HC Deb 13 November 1969 vol 791 cc596-8
16. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations he has had about the development of higher education in the 1970s; and whether he will make a statement.

42. Mr. Hornby

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations he is having about the organisation of higher education in the 1970s.

Mr. Fowler

My predecessor recently discussed with the University Grants Committee and the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals the development and organisation of higher education in the 1970s. I have it in mind to hold similar informal discussions with other interested parties in the coming months.

Mr. Lane

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his translation to higher education.

Does he agree that this would be an eminently suitable subject for a Green Paper in due course, which could be debated by the House, and will he keep in mind in particular, before the Government put proposals forward, the paramount importance in the universities of maintaining maximum academic freedom?

Mr. Fowler

I take the hon. Gentleman's last point, and the answer is, "Of course". As for a Green Paper, we recognise that the U.G.C., the individual universities and the rest of higher education will need to know the Government's decisions in these matters in the course of the next year, and we shall consider publishing a Green Paper, a White Paper, or a White Paper with a greenish tinge.

Mr. Hornby

Is it the Government's present intention that a similar proportion of the school leaving age group with the appropriate qualifications will continue to be able to have access to higher education places?

Mr. Fowler

The difficulty with that question is that it is not entirely in the control of the Government. Admission to the maintained sector of higher education is almost certain to follow the present pattern, whatever the Government's decision. We certainly hope that provision can be made for people with the same qualifications as those at present receiving higher education to continue to have higher education over the course of the next decade, but we have to recognise that there is a problem here because the numbers are likely to be very large.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his new appointment. May I stress the concern of many of those in higher education about the workings of the so-called binary policy? In view of the findings of the recent Select Committee on higher education and the testimony of faith in the comprehensive university of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State this afternoon, what modifications of the binary policy has the Department in mind?

Mr. Fowler

I am familiar with my hon. Friend's interest in the matter, going back over many years. He should not get hooked on a name. We need a variety of institutions of higher education catering for a variety of needs and a variety of students, no two of whom are the same. I hope that we shall not see a hierarchy of esteem between institutions in higher education, but rather a variety of functions.