HC Deb 07 February 1979 vol 962 cc378-80
8. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what further representations he has had about the provision of courses to enable Scottish art students and teachers to convert to the equivalent of CNAA honours degrees; and what action he intends to take.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Frank McElhone)

I have received 55 letters on this subject. The art colleges in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen are considering the question of the provision of bridging courses to enable holders of the Scottish art diploma to obtain honours degrees of the Council for National Academic Awards; the form and content of such courses would be subject to the approval of the Council.

Mr. Stewart

I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware of the widespread dissatisfaction and anger among Scottish art students and art teachers because of their inferior status, with higher qualifications, as against English students and Scottish students who graduate in England? Is it not time that he met the Educational Institute of Scotland and the other body concerned to ensure that the position is cleared up as quickly as possible?

Mr. McElhone

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has the Adjournment debate on this subject on Monday night, so no doubt he will have another chance to raise it then. It was the teachers' side on the Scottish teachers' salaries committee which pressed this matter, supported by the management. In the circumstances of the 1967 Act, the Secretary of State had no alternative but to accept its recommendations.

Mr. Carmichael

Will my hon. Friend accept that I understand that this is a much more complicated matter than is suggested by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart)? Nevertheless, I feel that every encouragement should be given to art teachers in Scotland, on an in-service basis, to increase the qualifications to make them equivalent to those which obtain in the higher grades of English courses.

Mr. McElhone

That will be the intention of the meetings that are king place involving the three colleges, my Department, and, of course, CNAA. I shall do my best to ensure that we get these bridging courses so that graduates can achieve honours degrees.

Mr. Reid

Does it not follow from the Minister's answer that Scottish art students should apply to English colleges, from where, after a year's less study and fewer qualifications, they can return to Scotland and make substantially more money than Scots candidates?

Mr. McElhone

It is a strange attitude on the part of the SNP that we should look to England for guidance. I repeat what I said, that it was the teachers themselves who pushed this issue at the Scottish teacher's salaries committee. I have discussed this with the Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association, and I have to accept that it was the teachers themselves who wanted this.

Mr. Dewar

I welcome the measures which are being taken to sort out the problem, but will the Minister accept that the original difficulty sprang from the reluctance of the Scottish teaching profession and the Scottish art colleges to accept honours degrees and a differentiation between students within the Scottish art colleges, and that to that extent this is a self-inflicted wound?

Mr. McElhone

In 1972 my Department encouraged the three colleges in Scotland to go for associateships leading to honours degrees. I am sorry that only one college in Glasgow accepted that.