HC Deb 17 April 1969 vol 781 cc1311-2
15. Mr. Silvester

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the excess of university places in medicine, engineering and technology and science at the beginning of the current academic year; and what steps he has in mind to reduce the excess in 1969.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

There were no vacancies in medical schools. The Sixth Report of the Universities Central Council on Admissions shows that while on the Council's figures, 514 more students were admitted to study science and technology in October, 1968, than in October, 1967, the numbers fell below the estimates made by universities in May, 1968, by 455 in engineering and technology, and by 738 in science. The recommendations made in the Dainton Report to increase the number of students in science and technology are being vigorously pursued by the bodies concerned, including my Department.

Mr. Silvester

Has the hon. Lady considered in particular recommendation No. 11 of the Dainton Report which asked for special university degree courses to be held for those who had not previously been trained specifically in science and technology but who at school had had an arts training? What progress has been made on that score?

Mrs. Williams

A number of universities are embarking on what are called conversion courses for those who have taken their "A" levels not entirely in scientific subjects. We are having dis- cussions with the universities about this. The Standing Council on University Entrance and the Schools Council are together considering the possibility of widening the entrance qualification for university study.

Sir E. Boyle

Does the hon. Lady agree that this is a crucial matter which should concern the whole House in view of the national need at this time of expansion of higher education? Is she aware that we shall seek to provide the House with an early opportunity to express its views on this subject?

Mrs. Williams

Yes, Sir. It is a matter of the greatest possible importance and it is worth noting the early evidence; I cannot go further at this stage. University applications for the present year indicate some improvement in the science and technology sphere and some decline in the figures for social studies.