HC Deb 05 February 1970 vol 795 cc595-7
1. Mr. Christopher Ward

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science to what extent it is his policy to provide university places for the larger number of qualified school-leavers in the 1970s by expanding all or some of the present universities and by establishing new universities, respectively.

7. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations he has had this year with the University Grants Committee about the development of higher education in the 1970s.

12. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to come to a decision about the expansion of higher education in the period 1970 to 1980.

18. Mr. Hornby

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how he proposes to allocate between the different institutions of higher education the places which he intends to provide in the mid-1970s for all school-leavers obtaining two or more A levels.

25. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many students he estimates will be in higher education in October, 1970; and how this compares with the projection of the Robbins Committee.

37. Mr. Ashton

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many students were taking full-time higher education in 1963–64 and what is the figure for 1969–70; and by how much this exceeds the Robbins target.

The Minister of State, Department of Education and Science (Mr. Gerry Fowler)

In 1963–64, there were 239,000 students in full-time higher education in Great Britain. The estimated number in 1969–70 is 439,000 and in 1970–71 471,000; these exceed by 100,000 and 127,000, respectively, the corresponding numbers envisaged by the Robbins Committee, which were 339,000 and 344,000. I am considering the total size of the higher education provision to be made during the 1970s, its distribution between different kinds of institution and changes which may have to be made in the organisation of higher education. The Department is in regular contact with the University Grants Committee on these matters and I have in mind further consultations before reaching any decisions.

Mr. Ward

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a programme for building 30 new universities would be necessary, as well as expanding the existing universities, to satisfy the demand? Would he be more explicit, either about where the resources for this can come from or about the extent to which he can raise the standard for entry to university?

Mr. Fowler

I cannot agree with the first part of the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. There is considerable room for expansion within many existing institutions of higher education. We may require some new institutions. No decisions have yet been taken. On the latter part of the question, I should regard with great disfavour any notion that we could push up steadily year by year the qualifications for those who are gaining entry to higher education.

Mr. Lane

In his further consultations with the universities, would the hon. Gentleman stress that, while all possible economies must be considered, it is not the Government's policy to push the universities into any substantial lowering of standards?

Mr. Fowler

What we want to achieve is the maintenance of educational standards, but in the most economical way possible.

Mr. Christopher Price

In looking at the structure of higher education—and if my hon. Friend is to plan for what seems to be between 900,000 and one million students in higher education by 1980—my hon. Friend will find that to do it on the basis of the binary system is very difficult. Will he also in his plans consider unifying the binary system by 1980?

Mr. Fowler

I shall consider every suggestion put to me in the consultations taking place. I am interested to discover that my hon. Friend is thinking to some purpose, unlike hon. Members opposite, who merely want to restrict entry into higher education.

Mr. Hornby

When will these consultations be completed and announced? The universities and other institutions will find themselves in considerable planning difficulties unless an early announcement is made.

Mr. Fowler

That is well understood and, as I said in November, I hope to be in a position to publish a White or Green Paper later this year.

Mr. Wellbeloved

Is not this another illustration of the success story of the present Government? Does not my hon. Friend agree that it shows absolutely the dismal failure of the Tory Party in their years of lost opportunity?

Mr. Fowler

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comment.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

In view of this large increase in numbers, will any of the prospective students be accommodated within the Open University?

Mr. Fowler

That is not the purpose for which the Open University was created.