing it. I have brought in the colleges at this point because, in practice, it is really impossible to distinguish between the university and the colleges in the financial context. Money passes to and fro between them. Some colleges are net creditors and some are net recipients. This two-way traffic of money makes nonsense of the constantly repeated assumptions in the evidence that the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge receive no money from the U.G.C.—that is to say, from the taxpayer.
This statement is sometimes qualified by saying that the colleges receive no money directly from the U.G.C. but that puts a heavy load on the word "direct". For instance, in recent years, the women's colleges at Oxford have received specific grants earmarked for them from the 306 U.G.C. through the university and that puts them in principle in the same position as the colleges of the federal University of London, which no one denies are recipients of U.G.C. funds. In any case since, on average, about half the salary of a teaching fellow at an Oxford college—I am not certain about Cambridge—is paid by the university, it is playing with words to say that the colleges do not benefit from the taxpayers' money through the U.G.C. They do.
I have drawn attention to this anomaly and apologise for doing so at some length, but I was provoked by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South. However, it illustrates the main general point that the whole structure of relations between the U.G.C. and the universities needs tidying up. It is very untidy. It is vague. It is, as the sub-committee apparently found, often incomprehensible and what I would term as "fuzzy" at the edges.
About 15 years ago I met an eminent American on a delegation from the U.S. Treasury and universities. The delegation came to study the U.G.C. system in order to decide whether it could be transported to America. At the end of the investigation, this gentleman told me, the delegation concluded that it would be impossible to do so because the fundamental feature of the U.G.C. system was one which could not be established in the United States. The fundamental feature as he identified it was that everybody involved in the whole complex exercise, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer—then the responsible Minister—down through the Chairman of the U.G.C. and all the Vice-Chancellors, was a member of the Athenæum and therefore it was always possible to settle any difficult matter over a glass of port after dinner.
This "old boy network" may have worked adequately 15 or 20 years ago when there were far fewer universities. Obviously, it cannot work today with the enormous growth in the number of universities. It would be true to say that, in the last 10 years, there has been more university expansion in this country than in any previous century, let alone decade, and the U.G.C. needs modernising to confront this situation in at least two respects.
307 First, it needs modernisation in the definition of its scope, the range of institutions and activities for which it is to be responsible. It needs to have a clearer demarcation of its responsibilities in relation to other responsible departments or grant-giving bodies, like the D.S.I.R., the M.R.C., the A.R.C. and so on.
It also needs a clearer demarcation of the range of institutions which it is to be responsible for and which are to be on its list—the case I have cited of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge is a classic example—and not only which institutions are to be on its list but which of them it is to be in direct communication with as distinct from communication indirectly through the parent university.
For example, if the Imperial College of Science and Technology is to be in direct communication with the U.G.C.—which I understand is either the practice already or is becoming the practice—why should not the same apply to the London School of Economics and other colleges in the University of London or to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge?
The second respect in which the U.G.C. appears to need modernising is in its staff structure and equipment. It seems at the point of becoming increasingly a bureaucracy and, if this is unavoidable, then let it at least be an efficient bureaucracy. At the moment, it is having to tackle the task of a bureaucracy but is not adequately equipped to be an efficient bureaucracy. It clearly gives a good deal of dissatisfaction to many university institutions for reasons which came out clearly in the evidence. I want to add one or two examples of this dissatisfaction from my own experience as a member of the governing body of one of the schools of London University.
When a college at the university puts in its bid for a recurrent grant, this is first discussed by that college with the university in relation to the items intended to be covered and the bid is then passed to the U.G.C., scrutinised and probably cut down. But when the reduced allocation is returned through the university to the college, no second opportunity is available to discuss again the items to be covered by the reduced grant. It is simply handed back to the recipient college on the basis of "take it or leave it". This is unsatisfactory, because if 308 the college had known in the first place that it was to get only, say, £750,000 instead of the £1 million for which it had asked, it would probably have put in a bid for quite different items. It would not merely have cut down the list of items, but drawn up a totally different shopping list for the smaller sum.
It seems that in practice insufficient attention is given to the interplay of decisions on recurrent and capital grant, the former being on a five-year basis, of course, and the latter not. I do not know whether this is general experience, but it seems to be the case in London that it is much easier to get capital grants agreed than to get current grants agreed, but, of course, every capital grant contains some implications about recurrent expenditure and vice versa. It is no good having annual sums to pay the staff if there are no buildings in which to accommodate the staff, and similar examples can easily be multiplied.
It is for this reason that I am rather impressed—and I hope that the Minister of State will have something to say about this—by the case for what is called a rolling quinquennium, because that would enable decisions on capital and recurrent grants to be brought into rather closer relationship with each other. A university would always be able to say at least five years ahead what its recurrent budget was, as it already can about its capital budget, instead of being able to see its recurrent budget for only one, two, or three years ahead.
A reform on the lines of the rolling quinquennium might also help to deal with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) about the need for some provision in recurrent grants to cover obsolescence. It is certainly true that to operate the rolling quinquennium as well as other measures of reform and modernisation urged by the Sub-Committee would entail increased staff for the U.G.C. and making it more bureaucratic, but this is a trend which must simply be faced and accepted. It must also be accepted, again as the Sub-Committee urged, that the Vice-Chancellor's Committee should reorganise itself to some extent in a more efficient and practical way.
It seems to be clear that we cannot go on with the somewhat old-fashioned 309 machinery which used to work extremely well but which is somewhat limping today. With respect to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), I do not think that this need be in any way prejudiced by the persistent arguments about academic independence and academic freedom. These are not in any danger from any measures of reform which have been put forward so far in the U.G.C. As every hon. Member will agree, there is far too much at stake simply to carry on with a somewhat antiquated machinery.
We are very much indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South and his colleagues for drawing our attention to the problems. I believe that many of the changes advocated would be welcome in the academic world, because the academic world is no longer ruled, as perhaps it once was, by the rule laid down not, I am glad to say, in my own university but in the University of Cambridge—that nothing should ever be done for the first time.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
When the Secretary of State was kind enough to give way to rue earlier in the debate he said that he was not unaware that recent decisions had precipitated considerable controversy in Wales. Indeed, he would have been extraordinarily insensitive—and he is certainly not that—if he had been unaware of the deep feelings which have been aroused over the controversial issues to which my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) has referred.
In Wales, we rarely conduct our controversies in muted form. When they touch upon education, they inevitably become passionate, for in Wales education is taken very seriously indeed. It is precisely because there is such a passionate national interest in education and such a curiosity about it that nothing could be more inept than that major decisions of policy which impinge on the educational future of industrial South Wales in particular should be determined by the putting down of a Question to the Secretary of State for Education on the last day of a Parliamentary Session by the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Wales. That is just a way to prompt a controversy, for when feelings are so precipitated it is 310 essential that a Minister taking such important decisions should be sensitive of all sections of opinion in Wales and Monmouthshire.
Indeed, the decision to which my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West referred was a decision which must be interpreted by many in Wales as discrimination against the Welsh C.A.T., for we find it is only the Welsh C.A.T. alone among all the C.A.T.s that is not to be permitted to become a separate university. This is bound to arouse considerable concern and curiosity about why such an odd decision should have been made in this curious way.
I do not by any means place all responsibility on the Secretary of State for Education. I merely complain that he has not taken account of all sections of opinion. When I search out the various statements which have been made and the interviews which have been given in the Western Mail, I search for the answers to why the C.A.T. in Wales should have this treatment as against that given to the other C.A.T.s. This is a very natural inquiry and it has certainly been made in Monmouthshire where the people in a highly industrial county are naturally profoundly concerned about the technological future of Wales and the nature and quality of technical education provided by the right hon. Gentleman both in industrial training and the schools.
The answer was disarmingly given by the Minister of State who in his interview with the Western Mail last week said that it would be a strange pattern for the Welsh C.A.T. to become a separate university while the University College was part of the federal structure. I understand that. He categorically says that that would be a strange pattern. Here lies the answer to why the present decision has been made. It is because it has been said by some that a federal university must remain and that therefore the C.A.T. cannot become a separate university, for if that were to happen the University College of South Wales and Monmouth would be placed in an impossible situation.
There are fundamental objections raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West, which are well worth repeating, about the whole concept, in 311 any circumstances, of a federal university. They were laid down in the Robbins Report, in which it was said:Power tends to become concentrated in the centre, and the link between the central authority and the places where teaching and research are carried out become increasingly tenuous.It is a fact known only too well to the academic staffs of the colleges that it becomes necessary to set up a system of boards and committees, which consume time and distract academic staff from their primary function. To quote Robbins:Moreover, the intervention of the universities between the basic academic unit, the college, and the national system makes for delay and inhibits decision.It certainly has done so in this particular respect. Even worse, as we know from our experience in Wales, the fact that we have a federal university means that there is always a danger of the existing situation becoming ossified, that if a faculty in a college wants to develop or expand, the danger is that there are at the centre restrictions upon such an expansion, unless there is a great deal of horse-dealing between one college and another. The consequence is that when we hear of a decision like this about C.A.T.s, naturally the staff and the students of C.A.T.s are alarmed because, wanting as they do to take a lead in technological education in Wales, they realise the dangers that have come into existence, and which can be restrictive to them in consequence of having to enter into a federal structure where there will be rival faculties elsewhere, attempting to strangle the development of the Welsh C.A.T.s.
This is clear from the alarm which has been caused. Everyone hoped that out of the Welsh C.A.T.s there would come a developing education department, turning out teachers adequately trained in technical subjects. The demands of the Industrial Training Act, the acute shortage in Wales of highly qualified teachers in mathematics and science, these things emphasise the need for a training establishment in Wales where teachers of the highest technical quality may be turned out. As the Minister of State will be well aware, we have no teacher training college for technical education inside the Principality. Such training can only be obtained 312 outside. Many of us have a concern for the future of our Wales, and we have no antagonism to the concept lying behind the views of those who oppose us. We are concerned that we shall have a Wales that will be technically in the twentieth century. Because of this we are concerned that hopes of an expansion of such a training centre in Wales will become dashed.
Let me give another example of the grave damage which can result if the Welsh C.A.T.s are forced into a federal structure. I am not unacquainted with legal education, and it has always been a matter of great dismay to me, having been born in Cardiff and lived my life in Wales, to see Welsh law students, increasingly in recent years, leaving Wales to get their education in London, Bristol and elsewhere. There is in Aberystwyth a law faculty, once of a proud lustre, which produced distinguished men, and it was one in which all Wales had a right to take a great deal of pride. If one glances at the Welsh University Calendar for 1965–66 and looks at this proud law department of Aberystwyth, we are told the name of the professor, the name of one lecturer and underneath we are told:Three to be appointed.At the time of the publication of this calendar, this was the state of the law faculty of Aberystwyth.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery) rose—
§ The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Goronwy Roberts) rose—
§ Mr. Abse
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend. I do not think that it is desirable that a faculty which has had such distinction should 313 necessarily be staffed by peripatetic lecturers who pass through on their way to becoming able barristers, or go to other universities. I do not desire to see law taught in Wales in this way. I do not believe that a law faculty removed to Aberystwyth, away from the centres where barristers' chambers exist, where assizes are, away from where the actual working of law takes place, is the best place. I think that it fails, as a consequence, to attract lecturers of the distinction and numbers required by genuine law faculty.
§ Mr. Goronwy Roberts
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He will pardon me if I take him up on this particular point. It is perfectly true that the law department of Aberystwyth has enjoyed, and does enjoy, a very fine reputation. I interrupt to protest against these suggestions, which are manifestly not based on a proper knowledge of the conditions in the department and to point out that the proud lustre, which my hon. Friend admits was once the possession of this department, was a fact when the conditions which he protests are not now present were not then present. The town was not then within reach of an assize court or of the other legal facilities that he mentions during the period which he so extols any more than it is now.
He has referred to a university calendar which lists as the only staff of this department one professor and one lecturer. I would be grateful if he would hand me that calendar, if he has it in his possession, because I am quite sure that to put such information before the House as he has done is most misleading to the House and unfair to the law department of Aberystwyth and the University of Wales.
§ Mr. Abse
I resent, and publicly express my resentment, when it is suggested that I am in any way attempting to mislead the House. Let me read what it says under the heading "Law". It gives the name of the professor, D. J. Llewelfryn Davies, M.A., (Cantab.), L.L.B. (Wales), J.P., Barrister-at-Law. It follows by saying:Lecturers: J. M. Sharp, B.A. (Cantab.);Then the calendar says:Three to be appointed.314 That is all it says, and no doubt the Minister of State would like to look at it.
§ Mr. Hooson rose—
§ Mr. Abse
I will give way in due course.
I accept that great personalities can sometimes surmount even unfortunate aspects of law faculties. This has occurred in the past. But equally there is a change of attitude to legal education. The practise of law requires that law departments should be available in areas where the etiology of crime and the practise of law can be studied.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is quite misleading in what he says about the law faculty at Aberystwyth. I rise to protest. The Government Front Bench would be very much depleted without the graduates of that law school. The hon. Gentleman said that three lecturers were to be appointed. I visited the law faculty recently. There were four full-time lecturers there in addition to part-time lecturers and a professor. For the hon. Gentleman's information, when I was at the law faculty there were three lecturers and one professor. All three lecturers, within a very short time, left Aberystwyth and became professors at London and Birmingham and in New Zealand.
§ Mr. Abse
I have made it clear that the law faculty at Aberystwyth has a very good tradition. I have not attempted to detract in any way from its achievements. But, although some more peripatetic lecturers may have come to the university in the meantime, the situation stated in the calendar is correct because there are great difficulties in attracting people to Aberystwyth. I know that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) has in mind the creation of a new town on Aberystwyth Pier, but that is not a very viable proposition.
§ Mr. Hooson rose—
§ Mr. Abse
No. The hon. and learned Member can make his own speech.
I do not want to enter into an argument about the merits of Aberystwyth, but because of excessive admiration and over-valuation of Aberystwyth the department which is developing in the Welsh 315 C.A.T. is very frightened. It is to the credit of the Welsh C.A.T. that it has built up a law department in a part of Wales where, as I well know, boys can attend, where clerks are articled and where people live and want to work. It has built it up to such an extent that it has had 250 applications to take the course. How disappointing it is that as a consequence of this decision people will not be able to take an LI.B. there and the only possibility for them is to take an external degree, doubtless an L1.B.(London) or something like that.
The point which I am trying to make—and the interventions of the Minister and of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery only emphasise it—is that if it is suggested the law faculty should be established elsewhere than Aberystwyth a resentment and resistance is immediately aroused, and it has been expressed in the House. Therefore, when I say that the Welsh C.A.T. is afraid that it will not have the necessary teacher-training development or expansion of the law department I am merely giving two illustrations of the way in which Wales can suffer as a consequence of what I regard as an ill-judged decision.
It has been suggested that this feeling of alarm is unnecessary and that whatever was wrong with the federal structure has been put right. Despite the rejection of the Commission's majority report clearly calling for defederalisation and the setting up of separate universities, it has been suggested by those who hold passionate beliefs, which I understand, that reforms have taken place and therefore that these apprehensions on the part of the Welsh C.A.T. or anyone else are quite unnecessary.
I hope that the Minister of State is aware that this week more than three-quarters of the staff of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire have unequivocally declared that no real attempt has been made to deal with the federal structure. They say that they have received with considerable indignation—and here I use their language in a document which doubtless will come to the Minister's notice—this distorted and exaggerated view of the proposals recently accepted by the Federal Court of Governors".316 More than three-quarters of the university staff in the college at Cardiff have reaffirmed that the Federal Court should not be judge and jury in its own cause and regretted the rejection of the Commission's majority report.
The Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister of State should face the fact that the academic staff in the C.A.T. and in the University College in Cardiff are in uproar about this decision. Because one may hold a particular view, it is no use trying to smother the view not only of the academic staff of the university but of hack benchers who do not yield one whit in their loyalty to Wales. I know the history of the University of Wales. One may be nostalgic about the idea of a federal university. We must have a university which matches the requirements of the twentieth century. It is this which is bothering people particularly in South Wales and in Monmouthshire. As my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West said, the fear is that what is likely to happen is curtailment. My hon. Friend pointed out that there is grave concern that the University of Wales should be curtailed. Many influential voices are being raised suggesting that the Welsh character of the university will be affected if curtailment does not take place.
This is not just a notion in my head or in the head of my hon. Friend. I received a letter on this subject from a distinguished professor in a most important department. I have his permission to bring it to the attention of the House. Professor Hughes has the chair at the department of microbiology, a very important department. All of us in South Wales are very interested in it. It deals with the problems associated with the oil, coal, machine tool and aircraft industries as well as civil engineering. It is doing work which I hope will mean that we can dispense with the expenditure of millions of pounds in foreign royalties. I attach more importance to this department than to a faculty of Celtic studies. It is relevant to twentieth-century Wales and the export market.
Professor Hughes wrote to me as follows:My feeling is growing that it is such departments as mine at which the calls for curtailment of growth are aimed especially as we are now attracting students from all over Great Britain.317 I am very proud to hear that a department in the college in Cardiff is attracting students from outside Wales to the extent that this one is doing. Professor Hughes states:Although there is no direct interference in growth there is the indirect effect on my recruiting the highest quality teaching and reserve staff that we are already experiencing.Who, he asks, would want to be associated with a prospective development knowing that there was an intention for it to be strangled?
These are real apprehensions expressed by some of the liveliest minds in our university. It is no use, because of looking backward at a proud record of yesterday, ignoring the fact that twentieth-century Wales needs people of the type of Professor Hughes and his department. He is concerned that his plans to set up the first postgraduate school in the country to train engineers in biology is likely to be sabotaged by this restrictive attitude.
It may be said that these fears are unreal, but they are felt. They are believed in. Some of us who have lived in Wales have these fears as well. I trust, therefore, that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State—
§ The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. James Griffiths)
May I say that when I had the great pleasure of visiting the department and meeting Professor Hughes he did not express any of these fears to me?
§ Mr. Abse
I do not know whether I need hand the letter to my right hon. Friend, having handed the account touching upon the vacancies in the law department at Aberystwyth to his colleague on the Front Bench.
I have the highest regard for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and know how, with his reasons, he is bound to feel passionately in his attitude towards a university that has grown up so considerably during his lifetime.
§ Mr. Abse
It was built by the people, as my right hon. Friend says. We understand that. All this is understood. My right hon. Friend, however, was what was 318 called a friend of the university and he therefore holds a particular view. What surely must be clear from the number of interventions and the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West, and myself and many others feel as we do is that Wales is divided on this issue. That is abundantly clear. That I am involved in, I hope, friendly but certainly pungent controversy with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister, for whom I have a high regard, is indicative of the depth of feeling and the fact that contrary views are held.
That is precisely the situation that Lord Robbins began to sense. Sensing it, he said in his Report, referring among other things to the University of Wales:If, therefore, the universities concerned cannot satisfactorily and speedily resolve their difficulties for themselves we recommend that these should be the subject of an independent inquiry.If my right hon. Friend the Minister is not prepared to make decisions which might be a compromise which could lead to the College of Advanced Technology going with the University College at Cardiff and the Welsh National School of Medicine forming one university, Swansea forming another and Aberystwyth and Bangor forming a third, there must be some form of independent inquiry, because the conflict is too deep.
There are those who believe strongly in the conception that Wales is damaged if it does not have a federal university and those who, like myself and many others, believe that we must have universities of Wales and not museums. We have one national museum of Wales—a very fine one, and we do not need another. What we need are universities that are relevant to the needs of an industrial South Wales and Monmouthshire. We do not want universities that are possessed with a Chauvinism that some of us find repulsive. We do not want a university or universities which are backward looking and excessively nostalgic. We take pride in past traditions, but equally we want in Wales just as in every other part of Britain to march forward equipped technically, a highly cultured people informed by an education permitting us to go forward without fear into the twentieth century.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I had not intended to take part in the debate, but what has just been said by the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) has provoked me to rise to my feet. I am a firm believer in the federal University of Wales. That anyone could suggest that it is an impediment to the development of Wales that young Welsh people are unable to gain the proper university education because there is a federal university in Wales—that was what the hon. Member's plea amounted to—is absolute nonsense.
To take up the point made by the hon. Member that university education in Wales must match the demands of modern times, I would point out that one of the most successful universities in the world is the University of California. It happens to be in one of the most advanced States in the world and to be the largest federal university in the world.
As far as I am able to discover from my investigations—I am not an expert in these things, but I take, I hope, an intelligent interest—none of the large campuses of the University of California, which now boasts of having more Nobel Prizewinners than any other university in the world, finds any difficulty in its development because it is part of a federal university. For the record, I think it true to say that save in possibly one case, each campus of the University of California is larger than the whole University of Wales with the C.A.T. attached to it put together.
What needs to be emphasised is that the University of Wales is a federal university for historical, but still important, reasons. It helps preserve the unity of Wales. It also enables a standard to be set that might not be attainable—
§ Mr. Alan Williams rose—
§ Mr. Hooson
—in smaller red-brick universities into which hon. Members opposite, or one or two of them, would like to divide the University of Wales. All that is necessary for progress is for the people in Wales to make sure that they make the University of Wales work.
The truth is that there are some empire-builders within the University of Wales who want to build up their own empires. We know that many of the difficulties which are put forward by defederalisers 320 are grossly exaggerated. There is no difficulty within the federal University of Wales that cannot be solved by common sense and a reasonable approach on all sides. Some people, however, are determined to break up the University of Wales.
The staffs have been mentioned. It is true that some distinguished scholars and heads of department are opposed to a federal university. Equally distinguished heads of department and scholars are in favour of it. What is important, however, is that the people of Wales set up the University of Wales. It is not only the staff and students who have to be considered, but the generality of the Welsh people.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
Perhaps I may come in where I tried originally to interject. The hon. and learned Member said that this is an historical situation and, therefore, it should be preserved. We on this side find this difficult to accept, because concerning grammar schools we have always accepted the idea that the need of future generations was more important than the requirements of historical sentimentality.
Secondly, the hon. and learned Member has said that the university is a symbol of Welsh unity. He should go to Cardiff and ask the people there where the University of Wales is. They would probably tell him that it is up in Bangor or Aberystwyth and that the college at Cardiff is Cardiff University. If he goes to Swansea, he will probably be told that the college there is Swansea University.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am sorry that the hon. Member has such a Cardiff orientation about this. If one goes to Aberystwyth or Bangor, one would almost certainly be told by the people that the University of Wales is at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff and Swansea. The people there happen to know a little more about it, apparently, than does the circle in which the hon. Member moves.
The hon. Member must not misquote me. I said that the reason why the University of Wales was a federal university was historical, but that is certainly not the only reason for the university remaining a federal university. If it is found advantageous in the State of California, which is probably one of the wealthiest States in the world, in modern 321 times, to set up a federal university, there are at least, to put it at its lowest, very good arguments for a federal university elsewhere.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Roderic Bowen)
Order. May I ask the hon. Member to address his remarks to the Chair?
§ Mr. Williams
I am sorry, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I can quote other examples. In New Zealand, for example, where the university is defederated, the teaching of the Maori language has improved. That is one of the arguments that is put forward about the Welsh language and the Welsh University. I could quote the University of Durham and a certain amount of defederation within the University of London, such as the colleges at Exeter, and so on.
§ Mr. Hooson
Before the hon. Member interrupted me. I was pursuing my argument, which I hoped would be short, that if the various faculties in the constituent colleges of the University of Wales determined what was the best policy for the university as a whole—if people were not simply empire-building within their own departments—there is no reason whatever why these difficulties, which are grossly exaggerated, could not be easily solved. The truth is that some people want to break up the federal University of Wales, come what may. This is the viewpoint that we have heard expressed this evening.
I noticed many contradictions in the speech of the hon. Member for Pontypool. At one stage, for example, when quoting from Professor Hughes' letter, he extolled the virtues of Professor Hughes' department and said that he was now drawing students from all over Britain as the law department at Aberystwyth did in my day and long before my day. A few sentences earlier, however, the hon. Member bewailed the fact that law students from the Cardiff area had to go outside Wales to get a legal education. Is it, Lien, a virtue that students from England and Scotland come to Professor Hughes' department but an evil that some students from the Cardiff area have to go outside Wales to have a legal education? 322 Of course not. It is a good thing for students to have this cross-pollenisation.
If the hon. Members is arguing that we need a small parochial university in Cardiff, he is going the right way about it, but I should have thought that he took a boarder view of education.
§ Mr. Abse rose—
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Member particularly selected the law department at Aberystwyth as an example to support his general theme. That department happens to be one of the most distinguished in the University of Wales. Its record shows that. Not only that, but it has always attracted a very high grade of lecturer. The reason I intervened in the hon. Member's speech to point out that in my day there were three young lecturers all of whom obtained chairs very soon after leaving the University of Wales—J. E. G. Griffiths, for example, moved direct from Aberystwyth to become a professor at London University—shows the grade of lecturer who was attracted, and still is.
It is misleading of the hon. Member simply to quote from the current university calendar because at that time there happened to be three vacancies. I happened to meet the staff at the department towards the end of last term and they certainly impressed me as being of very high quality.
§ Mr. Abse
What I have sought to say is that of course we want vestigious departments throughout Wales which can attract people, departments of such a kind that they will attract Welsh boys so that they will not go elsewhere? I want departments of such a character that they will not say the times have changed so much that they are bereft of lecturers.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
According to the minority Report accepted by the Court of the University of Wales, fewer Welsh students go to the University in Wales than English students go to English universities or Scottish students go to Scottish universities. Fewer staff of the University of Wales are Welsh than staff 323 of the English universities are English or staff of the Scottish universities are Scots. This is contained in the minority Report. Yet England has not a national university such as Wales or Scotland.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I do not want to be tiresome about this, but we are getting very close to a procedure which would be more appropriate to the Welsh Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
The point of order by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) has considerable substance. If hon. Members choose to make interventions they should try to make them as brief as possible and not make second speeches.
§ Mr. Hooson
The general debate has been on higher education, but higher education is at the moment attracting a great deal of attention in Wales because of a concerted movement to break up the federal University of Wales. There is no reason whatever why the federal University of Wales should be broken up, or why we should not have the greatest possible progress within the federal university. I am sure that it is the wish of the vast majority of the people in Wales that the University of Wales should remain a federal university.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rhodes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I am sure the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and the two hon. Members who have been speaking intermittently would not wish me to make any lengthy comment on what they have been saying, although like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have found this a fascinating debate. I wonder however just how far the binary policy of the Government is linked in and responsible for the particular decision taken in this case. I do not know the answer to that question and I ask it generally as a question to which I seek an answer.
I wish to say something about the whole purpose of university education, especially about the most economical use of the nation's resources devoted to it. I note from the Report of the Select Committee that expenditure on university education in grants-in-aid to universities increased from £23½ million in 1951–52 324 by over eightfold to an estimated £193 million in 1965–66. I also note that on page 6 of the Report it is said that these grants areto keep university development responsive to national needs.In the early part of the Report there is reference toinformation on national needswhich mightbe transmitted to the U.G.C. through the Department of Education and Scienceand included in the terms of reference of the U.G.C. is the instructionto assist in the preparation and execution of all such plans for university development as may be required to ensure that they are fully adequate to national needs.Obviously in perhaps the most rapidly expanding, in terms of costs, public services in this country, we have a right to ask whether or not ways in which the universities are developing are ways which are responsive to the needs of the nation at the present time. I notice that in answer to Question No. 1,500 in the Report, on the U.G.C. grants system, that in addition to social needs there is considerable doubt as to whether or not adequate information is available. I do not think this satisfactory. In terms of future needs of skilled manpower and intellectual skills which may be required, I thought the Report indicated a need for considerably more research and greater interdepartmental co-operation between Government Departments. That part of the Report is one to which we should direct particular attention.
The main purpose of my intervening this evening is to ask whether in the costings of higher education, especially of university education, in the future the policy being pursued by Her Majesty's Government, to which my right hon. Friend referred as the binary system, is conducive to the most economical use of our resources. Before we answer that question we have to ask a perhaps more fundamental question: what kind of university shall we need in future? This was posed by an hon. Member who was speaking a little time ago about the position over in Wales. What kind of universities will in future give the most economical return for the very substantial investment made in them?
If we look at universities as they are at the moment, the kind of universities 325 covered by this Report, with the rare exception of the newly-created technological universities, the up-graded C.A.T.S., we find they are universities for full-time students, mainly between 18 and 21 years of age, but in a certain number of cases—perhaps there will be a substantial number in future—continuing full-time research. They are university full-time students who in substantial measure are accommodated in very costly residential halls of various kinds. They are predominantly students taking honours degree courses. In the creation of new universities—this is revealed in the evidence reported on page 132—there is a tendency to try to establish their own status in the university world on the basis of research staffs, the basis of research papers and the basis of high academic performance at research level.
I make only one point in passing in relation to this. I sincerely hope that in pursuance of this academic status symbol of research, which is vital to a university, they will not in the same process undervalue their teaching study because it is in teaching a vast new range of undergraduates in new fields of study and varying abilities that the nation's needs will be greatest in future. Perhaps more than is right and proper a substantial number of university teachers tend to think that the universities would be more interesting if the students were not there, but the national need requires emphasis on the teacher and the teaching rôle.
In the existing universities there is a heavy concentration—to use a platonic term—on the "golden man" or "golden woman". I am not pretending that this is true of every university, but in the past there has been heavy emphasis on running courses which would provide an academic background for those who will become leaders in research in industry, commerce, law, literature and so on. If we continue to run our universities on some kind of apeing of the traditional old universities of Oxford and Cambridge that will be an élitist conception of universities completely out of line with the needs of the nation in the second half of the twentieth century.
The question I pose to my hon. Friend the Minister of State is, is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in relation to the binary system and the development of universities in future to give the best form of education not for the "golden 326 men" of the future, for whom I think they catered admirably in the past and do at present, but to cater for what I call the "silver man". I am thinking of those who will take on middle-tier responsibilities in industrial management, people who are entering middle-tier responsibilities in local government, or, perhaps, entering executive class responsibility in the Civil Service. I am thinking of those people who are entering the rapidly expanding field of communications, broadcasting and journalism, and social work, and the rapidly expanding teaching profession in the primary and secondary sectors. I mention those categories because, fundamentally, none of those people in this country goes to university: the overwhelming majority of the people I have just categorised, if they received any systematic higher education at all, received it in the non-university sector.
I am sure that my hon. Friend will bear in mind, too, that we have late-developing adults as well as late-developing teenagers. We have a substantial number of mature men, perhaps in the twenties and thirties, who may have left school at 15, or 16 or 17, who may have got family commitments and are committed to particular jobs. These are students who can commit themselves to a systematic, highly-aimed academic course only on a part-time basis, or on a sandwich basis, or something of that kind, and they are people who are obviously wanting their higher education to be linked with the vocations which they are pursuing.
My description of them as "silver men" may not be accepted, but they are not the kind of men who normally would have gone to university, and who, in the main, will not go to university, and the binary policy which is being pursued at the moment would preclude them from going to university in future.
My hon. Friend said in his Woolwich speech that non-university degree level courses, courses which are for part-time or sandwich students, courses which in the main are courses for communications, and, as he mentioned in his speech, the developing fields of local and public administration, are more suitable for the non-university sector. I want to ask my hon. Friend, why are they more suitable for the non-university sector? I do not accept 327 that they are more suitable because they are not the kind of students who entered universities in the past. That is not a sufficient argument. One has to answer intrinsically—I put this earlier to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) leading for the Opposition—what is there in the nature of part-time or sandwich course study, or vocationally orientated study, or study which is done by the categories of these new occupations which we have in this country, which are rapidly expanding, which makes it unsuitable for being developed in our universities?
I say this as a person who as a student and a teacher served in both sectors of the higher education sector, at teaching university degree level, and I could never conceive in my experience what was this division between these two fields which justifies the pursuit of the binary policy at the present time. One thing is certain, that under this élitest conception of the university a very much smaller proportion of our population goes to university in this country than is true of most of the advanced economies of the world. Indeed, it is true to say that many of the advanced countries in the world today send a bigger percentage of their children to universities than we send of ours to grammar schools in this country.
When one makes that kind of statement people ask, what kind of universities are they? It is a very good question, which we should try to answer this afternoon, because a substantial amount of money is involved. My hon. Friend in his Woolwich speech said that he was not introducing any new doctrine. I would not suggest he did, but I think he was very doctrinaire in the kind of distinction he made of the university sector and of the non-university higher education sector. For example, he said the great distinction to be seen was, amongst other things, that the non-university higher education sector was vocationally orientated in a way in which universities were not. I wonder.
At the university that I went to, which was a northern provincial university, the principal faculties were law, education, medicine, dentistry and engineering. Although it may be perfectly true that the way those subjects were taught was not vocationally orientated, the whole 328 purpose and environment of the studies was to lead to a particular occupation. Furthermore, having taught university degree students for many years in the non-university sector, I would suggest that nor is the teaching in the non-university sector, when it is at university degree level, of a vocationally orientated type. I suggest that it is a completely false distinction to make between the two sectors of higher education at degree level in this country.
Again I would suggest that it was very doctrinaire on the part of my right hon. Friend in that speech to suggest that the great new expanding field of communications, social work, public administration and even of teaching which he mentioned under the same heading, for some peculiar reason is intrinsically unsuited to the university sector when for long years medicine, law, dentistry and many other worthy fields of study have been located within the universities. I suggest that there was something radically inconsistent in trying to justify the Government's policy on that basis, and I suspect that it was rather a doctrinaire basis.
What is the nature of a university which makes it so radically different from the degree awarding institutions which are not in the university sector and which are not going to be in the university sector under the policy being pursued at present? What is going to be the distinction between those two types of higher education system. I suspect that it is going to be an academic yardstick and that the intellectual cream will go to the universities, with the near misses going, in the main, to the non-university higher education sector.
If it is an academic yardstick, what do we say about the equality of status which it is intended to achieve by that other sector? We are in grave danger of having a rather rigid division in the higher education system that will mean that at the age of 18 plus we will have a selection system as pernicious as that of the 11-plus selection. If it is good to have a comprehensive system of secondary education, it is equally good to break down these artificial status barriers that exist in our higher education system, and the binary system is completely illogical in the context of the comprehensive secondary education policy being pursued by the Government.
329 If we accept the argument that sandwich courses, part-time courses and vocationally orientated courses are unsuited to universities, we will have great difficulty in explaining why we have allowed the colleges of advanced technology to be brought into the university sector, because the bulk of students fall into the categories which we are told under this doctrinaire policy are unsuited for the university sector. There is no lack of logic in that for me, because I regard the upgrading of the colleges of advanced technology to university status as one of the best things that have happened to the university world for many years.
The C.N.A.A., to which reference has been made, I would have thought has now been established as a major alternative to the university system. What I find very regrettable is that a number of existing academic links between universities and the non-university colleges doing advanced and degree work are being dissolved and some proposed links are being discouraged. I never thought and I doubt very much if those who are against the binary system ever thought that the whole of higher education should be transferred to the universities. But we hoped that with the expansion of the non-university higher education sector, with the higher academic standards that were coming to transform the non-university higher education sector, many of the institutions that were outside the universities would be upgraded into universities or be integrated into existing universities. The main thing is that those who were teaching in this field always felt that it was bad to have hard and fast rules and barriers placed on the concept that one kind of degree-awarding institution was radically different from another. We needed flexibility and experiment.
I think that the binary policy as being expounded at the moment is based on an oddly outmoded view of universities as relatively remote, certainly non-professional in terms of being orientated towards any particular profession, and unresponsive to social control. I do not think that that is anything but a caricature of universities, but this is the kind of caricature which was put forward in a speech not long ago to justify keeping a substantial part of the most advanced higher education in this country outside the scope of the universities.
330 I want to relate what I have been saying to costs, because this Report is concerned with the finance of university education. I suggest to the House that one of the things which is most wasteful about our existing universities is precisely that they are based almost exclusively on the concept of the full-time student. We put nearly £200 million a year into university education, a good deal of it for capital development, but, apart from the research which goes on—and I do not want to undervalue that—in terms of students there, and the needs of the community, for half the year a substantial part of the equipment is not used, because the universities are on vacation, and there is nothing so dead as at least three-quarters of the capital invested in them while they are on vacation.
In the main, the capital which has been sunk into these buildings is simply not being utilised in the evenings. With the development of sandwich courses, block release courses, part-time day and part-time evening courses for professional people—highly skilled, possibly late developers, but with the intellectual potential of existing undergraduates—I should have thought that it was possible to bring in these people to an increasing extent to make use of the capital which has been sunk into the universities. I think that in this sense the binary system is going to under-use the capital which has been put into this vitally important public service.
Next, I want to consider the question of the educational precinct. In Newcastle we have an educational precinct similar in terms of future development to the kind of educational precinct being developed in Manchester, and so on. What we wanted in Newcastle was to produce an integration of academic life of all kinds on that precinct within the university, within the College of Commerce, and within the Rutherford College of Technology. We imagined that this link would be closely integrated with the civic life of Newcastle, and also with the development of degree level work in the Rutherford College of Technology and in the College of Commerce. One hoped that in time the educational precinct, which will cost a great deal of money, would be the centre of a rapidly developing integrated university, and specifically that the Rutherford College 331 of Technology would be integrated with the university. This would have done Rutherford a great deal of good, just as it would have done the university a lot of good, but, precisely because of the binary system—call it doctrinaire or what one will—such an integration is impossible.
The same kind of situation developed as a result of the policy adopted in Coventry, where it was impossible to integrate the Lanchester College with the University of Warwick. It was impossible because it was contrary to the principles of the binary system.
Earlier today my right hon. Friend said that all that the binary system meant in effect was that a certain number of mergers which might have taken place would in fact not take place, and that in general this policy had widespread support in the House. I doubt very much whether it has widespread support. I doubt very much whether many hon. Members at first realised the full implications of the binary system. I did not. It is not until it comes home to one in one's own city, where one finds that experiments which are taking place in education are suddenly thwarted by this policy, that one realises its implications.
I should not have thought that it was the most economic use of the resources of a city such as Newcastle to have running side by side the two aspects of higher education, with one set of buildings doing predominantly degree level work, perhaps for part-time day and sandwich courses and with a fair number of full-time students, who would have to go outside the precinct for their degrees and academic standards to the C.N.A.A. rather than to the university already established in the city. In terms of economic use of resources, there would be the grave danger that parallel development would not be economical, but it would be necessary because they would be separated. The higher education centre, degree-giving and doing post-graduate work, supposedly the equal of the university, on this principle will never become a university.
People tell me that there is widespread support for this. Despite resolutions which may have been passed at conferences of the A.T.T.I., it has been a bitter blow to many of the staff of these 332 colleges, who saw the possibility of integration with the universities, because of the greatly developing advanced standards they had developed, to learn that integration is not to take place.
I have some experience of school work. I suggest that sixth formers, when looking at the kinds of college they can go to when they leave school and knowing that there is a university sector, on the one hand, and a degree-giving institution, on the other, which can never hope under this doctrine to become a university, will tend to opt, because one cannot overlook one thousand years of history in the academic world, for the university. They will therefore tend to swell and inflate the application lists of the autonomous universities and will see the other colleges, degree giving or not, as the "secondary moderns" of the higher education system.
It is no use asserting that this attitude does not exist. I have been in sixth forms. I have taught sixth formers. I have seen some of them choose the wrong course at a university rather than the right course at a college of technology, precisely because the community, rightly or wrongly, recognises the superior academic status of a university education. It should be said that the course was more suitable in the college of advanced technology and as a teacher I should have preferred the student to go there. I cannot understand why a student going to a C.A.T. and taking a course at degree level should not at the end have the status of someone who has taken a degree at a university, except that all the traditions in this country are against it.
Reference has been made under the principle of the binary system to healthy rivalry. I think this was referred to by my right hon. Friend. I do not want to misquote him. It may have been said by somebody else who was supporting the binary system. I am not so sure in terms of the capital costs of higher education institutions that we can have economical use of our resources on the basis of healthy rivalry. There is a possibility of duplication of effort and of a non-economical use of specialised staff. It will lead to a pouring in of money at the wrong point of the higher education system.
My right hon. Friend referred to the effort which is being made in the matter 333 of the exchange of staffs between universities and non-university institutions in the higher education sector. It would be wrong to describe it simply as a face-saving operation, but I do not think that it will have any deep roots. Until these institutions have a common system of governorship and are integrated, one will have a lower status than another. The staff know this.
I accept that teachers and assistant lecturers in colleges of technology have salary prospects equal to those of assistant lecturers in universities. However, at the senior levels this is not so. If we were pursuing the principle of equality in the non-university higher education sector, for a very minimal cost we could have awarded much more substantial increases than we did in the recent Burnham technical award to the senior staffs in colleges of advanced technology and colleges of commerce. So long as there is a substantial gap even now, and with university teachers pressing for increased salaries, I suggest that until we have as heads of departments people who are professors, and principals who are vice-chancellors, and senior lecturers and readers who are given time from teaching to devote energy to research of which they are capable, there will not be equality of status. I suggest that we will not get it on the basis of artificial distinctions made between the two sections.
There is need to abolish the rigidity that sets in beyond the age of 18. The intellectual cream from our sixth forms go to the universities, but there are a number of other people, possibly late developers in many cases and possibly university rejects—because it is a highly competitive business getting into a university nowadays—who get into the non-university sector. I have taught these people. Many of them are late developers who at the age of 20 or 21 have led me to believe that they should have gone into a university in the first place. I cannot think that the policy of maintaining a tight academic distinction between the degree-awarding universities and degree awarding non-university colleges is compatible with a radical and reformist education policy.
I have the deepest personal regard for my right hon. Friend the Minister. I think that he is one of the most radical Ministers of a most radical Government. 334 I have regard also for the radicalism of the right hon. Member for Handsworth and it is a great regret to me that the two right hon. Gentlemen should be unified in arresting a tendency towards the integration of the new and lively technological field and the commercial college field with the universities. I find this 18-plus system of transfer to what I have said have been described as the secondary moderns of the higher education sector completely incomprehensible to me as a keen supporter of the Government's policy of abolishing the binary system at the secondary stage.
What has now been decided is radically different in many ways from the policies which were put forward and pursued by spokesmen of our party in the years before the General Election. I said during the election campaign, and I repeat, that under our policy at that time the colleges of education were to be fully integrated within the universities—and not just academically. I thought that this was a progressive policy, and if this had happened it would have considerably assisted the recruitment of teachers from the sixth forms of the grammar schools and the comprehensive schools generally. When the teaching profession is raised to full graduate status by the training colleges being increasingly integrated with the universities we shall find the recruitment problems considerably eased.
We have changed our policy from this. Although it was not the official policy there were policy statements. The general attitude was towards this flexibility and we gave a clear indication that we would create new type universities and integrate many existing higher education institutions within the universities. I had hoped that we would have seen within a decade existing institutions, in Sunderland, for example, being so treated. I do not believe that when a party is in power it should necessarily stick rigidly to policies pursued before an election. A party might well find that it had been misguided, but I find this change of policy so contrary to our attempts to break down the status harriers within the secondary system. It continues and emphasises the academic status barriers within the higher education system, and in terms of economics it does not save public money. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend to think again.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
I intervene solely because I was on the Sub-Committee which produced this Report and I was Chairman of the whole Committee. It has been a fascinating debate. The hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) has reason to be proud that his Report has had very high and almost unanimous commendation from the House in every speech made so far. If there has been one omission, it has been the necessary tribute to the Clerk of the Sub-Committee, Mr. Middlemas, who, as much as the Chairman and members of the Sub-Committee and all those who gave oral and written evidence, played a very great part in producing what is a highly significant Report in the history of higher education in Britain.
The great value of our Estimates Committee Reports lies not so much in the specific recommendations which we make, which are sometimes important and sometimes less so, as in the amount of information which we can unearth from all kinds of sources, sometimes from the inside, in this case from within the educational system, and sometimes from the outside, from those I might call the consumers.
Secondly, the public debate which our Reports induce sharpens and lends value to the Reports themselves and gives added knowledge to the public mind of what we are seeking to do in higher education. Not least important, of course, is the obligation which is automatically placed on the Ministry to defend itself in its written replies to our recommendations and orally in debates of this kind.
This particular debate has ranged far wider than the strict terms of the Report and its recommendations, and no one will complain about that. It was right and proper that the opportunity should be taken to widen the debate. We have had a Welsh interlude, which reminded me very much of our Scottish Grand Committee debates, with no quarter asked or given. We had a Scottish "natural break" which was like a Sunday school party compared with the Welsh interlude, although the language used by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) was not exactly what one might expect from the church pulpit. Nevertheless, we have had these, if I may so call them, parochial interludes 336 which did not lesson the value of the debate.
The Minister availed himself of the opportunity fairly to defend himself against the strictures, the deserved strictures, of the Committee, if I may say so, and to give us what I might call a revised version of one or two of the speeches he has been making recently and a progress report on what is happening currently in the university world. So far as I am concerned, my right hon. Friend has unconditional forgiveness for what seemed very curt and off-hand answers to our recommendations. I was very incensed by the brevity of the answers, almost a "brush-off", which were given to the Committee.
I am not sure whether all hon. Members are aware of the enormous volume of work which goes into the preparation of a Report like this. There is much travelling about the country. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Sir E. Boyle), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, regretted that the Sub-Committee had not visited more universities. I went to Birmingham and Edinburgh with members of Sub-Committee. I think that they went also to Sussex, and I am not sure whether there was another visit. In addition to that, of course, the evidence was spread over a period from February to May, and it was really quite an undertaking to amass all the evidence on which the Report was based. To dismiss a Report like that in a couple of hundred words is too much—more than I can stand, anyhow—and I am very glad on that account alone that we have had this debate to enable the Minister to purge himself.
My right hon. Friend dealt with some of the recommendations more fully than others, and I should like to deal with one or two on which he did not go into very much detail. First, there is the level of student fees, in Recommendation (xiv). He had very little to add to his original observation that the matter is now under examination. The Robbins Report was specific on this, and we have simply underlined what it said. There was no division of opinion in the Committee. The Estimates Committee is all-party, and while we might have our differences sometimes, on all the recommendations there was no division of opinion. This was a unanimous recommendation.
337 I should like to know from my right hon. Friend how soon we may expect a decision on this, and what effect increases would be likely to have on local rates. Is this being taken into account when we are reviewing the rating system? The rate burden is onerous, and getting more onerous each year, and if there is to be an increase in the rates without an attempt by the Exchequer to carry an additional part of the burden the rate problem will become that much more unbearable to the average ratepayer.
I turn to Recommendation (vi) on the national manpower needs. We had considerable debate within the Sub-committee on the importance of this point. I agree with the Minister—I think most hon. Members would—that forecasting here is extremely hazardous, and even if it were not so, the criterion of the worth of university education should not be solely and wholly national economic needs. Nevertheless, that having been said, we cannot ignore the fact that the taxpayer is making an annual investment in the universities of £200 million, and future improvements in our standards of living depend to an enormous degree on the return we shall get on that investment in terms of scientists, technologists, teachers and the rest. While it is true that we cannot judge the worth of a university in terms of numbers of scientists and technologists churned out, we must, nevertheless, be very mindful of what the universities are doing. We cannot dismiss it as of no interest.
I was, therefore, particularly glad that my hon. Friend gave us some account of the advances being made in the numbers of science and technological students, although I must add my voice to that of my hon. Friend who preceded me about what seems to be a contradiction of approach by my right hon. Friend—his attitude to the extension of the comprehensive principle at school level and his attitude to the binary system at higher education level. There seems to be a profound contradiction there which I hope he will carefully reconsider.
I was gratified also to hear my right hon. Friend say something about what the Willis Jackson Committee is doing on the question of manpower and national requirements. I understood him to say that the terms of reference of the Committee would be expanded so that it would 338 better be able to meet the objectives which the Estimates Sub-Committee had in mind when it made this recommendation. Am I right?
§ Mr. Crosland
I did not say exactly that. I said that the Willis Jackson Committee was looking after science and technology and that so far no one was looking after non scientific and technology manpower. I said that I was considering, with my right hon. Friends the First Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how the non-scientific and technology manpower could be looked after rather than by simply extending the terms of reference.
§ Mr. Hamilton
It is virtually the same point. I gather that my right hon. Friend is seeking additional machinery to meet the objective that the Estimates Sub-Committee had in mind.
The crux of the problem in general terms is how to marry in complete harmony the concept of academic freedom to public accountability for the £200 million invested each year—in other words, how to ensure value for money expended on our universities in part at least as an investment on which the investor, who is the taxpayer, has a right to expect a return in terms of an improved standard of living.
Some remarks have been made about the value of academic freedom and, certainly, that is a concept which very few hon. Members and few people outside would seriously challenge. The principle of what my right hon. Friend referred to as the "buffer state"—the imposition of an independent body between the politicians and the universities—is sound. The Robbins Committee investigated what took place in other countries and came to the firm conclusion that our system was the right one.
But, whilst accepting the principle, we in this House have the right and the duty to question the adequacy of the machinery which is used to translate the principle into practice and that is what the Sub-Committee tried to do. Tributes have been paid, and rightly so, to the U.G.C., to each member, both individually and collectively, and to the chairman. Those tributes are handsomely deserved and one would not want to under emphasise them.
Nevertheless, it is clear from our Report that the Chairman and all the members 339 of the Committee are grossly overworked and that the Committee is understaffed to do the job assigned to it. In that context, I have some measure of satisfaction from the comments of my right hon. Friend on this point. The proposition that there should be two part-time Deputy Chairmen, each with a different expertise, is probably a sounder suggestion than our proposal that the Deputy-Chairman should be full time. That, plus what one would hope would be additional full-time professional staff, should, I hope, lead to a greater spread of the visitations of the U.G.C. to the universities and the separation of those visitations from the quinquennial cycle.
I think that the universities were unanimous in their liking of the quinquennial visitations. Indeed, we had complaints that the visitations were not frequent enough. I hope that might be remedied as a result of the debate and my right hon. Friend's suggestions.
On public accountability and the concept of getting value for money, I am reasonably satisfied that control of capital account is probably as good as we can devise at the moment and may well improve in the near future, but I am less happy about recurrent expenditure. I recognise that control in this respect is very difficult and comparative analysis, which my right hon. Friend said could be useful, also had its dangers.
When my right hon. Friend was speaking, I referred myself to the Scottish evidence given by Professor Swann when he was complaining about recurrent grants. In Question 1442 he was asked:On these recurrent grant matters, do you find yourselves making inquiries to find out how your costs per student in various faculties compare with those in similar departments in other universities?The answer was fairly long. Professor Swann said:The administration, of course, does give a good deal of thought to costs per student to different faculties in this university … But, even so, it is our feeling that we have suffered from perhaps being regarded historically as being able to do it on the cheap because we have large classes and lecture to large numbers and need not be given as much money as other people. We feel we have not quite had our due on this score.That was a typically Scottish comment.
340 In answer to the next question he went on to say:We feel we have from time immemorial been doing this more cheaply than perhaps is good for the university. Leaving aside invidious comparisons of whether this is fair or not, we feel we honestly deserve somewhat better treatment on recurrent grants than we have had.Having made that point, he went on to say that he felt that there was a danger in getting out comparative figures for different faculties in different universities.
I make the point to show that the Scottish universities believe that they have a grievance in this regard and to show that I do not want to deduce from that that the U.G.C. should get out comparative figures of this kind for each and every faculty and university and judge one against the other on the basis of those figures.
I now turn to one or two more general points. The right hon. Member for Handsworth always makes agreeable and well informed speeches. In fact, when he is speaking I always wonder why he stays in the Tory Party. He is much too decent a liberal to be there. He commented on the irony of the timing of the publication of the Report and he quoted with considerable satisfaction the last paragraph of the Report, which recommendeda further large increase in the capital grantto universties at almost precisely the point when the Government were announcing capital cuts vis-à-vis the six months' moratorium.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Government had their education priorities all wrong. Every Opposition levels that criticism against every Government. What the priorities in education are is arguable. In the context of our present difficulties it could be argued that nursery schools and classes should have a very high priority if we want to get married women teachers back into the schools.
It could be argued that the primary schools, on which devastating reports of negligence and neglect have been produced since the last election, should be a first priority. It could be argued that, because this is the very basis of our education, every other part of the educational system ought to be secondary to it. Equally, it could be argued that the 341 secondary schools ought to have a higher priority on the basis of the Newsom Report. I think that there is great force in each of these arguments. There will be some enthusiasts for the nursery sector, some for the primary sector, some for the secondary sector and some for the universities.
The truth is that the capital available to the universities is limited, as it is in every other field, by the overall health of the economy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Handsworth has alleged that the universities are less happy today than when the Robbins Report was produced. I do not know what evidence he has for it. If this is so, the fault cannot be wholly flat of this Government. They were dealing with the situation inherited, and the capital cuts that were imposed were to some extent the result of that inheritance.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I would personally rank the further expansion of nursery schools to get married women back to school, primary school improvement, and projects for the Newsom sector ahead of a 100 per cent. subsidy for school meals indiscriminately on the scale we have at present, let alone planning to spend more money on this service for the future.
§ Mr. Hamilton
This is an arguable proposition. All I am saying is that each Government will decide their own priority. I might have my own difference of opinion. I often have with my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench as to what their priorities are and what they are doing about them, but this must be a matter of judgment by the Government. What I am saying is that so long as capital resources are limited it must be within the judgment of the Government as to how they use those limited resources. I do not believe that the allegation made by the right hon. Gentleman, that the universities are pessimistic and regretful now as compared with when the Robbins Report was produced, is true.
The universities are very conscious of the vital part they have to play in the future well-being of the nation. They must know that any Government recognises their importance. No Treasury will sanction an investment of £200 million a 342 year unless it believes it to be in the national interest. I sense, in this debate and outside, much more public interest in our universities than has been the case for probably over a century. The gulf between the masses of the people and the universities is still very much wider than I would wish, but I think that it is narrowing. I hope that this debate will have done a little to carry us further in that direction.
It has been accepted by all, and I have accepted it in this debate, that the principle of freedom for universities is one on which there is virtually unanimous agreement. That does not mean that we must not seek further measures of public accountability for the ways in which this money is spent. I would like to see many more debates on how the money is spent on universities. I believe that we have carried this principle much too far for the public good. My right hon. Friend produced in his speech what he called a caricature of the man in the street and the questions he was asking. I am one of the men in the street asking precisely those questions.
I want to know what we are getting for our money, in much greater detail. We have a Bill going through the Scottish Grand Committee, the Scottish Universities Bill, and we are doing precisely the opposite. We are deleting the part of the 1889 Act which compels the Secretary of State to present an annual report to this House. The amount of public money being paid to the Scottish universities at that time was £500. Today, it is £20 million. I should like my right hon. Friend to bear in mind what the Public Accounts Committee has been saying. We want to establish a much greater measure of public accountability without infringing on the academic freedom to which we all pay due regard.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. R. E. Prentice)
I should like to begin by agreeing with what my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) said towards the end of his speech. I do not wish to get involved in controversy about the last part of his speech and arguments concerning the Scottish Grand Committee. That is something which I try to avoid. However, just before that, 343 my hon. Friend expressed the view that in the past the House had not debated the universities sufficiently and said that he hoped that we would debate them more often. He suggested that there should be public discussion of their rôle in society. I agree entirely with that. It is rather less than a year since we debated the universities. We have again debated them today. I hope that we shall do this from time to time.
The debate has been wide-ranging, constructive, and, on the whole, non-controversial, at least as far as England is concerned although not quite so in regard to Scotland and Wales. I thank my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland for intervening in the debate. I should hate to be in trouble with my Scottish and Welsh colleagues at the same time, but I will say something later on the issues affecting Cardiff.
A number of hon. Members have referred to the debt which the House owes to the Estimates Committee. I should certainly like to associate myself with what they said and to say to the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid), the Chairman of the Committee, and those who worked with him that they have produced a Report of tremendous value to which we shall refer over the years on the relationship of the universities to the University Grants Committee and of the University Grants Committee to the Government. We shall also refer to many of the detailed points which they have raised about the efficiency of the system.
The reception given by the Estimates Committee to my Department's original reaction to it was a bit resentful, and it obviously showed its displeasure that at that time we had not met more than a certain number of its points. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said that he thought that it was a perfunctory rejoinder and other hon. Members described it as truculent and a brush-off, and used other words to that effect. I might fairly make the point that we were under an obligation to make an early response, and at that moment we were not ready to give a full reply on a great many points. We were giving active consideration to various matters, and we said so. My right hon. Friend's speech today 344 has disarmed a great deal of the criticism. Certainly in the intervening weeks we have been doing a great deal of work on these points, and my right hon. Friend was able to give a very full account of progress on matters into which I need not go again.
One of the detailed points on which my right hon. Friend did not touch and which was referred to by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) arose from Recommendation No. (xiii) of the Estimates Committee concerning the very important question of equipment for the universities. The hon. Gentleman referred in particular to scientific equipment and to the degree of obsolescence. I am glad to be able to assure him that the Department, with the U.G.C., is examining what we hope will be a radical new system for the purchase of equipment for universities both in new buildings and in existing buildings which will provide a firm basis for dealing with the vexed question of obsolescence. We are pressing on fast with this. If it is introduced in the way that we hope, we shall certainly take account of the point made by the Select Committee that there is a case for considering transitional grant which may be necessary in the kind of circumstances that might emerge in the changeover. I cannot be more specific at the moment, but we are certainly working hard on it.
I should like now to refer to building deferments, of which the right hon. Member for Handsworth made a certain amount of play and to which other hon. Members have referred. Looking at the situation of the country and at the reasons for the deferments, the way in which we have dealt with the universities in our recent decision should have received a fairly warm welcome from those who are concerned in these matters.
Looking back to the situation six months ago, an economic crisis faced the country. It faced everybody. Nobody could contract out of it. Those in the universities could not contract out of it any more than anybody else. These measures were necessary and they were carried through. We appreciated that in bringing them about we caused great confusion and dismay in the universities, but this was a necessary measure of the economic situation.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. It is not in order for an hon. Member to read in the Chamber unless he is doing so in preparation for a speech which he intends to make.
§ Mr. Prentice
The university programme is the first of the many important programmes that were deferred on which the Government have been able to announce the terms on which the programme will be restored. We have announced the restoration in terms which mean that within two years, nearly all the deferments will have been recovered.
When hon. Members speak, as some of them have done, about a cut of £15 million, there never was a cut of £15 million. The postponement was a postponement of improvements for six months. It might have been feared at the time that it would prove necessary to retain a six months' postponement, so that in January there would be a commencement of projects which would have begun in July and so we would have gone on with everything delayed six months.
We are now saying that on top of the programmes already announced for 1966–67 and 1967–68, there is to be a recovery during that period of nearly everything that was postponed during that period of six months. This is affording a high degree of priority to the universities in this situation. Certainly, we have no need to be apologetic. Those who are prepared to take an objective view should agree that we have done rather well by the universities in this situation.
As to the effect on the numbers of students, we can take great pleasure from the figures announced in the U.C.C.A. Report. It was expected a few months ago in the questions asked by the U.C.C.A. of the universities that there would be an intake of 49,000 students last October. In the field covered by U.C.C.A., which is most, but not quite all, of the university sector, the figures now show a total of something like 49,500. Taking the total returns from the universities, including courses outside the U.C.C.A. field, the figure announced by my right hon. Friend is approximately 52,000. There is an increase of over 17 per cent. in students generally and an increase of over 24 per cent in science students. This is very good progress. There is no reason to feel 346 pessimistic about the prospect of meeting the objective of the Robbins Committee of 197,000 students in two years' time.
§ Sir E. Boyle
I appreciate that by the end of 1967–68, in the level of starts over the three years, there will be a reduction of starts of only about £3 million. I accept that. Surely, however, the crux of the matter is, so to speak, the figure for work done in 1966 and 1967. As a result of the deferments, there will be a substantially lower level of work done during these two years, which were always recognised to be the most two critical years from the point of view of the short-term Robbins target.
§ Mr. Prentice
Of course, a postponement of starts for six months would seriously affect the volume of work going on in the period following the six months; that would be bound to be the result. I was stating that there will be a catching up far more quickly than might have been feared. Of course, the deferment for six months was serious, but it was due to the economic situation in which the country found itself.
We can, I think, say that the effects of the deferments will not prevent the expansion of numbers. It will—I must be frank about this—lead to the continuation rather longer of conditions which are old, uncomfortable and inconvenient in many universities. This is something that we all regret. This is part of the price that we pay for economic failure in the past. Nevertheless, it will not lead to the denial of opportunity of university education for those who otherwise would have had it.
I turn now to the remarks which have been made about the so-called binary system. The word "binary" is rather ugly, like "comprehensive" and many other words that we use in educational discussion. If hon. Members can think of better words for some of these things, they will be doing a great public service. The argument was referred to briefly by the right hon. Member for Handsworth, it was referred to at length in a powerful speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Rhodes) and it was referred to briefly by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West.
My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East is, I think, 347 looking for precise definitions in a field where this is simply not possible. When he asks for precise definitions of one sector as against another, he is talking of dozens of different institutions in both sectors that vary one from the other, as they always will. It is not possible to talk of this as though one can define the subject logically.
What is more, assuming there is to be a sector of higher education which is autonomous and another sector of higher education which must be in the local authority field, wherever the line is drawn there will never be a precisely logical way of defining the institutions on either side of the line. When my right hon. Friend was describing his policy in his speech at Woolwich and used the words "Vocationally orientated" what he meant was that there was a tendency in the autonomous field for the emphasis to be rather on the pursuit by students of pure research studies and so forth, but, of course, there is tremendous overlap on both sides. This will always be the case.
Where I disagree with the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East is in his analysis that our policy means that somehow or other we are pursuing a policy creating differences, a policy of status differences. As he put it, we are continuing 18-plus segregation although we are against 11-plus segregation. I should say we are doing just the opposite. I claim that what would have been damaging for higher education would have been a process going on for years in which a number of institutions in the local authority world were either qualifying for the change to autonomous status, or hoping for it, or agitating for it and trying to imitate the universities. It therefore would have been a continual obsession with status, a continual emphasis on what are believed by some people to be the differences between being in the local authority world and in the autonomous sector.
This would have been bad for higher education in both sectors. Certainly it would be bad for local government and it would be bad for the local government sector of higher education. We would have been saying to local authorities, many of whom have a distinguished record in higher education, "The greater you 348 make the success of your local institution the faster you will lose it." This would not have been a healthy influence at all. We have in this country higher education of which we can be proud both in the local authority field and the autonomous field. It is our intention to extend both. It is our hope that we can liberate higher education from the academic equivalent of a demarcation dispute. We would hope to see people giving less attention to the vexed question of what title is given to a piece of paper after they pass a course. What really matters is the quality of the work done in these institutions and the service given to the students.
It is on that note that I venture to step into the difficult controversy about the college of advanced technology in Wales. I agree with at least one remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) when he spoke of the intense interest in educational matters in the Principality. I knew this all along. Indeed, I had evidence of it when I paid a very pleasant visit for three days to South Wales a month or two ago. I am looking forward to paying another, I hope also pleasant, visit on Friday when I shall speak at the Welsh C.A.T. centenary celebration. I am looking forward to a frank and friendy exchange of views with the people there.
I beg him and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Alan Williams) to face this question. What is it we are arguing about? Are we arguing about the decision not to grant the status of an independent university to the Welsh C.A.T., or about the whole future of the University of Wales? If we are arguing about the greater question—one which excites people most—the future of the University of Wales and whether it should be federalised or not, this is not a new decision on policy by the Government. We have been concerned in this matter for a long time. We were open to approaches from our hon. Friends from Welsh constituencies over several months.
The policy of my right hon. Friend found definition on 22nd September in a letter he wrote to the right hon. and learned Member for Conway (Mr. Peter Thomas) which received some publicity. In it he said that he was pointing out that the University of Wales had itself decided that it did not want to defederalise but wished to propose a number of important 349 changes to its charter, which my right hon. Friend welcomed, and he did not propose to take any initiative to force the issue of defederalisation or to appoint a Royal Commission.
That letter received public attention and it was open to my hon. Friends to remonstrate with us on this matter if they wished to do so. Of course I should be happy, and so would my right hon. Friend, to attend a meeting of the Welsh group of the Parliamentary Labour Party to discuss this matter with them, but that was the decision which has been standing for some time. It is against that background that we need to see the other decision about the future of the Welsh C.A.T. Given the fact that for the foreseeable future the University of Wales is to continue and not to defederalise, it would make no sense at all to grant independent university status to the college of advanced technology in Cardiff. That would be to establish two universities in Wales, one ten times larger than the other. It would be to establish in Cardiff a new technological university side by side with the University College in Cardiff, which is almost three times as large as the Welsh C.A.T. The only decision we have announced is to rule out that particular solution.
If there are those who feel that in future there might be some new relationship between the college of advanced technology, the university college and the medical school, there are all kinds of possibilities on which discussions might take place and which we might be prepared to consider sympathetically. Those who want to see a solution along those lines ought to have regard to this point, that if there is to be some kind of marriage of the different institutions of higher education in Cardiff it is more likely to come about if all three have the same relationship with the University of Wales rather than that one should become independent while the other two are still in the federal structure.
I do understand that there is concern in the college and among those who are interested in it about the future of the courses, and here I should like to say most emphatically that what is envisaged here, if the Welsh C.A.T. accepts the invitation of the University of Wales to come into a federal relationship is that the Welsh 350 C.A.T. would have separate access to the U.G.C., would have its own development plan, its own building programme; and there is no reason whatever to suppose that this process would make it less of a technological university than it otherwise would be. Indeed, we in the Government, are very concerned, and I am glad to take the opportunity to emphasise this, that the technological character of the college should continue, and particularly that the sandwich courses should continue; they are of tremendous value to the community there, and we place very great importance on them.
The relationship between the college and the University of Wales, assuming that the college will come into discussions, which we think is the right course, would be a matter of discussion between them. This Department would certainly offer its good offices to resolve any differences, and with a strongly felt and publicly stated wish that the technological character of the courses should continue.
§ Mr. Alan Williams
Suppose that the circumstances which my hon. Friend envisages do not come about. Is his final decision then still final?
§ Mr. Prentice
Well, the decision we have made is not to grant independent university status to the Welsh College of Advanced Technology. In the discussions which are about to take place I do not think my hon. Friend would want to assume that those representing the Welsh C.A.T. are a lot of rabbits. They will negotiate from strength; they can enter into negotiations on their own terms; they can refuse to accept terms. They can bargain strongly. There is no reason whatever to assume they will be browbeaten on this. Nor do we wish them to join the University of Wales by any given date. The only thing we oppose is transfer to the status of a new independent university.
Both my right hon. Friend and I would, of course, be glad to discuss with my hon. Friend, or any other hon. Members, either individually or collectively, at any time. We are very anxious to remove the irrational doubts which have crept into these discussions, and particularly to remove any possible suspicion that there is likely to be a decline of the technological courses which are available in the college.
351 Now I turn finally to what I think has been the main theme of this debate, and that is the rôle of the universities in our society and the need to reconcile the concepts of academic freedom and social responsibility. I do not intend to indulge in any long philosophising about this, but I do want to draw the attention of the House to a trend which is taking place, I think ever more rapidly, and which is very encouraging in the context of reconciling these two things. I think the whole House wants to reconcile the concepts of academic freedom and social responsibility and would agree that we want to reconcile them without manifesting extreme views.
What I want to refer to is simply the fact of the last few years of many new links between the universities and their local environments; links between the universities and industry, between the universities and local government, between the universities and regional planning; and a number of other trends. I think the first thing to which I should draw attention is the way in which the universities themselves have responded in recent years to views which have been expressed about the need for new courses. They have co-operated with the idea that two-thirds of new places should be in the fields of science and technology. In the colleges of advanced technology they have co-operated with public policy and co-operated with industry in the development of sandwich courses. There are some signs that one or two universities that were not colleges of advanced technology are now thinking of courses of that kind, and that would be a very healthy development where it can be worked out with local industry.
They have co-operated in providing new places in the social sciences particularly to meet specific shortages such as for town planners, for personnel managers and other categories in short supply. We have had the development in the current academic year of the two new business schools in London and Manchester.
There has been a reference to the need for more sophisticated methods of forecasting the manpower needs of our society. My right hon. Friend made reference to that earlier and to our own desire to make progress in these tech- 352 niques and obtain better and more accurate results than those available.
What I would claim is that no one can say that the universities have failed to respond to new needs of that kind when they have been made clear to them. The examples that I have just given are clear evidence of that.
What is not so well known is the growing extent to which universities up and down the country are co-operating with industry. At the moment there are some hundreds of contracts that have been placed with universities for industrial research of one kind and another, some placed directly by firms and some by research associations in industry, in everything ranging from cracking in prestressed concrete beams to the social effects of moving a firm from one part of the country to another.
There are several large, spectacular and important projects. A year or two ago there was the development in Manchester of the Atlas computer by cooperation between Manchester University and Ferranti, and more recently with I.C.T. on the computer which is now working within the university and providing services to local industry and to the community. There has been the recent development in Leeds of the project for developing new types of gas jets, particularly in relation to the discovery of new types of gas in the North Sea and elsewhere. There has been the creation in Southampton of the Institute of Sound and Vibration which is run partly by the university, partly by industry and by the Medical Research Council and the Science Research Council, providing services to industry and local government. There has been the development in the university designate of Aston within its department of industrial administration of an advice service for small and medium-sized firms in Birmingham and the surrounding area. There has been the development of the interchange of staff between universities and industry.
Recently I have visited two universities, Warwick and the Imperial College in London, where they told me about the number of visiting professors they have who are people working in industry with the status of professors in the College.
A few weeks ago there was the annual Home Universities Conference, held this 353 year in conjunction with the C.B.I., on co-operation of universities and industry which has led since then to the establishment of a joint working party to consider more permanent machinery for organising co-operation of this kind.
Another point is the development of co-operation between the universities and scientific research, and there is a particularly fruitful development between Birmingham University and the Radar Research Establishment at Malvern, at which the staff of either institution have a status in the other and are doing work in the other. The Council for Scientific Policy have established a working party under the chairmanship of Sir Gordon Sutherland with a view to expanding links between universities and other research bodies.
Then, again, there is the way in which universities are co-operating with the new machinery of regional planning and the regional economic planning councils which have been appointed by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State. If one adds them together, there are no fewer than 21 professors or lecturers in universities serving on those councils, and in three cases someone from a university is chairman of a regional council.
Then there is the whole range of projects in which universities are working on regional or local planning problems. The University of Durham is studying growth potential in the North-East. Lancaster University is studying growth potential in Cumberland, Westmorland and North Lancashire. A working group in the West Midlands is working on closer relationships between industry and higher education in that region. The University of Birmingham is working on traffic problems in the City of Birmingham, and so on.
All this has been done without any kind of edict from the Government. All this has developed not only because the universities concerned have wanted to give this public service, but because developments of this kind have been seen as healthy developments from the educational point of view. The quality of teaching, and the quality of research, is enhanced by these wider developments by widening the perspective in the work and by bringing the outside world into the universities to a greater extent.
354 It has been proved over and over again, and to an increasing extent, that academic freedom need have nothing to do with the ivory tower. Although this is something which has required no edict from the Government, the fact that these developments are growing is something which I am sure everyone in this House would want to encourage, and would want to see them grow further in the years ahead.
I think that it is fair to add just one other point. By their very nature, some university disciplines lend themselves to co-operation of this kind, particularly technologies and social sciences. Other disciplines do not lend themselves so readily to this kind of co-operation. When it comes to the classics, history, and so on, it is not so easy to co-operate in this way, although even in these disciplines there are new approaches which are showing a response to the changing world. One has only to look at the Parry Committee's Report on Latin-American studies to see the way in which other studies are brought into the picture.
What we all want to say is that we welcome these developments, but we equally welcome the expansion and improvement of higher education in all the disciplines, because what we are concerned with here is not merely producing a more efficient society, but with producing a society in which there is a greater flow of higher education for the sake of the individuals who will benefit from it, and because of its wider effects on society.
The Robbins Committee was right in approaching the problem of higher education from the point of view of demand, and asserting, as many people have done before, and many of us have done since, that those young people who are able to benefit from higher education, and who want to proceed to higher education, ought to be able to do so, and that the community ought to make provision for it.
We are not considering these matters only on utilitarian grounds, and there is the danger that during these debates—and I plead guilty to having done it—hon. Members concentrate overmuch on the utilitarian aspects of extending higher education. They are vital, and they need to be discussed, but we need to see them also in terms of expansion all along the 355 line. The Government are committed to supporting the expansion of this and to the future expansion which is being planned for the years ahead. I believe that debates of this kind can only have a healthy impact on our consideration of these problems.
§ Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question, put and negatived.
§ Proposed words there added.
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Fifth Report from the Estimates Committee in the last Session of Parliament and of the Third Special Report from the Estimates Committee, relating to Grants to Universities and Colleges.
§ Committee Tomorrow.