HL Deb 14 March 1950 vol 166 cc203-40

3.5 p.m.

LORD CALVERLEY rose to ask His Majesty's Government what is their immediate policy towards the development of higher branches of technology; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: I rise to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and to move for Papers. If I wanted a text on which to hang this important question of advanced technical education, I might refer your Lordships to the speech which Mr. Churchill made when he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Mr. Churchill said: We have suffered in Great Britain by the lack of colleges of university rank in which engineering and allied subjects are taught. Industrial production depends on technology and it is because the Americans, like the prewar Germans, have realised this and created institutions for the advanced training of large numbers of high grade engineers that they have been able to translate the advances of pure science into industrial technique. The late President Roosevelt, just before he died, appointed one of his advisers to go into this question, and the adviser's report was presented to President Truman on July 18, 1945. The preface of this Report says: We can no longer count on a ravaged Europe as a source of fundamental knowledge… and so on. I heartily agree with these contentions. As an ordinary citizen I remember with pride that, during the war, though we were handicapped with regard to advanced technical education, this country of ours, to our credit, overcame most of our difficulties. We can render thanks to our scientists for such inventions as the mulberry harbour, radio-location, "Pluto," and others which I need not mention. In asking what is the policy of His Majesty's Government towards the development of higher branches of technology, I am not going to apologise at all for what has been done since the war ended. I would ask the Ministry of Education, who are responsible for advanced technical education, to declare their hand and let us know exactly where our technical colleges stand. I cannot spec with any authority on technical education, although I served my apprenticeship as an administrator as a member of a great local authority, helping to maintain a large technical institution. When I see round me noble Lords who can speak with authority on this question, I wish I could press them into the debate this afternoon to stress, with an authority that I do not possess, the extreme importance of this subject.

I have been considerably helped by the all-Party Parliamentary Committee for the study of scientific and technical knowledge. I did not belong to that Committee when I was a Member of another place, because I was not qualified to render much service to that illustrious Committee. The Committee consisted of 200 members of both Houses, under the presidency of Sir John Anderson, and included men like the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and the noble Lord, Lord Marley—I am sorry the noble Lord is not here, because I should have asked him to take part in this debate. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, in a debate in 1947, expressed his concern about higher technical education and told us that we were entitled to larger grants under various advisory boards. In spite of all this very little has been done.

I am told that there are twenty-seven colleges of advanced technology in this country, with thousands of students. The trouble is that, whilst we have these major colleges, only ten of the twenty-seven mentioned in the report of the Parliamentary Committee on science come within the ambit of the London University. I wish to pay tribute to London University for making it possible for so many of our young men and women to take degrees which otherwise would not be open to them, not only giving them status but helping them in their future careers. As I have said, only ten of these colleges are in the London area; the other seventeen are situated all over the country. I understand that even the great Loughborough College is not in a position to grant degrees to its students; and other colleges are similarly placed. I see before me the Chancellor of Manchester University, the noble Lord, Lord Woolton. He told me just,before the debate commenced that Manchester University (the old college of some time ago, but flow a great university) co-operates with the Manchester Technical College, and I understand that if students taking full-time courses qualify for degrees Manchester University grants such degrees. I am certain that when Lord Woolton is taking a day off from his arduous toil within the precincts near the Abbey, and goes up to Manchester, he renews his strength like the eagle when he meets not only the graduates but in particular the undergraduates among whom he is a firm favourite. In addition, as the noble Lord told me, he spends a happy time in the technical college, especially when dispensing degrees to people who have earned them. But the case of Manchester appears to me to be an exception.

I find from the report that the seventeen major colleges have a good number of day students studying technology. I am glad to see here this afternoon a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote who went through the engineering shops on the Tyne and now gives the benefit of his experience and learning to the undergraduates of Cambridge. I feel sure that that sort of thing is also done at Oxford. I understand that there is an objection, where there is a university near a technical college, to granting university status to the technical college. Mr. Churchill went to the Institute of Technology at Massachusetts, and had I been with him we could have walked from that college in a very short time to Harvard University. The noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, has reminded us in the University Quarterly Review (I believe that is the correct title) that in the. City of Zurich, a city of 370,000 inhabitants, there is a university of great distinction and also a technical college with a charter to grant degrees, which is equally distinguished. There is only about a mile between them. I am told that one of the great schools of technology is at Charlottenburg in Berlin, and within walking distance there is Berlin University. They have equal status. So it is a poor excuse for the Ministry of Education to say that they cannot give university status to technical colleges—I emphasise that—simply because of their proximity to existing universities. After all, the university does not grant the students facilities for taking a degree, except under impossible conditions, and they have to go to the City and Guilds of London Institute for certain certificate examinations, and also to that gracious body the London University, which comes to their aid with its external examinations—which, I may add, are taken in the technical colleges themselves.

My plea this afternoon is that it is high time His Majesty's Government stated definitely that they are prepared to give graduate status to these technical colleges; to give status to Cardiff and Loughborough—although I can hardly believe that Loughborough has not got it. No doubt my noble friend who is to reply will be able to tell us whether Loughborough has that status, and if not I expect him to put on a white sheet, and tell us that that error will soon be rectified. Your Lordships would not expect a speech from me that did not mention the West Riding of Yorkshire, and I would also plead especially for that area. At Huddersfield there is a school of technology, not only providing advanced knowledge but also catering for those students who come in their thousands to the modern counterpart of the old Italian type of university. Those young fellows know how to spend their leisure time profitably by attending these evening courses. In Halifax, Bradford and Huddersfield there are 9,500 of these young fellows attending courses which fit them to take their proper part in the commercial and industrial life of this country. In Huddersfield there are 475 full-time students studying for a degree—again a London University degree—and there are 1,800 attending part-time classes during the day, and 2,876 attending evening classes. I commend to your Lordships' notice the fact that Huddersfield has found it necessary to open a special department for the training of tutors and technical teachers, and actually provides a hostel for some who come from a distance.

Halifax has 140 full-time students, and of those 90 are on a degree level. In Bradford there are 700 full-time clay students, 800 part-time day students and 3,000 evening students. In fact, in this great trinity of technical training centres—Huddersfield. Halifax and Bradford—there are about 11,000 young men and women, all spending their time for the advancement of technology and science. I sometimes wonder why the Ministry of Education (knowing a little of its Minister) treats these colleges as if they were the Cinderellas of the colleges. It is either that or else the Ministry looks upon them as Naboth's vineyards and is loth to part with them, say, to the University Grants Committee or to a similar body. One college in which I have been personally interested on the administrative side is actually older than Mason College, now the Birmingham University. It dates back to the time of Owen's College or thereabouts. I was present at the opening, when I was carried as a baby by my mother. It was there that I saw the then Prince of Wales for the first time—but that is by the way. It has always stuck in my mind, and I am glad that I went to the opening of what is now one of the greatest technical colleges in this country.

Some people say that the trouble with some of these colleges is that they are now run by the local municipal authorities. That is true. It was "Hobson's choice," or else they would have had to close down. I can speak for Huddersfield where a great man with a national name was President of the college for many years; and I can speak of the board of governors which was founded in the city of Bradford in 1882. I went to look at the tablet last Friday, and I was thrilled at the names inscribed upon it—the founders of the Clothworkers' Company and others I cannot now mention by name—and I thought that present-day citizens ought to pay their meed of praise to those who have done such good work.

When Mr. Balfour passed his 1902 Act, these colleges took on a new existence. They had previously largely existed, I believe, on what is called local excise grants, and which we used to call "whisky money." The whisky money well dried up or evaporated, and so these boards of governors had either to close down a great work or to say: "Will you come to our aid and take them over?" All the time there was in Huddersfield, Halifax and Bradford, and, in fact, in other places as well, the closest co-operation with the public authority. Now the time has come for these colleges to recast their mould, and one or two of them are ready to do it. So far as the West Riding is concerned, the intention is to found a great West Riding Advanced School of Technology, and at the present time there are already over 1,000 full-time day students taking degree courses. It is hoped to bring in those interested in education and to have the closest intercommunication between the principals of the three colleges. I hope the County Palatine will fall into line, as well as other parts of the country, because I believe the Ministry of Education suggest that there should be ten regional districts, and I suppose that Yorkshire and Lancashire, the County Palatine, would make two of the ten.

Therefore I am pleading what I am certain is evident to every one of your Lordships present this afternoon: that if we wish to keep our place in producing and expanding the production of useful and even beautiful things, we must have an advanced technical education. I respectfully submit that Cambridge and Oxford are full almost to saturation point with those studying the liberal arts and subjects which are usually taught in such great universities as those. In the same way, I would say to the Leeds University: "Stick to your last like a cobbler and go on teaching the liberal arts." Leeds University has one of the finest schools of medicine and it is one of the best departments for producing teachers of the highest efficiency and quality. It has other branches, but I think it might leave to the technical colleges those subjects which are peculiar to an advanced technical course. If my noble friend the Duke of Devonshire, the Chancellor of Leeds University, were here, I should press upon him to go on with the good work he has done in the past, and not leave that feeling of resentment which exists between the technical colleges and Leeds University, that Leeds University is stonewalling some of those colleges from expanding.

Twenty-five years ago I was serving on a committee for further technical education. I went into print with a letter asking that the West Riding should be recognised by giving a chance for the students of these colleges to graduate with a degree in technical subjects. The then Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University asked me to see him, and I did so; but his condition, not only for Leeds and Bradford but also for Hull in which I am also interested, was that there must be two years' residence in Leeds and one in Hull or Bradford. How can you build up a tradition if your students go away for even a year or two years? You cannot do it. I went to my old employer, for whom I had worked in a very subordinate position in Hull, and put the position to him. I said, "Go forward with your university college; you are putting about £250,000 down: put it into Hull." He did so, and Hull is now progressing well as a university college. We give very tardy recognition to these great colleges. I believe the Ministry of Education grant about 750 State scholarships, of which only about 100 go to technical colleges. I do not think that is quite fair.

With regard to one important branch of technical education, perhaps I may point out that Halifax stresses engineering, while Huddersfield stresses textiles—and seeing that it has Imperial Chemical Industries in its midst it lays great stress on tit: study of advanced chemistry and colour chemistry. Huddersfield, as I have suggested, stresses fine cloths—fine worsted cloths for which there is a very good market in Canada and in the United States of America—and so does Bradford. I would remind your Lordships that, in proportion to the number employed, wool textiles are actually the greatest dollar-earners that we have at the present time.

In 1943 and 1944 I visited some of the public schools of this country, in order to enlarge my personal education. In everyone of these schools (and I visited over twenty of them) I found senior boys using their hands, either on a lathe or in some other way, for the war effort. They were being paid the rate for the job. Many of them were taking this up in order to enlarge the scope of their usefulness fit boys' clubs in centres in such places as the East End of London. There these boys were with dirty hands—and some of them dirty faces—wearing workmanlike overalls. And I was greatly impressed by them. I should like to ask your Lordships this question. If they were your boys, and if you could not afford to send them to, say, Cambridge or Oxford for a technical course, would you not feel a sense of frustration if they could not take a degree? Any of these lads I saw would be able to become, say, a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects or a chartered accountant or some thing of the kind. Incidentally, there is something in the ceremony of going up to the Chancellor of a University and receiving a diploma, and perhaps wearing a gown for the first time, which is a cause of great pride to a young fellow.

I appeal to my noble friend who is to reply for a sympathetic answer on this anomaly of these great colleges' having to depend on the good will of such institutions as the University of London. Now we have finished the debate on the gracious Speech there is little in the way of great projects which we have to consider except, perhaps, the Bill that my noble friend has introduced this afternoon—which none of us will ever understand. There will be time for Ministers to consolidate and consider in the quiet of their offices what they can do to improve their administration. Before I close I wish to pay a tribute to the generosity of the House of Courtauld—with which a member of your Lordships' House is closely connected—for their noble gift to help Bradford to erect suitable buildings. In that place, as well as in Huddersfield and Halifax, there are buildings which, reckoned in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, are worth something of the order of £1,000,000– more if one includes the excellent equipment. What I ask is that the Ministry of Education should make a magnanimous gesture and say, "Yes, we will go the whole hog, and turn you over to the University Grants Committee." I beg to move for Papers.

3.38 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great pleasure to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Calverley. I am afraid that I cannot follow him in his intimate knowledge of technical colleges and universities in his part of the country, but I should like to make a few remarks from a slightly different point of view. In the first place, I would say that I follow the noble Lord the whole of the way in his appeal to the Ministry of Education to let us know what their proposals are. But I do not go with him nearly so far in his plea for the granting of indiscriminate degrees. This is a very difficult problem, as I fully appreciate. As one who has been privileged to go to Cambridge and get a degree, I realise that if I should say these degrees should not be given more freely it would sound as though we, who have been so fortunate, sought to prevent others from securing a similar reward. But it does seem to me that the very thing of which those who now take degrees are proud would be lost if the degrees were given indiscriminately; for universities do, I think it is generally agreed, provide something different from the technical colleges, and that is why the degree is reserved for those institutions which reach a university standard.

It is fashionable in these days to criticise British industry, and in particular British engineers, for having failed in comparison with America and Europe. I believe that that criticism is grossly exaggerated. In many things we have led the world; and still do so. We led the world in the sphere of building ships and aircraft, in the gas turbine, and, in war time, in radar. In the past there may have been difficulties due to lack of funds for research, but the difficulties were not due to the failure of technologists or engineers. But we ought not to be, and cannot be, satisfied with the situation to-day. The enormous increases in knowledge that have taken place in the last fifteen or twenty years have made it quite impossible to impart sufficient information to students at the undergraduate level. Much remains to be done, but I do not believe that the situation is as bad as some people picture it.

There are the two main problems, as I see it. The first is to provide suitable courses at all levels—at the university level and at the technical college level. I do not accept for one moment that one is better or worse than another. They provide for different people and for different requirements. The second main problem is to provide suitable awards at all levels. Your Lordships are familiar with the present scheme of national certificates, higher national certificates, national diplomas and degrees. I think it is agreed that the main shortcomings of our present system are mainly in the status and scope of the courses provided by technical colleges, not through any fault of the technical colleges but simply because perhaps in the inter-war years they have not had sufficient funds, or have not developed sufficiently fast. They have been doing, and are still doing, a fine job, but I think it is there that the main improvements are required. Several proposals have already been put forward. I certainly am not qualified to pronounce on the merits of these various proposals but I should like to make a few remarks on some of them.

It has been suggested that a large increase in full-time courses is required, and that increase should take place at technical colleges. Full-time courses do not suit everybody. Many people find it easier and more satisfactory to do their theoretical training, their academic training, at the same time as their practical training, in a sort of "sandwich" system. I do not mean that the night classes system is necessarily the best one—I do not think it is—but I am sure that we should not assume that the full-time technical course is the ideal or the only method of training engineers. One of the schemes that has been put forward is this "sandwich" course system, by which a man goes from industry and does, perhaps, six months in a teaching establishment, then goes back to industry for six months and so on for three or four years. I believe that system holds out great hope for the future. The student still gets his theory and practice together, but he also has the advantage of being able to take part in any social and athletic activities during his time at the college, a most valuable part of a university education. No doubt it is necessary to have some university expansion in addition, but it is most important that the universities should not be overloaded with technical education. The universities have to keep a proper balance between technical education and the arts, but I think there is great scope for improved post-graduate courses at universities. I believe that arrangements have already been made for financing such courses where they are suitable.

I come now to quite a different suggestion, and that is that engineering faculties should be removed from universities. That proposal has been made by several eminent scientists, pure scientists. It seems to me, however, with great respect to the eminent scientists who make it, to be misguided. The contacts that engineers make in a university with those studying the arts can only be beneficial, both to them and to those studying tie arts. It seems to me that it is far more important for budding engineers to make those contacts than for pure scientists, who in a far greater proportion will find themselves concerned with research and development rather than with organisation and production. That suggestion, of course, leads to the monotechnic university, the university where only one technology or perhaps several technologies are taught. I know that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is often held up to us as a shining example of what that institute should be. I myself have never been there, but I have spoken to several people who have. There seems to be a fairly general agreement that from the undergraduate point of view that Institute is not the perfect one which it is sometimes made out to be. I believe that it is excellent from the research point of view, but it is not so good for the undergraduate.

One of rite disadvantages of that type of institute is that it does not provide the contacts between the engineers and those reading for other subjects. At the M.I.T., I believe, that is put right by having courses in arts subjects at the same Institute. However that may be, I believe there is still a danger of the technical courses straying from the fundamental principles which should be taught in a full-time engineering course. It is difficult for that to happen at a university, because the other faculties are continuously prodding the engineering and technical faculties to prevent them from becoming too technical. The very word "technological" appearing in a new proposal is often sufficient for it to he turned down, because other members of the university may consider that we are going too far towards technical education.

The second problem is one of improving the status of the awards to those not going to universities. Let me say at once that I believe that the title of an award and the awarding body has very little to do with the prestige which the award carries. The prestige and status of the award must surely be earned, as at has been earned in the universities and the technical colleges, the City and Guilds and the national certificates. Where it is earned it has a very great prestige. We can all think of degrees that sound the same as some other well-thought-of degrees but which are not highly thought of in industry. Various solutions have been proposed for the improvement of this status of the awards. I should like to deal with just two. The first is for an institute of technology to be established under the Ministry of Education. I believe the proposal is that that institute should behave like a learned society—in other words, like one of the great professional institutions, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The institute would hold examinations, and it would confer membership on those passing the examinations. I believe the objections to that proposal are very great. The mere awarding of membership, as I have said, will not give it status and prestige at once. That has to be earned; there is no short cut. The conferment of membership will cause difficulties, because at present the membership of a professional institution involves not only academic qualifications but also a period in industry as an apprentice, and, in most institutions, at least two years in a responsible position, whereas membership qualification for the new institute would be based only On examination. Nor do I believe that such an institute would form a meeting ground on which the various technologies could be discussed. Anyone who has a connection with any of the great institutions knows how many branches they have to cover already, and a new institute which would cover all the branches of technology is inconceivable; it could not do that without becoming vastly cumbersome and bureaucratic.

My Lords, the second suggestion, for raising the status of the technical college awards, is that a body should be formed concerned only with the organisation of examinations and the standard of courses. It would make awards distinct from those provided by the great professional institutions and from those provided by the universities—perhaps a diploma, or something like that. The courses of the various colleges would be recognised as being suitable for this award. There would be competition between colleges for their courses to come up to the required standard, and the improved status would follow because soon the award would be earned and therefore recognised. That seems to me a very much better solution than the first one How far have we progressed towards some solution? Here it seems to me that a mistake has been made. For some time now the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce has been discussing and considering this very difficult problem. I believe that last year the universities were consulted; but it was not until late in the year, about Christmas time, that the great professional institutions were consulted on this matter; and I am told that it was only after they had asked for information that they were given it. These great institutions have played a leading part in technical education over the last fifty years. They and the Ministry of Education have organised the awards of national certificates, national diplomas and the like, and it seems to me absolutely wrong that it was not until this late stage that these professional institutions were consulted about a plan which they have had no hand in forming. It seems to me amazing that these discussions should go on behind closed doors. Why cannot it be done in the open? We are all after the same goal. We all want to improve the status of technical education, and yet some of these discussions apparently go on behind closed doors and only a very short space of time is then given for those with the greatest experience to discuss the proposals.

I am sure the solutions are not easy; The best advice is required; and the discussions must go on in an atmosphere of confidence and good will, which does not seem to me to have been fostered by the way the situation has been handled so far. It has been suggested that the great professional institutions are interested only in maintaining their vested interests. "Vested interests" has a nasty sound, but all it means in this case is that the great professional institutions are concerned in maintaining the standard of technical education and the qualifications which they have built up over the last fifty years and which are recognised, not only nationally but internationally. One can only suppose that there is some reason for this secrecy. It looks as though it is expected that the proposals will be hotly contested, and that somebody wants to push them through quickly. I hope we shall hear something from the noble Lord, Lord Darwen, about these proposals and about why discussions have been conducted in such secrecy. I have spoken long enough, but before I close may I say that I hope the Ministry of Education and those responsible for proposing these alterations will realise—they must realise—how long it has taken to build up this very great system of technical education which we have in this country? Let us be careful, when we are repairing worn parts and putting in some new improvements, that we do not bring the whole structure crashing down by trying to do too much and thereby destroy the foundations upon which this great system has been built.

3.56 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to address some observations to your Lordships upon this matter, which I think is of really vital importance; and I am glad to purchase the freedom to do so by taking one step backwards from the Bench from which I have been accustomed to address your Lordships of recent months. I use the expression "of really vital importance" advisedly. It may seem somewhat exaggerated to some of your Lordships, but at the present juncture in the industrial history of this country I think that technological progress is absolutely vital, and the future of this country, which depends more than any other country in the world on maintaining a great volume of industrial exports of high quality, is very much bound up with this matter. Not only does the well-being of our people depend on the solution of this problem, but their very sustenance.

The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, whom I am very glad to see is to take part in this discussion, has pointed out more than once that we can attain the volume of exports which is so essential only by working longer hours and putting a great deal more energy into our work, or by improving our technological methods. That is not only true of quantity; it is also true of quality. As the competitive market gets more difficult the quality of our products will count more and more. Moreover, I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is equally essential that we should remain in the vanguard from the point of view of new types of production of the new kinds of goods in which in the past we have so frequently led the world. A business which stands still is going backwards. It is essential that this country, which depends so much on its export trade, should continue to go forward. Technological development is the answer to this problem, and that is why I submit to your Lordships that this matter is one of such vital importance. Further time is of the essence of the contract. We have but a few short years, or even months, at our disposal in which to catch up on this difficult problem, and if we continue to waste time (as I am inclined to think we have been doing a little in the past), we may be unable to bridge the gap.

Of course, technology depends upon technologists. We must have enough technologists and, what is perhaps of even greater importance, we must have technologists of the highest quality. The problem with which we are faced in industry at the present time is to produce enough technologists and to produce technologists of the highest quality. As has already been pointed out by Lord Caldecote, in the past our technologists have been trained in the universities, and the real question now is whether we should continue this is system of training in our great universities or should depart from it and set up some new form of training. Putting it another way, have the universities failed in the task of training technologists? The universities would answer that, I thick, with an emphatic "No" But your Lordships, in this great House of Parliament, would undoubtedly not be prepared to accept the mere assertion; you would require to have the matter argued out carefully and fully.

The answer is, undoubtedly, somewhat technical, and it may well he that the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, who is much more conversant with these matters than I, might ask what right have I, a mere lawyer, to intrude in this debate. I had the honour of being President of the Association of University Teachers, which represents the large majority of the university teachers in this country, at a time when this matter was very much under discussion in that Association. While the details of what I am now saying are entirely my own responsibility, the policy which I am advocating is, I think I can say, that of the Association, the council of which at its last meeting held as recently as December last, in a composite resolution, declared, among other things, that: Technological progress in the United Kingdom can best he secured by the expansion of the existing faculties and departments of technology in the universities, and the building up of new ones in the universities where necessary. At the recent conference of the British universities which was held at the University of London in December, in the course of which there was a discussion on this matter, the overwhelming weight of opinion was to the same effect. Your Lordships have no doubt read—some of you may have taken part in it—the very useful correspondence which appeared in The Times towards the end of last year in which, although there was a good deal of difference of opinion, I think the preponderating weight of opinion, not only among those who wrote from the universities but among quite a substantial number of eminent business men, was that this work of training technologists should be left to the universities.

I should like to refer particularly to the letter—a very representative letter, I thought—of Mr. H. Jack, an electrical industrialist who wrote from Rugby and who emphasised how, as the responsibility for running industry increases, the leaders of industry are thrown hack more and more on their knowledge of fundamentals and the development of the initiative implanted in them by university education. He concluded his letter by saying: It is…to be hoped that the endeavour to produce more technologists will not deprive the electricity industry of the university-trained men it needs. Finally, the Universities Grants Committee, in a most valuable note on technology in the universities which has been issued in the last few weeks, come to the same conclusion. I am sure that your Lordships will agree that, so far as the universities are concerned, the overwhelming opinion is that this is a matter which is properly dealt with in the universities and which should be left to them to carry on.

What are the alternative proposals? They have to a small extent been referred to this afternoon. There are two principal ones. The one was pat forward in the Committee presided over by Lord Eustace Percy in 1945, which proposed that some half dozen of the principal technical institutes should be, so to speak, up-graded and entrusted with the job of training technologists. Then there is the rival proposal particularly associated with the name of Lord Cherwell, though it is supported by others, including university teachers, that we should establish one or two or even, possibly, more technical institutes of university calibre, such as the one at Zurich to which Lord Cherwell is so fond of referring and the one in Massachusetts which has already been referred to more than once this afternoon. If I had to choose between the two, I must say that I should much prefer Lord Cherwell's proposal to that of the Percy Committee.

I think it is very important, and particularly, important in the light of the discussion that has so far gone on this afternoon, to notice the fundamental difference between technologists and technicians. It is with technologists that we are concerned this afternoon. Lord Calverley, if he will permit me to say so, after driving off with a fine long shot which got him well up towards the green, rather muffed his approach, because he failed to observe that there is this very important distinction between the technologist and the technician, and I rather fear that he tended to confuse the two. The technologist is a man who, as has been said, engages in the scientific study of the practice of industrial arts, and in the practical application of scientific principles and discoveries to the arts and to industry. In other words, he is a man who is concerned with the fundamental scientific principles on which technology rests. He is the commissioned officer of the industrial army, and it is from among these commissioned officers that more and more the field officers of industry and its leadership generally are being drawn. Anyone who takes the trouble to look, for example, at the directorate of a great industrial concern like Imperial Chemical Industries, Limited, will see how true that is.

The technician, on the other hand, is a person who carries out in a responsible manner approved techniques which are either common knowledge or specially prescribed by the management of the business. In other words, the technician is the non-commissioned officer of the industrial army. The non-commissioned officer is just as important as the commissioned officer in his own particular part of the army, but the two jobs are quite different. It is unfortunate that these two jobs have, in fact, been largely mixed up. The technical colleges exist very largely for the purpose of training technicians, and it is important that their work should be effectively done. Unfortunately, some of them have to some extent become interested in the training of technologists—some of them have indeed done good work. One or two which are financed by the University Grants Committee have particularly close relationship with the universities. The Manchester Technical College has been referred to. The equally eminent one in Glasgow is another which is financed by the University Grants Committee. The Manchester Technical College works in very close collaboration indeed with the University of Manchester, and takes its degrees.

But it is becoming more and more evident that technology depends on really fundamental work. In The Times Educational Supplement over recent weeks there has been a number of interesting articles, one of which has been provided by the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, opposite. A contribution was made by the principal of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in which he emphasises how more and more technology depends on the growing recognition that fundamental science should have an increasingly important part to play in technological education. This makes it all the more difficult to do technological work in the technical institutions. Mr. Lowry, who is Principal of the South East Essex Technical Institute, also contributed an article, in which he pointed out that the situation is unsatisfactory from the point of view of the institutes themselves. Trying to steer a course between what is needed by technologists and providing something of the fundamentals is not compatible with giving a really effective vocational training to technicians. Mr. Lowry, who is one of the most experienced men on this question in this country, expresses the opinion that these two types of training ought to be divided and that the vocational technical courses have been suffering as the result of our attempts to train the students to university degree standards.

The University Grants Committee point out that the question of external degrees for technologists is not really satisfactory. Personally I regard it as only a pis aller which we can put up with for the moment but which ought to be abolished as soon as possible: higher technological training ought to be confined to institutions of university status. The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, has referred to the question of whether technology is a proper subject for university work at all. I do not think that I need spend much time on that. There are only a few people who think that technology ought to be taken out of at: universities. In one of the articles in The Times Educational Supplement Lord Eustace Percy said, and said very effectively, that more and more in modern times technology is inescapably a university subject. With that I altogether agree. The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, also said, with great truth, that the universities themselves cannot afford to be without these great technological departments. The cross-fertilisation is of the greatest value, not only between the arts and the science sides of the universities but also inside the science faculties themselves. The modern pure scientist depends enormously for new discoveries and researches on what is going on in the technological departments and laboratories of industrial firms. Twenty or thirty years ago no doubt practically all industrial developments stemmed from the fundamental work done in the universities, but over the last fifteen or twenty years, in chemistry at any rate, undoubtedly some of the most important discoveries that have been made have stemmed from research work which has gone on in industrial laboratories. Therefore, it is essential, not only in the interests of the technologists themselves but also in the interests of the universities, that technological departments should remain within the universities. Indeed, it would be very dangerous to do as has sometimes been suggested—to leave in the universities branches that have become rather respectable, such as engineering, and particularly civil engineering, and exclude from university work some things which at first sight may look as if they were not very respectable: for example, brewing or tanning. Yet, in the research work that has been done for the practical application of science to the problems of tanning and distillation in connection with the making of spirits and the brewing of beer, fundamental scientific work of great importance has been performed. My Association take the view that it would be most unwise, and indeed dangerous, to exclude from the work of the universities any sort of technology at all.

If the work is being done in the universities in this way and if so many eminent men have been engaged upon it, why should it be that British technology has to some extent faller behind the technology of some other countries? I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, is right when he says it has been a question of finance. British universities have had to rely on driblets and drablets of finance coming in from odd sources, particularly from go-ahead industrialists who, understanding the importance of technology to progress, have been very generous with their donations and bequests to the technological departments of the universities; but that has been very patchy. The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who would have liked to be here if he had had longer notice, but unfortunately the debate was brought on rather quickly, has emphasised that the Royal School of Mining has made little progress because of lack of finance, and how the great colliery industry has in many ways fallen behind because there has not been enough fundamental work done in the science of mining. This has meant that in the past we have not been able to keep up with America and Germany, either in the number or in the quality of our technologists.

It is interesting to know that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was started in 1862, was financed by Congress setting aside for its development in the 1860's a certain proportion of the proceeds of the sale of new lands in the opening up of the West. Here we have had no such system. Indeed, it has been only within the last ten years or so that the State has begun to place itself behind the work of the universities. During the war years, Sir John Anderson, with his great knowledge of science and of the needs of the country, increased the contribution of the University Grants Committee to the work of universities. That contribution was substantially raised by the present Minister of Town and Country Planning when Chancellor of the Exchequer. My right honourable friend has come in for a great deal of criticism in many ways, much of it very short-sighted. When we come to look back on this period in our history, the vision which led him to increase the Exchequer grants to the universities to something like £11,000,000 per annum, at which figure it stands at present, will be regarded as one of the most imaginative things which have been done in the history of this country. As a result, already the number of students passing through the technological departments of our universities has increased from what it was before the war by no less than 100 per cent.

In 1938 there were something like 5,000 technological students in the departments in the universities. There are now almost 11,000. The Personnel Committee of the Ministry of Labour, who have to look at the higher staffing of industry, in a report referred to recently in a most interesting article by Lord Hankey in The Times, indicated that they are now satisfied that in regard to engineering there are enough men passing through technological departments of the universities to provide the necessary staff for the engineering industries. Undoubtedly, in some other departments we are still far behind, but the gap is narrowing, and it is unlikely that we need much larger numbers.

What I think we need is to increase the quality of a substantial number of these men who are coming from the universities. The courses are too short compared with American, Swiss and German colleges: in consequence there is over-specialisation. The objection has been raised that many of these men take such a narrow view of their work that they are unable to assume administrative responsibility. In one of the articles in The Times Educational Supplement an interesting comparison was made by a Director of Power Jets Limited, who is running a small school of his own, between the English technologists and the foreigners, rather to the discredit of the Englishmen, who are accused of not having as much initiative and not having as much background as their foreign rivals. It is pointed out that in Massachusetts and Zurich, and in the other higher schools abroad, a much wider type of curriculum is provided than in some of our universities. I am afraid that that is a just criticism, for we are tending to specialise too much. But surely in the universities we have teachers who are more fitted than teachers anywhere else to provide the general courses in economics, in administration, or whatever is required, and it would be rather absurd to set up new institutes in order that they might have a wider curriculum than that which exists under the over-specialised system in some of our universities at the present time.

Surely, it is much easier to expand the existing technological departments in the universities, especially at a time like this, when there is the need for haste and there is a great shortage of all materials needed for building up new departments. The new schemes would take years to carry through, and when the apparatus and the new buildings had been provided, the staff could be obtained only by drawing from the staff of existing departments in the universities, possibly giving rise to all sorts of salary difficulties, such as those which have been causing so much friction over the last months between the universities and civil servants.

I should like at this point to emphasise the essential importance of maintaining academic freedom. Academic freedom is the dearest heritage of our universities. It has been one of our boasts that the University Grants Committee have succeeded in providing State assistance to the universities without in any way controlling the work done there. If we are to make real technological progress it is essential that this complete freedom should be maintained. This leads to the question whether the Ministry of Education, who have been referred to more than once, are the right department to handle the problem of the technologist, or whether it should be left to the University Grants Committee. The Association of University Teachers—and I think the universities generally—undoubtedly take the view that this matter should be left to the University Grants Committee. The Ministry of Education's approach, dealing largely with elementary and secondary schools, is naturally a much tighter approach than that of the University Grants Committee. Some of my friends who are schoolmasters complain that they are being treated like civil servants under the Act of 1944. It would indeed be an unfortunate thing if our technology were to find itself in a strait-waistcoat of that kind. If the Government decide that one or more institutions of a technological university character, such as the noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, has advocated, should be set up, then we hope that the responsibility for financing those institutions will be entrusted to the University Grants Committee, and that the general supervision of their work will be linked closely with one or other of the existing universities, in the way in which the new University College at Stoke is being linked up with the University of Oxford.

Finally, I should like to emphasise with all the power at my command the need for a quick decision on the part of the Government in respect to this matter, a point made by the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. A great deal can be done quickly. No country was more backward technologically than Russia twenty years ago. People said confidently that the Russians could not produce an atom bomb for many years because they just had not the technological capacity in the country. As we know, they have in fact produced an atom bomb, and have done so more quickly than most people thought possible. That has been done entirely on the basis of the great speed and ability with which they have built up technological work in their country. Undoubtedly, in some ways at any rate, they are in advance of us, and it is important that vital decisions should be taken, so that we may get down to the job of producing the necessary technologists of a really high quality. This is absolutely essential if this country is to hold its head above water and remain in the vanguard of progress in the world.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to say a few words as the Governor of a technical institution in Scotland. I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, for the way in which he introduced this subject, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Charley, has just said, is of vital importance. I wish to emphasise particularly that we have universities with laboratories, and we have universities without laboratories; we have technical institutions with laboratories, and we have them without. It is important at the present time, when capital expenditure is difficult to justify, to make the best use of the machinery and the advantages of technical education, both in the universities and in the technical colleges. In other words, there should be co-operation.

In relation to this matter, I was particularly disappointed at the report of the University Grants Committee. They seemed to "sell," so to speak, the work done by technical institutions. As has been pointed out, it is true that, in a sense, technicians are only the N.C.O.'s, as against the colleges' officers, but, equally, it is impossible to justify an entirely different institution for each branch of the profession, especially at the present time. The important thing is to get on with training people, especially in engineering in all its different branches, in order to be able to meet the competition of the world and, amongst other things, increase our exports. It is true that it is not always easy to persuade people of differing views to work together, but it is important that the Ministry of Education, the University Grants Committee and the university authorities should collaborate, because by collaboration much more will probably be accomplished in a short time than by having three different bodies more or less on the same subject each going their own way, and consequently spending more money than is necessary, especially when we have not much money to spend on ourselves at the present time.

What I want specially to emphasise is that we require co-operation in this matter. In Scotland we have four universities, with one University College attached to St. Andrew's University—the parent of all universities in Scotland—and we have four technical colleges. They are all doing good work, and in three out of the four there is complete co-operation between the university and the technical college. I am anxious to see this co-operation encouraged by the Government Departments concerned, for co-operation nearly always brings about more useful results than units which work in watertight compartments. We have had some interesting speeches on this important subject of co-operation, and I hope the noble Lord who is to reply will show some sympathy towards my argument that in this matter co-operation, perhaps by using all the talents and all the laboratories and all the various sources of bringing about what we require, is the easiest way to secure a quick result. We cannot afford to do anything which means our taking longer than is necessary to establish a working and paying standard of life for all our people. It is important that our students should be able to go right on through the secondary school and the technical college, and we should realise that the student has a very important part to play in the make-up of our advance in science, particularly in engineering and all its branches. It is not a disgrace to possess a diploma; it ought to be encouraged. Yet universities some-times look upon diplomas as being not much good. The man who is going to work with his hands will find more value in a diploma than in a degree, but that is no reason why the universities should not co-operate with the technical colleges, not only in plant but also in professors and lecturers. I most earnestly stress that side of the question.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I regret to say that I discovered only yesterday that the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, was raising this topic, and, therefore, I must apologise for the somewhat scrappy nature of any remarks I have to make. I felt that having taken rather a prominent part in pressing one solution of our difficulties, it would be improper for me not to say something on this eminently relevant occasion. I should emphasise that what I have to say is merely my personal view and must not be taken to be the considered view of my noble friends on these Benches. I do not know in the slightest whether they agree or whether they do not. As to the views of the noble Lord, Lord Calverley, I must say that I agree most emphatically with his intentions. The noble Lord, Lord Charley, said that he drove off well enough but muffed his approach. I would not go quite so far as that; I would say that he drove admirably in the right direction and kept on the fairway, but that he used the putter instead of the driver. In my opinion we want to go a great deal further than the proposals outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Calverley. In the main I am absolutely sure that we are both aiming at the same thing. We want to have technical institutions—I should like to call them universities—in which people are trained and taught the fundamental principles and the practice of engineering. They should be of exactly the same status and calibre as universities, and there should be no distinction whatsoever between them.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, made a very proper distinction, and one that is almost invariably overlooked, between technologists and technicians. The technical colleges, as they exist at present, are so largely concerned with training technicians that in my view it is doubtful whether it is desirable or possible to try to develop them into technical universities, or whether one will not have to start afresh. There was one thing which the noble Lard, Lord Chorley, said with which I most emphatically agree, and that is that they must not be put under the Ministry of Education but must enjoy full academic freedom under the University Grants Committee.

With many of the premises of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, I entirely agree—it is in the conclusions that we tend to differ. He pointed out the importance and the value to the country of these highly trained technologists. (I do not like the word "technologists" which has a pejorative meaning in the ordinary man's vocabulary; but anyhow they are highly trained men who are good at engineering instead of being good at law or medicine.) He came to the conclusion that the proper line was to expand the university engineering departments. Of course, I am all in favour of doing that; I see no objection to that whatsoever, because they have a useful part to play. But when people think that the question can be solved in that way, I do not think they appreciate the scale of the effort which is involved in training people in engineering.

Only last week I met a professor from the technical university at Aix-la-Chapelle, and as I had undertaken to discuss this topic in about a fortnight's time at the Royal Society I took the trouble to ask him for a good many facts and figures. Aix-la-Chapelle is not a very large technical university; it is about medium size. Although it is not the smallest, it is by no means the biggest in Western Germany—it is somewhere about half way. Aix-la-Chapelle has 3,000 students. It has 50 full professors of engineering subjects, and in addition it has 50 honorary professors—that is to say, distinguished engineers from neighbouring cities who come in and give lectures on one or two days a week. If you get the list of these professors and look at the subjects they teach, you realise that that number of professors is needed to teach engineering properly; there are so many different subjects. There is the whole of civil engineering, the whole of structural engineering, and all machines—steam engines and reciprocating and turbine—the whole of heavy electrical engineering, the whole of light electrical engineering and of mining engineering, of chemical engineering and chemical technology. If you took a list of the professors of one of those medium-sized technical universities you would be astounded al the amount of knowledge required to produce really first-class (I must use the word) technologists.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I take it that he does not accept the view of Lord Hankey and the Ministry of Labour that the number of students going through the engineering departments is sufficient for our needs.


I think that in the British Islands there is an enormous lack of highly-trained engineers. We noticed it during the War, when we found the numbers incredibly small compared with those available in Germany or in the United States. There are eight technical universities of this type in Western Germany alone. The average number of students in residence is of the order of 2,500 or 3,000. Aix-la-Chapelle turns out roughly 750 engineers a year and gives 60 people a doctorate of engineering. If you give them each, say, thirty years of life as useful citizens—750 multiplied by eight multiplied by thirty gives you 180,000 highly-trained engineers available for industry in Western Germany alone. They find jobs: industry absorbs them, and production is increased as a result. In this medium-sized technical university there are thirty departments in separate buildings, corresponding to our chemical, physical, or other departments in English universities. They have an annual grant of £300,000; the capital expenditure in 1950–51 will be nearly £500,000–and that in this medium-sized university in Germany.

Now, with all my admiration for the engineering departments in the universities, and with all my desire to maintain and foster them, it seems to me quite inconceivable that we should build up institutions of that order and size in all the principal universities of the country. It simply cannot be done. The enormous American universities of 12,000 or 18,000 students can absorb 3,000 engineering students, and can afford to maintain the whole paraphernalia of fifty or so engineering professors needed. But we could not graft such a huge faculty on to an English university. I am convinced that in this country we shall have to have these separate technical universities, corresponding, as I have said, to Zurich, Delft or Charlottenburg, or, in America, to the Californian Institute of Technology or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition we might build up the Imperial College to a greater size.

I think there is some misunderstanding abroad as to what a university is. People say that we must not call these places universities and that that name must be reserved for the places in which all subjects are taught. But in no university is everything taught. The main faculties of the older universities are the subjects which used to be taught three hundred years ago. Then you could teach people medicine, philosophy, theology, law, and so on; but you cannot build up every university so that it teaches all the modern subjects; you cannot even teach the full medical course. Therefore it seems to me rather narrow-minded to say that these places are not properly operating universities. Philosophy, languages, history, economics, as well as ordinary engineering subjects, are taught in these technical universities. If a university provides teaching in these general subjects, as well as in the pure sciences and mathematics and engineering, I do not see why it is in any way worse than a university in which Latin, Greek, languages and history, and so on, are taught, but not engineering.

It seems to me that there is a curious and rather snobbish idea that there is something wrong about technology and something wonderful and fine about other subjects. If you know the exact relationship between James and Steenie, and if you can say what influence Madame de Pompadour had on the determination of France to join in the Seven Years War, that is culture. But if you know how a dynamo works, or why a turbine engine is more efficient than a reciprocating engine, that is mere technology and something which you do not need to know. I maintain that all these are proper subjects for a university. I do not see why a degree given in any other university should have a higher value than a degree given by a technological university. As has been said, it was different in Victorian times, when we could sell almost anything at almost any price. Nowadays we cannot do that; and if we want to compete with the Swiss or the Germans or the Japanese, or other Continental countries, and above all with American products, we shall have to improve our productivity in this country. And we can do that only by improving the technique of production. Unless we do that, and do it fairly quickly, our standard of living is bound to fall. I therefore hope the Government will give evidence that they are determined to do something on these lines quickly and without too much regard to tradition.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for only a few minutes because I was not aware that this question was being raised until I actually entered the House this afternoon. I have felt for some time, however, that there was need for a revision of the terms of reference of the University Grants Committee. At present the Committee are unable to take cognisance of the work which is being done in institutions which are not under the direct control of a university. In many of the institutions the educational and research work which is being done is of university standard. It is very unfortunate that the University Grants Committee are incompetent to step in and to inspect and advise, and that it has been thought fit to exclude from their reference some of these institutions which are outside the orbit of a university.


I do not think the present terms of reference of the University Grants Committee would allow them to do more than they do, and those terms of reference are drawn up by the Treasury.


I should like to make my position perfectly clear to the noble and learned Viscount. What I was trying to impress upon your Lordships was that at present the University Grants Committee are restricted by their terms of reference, and that their reply to me on a particular point was simply a recital of their terms of reference and pointing out to me that they were incompetent to act.

The noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, referred to post-graduate education and the fact that much of the best postgraduate education was being done in institutions which were not university institutions. I speak feelingly, perhaps, because of the post-graduate education which is being given in the basic medical sciences for those aspiring to specialise in surgery. Post-graduate students from all over the world come to the Royal College of Surgeons where there are museums which are unique in the world. The College has a complete professoriate in all subjects of the basic medical sciences—anatomy, applied physiology and pathology—and yet the University Grants Committee are not competent to know what is going on, except as they may be told in a letter. In my view, their terms of reference should be revised, because I think the University Grants Committee ought to be cognisant of that work. If students are coming from all over the world to obtain this instruction, surely the body concerned with education of a university standard ought to take an interest in it.

Moreover, when an application is made to the University of London that an institution like the Royal College of Surgeons should have some share in the hundreds of thousands of pounds that are voted by Parliament for post-graduate medical education, the reply from the University is that under their constitution, having received those hundreds of thousands of pounds from public sources, they are not entitled to disburse any of it except to a school of the University. Having had this personal experience, I have no hesitation in supporting the noble Lords who are pressing upon the Government that they should give serious consideration to revising the terms of reference of the University Grants Committee and so enable them to help, guide and support institutions which are giving education of a university standard.

4.54 p.m.


My Lords, we are all greatly indebted to the noble Lord who raised this question. I am sure that many of us realise that he has earned the right to introduce this subject to your Lordships' house by the good work he has done in this field in the North of England, especially in the West Riding; and also because that has given him a wide experience in the subject. It is perhaps true to say that no issue has had more prominence in the Press and in public discussions during the past year than the training of higher technologists. Nor is this surprising, because a supply of qualified technologists is essential to the welfare of our industry, upon which the commercial prosperity of our country largely depends. Therefore it is right that we should be concerned, and no apology is needed for raising the matter in this House.

It is sometimes assumed that in this country our facilities for training are seriously defective and that we are falling behind other countries. I believe it would be widely agreed among well-informed persons that there is no evidence in support of the view that the quality of the training courses in technology in the United Kingdom is generally inferior to that of similar courses in other European countries or in the United States. While considerable further expansion of the facilities is called for, and in some respects reforms are overdue, we should be quite wrong to take up a defeatist attitude. Provision for higher technological education is shared between the universities and the major technical colleges, as has been referred to several times this afternoon. The work of the universities is mainly on a full-time basis, and the technological departments provide a basic education in pure and applied science before the student enters industry. The technical colleges, on the other hand, have developed to meet an ever-growing need for technical education for local students who mainly are earning their living in industry. With the development of mechanised industry, the demand for more technological training became apparent, with the result that many full-time day courses were established in technical colleges and many firms began to release their employees for one or more days a week in order that they might pursue technical studies at the technical colleges. At the same time, the universities expanded their technological departments, particularly for the various forms of engineering, and to-day both the universities and the technical colleges are paying particular attention to the provision of an increased amount of advanced technology.

At the universities, the output of technologists has doubled since the late war as the result of plans prepared by the universities to meet the views expressed by the Barlow Committee and the University Grants Committee. Training facilities in technical colleges, too, have increased, and it is not always realised how much higher work is done in the major technical colleges. It is worth while reminding ourselves that in 1948 no fewer than 7,100 students in the colleges were undertaking university degree work, either external or internal, on a full-time basis; and 9,784 on a part-time day basis. To these must be added the large number of students taking university degree courses by means of part-time evening study. These figures are very remarkable. I would also draw attention to the immense increase in national certificates as compared with the number pre-war—a fact to which attention was drawn in the Ministry's Report for 1948. An increase of 239 per cent. in higher national certificates and 100 per cent. in ordinary national certificates is remarkable.

Finally, the growth of national colleges, of which there are now live, is an indication of progress in the field outside the universities. I have emphasised these facts because I have seen it argued in some quarters that higher technological training ought to be the province exclusively of the universities while the training of technicians should be the province of the technical colleges. There are, of course, certain superficial attractions in this suggestion. It is claimed that the association of technological students with students in other fields of study, such as the arts, produces a broader outlook. It is also claimed that the contacts between pure science and applied science which are characteristic of the universities are beneficial to the technologist and, also, as I think Lord Chorley pointed out, to the scientist.

No one will deny that there are certain advantages in the university environment, and for the training of highly advanced technologists capable of proceeding to the highest posts in industry a university training is probably essential. For such persons, of whom quite a small number are required annually, a degree course followed by a post-graduate course, preferably after an interval spent in industry, is desirable. But such people are the select minority. For the general run of technologists we must, I suggest, accept the position that training can be given appropriately either in universities or in technical colleges according to circumstances. That is the position, and we must recognise that to concentrate all higher technology in universities would deprive the technical colleges of some of their most valuable work, and would inflict special hardship on many potential students from small firms who cannot spare the time to attend full-time courses at universities. Students of this kind want provision locally at a technical college on an evening basis, and the volume of such education is growing.

But anything that brings closer together technological training in the universities and technical colleges is to be welcomed. In particular, the fundamental problem before us is how to improve the status of higher work in our technical colleges, and how to ensure that the students who pass through them can obtain qualifications which, in the eyes of industry and the world at large, are broadly equivalent to those obtained in the universities. At present, except in certain special cases, students in technical colleges can aim only at a diploma or the London External Degree. I doubt whether a diploma carries the necessary weight, and the London External Degree, as noble Lords are aware, is confined to certain branches of technology. It has been suggested by sonic that the solution lies in up-grading the technical colleges into institutions of equivalent rank to universities. This demand has received much support from such Committees as the Percy Committee, the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, the Barlow Committee and the Association of Technical Institutions; but there are serious difficulties to this course. We in this country have never so far contemplated single-faculty universities, and I believe that that policy still holds the field. It may be that opinion will alter, but so far to confer university status upon a technical college would be contrary to our traditions.

There is another objection. Hardly a single technical college exists which limits its work solely to advanced technology. The fact that nearly every technical college has been provided by a local education authority to meet local needs has led to the provision of a wide range of activities, of varying standards and scope, in even the largest and most important of the technical colleges of the country. Hence, any attempt to up-grade a college as a whole would necessitate either the closing down of many classes for craftsmen and technicians or the building of new colleges.

Other critics have suggested that without a change in the status of the technical colleges they should be empowered to grant degrees. This, I think, was one of the suggestions made by the noble Lord who raised this question. I would assure him that these colleges are not regarded by the Ministry of Education as the "Cinderellas" of education. We must remember that in this country the granting of degrees has always been associated with university status, and there is abundant evidence that any proposal to confer on technical colleges or other non-university institutions the power to grant degrees would be widely opposed. There would be a fear that British university degrees, which now have a very high reputation, both at home and abroad, would lose something of their standing if the power to grant degrees were extended to non-university institutions. I think we must recognise, therefore, that this is not a practicable suggestion.

There are some who say that the solution to our difficulties lies in setting up new technical institutions comparable to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in America, or to certain institutions on the Continent. The noble Lord, Lord Cherwell, made this the chief message that he wished to give to the House; and Lord Chorley also dealt with it, though rather on the other side. It is argued that these are required, first because the technological university would be likely to develop advanced technology more rapidly than would an all-purpose university, and, secondly, in order to increase the volume of postgraduate technological training, the lack of which is an acknowledged weakness at the present time. This is an attractive suggestion and, indeed, we have in the Imperial College of Science and Technology the germ of an institution of this kind. It is possible also that if a solution to the question of up-grading the major technical colleges can be found some of these colleges may well develop in the course of time into technological institutions of the character of a technological university.

Lord Calverley's suggestion that there might be a West Riding College for the whole of that great area is a possibility, but it must be recognised that the creation of such high-grade institutions would not solve our fundamental problem, which is to raise the status of the major technical colleges and to ensure that their students are able to go out into the world with qualifications equivalent to those conferred by universities. A few technical colleges have been affiliated to individual universities. One or two noble Lords have referred to the position of the Manchester College of Technology and its close association with Manchester University, and to the arrangement in London by which, under certain conditions, technical colleges can prepare for internal degrees. But arrangements of this sort can be carried out only under favourable conditions, and it is unlikely that they will ever become widespread enough to provide a solution to our fundamental problems.

The truth is that this problem calls for a new approach, and for the invention of some kind of award which will carry equivalent status to a university degree. The Minister put this whole problem to the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce nearly two years ago. He asked that body to consult all the interests concerned—the universities, the technical colleges, the local education authorities, the professional institutions and industry—and to find a solution as quickly as possible. Lord Caldecote made the charge that the professional institutions were consulted only after they had asked to be so consulted, and his charge may be correct; but it was not by intention if it was, in fact, the case. There was, and is, no intention whatever to ignore the professional institutions, but the National Advisory Council had to submit the proposals first to the authorities—namely, the universities and the local education authorities—before they could put them in front of the professional institutions. The institutions would have had their invitation even had they not made any request, though it might have been received a little later.


My Lords, may I ask why it was necessary to consult the universities and the local education authorities before the professional institutions. Which have been so intimately connected with the present system for national diplomas and similar awards?


The first essential is to get co-operation between the universities and the local education authorities. There are many authorities concerned in this matter, and it has proved extremely difficult to carry through these negotiations. I do not think I can agree that all these bodies should be consulted at the same time. The Chairman of the National Advisory Council on Education for Industry and Commerce, as noble Lords will be aware, is Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Weeks, Chairman of Vickers—a man with a wide educational and industrial background—and he has taken a personal interest in trying to find a solution which will be acceptable to the authorities, the universities and the various professional institutions.

The invention of a new type of award is not, of course, the answer to all our difficulties. Technical colleges, for historical and other reasons, are hampered in their task of providing higher technological training. Accommodation and equipment are often poor; teachers are, in some cases, inadequately paid; research and post-graduate work is hampered; and there is too little freedom for experiment. All these difficulties will have to be vigorously dealt with if the technical colleges are to play their full part in the future. The Ministry of Education and the local education authorities are well aware of these shortcomings, and much has already been done to rectify them. But much still remains to be done. There is no ground for complacency.

I have said that the fundamental questions have been referred to the National Advisory Council. Your Lordships will not, I am sure, expect me to anticipate their conclusions, even if I were in a position to do so. But of two things I am sure. Proposals made by the Council will not preclude the development of new types of institutions, particularly for post-graduate training, on the lines adopted abroad in the United States and on the Continent of Europe, if such a course should be deemed desirable. The task of the Council is to find a solution of our present difficulties, not to preclude new experiments. The second point is this. Any proposals by the Council will need to enlist a widespread measure of support. We must recognise that this problem of higher technological education is controversial, but it must not be submerged in the welter of controversy. There must be good will and understanding and free discussion among all interested parties if we are to find a satisfactory solution. I am grateful to Lord Aberdeen for his insistence upon the need of co-operation of all the bodies concerned, and I fully agree with his contention. I can assure the noble Lord who introduced the Motion and other noble Lords who have taken part in the debate, that the Minister welcomes this discussion in your Lordships' House and the suggestions which have been made, and will give to both his most careful consideration.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to the reply made on behalf of the Government by my noble friend Lord Darwen. He dangled what at first seemed to be delectable fruit before us, but I am sorry to say that what I thought was either a sweet peach or an orange turned out to be only a lemon. So far as the policy of the Ministry of Education is concerned, I think we know just as much now when the debate is over as we did when it began. We are waiting now for another Committee to report. In the meantime, as Lord Darwen has said, an urgent problem exists. I wish to express my gratitude to those who have taken part in the debate, and, with the leave of the House, I will now withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.