HL Deb 14 May 1947 vol 147 cc696-742

2.38 p.m.

LORD LINDSAY OF BIRKER rose to call attention to university education in this country; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. We are committed to a great increase in the university population of this country, an increase justified and necessitated by reasons I will explain to your Lordships. But we cannot double the number of undergraduates in this country, and we should have to double them to attain—perhaps I should say even to attain—the Scottish quantitative standard. We should have to multiply them more than eight times to attain the quantitative standard of the United States. We cannot do any of these things, not even the first, without raising all sort of questions about the effect of this revolution on our university system.

I shall try to say something as shortly as possible about these questions, but I wish to urge the Government to appoint not a Royal Commission but a Committee, either by asking the University Grants Committee to appoint a sub-committee of their own members for this special purpose, perhaps co-opting some people from outside, or preferably, by appointing a Departmental Committee on which the University Grants Committee would be largely represented. That is what I urge the Government to do. The Government have been most generous in providing money for the expansion of universities. Will they provide just a little of that rarer quality—reflection on the subject? That is all I ask, but I regard it as of very great importance, and I hope I shall be able to convince your Lordships of its great importance.

Great changes are imminent in the university education of Great Britain—particularly in the university education of England—and this is a necessary concomitant of the great revolution in English education brought about by what I may call the Butler Act, that very great educational reform. The revolution brought about by the Butler Act may be described shortly as the removal of the great reproach on English education—that secondary education was confined to a small proportion of the population. In my view English secondary education was (not only in some ways; I will put no qualification on it) the best in the world. In my experience of American universities I used to observe that boys from school could begin research work in England about two years before they could be trusted to begin research work under the American educational system; that is, that the secondary education of this country was about two years ahead of the secondary education in America. On the other hand, it was confined to a comparatively small proportion of the population.

In 1938 (the last year for which I have figures) only 28 per cent. of the boys and girls of this country stayed at school beyond the age of fourteen. The Butler Act has now removed that reproach—and it was a reproach. We are now committed to providing secondary education for all. But (and this is what I want your Lordships to notice particularly) that great reform was connected with changed views as to the nature and quality of education. The Butler Act did not simply say: "Let us ensure that all the boys and girls in this country shall have access to What we now call secondary education" (at that time the education of the grammar school), but, "Let us bring it about that secondary education shall have three sides—the grammar school; the technical school and what is to be called the modern school." I am sure part of the great wisdom of the Butler Act was that it realised that when you attempt to make secondary education available for all, you do not take merely the kind of education which evolved when it was preserved for a minority. You ask yourself quite seriously: If we are to have secondary education for all, ought that secondary education to take on new forms? The Butler Act—or, at any rate, the reforms accompanying it—said "Yes." That is, you do not just have grammar schools, but also technical and modern schools.

As anyone concerned with education—particularly secondary education—is aware, the problem which arises from this reform is: Can we combine a high standard of English secondary education with a great increase in numbers—a three-fold increase in numbers? I think we can, but only so long as we recognize the point which the Butler Act has already recognized: that for those great numbers there must be different kinds of secondary education—all, I hope, of a high standard. If we had said: "Let us confine ourselves to calling the education given in grammar schools secondary education," I do not believe we could, for one moment, have multiplied the pupils going to grammar schools without affecting the standard of the grammar schools.

The same problem faces us with regard to university education in England. I think the university education of this country is of a very high standard; but it is confined to a small proportion of the population. Will your Lordships just consider these startling figures of the relative numbers of university students per thousand of the population in different countries? The last figures I have are for 1934. In that year the figures were these: In Italy one in every 808 of the population went to a university; in Germany, one in every 604; in Holland, one in every 579; in Sweden, one in every 543; in France, one in every 480; in Scotland, one in every 473; in the United States of America, one in every 125; in England, one in every 1,013; in Wales, one in every 741. That seems to me to make a very strong prima facie case. Can we really suppose that the standard of the intelligence of the English is so low, compared with the standard of the intelligence of my nation, that there should be that proportion? The answer is: "Nonsense." There is no question or shadow of doubt that those proportions are due to social and historical factors; and they ought to cease.

Do we really believe (I continue putting the point quite generally) that we need university education as little as all that—one in every 1,013? Lately there have been a great many more detailed considerations of this question. For example, there is the well-known Barlow Report. The Barlow Report came to the conclusion that in order to produce the number of properly trained scientists necessary to use our scientific possibilities in industry and elsewhere, we must, at least, double the output of properly trained scientific graduates in this country. The Report added—I do not think with less reason, but perhaps with less giving of reasons—that, in the opinion of the Committee, the same increase should take place in arts students. I hope to explain to your Lordships why that is so. In any case, they did recommend the doubling of the university output of scientists, with a corresponding increase in arts students. Anyone who sees what is happening in the universities at the present time, or who, like me, is continually requested to make room for the ever-increasing number of young men who want to study in already overcrowded colleges, must, I think, see that the pressure on the universities at the present time is not just the temporary effect of the combination of men coming back from the war and the ordinary number of applicants from the schools. There are increased demands, and there are demands from new sources; and I am sure those demands will continue and, indeed, even further increase.

Let me enumerate some of the factors making for that increase. There is, first, the point made by the Barlow Report. I should have thought that it was a commonplace that the prosperity and success of our industry depends to an extraordinary extent on the way in which it is fertilized by research, and that that fertilization by research depends on the number of scientists which the universities, or, at any rate, institutions of that calibre, can supply. Not only is there an increased reliance on research, but there is also an increased reliance on the universities to organize and direct it. That in itself produces (this is what the Barlow Report says) an ever-increasing demand for more students, and, therefore, for more teachers, more laboratories, and so on.

Further, there is the enormous increase in the national school system which has been brought about by the Butler Report, with its consequent increase in the need for teachers. You cannot discuss education at the present time with any local education authority without coming across the problem of teachers. One of the greatest defects of English education at the present time is the size of classes. I think that is a greater defect than anything else, and it cannot be put right without more teachers. The supply of teachers cannot be produced without increasing the number of people passing through the secondary schools and the universities, and at the moment we just cannot do it. No doubt all kinds of things are being tried, like emergency training schemes, and so forth, but it cannot properly be done, I am sure, without a great increase in the provision of education for teachers, and that has to be done in universities or in institutions of the university standard.

Then, again, there is the additional demand for professional men—especially, for example, for doctors. The Barlow Report, adopting that curious use of English which confines science to biology, physics, mathematics, geology, and what are called the various pure sciences—except for mathematics, I think they are all comparatively pure—refuses that description to medicine. Medicine is not a science, apparently; it is some empirical art. Nevertheless, we do know that if we are to have a properly equipped health service we must have a far greater number of trained doctors. They ought to be university trained, and they ought to have some understanding of what research means. That would involve a great increase in the number of medical undergraduates. I do not think there is any escape from that.

Further, there are demands from professions which have not hitherto relied on the universities, which is a very interesting development. More and more businesses concerned with problems of management arc going to the universities, not just for a man trained in the technical aspect of business but for one trained in problems of management, welfare, and things of that kind. There is also a great demand for training in what one may roughly call social service. I had the interesting experience last year of having a conference with some dozen representatives of local education authorities, who were meeting with the Oxford University Extra Mural Delegacy. I was very impressed with the fact that these local education authorities, confronted with the expansion of the social services, were asking more and more for men trained in the universities to deal with all sorts of problems concerned with the social services—welfare. and so on.

There are then increasing demands on the universities for specialized instruction, not necessarily leading to a degree. For example, just a month ago, when my college thought it had finally met all the demands for room for undergraduates and had really gone as far as it possibly could in that direction, the Colonial Office came along and said that they wanted to bring 150 people to Oxford for special training in the Colonial Service, and would we mind taking twelve? Well, we did mind, but we took them. Another interesting development to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention is the increasing demand on the universities for—to take a phrase from the Army—"re fresher courses." One of the results of the annoying habit of science to develop so rapidly is that graduates who go into medicine, or into the various spheres where scientific knowledge is used, find that that knowledge rapidly becomes out of date. It is well worth while to bring people back to the universities for short periods for refresher courses. That is a fairly recent development. I am sure it is going to grow, and I am sure it will he beneficent.

We talk quite lightly about the indispensability of research, but I do not consider that knowledge which reaches nobody but its discoverer is worth very much. That is a heretical thing for a University teacher to say—I ought to believe in knowledge for its own sake—but I really do not think knowledge is much good unless you manage to spread it through the people and use it in the population. It is very important, therefore, to see that those people, workers of all kinds in the community, whose success depends on their scientific knowledge, should be kept abreast of modern scientific changes. We all from time to time have sighed and thought how pleasant it would be if science would take a rest for twelve or fifteen years; but in our better minds we know that it would be a bad thing, and, in any case, we know that science will not do so. We must deal with that fact. Then, further, there is the whole growing field, sometimes called extra-mural and sometimes called adult education, for which the need of teachers is, I think, almost unlimited. Thus it appears to me that there is no question a[...] all that the demand that our university population should be doubled is justified, if by university education you mean something quite wide—namely, education which people undergo whole-time between the ages of, let us say, 17 or 18 and 21 or 22. I think that demand is there now, but once the effect of multiplying by more than three the number of boys and girls receiving Secondary education has shown itself, I very much doubt if the present proposed doubling will be enough.

Suppose one leaves that further prospect alone, and takes this desire to double the university population. I submit that that in itself raises some very serious questions which ought to be considered. Are we to do this simply by asking existing institutions to preserve their character and to double their numbers? Can we expect institutions to preserve their character and their standard if they double their numbers? The University Grants Committee—which I mention. with the greatest respect, because I think it is a wonderful institution—has, so far as I understand, already completed the procedure of asking universities and university colleges how much they think they can add to their numbers, supposing that they are given money for staff and buildings and they are assured, through the far-sighted views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they will be given that money. When you add up their answers the figures come to 80 per cent. out of the 100 per cent. required.

The State will provide the money; the Chancellor of the Exchequer has very largely increased the grant which the State gives through the University Grants Committee to the universities, and the money is there, or promised. The buildings at the present time are held up for the want of licences, and universities are troubled about the question of staff. I do not think that the problem of staff will be a problem for very long. Nobody who, like myself, is teaching at the present time in a university and knows something of the remarkable quality of the ex-Servicemen—many of whom have only just returned—can doubt that in a few years there will be a very remarkable supply of potential university teachers. They will have to have some training in research before they can profitably teach, and it will probably be, let us say, 1949 before this present shortage disappears. But that is only a matter of time.

Therefore, one might suppose that by the mere increase in the numbers in existing institutions the problem will be solved—or as nearly solved as political problems ever are in tins evil world. But I want to ask whether that is the best way to do it. Is there room, for example, for new institutions? Should we take only the institutions which exist and double their numbers, or should we have new university colleges? They will have the disadvantage at first of being small, but being small is not always a disadvantage for a new institution. If they are small they may also be experimental, and there are proposals for such colleges. I am familiar with one such proposal from the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and your Lordships may have seen in the papers similar demands from York, Carlisle, Brighton and, I think, other places. Ought that to be done? I do not think anybody knows, and at any rate I do not think any authoritative body has seriously considered the question.

Thirdly, and connected with that, should these new foundations be of the existing type? Are we quite clear that what we call the set-up in English university education—Oxford and Cambridge, and what are sometimes called the Civic and sometimes the Red Brick Universities—should be merely perpetuated? Is there not room possibly for further experiments? Anyone who is acquainted with modern American university education will know that in spite of a lot of things about it—especially its great State universities—at which we laugh, it has in the last ten to fifteen years made some extraordinarily interesting experiments in small colleges. I need only mention, for example, an interesting small college at Annapolis, which was started five to ten years ago. There have been more which have started with new ideas and made great contributions to the possibilities of university education.

At the present time, besides universities which are capable of granting degrees and maintaining their own standards, there are the university colleges—places like Exeter, Hull, Nottingham, Leicester and Southampton. Their students take their degrees with the University of London, and I think in the past the University of London has done the greatest service in this respect for the standard of growing institutions. I am not sure now whether that is the right pattern. I am not sure whether the obligation to work for the degrees of the University of London does not to some extent fetter the initiative and the experimenting of the smaller institutions. I do not say that positively and dogmatically, but I want to know, and I want someone to look into it.

I myself have had something to do with the proposed experiment at Stoke-on-Trent. Ever since I first knew it—about thirty years ago—the city of Stoke-on-Trent has hoped to have a university college. When this demand for increasing the university population was made, and there was a prospect that this dream might be realized, the promoters of the scheme sat down to ask themselves what kind of university college they ought to have. They took the view—I think rightly—that a local university college should have a close relation to the distinctive characteristics of the locality it serves. The distinctive characteristics of Stoke-on-Trent are the pottery industry and a quite extraordinary development of social services and adult education. Therefore, if it is to have a university college it should have a Chair of Applied Ceramics and first-class teaching in physical chemistry; that is not to say that it should not have sections dealing with the sciences. On the other side, it should give special emphasis—I do not like the word but it is difficult not to use it—on what we may call sociology—social studies, economics, social organization. Some people approve that idea, and some are shocked about it. I do not pretend to be impartial about it because I favour it; but again, I want that examined. I do not want it pushed aside by people saying that it has not so far been done and ought not to be done. We want to be able to follow the experimentation which goes on in America. It might be a great pity if this expansion were used only in a stereotyped way to make more rigid the existing pattern of university education.

Fourthly, are there alternatives to meeting all demands for higher education, especially higher vocational education, than simply by expanding the universities? Is there a place in this country for specialized institutions like those very famous institutions known as M.I.T. or Cal. Tech.? Here I can say with pleasure that the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, agrees with me. He always does, when he speaks of what he knows. Or, is there a place for institutions like the Ecoles des Sciences Politiques or des Etudes Polytechniques of France, or the great German Handelshochschule. My noble friend wrote a letter to The Times last August about that—I think most convincingly. I do not know the answer, but again I want that examined. I do not want it to go by default that there should not be such institutions.

Further, is there a place in this country for the equivalent of what is called the American college; that is, the small college giving only a Bachelor's degree and not the high degrees? These colleges have done some very interesting things. Here I should like to raise a much larger question, on which I feel much less positive. How far ought we to have, besides our old academic universities, something like the American model? So far, in discussing the prospects of expanded university education in this country, most people have asked, How many persons are there who do not now come to our existing universities but who could come to them and take their existing courses, and not lower the standard? That is much the same as if, when considering the recent great reform in secondary education, we had thought only of boys and girls coming to the grammar schools.

Consider the real meaning of that extraordinary American figure of one in 125 going to a university. Many of the institutions to which these American undergraduates go we should not consider universities. The President of Chicago, President Hutchins, relieving a burdened heart on the subject of American university education, recalls that the answer to his protest against specialized vocational education was that at one time the University of California founded a "Fellowship in Cosmetology," on the very reasonable ground that the practice of "cosmeticiary" was increasing in California more rapidly than any other profession. There are ridiculous examples of that kind. And yet I think that part of the great technical efficiency of America, of which in some ways we are seeing more and more every day, is connected with the fact that this enormous proportion of American young men have gone to some whole-time institution up to the age of 21 or 22.

I was talking in 1942 to a professor of physics at Los Angeles. Like another professor of physics, one with whom I am confronted, he had done a great deal to make our war effort more efficient. I remember his saying that his experience was that there was absolutely nobody to touch the English Honours graduate, the First Class research student. On the Other hand, he said: "Because a very great proportion of our Army—a far greater proportion than of your Army— have had not only secondary but some sort of university training, the application of those brilliant ideas of your research students is far more easily possible in the American Army than in the British Army." I do not know how far the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, can bear that out; it seems to me the best prima facie case for such a system, and a good example of the contrast between English and American university education.

Each has the defects of its qualities, and our business is to try to increase the numbers, as Americans realize to an overwhelming degree that their business is to increase their quality, I do not want to do anything whatever to lower the standard of the existing English universities or of that type of education, but I am not at all sure that there is not a strong case for imitating the Americans in having whole-time education up to university age. If we did that, we should go very far.

The other point I ant to make is how, and how soon, can we expand universities in this way? At tilt present time staffs are very much overworked. I find it difficult to convince the greater part of the population that university teachers do work hard. They are overworked on their own standard—which is, I think. a very high standard. They have to spend far too much time in administration, and in advising the Government and all kinds of bodies. Instead of doing our proper job we are—I will rot say wasting our time—obliged to give instruction to less informed people. The demand for that kind of advice is very great indeed. I happened quite recently to come across three instances in which outside bodies of great importance—one was the Colonial Office and the others were bodies of equal importance—have come to the university and said: "Would you lend us 'A.B.' for a year or two years?" That is a demand which is very bird to resist. When a college is asked by the Colonial Office to second one of its teachers who alone has the specific knowledge needed for his particular job, it seems to me that in the national interest one is bound to encourage him to go; to say to him: "This is your laboratory, and we will second you for the year." To do that sort of thing to any extent means increased university staffs, and we cannot increase them quickly; further, university people of the right standard cannot be quickly trained.

In these times the universities are finding it more and more difficult to do their proper job and to turn out men with the sort of training that they ought to have. After all, the highest kind of training—at least the highest kind of scientific training—depends upon the university undergraduate being in close touch with the scientific "swell." If you have too many undergraduates you use your great scientists in administration, and so lose something extraordinarily precious. You cannot do these things automatically. Therefore, I want this matter considered. I want somebody to get down to this and think it out.

Finally, there is one other sphere in which universities are expected to play an important part—the sphere of adult education. How best are universities to fit in with the local education authorities? How best are they to do their work in adult education? Your Lordships will notice, I hope, that I am not offering answers to these questions; I am only asking that they should be considered. There have already been Reports. There have been the Barlow Report, the Percy Report on Engineering, the Loveday Report on Agriculture, and others; but to my knowledge there has been no general consideration of the new university problems, of what the new university set-up ought to be. I submit that it is now time that there should be such consideration, but not, I think, by a University Commission. I say that, partly because a University Commission would take so long, and partly because university administrative and other staffs are so overladen at the present time that the burden upon them involved by the operation of a full-blown Commission would be intolerable.

On the other hand, there is the proposal to ask the University Grants Committee to make a survey. No one admires the University Grants Committee more than I do. It is a most beautiful piece of administrative machinery, by which the State is enabled to give large financial grants to the universities and yet not disturb their independence. I know of nothing like that Committee. I rejoice to think that in that task of cherishing the independence of the universities, the present Government are at one with previous Governments. I am very glad indeed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has enlarged what is called the "remit" of that Committee, and strengthened its personnel. But I have this doubt. This is a Committee whose business it is year by year to consider grants to the universities. Is that the best Committee to look at the whole set-up, with the idea, perhaps, of some revolutionary change?

The freedom of the university is vital, and yet from time to time that freedom has been disturbed, and I think justifiably disturbed, by Commissions. Your Lordships may remember the description of oriental government as "absolutism tempered by occasional assassination." The government of the University of Oxford, and of most universities in this country, is pure syndicalism tempered by occasional Commissions. I think it is good that the State or some authoritative body should from time to time look at it from the outside and consider what ought to be done. All professions tend to think how well they do their job, to wonder why anybody should conceive that it could be done better or differently. Even my own superior profession is not immune from that academic danger. Therefore, I have an uneasy suspicion that if only the University Grants Committee, or even that other great body—which I mention with all respect—the Vice-Chancellors' Committee were asked to report on this matter, you would find how surprisingly satisfactory everything was. If I had to report on my institution I am sure that I should say that, conscious as I was of the defects of other colleges, my own was all right.

Therefore, I should feel happier if this inquiry which I want to consider these long-term problems were in the hands of an independent committee on which the University Grants Committee should be strongly represented, and on which additional members should be appointed. That is what I want to ask the Government to do. In saying what I have said I am not in any way reproaching the Government. I rejoice in what they have done for universities, but I think that there might be a danger of our stereotyping the present set-up and making the development of university education in this country too rigid, unless some body of considerable weight wrestles with these problems. The material is all there; there have been all these Reports; but nobody has looked at the problem as a whole. I hope the Government will see that somebody does so. I beg to move for Papers.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, I hope it will not be inconvenient to any of your Lordships, and I most certainly hope that it will not be considered discourteous to any of you who are going to speak later in this debate, if I intervene at this stage. The long and short of the matter is that, like university teachers, the Lord Chancellor is very much overworked according to his own standards, arid indeed, I would say, according to the standards of most reasonable people and it so happens that if I were to sit here until the end of the debate I should find myself in some difficulty with regard td other engagements. Therefore, I would ask the forgiveness of your Lordships for intervening at this stage. I intervene with hesitation. I hesitate to rush into a debate on any topic in regard to which the noble Lords, Lord Lindsay of Birker, who moved this Motion, and Lord Cherwell, are in agreement. But, notwithstanding that risk, I must do the best I can; and I do my best somewhat reinforced and reinvigorated by the thought that I have recently and on previous occasions, been able to be in close touch with the University Grants Committee, and I do, I think, know the outlook of this Committee and the way in which they are approaching the problems which the noble Lord indicated in his speech.

In the first place, I agree that it is fundamental that universities should have complete independence and freedom. I am quite sure that we are right to allow them to work out their own destinies, and that the best thing we can do is to give them adequate sums of money, subject, of course to the check and control of such a body as the University Grants Committee. I agree with the noble Lord in thinking that the Committee is a most useful piece of machinery, and it does its work without making itself responsible for the way in which universities develop. It provides them with the sinews of war and leaves them to work out their own destinies. Secondly, in regard to educa- tion and the attitude of the University Grants Committee, I am quite certain that in the educational field there is room for development, research, and further experiment.

I believe that directly education becomes stereotyped there is probably something very much the matter with it, and I know that is certainly the view of the University Grants Committee. I did not quite follow the noble Lord in his comparisons about the university populations in this country and other countries. I think they might be misleading, unless, one realizes exactly what is meant by university education But, having said that, I concede at once—I think we must all concede—that our university population is far too small.


Is there not a comparison between this country and Scotland? I set the difficulty about America.


It may well be so, but, however that may be, I concede at once that our university population is much too small and we must increase it as soon as we can. I believe the Barlow Report recommended that it should be doubled in ten years, and I should think it very likely that in the next ten years we shall have to double it again. I am perfectly certain that this is the best investment we can make. But, as the noble Lord knows, the difficulty at the present time is not money. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is prepared to find the money; unfortunately the difficulty is of a very different nature. In 1938–39 we had a university population of something like 50,000. To-day our university population is something like 66,000 and we hope that in the year 1951–52 we shall have reached 88,000. Even that, of course, is not doubling it, though the ten years will not be up.

As the noble Lord said, the limiting factors are twofold, the second being very much more important than the first, because the first is probably a short-term one. The first factor is the difficulty of finding the staff, of Finding teachers of sufficiently high quality to undertake the teaching. The second—and this is the real trouble—is the building problem. It is a problem from which none of us, neither institutions nor the Government nor anyone else, is immune. The position is that the University Grants Committee estimate that the programme of development in the next five years will require £50,000,000, of which some £40,000,000 is for new buildings. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has accepted that estimate, and has said that he is prepared to find the money. But the Minister of Works has told us that, even assuming a very high degree of priority being given, he does not think we can undertake more than £20,000,000 of building during the next five years.

That is the trouble, and it means that, even on the assumption of high priorities, only one half of what is admittedly due will be available. Of course, it may be much worse than that if the universities do not get high priorities. But we must realize that whatever the shortage, be it bricks, timber or labour, if we use them for university buildings we cannot use them for housing the people, and we have to make up our minds which is the more important. We all agree that it is enormously important to do what we can for the universities, but we must consider that as one part of the picture and we must not forget the rest. That, unfortunately, is the trouble, but the Minister of Works proposes to review the problem from year to year to see what he can do.

From that aspect of the matter I come to consider the question of policy with regard to expansion. It is not true that, on broad general lines, the University Grants Committee are in favour of developing the existing institutions as opposed to developing new institutions. They are not; but they feel that, having regard to the shortages, first of staff and secondly of buildings, and the extreme difficulty of undertaking new building, it is probably a better policy for the time being, if we are to achieve this rapid increase, to see how far we can get people into the existing establishments. But for the building difficulty the claims of the new universities, apart altogether from the existing universities, would certainly have a very high priority.

It was for that reason that we determined to strengthen the University Grants Committee, and I may tell your Lordships what are the new terms of reference of that Committee. They are: To assist, in consultation with the universities and other bodies concerned, the pre- paration and execution of such plans for the development of the universities as may from time to time be required in order to ensure that they are fully adequate to national needs. These are wide terms of reference, and I must say, and I think the noble Lord agrees, the prestige of the University Grants Committee is exceedingly high. In those circumstances, I am bound to say I do not think it would be wise at the present time to appoint another Committee. I think that almost inevitably the wires would cross. Almost inevitably, if one has two Committees and if they both tender the same advice, then the second Committee is unnecessary, but if they give different advice, then we are in a very great difficulty. Therefore, we feel that we had better stick to the University Grants Committee and give them what help we can with enlarged personnel and the apparatus of sub-committees, so they may take that over-all view which is, as I understand it, precisely the view the noble Lord desires them to take.

I turn to the question of university colleges, and I deal particularly with the North Staffordshire project. I am told that the University Grants Committee have passed a resolution which I will read to your Lordships. This is the resolution which they communicated to the sponsors.

That the Committee would consider sympathetically an application for financial assistance in respect of a new university college in North Staffordshire, provided that the basis of studies in science and art be adequately broadened. I am sure the noble Lord will agree with that. If this scheme is to include the conferment of degrees by the college, the Committee will wish to be satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made for sponsorship by a university or universities. If I understand it aright—and I am talking on a subject of which I have only a small knowledge—the practice has been that university colleges in this country have instructed, and their students have taken the examinations which are set by, I think, the University of London. Here is a new experiment—that the North Staffordshire people should have the right of setting their own examinations, if they do so in consultation with and by obtaining the benefit of the advice and experience of some of the older existing universities—I think they are here called "Sponsoring universities." Might not that be an experiment which is well worth making?

I have read your Lordships the resolution of the University Grants Committee. Your Lordships will see from that resolution that they are certainly not avoiding this proposal just because it is something new. I hope that that will give the noble Lord some satisfaction, and will be a justification for his having raised this question. I wish I could give him equal satisfaction with regard to building, but that assurance I cannot give him.

The noble Lord said something (and I know that some noble Lords who are to follow me are going to say the same), about the question of technical colleges. May I, therefore, go on to say something about them? What is called the upgrading of the technical colleges, within the general system of general technical education, was, of course, a matter which was discussed by the Percy Committee on Higher Technological Education. The Committee did not recommend their transformation into university colleges, for those differ from technical colleges not only in rank but in kind, but they did recommend the selection of a strictly limited number of technical colleges in which there should be developed technological courses of a standard comparable with that of university degree courses.

The precise details of that up-grading process was a matter on which the Committee were divided, and they made no conclusive recommendations, but the Chairman, Lord Eustace Percy, in an appendix to the Report, suggested that the Government should adopt the policy of developing certain colleges into major university institutions. I think that there is much to be said for consideration of that proposal but, on the other hand, I am quite certain the question is one of extreme difficulty. One must consider the interests of the full-time and part-time technical work for students preparing for, or actually engaged in, industry. Those interests must be safeguarded. But the question has already received some consideration, and if the recommendations of the Percy Committee for a National Council of Technology are implemented (as there is every reason to think that they may be) it would be one of the functions of that Council to consider whether such a policy of up-grading is feasible, and if so, how it could be best carried out.

My Lords, speaking in ignorance of this topic, may I say this? It seems to me that the essence of a university education is the mixing of students engaged in various courses; the scientist with the philosopher, the philosopher with the historian, the historian with the mathematician, and so on. The more of that one can have, the greater the broadening effect on the minds of everybody. On the other hand, I do see with regard to technical colleges that that theory is impossible and impracticable. How far, because of the difficulty, one has to go to the other extreme I am not sure; I am hesitant about it and fortunately, it is not a matter for me to determine! But, obviously, it is a matter which requires very considerable thought by people who have given great study to this question.

I should like to refer to the extra-mural work which Oxford and Cambridge in particular have done. I think that the work which they started (I am not saying that other universities have not followed them because they have; the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, will recognize that the university with which he is associated has followed them) and that all the universities have done in this respect has been of the highest value. Indeed, it has in some way made up for and supplemented our small university population, and the only criticism. I have of the work is that if it had not been done perhaps the appalling dearth of our university students in this country would have been discovered earlier.

3.45 p.m.


My Lords, as happens frequently when the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, allows his reason to conquer his emotions, or his head to rule his heart, we are in agreement on very many points about which he has spoken to-day. If things go on like this, I think the House may become utterly bored at the sight of the lion of Balliol lying down with the Christ Church lamb. There was one thing I was very pleased to hear Lord Lindsay say, and which I was delighted to hear the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, with his even greater influence, echo, and that is the paramount importance of maintaining the independence of the universities. Once Government control interferes with what is to be taught and thought, the rest of the totalitarian system will not be far off.

Whilst there are some men with exceptional types of character and brains who can make their way unaided by the advantages of the more advanced forms of education, the great bulk of the people, who in words, acts, thinking, writing, speaking and doing, influence the progress of humanity, are bound to build up on the knowledge which has been garnered, codified and analyzed by preceding generations. Unless they can have an opportunity of studying these things and having them expounded and explained by people themselves working on the frontiers of knowledge, they will be handicapped by having to think out everything afresh on uncertain premises and on inadequate information. The function of a university teacher, as I see it, is to develop in young people the habits of exact and logical thought, to show them how and where the underlying facts can be ascertained on which conclusions are to be based, to indicate how the great minds of the past have tackled problems, to show what conclusions they have reached and how they have justified them, and, above all, perhaps most important of all, to arouse the students' curiosity and interest and stimulate them to the point of making the students desire to spend laborious days and nights in an effort to contribute themselves something towards the advance of knowledge.

If this is to be accepted as the proper function of a university, it is incompatible with central supervision and control of what is thought and taught. If the conclusions are laid down before the problem is stated and studied, only inferior minds can be expected to take any interest in the process by which these conclusions are justified; the best brains are forced into a dreary process of trying to find some new way of proving or justifying some accepted dogma, and habits of mind are formed which are singularly inept to contribute to progress. A lawyer—if I may say so in the presence of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor—whose preoccupation it is to prove the case his client pays him to prove; a geologist, whose work is directed to proving, say, that evolution takes place according to some pre-established law derived from the dialectical materialists' conception of the universe promulgated a hundred years ago; even a zealot seeking new subtle methods of fortifying some dogma laid down by one of the early fathers, are not likely to develop the wide range of knowledge and the uninhibited approach to new problems which alone can lead to novel and original modes of solution.

In some subjects, of course, such as mathematics and the natural sciences, there is a wide and, within limits, quite definite body of knowledge which cannot be controverted, and which must form the foundation for any future developments. This the students have to be taught before they can hope to contribute themselves to progress. It is essential that they should not be taught it as a dogma but that the reason why these matters are believed should be laid before them, and the various alternative theories displayed. At all costs a dogmatic approach must be prevented, unless the student's mind is to be stereotyped and paralyzed. For this reason it is of supreme importance that the mind of the teachers should not be stereotyped in turn by interference from outside sources, telling them what they must think and what they must say. I would go further. If the teacher confines himself to reading and expounding old knowledge, not only will he fail to capture the interest or awake the enthusiasm of his student, but his own mind will become hidebound and his habits of thought will run in a groove. For this reason it is essential, to my mind, that university teachers should be closely connected with original research. It is vital not to divorce research in the universities from teaching, or teaching from work on the frontiers of knowledge. If we do divorce them, the teachers, and with them their pupils, will sink back into the dull, uninspiring repetition of dogmas which ossify the minds of all concerned.

The universities have now become very dependent on Government financial support, partly on account of the fall in their private income because of inflation, and partly because of the continued need for expansion. It is particularly necessary to safeguard their independence, which, as I have said, I was delighted to hear the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack say he regarded as being of supreme importance. It is, of course, for that reason that the University Grants Committee have been interposed as a buffer between the Treasury and the universities themselves. It is indeed a thankless task that the Com- mittee have to do, and I marvel at the success with which they do it. Outstanding, forceful men from any particular university who are with us are, of course, always exposed to the unspoken imputation that they may have unduly favoured their own academic home. Yet it would be quite intolerable if the Committee contained second-rate men. Men no longer connected with a university, if they employ staff of the same calibre as university teachers, may be suspected of advocating, say, salaries in the universities, fixed so as not to compete with the salaries they pay in their own establishments. Men with strong opinions and lively imagination on the University Grants Committee may easily be tempted to press, by financial pressure, their own ideas of the lines on which universities should develop or the kind of research they should do. It is, indeed, as I have said, a most thankless task that the Committee are asked to undertake, for, as always, it is not only important that justice should be done but that justice should seem to be done. I think the tributes that we have heard today to the University Grants Committee show with what success they have managed to achieve their task.

Frankly I do not see any other way in which the matter could be handled unless possibly by something like the system obtaining in local government, by which the universities could he given a block grant from some formula, provided they reached a reasonable standard. It does not seem to me to be impossible to evolve something of this sort—some system by which the money granted for the various universities may be spent without Treasury interference but which would not be renewed in full or expanded unless the university could prove that the previous grant had been well spent. There is a great deal to be said for judging a firm on its balance sheet and not on its prospectus. I think there is a slight danger in the fact that the universities do not have to justify what they have done so much as they have to persuade other people that their plans for the future are good.

Another point that has been alluded to by the noble Lord the Master of Balliol towards the end of his speech, and which I was glad to hear the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor support, is the question as to the validity of the con- clusion of the Barlow Report that we need twice as many university-trained men as we are getting at present. This may be true or it may be false—I do not pretend to know—but I would certainly not be prepared to act upon this recommendation without a very much closer study than is indicated in that Report. The Master of Balliol said that the number of men who go to the universities in this country is smaller than in most European countries—I think he said all European countries—and very much smaller than in America; and he suggested that since our standard of brains could not he lower than theirs, there must be something wrong. I think that before he forms that conclusion he must prove that the standard of their universities is not lower than ours. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, made that point and I think it is an entirely valid one.

I must confess that this figure, 2, tends to frighten me a little. When we say 2.3 in science we usually mean something between 2.2 and 2.4. If we are told that we must multiply the number of students by 2, the ordinary scientist would think that it was by something between 1½ and 2½it would be too great a fluke to think that it was exactly 2. If they had said 2.0 I would have had more confidence. The Barlow Report gives a great many facts and figures about the need for scientists. The noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, added many arguments on the same lines. I think it was one of Wells' characters who said: "This here progress—it keeps on going on." And the Master of Balliol rather regretted that science keeps on going on.


No. I said there were misguided people who do regret it, and I do not think I am a misguided person.


I am glad the noble Lord the Master of Balliol takes that view of the matter. I would only point out that the Master of Balliol and his colleagues are responsible for the social and moral progress of the undergraduates; I am responsible for their scientific progress. As I say, the arguments for the doubling of the number of science students may be valid, but the argument put forward in the Barlow Report for doubling the others seems to me to be extremely sketchy. We are simply told that unless we double them the universities will get out of balance. That may well be, and it is of course desirable to maintain a proper balance of the arts and sciences in the universities. But it is equally important that there should be some assurance that the number can be doubled without lowering the standard and that there will be jobs for those people if and when they have taken their degrees.

I must confess that I was very little impressed by the argument that some psychiatrist had said that there were five times as many people capable of profiting by a University education as actually enjoyed one. We have seen little evidence of this in Oxford, and I believe the Vice-Chancellors' Committee take much the same view in their Report. I believe that in normal times scarcely anyone who comes from a secondary school to a university, and who has the necessary mental capacity to profit by a university education, has been denied entry because of lack of space or for some similar reason. It may be, of course, that there are a number of brilliant boys in the secondary schools who do not want to come to the university—I do not know about that. The ones who do come up, if they are any good, practically always get accepted. If there is really a great wastage, as the psychiatrist believes, it must be between the primary and the secondary school. Of course, I have no information as to whether there are a number of brilliant children who deserve to go on to secondary schools and for some reason do not do so. I cannot say about that, but I have little doubt that any boy who passes into the secondary school and wants to go to the university can get into the university.


Would the noble Lord say that the same applied to girls?


The report the noble Lord refers to came from the University of Manchester. It pointed out there was a large wastage at eleven plus, a large number who passed the School Certificate and did not go on, and a large percentage who passed the Higher School Certificate and did not go on to the university. I think that is where the four-fifths are wasted.


I cannot speak about Manchester University. I can say that in Oxford we have very little evidence that anybody who gets into a secondary school and wants to come to a university cannot get into the university if he is up to the standard.


I do not want to speak too often, but I could produce the evidence from Oxford that there are such people.


To the contrary?




As this is a very important matter affecting half the population, might I ask whether what the noble Lord is saying applies to women as well as to men?


I believe there is some room for expansion, and that there have been women turned down in Oxford because of lack of space. That, I believe, is true, but I do not believe it is true of the country as a whole. I believe there is perhaps a tendency for women, for some reason, to wish to go to Oxford and Cambridge rather than to the other universities, where I have no doubt they would also obtain a very good education. The point I am concerned with is whether we can double the numbers without lowering the standard. To lower the standard would be fatal; I think we should sacrifice everything rather than lower our standards. There are, of course, possibilities in the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, for teaching between the ages of 18 and 21. That is a very interesting point, and it might well be valuable, especially if the noble Lord desires that people should be able to use the more complicated weapons of war with ease. But I think it would be a great pity if anything of that sort were allowed to interfere with the existing standards of the university.

Of course, there may be brilliant boys who could usefully profit by a university education but who do not wish to do so. They may think they will not get better jobs if they pass through the university, and perhaps they are right. The day is probably past when a former Dean of Christ Church, I believe it was, answered an undergraduate who asked, "What is the use of studying Greek?", with the words, "It is not only the immediate language of the Holy Ghost, but it leads to positions of great dignity and emolu- ment." Unfortunately, this can no longer be guaranteed by a university education, and many employers, I believe, say that they would rather take their young men straight from school than when they are three or four years older, with university degrees. That I think is a matter in which we can only hope for a change of heart on the part of the employers, because unless young men can be assured of posts of sufficient dignity and emolument after taking their degrees, there is great danger in bringing them to the universities. It is precisely from that class of men with university degrees who failed to get posts that the Fascist and Nazi parties gained very many of their most influential recruits.

It may he that I shall be accused of emphasizing this point because I am trying to disprove the statement of the Barlow Report that Oxford and Cambridge are unwilling to expand. I am not speaking officially, of course, on behalf of Oxford, but from my knowledge of the university nothing can be further from the truth. If we trace the growth of the university over the last 150 years we note an accelerated expansion—almost a geometrical progression. The university always has arranged, and I trust always will arrange, to take any suitable candidate, people of sufficient mental ability. But what we are reluctant to do is to lay down some hard and fast programme and say we will undertake to double our numbers, or whatever it may be, in so many years. We are strongly opposed, as I have said, to any drop in standards which an undertaking to multiply our numbers more rapidly than we can increase the number of suitable teachers, the laboratory space or even lodgings for the undergraduates, would entail, especially before we have evidence that sufficient candidates of adequate ability will be available.

I agree with the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, about the difficulty of expanding the buildings, but I would like here to pay tribute to the helpfulness and good sense that has been shown in the matter recently by the Ministry of Works. They have now agreed, I understand, to licence a certain amount of building in general terms, leaving the university to distribute it as may be most advantageous in the circumstances as they emerge. This is a great improvement on the old system where every little piece of building had to obtain a special licence. It had to be justified and argued about before a single licence could be granted. I hope that this broadminded approach will be applied as generally as possible, because I am sure it is most helpful.

There is one other point to which the noble and learned Viscount referred, which the Master of Balliol mentioned and to which I attach great importance. Whilst I am utterly opposed to any attempt to sub-divide the universities proper into specialized training schools, I think there is some danger, as I have said before, in trying to teach every form of technology in the universities. The university proper which did not teach history or mathematics or the natural sciences would be a monstrosity. It would be like a man deprived of an arm or a leg, or, perhaps better, deprived of one or more of his five senses. It is essential that in a university all the fundamental subjects should be studied and taught if the whole university is to flourish. The noble and learned Viscount said that it was precisely because of the actions and reactions upon one another of the intercourse, arguments and contentions of the undergraduates—and sometimes even of the teachers—in the various schools, that, their minds were whetted and their imaginations stimulated. But I do not think it follows from this that the applications of these various fundamental sciences can be, or ought to be, all taught in one university.

If I may, I will once more illustrate my meaning by the special example of engineering, although my point applies in some degree also to such subjects as agriculture and forestry. One of our greatest needs in this country to-day, when so much depends upon improving the technique of production, is a large number of highly trained engineers. Engineering is an immensely broad and an extremely difficult and complicated profession. It is quite impossible to pick it up as you go along, just as it is impossible to pick up law and medicine as you go along. In every civilized country, so far as I know, except Great Britain, it is taught in great institutions of university rank, such as the universities mentioned by the Master of Balliol, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the California Institute of Technology, the Polytechnica at Zurich and at Delft, and, before the war, the Technical Universities at Berlin and Karlsruhe. To teach engineering properly we need at least six or eight professors of engineering—civil, mechanical, steam, electrical, radio engineering and the like, each with a big department, in which teaching and research can be carried out. In addition one needs departments of physics, chemistry, mathematics, economics, geology, mineralogy and all the ancillary subjects.

A first-class engineer requires a knowledge of all these subjects, but they must be taught with an engineering bias. In a university, geology might well be studied from the point of view of the origin and formation of the rocks, the paleontology and fossils and development of species, etcetera. In the technical university the emphasis would lie on the actual distribution and stratification of the rocks, their characteristics and various formations, geophysical modes of investigating them by acoustical or electrical soundings and so on. In a university mathematics, in its purest form, would be studied for its own sake. In a university undergraduates would be taught more about the differential equations and forms of mathematics which can be applied to immediate problems; in a technical university they would be more concerned with the electromagnetic equations and applications, or the use of thermo-dynamics in designing heat engines, and so on.

To turn out first-class engineers requires great institutions of university status, with something like twenty professors and departments, which concentrate on these branches of training and research. If they are to attract the best men they must have a status in no way inferior to the universities—as they have abroad. Their degrees must rank with ordinary university degrees, their teaching appointments must be equated in prestige and salary with those of other universities. In Germany there were about ten such establishments, turning out something like 6,000 highly qualified engineers every year; so that the Germans in the war had a pool of nearly 250,000 highly skilled engineers who could be drawn upon for any technical need which might emerge. This, I think, saved them and enabled them to carry on the war as long as they did. That they made scarcely any new and original fundamental inventions in the war was due largely to the totalitarian inhibition of thought imposed by their system. But their technical achievements were outstanding, even though they embodied no new principle. One need only point to the V2—a foolish waste of effort but an incredibly successful technical achievement.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Percy, in his Report emphasized this aspect. It would be one of the most important developments in British universities if one could establish some technical universities of this kind, which might concentrate on engineering, whose prestige was measured by their success in their own field. And we must get rid, once and for all, of the ridiculous idea that a first-class engineer is not quite the equal of a man who has taken a degree in history, law, pure science or medicine in one of the older universities. I wonder whether problems of this sort are being properly and adequately considered. They are of absolutely fundamental importance to the future of this country. They are long-term problems and will not help us over the present crisis; but if we are looking ahead they should not be allowed to go by default. I trust that one of the results of this debate will be to emphasize the importance of considering this problem de novo and without any bias, and to make recommendations.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, I propose to deal with three points: first the relation of money and licences for building; second the relations of university graduates and the openings for them; and thirdly, the relation between the different subjects undertaken at a university. As regards the first point, as we all know, this Government has undertaken a very laudable programme of expanding the universities. I am sorry to run the risk of coming between these antagonists, who habitually agree, the Master of Balliol and the Professor of Christ Church. I am bound to say, however, that instead of worrying about the numbers of American students, for us in Britain the aim is the Scottish or Swedish standard. Even Balliol is not wholly without Scotsmen! But assuming that we are going to try to expand the universities to something like double their present number—a safe minimum after all—this problem of money and licences for building is a very serious one. I hope that those noble Lords who are listening on behalf of the Government will allow me to stress the seriousness of the difficulty.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has provided enough money to the university Grants Committee to enable £40,000,000 worth of building to be done. Acting on this promise the universities have made their plans. They have gone to the licensing authorities and have found that they can have perhaps only 50 per cent., Or sometimes 30 per cent., or even less of what they needed. Some of them came to the conclusion that if planning as interpreted by this Government, means dealing with each problem in isolation from every other aspect, they might have had some excuse. It looks as though the Chancellor had promised the money without considering whether or not the licence would be granted.

I think there is a real danger if the universities are allowed to make their applications for licences only to regional authorities; some of them would come off very badly indeed, especially if they needed more because their universities had been particularly badly damaged. Bristol University is a case in point; they are in a particularly difficult position. But there are others. The moral is that this problem of priorities for licences cannot be dealt with regionally or solely by the Ministry of Health. It should be taken up by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has found the money, to see that there is the best use of building priorities from a university point of view; not simply from the point of view of the building industry. That is a point I wish to make. I would like, too, following an interjection made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to express the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer —if he takes the matter up—will also see that fair consideration is given to the claims of women; to the necessary extensions at the universities in respect of them. I am glad to hear the noble Lord Lord Lindsay of Birker, say "Hear, hear." He did not mention women in his speech.


I ought to have done.


Although he did not mention them I know he thought about them.

My second point relates to the balance between university graduates and the openings in the commercial world for such graduates. In any country the number of graduates ought to bear some relationship to the number of openings for them—that is to say to the number of good jobs likely to be open for occupation by people of 21 or 22 years of age. Unless you see that this is so, you may tend to produce large numbers of members of, possibly, the Labour Party—if the Labour Party were to be regarded as a revolutionary Party, although I do not myself so regard it. At any rate you tend to produce discontented and dissatisfied people; and you do something else. If in fact you increase very largely the number of people who enjoy full-time education up to university age, and if, by the scholarship ladder you make it easy for clever boys to go through the universities, then any occupation, any profession, any way of life which does not keep places open for them when they leave the universities is likely to lose a certain amount of the ability of the country.

I believe that one could demonstrate that in this country the scholarship ladder has been one of the forces which have made the standard of ability in our businesses rather lower than it should be. For many years after we began sending up clever boys from schools into universities business men went on saying: "We want them straight from the schools." The consequence was that clever boys, who might have become business magnates, became school teachers, or something of that sort. (I do not wish by saying that to reflect in any way upon school teachers.) If, instead of going into such professions they could have been business enterprisers, then, in some cases, they might have accomplished more important work. In the United States, where many more young people go to the universities than go in this country, there has been much greater readiness on the part of business people of all kinds to take into their undertakings young people after the university stage, and not to insist on having only the product of the schools.

It is also, of course, important that the product of the schools should be qualified to benefit by university education. I have some friends through whose hands have passed a number of products of the secondary schools, and from what they tell me I am not quite certain that that qualification is always achieved. I do not think, however, that that goes to the root of the main question. Clearly there must be a large proportion of people in the British race (and in the British race I include the Scots), as in the Swedish race, able to profit by university education. Therefore, it is most important that all who are concerned with giving jobs should remember the desirability of keeping an adequate number of places open for people who have done the full university course. That should be co-relative with the extension of the universities.

The third point I wish to make relates to the balance between the different subjects taught in universities. There was a time when our universities were almost exclusively devoted to teaching the classics and the ancient learning generally. But there has since come a time when the champions of natural science have forced their way in and have seized a very large proportion of the available resources. I suspect that there has, in fact, been an unbalanced development of natural science in our universities as well as in our society generally. That, indeed, is almost the moral of the very depressing though very interesting debate to which we listened in this House recently, on the subject of the atomic bomb. We have had science going forward, making war more and more terrible, without sufficient being done to make the occurrence of war less likely. While I am not going to suggest that a more careful study of the social sciences would be, in itself, a preventive of war, I do suggest that it would be a contribution towards preventing it.

The more the people of any country understand of the problems of peoples of other countries, the more they get to know about them, and the more they learn to look upon human society as a whole, the less likely will war be. The more people, in general, understand political and economic relations and the elementary fact that one man's prosperty is of benefit and not harm to his neighbours, the more shall we progress towards the prevention of war. To spread this understanding by every means in our power would be a great contribution to the stopping of war, which has been made more and more dangerous through the unbalanced development of natural science.

To-day natural science is enthroned and powerful. Economics is so unimportant that even the Lord Chancellor, in detailing a list of people he wanted to meet, did not mention economists and politi- cians. He spoke of historians, lawyers, bacteriologists and others, but he did not even mention people of my former profession. However, I hope that he will be quite glad to meet me if he has the chance! It is true, I think, that the fact that social science, economics, politics, sociology, anthropology and so on, have not sufficiently established themselves in public esteem is to some extent their own fault. I do not think it is simply because the economists always tend to disagree. So, after all, do doctors, scientists, and others. We know that they disagree just as violently.

I think one fault has been that in the past economists and political scientists, although they call themselves scientists, have had affiliations with the arts and not with the sciences. It is not my intention to speak at length on that subject, however, though I have lectured upon it before now. It is a mistake to think that the study of economics has nothing to do with science, but to-day it is still far too apt to be treated as part of the arts. I think a clear sign of that is afforded by the fact that people in my walk of life who attain eminence become Fellows of the British Academy, instead of Fellows of the Royal Society. That is fundamentally wrong. One reason why the social sciences have not developed as they should have done is that they have not had enough money to develop. If you are going to try to develop the study of economics and political science, not merely as a form of reasoning or philosophy, but as a science, you need money for a number of purposes.

Statistical laboratories are needed; field work has to be carried out; there must be expansion of all the things needed for research. Natural scientists obtain the money needed for research, but social scientists do not. Therefore a great deal more money is needed for the development of the social sciences. I believe that money used in that way would be well spent, from the point of view of that expenditure making war less likely. The use of more money in this way would mean the holding of an inquiry into the balance of subjects taught at the universities. When I heard the noble Lord who opened the debate outlining the committee which he would like to appoint, it struck me that here would be a splendid thing for his committee to inquire into. Let them examine the balance of subjects taught at the universities. Some kind of a special committee appointed for that purpose would be a very good thing.

The Lord Chancellor thought that the University Grants Committee should concern themselves with this, but here a difficulty arises. That Committee give away money—that is their business. If they were to hold an inquiry as to what the universities teach, and what they ought to teach, they could hardly do that without appearing to interfere with the independence of the universities. Somehow, I want an independent inquiry into the balance of the subjects taught. I hope that somebody will make it. Those are the three really important points. They are all points of balance. There is the balance between money and licences for building, which is a problem for the Government to work out. There is the balance between the number of university graduates and the jobs for them. That is partly a question for the Government, for they are already a large employer and, I gather, they contemplate being, if possible, even larger employers. But it is not only a question for the Government, it is a question for the whole of society. Then there is this question of balance between the different subjects in the university and that, I believe, could be undertaken by the University Grants Committee, perhaps with a specially appointed committee of inquiry for the purpose.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, we have had four speeches from scintillating stars in the cultural and legal firmament—


No, I should not say that.


I give you that; so I shall have to ask your Lordships' indulgence while I follow the precedent of the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, and indulge in a little special pleading. The precedent was established when Lord Lindsay pointed out that Stoke ought to have at least a university college. I am putting the case of Yorkshire this afternoon. Yorkshire has a population equal to that of Scotland. I am glad, and I am certain that Scotsmen are proud, that Scotland has four universities. Yorkshire has but two, but I am glad to say there has been the recent addition of the University College of Kingston-upon-Huff If I might just give a historical background, I would like to point out that in the late 'seventies and early 'eighties there was a resurgence of further adult education. We had the Mason College at Birmingham, the great Owens College at Manchester, and the Yorkshire College at Leeds. At the same time there was the unique experiment of the Bradford Technical College in the early 'eighties. I remember that because I was present at the opening. My mother carried me, but she did this not so much for me to, see the college as to see the Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII. If you will allow this little personal reminiscence, I car see his jolly face even to-day as he looked with pleasure upon our bonny lasses. He had always an eye for beauty.


Did he look at you, too?


Well, I was being nursed. And so this technical college was opened in the early 'eighties, through the munificence of the Cloth Workers' Company and local liberality. That college has spread, and this morning there were 600 full-time students; this evening there will be 3,200 part-time students attending that college, not simply for research into wool and rayon, but to study engineering, botany and science and, to a lesser degree, the arts. Of the full-time men and women students, 350 are determined to take degrees, and they have, as a result, to enter for the external degrees of the London University. The college is an institution that serves not merely my own city, but also a larger population of 800,000. The importance of this great college has been recognized by the independent members of the Wool Working Party in their Report, because they said it was essential that Bradford College should be created a university college.

This afternoon we have had at least three speeches based upon the major universities. I do not mind that, because these major universities are based upon tradition. But I would remind your Lordships that we have a tradition, even in that hard-bitten part of Yorkshire, the West Riding. We were privileged to be represented in parliament for twenty-five years by Mr. W. E. Forster. While he was our Member he laid the foundation of public elementary education in this country. We also had such men as Samuel Cunliffe-Lister, Weetman-Pearson (though he thought imperially and the world was his diocese), Angus Holding and his father, Isaac Holding. Three of these men had the privilege of sitting in this House. I particularly emphasize Samuel Cunliffe-Lister because he created, by scientific research, such beautiful things as silk and velvet. At the same time, he felt he was under a duty of gratitude to the person who had inspired some of the machinery by which he was able to do this. That is why I want you to be as tolerant as you can while I am making these remarks.

We also had in another place a man whose name was Titus Salt. He was the first great employer of labour in this country to realize that the workpeople should live in decent conditions, and he established that little township called after him and known as Saltaire.

Although Bradford celebrated this year its centenary as a corporation, we had a great tradition in the past; and that is why Bradford to-day is the world's centre of the wool and its ancilliary trades. We were inspired to emphasize higher education when that word was not popular. We have five grammar schools in Bradford to-day, and we have high schools. When, in the rest of the country, there were 9 per 1,000 attending higher education schools, there were over 25 per 1,000 in my own native town. When the cut came in 1931, that figure sank, but to-day children living within my city know that double the number, compared with the rest of the country—10 per 1,000 compared with 5 per 1,000—can have the pleasure of a higher education. This is no mean record.

I want to pay my tribute by saying that we owe much to what was called the extra-mural teaching of Cambridge and Oxford. We owe much to what in those days—over fifty years ago— we used to call the University Extension Lectures. I believe their descendant to-day is the Workers' Educational Association movement. Those men, chiefly from Oxford, used to come to us. They spoke beautifully. We loved the soft cadences of their south country accent. So much so that I remember an incident connected with one hard-bitten Bradford manufacturer, whose dialect was of the broadest, and whose son was going to talk equally broadly.

The son had his certificate from the grammar school. A university extension lecturer, speaking beautifully, came to the district. With Yorkshire hospitality the man said to the lecturer: "Don't go to an hotel; come to my house. I will put you up." The professor saw the boy—a grand upstanding lad. The boy's father said to the professor: "But listen to him talking, Professor." The professor said, "Let him come with me. I will teach him to talk as I can; but he must not come home for the vacation. He must spend the whole year in Oxford." The father allowed his boy to go. The university professor said to the father: "You come down at the end of the university year and take your boy home, and also see the university." At the end of the year, the father came. He said to the professor: "Now then, professor lad, can that lad of mine talk as tha' can talk?" The professor said: "Bagoom; he can an' all." I wish to pay my own tribute to the University Extension Lectures Movement. I owe a great deal to it, because of the further education which I received. With regard to our high schools I can remember—as a very young child—going to the opening of one by the late Viscount Cross. I remember James Bryce opening another. Both men were distinguished members of your Lordships' House. James Bryce afterwards served this country with distinction as one of the finest ambassadors we ever sent to Washington.

In short, we wish to extend our high scientific standards in engineering, wool, and in other spheres. We ask that our men and women in Yorkshire shall be able to profit by their present opportunities; if we can receive university extension status they will be able to do so. In 1904 our buildings needed considerable extension. The City Council came forward to provide a lot of the money. Yet it is said, because the City Council are interested in this college, it should not receive university status. I consider it is to the credit of a City Council who provide for higher education and see that it does not languish. It is a credit to the Council in which I served my apprenticeship that we were able to have such a high proportion of boys and girls who were able to profit from what is called secondary education. That is no reason why we should be penalized.

But we wish to extend. We would like to have a Chair of Music in the West Riding. I should like to remind your Lordships that it was Manchester and Bradford business. men, in combination, who gave us the Hallé Orchestra. On Saturday I passed a warehouse with a very honoured name, because the son of the founder of that business was Frederick Delius, who made such a great contribution to music. We do not wish to stick simply to our wool or our engineering. We want an extension into cultural education and arts. Above all—and I am sorry that nobody representing the Ministry of Health is here—we could within six or eight months have a teaching hospital in Bradford. We have two great hospitals with 2,404 beds. We have every department, from the cradle to the grave, where students are taught or could be taught. I am assured by a distinguished Scottish physician that we have an efficient staff. For twenty years there has been research in radium and cancer. These great hospitals are recognized as the regional centres in Yorkshire for research into radium; in fact, we were the pioneers in pre-natal clinical work. We were, too, the pioneers in maternity work, and this had to be done by the Corporation sometimes in defiance of the powers-that-be in Whitehall. I am putting in a special plea, which is perhaps wrong of me. We do not despise technology in the West Riding.

When I made a pilgrimage to some of the great schools of this country, in almost every one—I remember Eton in particular—I saw well set up lads in overalls with dirty hands working away. Their sole incentive was to serve their country during the war, and the profits which they undoubtedly made went to extend a youth club somewhere in the East End of London for lads who were not so well off as themselves. I want us to think impartially on this question. I want us to realize that we must not be hidebound, either by a university of lost causes or any other sort of university, but must think as the Italians thought when their great universities were founded centuries ago. I believe that we can do it—especially in my own county of Yorkshire. We can make a great contribution, shall I say, by a conservatory of culture, science, the arts and technology; we can help the nation, because we have got buildings which could be used to much greater efficiency than they are to-day. So I am asking your Lordships' support for my city of Bradford. I do not want you to forget it—I want it to go down in Hansard—because I can say humbly, like Paul of Tarsus, that I believe "I am a citizen of no mean city."

4.49 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend who has just sat down has directed the course of the debate from the very general field with which the mover of the Motion started into a more particular field. As a Yorkshireman, born in the City of Bradford, I cannot refrain from taking this opportunity of congratulating my noble friend on the eloquence of his historic record of the city's achievements. Indeed, I congratulate him on the general eloquence of his appeal for the particular point which his initiative has inspired me to follow and support; more particularly, because the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in his reply to my noble friend the mover of the Motion, devoted a large part of his remarks to this particular field—that of the technological institutions of this country. But may I also ask the indulgence of the House for trespassing on its time for one moment to recall that it is now nineteen years ago since my noble friend who has just sat down and myself appealed for the suffrage in our mutual city of Bradford? On that particular occasion it was my good fortune to receive the honour of support. I would add that my most happy recollections of the campaign are the very cordial manner in which it was conducted, and the particular contribution of my noble friend.

We must all be extremely grateful to the mover of this Motion. I would like to quote one phrase which he used, because it gives the lead to the appeal which I wish to make. In his emphasis on the need for expansion of university education he said, "or institutions of university status." This particular matter of technical education, which the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, dignified in the manner to which I have just referred, was taken up with great energy in the discussion on the Committee stage of the Education Act in June, 1944. For the purposes of record —because I wish to support the point made by the noble Lord who has just sat down—may I remind the House that our very energetic pleadings with the Government spokesman (then speaking for Mr. Butler, who was Minister of Education) that there should be in the Bill a definite undertaking to include technical education (also covering technical training) were resisted on the grounds that education necessarily included technical training, and, therefore, there was no necessity to include that wording in the Bill. It was eventually decided that it should be mandatory upon the Minister to see that provision was made for all those for whom this amendment in the Act was being urged.

It is because of the position of this institution to which I particularly make reference—the Bradford Technical College—that I had to come from the general to the particular, and I had to make that necessary preamble. Perhaps the noble Lord who moved this Motion to-day will forgive me if I suggest that he forgot to mention the Bradford Technical College in his catalogue of those institutions which were aspiring to university status. I would remind the noble Lord that the wool textile industry is one of our largest exporting industries, and, therefore, the locality of Bradford appears to justify particular consideration. The fact is that in spite of repeated references to this matter in the Barlow Report, and in the Percy Report, no success has yet come in regard to the point for which the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, appealed, although the Lord President of the Council has accepted, in general, the recommendations of the Barlow Report for the establishment of university rank for institutes of technology. It is appropriate that one should refer to the remarks of the noble and learned, Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, who said that the University Grants Committee—which Committee received an exceptional eulogy from the mover of the Motion—should have authority to make their own allocations.

The noble and learned Viscount emphasized that there was no difficulty in finance, and the Chancellor was prepared to find all the money required. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack further said that the terms of reference of the University Grants Committee were very wide, so that their actions could include such as had been appealed for in this particular case. The noble and learned Viscount emphasized that there might be a danger in this matter: that it status were granted to these technological institutions the particular value of the institutions in serving technical students might be impaired. I am sure the noble Lord who has just sat down, were he still in the Chamber, would agree with me that there would be no danger under this heading in this particular case. I therefore hope the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack—who in due course will doubtless report this debate to his colleague, the Minister of Education—will remember that point. I hope, too, that he will not overlook the fact that two Yorkshire speakers have urged, under the general umbrella of this most happy debate—fortunately not marred by any partisan feeling—that this should be given particular consideration.

The eulogistic catalogue given by the previous speaker, my co-Yorkshireman, of the achievements of private enterprise in Yorkshire is no doubt cheering to noble Lords on this side of the House; and I hope his emphasis on the value of it to industrial achievement in this particular field will be noted widely by noble Lords on the Government Benches. I refer in conclusion to the work of the Wool Working Party, and the booklet published by the present Government. I must admit that I do not know why it should have been printed in this colour, but I suppose these recommendations will appeal particularly to the supporters of the Government. I emphasize that the recommendations were that the Bradford Technical College should have a status in keeping with Bradford's location as a large centre of industry and that it should be better equipped.

I hope the noble and learned Viscount, in reporting to the Minister, will be good enough to ask what is preventing action being taken, because nothing that the mover of the Motion said would in any way conflict with what I am advocating. I am sure his wisdom in these matters will be respected by the Government, and that he can leave this Chamber with the satisfaction that he has done a great service. In this particular matter the Government have omitted the City of Bradford. Why cannot this city be included? I appeal to my noble friend the mover of this Motion to emphasize—in spite of the fact that he omitted to mention Bradford, the most important of all technological institutions (of which I am sure he will pardon my reminding him)—that Bradford is worthy of immediate action in this matter.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, as a Lancashire man I have listened with great interest to these two Yorkshire diversions of the last few minutes, and perhaps, with your Lordships' permission, I may come back to the matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lindsay. I am particularly grateful to him for raising this matter, because I do not think it is fully realized what a revolution is now taking place in relation to the universities and the Government. It is very important, therefore, that these matters should be brought before the attention of your Lordships' House. Up to three years ago, the Government had confined their relation with the universities to issuing a charter for new universities and giving them a grant, rising from £1,000,000 to £2,000,000. That was administered in the kindliest way by the University Grants Committee, who gave advice and suggestions, were very careful indeed not to interfere with anything, and did a remarkably good job.

Since 1944 there have been at least seven Departmental Committees appointed by four different Ministries on different aspects of university work. Those seven Reports all make definite and constructive suggestions as to the expansion of university work, the new kinds of work to be done by universities, or how certain kinds of things should be done. A remarkable sense of initiative was shown by Committees which were composed almost entirely of university men appointed by different Government Departments. It has brought the relations of the Government and the universities closer than they were before. By far the most important Report is, of course, the Barlow Report, because that Committee made the revolutionary suggestion that universities should double their numbers, both in the arts and the sciences, within ten years. That has been accepted, I think, by the universities, by the Government and by the public. It is true, as has been pointed out several times, that we have in England the smallest university population, in relation to the total population, of any industrial and civilized country. It is also true that if we implement the Barlow Report we shall increase our numbers faster than any country has ever increased its number, even America. I have studied American figures, and never in one decade have they doubled the number of students. Therefore the task which has been put upon our universities is a very heavy one indeed.

It is also true, as the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, said, that Oxford and Cambridge may not have objected to expansion, but in fact they are going to expand very slowly and on a moderate scale. The other big universities, London, Edinburgh and Glasgow, are expanding only moderately and, therefore, the regional universities will have to expand at a quite unparalleled pace; the burden is going to fall on the regional universities and colleges. As is well known, in order to meet these burdens Sir John Anderson set an example by increasing the grant from £2,500,000 to £5,500,000, and we are all deeply indebted to him for doing so. That, I think, is a good illustration of the fact that this is in no way a Party matter. Mr. Dalton followed Sir John Anderson's example and increased it from £5,500,000 to £9,000,000, and this year he has given a quinquennial grant rising to no less than £16,000,000 in five years' time. The universities have an income of about £4,000,000 apart from the Government grant; but they will be getting over 75 per cent. of their income and their capital expenditure from the Government. That is far more than the Government 'pay for schools. The Government are going to be in a position, if they so wish, not only to control but to dictate to the universities.

The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, pointed out that the Chancellor has given to the University Grants Committee new terms of reference (which he read out) to ensure that the universities fully meet the needs of the country. It is very interesting that the Vice-Chancellors have accepted that on behalf of the universities. If I might quote what they said in a very important document recently issued by them, it is as follows: The universities entirely accept the view that the Government has not only the right, but the duty to satisfy itself … that the resources which are placed at the disposal of the universities are being used with full regard both to efficiency and to economy. That is an exceedingly important statement on behalf of the universities. The Vice-Chancellors are now practically accepted as a representative body of the Universities, and are accepting the Government's right to see that we do our job with full efficiency and economy.

As I say, the task which has been laid upon us is a very heavy one, and I might perhaps illustrate it from my own University of Manchester, where I have been a member of the Council for thirty years. We have already actually expanded, and we have to-day 60 per cent. more students than we had before the war, as against the national average of 30 per cent., and our plan is to double—and rather more than double—that number. The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, cast grave doubts on the Leybourne-White Report—which was accepted by the Barlow Committee—which indicated that there were probably five times as many people wishing to go to the universities who were as able as the upper half of those now going to the universities. I should like to answer the noble Lord who, I am quite certain, has not read the Report. It has been widely discussed by our leading psychologists and is supported by evidence from the Ministry of Education. It is also supported by our own experience, because the quality of this sudden increase of 60 per cent. is as high as or higher than, any quality we have ever had before. That applies not only to ex-Servicemen, but also to those coming straight from school.

The record of our distinguished School of Physics, which has already produced such men as Schuster, Rutherford and others, is more remarkable still. It has accepted four times as many students as it used to take before the war. It has nearly doubled the number of research workers, and they are absolutely convinced that there is no lowering whatever in the standards. It may be that these students no longer wish to go to Oxford and prefer Manchester University, and it may be that they are learning wisdom. That is being done, and it is a very heavy burden on the teachers, who are working under what might be called slum conditions. They are sacrificing themselves and doing a job, but they cannot go on under those conditions. I was glad to hear the noble and learned Viscount say that the matter would be reconsidered.

I wish to point out, however, that matters are very much worse than he has been informed. In Manchester we were intending to spend £800,000 a year over five years on new buildings, and we were informed that the money would be available. We were then allocated by the Ministry of Works £120,000 a year, or about one-sixth. We are now desperately applying for licences, and we are likely to be able to finish about £60,000 this year and about £60,000 next year. That is not the one-sixth which we were allocated, and certainly not one-half as the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, suggested. We were allocated one-sixth and we are actually getting one twelfth. Now that really makes the whole expansion scheme difficult if not impossible. I have seen in the last day or two letters from Vice-Chancellors of various universities, men of weight and discretion, who wrote to say what difficulties they had experienced in the way of this expansion. They all said that the one acute and immediate difficulty is this question of buildings; and the words used in connexion with the matter by four of these discreet and experienced men are "devastating," "disastrous," "desperate" and "calamitous." I am very glad to hear that the Ministry of Works is to reconsider the matter, and I hope the Government will see that the reconsideration takes place fairly quickly; otherwise it is impossible to conceive what is likely to happen next year. We have one very big entry now, and we are expecting in all provincial universities big entries next year and the year after. We might manage this year's, but it may not be possible to manage the next two years' entries, unless we can get more temporary buildings and a certain number of permanent buildings.

It is not only in that direction that immediate help is required from the Government; as noble Lords have pointed out, there are other matters in which help will be urgently required, and particularly in making sure that jobs will be available for graduates. There will be no difficulty for the medicals, or scientists, but there is no doubt there will be great difficulties in the arts and humanities if their numbers are to be doubled. I believe that business and the civil service and local authorities must learn to employ arts graduates as they are employed, very successfully, by the best businesses and the higher branches of the civil service. I believe far more ought to be absorbed. But a great campaign will be necessary to make business and the Government appreciate this. It depends on the Appointments Boards of the universities, which involves the Higher Appointments Board of the Ministry of Labour. It also involves action and help by the University Grants Committee as part of their positive terms of reference as laid upon them by the Chancellor.

The Government, by their many committees and by their generous help, have given the universities the stimulus of a wider field of activity. They have given them the necessary finances, and opportunities of service far more effective than they have rendered in the past. I have seen many universities in the last few months, and they are all making very vigorous and self-sacrificing efforts to take advantage of these opportunities. Possibly this new partnership will help the universities greatly to extend their services to the community.

5.14 p.m.


My Lords, before asking leave to withdraw my Motion, I want to say how grateful I am for the reply of the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. There is, however, one point which I should like to mention. The Lord Chancellor announced that the Government have said that the committee who are surveying the whole university problem should be a committee of the University Grants Committee. I think he agreed that other representatives might be put on that committee. I have no fundamental quarrel with that, but there is one reason why it might be better, in my view, to have a separate committee, and that is connected with a point that the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, and other noble Lords raised, about the status of the technical colleges and their prospective enlargement into technological institutes. These technical colleges are not under university bodies now but under the Ministry of Education, and I think there is a certain temptation on the part of the body representing universities, properly so-called, not to do justice to the problem of the technical institutes. I do not think it comes to very much, and it will depend on the reference given to the committee; but I think it is worth considering, and, therefore, though I very much welcome the assurance of the noble and learned Viscount that the Government intend to ask the University Grants Committee to appoint a sub-committee, I still say that I would rather have the other, for the reasons I have mentioned. That is the only point I wish to make, except to thank your Lordships for this very interesting debate, and to beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.