HC Deb 29 January 1969 vol 776 cc1341-464

4.4 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I am sure that the House will think it right that we should devote a day, this week, to university affairs. It is a considerable time since we debated higher education, and there is much to be discussed. I am sorry that, through no fault whatever of Mr. Speaker, we have only a truncated day in which to debate these matters.

I shall begin with university salaries and the Report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. Then I shall say some general words about the relationship between Parliament, Government and the universities. Thirdly, I shall raise the question of resources for higher education and its future development. And, lastly, I shall refer to student protest.

First, then, university salaries and the Report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. Over the new year, some hon. Members may have felt, as I did, that the reaction of a part of university opinion to the Report was a little shrill. When I read those letters in The Times, I was a little reminded of a former head of my own college, Dr. Strong, who afterwards became Bishop of Oxford, who once described a particularly acrimonious college meeting; and used what I have always thought a rather graphic turn of phrase—"You could not have put a flat fish between the tutors' backs and the ceiling".

That seemed to be rather the reaction of many people to the P.I.B. Report. Nevertheless, this was an inept and superficial Report, and university teachers have every right to be thoroughly disappointed with the results of the standing reference to the Board. I regret somewhat that the furore should have been concentrated on paragraph 51(b), which suggested that students should have some part in assessing teaching ability for the purpose of distributing merit allowances. That was an inept suggestion, though, perhaps, no more so than the alternative suggestion that a man's teaching ability should be measured by the examination performance of his students.

In my view, the worst feature of the Report, however, was the manner in which it dealt with certain fundamental issues of university policy such as the balance between teaching and research. Here I quote—as so many have done in the Press—paragraph 47, the first paragraph of Chapter 5, The Pay Structure: A university teacher discharges in different degrees three functions: teaching, doing research and administering Conventional wisdom has it that these three functions cannot be disentangled one from the other. Nor is this a proposition which we would wish to challenge. An individual university may, however, wish to change the balance as between the three tasks in favour of more research, or of more teaching. For the university system as a whole, we consider that the present salary and career structure is biased towards research and that steps need to be taken to encourage and reward excellence in teaching. I am sure that none of us in the House would wish to play down the importance of university teaching at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. But this paragraph which I have quoted seems to me to be one of the most arrogant and superficial I have ever come across in a document with Her Majesty's Stationery Office imprint. It is rivalled only by paragraph 57: To encourage a shift towards teaching it is desirable to experiment with different combinations of labour and capital. Let us try to think this out a bit in the House. Frankly, I consider that it was completely unworthy of the Prices and Incomes Board to produce so superficial a document as this. If we are dealing with capital and labour, with factors of production, then we can measure inputs and outputs with some precision. But it is fantastically naive and ignorant to suppose that one can apply the same criteria of measurement to concepts like teaching, research and administration within a university. To take my own university subject, modern history, how can any top-class historian draw neat compartments between research, teaching postgraduates, keeping up with research, teaching undergraduates, and the organisation of both teaching and research?

I recall what I thought was an extremely good though, perhaps, rather academic book by Professor G. R. Elton, of Cambridge, in which he very properly said that one of the marks of the professional historian is that, if he wishes to be an adequate teacher, he must all the time keep up to date his bibliography for those periods in which he is a specialist. In other words, keeping up with research is integrally bound up with being a teacher, whether of undergraduates or postgraduates.

The University Grants Committee was quite right to say in its Report for the quinquennium 1962–67: Teaching and research are inseparable elements in the life of at least the great majority of academic staff and in the proper conception of what a university stands for. These are important matters, and one cannot dismiss them with a slap-happy reference to "conventional wisdom". When I read paragraphs like paragraph 47 I sometimes momentarily wish that Professor Galbraith and his concept of conventional wisdom had never been invented.

Furthermore, in this context let us remember one very important point which Lord Robbins made in his Report. I am quoting it from memory; I have deliberately not brought down the reference, but I well remember the spirit. He said that if by a cataclysm we were to lose all the university buildings in the country, that would be a great disaster, but it would not be absolutely irreparable; but if we lost the whole of our cultural inheritance which existed in our universities, that would be something absolutely irreparable.

I do not wish to see, and I am sure that none of us wishes to see, the universities becoming too remote from the rest of society. Of course, the universities have a growing rôle to play in professional education, and our universites have always played a vocational as well as a purely academic part. None the less, our universities are also the guardians of certain values and traditions which just cannot be measured in terms of input-output analysis.

I wanted to start with those general words on the Report, but now I want to refer to the award itself. The Prices and Incomes Board award, which has been accepted by the Government, was a 4 per cent. increase for university lecturers and a 2 per cent. increase for professors, a smaller rise than the price rise over the previous three years. In other words, it amounted to a cut in the real incomes of university teachers.

Even if one accepts that the endless chain of wage increases must be broken somewhere and even if one rejects, as I certainly do, the extreme view which is sometimes put forward that wage increases are entirely the result of inflationary spending, none the less one can surely feel that it is wrong that university teachers should be offered less than school teachers have already been offered and rejected in the Burnham Committee.

There are two other comments which it is right to make. First, it is unfortunate that the public should have been given the impression that the expansion of the universities in recent years has been carried out without any regard for cost efficiency or the use of new techniques. Paragraph 46 of the Report says: We have received little evidence of experimentation with new methods of teaching which would economise in the number of staff required. One quite simple piece of evidence to refute that statement is to be found from the last U.G.C. quinquennial report, which says: The response by universities to the ideals and recommendations in the Brynmor Jones Report showed that a great deal of serious and constructive thought was already being given to the extended use of modern media and centralised organisation of these new resources for teaching and learning … there is every prospect that the use of these media will lead to greater effectiveness in university teaching and, in the longer run, to a reduction in costs. That is one piece of evidence which seems to have escaped the attention of the P.I.B.

Secondly, if we accept the broad line of argument in the Report and if all the benefits of productivity rises are to go to those engaged in occupations with measurable productivity increases, the income patterns of our community will change radically and in a direction not necessarily in accordance with the social priorities which we would wish to see. Personally, I believe that it would be quite wrong to imagine that the distribution of the national income should be determined entirely by questions of productivity. Surely we agree that there are certain other forms of valuable social services to the community which also deserve attention.

I cannot help agreeing with Professor Vaizey about the political undertones of this report. He wrote in The Guardian: that the attack on university teachers' salaries rests on dubious economics, and it may be interpreted as mainly an attack on the universities themselves. I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends when I say that the sooner the standing reference of university salaries to the National Board for Prices and Incomes is ended, the better. In all fairness, I should add that the Board itself, before it starts laying about the universities, recognises that it is not the right body for this task. It says as early as paragraph 3: In the course of the discussions with ourselves the A.U.T. have expressed a wish to see their Salaries determined through collective bargaining machinery. This is a wish with which we have every sympathy. If we remove this standing reference, what are the alternatives? I believe that there are two. There is, first, the possibility of setting up an independent review body, as Lord Robbins and his Committee recommended. Secondly, there is the possibility of setting up some form of negotiating machinery. This, after all, is what we do with the whole of the rest of teachers' salaries. We have negotiating machinery which covers the rest of teachers' salaries and which runs right up into higher education. After all, the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions extends right up to the polytechnics. There is also machinery which works so well that we seldom hear about it—the Pelham machinery—for determining salaries in colleges of education. We have managed to devise this machinery for the rest of higher education and we should consider the possibility of setting up negotiating machinery to settle university salaries.

The Association of University Teachers has recently produced new proposals which will have to be carefully studied. I appreciate the difficulty, which is that of setting up a management panel and there is, of course, particularly the difficulty about the vice-chancellors themselves. But I am not absolutely convinced that these difficulties are insuperable. However, all I ask the Secretary of State today is to say that he will look again at this whole question of the settlement of the pay of university teachers, and that he will take informal soundings about it in the universities. If he would like informal talks, without prejudice, with me at a later date, I should, of course, be at his disposal to discuss the matter.

That was the first topic which I wished to raise this afternoon. I now want to say something about the relationship between Government and Parliament and the universities. I have been struck lately by the number of letters from universities questioning in retrospect the decision to have a Department of Education and Science covering the whole of education from primary school to university. Reading those letters, I have remembered the great national debate about this matter in the winter of 1963–64. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) will certainly remember it. May I say that if ever I come to write a slim volume of reminiscences I shall contribute five pages to the history of this controversy, which I remember most vividly.

Personally, I still believe that we took the right decision at that time, and I disagree with those who question it. I think that it was the right decision for two reasons. I believe that it was always a bad idea to divide higher education between two Ministers and that that argument applies more and not less strongly today. Secondly, I was always opposed to the idea of a "Minister for Schools ". However, I agree with the critics thus far: it is highly important that the Secretary of State of the day, to whichever party he may belong, should show himself to be understanding towards the, universities and their problems.

I do not want in this debate to make any personal comments which the House might not like and which I might subsequently regret, and, therefore, I will say only this to the right hon. Gentleman, that in his dealings with the universities he has sometimes seemed to display something of the birchrod manner. It is highly important that the Department and all those concerned in it should be particularly careful in their understanding of the ligitimate concerns of the universities and higher education.

I should like next to refer to the University Grants Committee. Personally, I see a continuing place for the work of the Committee. The case for its continuing work has never been better put than by the present President of the Board of Trade when debating the matter in the House in January, 1966. The right hon. Gentleman said: The most striking development in the U.G.C.'s activities is the decision of the Committee substantially to reorganise itself into subject groups it is a reform that will make much easier what … [Sir Edward Boyle] drew attention to—the need to have some kind of rationalisation of courses when we have 43 universities. Clearly, not all can be equally pre-eminent in every single subject from ancient Greek to nuclear physics. Obviously, that is true.

There has to be rationalisation of expenditure in higher education. Surely it is best that this work should be carried out by a committee, not part of the Government, predominantly consisting of those with genuine knowledge and experience of universities. There was a lecture given a year or so ago by Sir Eric Ashby, entitled, "Whose Hands on the Universities?", in which he reached the conclusion that it was absurd to say that no one's hands were on the universities, but that decisions particularly affecting them—decisions about their range of curriculum, about what subjects they undertook—should be taken by other dons, and that other university figures should have a considerable say in the rationalisation of costly provision. I am sure that that was right.

A word now about Parliament and the universities. I believe that not only the Government, but also this House, have certain inescapable responsibilities toward the universities. We must concern ourselves with the Government's plans for expansion, the total numbers to be admitted, the level of resources made available and as today, with the machinery for determining university salaries. We must certainly concern ourselves with the relationship between the universities and the rest of higher education, a point which we have discussed in this House—what is sometimes called the binary system—and all the problems connected with the universities, polytechnics and the colleges of education.

Now that the universities are financially accountable, this gives us fresh responsibilities. We also have—and, I hope, shall continue to have—a Select Committee on Education. I would very much regret it if the experiment of the Specialist Select Committee were to be discontinued after only two Sessions. I hope that there will be second thoughts on this matter.

There are other ways in which Parliament must be involved to some extent with university affairs. My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye later in the debate, proposes to say something about the drop-outs. The dropout rate is a subject upon which we shall have to ask for more information as time goes on. Again, those of us who are interested and concerned about innovation, modernisation and the strengthening of professional standards are bound to take an interest in the developing pattern of post graduate courses.

Universities have never been purely academic institutions. There must come a time in the education of the great majority of our citizens when their study needs to become more vocational, more orientated towards the needs of the world outside. There is one good reason why we must be interested in the development of post graduate studies. But it is also true—and here again I quote Sir Eric Ashby—that … universities must preserve an individuality apart from the State. A good deal of humbug is sometimes talked about academic freedom. Yet certain academic freedoms are essential. The most vital freedoms for universities are, I believe, freedom of appointments and freedom of teaching methods. Perhaps freedom of appointments is the most vital of all. Unfortunately, one has not to go outside the Western world to see examples of political interference over appointments. That is something which I hope we will for ever eschew. It is an absolutely vital freedom for anything that calls itself a university. We should also have a respect for what Dr. Robson, of Oxford, calls "the continuing validity of a university discipline." I am taking those words from a lecture at which I had the pleasure to take the chair. I was greatly impressed by what he said on that: occasion—that there is such a thing as a university discipline which has its own built-in validity, and which develops in its own way. That is something for which we should always have respect.

I come now to the question of resources and the future development of higher education. Here let us be clear about how severely the university building programme has suffered under the present Government in recent years. I do not want to weary the House with too many figures, but the substance of the matter is this. The 1965 moratorium meant a deferment of £15 million worth of starts which we had authorised in 1964. Nearly £10 million of that deferment, £9½ million to be precise, had been made up by the programmes originally announced for 1967–68 and 1968–69.

Last August, just as many vice-chancellors were on their way to the Antipodes for a conference, £10 million was taken away without any official announcement being made, and despite the fact that the university target had recently been raised so as to provide for 25,000 extra places in 1971–72. That was not exactly a miracle of Socialist planning.

We did go into the 1960s—and I freely admit this; I concede this point willingly—with an under-capitalised university base. I can add that my right hon. Friends made up for that pretty rapidly from then onwards over the next three or four years. It would be criminal now to make this mistake a second time, at a period when we know that the proportion of qualified sixth-formers is still rising. I put it to the House that, if the Government had followed a rational policy ever since 1964 over current spending—over items like school meals, prescription charges and housing subsidies—then these damaging cuts on capital spending would not have been necessary.

A word about arrears and obsolescence. The University Grants Committee has specifically drawn attention to this problem at the older universities. I have checked this many times with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), who was Chief Secretary in 1964, and a tough Chief Secretary with whom to deal. He has always very firmly said that he recognised, as far back as 1964, that a special allocation of at least £5 million would have had to be made to the older universities for arrears and obsolescence.

This is a matter which particularly affects the older civic universities. As the House knows, we have to build up the new universities, but there is also the problem of the older civic universities which have contributed enormously to the total numbers in the 1960s and in which the problem of obsolescence is particularly acute.

Looking ahead, we have to start thinking very soon about the provision of higher education, not just for 1972 but for 1977. This brings me to three questions. First, how many people are involved, and what will the total numbers be for whom provision must be made? Secondly, there is the question of the types of institution, and how many pupils in each. And, thirdly, most difficult of all, how will it all be paid for? Let me deal with these in turn.

First, numbers. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady will agree that we must work on realistic estimates of those who will be gaining two A levels or more. The Robbins estimates were already out of date by 1965. I remember raising that point in debate as long ago as March of that year. Fortunately, a good deal of work has been done since then, and I would like to pay my special tribute to the work of Mr. Richard Alleyard, who has done an immense amount of valuable work on this subject.

Secondly, there is the point about the types of institution. We took an important step last year towards a more unitary system of higher education, when we made both polytechnics and colleges of education more autonomous. A lot went wrong in 1968, but the House can modestly congratulate itself that we were so firm about the instrument of government for colleges of education. This was an important decision, and I will always wish to pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the way in which she responded to the House and handled the matter as the Bill went through.

Whatever the Maud Committee recommends, the time is not far distant when it will make sense to try to plan the whole of higher education on a more regional basis. We have to come to that sooner rather than later. However, we ought not to suppose that, in the short run, it will be at all easy, simply to switch students from the university sector to the polytechnics. In this context, I would like to ask the hon. Lady two questions about the speech which she made at the London School of Economics on—this was, so far as I know, a peaceful occasion—on 14th January of this year.

At any rate, her speech was fully reported, and I am glad that it was. First, I should like to ask whether she thinks that qualified students and their parents will be content with what may seem to be a second best? Will the good polytechnics, which provided courses as good as—and sometimes better than—some universities, be content with a continuing non-university status? And if they plan on a university scale, will their costs be any lower?

Secondly, the polytechnics are supposed to be comprehensive institutions of higher education—perhaps I should not have mentioned that word—offering degree and non-degree courses on a full and part-time basis. How is this to be achieved in the present financial circumstances of the local education authorities? In many of the proposed polytechnics, building, staff accommodation, libraries and other facilities compare unfavourably with those at the universities. Adequate finance is essential, but how can it be provided with the increase in local authority spending being restricted to less than 4 per cent. in real terms?

I am very concerned that we are putting too much strain on the further education sector of our educational system. There is a real danger that, if we try to switch students from the universities to polytechnics at one end, and, at the same time, encourage greater use of technical college premises by teenagers, we will put too much strain on our further education system.

The last point, looking ahead, is finance. This is much the most pressing problem. How can we reduce the costs of higher education? We must think about all the following things. I will list about five or six items which we have to take seriously. First, we must accustom ourselves to less provision of residence, and more people going to their local universities or other institutions. I used to take the opposite view that it was a good thing for many people to move around the country. In the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves today, we have to be prepared for less residence and more people going to their local institutions.

Secondly, and just as important, there is the need for more efficient utilisation of resources. For example, as most polytechnics are in university towns, why should not there be more sharing of staff and plant? Why should we not plan for more common use of student facilities? Whatever one thinks of the methods they used, I have considerable sympathy with the objective of those at Bristol who claimed that the students' union facilities should be more widely shared. I know that the hon. Lady is sympathetic here.

There are really some nonsenses in this respect. I hope that the House will not think me too trivial if I say that in one university town known to me it caused the most tremendous excitement and a real crisis, involving mounds of correspondence, because two institutions proposed to share the same launderette. This is the sort of nonsense which we cannot put up with at a time of straitened financial circumstances.

Thirdly, there must be some bending of the staff-student ratio in universities. We should plan to move from a ratio of 1 to 7.8 to something like a ratio of 1 to 10. There has been a danger recently of higher education consuming too much of its own product.

Fourthly, there is the possibility of the extension of the sandwich course system to a wider number of universities and more part-time degree work. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady know the scepticism I expressed earlier about the open university. But there should be growing provision of facilities for part-time degree work. I am fully in support of what Birkbeck is trying to do, also Hatfield, Enfield and the N.S.C. course in the University of Aston. A number of people are being fully provided for in residential accommodation, taking integrated courses, who might be better suited by a part-time degree course in existing institutions. Fifthly, we cannot realistically discuss finance without the dread word "loans" making an appearance some time or other. I know that there are strong feelings about this. Like my right hon. Friend, I still come down against loans for first degree courses, but we on this side of the House have made it clear that we must keep our hands free on the possibility of a loan element in the number of postgraduate courses. It is unrealistic to suppose that we can discuss finance in the 1970s while closing our minds on this subject. [Interruption.] I should be a little concerned if I did not stimulate a little dissent from the hon. Gentleman.

The last possibility is that of attracting more private money into higher education, which we should take seriously. There is a project for a free university. I do not want utterly to dismiss the idea this afternoon, though we can all take our own views about its practicality. But I should be sorry to see private money diverted from existing universities, many of which have made great efforts to raise it. I hope that the universities will make increasing efforts to find more private sources of finance.

I hope that we shall have a full, and as far as possible open, debate about the future of higher education in the 1970s, about the numbers and types of institutions and the financial possibilities. All are matters on which we should encourage the widest open national debate.

Mr. Tarn Dalyell (West Lothian)

On a point of clarification rather than argument, will the right hon. Gentleman say more about the method of having postgraduate loans? In what order would be ask for loans? To discuss the matter sensibly, we must have more information.

Sir E. Boyle

I am not putting forward any definite proposal now, but merely saying, as I have often said before, that we on this side of the House feel that we must keep ourselves free to look at this matter. No one is suggesting that there should no longer be S.R.C. or S.S.R.C. awards, for example, but if a growing number of students wish to undertake post-graduate work there will be a certain amount of it for which it would be reasonable to consider a loan element.

I now come to the last part of my speech. I do not want to take up too much time, but it would be quite unreal to discuss the universities this afternoon without making some reference to student protest. Here I would make two preliminary comments. First, we know that it is a worldwide phenomenon. We must seek to reassure public opinion on the subject and at the same time give our minds to it. It is not a subject to which it makes sense just to react emotionally. It is a difficult, highly complicated and important subject.

Second, I find it very sad that we should be faced with the possibility of a really ugly backlash of opinion at a time when so many younger people are, in my experience, so right-minded. I have every sympathy with those who feel that education should be more than just a process of clearing hurdles and gaining qualifications, and who want to know what beliefs about society, if any, their teachers and rulers really hold. It is admirable that so many students today feel strongly about the concept of human dignity—about world hunger, world peace and racial justice. I say to those who are most impatient about youth today that we should remember the genuine sense of outrage and shock caused by events like the invasion of Czechoslovakia last year. We should not underrate it.

Again, I may not carry the whole House with me, but there is a sense in which I approve the desire to make the universities more democratic. Certainly, like the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex, Professor Asa Briggs, I think that students should be consulted about decisions that affect them, and I welcomed last year's concordat between the vice-chancellors and the responsible leadership of the National Union of Students.

However, we are faced today with the stark fact that at a number of our universities there is a disruptive minority trying to wreck the life of their respective institutions. They are concerned not with solving problems, but ensuring that there are no solutions. That is what is worrying. I take the view, and I hope that the whole House will agree, that a university is entitled to enforce certain minimum rules which are essential if one is to have an ordered academic community.

Universities have not only the right but the duty to defend law and order within their own institutions. In turn, they have the right to ask for the moral backing of Government and Parliament. It is often said that the onus should lie in large measure on the moderate students. Up to a point, I agree, but it is unfair to lecture moderate students too must about this. They have other things to do besides attending endless meetings.

Those are my general comments on the question. One particular aspect of the matter which I should like to mention, because it often concerns us as Members, is the question of withdrawing grants. I am sure that we shall be right to continue to leave the initiative with the university authorities. With respect to local education authorities, it is not their proper job to act as judge and jury. Anyway, they are not on the spot; they cannot judge all the facts in a case.

I do not like the idea of local authorities seeking to pay grants, as it were, under threat of good behaviour. It is not a wise procedure. It is for the universities themselves to exercise the necessary firmness. There must be fair and grown-up disciplinary procedures, with proper provision for representation and appeal. Now that we are reducing the age of majority to 18, the concept of in loco parentis will apply less and less to universities.

But we must realise that there may be individual cases which will not be easy for the universities to decide. I do not suppose that any hon. Member would seriously suggest that a student should forfeit his grant because of a common-or-garden motoring offence, or because he carries a placard saying, "Peace in Vietnam". Equally obviously, a student convicted of a criminal offence who is sent to prison must expect to forfeit his grant. But what about the student, perhaps one of the ablest, who goes to his lectures but demonstrates somewhere outside his university, where he is arrested for obstruction and subsequently fined? Should he forfeit his grant? This must be a matter of opinion in the individual case, but if I were a university authority I should be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The principle I am suggesting is that there is a strong case for universities being more severe on internal offences which disrupt the life of an ordered community, and the whole purpose for which universities exist, than on an external matter. I should like to see universities being pretty severe when any action threatens to disrupt the whole orderly life of an academic community, but I would rather see them err on the side of leniency with an external offence, provided no prison sentence is involved.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

Surely the right hon. Gentleman is not saying that there should be a lesser penalty for disrupting universities other than a student's own? He is giving that impression. Many students travel around the country creating trouble at other universities. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that that is a milder offence than creating trouble at their own?

Sir E. Boyle

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. That is a fair and pertinent point. Let me alter what I said to, "Someone who disrupts the life of his own or any other ordered academic community." I accept that amendment completely.

If the universities are to take the general view that I have outlined—with the right hon. Gentleman's amendment, which seemed acceptable—they must be able to show public opinion that they are determined to defend the principle of law and order within their own buildings.

Another point is the importance of student unions having sensible and workable constitutions. If students are to be consulted more, it is important that their unions should have reasonable and sensible constitutions, which is certainly not the case with all the student unions at present.

Having set out those points, let me say that whatever our personal view we should be in no doubt that public opinion today is thoroughly aroused over the behaviour of a minority of students. It is easy and probably fair to put some of the blame on the mass media, but the fact exists. It is not only extreme public opinion, but includes a great deal of perfectly sensible, middle-of-the-road, public opinion.

Few events did more harm than the reaction to the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he appeared on television at the University of East Anglia. We are perfectly used to dealing with the right hon. Gentleman in the House in reasoned debate. That is much wiser than appearing to want to deny freedom of speech to a visitor whom surely most students at the university would have wished to hear.

Mr. Stan Newens (Epping)

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Press bears a considerable share of the blame for the amount of publicity it has often given to completely unrepresentative demonstrations by students and its failure to represent and give publicity to the activities which the vast bulk of students take part in, as they are perfectly entitled to do?

Sir E. Boyle

I have said constantly, and I repeat this afternoon, that I wish more attention were paid in the Press to the excellent work done by large numbers of young people and rather less to the minority who act foolishly. None the less, it is true that nothing does the students' cause and their whole image more harm than seeking to deny freedom of speech to those with whom they disagree. It is much better either not to attend or, if one pleases, to walk out of a meeting, which I have done more than once, rather than to give the appearance of denying a visitor a hearing.

Anyone can see from my voting record over a number of years that my own inclinations when considering proposed changes in the law, or matters of personal behaviour are on the libertarian side of the fence. But we cannot afford to have our nation split in two on this subject. That is why it is very important that we should stand firmly behind the right of an ordered academic community to maintain law and order, while recognising strongly the rightful place not just of questioning but active dissent in our universities, and the very good sense and courage that many young people are showing today in our universities and elsewhere.

Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what causes the public concern is the small number of staff actively disloyal to their leaders, and in some cases subversive? It seems to me that the blame lies more on them than on the student leaders.

Sir E. Boyle

I am glad that my hon. Friend mentioned this. When I speak of those who seek to disrupt the life of an academic community, I include a very small minority of staff as well as students. My hon. Friend may have something to say about this if he catches Mr. Speaker's eye.

I apologise for having spoken for rather longer than I intended. I am leading up to the following point. I remember my father describing to me many years ago the lunches given by Mrs. Humphrey Ward. It was the custom in her house that one discussed only one topic at lunch. On one occasion there was a discussion on medieval culture. After about half an hour it was rather end-stopped by a lady who had not previously taken part who said, "For my part, I do not regret the Middle Ages." Nobody could think what to say after that.

The reason I retail that anecdote is that for my part I do not regret Robbins, nor the acceptance of Robbin's recommendations by the Government of which I was a member. I can well remember the debate, five years ago almost to the day, in which we discussed the Government's acceptance. I remember, in particular, the eloquent and most convincing speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), in which he supported the case for doing so.

Today, I still want to see the continuing expansion of higher education in the 1970s, if only because, like the authors of the Crowther Report 10 years ago, I dread the consequences for the schools of increased competition for university entry. But things are not quite the same today as they were five or six years ago. We shall have to be tougher-minded on the financial side, and we must not underrate the task of carrying public and university opinion with us.

I urge the Government, particularly the Secretary of State, to encourage open debate on this subject and to give us all the facts and figures on which an informed decision must be based. Let us start to plan now for the years in the 1970s, when, as I confidently believe, better and wiser economic policies will give us more elbow room and greater freedom to chart our course.

4.50 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. Edward Short)

I, too, greatly welcome this debate, which I hope will be wide ranging. There has been no collusion between the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and myself, but my speech will cover broadly the topics which he raised. I will say a word, first, about the functions of universities as I see them; secondly, about the alleged attack on the autonomy and freedom of the universities; thirdly, about their growth and development; and then a word on salaries and the Prices and Incomes Board's Report; and, finally, I shall be making some very forthright comments on the question of student protest.

The university was well described by the present Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Sir Eric Ashby, as a mechanism which preserves, transmits and enriches learning. The aspect which I should like first to emphasise is the enrichment, or advancement, of learning—in other words, research. I put it first because in all the clamour—in my view, justified clamour—to improve university teaching, research is too often relegated to a secondary position. It is true that for any university teacher worth his salt a central part of his work is to pursue the truth within his own field and to work within that sphere at the very frontiers of knowledge. The universities are, or I hope they are, constantly expanding repositories of knowledge of man and of his environment.

I would hope that for most university workers research—the advancement of knowledge, the pushing out of the frontiers of knowledge—is insufficient in itself. Certainly, for a university taken as a whole, a further function closely bound up with the first is the transmission of knowledge to others. In our own university tradition, this aspect has been prominent from the earliest days. The transmission of knowledge has been second only to its expansion. Today, research and teaching are inseparably connected and, with examining, they are, I believe, the purposes for which our universities exist. It may be disputed which of them is the more important and deserves the greater current emphasis.

It has not escaped me that a certain amount of academic interest in the recent Report of the Prices and Incomes Board has been stirred. For my part, I do not at present propose to get involved in this argument. Suffice it to say that both tasks are vital, that each is closely linked with the other, and that neither is really satisfactory without the other. I agree with the right hon. Member for Handsworth; there is no clearly defined demarcation line between research and teaching. It is not possible to place them in tidy compartments and increase or decrease one or the other at will.

The third function of the university is that of examining. A university degree, especially an honours degree, has for very long been regarded as the hallmark of intellectual worth. I am not sure that it is, but it is so regarded. Currently, there are many arguments about the right method of examining. Many people hold that the traditional methods are too rigid and fail to do justice to the student's performance over the course as a whole. This is an argument with which I have a good deal of sympathy. Can we really assume that the ability to cram sufficient knowledge to pass half a dozen three-hour written papers is the best test of a student's worth?

A great deal of work is being done on the method of examining, and I welcome it very much. However, there would be general agreement that the teaching function is incomplete without some form of examination which not only gives employers an indication of the graduate's intellectual merits, but also, I hope, helps the student to master his subject and focus his attention.

Broadly, there are two theories about the purpose of the university. There is what I call the ivory tower theory, where learning is pursued and teaching undertaken in glorious disregard for the world outside. On the other side, there is the bread-and-butter theory, where the harsh demands of earning one's living are the only determination of what is taught or researched. I hope that our universities will become increasingly responsive to the demands of the economy and of the professions. Indeed, they can retain their autonomy only if they do so. But I also hope that as well as gorging at the vocational trough young people, in their years at university, will find some time to browse round in fields of learning outside their own disciplines and so emerge educated as well as trained.

It is a feature of our system that the universities, though nowadays largely dependent on the State for their finance, are autonomous institutions established by charter conducting their own affairs. In this respect, the universities are almost unique among our institutions financed from public funds in not being subject to any kind of ministerial directive. This principle I endorse. The right hon. Member for Handsworth talked about my birchrod manner. He did not adduce any evidence to support that. If he calls plain, honest speaking to the universities a birchrod manner, then I plead guilty.

It has been suggested, certainly over the last few weeks in the correspondence columns of the newspapers, that the universities are gradually losing their academic freedom. In support of this, some people would point to the decision, following the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, that the Comptroller and Auditor General should have access to the books of the University Grants Committee and of universities. The first thing to notice about this is that it is about their bookkeeping and not about their academic freedom. The Comptroller is concerned only with matters of financial procedure and not with matters of university policy. There is no possible infringement of academic freedom here.

In 1968, the staff of the Comptroller and Auditor General's Department visited six universities and several schools of London University. They prepared a memorandum containing comments and suggestions. This was sent to every university in Britain by the Chairman of the U.G.C. who noted that, as far as he was aware, the visits had been conducted with mutual good will and usefulness. He said that he had heard no single criticism from the universities about either the conduct of the visits or the content of the discussions. Each university was left to decide how best to deal with the Comptroller's suggestions.

So much for what is alleged to be the first evidence that the universities are losing their freedom. Other people have claimed in the correspondence columns that the Government interfere with the running of our universities. But the Government have no dealings whatever with individual universities. Indeed, we have no power to interfere with them in any way. The right hon. Gentleman said that he hoped that they would retain their freedom of appointments. I do not know who is threatening their freedom of appointments. They are completely free to appoint whoever they wish.

The Government deal with the U.G.C., a body which is independent of Government control and mainly composed of university teachers and administrators. It is the U.G.C. which presents a case to the Government for university development over each quinquennial period and for the building programmes required. It is the U.G.C. which distributes the Government grant among the individual universities, and it does so entirely without reference to the Government.

It has been suggested that in recent years the Government have grown steadily more intrusive and the independence of the U.G.C. has declined. The U.G.C.'s excellent recent Report on university development between 1962 and 1967 provides ample evidence to rebut this. In particular, I should like to quote a passage from this Report written by Sir John Wolfenden: No single one of the responsible Ministers or Permanent Under-Secretaries since 1963 has shown the slightest inclination to reduce the independence of the Committee or of the universities. On the contrary, they and their colleagues 'down the line' have been scrupulous in their regard for it. I do wish some of the distinguished correspondents to The Times and the other papers would read this Report. I cannot imagine that Sir John Wolfenden, who has recently retired from the chairmanship of the U.G.C., would have allowed these words to be published over his name had he not believed them to be true.

Here, I would like to pay tribute to Sir John, who has enjoyed the affection and respect both of successive Governments and of the universities throughout his five years as Chairman of the U.G.C. Perhaps I could also wish success to his successor, Mr. Kenneth Berrill.

Sir E. Boyle

I should very much like to be associated with the right hon. Gentleman's last remarks. I should have mentioned that in my speech.

Mr. Short

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

The people who recently, in the correspondence columns of the Press and elsewhere, have shown such scant regard for the truth in discussing relations between the Government and the universities are undermining the splendid work that Sir John did during those five years.

Those who have been so vocal in recent weeks in misrepresenting this relationship also point to the standing reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. The right hon. Gentleman discussed this question today. These are by and large the same people who caused the standing reference to be adopted to determine salaries, because previously they held the view that there could be no negotiations as there was no employer in the normal sense. I shall be referring briefly to the Board's report later, but I would point out to the House that the Board is completely independent of the Government. I myself had no idea what its Report contained until very shortly—a matter of hours—before it was published.

Finally, on the question of autonomy, I am told that there are those in our universities who resent the present activities of the Select Committee of this House. All I can say is that if there are those who believe that the operation of our parliamentary institutions detracts from their freedom they might look at the experience of universities in some countries abroad. I utterly reject, as I hope every hon. Member will, the charge that a Select Committee of the House of Commons is a threat to the freedom and autonomy of the universities. Indeed, it is quite the reverse.

So these three pieces of evidence—the activities of the Comptroller and Auditor General, the National Board for Prices and Incomes, and the Select Committee—have no substance in them whatever in detracting from the autonomy and the freedom of the universities. I have seen no further evidence.

Having said all this, it does not mean that things are exactly today as they were in 1939. I should jolly well hope they are not. In 1939, the number of students in the universities was less than one-quarter of what it is today. Exchequer expenditure in 1939 was £2 million, whereas this year it will be £260 million. It would be absurd to suggest that things should remain just as they are.

Here again, I cannot do better than quote from the U.G.C's Report: The sheer number of universities, their decreasing homogeneity and the correspondingly increasing variety of their offerings, together with national considerations of the kind which have been mentioned, demand some central appraisal if uneconomic duplication is to be avoided and a reasonable degree of differentiation of function is to be achieved. The word 'rationalisation' seems cold and austerely functional in relation to the warm-blooded and spontaneous activity of universities. But a rational distribution of specialised function seems to be not inconsistent with clear thinking or with sensible distribution of the financial resources which the taxpayer provides. This would, I think, be generally accepted nowadays.

As the Vice-Chancellors' Committee says in its Report on the last quinquennium, on which I should like to congratulate it: Where the needs for particular types of skill can be clearly formulated, the universities can and do respond to requests made to them. The Vice-Chancellors' Committee goes on to give some examples of initiatives to which the universities have responded—for example, the Hayter Report on Oriental, Slavonic, Eastern European and African Studies; the Parry Report on Latin American studies; the reports on business studies, the veterinary profession, the recruitment of graduates to agriculture, and so on. More recently, there have been the Swann and Dainton Reports, dealing with the supply of scientists and mathematicians. These two Reports were a valuable contribution to our thinking and made a large number of recommendations which are now being considered by the U.G.C., the universities, and other bodies concerned.

As the House knows, the Government have decided that it is no longer appropriate to confine intensive thinking on manpower to the fields of science and technology. The former Committee on Manpower Resources for Science and Technology is now being wound up and is in process of being replaced by a new advisory committee on highly qualified manpower, and I hope to announce the names of the members of this committee very shortly. It is likely that, in addition to considering specific problems—for example, the need for manpower in the social services—the committee will be concerned with the methodologies of manpower forecasting, including the exploration by the Government, education and industry of the relationship between the requirements of industry and the output of education. The universities, which are very rightly establishing more and stronger links with industry, will obviously have a great deal to contribute to this.

But saying, as I have been saying, that the universities are increasingly responsive to the needs of the economy, of the public service and of the social services is not the same as saying that their freedom and autonomy are being eroded.

I turn now to the growth and development of the universities. University development in recent years can perhaps best be measured against the Robbins Report, which was published in 1963. Robbins' assumption that courses of higher education would be available for all who wished to pursue them and who were qualified to do so was accepted by the Government and has been the basis for the tremendous higher education expansion since 1963.

In 1963–64, there were 29 institutions on the U.G.C. grant list. The number has now grown to 45. In 1963–64, there were 126,500 full-time students in Great Britain, with another 12,000 in C.A.T.s and the Scottish central institutions which were to be given university status. The Robbins targets were 197,000 students by 1967–68, 204,000 by 1971–72, and 218,000 by 1973–74. The 1967–68 target was exceeded and the present Government set a new target for 1971–72 of 220,000 to 225,000—that is, a minimum of 16,000 above the Robbins target.

Already it is clear that the universities will exceed this improved target, which itself, as I have said, is 16,000 at least above the Robbins target. In 1968–69 the universities have nearly 212,000 students. In October of this year they are likely to have 220,000 students and so reach the new target two years ahead of time. We have thus far exceeded the Robbins rate of growth, and this has been achieved at the same time as the vast increase in other sectors of higher education—polytechnics, colleges of education, and so forth.

In terms of the number of people going to universities, in 1963–64 5.1 per cent. of the relevant age group entered undergraduates courses at universities. In this present year the percentage is 7.7. During this period women entrants as a percentage of their age group have risen from 2.8 to 4.7 under this Government.

One rather disturbing aspect of this which, as a northern Member of Parliament I wish to mention, is that the percentage of the age group going to the university from the North of England is substantially lower than from the rest of the country. I am having some research done into the causes of this regional differentiation, but the major cause appears, at any rate on the surface, to be the unfortunate tradition in the north of early leaving. I cannot urge too strongly parents in the five northern counties to leave their children at school as long as they can, so that they get the same chance of going to the university as children from the midlands and the south.

Mr. Dalyell

Can my right hon. Friend say what is the position in Scotland?

Mr. Short

I cannot give the figures for Scotland off the cuff, but I am having some research done in the northern counties of England.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Will my right hon. Friend assure us that as part of his research the relationship between the early school leaver and the level of unemployment in the areas is closely looked at?

Mr. Short

It is an interesting problem to try to find reasons for early leaving. I think that it has something to do with the industrial pattern, industrial attitudes and the feeling of insecurity from the past, and so on.

In 1968–69 expenditure on universities on my Vote amounts to £243 million. This is £100 million more than it was in the year when this Government came into office. In addition to this, other Departments and the Research Councils are providing £20.5 million for research and advisory services to the universities this year. This is £10 million more than it was when the Government came into office. So the total public money being made available to the universities from central sources is £263.5 million this year, compared with £153.5 million in 1964–65.

I turn now to building programmes, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned. Building programmes since the beginning of 1964 to 1969–70 total £220 million, and this is a vast amount of capital to plough into the universities. The reduction last year of the 1968–69 programme from £31 million to £19 million was regretted, and the fact that it happened when most of the Vice-Chancellors were on the way to Australia was, I assure the right hon. Gentleman, purely coincidental. It will not prevent the universities from reaching their 1971–72 target which I mentioned; indeed, they are reaching it two years ahead of time.

I can today announce a programme of £50 million covering the two years 1970–71 and 1971–72. This new programme which I am announcing for the first time will enable the U.G.C. to restore projects which had to be deferred because of the 1968–69 cuts. It will enable them to make provision for essential growth and for former C.A.T.s to be moved to new areas, and to remedy some of the worst cases of deficiencies of accommodation, such as libraries and refectories, and of obsolescence generally which is hindering teaching and research.

There is only one other point which I should like to make under this heading. I greatly welcome the steps being taken by the vice-chancellors to achieve a more intensive use of facilities, but we are still very far from the position where university capital is used as intensively as it should be. The universities could learn a great deal from the example of some of the colleges of education and, in particular, I hope that they will now examine the four-term or even six-term year.

Our present planning of expenditure on universities has not gone beyond 1971–72, but the universities not less than the schools must be aware of the gathering crisis, a worldwide crisis, in providing the resources for education. If the universities are to continue to take about the same percentage of an increasing age group, of whom an increasing number are being qualified to go to the university, the cost per place must be held and, if possible, reduced.

Sir E. Boyle

I take it that the programmes announced by the right hon. Gentleman for 1970–71 and 1971–72 are without prejudice to the increase that was announced for 1969–70. If I remember rightly, the programme for 1969–70 was put up from £25 million to £29 million; I take it that the £29 million figure still holds?

Mr. Short

The figure for the coming year still holds good.

Next I want to deal briefly with the subject of university pay. On 18th December the National Board for Prices and Incomes published its first report on the pay of university teachers under the standing reference. On the same day, I announced that the Government accepted straight away those of the Board's recommendations which most directly and immediately affected their salary levels. These, I understand, are being paid this month. These increase the basic bill for non-clinical university teachers by about 5 per cent. overall, the actual percentage increases varying between 17 per cent. for some assistant lecturers, the lowest paid staff, to 2 per cent. for professors.

The Board also recommended that salary increases amounting to 4 per cent. in total, over and above the basic 5 per cent., should be given to staff below the rank of professor as discretionary awards, and as distinction awards to professors who showed outstanding merit, particularly in the establishment and running of teaching departments. Because it was obviously impossible without a good deal of consultation to set up the machinery for selecting the recipients of these additional awards, the Board recommended that they should be paid from 1st October, 1969, as compared with 1st October, 1968, for the basic increases.

I do not think that there need be any complaint that the Board's Report victimises university teachers. The Board is, of course, bound by statute to frame its recommendations in the light of current incomes policy.

As to the rest of the recommendations, I would not regard it as desirable that students' assessments of their teachers should be one of the factors taken into account in distributing the discretionary awards. On all other points I am awaiting the advice of the U.G.C. who are carrying out the necessary consultations with the interests concerned, including the Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the Association of University Teachers and, because these discussions are going on and I am awaiting their suggestions, I should prefer not to say any more now on the content of the Report.

As to the standing reference itself, there has been some feeling that this new means of settling university teachers' salaries is not satisfactory. The standing reference was made only in November, 1966. Before that, the salaries of university teachers were settled by a series of negotiations between the university interests involved, the U.G.C. and my Department, and before that the Treasury. This procedure, known colloquially as "the minuet", was disliked by all parties, not least by the teachers themselves. The teachers in the universities would like to see some kind of collective bargaining machinery established, and the Board itself, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, sympathised with them. As I said earlier in my speech, one of the main reasons why we used to have the minuet was precisely that it was not possible to create salary-fixing machinery in the ordinary sense, in which representatives of the employers and employees negotiate, in some degree at least as plenipotentiaries.

There seems to be no way of assembling an employers' side in our university system. The vice-chancellors are not really employers; they are senior members of the academic staff and the senates, the courts and the councils are not fitted to perform this function. I am willing to listen to any ideas on this subject which the universities may wish to bring forward.

Mr. Christopher Price (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Is there any reason in principle why the councils of existing universities as the employing bodies should not get together to form a specific committee just for this purpose, so that some established management panel could be brought in, just as the one which exists on the Burnham Committee?

Mr. Short

There are difficulties here, as my hon. Friend will appreciate, but this is one idea which they are no doubt looking at, and when they have reached some conclusions perhaps they will come to see me about it. Because of these difficulties, we negotiated with the interests concerned, and with their agreement, the idea of settlement of academic salaries by the National Board for Prices and Incomes by means of the standing reference procedure.

So far, the Board has made only one Report. Because the staff concerned did not like all its recommendations, they have now suggested that the standing reference should be withdrawn. Without accepting their criticisms of the Report or the right hon. Gentleman's description of it as being an inept one, I should like to make it clear that, if the interests concerned—the teachers, the vice-chancellors and the U.G.C.—can bring forward agreed proposals for alternative machinery following their discussions, the Government's minds are not closed to a review of the standing reference. Meantime, unless and until such proposals are made—and there are very serious difficulties—it must be sensible not to enter now into any sort of commitment but to continue with the standing reference.

Mr. Dalyell

Could my right hon. Friend be more explicit as to what are these difficulties?

Mr. Short

I thought that I had been explicit. The principal difficulty is that of assembling an employers' side for negotiations.

I now turn to say a word about student unrest. Idealism and radicalism are characteristics of youth and the young in heart of all ages. In this generation, young people are face to face with unique problems in society. I often feel that many of us have underestimated the effect on the minds of the young of such problems as Vietnam, the bomb, and the new attitudes to sex and family. But there is nothing unique about youth having to face unique problems. My own generation, which is that of so many of us in this House, had to watch the rise of Fascism and Nazism, unable to do very much about it. We protested and marched in our day, and youth today must do the same. There is nothing wrong with that. It would be wrong if it were otherwise.

However, there is a unique change today in the attitude towards authority. No longer will young people accept the old authoritarian concept of authority when it is imposed by one person on another in school, home, college or anywhere else. They will accept authority only if they are involved in it and, in my view, rightly so.

If we are to give 18-year olds the vote and reduce the age of majority, they must be treated as adults, and our educational system must fit them, both by the content of education and by its organisation in our schools and universities, for their responsibilities. It is sometimes forgotten that they are the first generation this century which has not had to go to war. We have to see that their energy and idealism is harnessed to the pursuits of peace, which are no less exciting than the pursuits of war. The vice-chancellors and other senior members of the universities have shown themselves to be extremely responsive to this need, and their discussions with students over the past year are creating a new and better atmosphere in most colleges and universities.

Students who have genuine grievances about conditions in their colleges and universities will find almost invariably today that they are negotiable; they are pushing at an open door, and there is no need to demonstrate about them. But the ills of society are not the fault of the vice-chancellors or the directors of their schools and colleges. It is monstrous to disrupt the life of a college, university or school because of Vietnam, Nigeria, race, or because one is opposed to capitalism.

I come now to what is an extremely serious point. There is quite a different element in student protest today, and that has been seen clearly in the events at the London School of Economics in recent weeks. I wish to speak about this in terms in which it has not been spoken about before in this House, and I do not want to be misunderstood.

L.S.E. has about 3,000 students. The disruptions which have taken place involve probably about 300 of these, though it is difficult to say because a great many others have come into the college who are not students. The real perpetrators are a tiny handful of people—fewer than one-half of 1 per cent. of the 3,000 at L.S.E. Of these, at least four are from the United States. They are subsidised to the extent of between £1,000 and £2,000 for their one-year master's degree course by the British taxpayer. These gentlemen are clearly not here to study, but to disrupt and undermine British institutions.

This small group of less than half of I per cent. are the thugs of the academic world. Already they have succeeded in closing L.S.E., whose former free and easy and delightful relationships are remembered by so many hon. Members. This small core is not interested in redressing grievances, either at the school or in society. Indeed, its members have been offered everything agreed between the vice-chancellors and the students in the latter part of last year. So far, it has not been accepted.

They are out to destroy and disrupt. I hope that no one in this House or outside it will underestimate the long-term effect of this kind of activity. It can only result in the slow rotting of institutions like the London School of Economics.

Earlier, I talked about the threat to academic freedom. The only real threat of academic freedom is from the activities of people of this kind. I have a copy of a notice issued by them which instructs students to disrupt the lectures of named members of the staff: they are not to be allowed to lecture.

These people are not Socialists. They are not even respectable Marxists. They are a new brand of anarchists, very different from the endearing characters whom many of us knew. Some of them are Maoists and some a new Brand X of revolutionaries for whom there is, as yet, no name. They are wreckers who, whatever they may say, are concerned only to disrupt society. Their weapons are lies, misrepresentation, defamation, character assassination, intimidation and, more recently, physical violence. The activities of this tiny cell of people could do untold long-term harm in this country. In the short term, they are doing untold harm to the educational chances of the vast majority of students who are just as idealistic and just as bright and decent as ever they were.

I believe that the time has come for everyone who has any influence in the situation to exert it to stop this squalid nonsense. I hope that parents can still influence their sons and daughters. I agree that local authorities, in consultation with the universities, can wield considerable influence. They have a major deterrent in their own hands.

For my part, while encouraging student participation in running their universities, as I have done whenever I have spoken about it, I will do all that I can to support the vice-chancellors and college heads in dealing with the half of I per cent. At this point, I want to express my confidence in Dr. Walter Adams, who has taken far more than any college head ought to be required to take. I am full of admiration for the steadiness and courage that he has shown throughout. If hon. Members would like to see some of the statements which have been issued in the college by these people, I would be glad to show them the file which I have.

This has got to stop so that all our sons and daughters can get back to their studies which, in the main, are paid for by taxpayers who have never had a chance to go to university. If apprentices in a factory in my constituency behaved like this, they would be thrown out on their necks at once. It is high time that one or two of these thugs were thrown out on their necks as well.

I am sorry to end on this note. This miserable episode is damaging a university system in which the nation can take very great pride, and it is fouling the good name of a whole generation of young people who are just as splendid as our young people ever were.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. Many hon. Members have indicated their desire to speak in the debate. If hon. Members will practise the virtue of brevity, it may be that the Chair will be able to call most of those who have expressed the wish to participate.

5.30 p.m.

Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)

I believe that the House will wholeheartedly agree with the terms used by the Minister about this very small percentage of students at the L.S.E. The disruption of the L.S.E. by this tiny number of people is intolerable. I know that it is not the Minister's responsibility, but it seems strange that the scientologists, for whom I hold no brief but of whom no one has spoken in the terms used by the Minister this afternoon, should be forbidden to enter this country; yet these people at the L.S.E., of whom I understand four are Americans, are free to come here, apparently subsidised by us, openly disrupting the L.S.E. and breaking the law. There seems some contrast between the treatment of these two groups.

The House will be grateful to the Minister for the firm declaration that he has made of the commitment of the Government to the independence of the universities. If he has in his time appeared to have used the birch rod manner, it was merely blunt speaking. That I accept.

I am not sure that the Minister dealt with the basis of the anxiety, which is probably unjustified, among some university people. A student protest is a worrying situation for them. Although we may tell them that they should enforce discipline, in fact the university depends on a common outlook between the teachers and those whom they teach. People do not teach at universities with the idea of enforcing police regulations. Once this has to be done, it is a disturbing situation because they know that there will be interference from outside. That is inevitable.

There has been lately some talk that standards are to be applied to universities, which I reject. This is the fault with the Prices and Incomes Board. It is pretty mad to expect the Prices and Incomes Board to fix salaries right, left and centre all over the board whenever they are referred to it. The idea that somehow or other, on productivity or whatever it may be, we can apply the same criteria to universities is unacceptable. This may be an exaggeration of what the P.I.B. has said, but there is a fear that universities will be submitted to tests which are not applicable to their work.

Although finance comes through the University Grants Committee, they are more and more dependent on the good will of this House and of the Government, and more and more subject to cut-backs at times of economic stress. At the same time, a good deal of their finance for particular projects comes from industry or the Government. While I do not accept that this process so far has threatened academic freedom, it is a worry all over the world that universities may be diverted into channels which they would not perhaps necessarily choose. However, I agree that the U.G.C. is a good instrument for allocating the available finances.

I served for a short time as a lay member on a university court. I found it a reasonably efficient body. Granted the expenses of running the university were very small compared with the job in hand, I do not think that it compared worse than other bodies elsewhere and in many ways it was a good deal better.

Universities are being blamed for all kinds of faults which are faults in our administration or society as a whole. By the time a boy or girl reaches university he or she has already been a long time at school and they have come from their own homes. Universities cannot be entirely to blame for what may happen in the three to four years in which they are controlled by the university authorities. As the Minister emphasised, the trouble at universities is at a tiny proportion of universities. There is practically no trouble in Scots universities or in northern or Welsh universities. In the South of England the trouble is confined to the L.S.E. and one or two other places, and that trouble is created by a tiny minority in those institutions.

The rest of the students are getting on with their work and giving a great deal of voluntary service. This gets no publicity. The public at large is apt to get the impression that university students are in constant turmoil, that the principals are locked up in their rooms and the libraries are being burned in the streets. That is just not true. The matter should be kept in proportion.

I disclaim any intimate knowledge of what moves the people who create trouble. But there are certain aspects not so much in universities but in the societies in which the universities exist which might cause genuine dissent among youth. We are constantly told that we run a permissive society. It is not easy to live in a permissive society at 18 or 19 years of age. In many ways it is better to have standards laid down which one can either accept or revolt against.

Our society is not all permissive. We are subject to an absolute barrage by the newspapers, television and the public relations industry of a very conformist sort. This is designed to make us conform to certain fashions and modes of thought which appeal to big business, the Government, and what is called the establishment generally. Therefore, to say that we live in a wholly permissive society is not true taking society as a whole. We live in a society in which men are becoming more and more organised and the individual seems to be getting squeezed out. Further, the organisation men play down moral judgments. They play down value judgments. Look at our own business of politics. Political comment is too often reduced to psephology which is an occupation worthy of a racing tipster. It is about who will win, or the latest sensation, or mere gossip. Speeches are distorted, minor events are blown up, and a serious discussion is extremely difficult to get aross on the general mass media.

Further, youth is told too often that technological or economic necessity will decide the future of the world. The result is that we have a society which is amoral, we have a State which impinges more and more on our lives and which itself has taken on many of the values of the market place. To some people it appears to be run more and more by a bureaucracy, and not a democracy. As a result, a lot of young people feel that they are being trained to suit the needs of a bureaucracy, of Government, of business or of professions.

While I accept the need to look at the manpower needs of this country, about which the Minister has spoken, we must be careful not to regard education as being a matter of producing the right proportion of engineers, physicists etc., which we think the country will need 10 years hence. This is the real danger and this is felt by some people today.

They also find it difficult to give true expression to their views. I addressed a meeting at Oxford about the splendours of democracy. A man at the back of the hall got up and said: "Take my case. I am a member of the Labour Party. I have gone to Labour Party conferences. I have carried motions against the war in Vietnam, against nuclear rearmament and against the incomes policy. What has happened? Nothing whatever." This is a real difficulty which, in its wider aspects, is outside the scope of the debate. However, I believe that there is a genuine anxiety about representative government as we all practice and believe it. Some, no doubt in an exaggerated way, feel that to talk of democracy at the moment is hypocritical when they have so little power over what they consider to be the important decisions either about their lives or the running of the country.

When people go to university these things hit them. It is at that moment that they begin to feel they are not able to make their views known. It is at that moment that they met the people from big business who said to them, "If you are going to be a scientist, would you consider joining our organisation?" It is at that moment that they began to want to take a part in running their own affairs, and in some universities they found that the authorities were not always responsive. The result was frustration and a feeling of exclusion. The shades of the prison house began to close around people, and they revolted against them.

At the same time, when they looked around inside their universities, they found that the dogmatic and far from permissive, but all-pervading views of their elders were not based on any real belief in values. I was amazed to read in our newspapers about the absolute solidity of de Gaulle's régime, and that it was like a rock. A few students revolted in the Sorbonne and General de Gaulle flew to see his Army commanders. He had no faith in the system which was supposed to be so rock like.

Mr. Heffer

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that what really concerned General de Gaulle was not the students at the Sorbonne but the action of the French working classes in going on strike?

Mr. Grimond

I am not certain that the hon. Gentleman is right. At first the French workers were not on the side of the students.

There were other minor faults in universities. For instance, a certain number of professors—it would be wholly unfair to blame the bulk of them—took up Chairs which they seldom occupied, since they spent a great deal of time in non-university activities. Some university lecturing and teaching was bad. I have been taught by lecturers who were inaudible. These are minor affairs, and most have been put right. The standard of teaching at British universities is high and the number of hours spent in lectures by many teachers compares favourably with the situation in most universities in the rest of the world. The staff-student ratio is very good.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) mentioned five points about finance. I agree with his approach, but I should be sorry to see the staff-student ratio severely worsened. He said that it is very high and that it might be possible to make better use of it—but it is one of the great advantages of our universities.

What should be done about this situation? It would be fatal to approach this question influenced by the behaviour of a few lunatics on the fringe. We must enforce the rule of law. Not only is it intolerable that the L.S.E. should be broken up but—and though I hold no brief for what they have to say—it is quite intolerable that politicians who address meetings on wholly neutral matters and sometimes not even in the universities should be prevented by gangs from universities who are determined to stop them speaking.

Initially it must be a matter for the university authorities, but they are not police; they are not employed to enforce law and order. I feel that the time must come when, at the request of the university authorities, the police should come in. I do not accept that university students should be above the law, any more than anyone else is. I take the Minister's point that if people of a com-parable age behave like this on the way to a football match they are arrested forthwith. I do not say that it should be done without the consent of the university authorities, but ultimately there must be a general enforcement of the law against students as against anyone else. The behaviour of the people at the L.S.E. is intolerable.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the difficulties concerning meetings that have been broken up by students when politicians have sought to speak is that in some cases the politicians support causes which are dubiously within the law themselves—for example, people who give aid and comfort to Rhodesia, or right hon. Gentlemen who come dangerously near to breaking the provisions of the Race Relations Act?

Mr. Grimond

I should like to see the policies changed and the system changed, but while the system remains as it is, however wicked the policies of the Government there is a limit to how a person can protest. Equally, however foolish and provocative the speeches made by some people at universities, there is a clear legal definition of what is permissible and what is not and if speeches are not stirring up a riot or breaking the law, the law of free speech must be enforced.

If such action is not taken there is the danger of an anti-intellectual revolt. The feeling is growing that intellectuals are privileged people, and that they should be hit over the head and got rid of. A dangerous situation could arise. It is the less privileged people—the people who have to go out to work straight from school, without going to universities—who are expected to pay in order to support education, among other things. An anti-intellectual revolt would be extremely damaging, and it is not without the bounds of possibility.

During the Christmas Recess a parcel was sent to a constituent of mine in Shetland from a person in Suffolk and it bore on it a Customs declaration. This gave rise to a certain amount of merriment. I am told that when the Post Office authorities were asked whether they did not know where Shetland was they replied, "We know, but we had to employ university students over Christmas." Apparently the old postman who left school at the age of 14 is expected to know where Shetland is, but we should not expect a university student to do so. There is some strong feeling about this situation.

We must also consider what is taught in schools and universities. We may take it for granted that everyone knows about John Stuart Mill, democracy, free speech, law and order, and representative government, but everyone does not. It is quite possible to reach the age of 23, having started in science in one's teens, and to know very little history and almost nothing about politics or moral philosophy, or the general way in which the country is supposed to be run.

Sometimes this arises from the amoral nature of our society and sometimes from a genuine desire to keep politics out of education. But it is necessary that people, whether scientists or not, should know something about the type of system by which we try to run this country, and about the alternatives—certainly Marxism. They should certainly be taught what the Liberals, Tories and Socialists think they stand for, and what representative government is supposed to do. If people want to alter the system they must first grasp what it is trying to do. The same is true of nationalisation and free enterprise.

I recently went to a university at which a man who was obviously extremely knowledgeable said to me, "I am a Communist." I said, "Why?" and he said, "Because I believe in free speech." He was quite genuine. If people in London who are saying that the situation at the L.S.E. is equivalent to that in Prague are supposed to be serious students they should be sacked on that count alone. We hear the most appalling nonsense talked. We must get back some general courses such as used to be the rule in the Scottish universities so that we know about the way in which things are supposed to be taught.

The recent disturbances tend to divert us from some of the genuine difficulties of students at our universities. I agree that part of the trouble is mass media. It is no good bilking about this; the mass media like trouble and sensation and will get it if they can. The financial situation is a real difficulty. One of the difficulties which universities face is grants for maintenance. They are constantly getting grants for new machinery and building, but when I was on a committee I found it much more difficult to maintain the machinery and buildings which we had.

Second, there is the problem of how far one should try to direct students into the areas where there are jobs, and how far it should be left to them. This is particularly acute in sociology, which has become a very popular science, as has arts generally, but there are not enough jobs for sociologists. Many of these professional students who ultimately become troublesome are trained in sociology. Not that I want to criticise this important subject, but there are simply not enough jobs in sociology.

The liaison between the schools and universities is much better, but it could be improved. Many people go to university without much knowledge of how to work on their own. They face difficulties in their behaviour and in the ordinary business of living. Further, we should make it clear that to acquire a degree or a qualification is not everything in life and that one can be a very bad architect although one is qualified.

We should examine very sympathetically the idea of a more continual examination period during the whole of the student's life. I was opposed to this at one time, partly because I thought that it would be a great strain on students, but from going round the universities I find that it is much more popular and effective than I thought, and it is a good addition, at any rate, to the ordinary examination system.

If I were asked what qualifications I have for speaking in this debate, I would say that I am an honorary president of the Scottish Union of Students which, so far from being in danger of falling into wild anarchy, is one of the most respectable bodies with which I have to deal. They are all much better dressed than I am, for one thing, and they are anxious to follow the correct procedures and get down to a splendid administrative system, I think rather too early. The danger for students today is not altogether anarchy but that they are genuinely bewildered about the world into which they are thrown and, in some cases, that they want to begin running the canteen far too early.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I am sure that the House apprecsiates the support of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) for the new style Select Committee. As Chairman of that Committee, I am in some difficulty in touching upon what has become the major theme of the debate—student relations—since I do not want to anticipate or prejudice our conclusions. Therefore, I do not intend to say anything about that matter.

I was anxious to intervene for another reason—because I was actively concerned in the formulation of the Labour Party policy on higher education which we published five or six years ago as "The Years of Crisis". Many of its recommendations and conclusions were more authoritatively put forward subsequently by Robbins. Incidentally, one of our recommendations—I think that we were the first body to make this proposal—was the university of the air, and I congratulate the Government on the steps which they have taken towards the open university. This is very important. We should remember that Robbins recommended evening classes for first degree courses and the establishment of correspondence courses by some universities and that this should be backed by television, but at the same time I must add a cautionary note, that we should not over-play the open university. It has implications and a significance for higher education as a whole and we should be careful about its progress.

Speaking generally about Robbins, I agree with what my right hon. Friend has said, that we should all recognise the tremendous achievement that has been made in that, in five years, in absolute terms, we have had a growth as great as that in the previous 50. Any comment or criticism, constructive or not, which I make, must be considered in the light of that achievement.

My first comment follows something which the right hon. Member for Hands-worth touched upon. There is too much complacency abroad. The Robbins targets were based on the estimates of the bulge and the trend, and as he said, the Robbins estimate of the trend has already been shown to be an under-estimate.

Another factor which should be borne in mind is that the Robbins Committee was directed to prepare its estimates on the assumption that the school leaving age would not be raised. It is in view of these qualifications that we cannot afford to be too complacent about the fact that, fortunately—we congratulate ourselves upon this—we are exceeding the Robbins targets. We must also remember—this is very important in present circumstances—that the Robbins targets provided for a growth in the proportion of students taking science. This is not the case; in fact, there is now a swing away from science. For higher education in the context of our national requirements, this also is a disturbing fact.

Third—this is the main reason that I wanted to intervene—our experience in implementing the Robbins Report emphasises the validity of some of the recommendations which we made in "The Years of Crisis". The first point, again, has been anticipated. We were courageous enough, I believe, then to emphasise that, at any rate temporarily, we should probably have to rely much more on the home-based student. If we look back over the last few years, we find that there has been an undue emphasis on the provision of residential accommodation and, although there is a new appreciation now, until recently the provision has been too inflexible. There has not been enough experimentation.

Again, I feel that the universities still do not take sufficient advantage of part-time teachers from industry, the professions, the Civil Service and elsewhere. It is, of course, important that we should keep a close relationship, as the right hon. Member for Handsworth said, between the universities and society, and this is one of the ways to do it. Moreover, like the Bow Group, I think that we should pay much more attention to education for the professions. The time is still opportune for a radical reappraisal of education for the professions.

My fourth point was anticipated by the Secretary of State, but I should like him to do rather more about it, particularly in our own region. The provision of higher education should be part and parcel of development area policy and, as we said in "The Years of Crisis": We should use the universities to help regenerate those regions which are economically and culturally under-privileged. We have a great deal to learn in this respect from American experience. My area is a development area and the only region without a new technological university, which is certainly relevant to our present unemployment difficulties.

We were very imbued then—this was almost prophetic—with the importance of the government of the universities, and thought that it was essential to make this as effective and expeditious as possible. This also affects the use which is made of the staff and a good deal depends on good organisation. In fact, when we are talking about a good teacher, particularly at a university, this normally means someone who is also a good organiser.

These are some of the things which we should review in the light of our experience in implementing Robbins, but it is equally important that we should review our experience where we have departed from the Robbins recommendations. The most important departure from the recommendations and spirit of the Report is the binary system. My own sympathy and support is for Robbins rather than for the Government. I congratulate the Government on the colleges of education, but would have been far happier if we had also established the schools of education. I am somewhat surprised at my right hon. Friend because as an old Bedan, he knows the benefits of the close link between college and university.

I welcome the polytechnics, but I would have welcomed more the implementation of Robbins by making some of the regional colleges into universities. In fact, we seem to have created an institution which is considered to be a threat both to the universities and to further education. I would prefer, in short, that we were deliberately eliminating, as Robbins suggested, the artificial differences dividing the institutions in higher education, rather than making those distinctions more rigid and formal.

I must issue a warning to the Government about this. The tertiary system in secondary education was not the fault of the Tories. It was formulated and introduced by Miss Ellen Wilkinson, and the distinctions were sold to us by talk about parity of esteem. No talk about that has blurred those fatal distinctions that were made in secondary education. In the same way, we are so sharply dividing higher education that no talk of parity of esteem will blur this distinction. The non-university institutions will be the poor relations in higher education.

I fully appreciate that there are short-term arguments to support the steps which have been taken. I recognise them as being powerful, but I cannot follow the longer-term arguments which are now being advanced in favour of this division. For this reason, I would like the Government to return to the Robbins recommendation that there should be a single grants commission responsible for the whole of higher education.

In "The Years of Crisis", we recommended that there should be a national university development council, responsible for all forms of higher education, together with regional authorities. This idea should appeal to the Minister of State. The Fabians proposed a national higher education authority with regional organisation. We can afford to take these steps now.

Robbins was oppressed by the crisis which the right hon. Member for Hands-worth has, on occasion, frankly admitted was the harvest of the neglect of the 'fifties. In implementing Robbins, we have been equally oppressed by the urgency of the steps that we have been bound to take. Thus, now is the time to take a longer-term assessment of higher education, and this would be the most effective way of doing it.

We should recognise that it is as valid now as it was then that at least in part Britain's economic stagnation has arisen from the neglect of higher education. It is as true now as it was at the time of the Robbins Report that if we want a free and democratic society then, in the modern complex society in which we live, we depend largely on an expansion of higher education.

I feel—I may be exceptional in this—that at present there is a certain unease in education. We feel that we have done well, particularly in higher education, in dealing with the crisis which faced us. We are uncertain, however, about both the future and whether we have made sufficient sacrifices to safeguard the future. I believe it is time to revive the appeal of Sir Geoffrey Crowther which the Campaign for Education made in 1963; that we should have all to 16, one-half to 18 and one-fifth to 21 ".

6.4 p.m.

Mr. David Lane (Cambridge)

Universities are now facing the greatest crisis ever to beset them in peacetime. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say this in all seriousness and, if hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to me, they will hear why. This is an opportune debate, and I hope that the main message going out from the House will be to strengthen the resolve of the moderates among both senior members and students in all their efforts, which have not been without success, to keep university life going and improve its quality in the face of unprecedented difficulties.

The threat to universities is at least a triple one; student revolution, public hostility and financial stringency. If one asks the man in the street about the university crisis, he will probably answer, in unparliamentary language, Students! "I shall come to that, but, first, I wish to touch on three other aspects of the crisis.

On the question of freedom, I do not quarrel with what the Secretary of State said, although I hope that no hon. Member is underestimating the real concern that many people in the universities feel about this subject. Recent events—they have already been mentioned; I need not repeat them—have, rightly or wrongly, been seen by them as a creeping encroachment on their academic freedom. While we must be vigilant to see that matters do not go further, I believe that some of these fears are exaggerated.

Whatever else academic freedom means, it does not mean a perpetual right to undisturbed existence in an ivory tower. The public are spending nearly £300 million a year on higher education. They are entitled to satisfy themselves that the universities are putting, and keeping, their house in order. The universities must get used to living in the limelight, and they should welcome it. For too long they have tended to exist as mysterious bodies apart from the rest of the community. They should respond to the present public concern by trying to build more bridges with the communities around them, to work more closely with industry and to take every opportunity to tell the public what they are trying to do. The second point is the related question of finance, and this was discussed at some length by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle). I was glad that he gave the matter such emphasis. Whatever views we may hold, whatever doctrinaire position some of us take, politicians generally must give urgent rethinking to this whole problem in the next few years.

If we accept that the present tightness will continue and that there must be a brake on expansion, then I reluctantly accept that it should fall harder on higher education than on the schools and that, in the universities, the accent will have to be on consolidation. On the side of expenditure, we must look for further economies. I agree with my right hon. Friend about the staff-student ratio. It cannot be sacred. I would add to that a search for economy in the grants which are at present available for postgraduate work. I believe that in many cases of a marginal kind, particularly in arts subjects, we could make economies.

On the side of income, we must also take a fresh look. My right hon. Friend referred to loans, and these could yield some benefit, although I believe that it would only be limited. Industry has already done an enormous amount for the universities. Perhaps it can do more, and this will have to be looked at also.

As for an independent university, this is an interesting proposal, and the response to it will give us an indication of the scope there may be, not only for a new style of university—I am all for experimentation and variety—but, as my right hon. Friend stressed, for injecting more private finance into the State university system.

Before dealing with the question of students, I come next to a group of people too often overlooked. I refer to university teachers because, as has been said, they are feeling the harsh reality of the present financial position. The outburst of criticism at the P.I.B. Report has been mentioned, and it would be a pity if it were allowed to blur the many other important points in the Report.

I welcome the emphasis on teaching. Far too much of university teaching has, in the past, been nothing like as good as it should have been, and I hope that more attention will be paid to training would-be university teachers in teaching. Whatever our views about that, it is sad that the combined effect of the Government and P.I.B. Report has been to leave a strong feeling of discontent in this vital, though not normally vocal, section of the community. We all know of their dissatisfaction with the Report. I have great sympathy with the views expressed by the Association of University Teachers, and I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will take them exceedingly seriously.

There are only two more comments that I would like to make on this today. The first is to reinforce what has been said from both Front Benches about the possibility of a new system for settling academic salaries. The A.U.T. has put forward the idea of a University Council, something akin to the Whitley Council for the Health Service. This proposal should be considered carefully. I was glad to hear the Secretary of State imply that he has an open mind on the subject if agreed proposals can be put forward. An alternative might be the possibility of combining into one body what would otherwise be two, three or four separate bodies looking at the salaries of doctors and dentists, higher civil servants and, now, university teachers.

The second thing which I would like to do, as an indication of the responsible way that university teachers are reacting to this situation, is to quote two points made in a letter which I received yesterday from a prominent university teacher at Cambridge. First, he says: The position of the ordinary university teacher, now that students and vice-chancellors have taken to making joint resolutions, bears thinking about. He must be given the chance of determining the lines of the further productivity of his own activities. I think that a number of our members are very concerned about these recent developments and look forward to a structure which will more accurately reflect their own feelings and aspirations for university life.

His letter ends with these words: I hope that university teachers will not be cast in the role of obstructive reactionaries, either on the student question or on the efficiency question, but what we must have is some means of influencing the future structure of the profession comparable with the medical profession, because it is the teachers, after all, who bear the brunt of the modern student.

That brings me to the question of students. I do not minimise the problem in any way. It is, I believe, our job as Members of Parliament to take every opportunity to impress on people at all levels in the university that public patience is nearly exhausted. At the same time, however, let us try to keep this in perspective.

The public are inclined to discuss students as if they were a monolithic mass of wastrels. I find it a little more helpful to look at them in three broad categories. The first are the extremists, the revolutionaries, about whom such forthright things have been said already today from both sides of the House. They are, of course, a minute minority. If one may adapt a familiar phrase, they are a tightly-knit group of politically motivated boys and girls.

Reason, surely, is of the essence of a university, but these revolutionaries have no use for reason. They have no faith in freedom and they have nothing whatever to do with tolerance. They want only to shout down and to tear down. They have nothing constructive and coherent to offer. What a sad contrast, I thought, last weekend between the louts of the L.S.E. and the disciplined patriotism of the students in Prague.

In condemning the extremists, we must, of course, condemn, also, the members of the staff who have aided and abetted them. I believe that the situation is further aggravated by a number of senior men in positions of academic honour who use their automatic platform in the Press or on the air to pour scorn on accepted standards and values and put nothing in their place.

Cannot the revolutionary students see that society will not continue to finance the education of people whose main aim is to destroy it? Can they not see also that if they go on wrecking political meetings, from which many colleagues, on both sides of the House, have suffered, they will simply increase still further the publicity for politicians whose views they detest?

The second category, who are still a minority of students, are those who loathe violence but are genuinely discontented with the state of society today. They want not revolution, but reform. It is from their numbers that the representative student leaders are drawn, and I would like to take this opportunity of applauding the vigorous and responsible line which, on the whole, the National Union of Students has taken all through the present crisis. This category also provides the voice of student conscience on so many political issues of the day, whether it be Czechoslovakia or Nigeria, racialism or the plight of the homeless.

Thirdly, there are all the remaining students, the great majority. These simply want to concentrate on the things which most of us mainly did at the university—working, talking and falling in love. Let no one underrate the quality of this majority group of students. The other day I visited the engineering laboratory at Cambridge, and I was delighted to hear my host say that never in his experience in many years' teaching has the quality of undergraduates entering the university in that department been as high as it is today.

What is to be done to put right this unhappy student situation? First, surely the university authorities, as has been said—and it cannot be said too often from this House—have to isolate and discipline the disruptive tiny minority. In my view, the whole of society needs more discipline today rather than less. One has to recognise however, that the problem of discipline in the universities is nothing like as simple in the present atmosphere as well-intentioned outsiders seem to think. Having said that, I hope that the authorities will not hesitate to act toughly and to expel where necessary, so long as they are also acting fairly and are seen to be acting fairly, because I am certain that they will have overwhelming public support in doing so.

Secondly, I hope that the authorities will press on with the internal reforms of the universities. Plainly, to anyone familiar with them, there are many weaknesses which should have been put right years ago and many ways, too, in which students can usefully be brought into consultation, so long as the authorities reserve to themselves those areas of decision-making with which, I believe, it would be quite wrong for students to be associated.

I regret that last November my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—I am sorry that he is not in his place, but I told him that I would say this— ridiculed the collective efforts of the authorities and the student leaders to improve communications and accelerate reforms. I believe that my right hon. Friend has badly misjudged the present atmosphere in the universities. This growing dialogue is one of the most hopeful signs today. I congratulate the vice-chancellors and principals on the initiatives they have taken and the progress they have made. I am glad to join also in the personal tributes which have been paid this afternoon to the present Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Sir Eric Ashby, because he has been very much involved in all this.

Thirdly, I agree that the quiet majority have other things to do, but the time has surely come when they must be ready to speak up and exert themselves. If they do not, they will be the main sufferers from the taxpayers' revolt which the folly of a minority is bringing dangerously near.

Fourthly, it has been mentioned too little today that we should surely look to the Press and television to try to undo some of the harm which they have recently done in this situation. On far too many recent occasions—I have had personal knowledge of two or three of them—they have positively encouraged the revolutionaries to violence and have pandered to their vanity. It is time instead that they gave due publicity to the admirable majority of students—for example, their community service, their walks for Oxfam, their work for Shelter and a great deal else.

All this and more needs to be done urgently, but there are hopeful signs in this academic year that the student tide is beginning to set against the revolutionaries. So I end on a mildly optimistic note, not only about the student problem but about the university crisis generally. The universities, after their great leap forward since the war, now need a period of consolidation. They have to prepare for the new bulge of the mid-1970s. They must strive to maintain standards while at the same time exercising the utmost economy in both current and capital expenditure. They must adjust to the lowering of the legal age of majority to 18, which will radically affect their traditional position in loco parentis.

Through the difficult and turbulent years still ahead, the need both inside and outside the universities is for reason rather than hysteria, for understanding rather than intolerance. But I remain confident that, during the 1970s, we can expect from the universities an even finer flowering achievement and a still greater contribution to our national life.

6.21 p.m.

Mr. Norman Haseldine (Bradford, West)

I cannot accept the view of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Lane) that the universities face the greatest crisis of all time. My right hon. Friend told the House today of the position since the Labour Government came to office, showing that no less than £120 million has been added to expenditure, with an increase of 39 per cent. in the number of students at universities, colleges of technology and in higher education generally. The facts can hardly be said to show a situation of great crisis.

I shall address myself to one aspect of the subject, namely, accommodation for students. I note from the Report of the University Grants Committee that only 32,000 out of the total student population were living at home. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) said that, perhaps, we should look forward to a state of affairs in which students attend a university nearer to their homes so as to obviate the need for further residential accommodation. We must addres ourselves to this problem, since as many as 150,000 have to find accommodation away from home.

I imagine that the majority of hon. Members would accept the old principle that people should take their higher education away from the home environment and in a collegiate community life. In fact, 35 per cent. of students in 1966–67 were able to live in halls of residence, but 47 per cent. were living in lodgings. The term "lodgings", as the House knows, may cover a wide variety of circumstances. Many students are comfortably housed with landladies, but many are sharing rooms, and a fair proportion of those rooms do not afford the sort of accommodation which would be regarded as conducive to the studies of the young men and women concerned.

The problem is such that the supply of suitable lodgings or flats has almost reached saturation point. I understand that the situation in London is such that 53 per cent. of the student population are forced to find accommodation in lodgings rather than in university residential accommodation. We cannot ignore the effect which this pressure has upon the housing situation generally, aggravating the difficulties in various parts of the country. Housing taken by students could be used by families. We all know of the problems which, unfortunately, still persist in London in this respect. It must not, therefore, be looked on as an education matter in isolation; it must be considered from the standpoint of the general housing problem, since the students must be properly housed.

Unfortunately, the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. The Robbins Report referred to it in 1963, and then, two years ago, the University Grants Committee announced that no further capital grants would be available for halls of residence before 1971. In the Report of the U.G.C. for the quinquennium 1962–67 there are two important paragraphs, Nos. 501 and 502, which deserve study.

Against that background, I wish it to be widely known that a good number of students have themselves been active in efforts to solve the problem. They have not made an outcry about the provision of new halls of residence. They have got down to the job of organising and finding ways to provide new accommodation for themselves. In this effort, they have been determined to seek expert advice and to recruit to their cause many leading academics. They have been guided to a great extent by the activities of students in other countries. Thank goodness—the international interchange of ideas and effort is today very wide and valuable.

In Canada, Sweden, Finland, the United States, Denmark and West Germany students have got down to the job and have benefited from a British export, an export which we do not often regard as such, but a valuable export none the less, that is, the principles of co-operation. There have been great successes in these other countries, and I shall take a few moments to give examples of what has been done in the formation of student housing cooperatives.

In Canada, for example, students were able to bring about an amendment to their Housing Act in 1964 which allowed them to go ahead with the building of residential accommodation. Very soon, they had under way an 11 million dollar project, which is now completed, and there is a further 9 million dollars worth of work in the pipeline—all this through their own efforts but with the necessary advice. In Sweden, through a Government loan and grant scheme since 1962, student housing co-operatives have provided dwellings giving no fewer than 19,000 places. In Finland, the students have themselves on a similar basis provided 3,500 places.

There are some interesting facts to be noted from the Canadian system. The cost of construction of an 18-storey block was reduced by 40 per cent. from the traditional cost simply by, as the students said, eliminating frills and avoiding the temptation to design a prestige project. As a result, rents are reduced by 25 per cent. from the level in traditional halls, although the students have to face paying off the capital, municipal taxes and financial charges which are not borne by those in traditional halls of residence.

The Robbins Committee estimated in 1962 that the cost of a place in a university hall of residence was £1,425. Doubts have been expressed about the professional estimates already prepared for students in this country suggesting that the reduction in costs is unrealistic and that it is not possible to come down to the figure of £800 per place which the students say can be done in London at 1968 prices. Nevertheless, there is some evidence available in this connection.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Henig) is not here at the moment, but he would confirm what I am about to say in regard to a project at Lancaster. It is not a student project, but the figures are of interest none the less. Mr. Haydn Smith, of Taylor, Young and Partners, working on plans similar to those for some other student dwellings which I shall mention in a moment, has built dwellings in Lancaster, occupied in October last year by 160 students, at a gross cost of £678 per place, including site works. I have not seen them, but they are said to be equal to, if not superior to, many student residences in this country. That is a lesson in objectivity.

The students in London deserve full credit, which I shall give to them by addressing the House on the subject. They have looked at the problem not in terms of providing frills and trimmings but in terms of meeting the students' requirements, appreciating that funds are limited. In the first place, they took a note from Building Bulletin 37, published by the U.G.C.D.E.S., which pointed out that only 65 per cent. of the traditional halls of residence which have been built are used for living space. They want to eliminate the prestige aspect and, further to reduce capital costs, they have obtained the advice of architects, who have designed for them what they call a single-study-bedroom in a responsibility block, with a farmhouse kitchen.

This would reduce not only capital costs but also recurring costs, because they would not have refectory requirements and large staffs. This would contribute considerably to the reduction of capital costs and it would reduce the charges necessary to provide these services probably by as much as 25 per cent. That has been the experience of the Canadian students. Within the block there is provision, which will be rent providing, for, say, a grocer's shop, a bank and a snack bar. Having eliminated staff, they have made an important economy on the basis of the students' own determination of what they require.

The proposal by the students is that there should be residence for 50 weeks a year. This would involve granting cheap accommodation for visiting students and providing facilities for summer schools and conferences. This is a very worthy project. Work has been proceeding on this subject for a considerable time, and I am sure that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Minister of State are aware of it.

Having outlined the scheme, I want to make one or two points about it. Already there has been formed an organisation in London known as the Student Cooperative Dwellings. The organisation has on its board of directors an impressive list of well-known academics and people well versed in co-operative housing, and it has excellent professional advice. I am delighted to say that since July last year contributions from the student unions of 15 London colleges, and aid from charitable trusts, have already ensured that there are sufficient funds for the organisation to function with an executive director and a small staff for the next three years.

This is an educative process because it will assist students to radiate their ideas out to the colleges. It is most important that students being to talk about this work. I ask my right hon. Friend to note the project carefuly. Quite apart from the realistic proposals which have been put forward, the House will appreciate, as I am sure will my right hon. Friend, the educational spin-off involved, if I may use the term, in this sort of exercise. It is in itself an educative process at a time when students are demanding participation in so many fields.

Here they are putting forward a plan to create their own co-operative organisation, to manage it and to take full responsibility in a democratic way for financing, building and managing the buildings. Experience abroad has taught us that this can be done. Why should it not be done on a co-operative basis in Great Britain, the land which saw the birth of the Co-operative movement?

I am in no way critical of what is being done by my right hon. Friend's Department and I am aware of a pilot scheme being undertaken, but I urge my right hon. Friend to look at the earliest opportunity at the plans put forward by the Students Co-operative Dwellings. I urge him to have early discussions with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government about it. We must accept that this is primarily a housing matter, although it is a matter of housing students, and in my view it should fall within the responsibility of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

I hope that the Minister of Housing will not say that it is an education matter while my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science says that it is a housing matter. Let us reach some agreement, because there are many ways which I can suggest in which help could be given to the project. The Minister of Housing and Local Government set up the Housing Corporation and with some slight help the Corporation could be a vehicle for the project. Failing that, we could look forward to the formation of student housing corporations. The Housing Corporation could use co-ownership schemes under the 1964 Act.

The Swedish experiment is interesting because 60 per cent. of the total cost of all student co-operative buildings is provided in the form of low-interest loans. I wonder whether the Minister will match that? Savings would be made nationally, and there would be a return on the loans, possibly over a period of 60 years. Could they not take loans under the option mortgage scheme, thus making their contribution to a students' cooperative? Great savings would be made. We cannot afford a standstill in student housing for the next three years.

That period can be used to get this project under way. It would give students the opportunity of self-help and it would be a worth-while experiment. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the matter as urgent, because I am convinced that when students have organised themselves in this way, attention should be paid to their efforts and the House should applaud what they have done. We hear loud complaints today about student activity, but here students are presenting to us an opportunity of saving national funds and of using a method which should have been tried in many other aspects in this country over a much longer period.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)

I want to emphasise three points which have been raised in debate. The first is to reaffirm the importance to us of higher education; the second is the extent of public concern about some of the things which have appeared in the Press recently to do with universities; and the third concerns the financial burden that the expansion of higher education entails.

I make my first point deliberately because it is all the more important to make it when the universities are under fire. There is a danger, following the acceptance of Robbins and the massive expansion programme, that, just when we come to accept the importance of a highly educated society, in a technological and cultural sense, because of recent events, there might be a turning-back from the recognition of the importance of higher education.

Nothing would be more disastrous for us in the long term than to turn back from that aspiration. Robbins was right in the broad analysis he made. A book, "The American Challenge", by Schreiber, is right in its general definition of some of our problems in Europe. The last thing that we must do under the pressure of criticism of these things that have happened recently in the universities is to turn back from the rapid expansion that we have begun.

My second point is to do with the extent of public criticism. I agree with what was said by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), that there is a real danger of an anti-intellectual opinion growing up in many places, an anti-university feeling in the local education authorities, an understandable concern about what is going on among parents, many of them first-generation university children. There is also the concern, which is more especially attracting my attention, about criticism amongst the contemporaries of those who are at universities now. There are very real signs of a contempt for the university undergraduate among others of his age group.

If this is to happen there will be a damaging divisiveness in society, which is precisely what we do not want. We do not want a built-in division in industry which is already there in the minds of those who have not been to university. Obvious danger signs are there as a result of some of the things that have been happening in the universities recently, some of those things which have been caused by a very minute minority. I am particularly glad that the Secretary of State spoke in such strong terms about recent events, with particular reference to the London School of Economics. Only in one respect did I think that the right hon. Gentleman went too far. I hope that I did not mishear him. The passage was when, talking about grants, he referred to possible initiatives that might be taken by local authorities, and I think that he used the phrase, "working in partnership with the universities". It is important that responsibility for recommending that a student is not fulfilling the purpose in a university for which he was sent should rest with the university and not with the local authority. On reflection, the right hon. Gentleman might find that he was treading dangerous ground in using that phrase.

As to discipline and academic energy, it is for the universities to decide whether the student is, or is not, doing his job and playing the part for which he was sent to a university. Certainly, let the universities do precisely that. I do not want to go further into this, as I am a member of the Select Committee examining these matters. I have had the feeling on some occasions that they have been lax in the exercise of their authority and I would not be sorry to see them do more.

My third point concerns the financial burden which the expansion of higher education involves. We are concerned here with massive figures, which we have to afford. We are dealing with about 30 per cent. of our educational budget when talking about higher education. We are concerned with figures rising rapidly, year after year, maybe to as high as 12 per cent. If this is so, and if, as I think quite certain, educational expenditure rises far faster than the gross national product, then we have to scrutinise and urge the universities to scrutinise, their financial expenditure, and make recommendations, both for economies where we can see them, and for sources of additional revenue.

I do not know whether right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite would agree, but hard as one looks, one sees precious few prospects of economies for the schools. There are greater opportunities for pruning, or at least more prudent expenditure, in the higher education sphere than in the school sector. My right hon. Friend was absolutely right to list a number of areas which should be scrutinised, and he put it no higher than that.

Other Members have referred to some of the points he made, and I will not follow the argument of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Haseldine) about residence. Residence is provided to the tune of approximately 25 per cent. of the university population, according to the latest U.G.C. Report. This is a high figure, and it is not impossible that one could achieve considerable economies through more home-based work.

After all, the figure of 44 universities is to some extent an illusory one. We are entering a period of about 80 institutions of higher education, with near-university status, polytechnics, and so on. It is not impossible, by a certain amount of dirigisme of university places, to get some economies.

I deal now with post-graduate work. There is a case for asking ourselves whether our expansion has gone faster than is right. Many areas of postgraduate work are vitally important to the quality of our research work, and the life of the country, but the expansion here has substantially exceeded Robbins' expectations—4½ per cent. as opposed to 2½ per cent. The U.G.C. has recommended that priorities should be given to undergraduate development rather than postgraduate development. There are some grounds for doubting whether all postgraduate work is quite as necessary as those who want to do it would like us to think. There is the danger of the perennial student. It is a very tempting world to stay in for as long as one can and a little bit of pressure to push people out into the world, to their first job, maybe returning at a later date, would be no bad thing.

Closely associated with that there is a case for urging the universities to look a little at the age at which they accept people for the first time. Many university teachers enjoy teaching people of a slightly later age than the boy or girl leaving school. There are also some people, not very many perhaps, who wrongly come to the universities, and who would have been much better placed—and would have subsequently recognised it—if they had gone to some rather more vocational course. If there was more often a gap between leaving school and arriving at universities some people would willingly, and rightly, drop out of the university course for which they were not necessarily properly cast.

There could be advantages in this, in better deployment of manpower and some very slight relaxing of the pressures on universities, as well as a slight damping-down of the excessive snob appeal, to put it that way, which a university place sometimes has by comparison with other institutions.

I turn now to the question of loans versus grants. This is a subject on which many people feel strongly. It would be a very great pity if there were to reappear, as a result of any change of policy, a cash barrier against higher education. This is the last thing that the House; would want. Unfortunately, the pressures on capital expenditure in this and other areas being as heavy as they are, one is bound to look at current costs in a number of places.

My belief is that because of the pressure on current costs, and last year provided an example, successive Governments will be compelled to make the maintenance grants less and less adequate for what they are to do. For that reason it would be folly for this House to neglect to make a reappraisal of the possibility of loans as a partial solution of some of the financial problems. It is, in particular, relevant to postgraduate studies, more so than to undergraduate studies, although I do not rule out the latter from consideration.

In conclusion, I would say, let us reaffirm our belief that the growth of higher education is important to this country, let us defend the autonomy of the universities and urge them to exercise discipline within their own houses—because if they do not do so public opinion will turn against precisely the concept which it is in their interests to protect.

6.53 p.m.

Mr. Christopher Price (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I begin by touching on the subject with which the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) opened his speech, and that is the discussions about the alleged diminution of the autonomy of the universities. It is important to say this, because I believe that all the allegations that in some way the Government are encroaching on university autonomy are so much claptrap from beginning to end.

I want to mention two bodies—I will say nothing of the Select Committee because I am a member of it and we ought to reserve judgment on that until this Session is over.

There is a very interesting account in this term's Higher Education Review, by certain vice-chancellors, including Dr. Carter, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster, about the way in which the Comptroller and Auditor General works within the universities. Reading this sort of account, I cannot but feel that he ought to have had access to the universities many years ago and that he would have saved a great deal of public money. The greatest advantage of having public accountability in the universities is not what the Comptroller and Auditor General does, but what he does not do—the reorganisation and co-operation that the universities put in hand simply because they know he is there. It is very much like the virtues of the Ombudsman. It is not a question of the cases he solves, but the cases that are put right in the first place because he exists.

The schemes of co-operation in university building, the consortia in the northern area, and which are growing in other areas, will increase. Co-operation should not simply be between the universities, but should straddle the binary system. If the present polytechnic policy is insisted on to the letter of the law, many nonsenses will occur, particularly in Birmingham, where the University of Aston is on the same site as part of the proposed Birmingham polytechnic. For years, they have shared a student union. Indeed, the whole site was planned on the grounds that one day this would be Birmingham's municipal university.

I am convinced that some means must be found not only for sharing the joint student union between the University of Aston and the College of Art on the same site, but for many other facilities on that site to be shared. If they are not, there will be a great deal of public criticism from places like Birmingham about the waste of public money.

Anybody who saw the nonsensical situation at Loughborough, when the University of Technology there had to be sliced apart and the student union had to be cut in half simply because the technical college became a new university and the college of education did not, should make certain that this sort of nonsense does not happen again. The binary policy, which I have supported, should not pre clude sensible, intelligent, commonsense co-operation where two institutions are on the same site. A great deal of money can be saved in this sort of area. So far from the P.A.C. being a threat, public-accountability will be one of the greatest assistances that the universities have had for a long time to sensible and economic use of money.

I should also like to say something about the Report of the Prices and In comes Board, which has come in for a great deal of unjustified criticism. One criticism that I have is of the way in which student assessment was mentioned in such detail, whereas many other things were simply mentioned in passing. It was inappropriately put, and there may have been a certain amount of rush about it. I am sorry that just because of that the idea of student assessment should be swept aside by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Stale in the cavalier manner he adopted.

It is clear that in university teaching, as in school teaching, and the way consultants are paid, and as there is a great desire to pay general practitioners, there should be a merit addition, a productivity payment. This is almost common ground among many people. If there is to be such a merit addition it must be assessed, and somebody must decide how it will be paid. Broadly speaking, there are only two ways. One can do it as it is done in the schools or with consultants, and have a sort of headmaster's diktat.

I suppose that one could do it in the universities with a sort of professorial diktat, with the professor simply saying which of his staff should get a merit addition. But I think that professors in our traditional universities, particularly the Victorian ones, have rather too much power, and certainly too much responsibility. I would not be in favour of that at all. If it is not done like that, we must find an objective method of assessing teaching merit, if that is to be one of the criteria, as it should be, for paying the merit allowance.

The P.I.B. would have done much better to gloss over the student assessment and leave it to the U.G.C. to work it out. All that I am saying now is that it would be most unfortunate if that way of assessing teaching quality, which is growing in other parts of the world, as the P.I.B. pointed out, should now be ruled out for this country once and for all, simply because of the row among many academics, many of whom never even read the Report but read only the Press reports of it.

Most people agree that it is essential that students should be better taught at university. On the whole, they get very good teaching and very close staff-student relations in the sixth forms. They become very close to their teachers for two or three years, then are suddenly, at the age of 18, decanted into an enormous institution where apparently staff and students are much cooler towards one another, and do not get to know one another really so well. That is a generalisation, but I am sure that in some of the institutions where there have been difficulties that is one of the causes. Better teaching would induce in the students a greater belief that people really were interested in their progress through the university.

Therefore, I very much hope that there will be second thoughts about student assessment. Clearly, the merit allowance cannot be paid yet. Perhaps September, 1969 is far too early to think of applying a method of paying such an allowance, but let us not rule it out for all time. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister of State will say something about this when she replies to the debate.

I should like also to echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Ton-bridge (Mr. Hornby) about the Secretary of State's mention of local authorities. Only time will show whether his tone in the last part of his speech was wise. I agree completely with all the facts he put forward, and that there is a small but vicious number of students in some of our institutions whose sole desire is to disrupt. These facts have been put forward in the Press many times. I am not sure that simply shouting them from the house tops makes the situation any better. What we need is methods of dealing with it and to try to ameliorate the situation.

I was particularly unhappy about my right hon. Friend's mention of local authorities. I am sure that he did not mean that they should take the initiative in withdrawing student grants in this sort of case. I can think of nothing more undesirable than a succession of local authority witch hunts. There have already been suggestions of this. In Warley, a local authority near Birmingham, local councillors with responsibility for this talked about their intention of trying to take away grants from Birmingham University students who were involved in an incident in which practically everybody in the university took part. I hope that that sort of attitude will be thoroughly deplored and that we make quite sure that there shall not be any witch hunts of this kind.

I want to end by saying one or two things about what we can do to strengthen the universities against the difficulties they now face. I am convinced that the key to a great deal of this is their administration. Many have been administered with much the same system for years and years. The method which was perhaps once appropriate to a small university, sometimes with under 1,000 students, is totally inappropriate for the 5,000, 6,000, 7,000 and 8,000 students who are now in some of our large universities. For all that people say that a university is controlled by the council and senate, it is, in effect, run by a small group of administrators, on whom a great deal depends. Many of them, through no fault of their own, have not shown the necessary political awareness over the past few years to deal with problems which, had they occurred in a section of industry where people are aware of these things, might have been solved very sensibly. Administrators in our universities need training, and need to be made more aware of the sensible methods of solving these problems.

Representation is very rightly coming, with students and junior staff on the committees of the universities, which is something that the universities are not used to. Birmingham University, until recently, had a senate of nearly 100 with only three members of the non-professorial staff on it. Representation of junior staff and students will put a far greater burden on university administrators than they have had before. They need to be able to cope with it, and far better communication within our universities is needed. One university I know has just installed closed-circuit television, with cameras and screens all over the university, in an effort to counter the sort of rumours that go about, and to get information about decisions spread around the university very quickly. This is run by the students.

Above all, what needs to be done is to break down the terrifying departmentalism within the universities. What struck me more than anything else at some of the universities I visited recently, particularly Birmingham, was the acid quarrels and arguments between the engineers and the social scientists. I do not want to say much about art colleges, because, again, the Select Committee is looking into the matter, but the most obvious fact is the vicious arguments going on publicly, in front of the students, between the artists and the designers. If the staff quarrel like this in public, as they do, we cannot be surprised when the students ape them and follow them in some of their arguments and quarrels.

A great responsibility lies on those in charge of the universities to try to weld their institutions back into the genuine meaning of the word "university", a place where everybody is present for the same sort of purpose, to receive a broad education. They need to be welded back into the real community of scholars and teachers, which perhaps they never quite were, but which at present, with rigid departmentalism, they are further from being than they have ever been. If it gets much worse we can only see a worsening of relations within the universities.

7.9 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) touched on a very important subject in his concluding remarks. Probably departmentalism is a product of what some regard as excessive early specialisation in our schools and why there is considerable tension in the universities among the student population. They feel that some of the studies, courses and curricula are irrelevant not only to their needs but to the needs of society and that tensions are imposed on them when after a time they find that they are ill-suited to a course which seems excessively rigid and that it is difficult to make an appropriate transfer. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) will have something to say about the effect which this can have on the dropout rate among students. The psychological tension is considerable. There are sections of the student community who regard themselves as thoroughly moderate and do not criticise—although we would wish that they did it forcibly—the activities of the militant minority. Because of this the militant minority seizes on this weakness.

I wonder whether the Secretary of State could prevail on his hon. Friend the Minister of State to enlarge on his concluding remarks. I admired his forthright statement. I well understand the points which have been made in the reaction to it, and I share those views myself, but credit is due to the right hon. Gentleman for being forthright in his denunciation of the vicious militant minority. If there is time, would the hon. Lady tell us a little more about the four or five students from abroad who are being subsidised by this country's money? Who is subsidising them, and what courses are they taking?

I wish to say something about student protest. The hon. Member for Perry Barr said that he did not think that it was altogether much good shouting about it from the rooftops, but certain points have been made in the Press about the aims and objectives of the student movement and they have not been specifically referred to in this debate. I fear that anyone reading the report of the debate might not understand why the Secretary of State made his forthright denunciation.

The overwhelming majority of students are perfectly decent, law-abiding citizens. The qualifications for entrance in our universities are higher than they used to be. Those who get to university must work hard if they are to achieve a degree. I have no doubt that they have complaints; and hon. Members have mentioned them. We know that they are subjected to tensions. It would be unrealistic of those who have not experienced a university education or those whose memory of a university education is growing ever dimmer to believe that the student population should be insulated from many of the tensions from which modern society suffers.

The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) touched on one of them. He said that some students feel that they are growing up in a society in which they are at the mercy of a growing bureaucracy or big organisation men—and I suppose that he was referring to the tensions of big business. The right hon. Gentleman is not present and, therefore, I will not pursue the point too far, but I wonder to what extent he or people in business go out of their way to enlighten students in universities of the nature of society as we see it. I do not take such a gloomy view of our society as some modern Jeremiahs who write to some of our "posh" newspapers. It is an exciting society which probably offers far more opportunity for young men than any previous generation was offered.

Anyone who studies modern business and the progressive, industrial commercial firms knows that they put an increased premium on knowledge. They are looking for the educated man, and the educated man is an individual who is not afraid to stand up for his views. It is an interesting concept that side by side with the expansion of our university population and the expansion, as I believe, of rational man there is a growing need in industry and commerce for the sort of man or woman who comes from our universities. It is this aspect of modern society which too often goes unnoticed and is not emphasised. I can well believe that there are individuals in the student population who wish to encourage the opposite point of view—that they are growing up in a society in which they will find themselves increasingly managed, if not by a State bureaucracy, then by private monopoly.

Probably hon. Members opposite will regard my fears as exaggerated, but I understand the growth of State bureaucracy and oppose it resolutely. With the growth of mergers, I can see the dangers of monopoly. But I can also see the growth of international business and competition, and the application of modern business techniques can also encourage individual judgment and individual excellence. I would argue that it is through the development of an enlightened progressive capitalist economy that one can have a multiplicity of institutions and different centres of authority which in turn should encourage the talents of educated man. When considering the student unrest, it is interesting to note how politically orientated it is. It is orientated in a way which I believe is fundamentally alien to the views of hon. Members on both sides of the House. This needs to be spelled out, because too often it is still assumed that, because members of the revolutionary students' movement argue that there should be this or that minor reform, they are basically people who want to see a better ordered society, not only within, but without the universities.

I have a photostat copy of a document setting out the aims of the Revolutionary Student Movement at a meeting at the London School of Economics on Friday, 14th June, last year. In the preamble to the aims it is stated: British students confront authoritarian and bureaucratic structures as do their French and German counterparts ". It argues that the basic platform for the revolutionary student movement should cover three fundamental areas of action, one of them being student power. Student power is interpreted in this way: control of staff appointments by students; control of courses by students; control of facilities in a university by students; ensuring the accountability of teachers by subjecting them to public criticism; enforcement of the complete removal of the examination system; abolition of entrance qualifications; and the replacement of the present bureaucratic student unions.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

No abolition of grants.

Mr. Johnson Smith


The hon. Member for Perry Barr said that we should not dismiss the comment of the Prices and Incomes Board about the assessment of university teachers. I have no love for the manner in which the Board operates; I am a very strong critic of it. But to criticise the Board and everything that it says is an entirely different matter. The hon. Gentleman was fair in saying that people had too swiftly dismissed its comment about the assessment of university teachers.

We see what escalation there is when a revolutionary student movement calls for complete accountability of teachers by subjecting them to public criticism. It sounds to me rather reminiscent of the Maoist technique in China. That moderate students feel that there is some need for assessment I have no doubt, and this is something which the Secretary of State and the University Grants Committee could well consider.

The second main area of action of the Revolutionary Student Movement is an anti-capitalist alliance with workers. As far as I can gather, hon. Members opposite who have fairly close contact through trade unions with the workers inform us that the British working man has a strong contempt for the British student.

I quote again, however, from the aims of the Revolutionary Student Movement: Revolutionary students must ally themselves with the workers' struggle against capitalism. There may be some hon. Members opposite who also would like to ally themselves against, capitalism.

Mr. John Lee

That is what we are here for.

Mr. Johnson Smith

The hon. Member will, no doubt, find friends among the Revolutionary Student Movement. For my part, as hon. Members will have gathered from my opening remarks, I believe that it is through capitalism that students are more likely to achieve individual freedom and full use of their talents.

The third area of action is the struggle against imperialism. I quote: Solidarity with all militant national liberation movements in their struggle against imperialism is an essential duty of revolutionary students. The Vietnamese and Cuban revolutions represent the heroic vanguard"— I hope that the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) is listening— of the world-wide upsurge against Western imperialism. There is, of course, no mention of the struggle of the students in Czechoslovakia, but in fairness it must be said that those aims were issued before that uprising. What is most interesting, however, is to ask what sort of action those who allied themselves with the Revolutionary Student Movement have subsequently taken to ensure that the tyranny in Czechoslovakia is thoroughly and fully expunged. The movement goes further than that. It is not really a movement which would attempt to be satisfied with reform. Its aims—

Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)

Following the hon. Member's question a moment ago, I am sure that he would not want to be unfair even to students of whose methods he disapproves. On the first Sunday after the tragic invasion of Czechoslovakia, a very large body of several thousands of students marched to the Soviet Embassy and held a major demonstration.

Mr. Johnson-Smith

I withdraw what I said. Subsequently, however, I have heard very little about their aims. They invariably associate themselves with the campaigns waged by the "imperialists" in Vietnam and our attitude to Cuba. It is this which pervades the whole atmosphere of the Revolutionary Student Movement rather than sympathy towards the Czechoslovakian students, which I found much more evident among the moderates.

In many cases the revolutionary students make, I would have thought, a deliberate attempt to provoke repression, either non-violent or violent, so that they, in turn, can justify force. I believe that they are basically not interested in reform, but are interested in revolution, nothing more or less than the complete overthrow of the sort of society which we have in this country. For that purpose, they start within the universities.

It has been put to me by those who would describe themselves as moderates in the universities that the revolutionary students argue that moderates have what they call a false consciousness—that is to say, they are not able to see their true position in society or the true nature of the society in which they live. Therefore, as the arguments of the revolutionary students cannot be comprehended by the moderates, or they either cannot or will not be convinced by them, force is justified. It is interesting in this context to witness the treatment which was meted out to Professor Trevor-Roper when he attempted to lecture at the London School of Economics. I will not go into detail about it, but it was most shabby treatment afforded to a distinguished historian. What was prophetic was a particular comment in his address which arose from a point he was making that one safe rule of history is that historical situations never exactly repeat themsevles. He went on, however, to say this: The new Fascism, when it occurs, will occur with radical differences. Indeed, with such differences it has already occurred: the arrogant cult of youth, the intolerance of dissent, the rejection of rational argument, the deliberate invocation of force to justify counter-force. All these have recently been resumed.

Mr. Dalyell

It is a very good tradition of the House that we are not personal, but when the hon. Member talks about the arrogant cult of youth one is justified in asking him to what extent the mass media, which he knows so well, are responsible for this.

Mr. Johnson Smith

I am quoting from Professor Trevor-Roper. That is a view which a distinguished historian has expressed and I regard it as valid to the development of my argument.

As to the medium with which I had some connection, but no responsibility, various comments have been made about the part played by television, and in this respect we can well include the Press. The hon. Member will be aware that when something unusual or a new development takes place—and most new developments start with a tiny minority—it is customary for it to be news. Crime often gets more news than the good works of individuals.

It is not for me to question the integrity of the producers of our television service, or, indeed, the integrity and judgment of the editors of our newspapers. By and large, I would say that we are served better by them than any country which I have visited, although it may be that my old connections with broadcasting lead me to form too partial a view.

Strong criticisms have been made of the way in which television by its presence can encourage the extrovert. If there is truth in this—I do not dispute that there is some truth—it can be said in favour of the treatment by television of the subject of student unrest that I believe that the B.B.C. did a valuable service for the general enlightenment of the public by bringing together various representatives of the Revolutionary Student Movement, not only from this country, but from other countries, and assembling them in a studio in London where they could be questioned and we could hear what they had to say.

Secondly, I believe that a valuable service was done by the B.B.C.—it took a risk, but it was enlightening—when the Chancellor of the Exchequer took part in a broadcast from the University of East Anglia. It is no good sweeping matters of this kind under the carpet. To this extent, it was right that publicity should be given to various events.

That the B.B.C. may have gone too far or played it up too much is a matter of fine judgment, and I do not propose to make that judgment, not having seen every television presentation. In the two instances to which I have referred, however, I would have thought that the public interest justified that type of programme.

To continue with the development of the aims and objectives of this group, which wields an influence out of all proportion to its numbers, we know that no movement is without a leader. Although many people will not have heard of him, there is no doubt that some of the views of Professor Marcuse are attractive to those who believe that Western society, particulary if it has a capital economic-base, is rotten to the core.

Professor Marcuse adds a respectable and intellectual veneer to those who would destroy our society. He argues, in his essay on "Repressive Tolerance" the view that in the main young students and other members of our sort of society do not comprehend its true nature and do not understand the extent to which they are lulled into a false sense of values. They do not fully understand how utterly repressive it may be, that behind the bland face of a London policeman, so he argues, there lurks the beast of the Fascist, manipulated by those who wish to maintain the status quo. This is heady wine, and there is not time to develop the argument, but this is part of the thinking and the rationale of those who form part of this small group.

One of the better known leaders of the revolutionary students is Cohn Bendit, "Danny the Red" as he almost affectionately became known by some people. I quote from a comment he made during the course of an interview to the San Francisco magazine "Ramparts". He said: '"We demand freedom of expression within the university, but we will refuse this freedom to those who support the Americans. No one would start a forum on the topic that Hitler was right to liquidate six million Jews, so why allow a pro-American meeting organised by Fascists with an entirely analogous topic? Who says that it is an analogous topic? Who says that with the escalation of the American intervention under the leadership of President Johnson he is playing a rôle analogous to the liquidation of 6 million Jews by the leader of the German nation in the thirties?

During the last year or so, even in this country, which prides itself on its free speech and its liberal tradition, it has proved increasingly difficult for a person to take an unpopular view, and to argue it, knowing that he would be fairly heard by the student population. That means the tiny majority, the 10, 15, or more who will deny the right of people to express an unpopular view. It is this aspect of the development in our universities, this escape from argument into force, and this reliance upon force, which particularly shocks all of us who have knowledge of what it is like to live in the liberal atmosphere of a university.

I can understand the shouting and the ordinary heckling that goes on, but we have heard of the appalling treatment afforded to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) at Essex University this week, when he went to speak on immigration, and we know what a deep understanding he gives to this vexatious social problem. It was almost implied earlier in the debate that if one expresses a deeply unpopular view which seems to be giving aid and comfort towards a régime like the one in Rhodesia, one must expect pretty rough treatment. I do not think that sort of treatment should be meted out to such a person.

Mr. John Lee

The hon. Gentleman, I am sure unintentionally, misunderstood what I said in my intervention. The speakers who received rough treatment were themselves pretty near the edge of the law, in one case giving aid and comfort to those committing treason and in another case coming near to violating the Race Relations Act. These matters are quite different from expressing an unpopular opinion.

Mr. Johnson Smith

If any hon. Member speaking at a meeting has violated the Race Relations Act, the hon. Gentleman knows to whom a complaint can be made and by whom suitable action can be taken. The implication of his argument is that it lies within the student audience to take the matter in hand, but surely that is not so. It becomes a matter of mob rule which is most disturbing and needs to be firmly nailed and exposed.

We recognise that universities have had a difficult job to do, but, to some moderate students, they have appeared on occasion to bow to this threat. I do not want to single out universities; I state only that it is held by some moderate students that there have been occasions in the past year or so when the university authority has felt that it had to bow to a threat of violence, and ask for a meeting to be cancelled because the security of the speaker could not be guaranteed.

This is most worrying. It is a challenge to the existence of the university, a challenge to the existence of all our student population and their ideals, and it is a challenge which the moderates will increasingly have to take up and meet. We can help them, but I do not believe that they can let this go by default. To sum up, it is a challenge which in the end all of us in all walks of life have to meet.

One of the finest things done by the previous Conservative Administration, in 1959–64, was to implement the Robbins Report. The consequence of this rapid expansion of our universities has not been, as some people say, that there would be bound to be trouble if there were a lot of people at university who should not be there. Those people discount the tremendous labours an individual has to endure to get into a university. We might perhaps have underestimated the enormous social effect this would have on the universities and on the need to adapt the institutions and the administration of discipline to the numbers of individuals from different sections of society who had hitherto been deprived from a university education, and the need to understand that there was bound to be resentment, a resentment shown not just by students, against petty restrictions, and outmoded, over-paternalistic disciplinary approaches.

The methods in some of our universities appear to many students to offend the principles of natural justice. It does not help the cause of the moderate students to come up against a university authority which would send down a student in his final year without a right of appeal. This is a monstrous injustice, which plays into the hands of those who belong to the militant group, which I described earlier.

I am sure, therefore, that the universities and moderate students deserve all our support in their efforts to ensure greater participation for students in relevant areas to improve their disciplinary methods so that they coincide more with our views of how a young man should be trusted to live his life with the change in the law in the age of majority. Much could be done in this respect if the implementation of the national agreement between the representatives of the National Union of Students and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals were accelerated. Some universities have gone a long way towards it, but others need to make better progress. I do not want to criticise the vice-chancellors, but there is no doubt that progress in some institutions has not been rapid as students would like along the lines generally agreed last October.

I hope that the Minister will deal with one point raised by the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Haseldine), which I had intended to go into in some detail. He referred to the housing problems of students. I do not dissent from my right hon. Friend when he says that, in the general escalation of expenditure, we must be prudent about these matters, that in future a slightly larger proportion of students may go to universities and colleges which are closer to their homes, and that providing accommodation is very expensive.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) has expressed a view about this, but I believe that there is scope for providing accommodation for students through the use of non-profit-making housing co-operatives. All this stems from the housing association movement. I quite see how that might fall between the responsibility of the Minister of Housing and that of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, but I agree with the hon. Member for Bradford, West in his plea for a searching look at that possibility. We would like to know what is taking place.

Returning to my main theme, if we are willing to stand up for certain values in our universities and to meet head-on the threat posed by the revolutionary students, I am sure that we can do a great deal to help bring about the necessary adjustments to our universities. In that respect, I was delighted when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition received an invitation last year from the National Union of Students, accepted it, and spoke to that body. I look forward to the day when the Prime Minister receives a similar invitation and accepts it, because it is the duty of members of all political parties to maintain close links with our student organisations. My own party has done much to maintain those links, but there is more still to be done.

Any criticisms of students should be selective, with a view to avoiding an indiscriminate backlash which could be as big a threat to the freedom of our universities as the work of the Revolutionary Student Movement. There are genuine demands, but the university authorities should not be discouraged from taking disciplinary action, which should be seen to be fair and be fair in fact. Finally, our university authorities should have our sympathy and full support in dealing with that small but violent minority whose objectives are the destruction of our universities as we know them and, ultimately, of our society.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)

Order. May I remind hon. Members of my earlier appeal for brief speeches? I hope that hon. Members will keep it in mind.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacPherson (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall keep your appeal in mind. Indeed, I had it in mind before you reiterated it. For that reason, I shall not comment on the main theme of the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) of the student situation, unless I find that I have time towards the end of my speech, which I do not expect. I would prefer to comment briefly on a number of other points and, since a brief commentary on a variety of topics has been one of the main features of speeches in the debate, perhaps I shall not be out of place.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) and the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) both made suggestions about easing the financial plight of our universities, and one of them which should be looked into is that concerning residential accommodation. The old idea that one has to reside among one's fellow students is not quite as strong today as it used to be. I agree that one of the major sources of education in a university is one's fellow students. However, another main source of education at that stage of life ought to be one's fellow citizens. There is as strong an argument now for living in one's own community as there was before the war, for example, for living in a student community. There may be an argument for splitting the undergraduate years between the two, but when financial matters come into the argument, there is a strong case for saying that we should look very hard at any proposed expenditure on residential accommodation for students.

I agree also with the suggestion that further attention should be given to the staff-student ratio. I would be very strongly in favour of revising it towards 1:10, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, providing that the staff released under such a situation found themselves working in the upper forms of our secondary schools, which will need greater reinforcement in the near future. I am not at all sure that that is what would happen but, even so, there is a case for revising the staff-student ratio.

The principle of having a small number of students for each member of the staff is a good one. The reason why it is accompanied by difficulties in some of the larger departments is that always there have been high staff-student ratios in some of the very small ones. I do not know if there are ever ratios of 1:1, but frequently one find 1:2 or 1:3. A few years ago, I would have been more familiar with the figures, but I am afraid that I cannot quote specific departments now. However, the situation persists.

The University Grants Committee is a first-rate institution of which I am all in favour. I hope that it will continue with its very constructive work. However, in my view it has been much more ready to apply its mind to matters of construction, to building up departments and centres in our universities, than to rationalising the smaller departments which are so uneconomic in terms of staff. One could probably revise the staff-student ratio towards 1:10 and, at the same time, improve the staff position in a number of the larger departments if a systematic attempt is made to rationalise those very small departments which are so expensive in terms of staff.

I was glad to notice in this group of topics the attitude taken by the right hon. Member for Handsworth about student loans. I gather that he is not in favour of student loans for first degree courses, and he leaves his mind open about graduate courses. This is possibly as good a point of view as one can expect. I would be against the replacement of grants by loans. But, if there was to be anything of that sort, I would certainly prefer it to be started with some of the graduate students.

I should like to make one or two inquiries about a question that has bulked large in the newspaper correspondence which has followed the P.I.B. Report on salaries, namely, the relationship between research and teaching.

The expansion which we have seen in the size of existing universities and in the establishment of new universities in recent years has been openly and admittedly done to produce more places for students to be taught. The reason for the university expansion has not been the need for more research, but the need for more teaching. To that extent, therefore, there is some argument in favour of giving teaching greater priority than it has had. I notice that at least one vice-chancellor—Lord James—has come out with a point of view roughly like this.

But what the correspondence in The Times and what so many other people say is quite right. We cannot run a university on the basis that research and teaching are not carried on together, that they are separate, or that somehow research should be demoted as against teaching. This is undoubtedly true. It is really axiomatic and something we would all accept. But it does not help to state this in a general broad way as so many of the letter writers have done. They have simply said that we cannot really divorce teaching from research; a university is a place where the two things go on together.

But universities in our generation and in previous generations have not always necessarily been places in which every teacher is working at research. I accept that every university teacher ought to be familiar with the results of research in his own subject, but not all university teachers have done research and not all need to do research.

I take as an example the broad area of subjects which we call the humanities. When I was a young man and we talked in university about scientists doing research it was assumed by staff and students alike that the corresponding activity for a teacher in the humanities was not research in his subject; it was simply wide and deep reading. Some people use the word "research" in a wide way to cover that kind of thing. That does not help either. Research in its specific sense is not necessary for a teacher in the humane subjects. I do not suggest that good research is not being done in humane subjects. Some research in the humanities throws light on the fundamental parts of particular subjects. But it is not true that all teachers in the humane subjects in universities ought to be, or are, engaged in research in its proper sense.

A lot of the research now being done in the humane subjects—and this echoes what I think the hon. Member for Ton-bridge said—is a bit trivial. I cannot make a safe generalisation about this—I do not suppose that anyone can—but in recent years I have come across indications that people are spending their time doing research upon perhaps admirable subjects in many cases, but which often strike me as being the kind of thing which would make a pleasant, sensible hobby for the local parson or the local schoolmaster; not the kind of thing that we really want a publicly-fin??ed institution to be encouraging and persuading its teachers to engage in. This is perhaps a normal result of the fact that we have an enormous increase of the number of people teaching the humanities. If they are all expected to do research, I suppose that they must look around for subjects, and they do not always get the most important.

Not all teachers in professional courses do research. I will give one illustration, which I hope is not typical anywhere now. In my young days, the law faculty in the University of Edinburgh was staffed largely by what one would call briefless barristers or briefless advocates as we call them in Scotland—young chaps just waiting to get enough briefs to stop teaching in the law classes. None of them made any pretence to having done any research or to having the slightest interest in doing any. I do not know whether that faculty is so staffed in these days when most lawyers are as busy as can be. In any case, even if there was some attempt to use them, the law faculty in Edinburgh is in livelier hands today, and I cannot imagine that that would be encountered.

I quote these illustrations to suggest that it is not helpful for university spokesmen, or people who wish to be considered as speaking for universities, to talk broadly about the necessity of teaching being linked with research in universities. The public see an overlapping between universities and sixth forms. Students going to university often say, "We have done a lot of this stuff in the sixth form"—where the teachers were not engaged in research, and students are sometimes excused the whole of the first year because they have done the work in school, having been taught by people with no research commitments while they were teaching.

It would be helpful to the public in general, to students and to the universities, if the U.G.C. could set up an internal committee to examine and explain to the public what happens concerning research and the relationship between teaching and research—a committee parallel to the one it set up on methods of teaching. At any rate, I hope that it will not be taken on the basis of letter writers to The Times and so on that all university teaching must necessarily be done by people who are themselves engaged in research.

I will avoid going on to the next topic, which would have been student affairs, because I have come to the end of what seems a reasonable time.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. Esmond Wright (Glasgow, Pollok)

It is an honour to follow the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson), because he speaks with knowledge of university institutions in many countries.

This is an invitation to an open debate which poses specific problems for Members of Parliament, because the task of Government—I think it was Matthew Arnold who used the phrase—is always a marriage between law and influence. The universities can hardly be entirely controlled by legal precept. They have in large measure to be influenced. I think that one of our themes should be how we can best influence them.

I should like to address myself, if time permits, to one central fact and to four consequences following from it. The central fact is that we are in the first year of the new university quinquennium, but we are also at the end of a decade that has been, in a university as well as in a radical student sense, revolutionary in the history of British higher education.

At the start of the last quinquennium—1962—there were 120,000 students in British universities. At the end of that quinquennium—a year ago—there were 185,000. In other words, there was a 50 per cent. increase in the number of students. The hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs was right to emphasise that achievement.

In terms of the efficiency of the industry, there are not many faults to be found—but there are some, and I hope to identify them. It is striking that in the last decade there has been an expansion of about 4 per cent. per year in student numbers. What has not yet been asked is, what will happen at the end of the present quinquennium? I am aware of the sad disasters that occurred a year ago in higher education. There will be a greatly increased demand for places in the next quinquennium. Robbins has already been surpassed.

I want to remind the House of some relevant figures. At the beginning of 1968 there were 114,000 senior sixth-form students, comprising nearly 17 per cent. of their total age group. In 1977—this point is not a partisan one; whoever is in power in 1977 will have to deal with this problem—on present projections, which may well be modest, there will be nearly 180,000 senior sixth-form students—that is 23 per cent. of their total age group, and in 1980 there will be 210,000.

All past experience suggests that these figures are too modest. We must remember that the school-leaving age will presumably be raised. We must also remember the appeal of higher education, and the application of comprehensive education. We must take note of the fact that colleges of education show the same trend. They also have doubled their student numbers.

The central point is that by 1980 one in five of our students will be qualified for and expect to be given a university place. If we are to cope with that problem we must start taking action very soon. It took a long time before the new universities—these Balliols-by-the-Sea or Bedlams-by-the-Sea, according to taste—were flourishing and able to begin to move to the 3,000 maximum which Lord Fulton believes will be the optimum, in terms of efficiency, for colleges of that type.

If these projected figures are correct four problems arise. There is the question of the government of the universities; of the people in them; of the type of institution, and of policy. I shall apply to myself the same self-denying ordinance that my colleagues on the Committee on Education and Science imposed, and not follow some of the exciting topics that were raised by some speakers.

I want to make three points in respect of students. First, more attention should be paid to the effective place where students can genuinely participate, namely, in their own departments in universities. Far too much nonsense is talked about the contribution which they can make in faculty or senate. They can make very little, and they know they can make very little. They are attracted by the notion of being on council or court because of its prestige.

I should like to tell the House what happened in a university at which I was a professor—the University of Glasgow—where we added lecturers to the court. For obvious reasons we found it impossible to put them on some of the key committees—especially the salary committees of their own senior members. Students would be in the same situation. Nor would it help if they were given a silent presence—a presence without a vote. Their proper place is in the departments, and much is already being done in this respect.

At one point in the debate I became a little depressed. Much of what was said—no doubt it was genuinely motivated—was true of the situation about five or 10 years ago, but universities today are not as old-fashioned or Victorian as some speakers have suggested.

The second area where the students must be encouraged to take part is in the students' unions. I support what was said by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). He was absolutely right in what he said about their sense of responsibility. In the Scottish universities the unions are independent institutions, run by the students. I had the honour of serving on the union board as an invited member of senate and serving for some years. I found that the unions were run as efficiently as any senate or faculty or any other institution that one can think of—and they were handling large sums of money. There is a real and genuine rôle to be played by students here, from which they can derive a degree of satisfaction.

The third point about students for the Government to consider concerns a point raised by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland and also the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price), namely, the inefficiency of the court and council. It is true that if one is concerned with an institution that, in a decade, has grown to twice its former size, it sometimes seems rather amateur in character, but I suggest to the Minister that in her discussions with universities, it would help if she impressed upon the courts and councils the value of independent laymen. If only we were able to find more of these people to do the voluntary work. Without them at least two universities in Scotland—I shall not name the individuals concerned because it would embarrass them, but without them the university could not function as a business. We should pay tribute to what they do in court and council. My next subject concerns the problems of the people in universities. I shall not go into the question of the causes of student unrest. We all have our views about this. Are these people heroes in search of causes? Are they politicians taking a new guise and being anti-political? One of the most disturbing phenomena is their unwillingness to give an audience to opinions of any sort.

I want to give one example because it is typical of the way in which we are going. Last Friday I was asked to chair a teach-in in the University of Glasgow which happened to be going out as a radio programme. Three vice-chancellors were present. There was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, Sir Charles Wilson; the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, Sir Dermad Christopherson, who is also Chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, and Dr. Tom Cottrell, the new Principal of the University of Stirling. They sat on the platform and took a whole series of insults that pass description in this orderly Chamber. It staggered me, who thought he knew the Glasgow Union fairly well. In their number was a visiting gentleman, Wolfgang Nitsch, from the Max Planck Institute in Berlin, obviously a member of a radical student organisation.

Those three Vice-Chancellors kept arguing with their vehement and sometimes violent critics. I make this point because this is typical of the situation in universities. At all levels—staff, junior staff especially, and students—there must be seen to be a measure of participation and discussion. Perhaps not enough attention has been paid by governments of universities to what this means.

The University of Stirling has done much good with its notion of having regular convocations of its junior staff, at which all aspects of policy can be discussed—buildings, capital programme etc. There is a similarly happy story in Glasgow. But there is a need for students to have the story taken to them and it has to be put over through all the insults and vituperation and the four-letter words which are thrown about. I still believe that reason will prevail. Who ever knew truth put to the worse in free and open encounter —the words are Milton's but they should still be a clue to our own times.

I endorse what was said by the Minister; that, on the whole, too much emphasis is placed on the question of residence. That is of course a Scottish viewpoint—the Scottish universities are being praised lavishly—I hope that there will be no repercussions—and it emphasises the value of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. tradition. The 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in no way weakens the strength of the student community, the power of the S.R.C., or the quality of the Scots who graduate. Dissent and debate, yes, and all the time: violence, no. This is, for the university, the key area of decision, the problem of discipline—

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Does the hon. Gentleman mean by that that he is a pacifist?

Mr. Wright

I am not a pacifist, but that is an invitation to another debate with the hon. Member.

One category which has not been mentioned is that of junior staff, who have been talked about only in terms of the Prices and Incomes Board's Report. When I was a university teacher, if there was one special problem which I identified it was the isolation of my junior colleagues, which in the big teaching departments, is a special problem. Some of them are "new men" in the C.P. Snow sense, classless, déracine somewhat like their students; they should, for that reason, be better teachers. They may sometimes be bewildered by the tone of the older universities.

I disagree with the hon. Member for Perry Barr in his reference to too much departmentalism. One reason for junior staff unrest is that they do not quite know the boundaries of their own subjects. In particular, I would welcome a definition, but would not ask the hon. Lady to give it, of sociology in our time. There is a risk, if one does not know where one's boundaries are, that one becomes a lost soul academically.

Here the solution is endless debate, conciliation, staff meetings and the holding of assemblies. I would congratulate the vice-chancellors of the Scottish universities, who have always gone out of their way to talk to junior staff in the absence of senior staff, to tell them frankly about the building programme and the general capital expenditure, so that they feel fully members of the university community.

The Prices and Incomes Board's report was ineptly handled. I disagree with its findings, except that I thought that the emphasis on helping the junior staff was, financially, absolutely right. Also, I suppose that 2 per cent. is about right for professors, but since until recently I had a vested interest, I will not develop that. But I want to stress one point: the absence of a knowledge by A.U.T. or their university branches of whom they are really negotiating with. Who is the employer in a university? Of course, the very concept of "employer" is wrong. One is one's own employer; one is part of one's university, one employs others in due course, joins them and judges them. This is part of the process. We must think hard on this—I would welcome the hon. Lady's views—about the problem of negotiation, which is central for the junior staff.

Third, there are the problems of the institutions themselves. I should like to hear the hon. Lady's views on the four-term year. This is a tricky subject. Some important departments never take vacations. Some professors never let their staff off except for two weeks in the year, which the professors themselves choose, because they are working to long scientific research programmes. On the other hand, there are times when many buildings are left empty, when there could be a sharing of facilities. Much more could be done in sharing plant. A reference was made to the value of closed circuit television. Glasgow, again, has a good record here, because, when it set up its own closed circuit system, it did it for all the higher education institutions in the city, and at an expense of well over £100,000.

I should also like the hon. Lady's view on the whole broad spectrum of the universities, the polytechnics, and the colleges and central institutions. We have been on the edge of discussing the binary system. I do not believe, that, in the world into which we are moving, there should be any distinction between the polytechnics and the universities. If a major error was made in the last 10 or 12 years, it was in failing to make one or even two of these liberal arts colleges, these splendid architectural creations, the beginnings of an M.I.T.

We should have emphasised and given prestige to technological education. This is one of the fields where the Germans have the advantage. This is why there is a great boom in industry around the Stanford Campus and why the route around Boston is flourishing, because they want to be around M.I.T. and the Harvard Business School. We have here failed in the act of imagination. But I would want to talk about the spectrum of higher education and not the distinction, which is quite false in the world into which we are moving, between technical and university.

I have left until last the central problem, money. This is what a Government can genuinely do, preserve the autonomy of the institutions but help them as much as possible. A number of suggestions were made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), all of which I would endorse, but may I put one or two others as well? I should like an assurance that we will get away from the quinquennial grants, which for one thing have been ruined by inflation, and for another produce a sense of uncertainty at the end of three and a half years, when the planning has to begin. I should like to move into the system of a rolling quinquennium which Dr. Carter, the Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster, has been proposing for a long time. Universities should be assured of their interests, and of the future.

I wonder whether the hon. Lady has views on the distinction between capital and recurring grants. Is this a valid distinction any longer? It is beginning to be a very real problem for universities to plan ahead if their programme is so tightly curbed. May I suggest—although I know that the hon. Lady will say that it is a problem for another Ministry—that we might hear from the Government from time to time of tax concessions on American lines for industrialists who make gifts to universities or institutions of higher learning?

Let me cite figures from the two universities with which much of my life has been bound up. The University of Virginia, of which I am a graduate, is a middle-ranking State university, population 5,000. It receives 39 per cent of its funds from the State, 31 per cent. in student fees, and 14 per cent. in endowments. The other, the University of Glasgow, gets over 70 per cent. from the State, anything between 2 and 5 per cent. from the State in addition for research, 10 per cent., as distinct from 20, from student fees, and 4 per cent. from endowments. This is in no way to minimise the value of many of these endowments, from Nuffield, Wolfson, Carnegie and the like, but we are remiss as a nation in not investing in our university institutions.

May I suggest, again, that there is something to be said for consideration of doubling the fees which students pay? This is, I know, an old one which poses many problems for foreign students, for example, though I do not believe that we could not deal with that separately. If the student-fee component of a university budget were doubled, it would not affect the source of those funds, since they would come, directly or indirectly, from the State, but it would give the university some measure of genuine freedom of choice about which subjects to emphasise and which lines to go for.

I agree with the Secretary of State's reference to some of the educational developments. The Hayter Report, the Parry Report on Latin American Studies, are splendid. But I would dissent from the reference of my right hon. Friend the Member for Handsworth to any bending of the staff-student ratio. To take this point up with the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs, the staff-student ratio in this country is very good and is unmatched in the world, at 7.8 per cent. I believe that this is the real reason why there is a sense of freedom, a genuine sense of autonomy in British universities, and why it is possible to have genuine tutorials on a one-to-one and one-to-two basis, which is totally missing from France, Germany and, very often, the United States.

I endorse what has been said about the function of a university because it is impossible to distinguish between teaching and research. The best teachers must come to their teaching from a genuine handling of documents, tools and sets in laboratories or they are not adequate teachers. Unless they are making new discoveries they do not keep the enthusiasm which research needs.

We in this country, with all our staff-student problems—and in particular some of the threats of recent days—have a record of which to be proud. Nevertheless, from where will we get the mounting sum of money that will be needed, and which by 1980 could total £800 million, thus making this the major industry in these islands, which perhaps it should be?

8.21 p.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

I accept that part of the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) in which he urged hon. Members to "dissent and debate: but violence—no!" I promise not to become violent, although I have found many of the general comments of hon. Members a little discouraging in their implications to us in Scotland.

There is an assumption that we have reached in university provision the point of completion and consolidation. While there is no demand for any serious cutback or economies to be made in that sense, there is a general acceptance of the desirability of cutting back on the expansion rate. There is, of course, a strong immediate financial case for this; but, looking into the 'seventies and 'eighties I do not see how we can afford to cut down or retard this form of public expenditure and investment, which may in many ways be among the most important of all to our economic survival in decades to come.

While it may be said that we have sped ahead rather more quickly than was anticipated at the time of Robbins, when the additional acceleration was started, we must take a longer view than has been taken by some hon. Members in accepting a slowing down so soon of the expansion rate of the university programme.

I ask the Government, without apology, to open their mind again on this issue and to look forward a few years further in the Scottish context to the university requirements of the latter decades of this century. There is a strong economic case generally for what I am asking them to do, which is to reconsider the Scottish programme in the context of Scotland's economic and other needs; or—and this will appeal more to my right hon. Friend in more general terms than as a purely Scottish appeal—of United Kingdom development.

Since the University Grants Committee was out in strength in the field in Scotland in 1964, many new factors have made a tremendous impact on Scotland's development, with far-reaching results which, the Government will be claiming at election time, have been some of their major achievements; and rightly so. These new industrial and economic and technological factors have already had their effect in the universities, on industry and on the Scottish economy in general.

I wish to draw attention—in localising the matter a little—to the regional need, and the national advantage, of the provision of a full-scale university in the northern half of Scotland. After all, the Highlands represent one-fifth of the territory of Britain and one-half of the territory of Scotland. No mention has been made of the needs and advantages of this developing area in terms of university provision.

A university established in the Highlands—this is not a new concept—would, from the start, consciously have a vital participation as a new industrial base in the context of what is the first activated regional development area in Great Britain. That is one chief reason why I seek the establishment of the university which we have so often pleaded for in the Highlands and Islands.

Some areas have both industries and universities and they are doubly fortunate. Unfortunately, in this part of Scotland we have till recently had neither industries nor universities.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Hamilton)

Would the hon. Gentleman agree that such a university would be particularly suited to specialise in studies into land reclamation, fishing, soil erosion and matters of that kind?

Mr. MacMillan

I would, if driven by desperation, accept that argument—if we were obliged to continue to live for all time without any industrial expansion and on our purely indigenous industries. I therefore do not accept the underlying basis of the hon. Lady's question. I agree, however, that there is room for a great deal of progress to be made in providing for studies and research in the fields to which she referred.

We have always advocated the establishment of a university with full university status and the full comprehensive provision which only such a university can give. We have had neither industries nor universities in this part of Britain, although, as to one part of that problem the situation is now changing quite rapidly. We have the Highlands and Islands Development Board now operating in the field, and an Act of Parliament with the widest powers and terms of reference supporting it in its activities. Industries of major national importance are coming into the area. For example, we have the massive aluminium smelter coming into Ross and Cromarty and an even greater petro-chemical complex soon to come into the same area. This will represent some scores of millions of pounds of development. The expanding pulp mill in the Fort William area has created new development. These will all require and create supply servicing and using industries and ancillaries; and there will obviously be much fall-out benefit in the creation of smaller firms and further ancillary industries which will gather in turn around these developments.

There will be massive technological growth, which we look forward to encouraging and exploiting. We wish to see also the development of microbiology-based industries and other modern new developments. This must lead towards a great surge forward in technological and scientific research which, in modern terms, needs a fully equipped, major centre at which to operate, develop and grow.

In January, 1967, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Technology commended the increasing co-operation which was taking place between industry and the universities, aimed at promoting faster technological growth. He said this: We have it in mind that the universities should play a fuller part in the areas of the country in which they operate."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th January, 1967; Vol. 739. c. 1241.] How blessed those areas are, as I have said already, where there are industries and universities able to co-operate with each other and mutually to develop.

There is one great gap in the comprehensive development and regional planning of the Highlands and Islands. It is the absence of a university. It is not the first tine that I have pleaded this case. I have given evidence to the University Grants Committee, and written many times, about it; and spoken in the House and in its Committees at various times, about the need for such a university. It was, in my view, very near to acceptance. The toss-up latterly was between Stirling and Inverness. I do not think that there should have been such a tussle. We can agree with and accept the decision regarding Stirling: thank goodness for Stirling's good fortune. I thought, however, that the case for siting such a university at Inverness, in the Highlands, was overwhelming also. To this day we have never had disclosed to us the reasons which just tipped the scales against it. Such a university could aid, encourage and speed, and itself contribute to, the total economic and social and cultural life and growth of the Highlands and Islands. I always regarded it as just as much an industrial base as an institution of higher education and learning.

I hope that the Government will accept that a revolution has been started as a direct result of the deliberate and positive and progressive Government policies of the last few years. This is largely this Government's own achievement. They therefore have a responsibility to have another look at this area, to have another look at the especial need for a university-cum-industrial base in the Highlands and Islands. After all, this Government have designated permanently the Highlands and Islands as a development region. They have created the Highlands and Islands Development Board with the very wide powers to which I have already referred. They have furthered industrial development in the region through the regional policies now in active practice. They have given greater financial aid to the main indigenous industries—agriculture, forestry, fishing, textiles and other manufactures, and tourism. All these things are expanding and flourishing and will, I trust, prosper increasingly as time passes.

To ensure that the region benefits to the full from those Government created or assisted, and other, developments and that it benefits to the full from the technological growth and from the results of the further increasing fall-out from scientific and technological research, we must forge this missing link of the Highland university. It is not a question merely of asking for something for the Highlands. We would be filling a national gap in what is accepted as one of the important regional development areas. Without it we fall short of obtaining the best and the most from these excellent policies of the last few years.

This is not an appeal purely for the Highlands, apart and distinct from the rest of the country. It is certainly not an appeal for a university only for the Highlands and Islands, because that is not what it could be. Any university has a national, and indeed an international, importance and significance. A university in the Highlands would not expect, from the very nature and size of its population, to draw more than a relatively small part of its student population from the region itself. By very reason of that fact, the university would be offering places and opportunities to students from the rest of the country and to teachers and students from the rest of the country and from outside this country.

I have not mentioned the siting, except incidentally. Inverness was always pretty well agreed by everybody in the Highlands and Islands. When we gave our views before Sir John Wolfenden and the U.G.C. in 1964, we found practically every interest in the area, except the traditionally reactionary interests of some of the landlords in that territory, in favour of the establishment of a full-scale university in the area. If the Government were to change their mind and look forward several years—and not just to the economies of the next year or two—and if Inverness were once again regarded favourably as a site for the university, I should be delighted. I should be equally delighted if any other Highland area were to be selected; though I should be rather surprised.

The area of Inverness has everything to commend it as the site for a university. Apart from being at the heart of both the developing industry and agriculture of the Highlands and Islands region, it has in its favour practically every feature which a university might wish to command. It is set in an area of great natural beauty, as everyone who has been there knows. The town itself has 1,000 years of colourful history: though, at the same time, while proud of its history and proud of its setting, it is confidently planning its modern industrial expansion and future development. Physically, it commands without question ample space for the planning of a university on the most spacious lines. It would allow space for considerable functional experiment as well.

Those who share with me the advocacy of a university in the Highlands are eager to see the area grow and contribute. They are not asking for something to be brought into the Highlands just for the sake of bringing something in. We are talking in terms of development and of the increasing contribution which such an institution would serve to enhance, to the benefit of the rest of the country. It is not, therefore, simply a matter of asking for something and giving nothing back.

We would wish, as I have said, to see such a university in the Highland areas as an industrial base on which and from which to build the new Highland future, attracting and employing the capacity of people from areas outside the Highland region as well as the best brains of the Highlands and Islands themselves, which are at present one of our biggest exports, and have been for many years.

There is no doubt that Inverness could be a university centre the selection of which would never be regretted. It would be one of tremendous value because the establishment of a university would be a permanent commitment, not like a branch factory coming into Scotland—as has been our bitter experience over the years—which in bad times can pull out and leave nothing but a memorial to failure behind it. The value of a university as an industrial base there would lie partly in its permanence and partly in its great contribution to the development of the area and the assistance which it would give to industrial expansion.

There are no difficulties of communications and distance. Today, Glasgow and Inverness are only half an hour apart; Inverness and Orkney about the same, Inverness and Aberdeen about the same. Inverness and the Western Isles are roughly only half an hour apart. That is the true position now as regards communications from the centre. In the hinterland, there is the greatest attraction for all who are interested in applying themselves to research in almost every field of study. Much of the work which presently has been bringing the study teams in geology, geography, botany, zoology and biology from distant centres in Scotland and England could far more appropriately, systematically and economically be performed from Inverness university as a base. It is a region of tremendous interest for the ecologist, as Dr. Fraser Darling has proved over the years, and it is itself an area in the greatest need of ecological restoration, which could be a practical long-term application of the work of the ecologists and others. We have there great, natural reserves in the conservancy areas; and the Island areas, provide the ideal environment and opportunity for undisturbed observation of the flora and fauna in their natural state and habitat.

One of the tragedies—I press this upon the Minister, as an ex-schoolmaster—of the Highlands and Islands has been that education itself has been one of the greatest depopulators of all simply because of the lack of opportunity for its application in the homeland of the students themselves. A Highland university both as a university and as an industrial base, employing skills and specialisations, aiding and creating servicing and ancillary industries, and working with the new industrial complexes would retain and attract the intellectual best. At the moment there are almost no opportunities for professional jobs in the area except those which have been created by the new industrial projects. We believe that the greatest contribution to the total development of the economic, social and cultural life of the Highlands would be through the establishment of a university in this upper half of Scotland. The area has hitherto been completely rejected or neglected in that respect.

There would be no difficulty about offering a good social and recreational and leisure life for the teaching staff and their families. Certainly, there should be no difficulty for intelligent people, although they would have to be imaginative in creating their own intelligent use of leisure. The area is near to the best winter sports development in Britain—at Aviemore—and the city is easily reached by air from the main centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Those who have settled much further north, and in much more remote areas, as some might call then, at Dounreay, Thurso and Wick have been able to develop their own full social life and leisure with no difficulty. Many of them would not wish to leave the area, and I hope that they will not have to do so, although we cannot tell what will happen in the not-too-distant future.

I ask the Government not to think entirely in terms of financial restriction and consolidation of the university programme; and not to think in terms of cutting back already the rate of expansion of university provision. Cutting back in this field is never a good investment. In this above all we cannot afford to fall behind other nations, and to fall behind the requirements of the fiercely competitive world society in which we live. We have as a nation to win the battles in science and technology, or we shall go under. It is a matter of providing and investing in national survival, not a matter of asking for luxuries. While we are developing Highland industry, at last, in a big way, through Government aid and private enterprise, we have left this gap. This region will in time become a new and important national industrial power-house. I hope that the Government will think again more positively and creatively on this subject than they appear to be thinking at present.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Silvester (Walthamstow, West)

The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) has fully explained the importance of a university in the north of Scotland for the development of the economy of that area, and I wish, quickly, to comment on the importance of universities in the development of the general economy of the country.

It is interesting that, following the suggestion made for an independent university, the debate centred to some extent on the importance of private investment in universities, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright). It is a most attractive feature that about 2 per cent. of the current expenditure and about 7 per cent. of the capital expenditure in universities comes from private sources. It was interesting that to a large extent the debate was stimulated by a desire to demonstrate the independence of the universities and that to many people that means independence from the needs of the economy of the country.

During the five minutes available to me, I should like to put to the Minister some questions arising specifically out of the Swann and Dainton Reports. The Swann Report demonstrated clearly that by all estimates there will be a shortage of scientific and technological manpower in the next five years and that the possibilities of meeting the shortage through present arrangements in the universities are slender. The Dainton Report added another piece of information which is crucial to the understanding of the problem—the fact that the shortage can be traced right back into the schools, for only about 17 per cent. of children taking O levels were free, by the time they reached university, to change the direction of the course which they were undertaking. Most had predetermined their course.

Dainton put forward the proposition, and I do not see any mention of it at all in the proposal for the next quinquennial, that universities should consider a further range of courses, designed to attract into science, engineering and technology, able students who were not already committed to that field of study. I would urge upon the Minister—I know that in his opening speech he said that the University Grants Committee was currently considering both Reports—that it is of the utmost importance to consider the position. If no exceptional measures are taken by the universities, then we will be dealing with a situation which will clearly stretch on to about the 1980s.

Already, those who are to go into the universities in 1970–73 are determining their course of study this year by the subjects they will take at O level. As he knows, that is a mixture of many different courses, but at some stage, some person, if these calculations are right, has to inject into the system a means whereby we can switch some of these people from their present intended courses to other scientific studies. The universities will be the main instruments.

I should like to know whether the hon. Lady can tell us what the present thinking is in respect of these developments and give us the extent to which the universities are prepared to develop postgraduate courses which are shorter in nature and related to matching requirements of employment and other things described in Swann. Secondly, I should like to know the extent to which we are prepared to develop courses which will enable people who, when at school, did not think that it would be possible to take science and technological subjects to make that decision at a later stage in their career.

I was delighted to hear that the Minister is now making a study into highly qualified manpower, scientific and non-scientific. I do not want to give the impression that I am solely concerned with scientific and technological subjects, but we have to face the fact that this is an area which has been reported on, where the need has been diagnosed. It would be a criminal mistake if we let the debate go without urging upon the University Grants Committee the need to investigate this as part of its plans for the next quinquennial, as it seems to be omitted from its present plans. Otherwise, the whole thing will stretch on ad infinitum.

I would particularly draw the Minister's attention to the fact that the University Grants Committee specifically says that it has to work on the known facts, that because the demand from the schools is for places in the social sciences and the arts, that is where it intends to work in the next quinquennial. I can understand the basis on which Robbins worked as being a good reason for doing that, but it is no answer to the needs of industry in the decade 1970–80.

I promised to be five minutes, and I have just done it.

8.48 p.m.

Mr. John Lee (Reading)

This has been a wide-ranging debate, rightly so, but it seems that the one unifying theme has been that both sides have fought with each other in deploring student unrest, certainly violence. I, of course, subscribe to the view that violent behaviour is to be deplored, wherever it is found. But I would not like this debate to end without adding a qualifying note.

In common with a number of hon. Members, I attended one of the two older universities. When I think of the amount of non-political violence that used to occur years ago, not so distantly for Oxford and Cambridge, on 5th November and other occasions, and of the damage that was caused, on not all those occasions, but at least on some, compared with some events that have been the subject of so much condemnation today, I feel that it is only right to put this into perspective.

It is true that senior public figures were not publicly insulted in the way they may have been in some of these more recent events, but the violence was purposeless and mindless, and in no way related to any social or political programme.

One subject which has not been mentioned so far is an aspect of the university system which is radically in need of overhaul—the degree system. There are basically four levels of degree in all the systems. There is the Bachelor, the Master's degree, the Ph.D. and the very senior Litt.D. or Sc.D. degree. In the first instance, the designation is quaint and obsolete, but that is not the main trouble. The main trouble is that there is no standardisation among these universities as to what these degrees are supposed to mean.

There is no standardisation of the examination quality in many cases, even though there may be visiting examiners travelling from one university to another. With the Master's degree, there is complete chaos, I think that one can justifiably say that, about what it is supposed to represent. There are 12 universities which award a Master's degree on examination. For the rest it is, for the most part, a minor research degree, in some cases representing one year's research work, in others two years'. Presumably, in the latter case, it represents a far greater degree of work, and it should signify a greater advance in the academic course prescribed.

Then there is the Ph.D. I would like to say, "Down with the Ph.D." This was something which came to this country just after the First World War, when a number of German universities decided to manufacture what one might call "bogus doctorates". We followed suit, and it has become a world pursuit. There is a very good case for a period of research, fairly early in a man's career—although I have my reservations about it.

But a first research thesis is hardly something that should be dignified by a doctorate. Moreover, it has the disadvantage that, partly because of the wrong status it is accorded by many outside the academic world, not only must we now contend with schools which over-specialise to get their pupils into universities, but with the fact that many undergraduates tend to over-specialise with a view to the research they will do subsequently. Concentrating on it for three years, and sometimes more, they may well become rusty in the major scope of their work by the time they have finished their Ph.D. thesis.

I can give an example from my own experience. When I first went up to Cambridge, just after the Second World War, I deliberately shared rooms with an undergraduate who had been a technical college student, and whose interests and outlook were as different from mine as they could be. He had taken a degree in engineering and got a First by the age of 20, qualifying as a Whitworth Scholar for an engineering research thesis degree. He then spent five years, a length of time caused by the shortage of materials and apparatus, in carrying out research in a no doubt valuable, but very narrow, field. I cannot help feeling that by the time he had finished this work, which might have been quite accidentally chosen, having regard to his necessarily limited experience, he was not the better engineer for it but very much the reverse.

My other criticism of the degree system is that if it is meant to be the way in which the universities recognise and reward prowess and progress in study, there should be intermediate stages between the Ph.D. and the Litt.D. and Sc.D. The Ph.D. is taken by someone in his twenties, very often as a first piece of research, and is certainly not likely to be more than the second piece of research. The Litt.D. and Sc.D. are major doctorates awarded much later in life to people staying on in their academic career, and are often awarded for work of major international significance.

I should like to use the following analogy, which, while it may not be wholly fair, at least illustrates the anomalies of the system. It is almost as if we had a system of ranks in the Army with second-lieutenant, lieutenant and captain and then a leap to the rank of major-general. There is nothing in the degree system of university awards between a piece of minor research done by a young man, normally in his twenties, which may be, and often is, of very little benefit, although it may be adequate for the purposes of a degree award, and what may be awarded to a man at the height of his academic progress many years later in life.

It is argued that the recognition of this comes in the university appointments, and that the real ranking system is the system of lectureship, readership and professorship. Up to a point, this may be true, but if we are to continue the system of degree award it should clearly be revised and account should be taken of the kind of points I have made.

I do not know how much longer Oxford and Cambridge Universities will continue to award Master's degrees merely on payment of a fee. After I had been down for 12 years I decided that I had enough money and that I would like my M.A. degree at Cambridge. This did not represent any kind of academic prowess, and it seems to me to be most unfair on other people, who would have done research or, in the case of some of the newer universities, deeper examination degree work, that I should be ranked with them in the same degree. The anomalies are allowed for and recognised within the universities, but these things are not altogether understood in the outside world, and it is quite indefensible and most surprising that this has survived so long.

I very much echo the remarks of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), which were elaborated to some extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) about the dangers of over-specialisation. We know that the causes of discontent are many and varied, but I have been looking at the list of additional faculties created in the past 30 years.

I take Manchester University as an example. No fewer than 60 new self-supporting academic disciplines, no doubt within the compass of larger groupings, have been created there in that time. To some extent, this is the inevitable consequence of greater knowledge, especially in science, but one inevitable result of the addition of faculties is that it must narrow the field of study for most people. I do not subscribe to the C. P. Snow outlook on these matters. I think that it is the counsel of despair, and I am very glad that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) nods in agreement. I hope that my right hon. Friend holds the same view. I am delighted that at any rate, in that respect, we are in general agreement.

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans (Carmarthen)

I shall confine myself to one theme, and that is the effect of the policy of expansion which has been followed in recent years in the universities, about which many hon. Members have spoken today with a great deal of pleasure.

I wish to refer to its effect on the University of Wales, which is a federal university. It is also a national institution; it is a national university. It is true to say that the finest universities in Europe are national universities which are the guardians of values and traditions, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said. That is true of the University of Wales—at least it used to be true. In these national universities there are students from many other countries, as a rule, but never do they come in such numbers that they overwhelm the native student population in them. For instance, Oxford and Cambridge are still essentially English, although they include people from countries other than England.

In Wales, Aberystwyth was the first university college to be established, in 1872. Welsh people are very proud of the fact that it was established with the help of the contributions made by quarrymen, miners, small farmers and craftsmen. The shillings of the poor, we say in Wales, helped to establish and maintain the college in its early years.

Consider what has happened since, especially during the last decade. There has been a massive expansion in Aberystwyth and in the other constituent colleges of the University of Wales, except in the School of Medicine, with the result that Welsh students are in a minority in every university college in Wales, except the medical college in Cardiff. In 1967–68, only 44.1 per cent. of the Aberystwyth students came from Wales. In Swansea, the figure was 43.6 per cent. and in Cardiff 42.8 per cent. In Bangor, which used to be the most Welsh of the Welsh colleges, 24.5 per cent. of the students came from Wales and in the School of Medicine the figure was 71.2 per cent. Of the 11,207 students in these five colleges, 4,513, or 40.3 per cent., came from Wales, 6,168 came from England and 526 came from overseas countries.

We are often told that a university should be international. Of course, there should be an international element in a university. But that is not what has happened in the University of Wales. Our university has been converted into a provincial English red brick university. I do not think that many would agree that that is a good thing for Wales. Can one imagine an Oxford or Cambridge in which only 40 per cent. of the students came from England? There is a small college in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales, in Lampeter, where only 16 per cent. of the students come from Wales. This is now a constituent college of the Welsh University. It is an incongruous alien plantation, with no organic relationship with the life of the country.

Welsh students go to universities in England and elsewhere. I do not have the latest figures. The most recent figures I have relate to 1964–65, when there were, apparently, 2,604 Welsh students in universities outside Wales. The number has increased since. However, even if all Welsh students attended the Welsh University, it would still be far too big for Welsh needs.

It is a striking fact that over the 20 years between 1947–48 and 1967–68, whereas the increase in the number of Welsh students attending the Welsh University was only 480, or 12 per cent., the increase in the number of English students was 5,541, or 884 per cent. The process which I have described among the student population is to be seen also among the staff.

The University of Wales is among the strong bastions of 19th century psychology in Wales. I speak here to my own people rather than to the government. It was a feature of that psychology that Welsh people had no confidence in themselves and there was an unhealthy and uncritical adulation of everything English. It is still true that if it is at all possible to appoint an Englishman to a chair in Wales or to the principalship of a college, this is done.

Leaving out the chairs in Welsh language, literature and history, for example, there are 119 chairs in the university, only 30 of which are held by professors who have degrees of the Welsh university. Only once in the history of the university has a person been appointed principal of a university college whose only degrees were Welsh university degrees, and this in a country whose tradition is so strongly intellectual.

Little wonder that the University of Wales has done so little to gear itself to serve Wales. Little wonder that in its history studies, the history of the Welsh nation is treated as a kind of addendum to which only a few students of history pay attention, instead of being the basis of historical studies. Little wonder that the national language of Wales is so little used as a teaching medium.

Some weeks ago I had the pleasure of listening in the precincts of this House to the principal of the University of Jerusalem, who was addressing a meeting of hon. Members. He described to us how every subject at his University of Jerusalem was taught through the medium of Hebrew, a language which was not a living, spoken tongue even in New Testament times.

How different is our situation in Wales. Some of the people who were brought in to teach in our universities raise an outcry even against the teaching of small children through the medium of Welsh, let alone teaching university students through that medium.

I suggest that one of the constituent colleges in the university should be a Welsh medium college. This is becoming more and more necessary as the products of the very successful Welsh medium secondary schools are reaching college and university level. It has been suggested that the original premises of our first university college, at Aberystwyth, would be an appropriate place to house this college and that under the same principal; the principal of the university college could be the principal of the Welsh medium college as well. This would be a splendid way of celebrating in 1972 the centenary of the establishment of that college.

The University of Wales has to be rescued from the crushing provincialism which has overwhelmed it. As it becomes once again a national Welsh university, a true guardian of our values and traditions, as it should be, so will it attract the able Welsh student who sees no advantage today in going there rather than going to some English university. Those students would be the most likely students to take pride in their university—it would be their university—and the most likely to maintain high standards and values in it.

It is by restoring to the University of Wales its national self-respect and a sense of its so important function in the Welsh national life that standards, academic standards even, are most likely to be raised.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

I hope that it will count to the modest credit of the hon. Lady and myself that we both felt, in view of the large number of hon. Members who wished to take part in the debate, that it would be proper for us to clip some time off our speeches, and I am delighted that the result has been that we have been able to hear a voice from the Principality, although a not entirely uncontroversial voice. This means that I shall not be able to do as much justice to the speeches of hon. Members on both sides as I would wish in courtesy to do, for which I hope I may be excused.

I start with the Report of the National Board for Prices and Incomes. If this debate were justified for no other reason, and it has been justified as both sides will agree for many reasons, it has been helpful to have the Secretary of State's clear statement that he is willing to discuss and to consider alternative negotiating machinery, and on this occasion one cannot ask him to go further than that.

Inevitably much of our discussion has centred on current student problems. I have a modest and harmless quirk in that I read all the parish magazines in my constituency. One of my vicars set out recently some New Year resolutions for other people which, as he said, is so much easier than to make New Year resolutions for oneself. His New Year resolution for the students was as follows: Remember, as the vast majority of you do, that you are there at a university to study, but if you must sit in then give yourselves a good P.R.O. Both parts of that modest advice are true. The vast majority of students are applying themselves to their courses of study. We have been reminded by evidence recently given publicly to the House that there has been negligible dislocation of teaching in universities, taking them in the round, and that the vast majority of young people are applying themselves fully to the job in hand.

But there is a small minority who are disrupting the activities of the large majority, and I want to draw attention to some new and nasty tendencies of debates at universities in recent months. The first is the tendency to suppress by violent action any view with which one disagrees. This was commented upon by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright), and the House will remember the vivid account which he gave of his recent experiences at Glasgow University. When one thinks of the views so frequently put forward in the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), it is an absolute disgrace to the University of Essex and to those who took part in the demonstration that on Monday of this week he should have had to abandon his meeting on the subject of race relations.

I cannot accept the theory of the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee) that if a view put forward may in a person's judgement get close to breaking the law, that person is entitled to use violence to stop that view being put forward. It would, for example, be possible to have a rational discussion as to whether or not the consumption of cannabis should be made less of a criminal offence than it is now. To advocate the consumption of cannabis would be clearly illegal, but I hope that nobody would suggest that such a discussion should be cut short by violence. I cannot accept that there are any circumstances in which violent action is justified.

Mr. John Lee rose

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will the hon. Gentleman forgive me if I do not give way. He was not in the Chamber at the beginning of the debate and the hon. Lady and myself agreed to be very short, so as to enable as many hon. Members as possible, including himself, to take part in the debate.

The third aspect to which I want to draw attention is the alarming tendency for some junior members of staff to associate themselves openly with the active demonstration and suppression of speech. I have taken the trouble to check my facts accurately, and I am assured by students of differing viewpoints at the London School of Economics that the most inflammatory speech at the crucial meeting of that union was made by a junior lecturer in psychology. I have sought advice about it, and I understand that there are possible criminal charges pending generally. In view of that, it would not be right to identify the junior lecturer, whose name I know, but I wish to send the name to the hon. Lady, because the public is not prepared to tolerate activity of this kind by junior members of the staff. Surely the Rubicon is crossed when such people physically attack the institution of which they themselves are members. This has nothing to do with their personal views or their activities outside. Certainly it has nothing to do with their individual freedom of speech as members of society.

It would be equally fair to record, as hon. Members have already, that, in a helpful statement this week, the National Union of Students has called upon the vast majority of reasonable students to exert themselves more effectively in this situation. That is all very well; but we are entitled to reply from this House that the constitutions of many of these unions are totally archaic, and that of the London School of Economics is a case in point.

If we are to accept students in meaningful dialogue as I think the vast majority of hon. Members do, they must themselves have institutions which make sense. When a constitution is such that meetings can be called at frequent intervals and at short notice, the vast majority of students with work to do are not prepared to spend afternoon after afternoon and evening after evening often in meaningless dialogue. We are entitled to ask that that will apply their way as well as ours.

Although the view was not expressed in the House today, it is inevitable that some outside this House will want, in the circumstances, to use the grant structure as a disciplinary weapon. That has not been said inside the House, but we are all conscious that it has been said outside. Various views and nuances have been expressed about the whole grant structure, both for undergraduate and postgraduate studies. But I hope that we are agreed that, whatever reason we might choose for making an alteration in the grants structure, the one which is not tenable is to use it as a disciplinary weapon. There may be grounds in one form or another for a change, but this is not the right reason for making it.

We were helped by what the Secretary of State was good enough to say on the general subject of student difficulties, grants and the like, but he will remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby), in a penetrating speech, made the point and caught the tone of the House that the Secretary of State had appeared to suggest that he would welcome the initiative being taken by local education authorities in terms of grants in cases of disciplinary trouble. I think that it was the feeling of the House that that went a little further than was reasonable, and we should be grateful for some clarification of the point from the hon. Lady.

A number of hon. Members, notably my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), pointed out that there is some anxiety in university circles about the interest that this House is expressing in their work. I will give one example where it seems proper for us to express an interest. This was touched upon by my right hon. Friend in opening. Some hon. Members will know that we have recently been enabled, for the first time, by the use of this fascinating collection of statistics, "Inquiry into Student Progress, 1968", to know in some considerable detail how different universities are faring. It must clearly be said that the overall picture is very satisfactory indeed. The overall rate of students leaving without obtaining a degree is 13.3 per cent. for all reasons, of which 10.9 per cent. leave for academic reasons. Taken overall, for every reason. I think that we have cause for satisfaction if we compare those figures with other parts of the world. The point is that these figures, available to us for the first time, show a wide divergence between universities when it comes to failure for academic reasons.

I will illustrate what I mean. I take an example at random. The overall academic failure rate at Oxford University at 3.1 per cent. or at Sussex at 2.8 per cent. is matched by Bath at 28 per cent., Brunei at 26.1 per cent. and Salford at 29.9 per cent. But we must look further than that, because the partial explanation, as the House will instantly realise, is that the last three universities I mentioned are all former colleges of advanced technology and, by definition, largely deal with technological subjects.

This is shown very clearly if we equate the figures another way. The overall failure in the Arts at all universities is 6.3 per cent., in physical sciences 12.8 per cent., and in engineering 20.1 per cent. But the really interesting point is that within any given subject the former colleges of advanced technology stand out.

I will not weary the House with long columns of figures. I will give two examples. In the physical sciences, other than mathematics, the academic failure rate at Cambridge is 1.6 per cent., Leeds 8.5 per cent., Brunei 20.8 per cent. and Surrey 27.7 per cent. In engineering, the rate at Cambridge is 4.5 per cent., Leeds 11.6 per cent., and Surrey 39.5 per cent. In short, at the University of Surrey very nearly 40 per cent. of undergraduates who start a course in engineering do not obtain a degree.

I think that we are entitled to say that, prima facie, these figures give cause for anxiety. It must be right, on the other hand, to keep a balance. It would be unreasonable for me, particularly in the compass of a short speech, to castigate unfairly. For example, the view of the staff at these places is that new staff tend to mark very heavily, that they may well be over-jealous of their standards, that some of them have got courses, or had courses—there are changes now—only to honours standard, and that some are students on integrated courses.

Furthermore, the figures—and I wish to be fair—are taken from a time when they started as colleges of advanced technology and ended up as universities. There is not much fundamental difference, and it certainly does not fully explain the differences. Therefore, I suggest that there are certain courses or areas for study.

Are we, perhaps, allowing these failure rates in different courses to become a matter of convention? Has it become a matter of convention, for example, that at Cambridge they are low, but at the Imperial College, which is a long-established college, they are high?

Are we satisfied with our admission procedures? It would not be fair to name the particular former college of advanced technology, but I have made sure that my facts are accurate. I understand that in this particular university, which I will name privately to the hon. Lady if she wishes, 30 intending candidates to the department of mathematics are first given a recorded television address by the professor of mathematics and are then selected solely on paper qualifications, never being seen individually. It must therefore be for question: are we satisfied, overall, with our admission procedures?

Thirdly, are we satisfied with the courses, lecture programmes and, especially, the effect of sandwich courses? What research is going on into the question whether or not a sandwich course has an important bearing on these subjects? Are we providing too many places? It has recently been represented to me very strongly by members of a Midlands college of technology, not of advanced technology—that we are providing too many places. The staff there would be quite prepared to face the realities of what they have said, although I am not sure that I am prepared to accept that at the moment.

Finally, are we satisfied with what happens to those who fall out from a course? Have we got an academic net which looks after those people and have we, particularly, the organisational arrangements, extending over the universities and other sectors of higher education, at least to catch those who fall out, especially after the first year—which accounts for over 50 per cent.—so that the substantial investment represented by them is not wholly wasted?

This is the sort of question in respect of which the House is entitled to express a view. We are dealing with substanital expenditure, and we are expressing our view in a quite friendly way, but we are entitled to tell the universities that we have noticed this and that we should like further information and to make further inquiries.

Many hon. Members—including my hon. Friend the Member for East Grin stead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith), the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) and especially the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Haseldine) in an impressive speech—have touched upon the question of accommodation. Some interesting experiments are going on in different parts of the country in the provision of different types of accommodation, assuming that we accept that the greater number of students will be studying away from their homes.

Hon. Members will know that in Kent they are building residential and teaching accommodation combined; they will know of the work at Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds on the conversion of old houses into flats; they will know of the purpose-built flats of Leeds, Manchester and Essex, and of the provision at Essex of tower blocks for non-resident students, and of the student village campus in the university precinct at Manchester. I take these examples simply to show that it is not fair for the outside world to suggest that universities as a whole are not examining with considerable imagination various ways of providing accommodation for their students.

I recognise that the sheer pressures of economics are bound to make us all look again more closely at the question of sending students to the universities which are nearest their homes. There are many reasons, but one of the main ones is that the maintenance cost of traditional halls of residence can be a high recurring charge. Like so many questions that we have to decide it is not a black and white argument; there are points on both sides.

If we assume that it would be easy to send the majority of students to the universities nearest their homes we must remember those for whom there would be no appropriate available course. It is no good sending a medical student to a university where there are no "medics", and if a person is studying medieval French—if that is the lethal subject of his choice—he must be sent to a university which teaches medieval French. I mention that only because it was from that department that the most lethal revolutionaries came in Essex University—and there must be something in that.

It should also be said clearly that, whereas in certain great universities like London and Leeds there is a vast catchment area, which makes the problem comparatively easy, for the University of Cambridge, represented so ably by my hon. Friend, or Hull, with its special geographical problems, the catchment area problem is quite different. Also, we now live in an era when families frequently move and a student might start at the university closest to him but would then qualify to go into residence because his family moved. There are no regulations permitting him to transfer from course to course.

I therefore support very warmly the plea of the hon. Member for Bradford, West. He drew attention—we might remember this when we are so critical of the student world—to the very exciting work being done in that world with expert help by a particular body interested in student co-operative housing. I well understand that this is not the hon. Lady's Departmental responsibility, and it would not be fair or reasonable to ask for a firm commitment tonight, but there is a specific simple technical problem which I am certain that she, with her energy, could make sure was put right by an addition to or a Clause in the Housing Bill which has only just been published, to make it clear that local authorities would have the power—I would say no more than the power—to make loans available for this purpose, a legal difficulty which, at the moment, is not clear.

I cannot see why the Government should not be prepared to take this legislative opportunity—we all know how short a time we have in the House under any Government dealing with this matter—to make the power available. I do not necessarily ask that this Government should use the power and I hope that she can make it clear to her right hon. Friends in the appropriate Ministry that we are talking not about student hostels in the accepted sense, but dwellings built to Parker Morris standards into which students will move in rotation, so releasing housing badly needed by other people. When the costs are as one of her hon. Friends so impressively described them, I cannot believe that this is the right way to move forward in this field.

We have had a useful and valuable debate. I am sure that we all agree that this discussion made available in Opposition time has been of the greatest value to the House and the outside world. I have no doubt that some outside in the academic world will see in this debate one further link in the chain of Governmental and Parliamentary interference with the universities. This point was effectively taken up by several hon. Members. These people feel that they have seen the bringing of the U.G.C. within the aegis of the Department, rather than the Treasury, the Public Accounts Committee—though it has been fairly said that it does not exercise detailed control, certainly not of what they teach—and now the Select Committee, of which I am privileged to be a member, under the distinguished chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North, which has been held by some outside to be the last straw.

But these people, if I may say so in a friendly way, misunderstand two things. First, we are dealing with very large sums of public money and it is entirely the duty of the House to concern intself, not with the detailed spending of that money, but with its overall supervision. Frankly, that duty we on both sides intend to discharge. Second—this should be said clearly—this debate has shown that the vast majority of hon. Members understand the difficulties facing the universities and their only object, whether they serve on the Select Committee, study these matters in party committees or take part in these debates, is, in a helpful way, to contribute to the solution of these problems.

My hon. Friends and I have no wish whatever to interfere in the detailed administration and academic freedom of those in this most important world. Our closing words on the subject are that we wish, at a difficult time, all those engaged in the university sphere—administrators, staff and students—well in the important work which they do on the nation's behalf.

9.35 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mrs. Shirley Williams)

It would be appropriate to begin by offering thanks to the Opposition for having made time available to this exteremely useful debate. I hope that there will be other opportunities for the House to give its views on the shape that higher education should take in the coming decade, since many crucial decisions will have to be made during the next two or three years.

I will, at the outset, follow some of the thoughts of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) which were borne out in some of the views expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright) and some of my hon. Friends. We are bound to see a further really massive expansion of demand for higher education in the next decade, in the 'seventies. The hon. Member for Pollok referred to the increase in the number of young men and women who will qualify for university entrance by achieving two or more A levels. I hope that he will forgive me if I correct him on one point. It is that although by 1981 nearly one in five boys will so qualify, I cannot say that of one in five people, because for girls the proportion will be about 12½ per cent. in that year.

This means that by 1981 the 400,000 students whom we have in higher education today, just over half of them in universities, will require, even if we envisage only the same proportion of the age group going to higher education, no less than 650,000 places, of which over half will be in universities. This is to leave out the dynamic element in education, because one of the striking facts is that the secondary schools, criticised though they often are, are producing generations of school children whose academic demands consistently outstrip the increase in the general population.

If we add the tendency to stay on, the increased size of the age group, the raising of the school-leaving age, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) pointed, and the as yet quite unquantified and unknown effects of comprehensive reorganisation in terms of larger fifth and sixth form opportunities, it is clear that we are looking at a situation of expansion virtually as great as that through which we have just gone, but in numerical terms very much larger.

The financing of this will, indeed, be one of the serious preoccupations of the House. Today, nearly a quarter of the total educational budget is spent on higher education—rather more than 1 per cent. of the gross national product. The rate of growth during the last five years and earlier has, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, been a jump from £143 million in 1964–65 to £243 million in the current year. This rate of growth, projected forward, would mean a higher rate of growth than any feasible or possible rate of growth in the G.N.P. In other words, it implies a larger share for higher education as well as a larger share for education within any given total G.N.P.

This brings me to the point which the right hon. Member for Handsworth rightly raised, which was borne out in a valuable speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Hasel-dine) and the remarks of the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee)—the crucial question whether any reduction in unit costs are to be found in higher education.

First, the question of residence. My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Wokingham made many points with which my right hon. Friend and I would fully agree. I add for the information of the House one other point. As will be seen when the annual Report of the University Grants Committee for 1967–68 is published shortly, five schemes are already under way and several others are in preparation for self-financed student accommodation which will cover the running costs and the interest on loans, with the help of a direct subsidy from the U.G.C. towards the cost of furniture, and in some cases the cost of site preparation as well.

It is emerging already that the first of these schemes is showing a cost per place of about £800—that is, one-third less than the normal allowance made by the University Grants Committee for a resident place. If we can make these experiments in self-financed accommodation a success—this does not raise the legal difficulty which the hon. Gentleman rightly pointed to—it looks as if we will be able to finance a rather larger proportion of residential accommodation at a considerably lower cost than we have done in recent years. Incidentally, as some hon. Gentlemen know, the actual proportion of residents has risen during the last six years from 28 per cent. of the student population in 1961–62 to 35 per cent. in 1967–68.

Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen must not leap too quickly to the conclusion that this will solve all our difficulties, whether it is done by cheaper residential self-financed accommodation or whether it is done by deciding that students must attend university near their home. I recognise that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynfor Evans) might find that this created a more Welsh Welsh university. The contribution that Wales has made to education throughout the United Kingdom is one that those of us who live in Scotland, England or Northern Ireland would very much regret to see confined within the Principality on its own.

There is just one purely technical point that I want to make to the House about student residence. It is a rather striking one. The actual cost of travel grants which at present are payable to students is equivalent to the cost of residence for students who live within approximately—it is very difficult to be very precise on this—10 or 15 miles of the university. As a great many students live within 10 or 15 miles of the university, especially those now living at lodgings, not least at seaside lodgings close to some of the new universities, it is not quite as obvious that the savings would be as great by placing students in universities near their homes as people might be led to believe at first glance. This is no reason for our not investigating the matter more closely.

Secondly, there is the question of the sharing of buildings and other facilities of universities. We in the Department are very anxious to pursue the possibility of the sharing of facilities, both by universities among themselves and by universities with other institutions of higher education. It is perhaps an interesting comment on some of the difficulties of communication to which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) pointed that it was as early as 1966 that the U.G.C. first told the Students' Union in Bristol that in principle it was prepared to accept the sharing of student facilities in that town.

Why is it that, although the U.G.C. was prepared to accept this principle of sharing three years ago, a principle which I repeat we would like to see carried forward into the sharing of library accommodation, particularly research libraries, and many other facilities, three years later there should be a sit-in at the University of Bristol on this very issue? The answer is that, unfortunately, many of these problems cannot be solved purely locally.

The hon. Member for Wokingham, because of his long association with the National Union of Students, will recognise the difficulties that arise from the large discrepancies in students union fees between the university sector and the local authority sector. Therefore, to achieve a very useful economy and one which many students wish to see we need to get straight the kinds of contributions that students should make nationally where facilities are to be shared.

The right hon. Gentleman and many other hon. Members spoke of the possibility of a lower staff-student ratio. In fact, the staff-student ratio has improved, if only marginally, compared with ten years ago, from one teacher to every 7.9 university students to one for every 7.8. In the face of an expansion of the kind which we have witnessed, it is remarkable that there has been not a deterioration but an improvement.

I hope—and I think that I carry many hon. Members with me in this—that university teachers, benefiting as they do from this generous staff-student ratio, will recognise the special responsibilities that it means for them in terms of administration and participation with students, and will also give greater attention than, perhaps, has always been given to the actual preparation and even the study of training for the business of teaching itself. There is here, perhaps, a gap in some university provision, and I am pleased to see that a number of universities are now embarking, with the support of the A.U.T., on preparatory courses for young members of junior staff.

Now, the question of more sandwich courses raised by the hon. Member for Pollok. This, again, is well worth pursuing, but I hope that I shall be forgiven for saying, in passing, that we must bear in mind the particular problems which it raises for women students because of the difficulty of introducing a sandwich element into their courses. We still have 4.7 per cent. of women and 10.6 per cent. of men receiving a university education.

On the question of loans or grants, I am sure that I carry my side of the House and many hon. Members opposite with me in saying that the grant system, especially for first degree students, is one which we should be extremely reluctant to see disappear. Not only is it associated with a low rate of wastage. It is associated with an intensive, short first degree course—only three years in this country as compared with four or five in many Continental countries—it is associated with a massively greater proportion of boys and girls from homes of manual workers than in almost any comparable country in Western Europe, and it is also—this is crucial—associated with a lifting of the burden of having constantly to attempt to work one's way through college which is so much a factor in universities in the United States.

However, having said that, I should add that the grant system depends, and can at this time of financial stringency only depend, upon a recognition of the part which parents play. I stress the real hardship which many students today are suffering—this is a genuine grievance—when their parents refuse, for one reason or another, to take their share in the student award system. We wish that we could do without it. We cannot at present. It would cost £30 million. We must bring home to parents the importance, where they can afford it—I stress that—of bearing their share of the cost of university finance.

Mr. Gilbert Longden (Hertfordshire, South-West)

What will happen when the age of majority is reduced to 18? Will the parental contribution disappear?

Mrs. Williams

The straight answer to the hon. Gentleman is, "No". At present, the period of parental contribution goes on until the age of 25, and there is already a four-year anomaly. I agree that it would make the anomaly in some ways more serious.

I have one or two other comments on the question of reduced cost per place, since this is really critical if we are to be able to embark upon the expansion of higher education, not least university education, which we want to see. I refer, first, to the point about reduced wastage ably outlined by the hon. Member for Wokingham. I add to what he said only that the period of the survey was one in which the C.A.T.s had students who had entered before the C.A.T.s had become universities. The entry requirements were not equivalent to those now required in the C.A.T.s for all places, and, in addition, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, the proportion within the fields of science and technology was particularly high.

I must in fairness say that the requirements for entry into science and technology are not, in practice, as high as they are for the arts and social sciences. I do not think that we can entirely judge this until the C.A.T.s have been allowed to grow a little older, but the universities and the local authorities are thinking very carefully about the possibility of transfers within the higher education system which might save some of the present wastage.

May I turn to some brief remarks on other subjects? First, I bear out what has been said: the universities have moved with the times to a greater extent than that for which they are given credit. There are not only the units of the Ministry of Technology, but a much greater amount of work is being done in conjunction with industry in research and development, which is shown by the fact that the amount spent on research in universities, not as the result of the universities but through the choice of outside bodies, has doubled over the last five years. That is a remarkable tribute.

In addition, the universities have swept past their target by 8,000 students, within the same financial provision made for them for a much smaller number of students. They are beginning to make a very serious approach to the problem of the use of buildings, plant and teacher-time. I refer to the Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the research project into the use of buildings, and, in answer to a question put to me, into six-term as well as four-term use. Universities are endeavouring to meet the needs of the times. Many of us feel that in respect of those students who are not typical, traditional, 18 to 22 first-degree students, they could do still more in the use of their plant and equipment, and perhaps not least in thought about the possibility of a summer term of the kind run in many American universities.

This brings me to the binary system, which one or two hon. Members have discussed. The right hon. Gentleman asked me some direct questions about it. I cannot give him precise answers, but, broadly, the position is that it is not less expensive at present to educate a student in a polytechnic than in a university, if one leaves out the element of research. Up to now there has been an almost automatic assumption that the amount of research will increase pari passu with increases in university student numbers. It may be that that principle will need to be looked at more closely—the principle that increased research directly followed any increase in the student numbers.

But the real economies are to be made not by major switchings of the students from universities to the advanced further education sector, but rather by looking at individual departments in terms of a viable size. Some of the departments in universities may be of an uneconomic size. Some may be of an uneconomic size in polytechnics. We need a more sophisticated look at this problem to see how economies can be made without affecting standards across the whole sector.

I would make one other remark about the binary system, arising from a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North. I make the remark a little truculently, although perhaps it is hardly fair to do so six minutes before the end of my speech. If he is in his place, I know that he will forgive me. There is no comprehensive tertiary system without a break somewhere. The question is whether the break comes between a large number of older students in further education, studying for H.N.C. or H.N.D. in the colleges of further education, or whether it comes between the university and the rest of the advanced further education system.

Our feeling is very strongly that, to see the polytechnics at present—I stress "at present", because things change—take the path which was taken several years ago by the Colleges of Advanced Technology, losing their part-time advanced students, paying their most intensive attention to the first-degree 18–21–22 year-olds, would be once again to cut off opportunities for a very substantial and a very talented part of our population, one which we feel very deeply is given full attention by the present attempt at the link between further education and higher education through the polytechnics.

In passing, I would make one remark about a subject hardly raised in the debate, because before long it will be a crucial subject. This is the whole question whether we are still, as a country, producing too many specialists from our first degree work in universities, following from too specialised a system of A levels in the secondary schools, and whether we should not at this stage pay considerable tribute to the universities for having, through the Standing Conference on University Entrants, recognised that to a great extent the universities shape the schools, both those who go on and those who do not, and that they have a responsibility which I am glad to see they are now bearing well, towards schools to become both broader and more humane in their approach to the later stages of secondary education.

I turn to the subject of student discontent and participation. First, let me say that I very much wish to bear out the remarks already made in all parts of the House about the much greater opportunities for student participation at present, the importance of this, and the very great work done by a number of vice-chancellors and other academic staff, as well as by the National Union of Students in bringing about this greater participation.

We would be less than honest if we did not recognise three difficulties. One has been mentioned. It is out-of-date constitutions, of which it must be said the London School of Economics is an example. Secondly, there is the problem of the time-scale of the student, as against the time-scale of the academic. The student who participates wants results quickly. The decision-making machinery of most of our universities, although very broad, in the sense that participation is possible, is also often extremely slow—like the mills of God, it grinds exceeding slow, but grinds exceeding fine. Very often the student of one generation has passed through the university before he gets any response to the appeal that he began by making.

So the universities have to work at the speed at which this decision-making machinery works. Let us say bluntly that participation will not make it work quicker; if anything it will make it work yet more slowly.

The third point is that made very fairly again by a number of hon. Gentlemen, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. John Lee), my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Christopher Price) and by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Wright). This is the extreme need for universities, not only to accept the participation of students, but the crucial need for the recognition of full participation of junior and middle-grade staff. We simply cannot say that students should have the degree of participation not extended to the younger, senior members of the university. Here again, we have to make sure that they are fully represented at every level of the university.

In conclusion, I want to say a word about the question of the student militants. We have to recognise that the student militants very often regard themselves as being engaged in a mission against the hypocrisy of society. We regard them as, and they are, ruthless. They regard us often as being hypocritical. What we have to try to get across, and Members of Parliament are as much engaged in this as anyone, is the willingness to discuss, to debate, to face up to what they have to say and to do that with courage.

We also have to make sure that we constantly make plain the distinction between violence on the line which has just been crossed by some of the minority at the London School of Economics, and the basic right to express one's views by demonstration, statement and argument. My right hon. Friend, and I have been asked to clarify this, made it very clear that local authorities should not act, except in consultation with academic authority, in a case of misconduct or in any case of student discipline.

If that is adhered to, if the academic and local authorities work together, and if we maintain the devision between violence and the free expression of thought, it is possible that the great mass of students, as of university staffs, will see that this House has made the division in the way that this House should always make it—between tolerance, and freedom on the one side and anarchy and destruction on the other.

Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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