HC Deb 30 January 1969 vol 776 cc1511-3
27. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when a charter will be granted to the Open University.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Miss Jennie Lee)

It is hoped that the draft charter will be submitted by the spring to Her Majesty in Council for approval.

Mr. Price

When this charter is granted will the Minister of State persuade her right hon. Friend to issue a circular to local authorities asking them to cooperate with this university, particularly in the provision of local viewing centres, which they could do at very little extra marginal cost, in the premises which they already have in libraries and colleges and schools?

Miss Lee

We have been very much encouraged by the good will and cooperation which we are receiving from local authorities and others who really understand the nature of this project. I assure my hon. Friend that other opportunities will be taken to give further publicity to this matter.

Sir Knox Cunningham

Why is the money for this university not coming through the University Grants Committee?

Miss Lee

Because this is an experimental university which will maintain the highest level of academic standard and which, at the same time, is using new media. We believe that it is proper that it should be initiated in this fashion.

Sir E. Boyle

Would the right hon. Lady answer two questions? First, if there is to be a circular, would she undertake that considerably more precise details of the costing be included in it than we have had hitherto; and, secondly, is she aware that, with the best will in the world, local authorities are extremely perplexed due to the severe limitations on their money and the fact that they must provide for many other essential services?

Miss Lee

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that in some quarters the cost of this project has been grossly exaggerated. For the sake of accuracy, I will repeat some relevant figures. The 1968–69 estimate is £0.4 million. For 1969–70 it is £1½ million to £2 million, and for the working year 1970–71 it is £3.5 million to £4 million. Every opportunity is being taken by the present planning committee, the vice-chancellor and all others who are working on this scheme to see that the most accurate and up-to-date information, financial and otherwise, is given to all concerned, including the local authorities.