HL Deb 19 April 1923 vol 53 cc734-55

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the general object of the Bill which I bring to your Lordships' notice this afternoon is to give effect to the recommendations of the Report of the Royal Commission which was presented to Parliament in March last year. The circumstances which led to the appointment of that Commission are, of course, stated very fully in the Report, but at the same time the Bill involves a new departure so far as Oxford and Cambridge Universities are concerned, and I think I ought therefore to recall the circumstances as briefly as I can.

Until 1919 no State aid had been granted to the new Universities as such. Some comparatively small sums had been given to them by the Board of Education and Ministry of Agriculture for certain specified objects. At the latter end of 1918 the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Education received a deputation from the newer Universities asking for further grants to enable them to meet the increased costs resulting from the war. At that deputation Oxford and Cambridge were represented at the President's own request, and as it was perfectly clear that the same causes which operated in the case of the newer Universities were also operating in the case of these two Universities they were asked to submit at the same time statements as to their more immediate needs. These statements showed that for the first time in their history Oxford and Cambridge had to ask for considerable sums from the public funds. They asked for grants to meet their recurring expenses apart from their capital needs.

The then Government felt that they could not accede at once to this request without such an inquiry as would satisfy Parliament that the Universities were unable to meet their obligations from their own resources. They intimated to them that a Royal Commission of inquiry would have to be appointed, and they asked them whether they were prepared to co-operate. The answer of the two Universities was that they were prepared to do so. Consequently, the Royal Commission was appointed in November, 1919. The terms of reference, as stated in the preamble to this Bill, were as follows:— To consider the applications which have been made by the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for financial assistance from the State, and for that purpose to inquire into the financial resources of the Universities and of the colleges and halls therein, into the administration and application of these resources, into the government of the Universities and into the relations of the colleges and halls to the Universities and to each other. The Chairman of the Royal Commission, as your Lordships know, was Mr. Asquith, It was divided into three Committees, which dealt respectively with Oxford, Cambridge, and the question of estates management.

It is impossible, within the compass of this debate, to go in great detail into the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Oxford and Cambridge are elaborate and intricate organisations, into every part of which the Royal Commission devoted a searching inquiry. The recommendations they made are very numerous and, apart from the question of the Parliamentary grants, to which I shall come later, the recommendations deal with matters of a very intricate character. The recommendations themselves number no fewer than 179, and I may safely say that every one of them is important from one point of view or another. I trust I am not going beyond my province this afternoon if I venture to express, what I feel must be in the minds of all of your Lordships, our full acknowledgements to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen who formed that Commission, for the thoroughness of their researches and for the time and trouble which, for over two years, they devoted to the work which they had undertaken, to the great advantage of the State and of the Universities themselves.

The Report was unanimous, subject to certain not numerous reservations, the most important of which probably is that relating to the position of women at Cambridge, signed by Mr. Graham and Miss Clough. On that also I shall ask permission to say a word later. I think it is recognised that it is practically impossible for Parliament to deal in detail, and by express enactments, with all the matters that must be taken into consideration in such a revision of such statutes. The procedure adopted in this Bill is that which was taken on a previous occasion. Then in 1877, again, after the Report of a Royal Commission, a Com- mission was set up for Oxford and Cambridge respectively, with general directions to make statutes for the Universities and the colleges, which it was no doubt intended should have close reference to the Report of the Royal Commission. The chief distinction between that Act and the present Bill is that whereas under the Act the directions given to the Commissioners to make statutes were of a general character, and without any special instructions, except by way of limitation and general guidance as to the form those statutes were to take, the present Bill gives the Commissioners a more limited charter. It directs them to make statutes in general accordance with the recommendations contained in the Report of the Royal Commission, but with such modifications as may, after the consideration of any representations made to them, appear to them expedient.

In those directions, which will be found in Clause 6, the Government have followed the procedure laid down in the University of London Act, 1898, rather than the Act of 1877, so that the directions given to the Commissioners under the Bill follow almost exactly the precedent of the University of London Act. I would draw your Lordships' special attention to the general character of these directions. The Commissioners will not be bound to adhere textually to the Report of the Commission. They may use their own judgment. They may consider any representations made to them, but, under the words of the Bill, they will act in general harmony with, and according to the spirit of, the Report. As in the Act of 1877, a Commission is appointed, as I have said, for each University. Each Commission is composed of nine persons, and on each Commission is a representative of the smaller colleges and of the extra-mural boards. The Chairmen of the Commissions are, for Ox ford, Lord Chelmsford, and, for Cambridge, Lord Ullswater—two names which, I think, will give your Lordships every confidence that the work of these Commissions will be carried out thoroughly and in accordance with the Report. Under Clause 4 the expenses of the Commissioners will be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament.

Under Clause 5 the powers of the Commissioners continue to the end of 1925 with power by Order in Council to extend them for another two years. Clause 6 I have already practically dealt with; it 'relates to the purposes for which the Commissioners are authorised to make statutes. It gives them directions, and, though it may appear at first sight as if these directions were rather wide, your Lordships must read the clause in conjunction with the Schedule and especially with the clause in the Schedule numbered 14, where provision is made that regard must be had to the main design of the founder. Clause 7 deals with the methods by which the Universities and the colleges are to make statutes after the Commissions have come to an end. Broadly speaking, they follow the Act of 1877, but with one difference of some importance. The Universities are given the power independently of the colleges to prescribe what contributions are to be made by the colleges for University purposes. This is in accordance with the express recommendation of the Report.

Clause 8 embodies the provisions of the Act of 1877, but it makes two considerable changes. Under the Act of 1877 no trust could be altered if it was less than fifty years old at the tiny of the passing of the Act; that is to say, if it had been founded in 1827 or after. The result of that at this moment is that there are trusts very nearly 100 years old which cannot be touched. The Bill, however, goes a step further. It turns the fixed period of fifty years after the passing of the Act into a running period of fifty years, which is to count from the date of the making of the statute, whenever that may be. This, again, is in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commision. There is one further change, which is not expressly mentioned in the Report. Under the clause trusts less than fifty years old can be altered with the consent of the trustees. With the changes in University organisation going on at the present time there are many provisions of a trust which, if they enter at all into detail, become rapidly obsolete, and there is reason to believe that there are trusts which the trustees would be glad to see altered in minor respects, every regard, of course, being had to the main design and object of the founder.

The Schedule, to which I now come, is practically a reprint of those clauses of the Act of 1877 which are applicable to the present day. There are certain modifications, but they are mainly modifications of date, to suit the change of circumstances between 1877 and 1923. The procedure of making a statute will be as follows: To the end of 1924 the Universities and colleges will have the opportunity of considering the Report of the Royal Commission and of making statutes in accordance with it. During this period the Commissioners will not make any statutes on their own initiative. But any statutes made by the Universities and colleges in this period will have to be submitted to the Commissioners for their approval, and, if approved, the subsequent stages of their ratification is identical with those of statutes made by the Commissioners. This is a repetition of the Act of 1877. I submit that it is a very convenient one, both because the Universities and colleges should have power to consider the Report and to act on their own account, and because, if they do so, they will very materially lighten the labours of the Commissioners.

At the beginning of 1925 the powers of the Commissioners arise, and the statutes which they make are divided, broadly speaking, into statutes for the Universities and statutes for the colleges. With regard to a statute for a University, it will have to be submitted to the governing body of the University, and the Commissioners are bound to take into consideration any representations made to them by that body. With regard to a statute for a college, the Commissioners give notice to the college, and the college is empowered to appoint three persons to act on the Commission for the purposes of that statute. These three persons will be practically Commissioners they will sit with the Commissioners, and their views are entitled to equal weight as to whether that statute shall be made or rejected, either in whole or in part.

A statute, when made by the Commissioners or by the Universities and colleges, will be submitted to His Majesty in Council and published, and within eight weeks of publication—this period was three months in the old Act—any body or person may petition His Majesty in Council for its disallowance. The statute is then referred to the Universities Committee set up under the Act of 1877, before which body the petitioners are entitled to appear and to be heard by themselves or by counsel. The Universities Committee report their decision to His Majesty in Council The final stage of the statute is that it is laid on the Table of each House of Parliament, and if within four weeks either House presents an Address to His Majesty praying for its disallowance the statute does not become operative.

Now the statutes made by the Commissioners will relate mainly to University organisation, and they will not deal with Parliamentary grants which form an important part of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. While that Royal Commission was sitting each University was allowed as an interim measure a provisional grant of £30,000 a year, and one of the main objects of the Royal Commission was to determine what that grant should ultimately be. The Commission recommended that there should be paid out of moneys provided by Parliament £90,000 a year for general purposes and £10,000 a year for the University library, making a total of £100,000 a year to each University. They proposed also that a grant of £4,000 a year for ten years should be made to the Women's Property Committee for distribution among the women's colleges, and that £6,000 should be paid to the extra-mural board of each University for academic work outside their own walls. The Commission recommended also the payment of a lump sum in respect of pensions arrears.

The time is not very favourable for imposing additional charges upon the Exchequer, and, having regard to the paramount necessity of limiting public expenditure to the lowest possible figure, even on objects which are in themselves highly desirable, the Government do not feel able at present to increase their grants to Oxford and Cambridge by so large a sum as was recommended by the Royal Commission. They recognise, however, the very serious financial position of both Universities, and are now seriously considering the possibility of giving such additional assistance as may enable their most immediately urgent needs to he met. I ought to add that if it is found necessary to reduce the grants from the sums mentioned by the Royal Commission, the cut will be made proportionately, so that the women's colleges and the extra-mural boards will get their share of the money.

There is another matter on which I must say a word, and that is the vexed question of the position of women at Cambridge. The Royal Commission expressed a definite opinion that women should become full members of the University, but they were almost equally divided as to the methods by which that result should be attained. One side desired that immediate effect should be given to this by Act of Parliament. The other side desired that the reconstituted University should be left to deal with the matter by internal legislation. The Royal Commission early in its Report uses these words:— The progress of reform in Oxford and Cambridge in the nineteenth century is one of the strongest cases that can be quoted by those who hold that ancient institutions are always capable of adaptation to the needs of a new age. There is every probability that the governing body of the University as now re constituted will be able to settle this question for itself without Parliamentary interference, and the Bill, therefore, does not directly impose this particular obligation upon Cambridge.

This is the Bill to which I have to ask your Lordships to give your assent. The Royal Commission more than once in the course of its Report pays generous tribute to the attitude and the work of our two senior Universities. They say in one place:— Oxford and Cambridge have entered on a great work of education outside their own walls in connection with extension lectures and tutorial classes. Inside their own walls they have advanced and are daily advancing, so far as their limited resources permit, to make the whole range of modern learning and science their province. They have trained up a great proportion of the leading men in almost all learned subjects, humane and scientific, and have sent out from their midst many of the leaders of public life and administrators of distant parts of the Empire. It is in the belief that your Lordships desire to give to Oxford and Cambridge the unfettered opportunity of carrying forward their good work and to give them the assistance which they have shown they so earnestly need, that I now move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.— (The Marquess of Bath.)


My Lords, the noble Marquess, in a speech of great lucidity, has explained the provisions of this somewhat intricate Bill. It is intricate because the substance of the Bill is not to be found within its four corners. It is a Bill for the purpose of enabling new Commissioners to carry out the Report of an earlier Commission. Speaking for myself, I am not at all complaining of the form which the Bill has taken. I think it is the best form. It follows the form of the London University Act of 1898, as the noble Marquess has pointed out, and in doing so it follows a form which, I think, is almost inevitable. The time has gone by when you could appoint. Commissioners in the air to do what occurred to them with a University. A policy can only be carried out if that policy has been founded on investigation and arrived at after evidence has been taken.

The Royal Commission, on the Report of which this Bill is founded, have done their work thoroughly. There can be no doubt of that in the mind of anybody who has studied the Report It is a very elaborate Report, and it contains just the kind of substance which is valuable as a direction to fresh Commissioners appointed with statutory powers, and who are told to follow the general lines of the Report, but who are free to consider and make variations as fresh information may reach their notice. I think we ought all to join with the noble Marquess in his expression of gratitude to the Royal Commission for the work it did. It was, I think, a very admirable Royal Commission. It did its work in a conservative fashion, and in University matters that is sometimes not undesirable. It made a Report which, conservative as it was in tone, was not lacking in thoroughness.

In the conclusion of his speech the noble Marquess repeated some eloquent words with which the Report of the Royal Commission closed. It was a tribute to the work that Oxford and Cambridge have done in the past for the nation. But there is something with which we are at least equally concerned, and that is the work which Oxford and Cambridge are doing, and are promising to do, for the future of the nation. I speak with detachment, except that I hold their honorary degrees. I never was really a member of either of these Universities, although I have examined in them, lectured in them, and had to do with them in other ways. I am connected with other Universities, but that fact has not in the least detracted from the admiration I have, and always have had, for these two old Universities.

I remember well sitting with the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain at Highbury some years before his death. It was a time when he and I were both engaged in plans for the new Universities which have grown up in such numbers during this century. I remember Mr. Chamberlain turning to me and saying: "Now let us make a covenant. Whatever we try to do in the way of reform, let us do nothing that hurts by a hair's breadth these two old Universities. They have an atmosphere and a tradition which we cannot reproduce in anything else, and which are precious." I have always thought of those words coming from so high and so disinterested a source.

It is not only in material things that Oxford and Cambridge have rendered, and are rendering, great service; but they are in those material things rendering very great service. We live in a century which is distinguished by the almost appalling variety of its new discoveries and new knowledge. We are only at the beginning of that. It is knowledge that will revolutionise almost every kind of business, and that requires those who are carrying on the businesses from which the wealth of the nation arises to be masters of the new secrets of science so as to be able to apply them in revolutionising the processes which may have been in use for generations. Not in one direction only but in many directions that is so. In the case of physics and chemistry enormous work has been done by the Universities which have helped our manufacturers very greatly. In the ease of biology and of medicine the two old Universities have done a tremendous deal more work of quite a different kind which has assisted materially in prolonging life in the nation, and has helped to develop our hospital system. There are other departments of knowledge in which the contribution is scarcely less startling. The new Universities are doing the same work, but the important thing is that some of the best of the work is coming from the two old Universities.

If that is so—I am confining myself now to material benefits—then surely the wellbeing of these Universities is an integral part of the life of the nation, and it is necessary for us to see that their strength is maintained, and not only maintained but something more than maintaied. We live in times when every nation is competing with us. Even new nations are developng science and knowledge, and in the United States of America the progress of the Universities and the advance of science in its application to industry have been enormous and are increasing every month. In the Empire—in Canada and in Australia—it is the same. So is it in other countries. You have only to turn to Germany, and if you watch closely there you will see that, notwithstanding her poverty, she is sparing nothing upon education. She is doing all she can to strengthen her educational system in the belief that upon that her future and wealth depend. If you take France it is the same. In that condition of things are we, as prudent people, going to put knowledge upon the footing of those other things which may be cut down, and which may be the subject of easy-going economies?

I am all for the policy of cutting down the national expenditure to the bone, and I think that there is still more that can come off the national expenditure. I gather from the recent utterances of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is of that opinion, too. That is all right. But what I do wish is that people would put things intelligently in order of urgency when they are considering the services we can spare. We had a debate the other day upon national defence, in the course of which it became apparent that we must walk warily before we cut down the Air Service. I say the same of the Education Service, because upon that depends our future and our wealth. If you cut off money which is essential in order to enable us to keep our place in the competition with the world, you will undermine the strength and destroy the wealth of the nation. If that is so, then it is not to be wondered at that the Royal Commission made a Report which involves further expenditure in the case of these two Universities. It was not for merely material purposes that they did so, but they did so because at every turn there has been poured out from these Universities a new class of student.

They tell you in the Report that these two old Universities cannot exist any more merely for the purpose of encouraging the old-fashioned Varsity man, as he used to call himself, who went to a University and had a good time there, and came back and was, I dare say, all the better physically for the time he had there, but had not profited from the opportunities of learning which were at his disposal. Now these Universities are required more and more to engage in research by men who have to teach those who are to be the leaders, in the language of the Commissioners, in the various things which we are called upon to do if we would preserve our life as a nation. Therefore, say the Commissioners, we must preserve the Universities more and more for people who will make a better use of them than to come out at the end merely as the old-fashioned 'Varsity man. The people who come out will be those who are to discharge the high functions for which only knowledge and training in the atmosphere of the Universities can fit them. That being so, the Commission reports that more money is wanted to bring the Universities up to the requirements of the time, and that it is wanted for certain special purposes.

It is a common superstition, and I dare say some of your Lordships entertain it, that when you send your sons to Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed to the other Universities in this country to a still greater degree, in paying the fees and making the provision for the undergraduate you are paying the whole cost. You are doing nothing of the kind. If you take the Universities of this country on the average you pay only a third of the cost of keeping a student there. The State, in some cases the rates, and in all cases the endowments—which in the case of 'Oxford and Cambridge are very large—do the rest of the maintenance, and make up the two-thirds which does not come from the parents' pockets. That fact is getting to be appreciated.

A question has been raised of late by the working classes, or by that vast proportion of the democracy which never goes near a University because has not the chance: Why is it that out of taxes money should be taken for the upkeep of Universities to which we have no access? The problem has been partly solved during late years. Universities have taken on a new function, the function of exercising their influence extra-murally, out- side their own walls. The Universities of this country in general—Oxford and Cambridge have been the leaders—now send out their tutors and lecturers to industrial and populous centres where they give education to the adults who come from the pit where they have been working, to the women who come from the factories where they have been working, and sometimes to the labourers front the fields. This goes on to an extent which would astonish those who have not been privileged, as I have, to see it.

The working classes are showing a thirst for knowledge, and, what is quite new, a thirst for knowledge of the University type. They are asking more and more that the Universities should extend their functions so as to place these opportunities locally within their reach. Nothing could be better than that in our populous and in lustrial centres there should be tutors and fellows of the Universities, tutors who go there bringing the best qualifications of the Universities from which they have come and exercising an influence which they alone can exercise upon the working classes who come and work in the evenings at a regular and systematic course, as near as possible to that given to the undergraduate in the University itself.

The Workers Educational Association has not nearly sixty centres with about 20,000 people tinder instruction. This is the very thing which Oxford and Cambridge are trying to develop, and it is the very thing on which the Commission reports in emphatic terms. You must do it because the people are demanding that the resources of the Universities, for which in a large measure they pay, should be available in this fashion to them, and the Universities are demanding it because they recognise that they are fulfilling a national function, and so far as they do it they grow in stature and become much more important in the life of the nation than hitherto. It is for adult education that part of the money recommended by the Commission is earmarked. It is a small part, £6,000 to each University. The hulk of the money recommended is for the general necessities of the Universities, and without that money, the Commission point out, the Universities are bound to go down in strength and cannot continue their work.

I listened with great interest to the remarks of the noble Marquess on the subject of finance. In this House we cannot deal with taxation, nor are we supposed to be too curious about it, but when a Bill comes before us, the efficiency of which depends on support from public funds, we are entitled to comment on the extent to which that support is likely to be given. As I say, I listened with great interest to the remarks of the noble Marquess, and I congratulate hint on a certain obscurity in exegesis which he imposed on those who were hanging on his words as to how much the State was likely to give. I gather that the £30,000 war grant is likely to be continued. I am not presuming to ask; I am rather assuming it. But when we come to the rest, there was the usual reference to the necessity for economy, and no indication that the State was putting the maintenance and upkeep of this vital factor in our national life on a footing of its own. Still the noble Marquess did not send us away altogether unhappy, because there was something encouraging in his tone. My own doubt was whether it was possible to get any definite view as to what was likely to happen. The importance of it is that this Bill is largely a Money Bill. Without public money you cannot keep the Universities up to their strength. The Commission made a notable Report, but that Report will come to nothing unless the means are placed within the hands of the Universities to enable them to work out its conclusion.

One other thing I desire to say. The noble Marquess, towards the conclusion of his speech, touched on the question of women, and he said what is true, that there are two views expressed in the Report. One view is that it would be better to leave it to Cambridge to work out the necessary reforms. That is all very well, but Cambridge is the sole University in this country which is refusing to accord women the status of equality with men. They are willing to give them titular distinctions without membership of the University. Cambridge University, under this Bill, is in the position of coming to Parliament and asking for public funds, and, therefore, Parliament has a complete right to say: "We will give you public funds but you must keep up to the standards of the times." I only say that because I have a strong view that it is impossible for any University to hold out against women coming in. Oxford University has let women in completely; I suppose there is more conservatism in Cambridge still. But Parliament will have to decide whether it will give public money without insisting on modern standards being maintained.

I hold very strongly that the day has gone by for making distinction between the sexes on such occasions as this, but I do not propose to move any amendments to the Bill in Committee. Possibly there may be amendments in another place, and I have reason to think that that is not altogether improbable. I am quite aware of the difficulties the Commission had with regard to local feeling in Cambridge. I hope that that local feeling will he warned, and that, like the Corporation of Croydon yesterday, they will take warning from the discussions in Parliament. I only wish to add that many of us cordially support the main purpose of the Bill. It is a good and useful Bill, and subject to the question of the women and the proper provision of sufficient money to make the Bill a reality, something more than a mere shadow, I am in cordial support of it.


My Lords, as an Oxford man I speak with some diffidence on anything which concerns intimately the University of Cambridge, but I should not like this stage of the Bill to pass without associating myself with what the noble and learned Viscount has just said about the full admission of women to the privileges of Cambridge University. He is quite accurate when he says that this matter has passed beyond a local matter and has become a national question. It has become a national matter in two senses. In the first place, the whole attitude of Parliament and the public towards the position of women in public life has changed within recent years.

Cambridge University is now the only University in England that will not concede to women the full privileges of membership, and Cambridge University is now coming to Parliament asking for assistance from public funds. Really it is quite incredible that the circumstances of Cambridge should be so peculiar or the characteristics of women educated at Girton and Newnham so different from those of other women that at Cambridge alone is it dangerous to admit them to the full privileges of membership. I understand that no Amendment is to be moved in this House, but I sincerely hope that in another place an instruction will be given to the Commission to do for the women of Girton and Newnham at Cambridge what has been done for the women of the women's colleges at Oxford by the University itself.

I was very glad to hear the unqualified eulogy which my noble and learned friend has passed upon the great and ancient Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. I fully admit the necessity for this Bill, but I confess to a very real regret that the Universities have had to come to Parliament for the assistance of public money. If it had been possible for them to do what is necessary out of their own old endowments, assisted by fresh endowments, I think they would have been standing on surer ground than they will occupy when once the intervention of Parliament, or rather of a public Office, has been admitted in their internal affairs. Surely there is a very peculiar and humiliating contrast between the position of the ancient Universities of this country and that of the new Universities in the United States of America. If a modern University in America wants money for any purpose, either for its existing work or fem its development, I understand that the millionaires of America, almost by return of post, furnish the funds which it requires. And yet the University of Oxford, notwithstanding the herculean labours of my noble friend the present Chancellor, and the University of Cambridge, notwithstanding the corresponding labours of the late Duke of Devonshire and others, have failed entirely to arouse the imagination of the millionaires of England, who apparently prefer to leave half their fortunes when they die to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (which I should have thought to be the least attractive form of disposing of your fortune), whereas if these Universities had been in America there can be no doubt that there would never have been any necessity for an appeal to Parliament.


My Lords, as a member of the Universities Commission, as a former M.P. for Oxford University, and as sharing with the Leader of the House what your Lordships may perhaps consider the indelible disadvantage of having once been a don, I feel that I should like to say a few words on the points raised in this discussion, and more especially to take a wider view of the question of the admission of women.

I think there has been some little misunderstanding on the part both of the noble and learned Viscount and of the noble Marquess as to what the proceedings of the Commission in that respect actually were. As Lord Selborne has pointed out, the Universities are running a considerable risk in asking Parliament for State assistance. There is a possibility, even a probability, that some sacrifice of their independence will be exacted as the price of financial help. That is the very thing the Royal Commission hoped to avoid. We were divided on many points, no doubt, but on one point we were practically unanimous; namely, that we would endeavour to preserve the autonomy of the University, to maintain its independence, and to secure its freedom. We thought that it was voluntarily and of its own motion adapting itself rapidly to the changing needs of the nation, and we were convinced that that, spontaneous development was more consistent with our political tradition than could be the action of any State-controlled University. We were determined, if any recommendations of ours could secure it, to leave the Universities masters in their own house. Nay more, we wanted to make them more efficient and complete masters than they were before the Commission opened; and we sought to do this by reducing the obstructive power of non-residents—whom, if I may use a word which is confined to the vocabulary of this House, I may call "backwoodsmen"—and by increasing the power of those who were actually engaged in the educational and administrative work of the University.

This has an important bearing upon the question of the admission of women to membership. Of all the things that are necessary to the independence of the Universities, complete control of the regulations and conditions concerning the membership of the University is to my mind the most essential, considering the variety of the ramifications which spring out of it. The Universities Commission was unanimously agreed that membership of Universities ought to be conceded to women both by Oxford and Cambridge. At Oxford that concession had already been made, and the Oxford members accordingly withdrew from the discussion, because they felt that if membership of the University were conferred upon women at Cambridge by votes from Oxford it would not lead to harmony of relations. The Cambridge body therefore discussed the question alone, and although it is true that they were divided as to whether or not legislative interference should be asked for, they did decide, with only one dissentient, that they would not ask for it. They decided, in fact, that the best way in which it could be carried out, the way which was most promising of harmony in future relations, the way which would produce the least friction, was for the University of Cambridge to do it by its own spontaneous action. The Cambridge members were convinced that the opinion of Cambridge itself, of those who were engaged in the administration and educational work of the University, was in favour of granting the membership to women, and that if the obstructive powers of the non-resident backwoodsmen were reduced it would be carried, and carried at once. It is therefore a question of means.

The noble and learned Viscount has thrown out a suggestion that it might be forced upon the University as the price of financial assistance. That, if I may venture to say so, is the very kind of argument that we on the Commission wished to avoid. We wanted to say: "No, it is the spontaneous action of the University which will do it. It is in that way that you can hope for the greatest success of the women's movement in the future, and we will not make a bargain with the State over a question of money on a point like that." And, although it is only a question of means, it seems to me to be a point which is capable of very large and dangerous extension. There is an appeal, as some of your Lordships have seen, from the political side of the women's movement for equal citizenship. What they say in that appeal is practically this: Women taxpayers are asked to contribute to the upkeep of the University and therefore they have a right to demand equal citizenship and equal membership of the University.

Look for one moment at the parallel ease to which the noble Viscount has alluded, of extra-mural work. The working man is a taxpayer, and is taxed to support the Universities. He may say that it is only possible for him to get any advantage from the Universities if he has such and such concessions in the way in which membership is granted. You are running quite close to that if you apply the same principle as is sought to be applied in regard to women's membership. For this reason I hope that, in this House at all events, where we are under no political pressure, we shall look at this Bill only from the point of view of what is best in the interests of the University, because, after all, if Universities are to hold their own in national life it must be by their own spontaneous action, and they may be trusted, I believe, to make concessions, both in the direction of women's membership and the extension of extramural teaching, which will meet the national aspirations.


My Lords, I do not know that there is any matter on which the Government is called upon to reply in the speeches delivered this afternoon, except to say how grateful they are to noble Lords, in all quarters of the House, for the very cordial reception which the Bill has received. It is a matter of great satisfaction to us, and we were very grateful, notably to the noble and learned Viscount opposite, who is a great authority in these matters, for the reception given to the Bill Indeed, the noble and learned Viscount was so cordial that he, I think, ventured into a domain of Conservative enthusiasm, with which we are now becoming familiar on the Bench opposite, and which in every instance of its repetition is very gratifying to us. He recognises, I think quite as much as we do, the influence and importance of the great traditions of the older Universities. That is a great thing.

I think, perhaps, he was inclined to be a little sarcastic over the advantage which these great Universities have in the past conferred upon the upper and middle classes of this country. I shall not yield to him in my desire to see as much progress and development in the education of the working classes as is possible, but I think it would be very short-sighted to think that because we want to see the working classes better educated we should despise the education conferred in the past upon the upper and middle classes. On the contrary, the greatness of our country, and its success in the world, has depended in no slight measure upon that very education which these old Universities have given to the upper and middle classes of the country.

Every speaker, or at any rate several speakers, dwelt upon the faculty which these old Universities have shown to adapt themselves to modern requirements. It is a great sign of vitality that, notwithstanding their ancient character, and their great traditions, they are able to adapt themselves to modern needs, and it is largely because we want to assist them in that great work that this Bill has been introduced. My noble friend Lord Selborne regretted that the old Universities have been obliged to apply to the State for money. I quite agree with him. I think it is a very regrettable fact, and although I was glad to hear the testimony given by Lord Ernie, of the desire of the Commissioners to prevent, this money contribution carrying with it a demand for State control, yet one cannot conceal from oneself that there is a certain risk that if old institutions accept public money there may be a demand for State interference. I am certain that the less State interference there is in the management and control of the old Universities the better.

The noble and learned Viscount rallied my noble friend in charge of the Bill upon his discretion in discussing money matters. Well, it is a discretion which we who sit in your Lordships' House have had to learn, and which most of us practice. I quite understand the feeling of the noble and learned Viscount when he is brought up against economy as applied to education. He says that education is the last thing about which we ought to economise. That is generally said by every person in respect of the matter in which he is interested. The Air Service says we must not economise about Air. I have no doubt that my noble friend Lord Derby would say that we ought not to economise too much about the Army, and I am sure that those who are interested in sanitary reform would say the same thing about sanitary matters. Every separate interest in the country which is threatened with economy says: "Well, economy may be good for everybody else, but I and my interest ought to be the exception." I am afraid that if the Government proceeded upon that basis there would be no economy at all, and therefore it is necessary, even in the matter of education, that the Government should not be as generous as they would wish to be. And that is all that Lord Bath said in his opening statement.

That money will be made available in consequence of this Bill I think there can be no doubt, but it will be a very much smaller sum, I am afraid, at any rate in the first instance, than was suggested by the Commission. That is inevitable, but I hope that at any rate your Lordships and the country will take the will for the deed. It is not because we want to cut down the contribution but because dire necessity forces us to do so.

I have only one more word to say, and that is with respect to the vexed question of women and the University of Cambridge. I think none of us can have any doubt, whatever our previous views may have been on the subject, that there is only one end to this controversy. It is obvious that the point has been reached when women at. Cambridge University, as everywhere else, must be admitted to the privileges of the University, and it really is only a question of the method in which that shall be brought about. The point at which the matter has been arrested now is almost absurd, for I believe it to be true that women at Cambridge are entitled to receive the degree, to write themselves down as possessing the degree, to wear the gown and hood prescribed for the degree—entitled, in fact, to every-thing except the actual vote. In that respect Cambridge University is a single exception.

The noble Lord, Lord Ernle, has explained to your Lordships what was the actual attitude of the Commission upon this point, and it seems highly probable, nay, I may say it is almost certain, that, if the Bill passes in its present form, the end which the noble and learned Viscount desires will be achieved, because, as he has said, the actual residents in Cambridge University are, by a majority, almost of that way of thinking. I believe it was shown at the last trial of strength on this subject in Cambridge that the resident Masters of its were resolved upon the change, and it was only those whom my noble friend called the backwoodsmen who prevented its being carried out. But under this Bill the backwoodsmen are being disestablished, and so there is very little doubt that, if nothing else is done, when this Bill passes into law the reform will be carried through.

But, of course, so far as the Government and Parliament are concerned, they will listen to the arguments on this subject with the greatest attention and will weigh what is said with a view to coming to a final conclusion. I have no doubt that, whichever way we go to work, the same end will be achieved, but, as to the precise methods, I do not think we take a very strong view. I earnestly hope that the great favour with which this Bill has been received this afternoon may be an augury of its smooth and swift passage into law. At any rate, no delay which can be avoided will take place in your Lordships' House, and we hope to send the Bill at an early date to another place.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.


There is a debate down for this day week, but I propose to put down the Committee stage for that day, and, if necessary, it can be postponed.