§ 7.16 pm
§ Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)
I beg to move, That this House deplores the Government's short-sighted and defeatist policy on higher education which, because it fails to match the nation's need for a sustained supply of graduates, for increased opportunities for continuing education and for high quality research, is a recipe for national economic, industrial and social decline.
§ Mr. Speaker
I must announce to the House that [ have selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Radice
No education paper in recent years has received such universal condemnation as the Green Paper "The Development of Higher Education into the 1990s".
The Guardian comments that it elevates
anorexia nervosa into a public policy.The Times Higher Education Supplement concludes:
we knew already how negative and philistine the Government's approach to higher education had become, but to have it so wretchedly confirmed is a shocking, and chilling, experience.It is not just the newspapers of the Liberal establishment, so despised by this Government and one or two hon. Members, that are critical; even The Times compares the breadth of vision shared by the University Grants Committee and the National Advisory Body for Public Sector Higher Education with the Green Paper's lack of vision. The Financial Times predicts that it
will probably please nobody who is seriously interested in the matter.The Economist criticises the Green Paper for getting student numbers wrong, for being anti-feminist, for failing to encourage practical co-operation with industry and for failing to plan for more rather than fewer students. Even the pro-Tory popular press is uncertain about how to present the Green Paper. The Daily Express, searching for a popular theme, talks about
a crackdown on left-wing student bully boysas if the Federation of Conservative Students did not exist.
Only The Sun, with its customary maturity of judgment, accuracy and sureness of touch, is on the Secretary of State's side. It proclaims:
There need be no tears over Sir Keith Joseph's proposals to reduce the number of universities … Some of the new centres of learning are universities in name only, with low academic standards and unchecked left-wing intolerance and hooliganism. If, for example, Essex were to crumble into the North Sea, the only disadvantage would be an increase in coastal pollution.Those were not the Secretary of State's words, but the words of The Sun, which is his friend.
Of course the academic world has been hostile to the Green Paper. That is perhaps not surprising. What is surprising is the almost total absence of support even among the Government's friends. Most fair-minded observers would agree that the Secretary of State's statement to the House on 21 May when he introduced the Green Paper got an almost uniformly hostile reception. A few hon. Members may be hoping that what they perceive to be the merits of the Green Paper will win through, despite the barrage of criticism, and that is obviously what the Secretary of State hopes. But the trouble with the Green Paper is that it is not just a public relations disaster; if implemented, it would be a disaster for Britain.
By any standards, the Green Paper is a grossly inadequate state paper. It has few new ideas, and there is little, if any, attempt to justify its conclusions by argument and evidence. Above all, it lacks vision and imagination. 207 The enormity of the Green Paper's failure is highlighted by the background against which it was produced and by our national requirements. Hon. Members will remember that there was a cut in the recurrent university grant of 7 per cent. in real terms between 1980–81 and 1984–85. That cut has meant 11,000 to 12,000 well-qualified students being turned away every year, and the loss of nearly 6,000 jobs. Above all, given the scale of the cuts and their uneven distribution, it has meant a collapse of academic morale — hardly the best spur for the increased efficiency for which the Secretary of State calls.
The universities had barely recovered from 1981 when, on 9 May this year, the UGC wrote to all vice-chancellors and principals telling each institution to prepare for Government support to decline by an average of 2 per cent. in real terms over the next three years. That is equivalent to the closure of a middle-sized university such as Southampton, Exeter or Durham, each year.
Under the selective system of support for research, which the UGC favours, and which the Government support, the grant to some universities may be cut by far more than 2 per cent. The UGC says that universities which suffer less than the average can do so only at the expense of other universities. Therefore, at a time when student numbers are at their peak, the universities have been told to make do with less and less money.
It is true—the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway) has reminded me of this a few times, although I did not need reminding of it — that, so far, polytechnics and other institutions of higher education have taken many of the students who would formerly have obtained university places. All credit to them for doing so without receiving adequate additional income. Indeed, the National Advisory Body says that there was a 20 per cent. real cut in expenditure per pupil between 1980–81 and 1984–85. It has warned the Secretary of State that taking on extra students without sufficient extra resources puts a heavy burden on staff and is a threat to the maintenance of quality. Despite the Prime Minister's commitment at the general election to maintaining level funding for universities, and despite the Green Paper's pious words about providing sufficient resources for higher education in the current planning period, cuts have been made and are still being made, and more are planned for the future.
The position could and should be different. If we are to survive and prosper as a nation, we need a sustained supply of highly skilled, highly motivated and highly adaptable graduates, capable of responding to the pace of change and of participating effectively in our democratic society. We need a sustained supply of high-quality research, not only to satisfy the needs of industry, but to advance learning. There is little reference to learning in the Green Paper. Above all, if we are to survive as a nation, we need a dynamic, vigorous and innovative system of higher education.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that 66,000 more people are in higher education now than in 1979? Is he saying that the quality of their studies is now inferior? Can he confirm whether a future Labour Government would restore any cuts?
§ Mr. Radice
I said that the National Advisory Body has advised the Secretary of State that if the unit of resource in polytechnics and other institutions of higher education is not maintained, quality will be threatened.
§ Mr. Radice
I simply quoted the NAB, which advises the Secretary of State. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has read that advice, but if he did, he would discover that that is the case.
The Labour party believes that the Government are wrong to cut resources as they have. The NAB and the UGC should have the security of funding — the truly level funding—for which they ask and should not have to make cuts, as the Secretary of State is asking them to do. In 1990, there will be no case for cutting resources to higher education in the way that the Green Paper suggests.
If the Secretary of State will not accept that description of our national requirements from me, he should at least heed his advisers, which are the UGC and the NAB, whose chairman is the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science. I am sad that he is not present this evening. Hon. Members will remember the advice given last year to the Secretary of State in the eloquent joint statement from the UGC and the NAB. They called for measures to broaden access, including introducing the new principle of ability to benefit. They called for a new emphasis on continuing education, which they saw as essential economically and socially. They called for a sustained research effort, and warned that
to curtail research would in the long run impoverish the nation materially as well as culturally.They rejected the Department's forecast of student numbers after 1990 as under-estimating the participation rate of women, the numbers of mature students, and the impact of the changing social composition of the population. The UGC asked for truly level funding and NAB wanted extra resources, to cope with additional student demand among other things. What is the Green Paper's response to those vital issues? On most of them, the Government have ignored their advice or stated a contrary or modified view without arguing out the case.
On ability to benefit, the Government accept the principles but then qualify them so heavily as to make their acceptance virtually meaningless. The chapter on continuing education is so cursory as to amount to a deliberate snub. Clearly, the Prime Minister's blue pencil has been at work.
§ Mr. Radice
Well, it is three and a half pages long. That is not good enough for a Green Paper on what the NAB and the UGC said was a most important addition to the Robbins principles.
The Government say that their aim is that the contribution of higher education to the nation's research effort should continue on about the present scale. That is a misleading statement because the Government are well aware that the amount of public money going to university research will decline over the next three years. Indeed, they propose that some departments and universities could lose their research function altogether. The Government say that they hope that industry will fill the gap. If so, how and by how much? We need concrete answers, not pious hopes.
§ Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)
Of course research has been cut, and quite rightly. Some of it has not been justified in terms of national need. The hon. Gentleman asked how we can be sure that industry will fill the gap. Industry will fill the gap if the research that it wants is followed up in universities that research is in the interests of industry and hence the nation.
§ Mr. Radice
The problem with research is that pure research sometimes takes 20 years to become effective in the form of applied research. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is knowledgable about industry and many other matters, is not aware of that obvious point.
§ Mr. Radice
I hope that the hon. Lady will forgive me if I do not—many hon. Members want to speak and this is a short debate.
On student numbers, the Green Paper accepts variant Y which, predictably, is the lowest Department of Education and Science estimate of student numbers in the 1990s, without even bothering to argue the case. The Government's response is discourteous and intellectually disreputable.
On resources, the Government cannot decide whether their justification for the cuts that they want to make is that the economy has been so unsuccessful that the country cannot afford its present higher education system and that the Government's economic policy has been so unsuccessful that we cannot afford it, or that student numbers are falling. The problem with the latter argument is that student numbers, as even the Green Paper admits, will be at a record level until 1990. The argument until 1990 must be in terms of insufficient resources. After that date, argument is about rationalisation or, to use the Under-Secretary of State's unhappy phrase, "rolling the wicket for rationalisation". I should have thought that it is much more like "digging up the wicket for destruction".
A muddle runs throughout the Green Paper. The Government wants higher education to contribute more effectively to the national economy but appears to believe that an impoverished and contracting higher education system will serve our economic needs best. That is nonsense.
Despite the lip service paid in the Green Paper to the importance of arts subjects for their own sake and that of industry and commerce, the shift to science and engineering will take place — contrary to the UGC's advice and what the House of Lords Select Committee said —at the expense of the arts. That also is nonsense.
Despite the Jarratt report's recommendation about long-term planning and long-term planning horizons, and despite the experience of 1981, the Green Paper appears to believe that a higher education can become more efficient against a background of contraction and closure. That again is nonsense. The Government want to cut resources to higher education not because there are rational arguments for doing so but because the Cabinet wants to cut public spending. That is the reality behind the Green Paper.
The Green Paper is a muddle and its arguments are weak — when they are stated at all — because the 210 Government's higher education policy is not shaped by educational considerations, demography or sound economics but because they believe in cutting public spending. The consequences of this ideological fixation are likely to be appalling— — loss of opportunities for young people, the closure of whole departments or even institutions, loss of jobs, redundancies, institutions’ research functions being downgraded or abolished, little expansion in continuing education and the collapse of morale throughout higher education.
As our motion says, the Green Paperis a recipe for national economic, industrial and social decline.The Labour party rejects the Government's barbaric, Philistine and defeatist approach. We accept the advice of the UGC and the NAB—the Government's advisers— about access, continuing education, student numbers and resources.
§ Mr. Radice
Yes. We have said that we support what the UGC and NAB are asking for in their advice to the Government. Higher education will have, however, to adapt to changing needs. We offer higher education a future that serves the nation's needs and we shall campaign throughout the country for our positive alternative and against the Government's Green Paper.
§ 7.38 pm
§ The Secretary of State for Education and Science (Sir Keith Joseph)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its policies for ensuring that higher education is better managed and more attuned to the needs of the economy, for maintaining and enhancing standards, and for broadening the criteria for access to higher education; urges Her Majesty's Government to continue to seek ways of making more effective use of the resources available for higher education; and welcomes the framework for the future development of higher education set out in Cmnd. 9524."•Higher education should not be debated in the terms which the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has chosen to use. Higher education is to be judged by quality. It can be judged properly only by quality, excellence, fitness for purpose, scholarship, research— basic and otherwise —[HON. MEMBERS: "Access?"] — learning, cultivation of the intellect— "And access."]—and maturity. Access must take all of those factors into account. Access for the sake of access is of no service to those who are given access or to the country.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
If it be elitist, I am one who wishes to see thoroughly well trained surgeons, thoroughly well trained engineers and thoroughly developed intellects among those who take decisions on our citizens.
I do not suggest that all those qualities can be secured only by those who have higher education. However, we can judge the higher education available by the possession of those qualities. I do not believe that many people in higher education would disagree with that.
The Government frame their approach by those criteria. It was by those criteria that I spoke to the British Academy a couple of years ago. I hoped that the Green Paper would be discussed on the basis of those criteria both outside and 211 inside the House. I say this diffidently, but I hoped that my own fairly well-known preoccupation with quality would have earned that much.
In recent decades, under Governments of both parties, the country has gone through a period of relative economic failure. Judging by what we hoped to achieve and by what has been achieved by some of our neighbours in north-west Europe, we have had less prosperity and therefore less well-endowed public and social services.
It is open to all to apportion blame as they wish between Governments of all parties or between managements and trade unions, but relative economic failure is a fact.
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I am sorry, but I want to make as brief a speech as possible because many hon. Members want to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Straw
The Secretary of State cannot know the question that I wish to put to him unless he is clairvoyant. He seeks to apportion blame for our current economic difficulties, which have become worse in the last six years. Does he recall that in speeches such as that at Preston in September 1974 he persuaded the Conservative party to follow its monetarist policy with the conviction that that policy would generate employment, prosperity and wealth? What has gone wrong?
§ Sir Keith Joseph
At Preston I spoke of the need to restrain public spending if we were to abate inflation. The forecasts have come true, to that extent.
The hon. Gentleman interrupted an analysis on which I had embarked. We have been through decades of relative economic failure. I am certainly not putting the blame on higher education, but there is no evidence from the last decades that rapid expansion of higher education in itself secures economic success. Of course it does not. Much more is involved in economic success.
Some outside the House have quoted, against what they see as the Green Paper's approach, the vision of the great Cardinal Newman 130 years ago. His was a vision which we can still universally admire and to which I adhere. However, I ask the House to remember that Newman spoke at a time when such universities as there were— they were few and there were no equivalents to polytechnics — were not tax-financed. They were financed privately and to some extent by local authorities.
Because we have not done as well as we would have wished economically over the past 40 years, and because higher education is now largely tax-financed, it is valid to say — as the Green Paper says — that we must spend public money sensibly and that part of higher education should make its contribution to the success of the economy. I emphasise that I am referring only to some aspects of higher education being involved in that contribution.
The Green Paper does not suggest that higher education is merely an instrument for improving economic 212 performance. I should never suggest that, nor would the Government. The Green Paper takes for granted the purpose of higher education of which I spoke earlier. In my British Academy lecture I explicitly recognised that among the chief purposes of higher education is the pursuit of learning as something to be valued in its own right, the general cultivation of the intellect and therefinement of the ideas of the age.That is the essence of Newman's ideas.
Those purposes are not, nor should they be, directly concerned with economic benefit. Indeed, some teachers and scholars in many fields have traditionally and properly distanced themselves from such concerns to achieve a greater degree of profundity, accuracy and dispassionate understanding. That capacity for dispassion is one of the glories of higher education which I cherish and wish to see preserved.
The pursuit of learning for its own sake and the general cultivation of the intellect are not incompatible with greater enterprise or with a contribution to economic success. On the contrary, only to the extent that we are economically successful can we continue to find the resources to support pure learning, reflection and the refinement of ideas.
We must also remember that, although some treasured parts of higher education are concerned with learning for its own sake, much of higher education is not of that character. Much of what is taught in departments of engineering, science, law and medicine, for example, is directly economically relevant and involves the pursuit of knowledge and understanding at the highest levels.
When the Green Paper asks academics to pay due attention to enterprise and economic success, it does not argue in favour of a philistine disregard for scholarship. It asks for recognition that the refinement of the intellect and a contribution to economic success are not incompatible but are mutually dependent and that the pure pursuit of understanding and the acquisition of directly economically relevant skills are equally valid aspects of higher education. Neither is to be despised. The Government know that, and so should their critics.
It is because the Government so well understand that higher education's function is the pursuit and expansion of learning through scholarship and research, the trans-mission of values, knowledge and skills and the cultivation of the intellect and of maturity that we set such store by rigour, excellence and fitness for purpose. That is why the Government so strongly welcome the appointment by the committee of vice-chancellors and principals of a committee under the vice-chancellor of Lancaster university to examine universities’ internal validation procedures. That is why the Government set up the Lindop committee.
We need the pursuit of learning, the cultivation of the intellect and vocational education. There is nothing new about vocational education in the history of the universities.
We rightly spend large sums of public money on higher education. We believe it to be our duty, without being dirigiste or going in for manpower planning, to try to predict the broad trends that higher education should consider serving. Now that the Jarratt committee has reported, it is plain for us all to see that a combination of the review of the UGC, recommended by that committee and accepted by the Government, and the encouragement of universities to organise their decision-making process 213 so that they can make judgments across the whole of their area will make them perhaps more capable and willing to make the predictions about broad trends that the Government have ventured to make in the Green Paper. It is because we believe that in this highly competitive world more jobs will depend to a greater extent on science and engineering skills, and more jobs, relying as they do upon consumers, will depend not only upon technical but upon management and enterprise skills in those subjects — I say that without denigrating the skills of management and enterprise in non-scientific and non-engineering departments — that we have on several occasions openly suggested a switch in the proportion of places—
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I am sorry. I shall ask for the leave of the House to reply to the debate, when I shall deal with hon. Members’ questions.
Several times we have suggested a switch, as the House knows. There is an increasingly pervasive indispensabil-ity, for economic success, of science and engineering in entrepreneurship, management and technical skills. Unless we prosper economically, whatever the hon. Member for Durham, North hopes one day to be able to do, we shall not be able to afford to support learning, scholarship and research to the extent that we all want.
We are not the only country making that judgment. Yesterday I was in Luxembourg, where all the members of the Economic Community talked of making the same switch. I hope that the House will remember that we face a fall in the age cohort in the 1990s of no less than 33 per cent. The hon. Member for Durham, North carefully avoided giving figures for that fall. That fall is not a prediction because it follows ineluctably from the births that have already occurred, and it is against that fall that the Government are proposing in the Green Paper, and not in final form, a 14 per cent. reduction in the number of places. I hope that the House will remember also that this Government and their predecessor have made possible an expansion of no fewer than 60,000 places in higher education as a whole during the past six years, a rise of no less than 15 per cent. Therefore, we now have a record proportion of a record age vintage in higher education.
The proposals in the Green Paper are such that that record proportion of the age vintage will be exceeded. After the fall in the age cohort and in the number of places, and if the Green Paper's proposals are validated by Government decisions to be made later, there will be a rise from 13.5 per cent. of the age vintage now in higher education to 15.5 per cent.
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
What about the Prime Minister's target of 22 per cent. in 1972?
§ Sir Keith Joseph
Moreover, we are proposing to accept the UGC and NAB proposals to widen the Robbins eligibility. It is true that we have emphasised the importance of the fact that institutions of higher education should take into account motivation and maturity when admitting students, but surely that would be agreed in all 214 parts of the House as being sensible. We have not only widened eligibility, but provided for places that will increase the age participation index, we are encouraging continuing education and expecting more women to go to higher education, and we are making provision for more mature people to do so.
If the Government's hopes, articulated in the speech that I made at Sheffield nearly two years ago, for more successful school education come true, and if the trends of eligible applicants for higher education prove that we are not being optimistic enough, we have declared our intention to review those trends and reconsider the provision that we are making.
The hon. Member for Durham, North skirted three main facts. He skirted the fact that Labour, in office, cut higher education spending by 8 per cent. in one year. He skirted the fact that this Government and their predecessor have increased the number of higher education places by 15 per cent. He never once laid emphasis on quality, which, in our view, is the key essential of higher education. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will reject the motion and will support the amendment.
§ 7.57 pm
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Cambridgeshire, North-East)
I should like to begin by commending the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) on selecting this subject. I commend him the more because had he not done so, on our Supply Day on Thursday we should have selected the same subject.
One complaint about the Green Paper involves the astonishing and archaic procedure that we still pursue in the House. The Green Paper, which was promised many years ago came to us at 3.15 one afternoon, was then the subject of questions to the Secretary of State at 3.30, by which time no one had a proper chance of reading it or realising its implications.
I think that it is right to say that after one looks at the Labour motion, with which we basically agree, even if we would not pursue the inelegance of its language, one cannot help being appalled by the humbug of the Tory response. There are no proposals. There is nothing to make higher education more effective. Let me remind the House of what I said when I first read it. The first major weakness is
to believe that anything worth preserving can be measured and that anything not susceptible to quantification is thus expendable. The second is to accept that the demographic decline condemns us to a decline in the supply of graduates.I believe that there is a particular flaw in the Green Paper, exemplified in the Secretary of State's motion, when he says:
higher education is better managed and more attuned to the needs of the economy".There is a considerable paradox in that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the need for skilled manpower, but does not acknowledge the implications for higher education. The Green Paper states:
unless the country's economic performance improves, we shall be even less able than now to afford many of the things that we value most".Surely that is the reverse of the truth. Unless we invest, our economic performance will not improve.
Annexe B gives figures for the social rate of return on investing in a place of higher education as between 5 per cent. and 7 per cent. Such a return is similar to that which one gets on Government stock. Therefore, it is presumably 215 respectable investment in the eyes of the Government, considerably better than the average investment in nationalised industry, very much better as well as a substantially better gamble than De Lorean or Lear Fan. One would expect such an analysis to result in positive action—but all there is is a £43 million investment in "the switch", to create 4,000 reluctant engineers—if we can find them, and The Guardian is highly doubtful about whether we shall be able to do so.
Rather than using the opportunity of the falling 18-year-old population to promote non-traditionals and continuing education, this is being used as an excuse for contraction and cost cutting. Look where one will in the Green Paper, one does not find what one is looking for.
We would have liked something done about the 21-hour rule—that legislation for despair and wasted opportune-ity. People who study when they are unemployed, one would have supposed, are most dear to the Prime Minister in that they have got on their bikes, yet nothing is being done for them, and the 21-hour rule stays.
The Open university is a most cost-effective source of academic and vocational excellence, yet in paragraph 3.12 the Green Paper contains the plumb dishonest remark:
In the case of the Open University, the level of fees is closely related to the amount of grant made available by the Government, but the decision on the fee nevertheless rests finally with the University.It rests finally with the university, which has no money to do anything about it or to get more students.
Many hon. Members on all sides of the House feel passionately about overseas students. They see this as a marvellous investment in mankind as well as something that we owe the former Commonwealth and Third world. The Times Higher Education Supplement sums it up succinctly:
there is a section compounded of humbug and hypocrisy on overseas students which one can only hope will escape the notice of foreign critics".As for embracing the new Robbins principle, the Green Paper states:
courses of higher education should be available to all those who can benefit from them and who wish to do so. So long as taxpayers substantially finance higher education, however, the benefit has to be sufficient to justify the cost. The intellectual competence, motivation and maturity of the student should be consistent with the course, which must itself be of a standard appropriate to higher education.That makes it more restrictive.
On planning, Jarratt blamed the Government for not giving universities information about their funding. Jarratt says that often the information came at the last moment, and made it impossible for the higher education sectors to plan in advance. However, this discussion document says:
The UGC, the NAB and most recently the Jarratt report have argued that the absence of a longer funding horizon inhibits necessary planning. The Government accepts that it should give the best indications of longer term policies for higher education that it can. But planning also requires that institutions should manage their commitments and the funds available to them so as to be able to pursue their objectives effectively in circumstances of change and some inevitable uncertainty.Therefore, it shuffles off the problem.
If pushed to find something kind to say, one would welcome the modest experiment in two-year degree courses. That ought to be looked at with care. I am also sure that the review of the UGC is welcomed everywhere. But to whom did the Department of Education and Science listen? On staffing, the UGC
216wanted at least 900 new appointments per year".The NAB
saw scope for tighter staffing, moving towards a staff/ student ratio of 12:1".Although we have a Green Paper, there is nothing green about it, in that it does not discuss anything. It simply holds out no hope for anyone. The Times Higher Education Supplement carried an article entitled "Did the Government Listen?". For anyone reading much of that excellent article, the answer was monosyllabic — they did not.
We have an X factor and a Y factor. The X factor is probably realistic, but the Y factor is simply the contention that in a changing world nothing will change in the number or composition of entrants. We would all reject the Y factor.
Instead of factors we need commitments. There should be a commitment to level funding, not least as the Government's earnest of the value of higher education. There should be a commitment to set targets for participation and to work towards them, rather than projections which never materialise and whose assump-tions are dubious.
We need a commitment to use higher education to revamp the economy — as an access to national employment opportunities. If local markets collapse, higher education is the entry to the national market, and without higher education those workers would be abandoned.
I recognise that economic needs will cease to be met by traditional three-year intensive courses, so we should be planning for more and shorter courses, such as a short, sharp educational blast perhaps after five years in a job which may not be entirely suitable.
There should be a rethinking of the 21-hour rule. We should recognise the need to distinguish genuine from fraudulent claimants, but if the claimant is willing to give up a part-time course, it is likely that he will give up a full-time course.
Above all, perhaps, there should be a commitment to deploy flexibility in the skills of graduates. Instead of giving up arts students as lost sheep, let us make them all numerate and keyboard literate.
If higher education can play a positive part in making the British economy perform better, why not give more young men and women the opportunity to benefit? I and my hon. Friends will support the Labour motion, and we urge the House to do likewise.
§ 8.7 pm
§ Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)
I must first declare an interest as I am a member of the court of Brunel university which is situated in my constituency.
The Green Paper is of great concern and importance, not only to that leading technological university but also to higher education in general. As it covers a very wide area, I shall confine my remarks mainly to its effect on the technological universities. That is the area in which I am specially, but not exclusively, interested.
I agree with the Government that it is vital for higher education to contribute more effectively to the performance of the economy. I share my right hon. Friend's view that unless the country's economic performance improves, we shall be less able to afford many of the things that we value most—as the Green Paper put it:
217including education for pleasure and general culture and the finance of scholarship and research as an end in itself".How can this be achieved? The Green Paper stresses the importance of the initiative announced in March to increase the number of places in engineering and other shortage subjects. That amounted to £43 million over the next three years to increase the number of graduates, and postgraduates particularly, in electronic engineering, applied physics, materials science and computer science. Why has a university such as Brunei, which leads the country in these sciences, not yet been allocated one of the additional 4,000 places?
As I understand it, the intake to selected courses has reflected the value to industry and the degree of industrial commitment secured. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House a little more about how the value to industry is assessed? That leads me to ask what steps he and his colleagues can take to match the requirements of the traditional British industries, which in the past have provided a great deal of employment — the so-called heavy or metal-bashing industries—with the ability of the technological universities to produce the graduates to enable the industries to survive, expand and prosper. Surely industry must say clearly what it needs, and the universities must provide the graduates.
Why is it that in half a dozen areas of technology, which I could mention, the expertise which makes our universities world famous is now being deployed by foreign manufacturers who export their products to Britain, or the industries which should benefit from it are in decline or defunct?
Belfast university is world famous for its expertise in the small internal combustion engine, but is it being used to build Britain's motor cycles and motor car industry, or to assist foreign manufacturers who export their products to Britain?
I am told that Loughborough university is a leader for the textile industry. How much of its expertise is used to improve our textile industry? Brunei university is a leader in ship's strength and offshore construction, but why is it that Korea and Japan are the major shipbuilders, and offshore construction takes place mainly abroad? Where are the industrial scholarships to support those areas? We must concentrate on that.
I am not an expert in ships’ strength, but many people at the universities with which I am familiar are. At Brunei there are fee-paying Chinese, Japanese and Turkish students who are anxious to obtain the best expertise in Britain and all that it has to offer. I wonder whether British Shipbuilders takes the same keen interest, and what the extent of its sponsorship is. It may be already satisfactory, but if we are looking for industrial sponsorship in and support of the technological universities, more must be done.
Why does Britain have to import steel? I believe that we must even import steel to build our submarines. Is our steel not of the right quality? Does British Steel put cash into the metallurgy departments of the British technological universities to ensure that it gets the graduates that it needs for the future? I hope so, because I have a high regard for British Steel and its recent achievements. Can my right hon. Friend say how the requirements of the steel industry, for example, are made known to the universities, how we get the follow-through and the funding, and how we ensure that the universities provide the sort of graduates that such an industry needs?
218 Paragraph 1.6 of the Green Paper discusses the importance of developing links wih industry and commerce, and of industrial contracts. That is important, but the House knows that research costs about 10 times less than development. Consequently, it is important for universities to resist the temptation to go for development too soon and to remember that research is the primary consideration.
I am glad that the Green Paper refers to the well-established principle of sandwich education My experience of seeing it in action has demonstrated that it can enable small technical universities to vie with our most famous and historic universities. If the House were to judge its success, hon. Members may well ask how it is that the last of the colleges of advanced technology vie with, for example, Cambridge. The answer is the success of the sandwich course.
I now come to the important question of future resources for higher education. A 2 per cent. cut over three years means less cash in real terms. Does that include pay settlements? Are they to be settled by the Government or, as in the past, on the basis of agreement with the unions?
If, as I assume, it is the latter, an additional £500,000 a year may have to come from the funds of the small technological universities. That worries me. In addition to the effects on graduates and academic staff it could mean fewer jobs. As the academics have tenure, it could mean fewer lab technicians and supporting staff, which is also worrying.
I also worry about the vexed question of academic tenure. I know that the Government intend to introduce legislation to limit it. Can my right hon. Friend say whether they also intend to introduce Government-funded compensation schemes for those with tenure who may decide to leave in future or who may leave as a result of the changes foreshadowed in the Green Paper?
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I wish to clarify that point before it becomes widely spread and misunderstood. The Government's proposal to legislate to remove tenure is for future contracts, not for those whose contracts already give them tenure.
§ Mr. Shersby
I understand that, and it is clear that that is the case from the Green Paper. However, I was thinking of those who already have tenure but who may suffer if they decide to leave in the future, and I was wondering whether the Government were considering a compensation scheme for them.
I now turn to the adjustment in higher education, to which paragraph 1.13 refers, and which could lead to a closing or merging of some institutions of higher education during the next 10 years. What will be the criteria for closures or mergers? Will they be based on size, on numbers or on a judgment by the Secretary of State of the day whether a particular university is contributing adequately to
the improvement of the performance of the economy"?One sometimes gets the impression that the Department of Education and Science and the University Grants Committee have different assumptions and make different statements. Through the Green Paper, the DES makes many statements that are good for the technological universities, but the UGC administers the resources. How then are the choices to be made? Brunei university, for example, makes money by turning out the right product in terms of its graduates, but the system throws all 219 universities into the same pool and considers them together, although there are enormous variations in character and what they produce. Does a technological university follow the DES and what it says, or the UGC? That presents a difficulty, because the UGC is the paymaster.
§ Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)
My hon. Friend keeps referring to universities in this context. I remind him that the Green Paper talks of some institutions of higher education, and does not say that some universities will have to close or merge. Will he press our right hon. Friend to make the matter absolutely clear, and ascertain whether our right hon. Friend is thinking about the future of colleges of higher education rather than the closure of universities?
§ Mr. Shersby
I am sure that our right hon. Friend has taken account of that point and that he will enlighten the House on it when he replies.
I trust that the question of closures or mergers is unthinkable for the technological universities that are producing good graduates and meeting the needs of industry. Will my right hon. Friend think about the example which is being set by the French, who are planning greatly to multiply the more technological universities, such as that at Compiégne, which is well known? How does one use the same yardstick, for example, for Edinburgh and for a university such as Brunel, when the two institutions are different in character but are both fine universities? Do we need a different yardstick for technological universities?
I welcome the paragraph in the Green Paper about the arts. I am glad that the Government are convinced of the importance of providing adequately for the arts. That is to be greatly welcomed. The arts contribute valuably to our society, and the events of the past week in Brussels demonstrate only too clearly how necessary and valuable it is for us to have higher education which helps to produce a decent and civilised society.
I consider this to be a thought-provoking Green Paper which, despite its shortcomings, poses many of the real questions that have to be faced in higher education in the next decade. It also contains some solid, good horse sense. The Government have to reconcile efficiency in the use of resources with improvement in the quality of higher education, while at the same time assuring the future of the universities and those who work in them. I want to see increased private funding of research and good use of public funds. I want to see dedicated members of the teaching staff receiving proper financial rewards for their work. The future of our young people is in their hands.
§ Mr. Shersby
No, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I am just coining to the end of my speech.
The teaching staff must feel that the country has confidence in them, and they have a crucial role to play in advancing the national interest. I want to see the best brains available to higher education. I believe that that can be achieved by a combination of proper rewards, based on merit, coupled with the efficient use of public funds and the encouragement and sponsorship of the private sector.
§ 8.21 pm
§ Mr. Sean Hughes (Knowsley, South)
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) referred to the events in Brussels last week. Many people may consider that in the midst of our post-mortems on that disaster, and the day after the deep controversy over the Green Paper on social services, a debate on higher education is somewhat less urgent, but it is part and parcel of the same thing. It is about the sort of society that we wish to see developed, and it is also about whether we are serious in wishing to eradicate the abuses to which we can point today.
What we saw on the terraces in Brussels—admittedly in a more concentrated and brutal form—was the result of a society which is breaking down in various parts of the land. That is relevant to the debate. When whole areas of the country and whole sections of the population are written off with their potential unfulfilled, the price that we pay—and will pay in the future—is a heavy one.
References have already been made — and will no doubt be made throughout the debate—to the principle enunciated in the Robbins report. I believe that the way that the principle was translated into practice was not good enough. The fact that the recent Green Paper on higher education goes back even on that practice must not allow us to start applauding our present system of higher education as some sort of ideal, because it is far from it. The Secretary of State was forced by some of my hon. Friends to refer to access. It is apparently inappropriate in our present system for the vast majority of our people to experience higher education. The fact that that has always been so is no defence. The fact that our education system is so constructed as to produce that gross imbalance is no excuse.
Robbins outlined five goals for higher education, the fifth of which was the transmission of a common culture and common standards of citizenship — apparently something that the Secretary of State would support. That has never been achieved. Indeed, I would argue that today we are as far away from its realisation as we were 20 years ago.
Therefore, the first fact that we must accept is that our education system is inherently privileged, and the worst manifestation of that privilege is in higher education. In the Robbins report it was demonstrated that, of children born in 1940–41, 33 per cent. of those with parents in higher professional occupations went to university, while only 1 per cent. of those with semi-skilled or unskilled parets went to university. In the meantime, we may have changed the social categories but, according to the UCCA report in 1983, 23.5 per cent. of those with parents in the professions and 48.4 per cent. of those with parents in what were termed intermediate occupations went to university, while still only 1.1 per cent. of those whoe parents were unskilled went to university.
Where are the minority concentrated? Inevitably, they are concentrated in the most deprived areas of the country, those with the worst environment, the worst housing and the worst schools. I simply do not accept that there is some immutable law of nature which has decreed that it is inappropriate for people in areas such as my constituency to go on to higher education.
I will give the House one example of the regional variation. Less than 9 per cent. of 18 and 19-year-olds in the county of Merseyside entered university in 1983–84 compared with more than 14 per cent. in counties such as 221 Surrey. But even that does not tell the whole story, for within a county such as Merseyside there are gross disparities. In the more prosperous Wirral, 14.4 per cent. of the 18 and 19-year-olds entered university in 1983–84, while in devastated Knowsley only 4.4 per cent. entered university. That is the reality that the Green Paper ignores.
In a BBC radio interview, the Prime Minister described her dream of a society without class distinction. She said:
I do not care what people's background is, where they come from. I want them to have the same opportunities.The Government have a funny way of going about it. It was the late Tony Crosland who said:
the closest correlation in England so far as accent, social manners and style of life are concerned is with education. This interacting triad at the top of the social scale of education, style of life and occupational status is unquestionably a more important source of social inequality than income.
§ Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)
The hon. Gentleman is making a very interesting criticism of the education system of the past, particularly higher education, and there may be a lot of truth in what he says. But will he accept that he is therefore making the case for the Government, as we are trying to bring about change and improvement? Does he accept that the Opposition are trying to defend the status quo?
§ Mr. Hughes
Obviously the hon. Gentleman missed my introductory comments, when I said that I did not accept that the present position was good enough, and by implication I wanted to improve it. My argument is that the Green Paper will exacerbate the situation, far from making it better.
If Crosland was correct—I believe that he was—we have to expose the hypocrisy of those who say that we have a common culture and then deny the majority the opportunity to develop their cultural appreciation.
If the Prime Minister was serious in what she said, the Green Paper on higher education, in the form it has taken, would not have seen the light of day, because the Government have effectively declared their intention to do nothing to offset the gross imbalance of intake into higher education. Indeed, the Government are to compound the felony. Instead of the Robbins principle that a place at college or university should be available for those able to benefit from it — even though in reality that did not happen — the Government have added that the benefit has to be sufficient to justify the cost, as my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) emphasised.
As the 20th century draws to an end, after a decade of expanding educational development, the Government should now be addressing themselves to making some radical changes to benefit the community as a whole, rather than the privileged, and the proposals in the Green Paper will cut back most on those who are already most deprived. The Green Paper on higher education displays once again the short-term nature of Government policies, and it must be considered alongside the "Better Schools" White Paper and that on training for jobs. All of them are characterised by an appalling ignorance of what life is really like in the most deprived parts of this country. The Green Paper is a very timid document which fails to recognise the enormity of the problem. It exposes the Prime Minister's contemplations of a classless society as being no more than that—contemplations. Therefore, I urge Conservative Members who recognise that fact to join us in the Lobby and to support the motion.
§ 8.30 pm
§ Dr. Brian Mawhinney (Peterborough)
I, too, should start by declaring an interest, not only as one who was trained in our university system but as one who has spent most of his working life as an academic staff member of universities, mainly in this country. I am still a member of the board of studies of radiation biology of the university of London. This week my son started his A-levels in the hope of attending university next autumn.
I give two welcomes to the Green Paper. I welcome also the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. I welcome his reaffirmation of the commitment of our party and our Government to the importance of universities both for the pursuit of pure knowledge, scholarship and training as well as for the application of that knowledge and the excellence of those who have been trained. Perhaps it needs to be explicitly said in a debate such as this that while we debate the future of our univerity system—there are legitimate differences of view about its future — we ought not to blind ourselves to the fact that this country has one of the best university systems in the world, a fact of which we ought to be proud. It stems in large part from the contribution that academic teachers, researchers and ancillary staff have made to that system over many decades. I say that as somebody who throughout his university career was a member of the Association of University Teachers and who is now a life-long member of the association.
It is important to talk about change, and the insecurity that change brings, against a positive background. We have to recognise that most of those who work in universities are good at their jobs and are dedicated workers.
My second welcome relates not just to the relative increase in numbers which will be available in the next decade because, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, the projected decrease in places is much less than the projected decrease of those who are deemed to be eligible. I welcome also the greater flexibility in the admissions policy of universities which is proposed. Over the years, but particularly in recent years, there has been an acceleration in the O-level and A-level standards required of university entrants, yet most of us know that there is very little, if any, correlation between a pupil's performance in O-level and A-level examinations and his subsequent performance at university. I say that as somebody who has published academic papers on this subject, based on the findings of my own medical school. Therefore, the Green Paper's commitment to greater flexibility in university entrance requirements than simply ever-increasing O-level and A-level standards is to be welcomed.
I wish to concentrate upon one aspect of university life —management and decision-making. Academic departments were established originally as a vehicle for teaching and also as a means for protecting academic standards. In a bygone era it was necessary for professors to exercise a degree of autocracy in order not just to protect their departments but to protect their subjects. Academic tenure grew up in this context. Universities are being forced to reconsider their structure. For many of them it is a difficult process. There is no precedent for it. They have not been required by change over the years to develop management and decision-making systems which are responsive to the needs of a changing world. During the last few years I have 223 sat on senior committees within universities which have sought to balance the budget. Our systems are somewhat archaic. Time is not on the side of universities which are unwilling to change their systems. My right hon. Friend will need to provide not financial but advisory help to universities to help them through this difficult transitional period.
My right hon. Friend knows that teaching and research tend for the most part to be centred in academic departments. That is important from a teaching point of view, not least because it safeguards the standards of the subjects being taught in those departments. However, one of the consequences is that those who are in teaching departments are expected to carry out their research within those departments. In many cases there is a fragmentation of research endeavour. This is not a good use of resources. Too many people in our universities are carrying out what is almost solitary research. If resources are limited—we all agree that they are limited, wherever the limit may be drawn — we have to ask ourselves how best we can generate useful research, using the money that is available. Because of the nature of research one cannot say that a piece of work should not be done, because it might result in something that will be useful. One has to talk about probabilities.
When considering his response to the Green Paper I hope that my right hon. Friend will ask himself whether it is still sensible for academic members of staff to be assigned to one single department which covers both teaching and research, or whether they should be assigned to one department for teaching and become a different configuration of people for the purpose of carrying out research.
In that context it is important for universities to understand better than they do now the importance of good teaching. Too much emphasis is still placed in our universities upon research papers which have already been written and published. Too many of my erstwhile colleagues—I refer not to the medical school but to the whole profession—regard students as people who get in the way of a good day's research. That attitude must change not only for the sake of the universities and students, but, as my right hon. Friend has pointed out, for the sake of the country. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State agrees with my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) who said that good decision making in universities means that they must be given as much information as possible as early as possible. I have had to practise that art in recent years. Therefore I know that it is difficult to make coherent, long-term planning decisions when one does not know what the framework will be. I am not being critical of my Government any more than I am being critical of the previous Government under which I had to operate in the same circumstances.
Finally, I welcome the review of the role of the University Grants Committee. It is overdue. There is a feeling among academics in particular that the role of the UGC has changed in recent years. It needs to be thought through again and redefined. However, I am sorry that the research councils are not to be included in that review. I say that as a person who served on the Medical Research Council for three years, while a Member of the House.
224 Research councils and the UGC are now inextricably bound together. The administration of the research councils is very powerful. Sometimes, questions need to be raised about the balance that is struck in them between pursuing fundamental research that is of itself important and research into problems that are of national concern but that are not always treated with the respect that they deserve within the councils.
Change is seldom a comfortable or pleasant experience. If we are to have change— my right hon. Friend is right to say that we must have it—it needs to be carried out with support not only from the Government but from the House for the university structure and for the teaching staff who are being required to change within it.
Change there needs to be, not least in the universities’ ability to be more flexible in the changing world in which they operate and for which they are training their undergraduates. The Green Paper rightly focuses our attention on that change. I see an important part of that change being a much more detailed review of the existing decision-making processes within universities. I hope that my right hon. Friend will give thought to that as he considers the responses to the Green Paper.
§ 8.42 pm
§ Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)
The arrangements for higher education in Scotland are deeply unsatisfactory, and I am sorry to say that the Green Paper does not help to resolve the Scottish dilemma. Universities in Scotland, unlike the central institutions that are under the control of the Secretary of State for Scotland, are under the charge of the Secretary of State for Education and Science and, through him, the UGC. None of the Ministers in the Department of Education and Science is conversant with the Scottish educational system. It is interesting that the Minister responsible for education in the Scottish Office, who is present, is not to wind up, even though he has a distinct interest in the higher education system in my country.
The UGC circular of November 1983 was unhappy in its intentions when it gave universities a choice between self-multilation or starvation of resources. There is something even more offensive in it. Paragraph 6 says:
Parts of this letter refer primarily to the situation in England and Wales. We would ask readers concerned with the different systems in Scotland and Northern Ireland to make the appropriate adjustments.That is the sort of thing that those of us who are Scottish lawyers object to when the legal system of Scotland is amended as if it were an appendage to the English system. It does not work, and it causes distortion in the system.
The contempt that was first apparent in the UGC circular is extended by the Green Paper, which, although it is aware of the continuing review of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council, is unwilling to await the report. It directs that the council should follow the Green Paper. The Green Paper purports to deal with Scottish higher education, but its Scottish content is limited to some five paragraphs. Lip service is paid to the Scottish system and, to paraphrase the late Henry Ford, the Government obviously take the view that Scotland can have any kind of educational policy that it wishes so long as it is of English origin.
The Secretary of State is so notably interested in the Scottish education system that he has now left the Chamber. I point out to him that the Green Paper is deeply 225 offensive to anyone interested in education. It is also full of alarming statements. In paragraph 1.2, it asserts correctly—the Secretary of State has just admitted that — that the economic performance of the United Kingdom has been disappointing, and it then goes on to call for more technologists and engineers.
I agree that, for the functioning of a modern economy, we need experts in technology and the sciences to be available when required. However, it is not true that simply because one trains these people the economy will grow. In the 1950s, the university of Glasgow found that 80 per cent. of its technical graduates emigrated either to other parts of the United Kingdom or abroad. Therefore, while Scotland trained these people, its economy did not benefit because there were no jobs for the graduates. The Government should take on board the point that although there are advantages to the economy in training technologists, equally without an expanding economy the opportunities to use those experts will not be available.
Today I received an answer from the Department of Employment which showed that in the period between 1974–84, unemployment in the United Kingdom went up by 456 per cent., while in the European community countries it went up by 310 per cent. and in the OECD countries by 178 per cent. That underlines what has been said in the debate.
Strangely enough, the Green Paper is entitled, "The Development of Higher Education into the 1990s", but as we have heard, over the next 10 years it is reckoned that there may be cuts in funding of 2 per cent. a year. That is an impossible burden to place on higher education institutions. It was interesting that, although the Labour party spokesman skated round it, he did not give an explicit assurance that the Labour party in Government would restore the previous level of funding for higher education. In that, he was echoing the remarks made by the leader of the Labour party a few years ago when he was spokesman on education matters.
The committee of vice-chancellors and principals made it clear in the document that it sent me that it has found that business cannot make up the difference in funding for core education and research that is not necessarily pertinent to its business affairs. The Government are ambivalent about where they are going with the funding of universities. Will they keep to the system that we have had in the United Kingdom or are they trying to bring in the American system in which far greater aid is available from the business sector?
Leaving aside the fact that, until recently, the business sector has been in considerable cash difficulties, we should point out that if the Government wish to encourage private donations or business donations to the universities and central institutions, they must give tax concessions equivalent to those available in other countries. I prefer funding to come directly from central Government rather than to be parcelled out in that manner.
It is difficult for universities and institutions—here I declare an interest as the rector of the university of Dundee and a member of the court in that capacity—to finance replacement of equipment. The university tries to do this for its main sectors of vocational and technological education. For the university to make good and bring up to date the equipment is virtually impossible on the funding currently provided by the UGC.
Even in revenue matters such as the funding of the library, although the university had just been granted 226 considerable funds for a new library, it is finding difficulty in meeting the costs of stocking the library with publications. The prices of periodicals have increased substantially, well above the rate of inflation in recent years, yet the finance being made available for them has not. The university is now considering what periodicals ought to be cut out as a consequence of the cuts that have been made.
There is also the question of non-replacement when vacancies occur. That university like others is now having to consider the 2 per cent. cut which it is expecting in the first financial year. When a vacancy arose on the departure of a professor in the department of mechanical engineering —incidentally, one of the areas that are supposed to be expanded—the first response of the university was to considering closing the department to save money, whereas normally the intention would have been to strengthen it because students wish to get in to study engineering. I do not share the pessimism which was expressed recently in that regard.
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) made a very good point when he spoke of the problems that the universities face by having to refuse applicants on the basis of their higher grade examination qualifications because of shortage of places so that they go for those with the best academic performance at school. That does not necessarily produce the best graduates. Even disallowing the experience of the hon. Gentleman, who has such expertise in the matter, it prevents the entry of students who in my day would just have walked into university on certain qualifications and could have produced a good honours degree. They no longer get the opportunity of entry because they are deprived of access by their peer group.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Allan Stewart)
Will the hon. Gentleman concede that in Scotland not only is the total number of students in higher education at a record level but so is the age participation ratio?
§ Mr. Wilson
I am willing to concede that the central institutions play a part in that. Many students prefer to go to central institutions because they give a good education, but some who would have preferred to go to university no longer get in. Indeed, even though the numbers have increased, there is the effect, particularly in the last few years in which the birth rate has been so substantial and the bulge has come through, that some have failed to get into educational establishments altogether. I think that the Minister will agree that that is highly undesirable.
Next there is a difficulty in relation to teaching, and again I congratulate the hon. Member for Peterborough on his observations. If staff ratios worsen and it becomes increasingly necessary for staff to produce research papers in order to justify their existence, the amount of effort and attention that goes to teaching may decline. When I was a student at university, I took the view that the universities were there primarily for teaching and not for the purpose of research. Since then, I have had to amend my views a little in that respect. However, I think that the stage has been reached where research has become much more important to the universities than is the teaching of students.
With respect to numbers and the exchange that I had with the Minister with responsibility for Scottish 227 education, I received information the other day that the Edinburgh group of the Royal Statistical Society was told on 14 May that major changes are to be made to the Scottish Education Department's statistical model which will likely show higher estimates of demand. It has not been possible for me to table a question to flush out exactly what those changes will be, but I hope that the Secretary of State in summing up may be able, from information supplied by his hon. Friend, to tell the House what changes in projection of demand there will be as a consequence of that review.
In summary, Scotland generally speaking has no confidence now in the UGC. In relation to the closure of the pharmacy department at the Heriot-Watt university, it proved itself ignorant and uncaring in relation to Scottish needs. The whole education system in Scotland is different. It cannot be governed in the same way as the English system. It requires different solutions. We know that the report of the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council—STEAC — is due. The Green Paper is in a sense in limbo in relation to what will happen to Scotland thereafter.
I should like to urge on the Secretary of State and the Minister with responsibility for Scottish education the need to set up two bodies in Scotland — first, an independent UGC with proper interfacing with the research councils; and secondly, a body which is representative of the universities, the central institutions and all parts of higher education, with these bodies being responsible to the Scottish Office which, it is hoped, understands the whole pattern of education in Scotland. Until that is done, we will have disparate control, and higher education in Scotland will remain what it has been for the last few years, a decapitated rump without an ability to plan for itself the future which will obviously be difficult in view of the funding restrictions that the Government are predicting.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)
The Front Bench spokesman hopes to catch my eye at half past 9. Most speeches have been commendably brief, but I hope that those of other hon. Members will be even briefer.
§ 8.56 pm
§ Mrs. Angela Rumbold (Mitcham and Morden)
My credentials for participating in the debate differ slightly perhaps from those of other hon. Members since I have been a governor of one of 29 polytechnics, and, I think, can claim to be one of the founder members of the National Advisory Body. That is the basis on which I wish to declare my interest.
I welcome this opportunity — although not the Opposition motion—to discuss the Green Paper on the development of higher education. It brings to all hon. Members a welcome opportunity to put their points of view.
I spent some time reading the paper carefully. I realise that it contains too much for comment on each section. I should therefore like to confine myself to three areas. The first, and most important in my view, relates to the second section of the paper which develops the thinking on the place of higher education in the economy and subject balance in our future. Although later in the paper there is 228 mention of what has happened to mankind in the last few decades, I think that insufficient emphasis is placed on the phenomenon that now faces us. It seems to me that progress defined as the increase in the ability to replace new techniques by new machinery and advanced scientific application to almost every aspect of our daily lives has had a traumatic effect on how the individual fits into our society. Let me explain that.
During the past 50 years medicine has advanced dramatically so that life is, happily, extended well beyond the expectations of the majority, and certainly for the less well off matched against their counterparts of 100 years ago. Similarly, our everyday life is wholly different. Machinery has been developed that transports us long distances in a relatively short time. It has changed the whole domestic scene, bringing up women from the slower processes of home making and altering for both men and women the management of leisure.
At work, technology has made redundant many of the time-honoured skills and the general pace of life demands constant change and adaptability by the human being.
It will no doubt be said that society has experienced all those changes in the past, and indeed it has, but I am not certain that the change has been so rapid that it spans only half the life expectancy of men and women so that each person can see evolution speeded up at a rate as yet unknown.
The reason why I have spent these few moments on that is that I believe in looking at the future of higher education, and it is imperative that that factor is taken into account. Thus the whole theme of production of qualified manpower should be geared to an understanding that a qualification at 21 may be quite useless at 40.
The heavy reliance placed upon higher education in the Green Paper as a basis for the innovator and the entrepreneur strikes me as a little false. Although I can understand that many good graduates may well turn out to have these skills, it is not a prerequisite of the entrepreneur that he should have first been through the educational hierarchical route. Furthermore, emphasis is placed also on the employer wanting graduates with special skills relating to the expertise of industry and commerce. I believe that that is not necessarily always the case. Most employers look for manpower that is capable of being trained and adapted to the special needs of the individual or company concerned. That is something that we should think about as a philosophical point.
I come now to those who enter higher education and express concern at the lack of good teachers in both mathematics and sciences. That is undoubtedly true, and it is even more true that girls are more quickly disposed to abandon mathematics and science earlier than boys. Two matters need to be stated now. Children lose motivation for subjects at a much earlier stage than is generally recognised. I guess that between the ages of seven and eight it is possible to switch a young child off both mathematics and science. The importance of good teaching of those subjects needs to be considered well before secondary school begins.
Secondly, while the objective of a broad curriculum is highly desirable, we must begin to accept that if we are seriously looking for a body of highly skilled academics for the 1990s, we must start some process of weeding out the bright children throughout the spectrum of our school system, rather than allowing so many potentially bright 229 children to remain undiscovered. The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) highlighted that point rather well.
It is hardly surprising that we cannot attract enlightened teachers into schools where the discipline is non-existent and the facility for seeing the fruits of one's teaching through the successes of one's pupils is constantly denied, especially when other factors such as pay and the general esteem of society for teachers are at their lowest ebb.
While words that suggest that the country needs more able scientists, more engineers, technologists and employers should be the ones to inspire the youngsters, I frankly think that we are not looking at the problem with any real hope of solving it. That hope lies in the abandonment of half-witted political dogma and the realisation that the raw material exists but needs to be discovered early enough and then cultivated in the right atmosphere much more ruthlessly than this country has acknowledged for the past 30 years. If we grab that nettle, perhaps some employers in future will show an interest in the processes of our schools and universities.
Following through my theory that education will have to respond to change at least twice for individuals during their lifetimes, the plans for the pursuit of mature education in the Green Paper and the career vocational study are much to be welcomed. In particular, like my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby), I am pleased to note that sandwich education is to be looked at once again. It has always appeared to me that the argument that it was not cost-effective was simply a management problem, not an education problem. I believe that educationally there are bound to be students who benefit enormously from that type of higher education course.
I also welcome the enthusiasm shown for distance learning. Undoubtedly it is one of the advances that we can encourage with modern technology. It is relatively cheap as a method of updating, reproducing and overhauling the knowledge that students have acquired throughout their working lives.
The last area of interest that I single out for mention touches on the management of the institutions. Obviously, as my right hon. Friend said, the Government are taking note of the Jarratt report which has outlined proposals for change in the planning and management structures of universities. Rightly, the idea of stated objectives and structures to enable management decisions about allocation of resources has been outlined.
Speaking from quite a bit of experience in management on the other side of the binary line in local authority higher education institutions and, in particular the polytechnics, I observe that it is not before time. However, I stress that as with any other organisation the most important task for those who have the interest of managing public money and how it is spent, whether it be in schools, universities, polytechnics, or colleges of further education, is to ensure that the top management is of the highest calibre.
Vice-chancellors, polytechnic directors and heads of colleges need to be men and women with a range of academic and management skills that enable them to identify readily the needs of the institution. Whether it be on management of money or the planning of courses in conjunction with the rest of the country, it is their judgment that will affect the quality of staff and the final outcome of the student intake. With leadership of the highest order there should be coupled experience and a broad spectrum of people on the governing bodies who can 230 make decisions and judgments about quality and quantity and at the same time can be relied upon to exercise effective controls on both capital and revenue expenditure in the same way as a board of directors holds responsibility for the same areas in any business.
For the better health of all institutions at this level of higher education, I welcome the consideration of the present system of tenure. It seems to be an admirable idea to link tenure with other institutional experience. Men or women on loan from commerce and industry both here and abroad will enable much wider spectrums to be seen. Certainly it is high time that the younger men and women coming through the universities should be given the hope of promotion and an understanding that a breakthrough either in research or production will be recognised not merely by academic acclaim, important though that is, and not in any way decided, but by the possibility of sponsored professional chairs for the front runner to encourage others to follow.
Whatever be the broad thrust of the Green Paper, the simple message that I would add to it is that if the United Kingdom wishes to compete with the world in any respect it must recognise and encourage excellence in a way that has been positively discouraged for far too long, especially in our schools and universities, and all too often for entirely the wrong reasons. Let us remedy that error and perhaps the future will look much brighter and more positive to the youth of tomorrow.
§ 9.8 pm
§ Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)
What I say will be concerned mainly with universities. Lest any of us on these Benches are accused of dwelling too much on universiy education, I stress that we are mindful that higher education consists of both sectors. Many of us want to see the binary system abolished, but that is another matter. Equally, it is not sufficient for the Secretary of State to say, after five or six years in office, that he is thinking about mature entry into higher education. Continuing education and adult education should have been dealt with many years ago, but again I have no time to talk at length on those important topics.
The debate has been very interesting. Conservative Members have introduced some useful points but they have been talking about the subject as from a distance, without knowing what was going on at ground level and what disillusion is being felt by teachers and researchers in higher education. [Interruption.] If Conservative Members raise their voices in amazement, they are not just ignorant: they are showing their ignorance. I do not want to accuse Conservative Members of being ignorant but such sedentary interventions only confirm what I suspect to be the case. It would be a great deal better—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. This only delays the speech that is being made and prevents other hon. Members from speaking.
§ Dr. Marek
This is an important matter because the Secretary of State has said that he needs to spend public money sensibly. It is difficult to take exception to that statement, but what does he mean by spending public 231 money sensibly? It has been said that we need to spend money so that industry can immediately take advantage of research. Hon. Members have asked where the money is to come from. That is another way of trying to cover up what is happening within the higher education sector.
Money must be found, because if it is not found for higher education and adequate research, this and the next generation may not pay for that failure but following generations will pay dearly. Some research is immediately applicable to industry. Other research may be applicable later. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) may have got near to the point but not many other Conservative Members did. We do not know whether some research will be applicable. Nevertheless, such research is highly valued by almost every other country and it should be valued by this country if we are to remain in the forefront as an industrial nation.
The Association of University Teachers sent me a copy of a letter from the Prime Minister dated 7 June 1983, just before polling day, when she was a candidate for Finchley. I dare say that other hon. Members had a copy of this letter.
§ Dr. Marek
k: It may not be worth the paper that it is written on, but I shall quote it. It is addressed to Mr. Hennessy, who is a regional official of the AUT. Its title is:Funding for the university sector in general and those institutions in the London areaThe Prime Minister states:After decades of expansion, there has been scope for the elimination of waste and more effective use of resources both in universities and in polytechnics and colleges. Given this fact, and the general need to contain public spending, the Government decided in 1981 that, (in addition to removing indiscriminate subsidies for overseas students)"—how shortsighted that is. If Conservative Members looked at the graphs of overseas students in the United States, France and Germany and saw how they have increased, could they say that all those countries are wrong and that this country is the only one that is right? Not on their life. We are the only country that is wrong. We shall pay for that dearly when those students who should have been studying in this country order all their equipment and goods from other countries once they have graduated.
The letter continues:spending on higher education over both sectors should be reduced by about 8 ½per cent. in real terms over three years.The Prime Minister then says:But the period of contraction is now nearing the end. In 1983/84, we are spending £2.75 billion on higher education; and the intention"—I hope that hon. Members will listen to this clearly—is to hold the level steady in real terms after 1984/85.My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition called the Prime Minister a twister. I should like to ask the Secretary of State whether she is a twister. What has happened? Why is there a change? Why do we have the Green Paper when I have a letter, which is ostensibly a copy of a genuine article, that says:the intention is to hold the level steady in real terms after 1984–85"?What is happening? Can it be that the economy is not what the right hon. Lady thought in 1983 it would be? I would 232 not be surprised if that is so, because the more the Government cut, the more people are thrown on the dole, the less the Government have in taxation revenue and the more the Government have to cut. That has happened ever since the Conservative party took office.
If that is not the explanation, and the economy is buoyant, as the Chancellor tells us, why was that letter written in that form, saying that there would be constant funding after 1984–85? Why has the University Grants Committee written to the universities saying that they should budget for cuts of 2 per cent. until the end of the decade? I do not understand what is happening, and I should be grateful to the Secretary of State if he told us what is happening.
In point 2 of the letter, the Prime Minister referred toincreasing access to university courses for those living in the London area".The tenor of her argument was that access for those students would be increased. I hope that the Government stand by their commitment. They have patently not stood by that commitment during the past two years. Many students who could have gone to universities in London and elsewhere have not been able to do so. They may have managed to get into courses elsewhere in higher education, but they have been denied access to the universities.
The Government have produced various figures showing that student numbers will decline. That prediction has been made not for just the next few years but for the next decade and a half. With what certainty do the Government think that they are right? It is possible that, in 10 years, there might be a higher take-up of adult education places. If so, the Government should budget and ensure that there is a provision for those future students.
§ Dr. Marek
The Secretary of State nods his head. I welcome that agreement. I hope that he will say something about this matter, because there is dismay throughout the higher education sector about the cuts that have taken place.
Instead of carrying out research and giving proper attention to teaching, many university teachers wonder whether they will be able to keep their jobs — and, indeed, whether there will be jobs in two or three years. There is much to be said for an interchange of academics and mobility between universities, but those jobs may be temporary and without security of tenure. What will the Government do about that?
Academics wonder, even if they do not move, whether they will keep their jobs. Their salaries have been eroded. I am not saying that their salaries are too high or are inadequate. In April 1979, the maximum salary of a university lecturer was 98.5 per cent. of the maximum salary of a principal in the Civil Service. By April 1984 that percentage had fallen to 87 per cent. I have not checked whether those figures are accurate. Civil servants are also not happy with their wage increases. The average earnings of university teachers have fallen by 36.5 per cent.
We cannot run a country with research and teaching in higher education, which is vital to our continuing prosperity if there is continual unhappiness about levels of salary, conditions of work, the moral benefits of having a job and the lack of pride in not having a job. I wish that 233 I could get that point across to the Government. We are creating this problem not just in higher education but throughout society.
Will the Government pursue a policy which, in two or three years, will cause those who work in higher education to take pride in their jobs and to say, "We are doing a good job, and we are happy with it."? At the moment, they have failed to do that. If they do not manage to do that, not this generation or the next one, but succeeding generations will pay dearly for the short-sighted policy set out in the Green Paper.
§ 9.19 pm
§ Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury)
In a debate on such an important subject as higher education, we must not neglect historical or international perspectives. The roots of our education spring from our language, which continues to give us influence in the world, and from our culture which continues to make a considerable contribution to civilisation. Together, they produce the branches of education, arts, science and technology which we can give to the world. The education that we export to other countries either directly, or indirectly by accepting overseas students at our institutions of higher and further education, not only promotes our cultural influence, but creates markets overseas.
§ Mr. Key
Yes, and good will. Students familiar with British products and equipment, and with British ways of doing things, will become leaders and opinion-formers who will buy British and create jobs here.
There are at least three groups in British society that are outstandingly internationalist. The first are the exporters of the industrial and commercial community. The second is the cultural community, and the third is the academic community. They are all interrelated, and they all win friends for Britain. Indeed, British business men seeking to penetrate overseas markets have problems with the British Overseas Trade Board and the Export Credits Guarantee Department, because they are constantly helped less than their competitors inside and outside the European Community. While many exporters give fulsome praise to the work of embassies and consulates in their commercial support, they also pay tribute to the pro-British climate that has been created by British education, whether acquired in Britain or overseas, and by the work of the British Council.
There is much misunderstanding about the work of the British Council. Only 13 per cent. of its activities are concerned exclusively with the arts. Most of its work is about people, notably students, teaching and libraries, but also about official visitors to Britain. I should stress that it is not the English Council; it is the British Council, and it should include more activities, for instance, in Wales and Scotland.
Recently, the British Council's Government grant has been cut by more than 20 per cent. Consequently, English language teaching has been cut, British Council libraries have less money, and academic and youth exchanges have been reduced. But there is a plus factor. The British Council has increased its revenue considerably and has started some imaginative schemes for funding by sponsorship of English teaching. One example is the joint 234 project by the Cambridge local examinations syndicate and Suntory whisky for an English language institute in Japan, managed by the British Council.
The Green Paper acknowledges all that in its section on overseas students. The Government have decided that such students, welcome as they undoubtedly are, should not be subsidised by the British taxpayer. Instead, the Government are committed to a policy of targeted support that meets the needs of overseas countries.
Indeed, there has been a sea change in our contribution to international education in recent years. That is evident from the British Council's market surveys of overseas demand for, and perceptions of, British higher education, and its establishment of an education counselling service in three pilot centres in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. It is also evident in the new approach of the Overseas Development Administration. I have the honour to be one of the three parliamentary chairmen of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, and I must: say that there has been alarm and despondency at the large reduction in overseas students in Britain, largely following the replacement of marginal costs by full-cost pricing, which has led to the significant salting away of money in some of our universities.
However, in discussing higher education with the Council for Education in the Commonwealth, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development explained how he is targeting his contribution towards encouraging a skilled, literate and environmentally aware work force in the recipient countries. His educational advisers are seeking new priorities and programmes overseas, with clear objectives and time limits that fit into national development programmes. That can only be an improvement.
We should acknowledge the considerable and largely unknown ways in which our higher education is promoted overseas and why it is so highly valued. The British Council and some universities operate the key English language teaching scheme. In countries where English is not usually spoken, such as Indonesia and Brazil, they operate the English for special purposes scheme. It is important because non-English speaking nations are rapidly becoming aware that English is essential for education in advanced science and technology.
Paid for by the Overseas Development Administration, London university recently organised a conference at Cumberland lodge, which brought together the education Ministers of eight African countries faced with rising demands for education and dwindling resources. The results will be published shortly in a book entitled "Education Priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa".
The Government support in-country training and third country training, where it is more convenient or appropriate to establish regional education centres such as the university of the West Indies or the university of the south Pacific, which are partly funded by the United Kingdom. For more than 25 years, the Commonwealth scholarship and fellowship plan has facilitated student mobility — it currently funds 800 students at British universities and medical schools.
The Pym package of 1983 led to an important increase in student numbers. The Department of Education and Science continues its scheme for research students and the British Council has its highly successful fellowships programme. There are now some 16,500 overseas students in Britain, 71 per cent. of them from Commonwealth 235 countries, but it is important to help more overseas students, especially from developing countries. That is why I am especially pleased about the fact that, in answer to my parliamentary question, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development was able to announce yesterday the introduction of a new scheme called the shared scholarship scheme. Up to 450 scholarships will be available over five years, funded jointly by the Government and universities and polytechnics that wish to participate. They will probably seek commercial sponsorship and partnership and a closer relationship with their local industrial and commercial communities.
The scheme is a start but, in the interests of higher education and the country, student mobility should increase. I hope that when Commonwealth education Ministers meet later this year during the UNESCO general conference, they will ask themselves whether they have achieved the objectives that they agreed on in their Nicosia communique of last July.
The Green Paper is a tough and realistic document born of the hard reality that the population of university entrance age will fall by more than one third in the next 12 years. No Government could afford to ignore that stark fact, so we should not get carried away in condemnation but should consider the positive proposals that have been presented for discussion in the Green Paper. It is not a short-sighted or defeatist policy, and I urge the House to support the amendment.
§ 9.27 pm
§ Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I have a college of further education, a college of higher education, and a university in my constituency. I am sceptical about the Green Paper. The consequences of cuts in 1980–81 and again in 1984–85 are serious for higher education. There have been numerous course cuts and place losses at the university in Hull.
I feel sorry for the young people who are affected. I vividly remember seeing the disappointment on the faces of 18-year-olds with A-levels at a school that I visited last year. When I had the privilege to go to university, entrance was simple compared with what those kids have to go through. It is disgraceful that top calibre people are being wasted. It is wrong that people should be treated in that way. It is no wonder that there is a "Why bother?" attitude among young people.
There are not enough qualified people in Britain. A recent report compared the number of qualified people in Japanese and German industries with the number in our industries. A tremendous gap must be filled particularly in the technological industries about which we hear so much.
I am worried by the staff cuts at the Hull college of higher education. The student-staff ratio is moving towards 12:1. That is being achieved by not replacing staff. That reduces the course options. The consequence is a loss of skills and an aging teacher population. The new blood and new degrees are not there to refresh our universities and colleges.
I talked to people connected with our colleges today before taking part in the debate. Morale has been affected by the cuts. The cuts create pressure for teaching at the expense of links with industry and consultancy work. That is serious. Morale is affected because the number of career opportunities for college staff is restricted.
236 Expenditure per student at the Hull college of higher education is falling. Although there was a general increase in the amount of money spent between 1980–81 and 1984–85, it has not kept pace with the increased number of students. That means serious cuts in support services such as career guidance and counselling, the milk round —which is costly in terms of man hours—links with employers and the general environment.
The Green Paper will not result in an improvement in higher education in Hull. I see it as an excuse for cutting expenditure. I referred earlier to students who had lost their opportunity. The cuts mean that future students will also lose their opportunity. 9.33 pm
§ Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)
The Secretary of State received a poor reception for his Green Paper when he presented it to the House last month. The press also gave it a poor reception. Only The Sun came out in its defence. Tonight few hon. Members have given unqualified support for the Green Paper.
At times during his speech it was doubtful whether the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of his own Green Paper. Sometimes he talked more about the sections that had been cut out than about the contents of the Green Paper. He must admit that the Green Paper is a bad harbinger of doom and despair for higher education and for the economy. It discusses cuts and the general malaise in our economic climate into the 1990s. Surely the Government should at least be hoping that their monetarist policies will work.
The Green Paper is not only about cuts but about a total reversal of Governments strategy over the past 100 years. There has been almost a political consensus for 100 years that we should expand higher education and recognise the intrinsic worth of education and its importance for our economy. Now, suddenly, the Government are talking not about a few short-term cuts because of economic difficulties but about a long-term strategy of contraction in higher education. The fact that we should single out from the Green Paper is that total change of attitude.
There were cuts in the resources of the polytechnics and colleges of higher education right from the start in 1979. There were savage cuts in university funding in 1981. It seems difficult to take seriously the Government's claims that they want to put resources into science and technology when three of the science and technology universities suffered the biggest cuts. The people at Bradford, Salford and Aston are now asking, having had those savage cuts, whether they will have to take 2 per cent. cuts each year for the next three years.
We were told by the Government that those cuts were to get round the short-term economic problems. There is no talk in the Green Paper of hoping to restore those cuts. Now the UGC is talking about 2 per cent. cuts over the next three years, probably the next five years. The NAB is warning the Government that standards are falling in polytechnics and colleges of higher education because of the shortage of resources. Finally, on top of all that, the Government are talking about wanting to cut the numbers of students in universities by 14 per cent. in the 1990s, and cutting resources by that amount. That is the most disturbing thing. It might be difficult to keep up the number of students, but we should pump in the resources to make sure that we can attract more students. It may well 237 be that developing more science courses will be more expensive, but we should be talking about maintaining level funding for those institutions into the 1990s.
§ Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)
I ask the hon. Gentleman to pause for a moment over the age participation rate. Does he deny that the previous Labour Government cut it from 13.6 per cent, to 12.6 per cent? Does he further deny that now the Conservative Government have raised it above the target set by Robbins and are aiming for 15.5 per cent. by 1999?
§ Mr. Bennett
If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk about the age participation rate, the most useful thing to do is to look back to the target that the Prime Minister set in 1972. She talked about a participation rate of 22 per cent. as the aim. I accept that there have been mistakes and disappointments in terms of short-term cuts, but what is wrong with the Green Paper is that it is not setting us a long-term target of trying to move up towards that 22 per cent. figure. It says that 15 per cent. is the most that we can hope for in the 1990s. Surely we must get back to a policy in which we try to expand higher education rather than complacently talk about cutting the resources that need to go into it.
I should like to move on to a series of specific points in the Green Paper. I refer first to the number of students. The key is the level of Government support for students, particularly the missing section in the Green Paper about the level of student support. Almost everybody believed that the Green Paper would come out in January, then the Government said that they could not produce it in January because they wanted to include a section on student support. That was perfectly valid. If the Government put off publishing the Green Paper until May, why did they still leave out the section on student support? The suspicion that is growing in the country is that the Government want to slip out their proposals on student support in August, at a time when there will be least opportunity for students to protest and for the Secretary of State possibly to get into the same difficulties that he faced in the autumn. The Secretary of State must explain to us whey he has not come forward with his proposals for student support, because if it was important that the section on support should be an integral part of the Green Paper in January, why is it not there now?
My hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) referred to participation among working class youngsters. The Secretary of State talks about improving the participation rate, but to make that a reality some financial support must be given to encourage youngsters to stay on at school. In Tameside in my own constituency, about 24 per cent. of 16-year-olds who achieve good O-level results do not stay on in education. If they obtained good apprenticeships or other opportunities, that would be fine, but many of them end up on the less reputable YTS schemes or in unemployment. I wish that the Government would encourage youngsters with working class back-grounds to stay on to obtain a further education and participate in higher education.
The Government must also address themselves to a far greater degree to the participation rate among ethnic minorities as well as to the problem of attracting mature students. The Green Paper pays lip service to this but does not refer to resources for further education to give mature students a second chance or to the problems faced by the 238 institutions. The Secretary of State must address himself to how we can make it financially possible for mature students to enter universities and polytechnics. That aspect of student support is also missing.
The Green Paper also contains two of the Government's obsessions, one of which is sponsorship. They seem to think that sponsorship which may work for snooker or football can apply to many other areas. They began by wanting more and more sponsorship for the arts, and took away Arts Council funding. They are now talking about sponsorship or advertising for the BBC. Does such sponsorship exist within industry, and does industry have the money to pay for it? There is no evidence that industry will pay.
The Government should stop this obsession with sponsorship—or perhaps the Secretary of State intends to come to the House wearing a sweater advertising a brand name product and claim that he is the sponsored Secretary of State. The right hon. Gentleman should recognise that, once there is sponsorship, the sponsor becomes the dictator and the manipulator.
§ Mr. Bennett
No, I shall not give way.
The Government also want to bash the trade unions and other unions. I am surprised at their attack on students unions' sabbatical officers. During my visits to academic institutions, I have been struck by the high quality of most sabbatical officers. More often than not, the good sabbatical student union officials ensure that those unions are effective, democratic institutions which cannot be hijacked by a small band of extremists.
The Secretary of State talks about the importance of freedom of speech in the universities and students unions. I agree. However, the last time that I was shouted down at a students union meeting — also attended by the Under-Secretary — it was by the Federation of Conservative Students. It organised the hooligans on that occasion.
§ Mr. Bennett
No, I will not give way.
Does the Secretary of State now accept the views of the visiting committee that the Open university is doing a first-class job? If so, why is he not prepared to come up with the money so that development can continue in areas such as PICKUP and the turning of its loan into a grant?
The right hon. Gentleman also talks with great enthusiasm about switching from the arts to the sciences, but he does not talk about the cost implications. He does not point out that in many cases science courses are nearly twice as expensive as arts courses. Such a switch will either mean a cut in the number of student places or that the new science courses will have to be run on the cheap.
The right hon. Gentleman must also address himself to the fact that there is a shortage not of scientists but of those with an arts education who are literate in the sciences and technologies. It is most important to encourage people who receive arts degrees to study further and make themselves literate in science and technology. In the Green Paper the Secretary of State firmly talked about discouraging the longer degree courses. Although their attraction is that they try to bridge the gap between the arts and the sciences, he attacks them most.
Will the Secretary of State comment briefly on his views about pay? Several hon. Members raised that 239 question, and its implications for morale. He should consider that both the Green Paper and pay problems are beginning to make many people who work in universities and polytechnics extremely disillusioned. Evidence shows that in some key areas of science and technology, on which he is so keen, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit staff.
Will the Secretary of State tell the House who has given the Green Paper an enthusiastic welcome? When did he convince the Prime Minister that her target in the 1970s of 22 per cent. was wrong, and that the most that we could aim for was 15 per cent.? Why, after six years of the Government's monetarist policies, must we set our targets for education for the next 10 years increasingly low, rather than raising them and our expectations?
§ 9.45 pm
§ Sir Keith Joseph
I shall try to answer as many questions as I can in the time available.
The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud), in a not altogether friendly discussion on the Green Paper, pointed out that the universities would like to be able to engage at least 900 more lecturers and senior staff during the next period. He was right. However, I must tell the House that during the same period about 700 vacancies are expected to occur. There will still be a worrying gap, but it will be of the order of at least 200, rather than at least 900.
The hon. Member for Knowsley, South (Mr. Hughes) in a good speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I always find his speeches well worth listening to. Although he and I would disagree about some of the reasons behind his diagnoses, he always makes a solid diagnosis. He reminded the House that we are still far from achieving the common standards of citizenship to which Robbins and his committee aspired. The hon. Gentleman spoke of his aspiration for more and more of his constituents to attend higher education. He will agree that if that is to come to pass, as we all should like—there is no reason why his constituents are inherently inappropriate for higher education—we must make our schooling more effective. Both sides of the House will agree with that. The Opposition may criticise us for having aspirations and yet not being able to find the resources which they think are necessary. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the way to worthwhile higher education for more people is through better schooling.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) asked some awkward questions. He asked why Brunei university had not been selected for sharing in the switch money. The invidious matter of selecting universities, and in due course some polytechnics, for sharing that money was carried out by the University Grants Committee on behalf of the universities and by industry.
Industry has had the invidious job of identifying those universities which it judges could most usefully receive the switch money. Against the background of not enough money being available and having to spread it widely, the choice has been made. It is no discredit to Brunei; there are some very strong competitors.
My hon. Friend asked why more higher education skills have not been used to modernise British industry. Indeed, it is a question which goes to the heart of our relative 240 failure over the past four decades. We can all make speeches on the combination of reasons, and I am sure that successive Governments have played their part in those discouragements, but one has to identify patchy management as one of the factors. No doubt management would say that it has not been altogether encouraged by the attitude of trade unions. At any rate, I think that we are now all agreed that there should be more links between business and higher education, and that is manifestly taking place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) made an awkward intervention. He asked how a decision might be made in due course if any institutions, in the Government's view, had to be closed. It is not yet clear whether any whole institutions will need to be closed, although that may be necessary to preserve standards as student numbers fall. The Government would, of course, discuss with the UGC and the NAB the way in which judgments about scale and scope are to be made. The criteria governing all such judgments—those concerning expansion and selectivity as well as rationalisation and closures — should, in the Government's view be excellence, fitness for purpose and cost effectiveness. Where institutions, departments and courses are excellent, fit for their purpose and cost-effective, they need not fear for their future, regardless of whether they are in the university or the public sector.
My hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) thought that higher education institutions should be able to manage change. He echoed, effectively and eloquently, the views expressed by the Jarratt committee. In its report, the committee suggested the ways in which institutions could, without losing the decentralised judgment making which occurs in higher education institutions, decide together the best way to deploy their resources. I commend the Jarratt report to my hon. Friend and to the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold) rightly focused on quality and effectiveness in the schools, and spoke with particular interest about the scope that there still is to encourage girls to participate more fully in some parts of the curriculum which they have tended — probably under parental pressure and expectations—to neglect in the past. The trends are moving in the right direction. As my hon. Friend knows, more girls are studying the sciences, the technologies and engineering, but there is much more room for them. We are giving every encouragement so that there may be movement in the direction that my hon. Friend wants. I have a large number of examples, if she is interested in them.
The hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek) asked several questions. If eligible demand grows — he was particularly interested in adult education — the Government will certainly review policy, as they have said in the Green Paper. On a Green Paper basis, they are making some projections based on trends, in so far as they can be predicted. If the trends prove to be too pessimistic, the Government will review policy.
With regard to overseas students, as my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) said in his interesting speech, an addition was announced yesterday to the number of overseas students for whom we shall provide finance.
However, I do not want hon. Members to mislead themselves. Although there has been a fall in the number 241 of overseas students attending universities since 1979, that number has recently started to rise again. The number still here, including those who are paying their own way, is not so dramatically below the 1979 figure as was predicted at the time.
The hon. Member for Wrexham also asked me to deal with the Prime Minister's letter to the Association of University Teachers and explain why level funding has not been provided. Since that letter was written, the public purse has incurred a number of expenditures that were not predicted at that time—for instance, the small matter of the miners' dispute—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) belongs to a party which suffered more than hiccups during its last period of office. In one particular year it had to cut expenditure on higher education by no less than 8 per cent.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) shared the disappointment of A-level students who have not obtained sufficiently good examination results to gain places in higher education. I accept, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson), that A-level results are merely the least bad indicators that are available. It is realised generally that they cannot be wholly replied upon. Nevertheless, surely we must agree that there have to be certain standards for entry to higher education and that those standards must be reached.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) asked me when the student support finance paper will be published. I hope that it will be published by the end of next month. He also asked me to comment upon the visiting committee's views on the Open university, which it highly esteems. However, he failed to point out that the visiting committee also said that the Open university is unable at the moment, because of its management arrangements, to cost the different options that are available to it. It said that, provided that the Government stretched out the reductions — in other words, did not impose them so quickly—the Open university should be able to cope with all that it wanted to do by making economies. The Government have met the recommendations of the visiting committee, and I hope that the Open university will now be able to cope.
I now wish to deal with a point that was emphasised by the hon. Members for Dundee, East, for Denton and Reddish and for Durham, North. The hon. Member for Dundee, East asked whether we really expected private money to be put into universities and polytechnics to help them to support their building programmes. The hon. Member for Durham, North once again emphasised that more money from the taxpayer should endlessly be made available. He said that the Government should not predict a fall in the number of students, even for demographic reasons, and that therefore there should be more spending upon education. The fact is that under successive Governments huge funds have been provided for higher education, running into billions of pounds. They should surely result in more efficient management, as has been identified by successive committees. Against that background, is it really the view of the Opposition and of the hon. Member for Dundee, East that the Government should not encourage higher education to raise, if it can, more money privately?
§ Sir Keith Joseph
Not only will it, but during 1983–84 the universities raised an extra £54 million in that way. This is not a total answer, but it shows what can be done.
The Opposition are still hooked on the old 1960s fallacy that more means better, but more does not necessarily mean better. That is why it is essential that, if more is spent, it should be accompanied by the policies to make sure that more is better. The Opposition have ignored those policies; I hope that the House will reject the motion and accept the amendment:
§ Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 176, Noes 254.244
|Division No. 226]||[10 pm|
|Abse, Leo||Forrester, John|
|Anderson, Donald||Foster, Derek|
|Ashdown, Paddy||Foulkes, George|
|Ashley, Rt Hon Jack||Fraser, J. (Norwood)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Freud, Clement|
|Barnett, Guy||Garrett, W. E.|
|Barron, Kevin||George, Bruce|
|Beckett, Mrs Margaret||Godman, Dr Norman|
|Beith, A. J.||Gould, Bryan|
|Benn, Tony||Gourlay, Harry|
|Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh)||Hamilton, James (M'well N)|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hardy, Peter|
|Blair, Anthony||Harman, Ms Harriet|
|Boyes, Roland||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith|
|Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E)||Haynes, Frank|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Brown, R. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne N)||Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)|
|Caborn, Richard||Holland, Stuart (Vauxhal!)|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J||Home Robertson, John|
|Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M)||Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)|
|Campbell, Ian||Howells, Geraint|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Hoyle, Douglas|
|Canavan, Dennis||Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Cartwright, John||Hughes, Roy (Newport East)|
|Clark, Dr David (S Shields)||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy ('Hillh'd)|
|Clarke, Thomas||John, Brynmor|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Oeeside)|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Cohen, Harry||Kennedy, Charles|
|Coleman, Donald||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.||Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil|
|Conlan, Bernard||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton North)||Lambie, David|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Lamond, James|
|Corbett, Robin||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Cowans, Harry||Lewis, Terence (Worsley)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Litherland, Robert|
|Craigen, J. M.||Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)|
|Crowther, Stan||Lofthouse, Geoffrey|
|Cunningham, Dr John||Loyden, Edward|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||McDonald, Dr Oonagh|
|Dobson, Frank||McGuire, Michael|
|Dormand, Jack||McKelvey, William|
|Dubs, Alfred||MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McWilliam, John|
|Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.||Madden, Max|
|Eadie, Alex||Marek, Dr John|
|Eastham, Ken||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Ellis, Raymond||Martin, Michael|
|Evans, John (St. Helens N)||Maxton, John|
|Ewing, Harry||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Faulds, Andrew||Meacher, Michael|
|Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Michie, William|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)||Soley, Clive|
|Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)||Spearing, Nigel|
|Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|O'Brien, William||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stott, Roger|
|Parry, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Patchett, Terry||Straw, Jack|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)|
|Penhaligon, David||Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)|
|Pike, Peter||Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. E.(S Down)||Thorne, Stan (Preston)|
|Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)||Tinn, James|
|Prescott, John||Torney, Tom|
|Radice, Giles||Wallace, James|
|Randall, Stuart||Wardell, Gareth (Gower)|
|Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)||Wareing, Robert|
|Richardson, Ms Jo||Weetch, Ken|
|Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)||Welsh, Michael|
|Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)||White, James|
|Rogers, Allan||Williams, Rt Hon A.|
|Rooker, J. W.||Wilson, Gordon|
|Rowlands, Ted||Winnick, David|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon R.||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Silkin, Rt Hon J.||Mr. Allen McKay and|
|Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Sean Hughes.|
|Adley, Robert||Fletcher, Alexander|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael||Fookes, Miss Janet|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Forman, Nigel|
|Ancram, Michael||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Ashby, David||Forth, Eric|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Fowler, Rt Hon Norman|
|Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)||Fox, Marcus|
|Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y)||Franks, Cecil|
|Bellingham, Henry||Fraser, Peter (Angus East)|
|Best, Keith||Freeman, Roger|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Fry, Peter|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Gale, Roger|
|Biggs-Davison, Sir John||Galley, Roy|
|Blackburn, John||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Body, Richard||Garel-Jones, Tristan|
|Bottomley, Peter||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian|
|Bottomley, Mrs Virginia||Goodhart, Sir Philip|
|Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Gorst, John|
|Bright, Graham||Gow, Ian|
|Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)||Gower, Sir Raymond|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Grant, Sir Anthony|
|Burt, Alistair||Greenway, Harry|
|Butcher, John||Gregory, Conal|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds)|
|Carttiss, Michael||Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)|
|Cash, William||Grist, Ian|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Grylls, Michael|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Gummer, John Selwyn|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)|
|Clegg, Sir Walter||Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hampson, Dr Keith|
|Conway, Derek||Hanley, Jeremy|
|Coombs, Simon||Hannam, John|
|Cope, John||Hargreaves, Kenneth|
|Cormack, Patrick||Harris, David|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Harvey, Robert|
|Crouch, David||Haselhurst, Alan|
|Currie, Mrs Edwina||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Dickens, Geoffrey||Hawkins, Sir Paul (SW N'folk)|
|Dorrell, Stephen||Hawksley, Warren|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Hayward, Robert|
|Dover, Den||Heathcoat-Amory, David|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Henderson, Barry|
|Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hickmet, Richard|
|Fallon, Michael||Hind, Kenneth|
|Favell, Anthony||Hirst, Michael|
|Fenner, Mrs Peggy||Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)|
|Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey||Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)|
|Holt, Richard||Price, Sir David|
|Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Pym, Rt Hon Francis|
|Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)||Raffan, Keith|
|Hubbard-Miles, Peter||Raison, Rt Hon Timothy|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Rathbone, Tim|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover)|
|Hunter, Andrew||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick||Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Ridsdale, Sir Julian|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Kershaw, Sir Anthony||Roe,Mrs Marion|
|Key, Robert||Rowe, Andrew|
|King, Roger (B'ham N'field)||Rumbold, Mrs Angela|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)||St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon N.|
|Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Knowles, Michael||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Knox, David||Shelton, William (Streatham)|
|Lamont, Norman||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lawler, Geoffrey||Shersby, Michael|
|Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark||Silvester, Fred|
|Lester, Jim||Sims, Roger|
|Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamfd)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Lightbown, David||Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)|
|Lilley, Peter||Speller, Tony|
|Lloyd, Ian (Havant)||Spencer, Derek|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)|
|Lord, Michael||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Steen, Anthony|
|McCrindle, Robert||Stern, Michael|
|McCurley, Mrs Anna||Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|MacGregor, John||Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)|
|Maclean, David John||Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Stokes, John|
|Major, John||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Malins, Humfrey||Sumberg, David|
|Malone, Gerald||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Maples, John||Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)|
|Mather, Carol||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Maude, Hon Francis||Terlezki, Stefan|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|Mayhew, Sir Patrick||Thompson, Donald (Calder V)|
|Merchant, Piers||Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Thornton, Malcolm|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)||Thurnham, Peter|
|Mills, lain (Meriden)||Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Tracey, Richard|
|Mitchell, David (NW Hants)||Trippier, David|
|Moate, Roger||Trotter, Neville|
|Montgomery, Sir Fergus||Twinn, Dr Ian|
|Moore, John||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)||Vaughan, Sir Gerard|
|Moynihan, Hon C.||Viggers, Peter|
|Murphy, Christopher||Waddington, David|
|Neale, Gerrard||Wakeham, Rt Hon John|
|Needham, Richard||Walden, Georgev|
|Nelson, Anthony||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Neubert, Michael||Waller, Gary|
|Newton, Tony||Ward, John|
|Nicholls, Patrick||Wardle, C. (Bexhill)|
|Norris, Steven||Watson, John|
|Oppenheim, Phillip||Watts, John|
|Ottaway, Richard||Wells, Bowen (Hertford)|
|Page, Sir John (Harrow W)||Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)|
|Page, Richard (Herts SW)||Wheeler, John|
|Parris, Matthew||Whitney, Raymond|
|Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn)||Winterton, Mrs Ann|
|Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian||Wolfson, Mark|
|Pollock, Alexander||Yeo, Tim|
|Porter, Barry||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Powell, William (Corby)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Powley, John||Mr. Ian Lang and|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Mr. Tony Durant.|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments), and agreed to.
§ MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.
§ That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on its policies for ensuring that higher education is better managed and more attuned to the needs of the economy, for maintaining and enhancing standards, and for broadening the criterial for access to higher education; urges Her Majesty's Government to continue to seek ways of making more effective use of the resources available for higher education; and welcomes the framework for the future development of higher education set out in Cmnd. 9524.