HL Deb 22 May 1957 vol 203 cc1069-145

2.47 p.m.

LORD PAKENHAM rose to call attention to the present situation with regard to university education; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am glad to think that this subject has attracted so formidable a team of speakers, including the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, who is going to make his maiden speech. I cannot trace in this House or in another place any general debate on British universities. Perhaps before the war, when the Government grant for current expenditure was rather more than £2 million, plus a negligible sum for capital expenditure, this omission was understandable; but now the grant for current expenditure is over £29 million a year, and over £10 million a year for capital expenditure on sites, buildings and equipment. And we ought to add to that about £1 million a year for grants from local authorities to universities, and about £12 million a year from central and local awards to students.

The universities are sometimes said to be receiving about 75 per cent. of their income from the central Exchequer, but if we add the grant made directly to the universities by local authorities, and also the State and local assistance with undergraduate fees, we get a figure of rather more than 80 per cent. According to the education departments (the figures are not easy to arrive at, but I have had every co-operation), about 80 per cent. of the students resident in England and Wales, and between 50 and 60 per cent. of those resident in Scotland, are receiving assistance from public funds. So I think that few will deny that, apart from the intrinsic significance of the subject, university education is a subject which Parliament has a right, and indeed a duty, to discuss.

We are all proud of our universities, whether we are graduates, whether we are merely entitled to write "Failed B.A." after our name, or whether, as Mr. Ernest Bevin, I believe, one said to King George VI, we have "plucked our education from the hedgerows of experience." Whether the merits of the various universities are as disparate as their alumni seem to suppose is open to question. Not long ago, I asked a distinguished lady, who is equally at home in both Oxford and Cambridge, whether there was any real difference between the two. She said, "Oh yes; they are quite different. At Cambridge they lean across you at dinner and talk about science." I asked about Oxford. She replied: "At Oxford, they sit next to each other and talk college politics." So there is clearly a sharp line to be drawn.

Oxford and Cambridge are not in all respects representative, but the fact is that they cover only 15,000, or about one-sixth of the total student population. At Oxford, about 75 per cent. of the students are reading Arts, and at Cambridge about 55 per cent. while the national British percentage is 43 per cent. So Oxford, particularly, is a long way above the average in this respect, whether you count that for righteousness or otherwise. They possess, however, quite clearly certain inherited advantages compared with their younger brethren in England and Wales. I am not going to attempt any comment on the Scottish universities except in one flattering respect—otherwise, I should only bring down upon myself heavy punishment.

But, compared with the old Universities, the newer universities, which are sometimes called "modern," at other times "civic," at other times "provincial" and at other times "regional," have not the same incomparable setting, ravaged by the modern age, but stoutly defended on occasion by your Lordships—and Christ Church Meadow, I am glad to think is still inviolate. I quite agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, who is going to follow me; they have the college system, with the wonderful opportunities of mutual education between students who are often reading different subjects, and, of course, the easy passage to lifelong friendships. They have facilities for individual tuition, and I would say at once that I am sure Lord Simon of Wythenshawe would agree that anything the newer universities can achieve in those respects, deserves every possible support.

The last Report of the University Grants Committee laid great stress on the need for more halls of residence in the case of the newer universities. But the newer universities have their own strong and local inspiration, and the last thing they wish is to be regarded as a kind of pale imitation of Oxford and Cambridge. They are making a highly distinctive impact on post-war literature. It is a far cry from Mr. Max Beerbohm's Zuleika Dobson to Mr. Kingsley Amis' "Lucky Jim." However, no doubt a marriage could be arranged through the process of what the sociologists call hypergamy, a word which until recently meant nothing to me—though, no doubt it is familiar to a classical scholar such as the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—which I am told is most prevalent. I once heard an "Oxbridge" professor (I am sorry to break off into these asides) explaining to a provincial colleague his readiness to find for the new universities a place in the sun. He said: "We cannot deny your virtues, my dear fellow, but we cannot help looking upon you, culturally speaking, as still waiting to be born." To which the "Red brick" professor replied, "My dear chap, we have nothing against you either, except of course that you are dead." To this, the "Oxbridge" man went on to say, rather patronisingly, "All the best men are dead"; and the "Red brick" professor closed the conversation by saying, "We do not deny the fact that you are dead, but what annoys us is that you will not admit that you are dead."

However, my Lords, let us come to this subject with the seriousness it certainly deserves. I will come first to the present relationship between the Government and the universities. Here I say at once that it is unlike anything that I, and I imagine, most other people, are aware of[...]ad, where it is widely envied and [...]described as "typically British". That may be so, but, equally, there is no obvious parallel to this relationship even in Britain, and it seems at first sight to defy the recognised rules. May I quote a pamphlet issued recently by the Central Office of Information called Education in Britain: The Universities receive substantial aid from the State. But they are self-governing institutions and Government Departments have no control over them. On the face of it there is something very odd here, and it is not surprising that the Public Accounts Committee have more than once advocated closer supervision. In fact, as we know, the Treasury provide 70 per cent. of the total income of the universities on the advice of the University Grants Committee. A certain amount of money comes in other ways. The universities present their claims to this Committee, and in return the Committee exercise a kind of gentlemanly control, most discreet and unobstrusive.

To-day the Committee, appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer after consultation with the Minister of Education (the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham) and the Secretary of State for Scotland, totals eighteen members, including the full-time Chairman. The overriding consideration is that the Committee should carry the full confidence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the universities. I know that this has been so throughout the years, and no one would doubt that its success is to a large extent due to a Chairman of such charm and sagacity. A distinguished American investigator said that one reason for our success is the fact that the Treasury officials most concerned and also the heads of the universities, together with the members of the University Grants Committee, all belong to the Athenæum. I am myself a devout member of that august institution, but I would hesitate to claim that the system would break down if they all happened to be members of White's. That, I suppose, is a rather unlikely contingency.

The truth is that the whole thing is a constitutional curiosity which can only be justified because it works and so long as it works; and it can only be justified also because no-one, here or abroad, has been able to devise a better method of preserving academic freedom at a time when the universities are receiving three-quarters of their funds from the State. Therefore, as regards our general system of control, I strongly support a leading article in The Times entitled "Leave well alone" and the arguments of the Daily Telegraph and other papers to the same effect.

We must not, however, in these days assume that the sole job of the Governmental authorities and their agents is negative—that the sole job is to prevent the universities from wasting public money. In 1946, over ten years ago, the Committee's terms of reference were expanded so as to thrust upon them a positive responsibility for seeing that our national provision of university education was adequate. I raise the question itself: by that test how have we been faring? Until just lately we were most of us inclined, I think, to be unduly complacent. We were proud of the fact that the number of students rose from about 50,000 before the war to about 85,000 in 1949–50.

But in the last few years we have all been made conscious—for example, by speeches in this House by the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, who is to follow me, and the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe—of the fact that the Americans and the Russians were turning out far more scientists and graduate engineers, and for that matter science teachers. I do not want to take up time in dealing with what was said by Lord Simon of Wythenshawe and other speakers in the debate of November 21 last year. I endorse his plea that we should spare no effort to double our output of qualified scientists and engineers within a short span of years. But as regards the statement which is generally accepted and which was made, I think, in the first place by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, that Russia is producing three times as many graduates in engineering per thousand of the population as we do, I should like, if I may, while not dissenting from that, to point a wider moral.

I recognise that no comparisons of this kind can be conclusive, or indeed fail to be somewhat dangerous, but according to the best figures that I have been able to obtain from a U.N.E.S.C.O. publication of 1955, the enrolment in England and Wales in the last year available in higher education was 156 per 100,000. In Russia it was 697; but there apparently they include correspondence courses, which certainly would not be included here. That is to say, their figure was four or five times as much as ours, in the United States, the figure was 1,783, or eleven times as many per head of the population as our own figure. I know that I shall be told—and rightly—that higher education means quite different things in different countries, and I certainly do not want to lay too much stress on figures. But is there no room for disquiet in the fact that the figures for England and Wales were, according to the 1955 U.N.E.S.C.O. publication, the lowest in Europe, except for Malta and the Saar? And is there no reason for disquiet in the further fact that the Scottish figures are, or were, 294 per 100,000—nearly twice as good as ours in this country? I am assured that the Scottish figures exaggerate the discrepancy. So, no doubt, do the American figures, and assuredly the Russian figures; but I cannot accept the view that the figures mean nothing at all and that that is no slur whatever on our performance.

On July 13 last year the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who was still at large—


My Lords, I am large now.


My Lords, I am not sure that the noble and learned Viscount has not lost weight since he became a Minister—but failing eyesight may deceive me. The noble and learned Viscount at that time delivered himself powerfully and relevantly. He said: We are very much behindhand in education in the intrinsic requirements by which this country is able to meet the demands of modern life on its citizens."— and I am not disagreeing with him—far from it: We simply have not the educational manpower and womanpower available to supply these demands, demands which will be progressively higher in terms of quality in the future.' It seems to me, therefore—and this is my main conclusion—that on that point, whatever application we give it, it is not only in respect of scientists—although it is in their case, and that of engineers, that the demand is most urgent—that we have to think in much more ambitious terms than we do at present if the universities are to serve, as they would wish, the real needs of our people.

What are Her Majesty's Government, the University Grants Committee and the universities themselves proposing to do about it? The House will recall that a statement of much importance was made here and in another place on November 21 last. It was made here by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, then Leader of the House, regarding the Government's plans for future university development. We were told last November that the universities had already made, through the University Grants Committee, proposals which, taken together, would increase the number of students from 84,000, in the academic year 1955, to 106,000 by the middle 1960s. I do not want to weary your Lordships with figures, but I stress the figures then mentioned by the noble Marquess. We were told that the plan put forward by the universities was to increase the number of students to that degree. We were told that, of this increase, it was expected that about two-thirds would study science or technology. The statement went on [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 200, col. 452]: But, large though this increase is, the Government believe that the universities should be encouraged to expand even more. The University Grants Committee have advised that a larger expansion would be desirable, if resources can be made available. They would like to invite the universities to consider still further expansion to meet national needs. We were told that Her Majesty's Government were "giving further thought" to this matter, in consultation with the University Grants Committee.

I find something faintly disingenuous about this statement—no doubt it was unintentional—for it seems to me to imply that some rather sluggish universities need to be goaded into action by the authorities. I do not know whether in one or two instances that has been the case; but, broadly, I understand that the universities did not put forward a larger figure than 106,000 because their past experience of Government sanctions, especially in regard to building, prevented them from being more sanguine. Be that as it may (we do not want to argue the past), what figure of students about ten years from now should we be aiming at? Whatever may be our present deficiency, real or alleged, we are faced with trends which, if they continue, are bound to increase very considerably the numbers of potential university students, assuming always that standards of entry remain the same.

On the one hand there is the bulge in the population of university age, due to the high birth rate round about the end of war; and on the other hand there is the fact that every year some 5 per cent. more of our school population tend to stay at school—and I am very glad of it—until the age of eighteen. In The Times Educational Supplement this week there is a very interesting article called "Places at the Universities", in which the author, Mr. Bell, calculates that the potential university numbers should increase from 89,000, the actual number in 1956 (for the figure has now risen to that total from the 84,000 for 1955 which I mentioned earlier), to 176,200, or nearly double, in 1966—that is, ten years from now. For various reasons, which I will not go through, he suggests that we should take the figure of 145,000 as a suggested number for planning. For my part, in view of what I said earlier about the existing backwardness, it seems to me that we should rest content with no target for ten years from now less than 176,000, or double our present total. There may be a good deal of controversy, as the debate continues over that figure; but whether the target is to be 176,000 or only 145,000, any lower figure would certainly be rather shocking.

The essential task is two-fold. First, I am sure we are all agreed—indeed, it has been stated as Government policy—that those who are competent to benefit by university education must be given an opportunity to receive it. We can all, I hope, see in the so-called "bulge" in the university applications some years from now not an administrative incubus but a national bonus—a rich harvest of human life; and we should never forgive ourselves if we fail to take full advantage of it. In so far as the bulge proves temporary (and there are two views about that), the gap it would leave should be filled by new recruits from a better and better system of national education, an aspiration close to the heart of the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, as I know well. But, secondly, the time is much shorter than one might at first suppose. If there is to be a really big increase of students—100 per cent., or even 50 per cent., by the middle 1960s—the building programme must be expanded suitably from 1960 onwards. That means that planning should begin next year. I therefore entreat Her Majesty's Government, with an anxiety amounting almost to desperation, to reach the necessary decisions and give the necessary approvals by the beginning of 1958, next year, at the latest.

But where are these extra students to be accommodated? The noble and learned Viscount, in the speech I have quoted, was speaking ardently and eloquently in support of the project for a University of Sussex, to be established forthwith near Brighton. Incidentally, a Ministry of Education in which the Minister, the Parliamentary Secretary (Sir Edward Boyle) and at least two Parliamentary Private Secretaries are Men of Sussex will see, I hope, that Sussex receives a favourable share of education. This project was first muted in 1911, was brought up again ten years ago, and is now being forcefully recommended by the five local authorities most concerned. I leave it to the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Chichester, who speaks with special authority, the task of explaining the special claims of Brighton, but once we admit the necessity for a large permanent increase in the student population the need for going outside existing university towns is fairly obvious. Oxford and Cambridge could no doubt take a certain number of students. They could certainly take more women; but they have not done so hitherto. I know of one highly gifted lady Don who, when asked whether women ought not to be given the same opportunities of reaching the University as men, remarked conclusively: "And what sort of academic standards have men achieved in this University?"—which I am afraid is symbolic of a certain attitude of mind.

Since Oxford and Cambridge, with their college system, cannot take us far towards a solution of this national problem, what about possible new centres. As I have said, I leave to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester the task of recommending the special claims of Brighton. I hope that if I pray in aid the powerful speech made by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, last summer, I shall not be accused of appealing from "Philip drunk to Philip sober." I have no reason to suppose that the noble Viscount was in any way intoxicated when he made that speech last year. He has matured since then, and I have no reason to think that even now, in spite of ministerial office, he has reached an unhealthy degree of political sobriety. So I look for a strong and encouraging statement on behalf of Her Majesty's Administration.

I must now attempt a few brief words on the quality of our university education. The aims of a university can be stated in many ways. Sometimes the main distinction is drawn between research and teaching. I should prefer to speak of the double task of promoting true learning and educating the young men and women, confining myself to education, as distinct from the promotion of learning. Can the object of university education be simply defined? Dr. (later Cardinal) Newman said so with unmatched eloquence, in his classic work on the idea of a university published 100 years ago. He wrote: A university is a place of teaching universal knowledge. A liberal education viewed in itself is simply the cultivation of the intellect and its object is nothing more or less than intellectual excellence. In a famous chapter called "Knowledge and professional skill" he resolves without any difficulty the clash between the two. He wrote: I say that a cultivated intellect, because it is a good in itself, brings with it a power and a grace to every work and occupation which it undertakes and enables us to be more useful and to a greater number. In the hundred years that have passed since that was written, everything has become more complicated. We have seen fantastic and unforeseeable progress in technology. I do not know how, if at all, Cardinal Newman would have modified or refined that statement of aims to-day. I find it impossible to apply a single criterion to the benefit received by our young people at the universities. It seems to me that it can be measured in a number of different ways in addition to sheer cultivation of the intellect, referred to by Newman; it can be measured in terms, for example, of religious belief, moral character, cultural or æsthetic values, wide understanding of material reality. It can be measured also in terms of training for a successful career or in the equipment that serves the recognised needs of the nation. And I have not forgotten the kind of friendships and fun which I suppose for many of us are the great colouring of our university days. By these exacting standards, are we succeeding or failing?

I must confine myself to labouring one point of criticism only, though I feel that it is a point of first importance. There is an ever-growing belief, to which I subscribe wholeheartedly, that our young men and women, when they leave our universities, have had far too specialised an education. The terminology used in this discussion is, I fear, often very loose. The terms "liberal" and "broad" are cheerfully applied to whatever course of studies one happens to be concerned with oneself. "Narrow" and "merely vocational" are pejorative terms. I find the classical scholar and the student in the departments of textile industries or chemical engineering are equally convinced about the breadth of their investigations. I will take, therefore, one crude and undeniable illustration of the general weakness.

For the last two years at school, and for the whole of his period at the university, the Arts student will probably learn no Science at all, and the Science student will probably learn practically no Arts in the course of his official labours, though each may have certain interests outside. Therefore, I submit that undue specialisation, in the sense that the two great blocks of our young people are almost totally ignorant of the other half of human knowledge, is the shattering, indeed, the scandalous, weakness of our higher education. I believe this fundamental truth to hold good, whatever the proportion required between Arts and Science students, and I readily concede that for some time to come the needs of the country require that the balance should be tilted in favour of the scientists.

I would say that it is as true to-day as it was a hundred years ago that a well-educated man must be a many-sided man. But, of course, he must not be a superficial man. He must learn some things more thoroughly than others in order to understand anything at all; but equally he cannot understand his speciality unless he can place it against a background of good general knowledge. I remember something that the noble Marquess said about the scientific knowledge of our great leaders of the past. He mentioned his grandfather and Lord Balfour and Lord Haldane, and the difficulty of producing any such people as leaders of that kind during the present period.

It seems to me impossible to-day to be a well-educated man in one's early twenties, whereas it was possible a hundred years ago. But a university education should at least give a young person the chance of becoming well educated later on, and that has been impossible for most of us, brought up, as we have been, along traditional lines—for example (if I may speak for the non-scientists), never acquiring, if we have been Arts students, sufficient scientific foundation while we were young to make ourselves scientifically literate in later life. The scientist suffers, perhaps, on his side, from the fact that as a young man he studies only non-human entities, and it may be therefore, that human problems and moral issues are less familiar to him than to his friends in the Arts when he encounters them in politics.

There was a leader in The Times on Monday headed Scientists in The Red ". which said: It is almost a truism that, when scientists venture into other fields than their own, they cease to be scientific. I should not have ventured to say anything unless the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, himself had borne witness to much the same effect the other day. He talked about a "variegated lot of scientists", "fellow travellers", "emotional pacifists" and "publicity mongers". He also said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 203 (No. 65), col. 487]: I am sorry to say that many members of my profession are not very good when it comes to considering political matters. He went on to say that many of them even vote with noble Lords on this side of the House. That can be looked upon as a sign of wisdom rather than the reverse. It seems to me to be generally accepted that this lack of training in human matters when young is a handicap from which our scientific friends suffer when they enter other fields in later years. There is a handicap on each side, and very serious it may be for the nation.

Most educationalists to-day confess themselves alarmed by our present degree of specialisation. But a number of them seem disposed to accept as ineluctable the recognised fact that the general pattern of degree courses in the English universities involves a concentration on a relatively narrow field. They are sceptical about attempts to broaden the university curriculum as is being attempted, for example, at North Staffordshire University College. In my opinion, that College is an inspiring experiment, full of brilliant promise. I would not reproduce it on a national scale, but if I had my way I would, at least, insist that every art student in every university did one paper in Science, counting for Honours if he was doing Honours, and every scientist one paper in Arts, preferably in English literature. I know that I shall run into many technical objections, and some vested interests; and I do not expect the walls of Jericho to fall overnight, But surely, whatever we think about the alteration of the curricula of universities, we can all agree in launching a flat-out attack against undue specialisation in the last year or two at school.

May we listen for a moment to Sir Alexander Todd, F.R.S., Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Scientific Education? He said: I believe we should broaden our school education and see to it that every child is in contact with both Arts and Science subjects up to the age of university entry. Differentiation, according to special inclination or ability, should be confined to one of emphasis during the final year. My plea is that we get rid of our present specialised system and replace it by one in which Arts and Science subjects are found side by side throughout the curriculum. This is in my view essential, not only if we are to get an adequate number of scientists, but also if we are to produce administrators competent to play their full part in the modern world. If this great educational evil of undue specialisation is to be eliminated, it is not enough, in my opinion, to "pass the buck" to the schools. The pace is bound to be set by the terrific competition among schools, parents and children at the present time to win university scholarships. No doubt the Minister of Education, through his share in the arrangements leading to the award of State scholarships, can exercise a not inconsiderable influence for good, and I hope and believe that the present Minister of Education will do so. In the last resort, however, the whole mental life of our abler children in their last years at school is governed by the criteria represented in the entrance curricula of the universities and the university scholarship examinations. Here, it seems to me, the universities must face their responsibilities more candidly than hitherto, and must not put the blame, as too often is done, on the schools.

Dr. Logan, the Principal of London University, in his recent Report, leaves us in no doubt about his meaning. He speaks of …the earlier and excessive specialisation which is the reaction in schools to the entrance requirements of universities. He goes on: I realise that there is another nigger with an even greater nuisance value in this particular woodpile, namely, the scholarship system at the older universities. Naturally, the alpha plus college tutors in the older universities are tempted by their professional ardour to lay down standards which, in fact, involve more and more specialisation at school. Nor do I think—though others may differ—that there is any way round this problem by simply making the scholarship papers easier or less detailed. It seems to me that the specialised drive will continue, unless and until the scholarship requirements at universities include a Science paper for Arts students and an Arts paper for the budding scientists. Whatever the merits of this precise proposal, we can surely agree that the greatest weakness of our universities to-day is this monstrous bias they give to the school education of our brightest children. Many leading educationists have fastened on this weakness, but things do not seem to get any better—if anything, they are getting rather worse. I hope and believe that the debate this afternoon will strengthen the forces of righteousness and prove a turning point on the road to wisdom.

I want now to leave the main topic to look at the question of access to the universities from the angle of the individual student. It is our declared aim that no student capable of benefiting from a university education should be deprived of the chance of enjoying one. In recent years we have made considerable strides in that direction, but no one can claim that we have arrived there yet. As I mentioned earlier, about 80 per cent. of our university students in England and Wales are assisted by the State. Of these, about one-quarter are State scholars and the other three-quarters receive awards from local authorities to cover all or part of their subsistence. One glaring defect of our present system is the wide variation among different local authorities in respect of the criteria applied in making awards, though I admit that, when the awards are made, the same scales are in operation throughout.

An Answer which was given by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education on March 7 this year illustrates the extraordinary discrepancies, even when allowance is made for local circumstances—and some allowance should be made, because in some areas the children stay a good deal longer at school. The figures I quote refer to local education authority awards per 1,000 of the population aged 12 to 16 at the 1951 Census taken up at the universities over the three years, 1954 to 1957. I take the figures at random, but I take extreme cases. In West Ham the proportion was 6.4 per 1,000; Liverpool, 12.4; Yorkshire and North Riding, 13.3 (that is, twice as much as West Ham); Cheshire, 36.1; Southport, 41.5; Cardiganshire, 59.8, or, ten times the West Ham figure.

Sharp discrepancies such as these, even when allowance is made for local circumstances, occurring in spite of the efforts of the Minister of Education to promote a reasonable degree of uniformity, have driven the National Union of Students, of which I, and I believe other noble Lords, have the honour to be vice-presidents, to conclude that the whole system of local awards has ceased to serve a useful purpose. The National Union of Students urge, among other reforms, that all of what are now State and local awards should be distributed by a central grant-awarding authority direct to students from a block grant from the Ministry of Education. It may well come to that. I am not sure that it has not come to that already. Some wise men, in whose opinion I have faith, are apprehensive about any step of that kind which may run the risk of weakening the local sentiment attached to a regional university. I am sure, however, that variations on the present scale cause much irritation and suspicion, as well as some inevitable injustice; and either they must be rapidly corrected or the grants system must be definitely centralised once and for all.

There is the question of whether awards should be given automatically on the basis of university acceptance, and there is the related question of a means test. May I assume that university education is, for all those fitted for it, a matter not only of personal right but of national prudence. May I assume, further, that all those who are accepted for a university are, in fact, fitted for it. On those assumptions, I cannot in the abstract resist the argument that all who have obtained places in the university are entitled to a minimum assistance award, whatever the income of their parents. A sum, which amounts at Oxford to about £350 a year (although it does not cover the expenses of the children of all our friends—I wish it covered mine), and which at Leeds University amounts to about £250 a year, should, in strict theory, be available alike to the son of a destitute widow and to the son of a millionaire, though I concede that within the educational field—and, indeed, elsewhere—there are priorities higher than this one.

As immediate reforms, therefore, I make these three proposals. First, I suggest the provision of subsistence awards to all who have secured a university place, but subject to means test. Second, I suggest the raising of the income level below which the means test does not operate. I would suggest, even though it does not go far or fast enough, raising the bottom level from £450 a year to £600, at least; and at the same time I suggest that a more realistic grant should be made towards the maintenance of students during vacations. The present vacation awards have an annual value of 18s. per week. Thirdly, I suggest—and I shall be particularly interested to hear what the Minister has to say about this at the end of the debate—the removal of the means test altogether from State scholarships, which are, as I mentioned, about one-quarter of the total awards at present and would be a smaller proportion if the latter were extended as I have suggested.

Take, for example, a professional man earning, say, £2,500 a year—which I suppose would have been less than £1,000 a year before the war—whose only son wins a scholarship to the University of, say, £60 a year, a big achievement. A State scholarship, which is easier to win, would normally be available to him. But at present, while he can draw the £60, he is unable to touch one penny of the State scholarship, and unless his father's income was as low as £450 he would not be able to receive full subsistence. The abolition of the means test altogether from State scholarships would cost, I believe, about £800,000 a year, and I agree entirely with The Times and other enlightened organs that the time has come to put this reform into operation forthwith.

I have spoken for too long, but I have now virtually finished. I have said nothing about religion in our universities, not because it is unimportant but because it requires a better and a different talk from this to do it justice. I hope and believe that something strong and fundamental will be said about it by the Minister and by the two Bishops, who I am so pleased to think are going to speak. Our country still has many claims to be called Christian, and rather more claims perhaps to-day than when some of us were undergraduates. The broadest task of our universities, as of our whole educational system, is to bring up civilised Christians—though even Christians must eat to live, and the civilisation of each particular age must bear some relationship to changing technology, international trade competition and all that is required to enhance the material standard of living.

The universities glory in the promotion of the free flowering of the whole human personality, but who that heard them can forget those fine words of the late Archbishop Temple: Only religious faith can make the world safe for freedom; only religious faith can make freedom safe for the world. What is at stake is perhaps recalled further by the words used about the dead Gladstone by his great political opponent, the grandfather of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. He said of Gladstone: He kept alive the soul in England. He was a great Christian man. Whether we were educated at famous universities, or received a grimmer training in early life, whether we be Christians or members of the great Jewish community (and we are told in the Gospel that salvation comes from the Jews), we are all, surely, at one in desiring to see all our universities what Gladstone once called Oxford, God-fearing, God sustaining. Believing that that possibility, along with many others only less noble, still lies open to them—whether we call them ancient or modern, regional, provincial or what you like—we can surely adapt the last message of Gladstone to his old university and renew our determination to serve them, mistakenly perhaps, but to the best of our ability. Our heartfelt prayers are theirs to the uttermost and to the last. I beg to move for Papers.

3.33 p.m.


My Lords, I am always pleased when your Lordships' House discusses the universities. For one thing, it Shows the interest noble Lords take in this immensely important topic; and for another, it is always encouraging for us to bask in the kindly condescension with which the Arts men almost always treat the scientists. Although this ought to give us an opportunity to feel properly humble, I am afraid it does not always have this result. The noble Lord remarked that I had recently admitted that some scientists are not always very good at politics. That is quite true. I do not mean entirely on the evidence of fact that many of them vote Socialist; that happens because they are rather easily taken in. The Socialist creed (or should I say the Marxian creed?) is a plausible creed for anyone who regards it from a superficial point of view, and I frankly admit that a study of the Arts may tend to make people more suspicious than the scientists and more apt to question what they are told by other people. I admitted that there were fellow-travellers, publicity-mongers and so on in the science world. But there are black sheep in any profession. I am not suggesting that the black sheep were those who voted Socialist. On the contrary, I think a great many of those who vote Socialist are what I might call ultra-innocent, super-white sheep.

My noble friend Lord Pakenham (I hope I may signalise the fact that we are in general agreement to-day by referring to him in this way, although we sit on opposite sides of the House) has, in my view, made a most admirable speech. Though we may differ in emphasis, I think that most of us would agree with him on many of his main points. I certainly do. He thinks that the number of students in English universities per head of the population compares very unfavourably with those of other countries. So do I. He is opposed to the invented means test applied to men who win scholarships at universities. So am I. He advocates not only that we scientists should learn something about Arts subjects, but also—and this is the rare and refreshing novelty—that the Arts people should learn something about Science. Whether his method of enforcing this is the best, I do not know, but I fully appreciate his good intentions.

The importance of higher education, and more especially university education, cannot, in my view, be over-emphasised. For, however egalitarian our outlook may be, in our heart of hearts we all, I am sure, agree that the whole future of the country, the standard of life of the people, its position in the world, and so on, are determined by the activities of the relatively small number of exceptional men who lead us: the high administrators, the great lawyers, the great industrialists and, of course, the leading technologists and scientists. I personally would even include the Cabinet and other members of the Government, but I do not wish to raise any controversial issue to-day. Most of these people, if not all of them, have benefited from higher training in one or other of the universities, and it is, therefore, vital to the future of the country that these should be as good as they can possibly be made.

I think the figures that Lord Pakenham mentioned of the university population of various countries are most alarming. That England should have about one quarter of the proportion that Russia has makes one wonder whether something is not wrong. I find it hard to believe that the English people have a smaller proportion of boys and girls able to profit by a university education than other nations. On the other hand, I am not altogether sure that many who could so profit are excluded. People who have examined candidates have told me that there is sometimes a dearth of suitable applicants for scholarships. If this is so, it points to shortcomings in our schools. Frankly, I think that in many ways the intellectual training given in foreign schools is better than in ours. At any rate, it is a subject that the noble Viscount who is to reply will, I am sure, examine carefully. Like the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, I am extremely averse to early specialisation. I agree that this is imposed largely by the nature of the scholarship papers set in the older universities. And once a boy has won a scholarship in one subject, he may easily continue to specialise in it, without being deterred by his tutor. Dons do tend to try to make their pupils in their own image. It is perhaps for that reason that we felt a certain anxiety when Lord Pakenham taught politics in Christ Church.

Naturally, I myself am most alarmed by our shortage of scientists and technologists. There is a certain fear of these subjects in early years, because they undoubtedly require some mathematical knowledge. But I am quite convinced that this fear is out of place. Anyone who can think logically can learn the sort of mathematics required for science, except possibly in the highest and most recondite developments of modern physics. If boys and girls find they cannot acquire it, I consider it must be due to bad teaching. Here, again, no doubt the Minister of Education will look into this question.

People naturally will not all agree as to what a really good university should be like. As the House may remember, I myself have often advocated that we should have both universities of the ordinary existing type, and technological universities in which the main emphasis is on technological and scientific subjects with the relevant ancillary Arts subjects taking second place. The main reason for this view, apart from the fact that pretty well all other civilised countries have adopted it, is the great number of technologists we so urgently require. I need not rehearse all the arguments for this point. It is enough to point out that to keep pace with the Rusians we ought to have something like 75,000 in training. If the Government persist in what I cannot help considering is their bigoted view that technologists should be taught in the existing universities, this will mean adding a number of technologists to the universities about equal to the number of all the Arts men; and this would shift the balance in the universities against the Arts men to a degree I consider undesirable.

Although everybody pays lip service to the need for more scientists and technologists, the Government's deeds are not always as good as their words. In Oxford lately people have not confined their conversation entirely to college politics, as the noble Lord suggested, but they have been gravely concerned about the situation in the university. I refer to their anxiety concerning the next quinquennial grant. We shall have to take on a considerable extra burden owing to the sudden cessation of conscription; yet it appears that the Government grant will not even match the amount we explained was required before these additional numbers were expected. At any rate, rumours to this effect are flying about everywhere and are most unsettling. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, may be able to refute them.

At Oxford, for instance, I understand that the number of boys entering the physics school increased from 90 to 125 last year, and that in the next academic year the number is expected to approach 170. But I gather that the grant is not expected to rise in anything like that proportion—indeed, scarcely at all. This would, of course, be quite deplorable. The schools are evidently doing their bit by sending the numbers up in this fashion. But if the young men are to be properly trained, this requires more teachers and more space. Unless there is an adequate increase in the money available, either teaching or research, or more probably both, will have to suffer. Surely, in the modern world, when the paramount importance of physics is recognised on all hands, the Government should make sure that it is not starved in the universities. Naturally, I do not know what is happening in other universities. Indeed, even in Oxford I cannot be certain of the position, for the Oxford Hebdomadal Council maintains secrecy with a much greater severity and care than the Cabinet. But I cannot help feeling that the few millions spent on science in the universities out of the many hundreds of millions spent in the schools give such good value for money that they should be the last items on which to economise.

The scientist's appreciations of the Arts, I think, is far greater than that of the Arts men of the Sciences. I have no doubt that the Arts men think that that reflects favourably on our judgment. Some of us, I fear, are so irreverent as to find it almost comical to observe the unblushing complacency of the other side. On previous occasions various noble Lords have shown this, though I am glad to say that on this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is not at all one-sided. The lop-sided point of view does reverberate in letters to the Press, saying that scientists and technologists should be civilised by training in Arts subjects. I entirely agree with this. But I really think it more important that the Arts men should have, at any rate, some smattering of scientific and technological knowledge.

On a previous occasion, I asked how many of the noble Lords who were not professional scientists, amongst the many who are so anxious about our culture, could name the first ten elements in the Periodic Table and put them in their proper order—if, indeed, they knew what that meant. Again, how many of the noble Lords concerned to civilise us could explain the difference between atomic number and atomic weight? I have even met Arts men who do not know how many cube roots one has, or even eight, if that makes it easier, and still less what they are. I do not think you would find any scientists unable to reply to questions of similar profundity, or rather superficiality, in Arts subjects. All of us could name ten Kings of England and put them in their proper order. All of us know roughly what is meant by Paganism and Christianity. I should think every scientist could tell you what is meant by logical induction, or by what processes the laws of England are made. I do assure the House that the rudimentary scientific questions I mentioned are on a level with the Arts questions I have named.

For the life of me, I cannot see why an education excluding all scientific and technological matters should be considered broader and more general, as the noble Lord said, than an education in scientific and technological subjects. It is quite true that we may not plumb the depths of profundity involved in a detailed knowledge of the relations, regular or more often irregular, between the Greek deities, or of the question of how many angels could dance on the point of a needle. But, still, our knowledge does include the outlines of the Arts subjects. Anyone could tell you something about the Persian wars or the Syracusian expedition or the characters of Marius and Sulla, or the landmarks in the story of the Holy Roman Empire, not to mention a general knowledge of literature. If we knew as little about the laws of England as many Arts men seem to know about the laws of nature, we should long ago have been imprisoned. I have said before, and I repeat it unhesitatingly, that the average technologist or scientist has a much broader and more general education than the average Arts man For he does know the outlines of Arts subjects, whereas the Arts man usually knows nothing whatever of science or technology.

An amusing instance of this curious attitude of mind was shown in a recent review of two books on the front page of The Times Literary Supplement of May 10. Everything was perfectly normal and sensible until the penultimate paragraph, which reads: The ghastly thing about scientists in the middle of the Twentieth Century is their ignorance. If they could be compelled by law to read ethics and philosophy at university level, before they were allowed to embark upon their hateful experiments—if only we could be sure they had heard of a few people like Plato or J.S. Mill or Bergson—how much pleasanter and safer the future might seem. I do not know whether the noble Lord agrees with the reviewer—maybe one or other of the noble Lords wrote the review—but what earthly good does he think this would do?

We all agree that the world is in a dreadful state; that we are walking on a knife edge, that a global war with nuclear weapons might spell the end of civilisation, if not of life on the planet. But how on earth would the situation be improved if the scientists had read Plato in the original, or even Bergson? Most of them know quite a lot about them anyhow. The scientists are not the people who make policy or create the tensions that crucify mankind. All they do is work out theories, and test and prove them in their laboratories, about the nature of the world. They invent and design new methods of producing materials or machinery which will put more power at the disposal of humanity. They do not decide how they are to be used. If the people who govern the various countries—they are practically never scientists, and often they have not even a smattering of science or technology—are unable so to order our affairs as to avoid conflicts and wars; if they insist on using the powers placed at their disposal by the scientists for bad purposes, instead of using them for the benefit of all, why should the scientists be blamed? You might as well blame the master cutlers of Sheffield if a man cuts his wife's throat with a bread knife. It is the Arts men who rule the country who have fallen down on the job, and they ought to be sufficiently logical to realise it.

A compulsory course in philosophy for the scientists will not assist the politicians to arrange our affairs better. Moreover, even if the anonymous reviewer were right, his plan would be of little use unless it applied throughout the world. Making English scientists read philosophy would not hamper Russian scientists in making advances in H-bomb technique and using the threat of this weapon to impose their will on England. Of course, if he is talking about the sort of courses that he would like in the universities of a world-wide Utopia, we might well agree with him. But the present position, unhappily, is far from being Utopian, in any sense of the word.

As I have said, I think the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and I are very closely agreed as to objectives. I should like to study his extremely interesting and stimulating speech more closely before committing myself to his specific proposals. It would seem very difficult to increase our university population as quickly as he advocates. New buildings and extra staff, as he said, would be required, and I am not at all sure that we should not need an overhaul in the schools to bring the numbers capable of profiting by a university education up to the figures he suggests.

I am, however, absolutely in favour of removing the negative means test which is enforced against clever children whose parents have incomes above a certain level. They pay heavily enough, in all conscience, in the form of taxes towards the costs of education in the country as a whole. Very often they have paid large sums in addition to educate their children, and thus have saved the State a good deal of money. To my mind, scholarships should be a reward to the child and the family for extra industry and unusual intelligence. The inverted means test is a positive disincentive. I am unrepentantly of opinion that money spent on higher education is of far more use to the State, pound for pound, than money spent on elementary education. We all recognise the need for economy in these days, but I am quite convinced that it would be a false economy to reduce the grants to the universities. My Lords, if I seem to overstress the scientific and technological side, I am fortified by Leonardo de Vinci, who said: Those who are inventors and interpreters between Nature and Man, as compared with the reciters and trumpeters of the works of others, are to be regarded as an object in front of a mirror in comparison with its image seen in the mirror, the one being something in itself, the other nothing. I will spare noble Lords the last part of the quotation, which might seem to deviate from the vocabulary usual in this House. I will close by saying how greatly I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and how very much I am in agreement with him on most major topics.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, it must be refreshing to every Member of your Lordships' House to witness the substantial agreement between the admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and the admirable speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell. Science and the Arts paid compliments to one another, and the noble Lord who has just sat down has promised to examine the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, with great care and obvious sympathy. I think that, if the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, were to impose an examination paper in the Arts, not for the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, whose knowledge of the arts and literature is very deep, but for the scientist below his level, he would not find it very difficult to ask fairly simple questions about the Arts and literature in which the scientist would have a fall, just as the Arts student would if he tried to answer questions which Lord Cherwell put to him.

What was refreshing in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, was his recognition of the need of the university, and while he pointed out the great need of technology and technical colleges, he did not in any way, so far as I could judge, put them in competition with one another. For that reason, as well as for others, I should like to join him in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for introducing this debate so well, and in a speech of such wisdom and comprehensiveness.


If I may intervene, I am not asking for technical colleges. The technical colleges are very good. It is technical universities, places like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that I think we need so badly.


I accept the correction. I would add that in a technological age, about the existence of which we are all agreed, we need more universities of various kinds; but more universities are peculiarly necessary as living institutions drawing their inspiration from the humanities and the arts as well as from the sciences. Whether we like it or not, we are involved in a scientific, technological and economic revolution. If civilisation is to be saved—and the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, emphasised its precarious character more sharply than did the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham—civilisation also requires a moral intellectual and spiritual revolution to match it. If education can contribute to this moral, intellectual and spiritual revolution, then it offers suffering humanity real hope.

What is the British contribution to be? I suppose we must reluctantly agree that in material resources we are no longer quite in the position we occupied before the war; but in our spiritual resources the powers of Britain are potentially great—and even greater than they were, through the Education Act, 1944, the British people have met the increasing need in primary and secondary education in a way which, generally speaking, we must all applaud. But I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, that too little attention has been, and is being, paid to the further stage, the post-school stage—whether we call it further education, technical education or adult education. But we must specially think of education in the university, for the university not only offers a coping stone to the general educational system, but should itself be a real powerhouse for the guidance and illumination and inspiration of the local community.

As both noble Lords who have spoken have pointed out, at present Britain has not enough universities for our needs. We have been reminded that in England and Wales there are at present some 84,000 university students. It was said the other day by the Vice-Chancellor of one of the newer universities that, when he is qualified, every scientific and engineering student has between four and seven jobs from which to choose; and the same Vice-Chancellor said that much the same opportunities are open to the Arts student, provided that he has personal qualities. This fact, in itself, shows the serious nature of the shortage of places for university students. In ten years' time, by 1966, without making any further provision except the provision in proportion to population owing to the increase in the average birth rate since the war, 25,000 extra places' will be required in the universities.

But as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, pointed out (he also reminded your Lordships of the statement made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, here on November 21, 1956), a much larger number of places is required; and he mentioned 176,000 students as being our total target. The policy of expansion to which the Government have pledged themselves, or at any rate encouraged the country to hope for, requires the fullest consideration of a target somewhere between 150,000 to 170,000 students. But there are limits to the expansion of existing universities, and some new universities or university colleges are clearly required. One of the questions to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, as the Minister of Education, is addressing himself—this has been under consideration for some time—is where shall those new universities or university colleges be placed?


My Lords, I am loth to interrupt the right reverend Prelate, but he will, of course, know that the one thing the Ministry of Education is never allowed to do is to consider anything in relation to universities.


No doubt the Ministry of Education is limited by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Nevertheless, the University Grants Committee, which has some association with the Ministry of Education, as well as—


None at all.


—some uncertain association with the Minister of Education then, as well as with the Treasury, gives this problem its consideration. The noble Viscount is indeed responsible for answering the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has put on the Paper, so he cannot entirely divorce himself from general responsibility and a general knowledge of the examination paper which Lord Cherwell and Lord Pakenham are combining to set him.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has asked me to mention this point, and I do so with great pleasure. One of the parts of England which is most weak in a university and in university college opportunities is South-East England. If your Lordships look at the map to see the places in which universities and university colleges are situated, you will see a great gap in Sussex and in Kent, in the South-Eastern part of England. I am venturing to put before your Lordships the strong claim of Sussex to have a university college at Brighton. As the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, such a project was first put forward in 1911. It was at that time to be a development of the Technical College at Brighton, but was thwarted by the war. It has been revived in the last few years, and there has been a very great increase in the number of students and potential students. In 1911, the Brighton Technical College had 70 full-time students, most of them boys of about fifteen, and 1,100 part-time students. In 1955, the same college had 897 full-time students of a much more mature age, and 3,379 part-time students.

In 1946, when the project was revived, the Technical College was still set out as the basis of a university college. But last year, when the matter was put forward by the Brighton authority and the four other authorities principally concerned—East and West Sussex and others—it was generally accepted in the Ministry of Education that the Technical College, which is a very good one, should be developed as a new technical college for advanced work clearly related to industrial needs, but that, side by side with the technical college, there should be a university college of an independent character and as a new institution.

Through its long history, its tradition—Roman, mediæval, 18th century, Regency, ail over Sussex, and in the more modern town of Brighton—Sussex has special claims to such a college. It is distinguished in its architecture, it is rich in its literature, its men of letters, and also its arts. There are many grammar schools in Sussex—I think more, in proportion, than one would expect in a county of similar size. There is an unusual number of training colleges for teachers, in domestic science and otherwise. There is also a theological college. Now, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Hailsham, knows very well, the Royal Observatory has been planted at Hurstmonceaux and some of the men and women on the staff of the Royal Observatory as the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, has pointed out, have had training at Brighton Technical College.

What is sought now is a University College giving the opportunity for degrees in the Arts and pure Sciences, in philosophy, possibly in theology, in languages and history and in the social sciences, gradually developing. I would add a further point: in Brighton, in particular, there are a large number of overseas students coming from different parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire who find Brighton a particularly genial place from the educational, as well as from other points of view. The proposal for this College also has strong local support. A site of quite unusual beauty and opportunity is available at Stanmer House, and the various local authorities are very hopeful and promising with regard to contributions from the rates. The University Grants Committee have recently received a deputation from these authorities in which they showed a sympathetic attitude and spoke of the project as one which certainly warrants further exploration. Moreover, the University Grants Committee make a marked distinction between the technical college, with its applied sciences, and the university college which will specialise particularly in the Arts, the Humanities and the Pure Sciences, with a view to giving a balanced education.

I quote here from a report of the Brighton Director of Education to the Brighton Education Committee, because it puts the two things side by side in an admirable way. He says: The establishment of an advanced College of Technology seems to make it the more necessary to establish also a University College, in order to make a balanced provision for higher education locally and to ensure that a proper place in the town and county is afforded to the humane and liberal elements in our cultural heritage. The noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, spoke of scientists as though those who had been specially trained in the Arts were inclined to discourage them. That is far from being the wish or the thought of any person who is in any way thoughtful about the place which science has in our civilisation. I take off my hat to the scientist: he is a great man, and one of the great servants of humanity. But as the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, said, the scientist requires others to make decisions for him—and here I link up my concluding remarks with the concluding remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham.

The late chairman of the University Grants Committee, Sir Walter Moberly, published a book some eight or nine years ago called The Crisis In The University. He reminded his readers that we in modern times are faced much more with a cultural than a moral crisis. It is a crisis of culture, and it seems to me that in this cultural crisis the universities themselves and our general educational system need greater attention paid to the whole question of the meaning of life. The universities, scientists and Arts students—we are all in it—need such a philosophy of life as is indicated in the old University of Oxford motto: Dominus illuminatio mea, and I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in his plea that our university education, as well as our other education, should be firmly based on the philosophy of the Christian faith.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, not long ago a phrase was coined across the Atlantic: "an agonising reappraisal." I must say that that seems to have followed me all the way through life. When I first went to school, thinking that I was someone, I was quickly and painfully reappraised. The same thing happened at my next school. The same thing happens when those of us who have come through another place arrive there for the first time. Thinking, after thundering on the hustings, that one can make a good speech, the moment we get into the Chamber our confidence leaves us. I hope that this is happening to me for the last time as, with a good deal of trepidation, I, in making this maiden speech in your Lordships' House, crave your indulgence.

Perhaps I may be forgiven if I approach this problem very largely from the viewpoint of the effect of higher education on industry, because it is with industry that I have spent most of my working life. Before going on to the special point that I wish to make, one which is not often mentioned but which, though it affects small numbers, is large in importance, dealing with the question of high executives in industry and drawing on the universities for them, I should like to underline all that has been said to-day on the vital need continuously to press on with further expansion in producing more and more engineers and qualified men in that category from the universities.

We hear a great deal of talk about technocracy, automation and other such impressive phrases, but, as your Lordships know, it is really the same process that has been going on for generations: the replacing and releasing of individuals for alternative production. That is the way in which it should be looked at, rather than as a process of the discarding of individuals. It is a process of increasing output, because it is only by increasing output within any given time that we can make any real material progress. The one big change has been in the speed at which this process is moving. Many of your Lordships, like myself, will have had experience of the moving line, where a large number of unskilled people do one unskilled, repetition job, putting in certain bolts or something of that kind, and overall by these means increasing the output from the whole group. Under the pressure of increasing cost we have now been turning over to these wonderful transfer machines and adopting other methods of increasing the output of a group.

In the old days, we needed unskilled people to look after the line. Now we need skilled people to design the machine, develop it, produce it, and maintain it; and we are going to need more and more of them because, as the economy and output continue to expand, fewer people will be able to produce a great deal more. We shall get more factories and we shall need many more skilled people to look after the machines in those factories. I and many noble Lords have seen what is going on in America with regard to the universities; and I have seen what they are trying to do in Moscow and the huge throughput of qualified people they are trying to get from the universities there. We must not be left behind.

But the point I really want to make concerns a much smaller group—executives. Very often we lose sight of what we want for this particular group. I would not dare to venture into the realms of such a discussion as we have listened to to-day on the merits of the humanities against science. Mine is rather a plea for the all-rounder. I could not help having a sneaking feeling of thankfulness for the fact that there is no examination to come into this House; because had I been examined by the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, in what he considers general knowledge questions, I should certainly not be making this speech here this afternoon.

At any rate, the reason why I believe the executive group have often been missed is because there is no easy measure for them. There is no examination which one can set them to find out whether or not they are the material one wants to make an executive. We all know what the finished product is like—the captains of industry, the leaders of the great trade unions and of other great organisations in the country. The curious thing is that if you look, at any rate at the heads of industry, to find out what their scholastic attainments were, I fear you find that in very many cases they do not rank very high. In fact, if they were quite honest, a number of them would tell you that in present-day conditions probably they could not even have got into a university at all.

That may be natural, in a way, because you are really looking for quite a different type from that of the science or engineering expert. This group has a natural bent towards dealing with constant things, such as figures and formulae and calculating machines, steel and iron and light alloys which react in a certain way, whereas your big executive is dealing with a very different raw material. He must be able to give a balanced judgment depending largely on imponderables. He must make up his mind, generally on insufficient evidence and on such wayward things as human beings. It is an accepted and well-authenticated scientific fact that ladies are quite unpredictable. Unfortunately, a great many men are, too. But the executive has to be able to anticipate what they are going to do—for instance, what they will buy and at what price. He must have a deep knowledge of human relationships inside a factory. It is easy to erect a factory from a blueprint and to show that it will make a profit, but in practice it then makes a loss owing to a failure of human relationships within the factory.

So I make a special plea for this small group. When I was at the university many years ago it was composed very largely of those whom I might perhaps call "high-powered brains", who passed high up in the examination list with ease. There was also a certain number of general all-rounders. I think, though, that the result was the turning out of probably a pretty good, balanced type, fitted for life; because the all-rounders learned a great deal from mixing with some of the "brains" with whom, too, they would keep in touch in the future: and, on the other hand, the great brains who were specialising and became friends with the all-rounders, in doing so learned something of what was going on in more ordinary people's minds and how they react. It might perhaps be argued that the balance in those days swung a little too far in favour of the all-rounders. If that was happening then, it is certainly not happening now.

I know that there is considerable anxiety in many high industrial quarters with regard to the type of person they are getting for these executive jobs. I am not talking of scientists and engineers for specialist jobs, but about general executives. Many names are put forward for these jobs with long lists of academic qualifications but lacking in those more pedestrian qualities which are needed for organisation and leadership. I feel that this need should be recognised in the universities and that a certain number of places could always be kept for this particular all-round type, even though he may not pass sufficiently high in the examination list to get in on that qualification alone.

It may be argued that it is impossible to pick them. The great Rhodes left in his will an instruction that the Rhodes Scholars should be picked on a basis of 40 per cent. intellect, 40 per cent. games record, and 20 per cent. character. I would not suggest that such a test is necessarily the right one, although it is not without interest to note how many of these scholars hold very important and responsible positions in the world at this moment. Although some slow-developing boys may be missed, I believe there are a number who show already the right characteristics before getting to the universities: I do not mean the bouncing over-confident types, but those who accept responsibility, are good leaders and are respected by their fellows. They may be found anywhere in the fully-aided State schools, the grammar schools or the public schools. One must, I believe, be born with this flair, but it must be developed, and in this the universities above all have a great part to play. I hope that they will recognise this in considering some of the places in their entry lists, for if they do not and the all-rounders are submerged, industry and commerce will be severely handicapped, for they will be compelled to take a number of their future executives from groups which have not had the advantage of a university education.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, it is my great privilege to congratulate the noble Marquess on a most fascinating and interesting speech. I entirely agree with him that no subject is more important than finding good executives. I have been hunting for good executives all my life, and I know many other people who have been doing the same. I thank the noble Marquess—as I am sure the whole House does—for a most stimulating and useful speech. I am told that in other fields the noble Marquess has had considerable, indeed outstanding, success. I hope that his speech to-day is an augury that any hurdles he may come across here he will get over with the same success which he has done elsewhere.

I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for initiating this important debate and for a most interesting and stimulating speech. He has covered an immense field and I will not follow him except into one section. He dealt with the relations of the universities and the Government, and here there has been what I regard as far and away the most important change that has come over the university scene in recent years, especially since the war. I want to confine myself to that topic. I agree with almost everything which the noble Lord has said, and I want to illustrate it by showing how it works with regard to one regional university—the University of Manchester, which I happen to know very well, having been connected with it for forty years.

I think that to many noble Lords the word "university" means, perhaps, Oxford and Cambridge. They are two very great universities—possibly two of the three or four greatest universities in the world. We in the regional universities cannot hope to get their all-round quality. I am taking Manchester as an example only because I know it so well. It is a typical regional university—the largest and the oldest of the English regional universities. Like Lord Pakenham, I am not going to tackle Scotland. We believe that, like other regional universities, in certain fields we are at least as good as any other university in the country. For instance, our Physics Department has been headed by three successive Nobel Prize-winners, including Lord Rutherford. Our Physics Department has been in the last few years, designing and devising a radio-telescope—a most amazing engineering structure which I hope noble Lords will come and see when it gets to work in a few months time. With this it is hoped that much greater exploration of the universe will be carried out than has hitherto been possible. Many new stars have already been discovered by means of radio. It is interesting to know that, in this field we are several years ahead of any other country, and many other countries are copying us, in what I hope will prove a great national achievement.

In spite of what I have said about the greatness of Oxford and Cambridge, and their lead in many directions, I believe that the development of our university system in the future depends almost entirely on the regional universities. Lord Pakenham has given figures showing that Oxford and Cambridge already have 15,000 or 16,000 students. I do not think they want to expand. Whatever the expansion of the future may be—probably to 30,000 or 40,000—it will have to occur in the regional universities—meaning all except Oxford and Cambridge—in England, Scotland and Wales, not forgetting London.

Up to the war, Manchester University, like other Universities, was completely independent. We had very little relation with the Government and with other universities. We raised money somehow: small grants from the Government, individual gifts, local government grants, fees, and so on. It is hard to remember how we managed to get the necessary amount of funds for the University, which already had 2,500 students. Then the Government began to enter into the university world. In 1919, the University Grants Committee was founded and distributed a grant of £1 million. In 1938, it distributed grants of £2 million, and to-day, as my noble friend Lord Pakenham has said, it is distributing grants of £40 million. This began after the First World War, and since then the whole position has been revolutionised

In 1944, the Minister of Health appointed a Committee, the Goodenough Committee, to consider university research and education in the medical world. They recommended a large extension of clinical research. The Government accepted the Committee's recommendations and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (now the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley) of course, through the University Grants Committee, gave the first large grant to the universities for a specific purpose. I am glad to see the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, here, because he is the only Member of your Lordships' House who has actually been a Vice-Chancellor and has experience of what I am going to relate in a moment or two. I hope that he will find that I get the facts right.

The University Grants Committee were given so many millions of pounds. They met all the universities separately, made their own assessment of what each of them could do usefully and how much each could usefully spend. Everything was agreed after long discussions with individual universities. I know that that happened with us. Then they gave an earmarked grant, to be spent only on the approved subject. We were not compelled to take up the grant: there was no compulsion or dictatorship. We were simply given the opportunity. We accepted it, and I think every other university did the same. That was the first impact of the Government on the universities; and, as everybody knows now, this development of clinical research and teaching has been a great success and of great benefit to the universities of this country.

The next thing the Government did was this. The Lord President nominated a Committee on Scientific Manpower, the Barlow Committee, which reported in 1946. They recommended doubling the number of scientists produced by the universities within ten years. Your Lordships will remember that exactly the same recommendations were made by the new Manpower Committee, whose Report we discussed a few months ago; but in 1946, it was a new thing. The same process was gone through: the proposals were put to the universities and discussed. We in Manchester, in our independent days, had thought it all over and come to the careful decision that we should never expand beyond 3,000 students, because that would make the University unmanageable and inhuman. But the needs of the nation, we were told by the Government and by the Barlow Committee, demanded rapid expansion and great extension. We considered this, discussed the matter with the University Grants Committee and agreed, contrary to our own previous decision, to go ahead and double the number of our students. Thus, through the pressure of the Government and public opinion, and the skill and persuasiveness of the University Grants Committee, we brought the number of students up to 4,500.

At just about the same time, as part of this development in the relationship between Government and universities, the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, which had not been doing very much and not publishing anything suddenly began to represent the universities in a new way, and there were constant discussions on all these matters between the Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the University Grants Committee. Such was the change in atmosphere that the Vice-Chancellors' Committee broke their age-long silence and made a pronouncement in 1946, that the universities …will be glad to have a greater measure of guidance from the Government than in the past. They pledged university support to an educational policy that would serve the national needs. That really completed the revolution in the relationship between the Government and the universities.

The Government, having got into the habit, went on to appoint at least another half-dozen Committees under different Ministries—the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Health; the Lord President appointed one on the Social Sciences; the Minister of Education appointed one to consider teachers' education—a Committee of which the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair, was chairman. He will no doubt tell us about that. In all these cases, the Government appointed good Committees, consisting mainly of university men, generally with independent chairmen; and in every single case the same process of negotiation, discussion and agreement with the universities was carried through.

So far as I remember, the University Grants Committee did not think that all universities should tackle all these subjects, and they made clear arrangements, which the universities all accepted, without any dictatorship. They accepted the guidance of the Government and the grants that went with the guidance. In every case, an earmarked grant was given. There was some feeling in the universities that those earmarked grants reduced their independence, and a few years ago all the grants were absorbed in the general university grant, but the subjects for which grants were used were already there and arrangements were continued on the same basis.

During the ten years after the war the generosity of the Government was most remarkable. As my noble friend Lord Pakenham has told us, the grants are now between £30 million and £40 million and it is calculated that they form from 70 to 80 per cent. of university income. University staffs have increased between 1938 and now from 4,000 to 10,000—two and half times as many dons as there were before—and I think it is generally agreed that the quality is as good as it was. What is more remarkable is that the staff-student ratio—the number of students each teacher has to look after— which was twelve to one in 1938, is now seven to one. That is a revolutionary improvement. I do not think that there can be any doubt that the generosity of the Government to the universities, combined with a line of complete academic freedom, is a new thing in university history.

I think I ought to add, as regards academic freedom, that the Government never tell us how to carry on any research, or what kind of social science to teach. They simply say that they want us to expand subject A and subject B. Appointments are all made by the university, and the university dons have complete freedom about what they teach and how they teach it and how research is carried out. What the Government are doing, in conjunction with administrators in the regional universities, like myself, is to try to find the best conditions under which to teach, the best academic workers and the best conditions under which they can work.

That was summarised by Sir Hector Hetherington, the doyen of Vice-Chancellors, in an interesting paper two or three years ago, in which he concluded, after studying this whole question of academic freedom: Under modern conditions the area of a university's free choice must be smaller than formerly. He did not object to that so long as the reduction was in the proper fields. He thought that there were certain essential freedoms, which he considered were not being invaded or threatened. I think that we in the universities owe a great debt of gratitude to successive Governments for the way they have handled us.

Under the present system, there are on the Government side the Committees they have appointed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, who provide the means, and the University Grants Committee. We on our side have the Vice-Chancellors' Committee and the twenty-four universities. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, commented on how well the University Grants Committee has done its work, and I want to endorse that. One Government after another has appointed distinguished universitymen as chairmen, and able civil servants from the Treasury as secretary, very rightly, to keep a careful eye on the finances, and a team of first-rate men and women from the universities and from outside, all with varied public experience, unpaid, and giving the most valuable and devoted service; not only attending meetings, but once every five years, for about 100 days, visiting universities. It is a remarkable thing how much free service of this highest possible grade is given. That is the picture, as I see it, of what has happened in the last twelve or thirteen years.

As regards the future, reference has been made to the debate we had here six months ago, when we discussed the second Manpower Report and we dealt with two things. First of all, we dealt with total numbers. I am not, perhaps, as young and as hopeful as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. We have now about 89,000 students; the universities have agreed to go up to 106,000, and the Government and the University Grants Committee are negotiating with the universities to get a higher figure. After the war, in Manchester, the largest of the regional universities, we had 4,500, and the University Grants Committee have now asked us to go up to 6,000. We have agreed to this, feeling that it will make the management of the University more inhuman and more difficult, but hoping that we can do good work. It might result in from 120,000 to 130,000 students in ten or fifteen years. I am afraid that the figure of 176,000 mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, is utterly out of the question, and I do not think we can blame the Government if they are content with rather less than that. I think that if we get 120,000 to 130,000, and the 10,000 a year engineers and technologists which have been promised, we should be satisfied.

I have made it clear, I hope, that I think this system which has grown up over the last twelve or thirteen years is an admirable system. Nobody invented it; it has grown bit by bit, as a result of discussion between the Government and other people and the universities. Throughout there has been no sign of Party politics. We have had three Conservative and three Labour Chancellors of the Exchequer, and they have all been equally co-operative and friendly and, roughly, equally generous. As the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said, we are often visited by Presidents of American and other universities, who greatly envy us: they can hardly believe that it is possible to get so much money from the Government and yet preserve complete freedom. I feel that we in this country are most fortunate. I hope that this admirable system will be carried on with the same generosity as hitherto.

Before I sit down I should like to mention one point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. If we are to get up to 120,000 or 130,000 in ten or fifteen years, and the 10,000 engineers and technologists a year (I am glad to see that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has returned to the Chamber to hear this again) we must be told what buildings we can have in 1960, 1961 and 1962. We have been promised them, and I know that this matter is being negotiated. I would ask the noble Viscount to do what he can to accelerate it, and to make the Government help as generous as possible, in the same way that the Government have been generous on other things. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, quoted The Times as saying: "Let well alone." I hope that we may continue the same excellent system that has grown up in the last twelve years.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to begin by congratulating, on your behalf, the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, on his maiden speech, and to say how glad we are to add him to the strength of our debates. I think we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for giving us the opportunity of discussing this matter and for an extremely interesting and stimulating speech. It is quite evident that the universities are about to be called upon to make another great effort to meet national needs, and it is desirable that some degree of attention should be focused upon them. I also want to endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said regarding the relations between the universities and the Government. I have had personal experience of them for many years and they have been extremely happy. The method of their conduct, by means of direct contact between the governing bodies of universities (either individually or collectively) with the University Grants Committee and other organs of Government, has provided a smooth and satisfactory channel of co-operation. I want, in particular, to say how much the universities owe to the first chairman of the University Grants Committee, Sir Walter Moberly, for the lines upon which he launched the work of that body.

I am going to deal with only one aspect of the large question that has been submitted to your Lordships' House to-day. I wish to make it clear that I am not speaking in any representative capacity, although I have held teaching or administrative posts in three English universities. I want, in particular, to remind your Lordships of the peculiar contribution that has been made by England to the conception of a university. I say "England", rather than "Great Britain ", because I believe it to be true that the ancient Scottish universities developed largely under Continental influence, as at that time Scotland was in such close and direct contact with the Continent. The peculiar contribution that I think is made by England to the concept of a university is all that is meant by the notion of a residential, academic body.

Now that conception in the early days of our universities was realised in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. What is the advantage of it? It means, in effect, that under the influence of that idea of a residential academic body, the students of all subjects are drawn together and are in the closest possible contact throughout the whole of their university career. That is a most valuable thing in enabling students to educate one another, and in providing citizens with some means of mutual understanding of one another's professions and occupations.

The same practice also enables a substantial proportion of the staff of the university to live with their students under the same roof, on the same staircase, and so forth, and to be available to them at any time, and to live with them on terms of something approaching social equality. My belief is that all that is implicit in the idea of a residential university has been of great value to the development of the universities in this country. I have often heard Continental professors say how much they envy us the close contact that we have with our students as a result of this idea.

As I said, this idea was first realised at Oxford and Cambridge, but when, in the nineteenth century, the new universities came to be founded, they paid Oxford and Cambridge the compliment of adopting this idea in so far as they could, first, through private benefaction, and, later, by means of subsidy from the Government. They have done their best to give as large a portion of their students as possible the opportunities that arise from this close residential contact. I want your Lordships to realise to what extent they have succeeded in doing that.

The figures that appear in the 1953–54 Report of the University Grants Committee, dated July, 1956—and, therefore, I think, their last annual report—will show how far, in spite of those efforts, the modern universities still fall short of an extensive realisation of this idea. I shall trouble your Lordships with very few figures. For that year we find that the percentage of students living in colleges and halls of residence is 28.4 per cent. (If Oxford and Cambridge are excluded from that figure, it drops to 22.5 per cent.) We find also that no less than 42.3 per cent. of the students are living in lodgings, and at home 29.3 per cent. Now it is hardly necessary for me to tell your Lordships that the student living in lodgings at Oxford or Cambridge is in quite a different position from the student living in lodgings in most of the towns of modern universities. The student living in lodgings at Oxford or Cambridge is an integral member of his colllege; he is using the college library, the chapel, the dining hall, and so forth. In fact, in many cases he is probably doing nothing more than sleep in his lodgings. The student in lodgings in one of the cities of the modern universities is in a very different position.

The figures that I gave were an average. There is a great variety between the different universities in this respect. I now take a few figures from a series of articles written by the Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool University published in the Manchester Guardian on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week—a very lucid survey of the problem now confronting the universities. There your Lordships will find that the percentage of students resident in halls of residence in the modern universities varies as follows: the Durham colleges 75 per cent., 60 per cent. in the University of Reading, 35 per cent. in the University of Nottingham, 26 per cent. in Bristol, 18.5 per cent. in Liverpool and Manchester, 11 per cent. in Birmingham, and in Newcastle, which, as your Lordships know, is one of the colleges in the University of Durham, 9 per cent. That shows what a long way we still are from anything like I a proper realisation of this idea of a I residential university in the case of our newer universities. I have spent so much of my time in the universities that I have had full opportunities of watching the development of a student from the time that he enters to the time that he leaves, and I am a profound believer in the value of residence, either in college or in a hall of residence, or in something else of that kind.

The reason why I draw your Lordships' attention to this matter is this. It is obvious that the universities are now confronted with the necessity of a further expansion. My fear is that the result of that expansion may be to depress even further the percentages of students who are living in halls of residence. I most strongly urge that those who are responsible for planning this new development, and for providing the money that will be necessary to carry it out, will bear in mind the unique contribution that this country has made to the conception of the university, and will do their best to ensure that, so far from any diminution in the residence of students, parallel with any other development that may take place in laboratories, libraries, and so forth, there shall be a steady advance in the percentage of students who can have an opportunity of residing in a college or a hall of residence.

I call to mind an expression of a Vice-Chancellor, a friend of mine, some years ago when contemplating this matter. He was the Vice-Chancellor of a university where the percentage of resident students was very low. He said: All that we can do for a large portion of these young men and women is to give them the key of the street. I do not think that that is good enough. I do not think that we ought to be content with that. It is not merely a question of turning out good technicians, and so forth, people who are well equipped with knowledge; it is the ultimate human quality of the product of the universities that really matters. In my experience, the universities can do much more for our young men and women if they are able to make them members of a truly resident, academic body.

5.2 p.m.


My Lords, in the very few remarks that I propose to address to your Lordships this afternoon, I should like to say how greatly I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken in stressing the value of a residential university. Looking back a good many years to the time when I was at Cambridge, I would certainly say that the hours I spent in discussion with my colleagues, quite out of academic hours, were among the most valuable that I spent at the University.

I rise really for one object alone, and that is to stress one of the points made by my noble friend Lord Pakenham in the admirable speech with which he opened this debate. I should like to stress the danger of over-specialisation and too early specialisation. I am quite aware that specialisation is essential. In these modern days, we need to have men and women of outstanding knowledge and understanding of the facts relating to particular aspects of life. I should be the last to decry anything of that kind.

I remember very well that many years ago I was sitting next to Lord Rutherford at the high table in Trinity College, Cambridge. He said to me, "We scientists are looking with particular interest to the Soviet Union because, whereas up till now in the places of learning in this country where science was taught and imbibed there has been only a small proportion of the population that came under that influence, now in Russia, for the first time, for every bright boy and girl, from whatever home he derives his life, there is an opportunity, if he has the capacity, to become a great scientist. That we are looking to as a phenomenon which may change the face of the world." I quite recognise that, and I recognise also the truth of the adage that a "jack-of-all-trades" may be "master of none." On the other hand, I think there is a danger of going too far in the opposite direction. If a man specialises too greatly before he has widened himself out to face the whole facts of existence, he could easily lose something which he can never recover in later life. And the same applies to a woman. It certainly seems to me that that is a very important point never to be lost sight of.

May I say something with regard to mathematics? Of all the scientific subjects, mathematics may be regarded in some respects as the most abstract and withdrawn from daily life. Yet in fact an inclination towards mathematics—what we may call the mathematical mind—is simply an attitude towards facts. The mathematician has essentially a logical mind. Not only that; he sees facts very objectively. He is never likely to mix up black and white by saying that both of them do not differ very much from grey. He sees things in hard outline, objectively and logically; and, because he has that view, he brings that attitude of mind to life as a whole, and his study of mathematics to a very large extent carries him forward and fits him for what he has afterwards to do.

Of course, I am well aware that there are certain advanced mathematics. In fact, the whole theory of what is called pure mathematics was once described by someone who said, "Thank heaven this form of knowledge has no practical application." I am not concerned to-day with that fancy picture. The point is that the agreed object of all education, fundamentally, is to teach people how to learn, and to teach them or instil in them the instinct for learning and the application of learning to the various problems of life. In so far as every branch of university training is concerned, it should have that object. Therein, I believe, lies the importance of the university.

There is one field of university training that has not been specifically referred to in this debate this afternoon. When I was at Cambridge, natural science was referred to by the rather opprobrious name of "stinks", and the special branch of knowledge to which I am referring was, by adaptation, referred to as "moral stinks". It is to "moral stinks" that I would direct your Lordships' special attention this afternoon. In better language, it is described as the social sciences or civics. In spite of the urgent need of ordinary scientists in chemistry, engineering and all the rest of it, and their immediate practical application, I think there is great importance to be attached to the moral sciences, and in particular economics. For that purpose, I think both the mathematical mind and the humanities, as they used to be called, play a very important part.

In order to relate my remarks to practical issues I would only say this. I think that this wider sort of knowledge and study should fit people particularly to be Members of this House. We do not want people who are merely pure scientists or merely this, that or the other: we want people with an all-round interest in life. Members of this House, Members of another place, administrators of local authorities, and, above all, civil servants, the higher range of civil servants, need this kind of mental training, and our universities have to supply the background. Therefore I plead for integration rather than over-specialisation. I plead that not only in the earlier stages of education should integration play a prominent part, but that it should never be lost sight of in the whole educational work of this country and of the world.

5.10 p.m.


My Lords, the point to which I wish to address myself has already been made by the noble Lord, Lord McNair, with more skill and more first-hand knowledge than I could hope to emulate. I hope your Lordships will forgive me, however, if from this Bench I add as much support as I can to the noble Lord's point. You will remember that the point relates to the immense value to university education of the residential college or hall.

We have heard a great deal to-day about the dangers of specialisation. I myself as not convinced that these dangers, real and actual though they are, can be overcome or met by manipulation of the examination system. A great deal more than that is required. By a "university education" I suppose, broadly speaking, we mean the giving to a man of the ability to converse intelligibly with, or to listen intelligently to, any man speaking on any subject. I believe that that ability comes to most of us through the mutual education of students by students. It comes by the general mix-up of our university life; it comes from conversation in the late or early hours; it comes over the beer mug and the coffee cups. It is for that reason that I think the provision of residential halls in the universities is of first-rate importance. It will be of enormous advantage to the quality of the education with which the students are finally provided.

But more than that, I am also concerned with the moral and spiritual life of the students. It must be remembered that a great number of students now proceed to their university after having attended day schools, living at home; and therefore they find themselves, for the first time, in an environment which is strange to them and in which they have no roots. They can be, and they are, very lonely. In Cambridge, as your Lordships know, they have the curious system of requiring their freshmen students to spend their first year in "digs" and only to come into the college later. I have been informed by chaplains working in Cambridge that some State scholars arrive in Cambridge from remote towns and country districts with no friends, and hardly any interest outside their own subject. They are secluded in lodgings in some part of the town, and they suffer acute loneliness and depression in consequence. If that can happen in the University of Cambridge, how much more likely is it to be happening everywhere in the provincial universities? For that reason, I hold it to be of the first importance that a far higher percentage of students in our universities should be housed in residential halls or colleges.

I know, of course, that there is great financial difficulty about this, and I would be so bold as to make a suggestion to Her Majesty's Government on this point. I remember that the predecessors of Her Majesty's Government in the reigns of Henry VIII and Edward VI, when they despoiled the monasteries, devoted some portion of the assets thereby acquired to the provision of places of learning. I believe that it would be in the interests of the country if Her Majesty's Government were now to earmark for the provision of residential halls and places of learning at any rate some portion of the assets which accrue to them from death duties. I think that the country would be immensely wealthy if some, at least, of these capital assets were offered to modern universities, for them to take or to leave. But if they take them, they are to be spent on the provision of capital buildings for the amenities of undergraduate life.

I am concerned also, not only with undergraduate life but with the life of the senior members of the faculties in the smaller universities. Very often, it seems to me, there is a grave lack of facilities whereby these senior members of the faculties can meet together and live a social life, and exchange information and conversation about their respective subjects. Where I live now, we have a very small university, the newest but one of the universities in England. But the provision of facilities of that kind for the members of the faculty is almost nonexistent. I would plead that Her Majesty's Government, with the University Grants Committee and with the universities, should not regard the provision of hostels, common rooms and club rooms for undergraduates, and of common rooms for the members of faculties, as luxuries to be provided when, and not before, the necessities have been met; but that they should be regarded as forming an integral and, indeed, essential part of university education if that education is to produce the results which we all wish for.

My Lords, I have but one further comment to make—a footnote to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in regard to which I cannot adequately express my approval. It is simply this. Provision for the religious needs of students in our modern universities is, to say the least of it, extremely sketchy. It depends at the moment entirely on private charity and private arrangements. I know that there are great difficulties, in this secular and sectarian age, in the way of the Government's making any provision for the religious needs of university populations. Yet it seems to me that what Her Majesty's Government can do, and do as a matter of course, for all those who serve in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, they can likewise do for the whole of the undergraduate population of this country. It seems to me that the universities might be offered by Her Majesty's Government, through the University Grants Committee, stipends payable to chaplains of various denominations to work amongst and in the universities. The University Grants Committee might be empowered to provide, within the universities, small or large chapels in which public worship can take place under the control of the chaplains so appointed.

My Lords, those are the only two points that I wish to make: the supreme necessity of increasing the number of students who are able to live in residential hostels, and some kind of provision for their religious needs.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my tribute of thanks to the noble Lord who introduced this Motion this afternoon for his thought-provoking speech, which I am sure that most of us, if not all of us, will wish, like the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, to study more in detail. The debate has also been notable for a maiden speech from the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter. I am sure that we should all like to congratulate him, partly because I think that all of us held his father in great affection and partly because his was an admirable speech. I do not really think he had need to express any worry about failing in an examination which the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, might have put to him. At any rate if that noble Lord had conducted the viva and had received such an admirable speech in answer to his questions, I am quite sure he would have passed the noble Marquess into your Lordships' House with flying colours.

There is no need to emphasise the importance of the topic on which we are embarked this afternoon. I am sure most, if not all of us, would agree that the best educated nations are the ones who will win the battle of progress. The race is no longer to the swift, nor indeed to the powerful, but to the best educated. That has been very much borne in upon us by noble Lords who have had an opportunity of seeing what is going on in the U.S.S.R. and have referred to the astonishing progress which has been made, at any rate in technological subjects, in recent years in that country. It may well be that China will not be very far behind. I have recently had an opportunity of visiting that country, and one of the things that impressed me most was the tremendous energy put into the development of university and higher technological education in that country, too.

One might range widely over the field of university work in a debate of this kind, and some noble Lords have done so. One is tempted to follow many of the paths so admirably opened. I feel particularly tempted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, in his plea for greater development of social studies. I have all sympathy with the emphasis which the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, and others have been putting in recent years on the importance of developing technological education in this country, but I have sometimes felt that we have concentrated upon that at the expense of the social sciences; for the need for research into the way society itself works is at least as important as the need for research into the material universe, which is the job of the physical scientist.

I will resist this temptation, however, and confine myself to two matters each of which is causing great concern in the universities at the present time. Perhaps at this stage I should explain that I have a certain interest in both these matters, not only as one engaged in university teaching but as one who is an officer of the University Teachers' Association, which during the last months has been much concerned with both these topics. The first matter to which I wish to call attention, not mentioned so far this afternoon, is one in which I must stigmatise as niggardly the conduct of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in post-dating the operation of the new salary scale for university teachers to date only from the beginning of the next quinquennium. This is a matter which is very much in the mind of university teachers at present and it is only right that your Lordships should know about it.

I hope I am not exaggerating when I claim that teachers are the fundamental elements in the universities. Among them are, of course, the research workers, the Rutherfords and others to whom tribute has been paid by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, those who made the fundamental discoveries on which modern technology is built up. Then there is the general body of teachers whose job it is to make this new knowledge—and not only new knowledge but the whole corpus of knowledge—available to the general body of citizens and particularly to those going to the universities. I suggest that in the circumstances it is vital that this large body of men and women should be able to get on with their work without constant worry over their financial position and without the exasperating feeling of frustration caused by such decisions as that recently made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to which I have referred.

In these times of inflation the financial position of all professional men has become exceedingly difficult. It has become especially difficult if they work on a somewhat inelastic salaries basis. University salaries have been particularly inelastic, largely as a result of the quinquennial system of grants from the Treasury to the University Grants Committee of which we have heard so much this afternoon and which is a very valuable system, one which has received the strong support of the universities. It has many valuable aspects; in particular, the planning of new buildings and new developments generally would be difficult, if not impossible, on any other basis. But inflation plays the deuce with planning in many ways, particularly in connection with the universities. And the system of quinquennial grants has, since the end of the war, made the living conditions of those whose salaries are adjusted on the basis of quinquennial grants very difficult—indeed it has not been possible to maintain the system.

Quite apart from the difficulties raised by this system, the adjustment of university salaries give rise to special difficulties and complications which I will not take up your Lordships' time by examining here. They have, however, resulted in the establishment, not very long ago, of a necessarily rather complicated procedure for salaries negotiations which, however well it works, is certainly time-consuming; and while time is being consumed, inflation is going on and university teachers are finding it more and more difficult to live on salaries which were fixed five or more years ago.

I should like to illustrate this general proposition from the actual events of recent years. By the summer of 1955, when the new negotiating procedure was established by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Butler, university teachers were already finding that their salaries, which had been fixed several years earlier, had fallen appreciably behind the general run of those in similar professions, and also that they had become completely inequitable in the light of the constantly rising cost of living. The University Teachers' Association immediately took advantage of the new procedure to put the position before the Vice-Chancellors Committee. It is a pity that the noble Lord, Lord McNair, has gone, for he was for long a member of that Committee and appreciates how it works. Naturally, as administrators the Vice-Chancellors Committee prefer quinquennial adjustment, if that is possible. It took the University Teachers' Association a number of months of discussion to persuade the Vice-Chancellors that the situation was so serious that it could not be allowed to wait until the end of quinquennium for an adjustment, as people were, not starving, but certainly reaching a despairful position.

By the beginning of last summer—that is, a year ago—the Vice-Chancellors were satisfied that it was impossible to wait until the end of the quinquennium for an adjustment of salaries. They reported to the Grants Committee to that effect, but eventually, when the recommendations of the Grants Committee were accepted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer early in the present year, he (having accepted the advice of the Grants Committee on the general question of the appropriate standard of scales, as I think he always does) post-dated the operation of these new salary scales until August 1, which is just two years beyond the time when the University Teachers' Association had begun to take up the question of the new salary scale with the Vice-Chancellors and the University Grants Committee. In effect, that was stealing two years' increment from the profession.

I suggest that it is really quite indefensible. The comparatively small amount of money which has been saved by this niggardly treatment I am sure has been very much more than lost by reason of the amount of goodwill it has sacrificed on the part of the university teachers themselves. In effect, the State has now become the employer of the university staffs. I suggest that the State ought not to be, and indeed cannot afford to be, a bad employer. It is therefore a thousand pities, I feel, that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer should have gone back on what had been the policy of both his predecessors, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Butler, who, on being satisfied by the Grants Committee that a new salary scale was needed, on both the previous occasions brought them into operation at once.

That is the first point. I hope your Lordships will agree with me that a very great mistake has been made which has not only had the effect of causing much bitterness among teachers throughout the universities but is undoubtedly also a deterrent to recruitment. At the present time there is great pressure from industry and from commerce. The need for highly-qualified people in industry and commerce is being realised more and more. Very large demands are made from the business world on the universities, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer behaves in this sort of way it can only mean that recruitment will become more and more difficult.

The other matter which is causing a great deal of heart-burning in the universities at the present time is the intrusion of the security services into our work. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, in a speech which I enjoyed and with which I agreed very much, said that although perhaps we had fallen behind in some of the material aspects of university work, our spiritual resources were even greater than they were. That is true, up to a point. But I am sure that those spiritual resources are being squandered to some extent—at any rate in certain directions, and this is one of them. Over the last few years since cases like the Fuchs case, since the fear of people betraying secrets to Communist States has become such an obsession in this country, the security services have been infiltrating, so to speak, more and more into the universities, and they have been calling upon university teachers to disclose information not only about their students but, more and more frequently now, about their colleagues in a way which is causing a great deal of concern to those of us who work in the universities.

The relationship between the teacher and the student is something that is unique in character. At its best it is a wonderful thing, and I think probably most of the finest men who have come from the universities into Government and commerce and the other walks of life have been, to a considerable extent, moulded in regard to their intellectual development and character as the result of the relationship which was established at the university with the teacher. This can hardly survive if the teacher is going to be called upon—as he is now being called upon, more and more—to do what many teachers regard as spying for the State on the activities of their students. In some ways this is one of the cruellest dilemmas of the modern world. The modern world, as a result of the rise of Communism, has been thrown back to the sort of situation which existed in Elizabethan and early Jacobean England, when there was a condition of conflict between religious loyalty and loyalty to the nation. It is a rather similar situation now which is more serious because of the more complex state of society and the more subtle ways in which this problem penetrates into almost all aspects of life—particularly, perhaps, into this question of the relationship between university teacher and student.

On one side the teacher is drawn, by his general loyalty as a citizen, to respond to the calls made upon him by his national leaders, who, in this case, operate through security officers, though I sometimes think that if the national leaders realised the sort of subterfuges and tricks which security officers use for the purpose of obtaining information, and the evils which result from material which they do get, the national leaders might think again and perhaps advise a rather more humane and better way of going about this task. The teacher is torn between this loyalty and his loyalty to his work and to the personal relationship which has become established with his student in so very many of these cases, and which requires him to challenge demands which are being made by security officers to enlist his services, as it were, against his own students, against even his own colleagues in the Senior Common Room.

This is not a thing which happens only now and then. It is going on all the time. Numerous colleagues with whom I work in the University of London have told me in the last months that they have been asked to report not only on students but on their own colleagues—teachers with whom they are working. Clearly, if a teacher knew that one of his students or indeed one of his colleagues had been guilty, shall we say, of an offence against the Official Secrets Act, it would be his duty, and he would not cavil at it, whatever it might cost him to do so, to make his information known to the authorities. But he is asked now to go a great deal further than that. He is asked to answer quite elaborate questionnaires as to the political associations of his students, very often as to the political associations which ex-students who have left him years before formed while they were under his supervision at the University.

So the position is one which is causing the acutest discomfort and feeling among those of us engaged in university teaching at the present time. I am very much afraid that unless the present system is modified, unless members of the security services can be given a course of procedure to follow which is less inquisitorial and which makes smaller demands on the loyalty of the teacher, there will be a breaking of the loyalty of the teacher towards his students, or, what in some cases is even more important, towards his colleagues. Some things I have heard have been almost unbelievable. If teachers are being asked to report upon the general loyalty of colleagues it means, in effect, that they are being encouraged to act as spies; to find their way into their colleagues' studies, even to pry into the drawers of their desks. When security reaches this stage, it is becoming a very serious business indeed, and I hope that the whole of this problem of the security services which is causing so much controversy, not only in the universities but also in industry and in Whitehall, may be looked into again—perhaps by the Committee of Privy Counsellors who made an investigation some years ago—in the light of the actual results of their recommendations, and to see whether some less dangerous form of procedure might not be evolved. I thought it right to bring this to the attention of your Lordships and of the Government, because this is a matter which is of acute embarrassment to many, if not the majority of, university teachers at the present time.

5.42 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships at any great length. I was very interested in the maiden speech of the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, who voiced some opinions that I had in mind to voice. One was that people with quite "second-class" brains should have a university education. I am a little afraid that the universities are nearly all full of scholars, and it seems to me that we need to limit the number of scholars and to have the rest ordinary people who might get a Second or Third, like myself, but nothing special. I do not like to think of the universities as simply a mass of scholars all pursuing some specialised activity. What we require of the universities is to get the university outlook in a large number of people. In that respect, I would also stress a point which has not been raised—that is, the importance of extramural activities, like those carried out by the Workers' Educational Association, which enables all kinds of people to get the university attitude. I agree with what the noble Marquess said about that.

I should also like to support what my noble friend Lord Pakenham said about the need for more accommodation in our universities. I was recently in the United States and one thing that struck me was the enormous size of the universities, which have up to 27,000 undergraduates—which seems altogether too big a total. I was surprised to see in the papers a table showing the places vacant in the universities and the number of applicants; and in university after university, right the way down, I noticed that there were two applicants for every one place next year. If that is the position in the United States, where the proportion is already so high, what is it going to be in this country? I was also interested in what the right reverend prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter said about the need for hostel accommodation. In visiting a number of universities in the United States, I noticed that things were vastly in favour of those with good hostel accommodation.

My final point is that I do not think it would be wise to make any attempt to control the University Grants Committee. When I was in office, I steadily refused to try to increase the influence of the State on the universities. I know the objection heard that it is quite illogical to set up a body composed of a certain number of people, give them money, and then do nothing to control it Incidentally, in the United States, they rather admired that attitude. I am sure that we are wise to trust the University Grants Committee in this respect, and I do not think that we want a meticulous examination, whether by a Committee in another place or elsewhere, of just how they are spending their money. There are matters in which I think it is better to have trust and I think that this is one of them.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I think there will be general agreement that we have had an enjoyable debate, and I believe that we have had a valuable one. I am not at all sure that the large number of notes with which I came prepared are going to turn out to be much good or that if I endeavoured to use them I should really be replying to the various points which have been made by noble Lords during the course of the discussion.

Clearly, my first duty is to explain exactly why I am here. It is not only that much of what has been said would require a committee of Vice-Chancellors or a collection of Faculty heads, to answer adequately or without constitutional impropriety. It is also that, clearly, it is an unusual thing for a Minister of Education to answer a debate on universities. It is one of the inscrutable dispensations of providence that in this country, though by Section 1 of the Education Act, 1944, the business of the Minister of Education is to promote education in the country, it is generally conceded that, whatever else he does, he must have nothing whatever to do with the universities. In this, I believe this country is unique. In so far as this divorce is to be regarded as a guarantee of academic freedom, I have no doubt that it is generally welcome. It is perhaps a little more paradoxical that the Minister of Education is not even the sponsoring authority for the universities. When I was First Lord of the Admiralty, I was the sponsoring authority for the shipbuilding and ship repairing industry, without having departmental responsibility; but I am not the sponsoring authority for the universities.

As I rise to reply to the debate, therefore, noble Lords must imagine rising from my head not the notional mortar board of my own Ministry but the far more imposing headgear—whatever it is, if they can afford one—of the Treasury. It is as Minister responsible in your Lordships' House for answering for the Treasury, and not as Minister of Education, that I reply to this debate. Nevertheless, I cannot help being rather glad that it so happens that, by another inscrutable dispensation of providence, the two functions happen on this occasion to coincide in one person, because it will enable me from the departmental point of view to make one or two general observations, which I hope will be taken in good part, without encroaching upon academic freedom in any way.

To begin with, I should like to say that I agree with those noble Lords who deprecate a schizophrenic attitude towards education in the universities. I cannot myself so regard the question. In thinking of my problems in the schools, I cannot wholly disregard the fact that the ablest of secondary pupils in them are preparing for a university education; nor, I think, ought the universities wholly to disregard the fact that, as I shall endeavour to show when I come to deal with the noble Lord's point about specialisation, they are imposing a pattern of curriculum on the schools, or, at any rate, are influencing the curriculum to a very great extent, and not always for the better, as I shall have to show. Therefore, I am glad that I am here to reply to the debate, even though on behalf of the Treasury.

I should like to add this, too, by way of introduction. I heartily agree with the remark which fell from one noble Lord, that if we are to view the problem of expansion in the universities at all rationally, we must begin by thinking about our schools system. It may well turn out to be true that the ambitious figures of possible university entrants which have been mentioned in the debate will not be achieved unless our schools system is adequate to produce them. I would go so far as to say that one cannot simply limit one's consideration of the problem to the secondary schools; that we have to start at the earliest age of five, and ask ourselves whether we can continue to produce increasing numbers of university students when the numbers of our classes in the primary schools are above the regulation maximum. Well begun is often half done in these matters.

I do not myself believe that the educational system of this country can be looked at, in the long run, except as a whole. I think it is worth making that point, because my conviction has been that, on the whole, we have tended to rate education too low in this country—and not only university education, but all types of education. We have tended, I think, to suppose that that great university, life, teaches us as much as academic training; and since I myself am convinced that approximately the opposite is the truth, and that those who are capable of receiving any training of any kind are the better for receiving it, I welcome the general approach of (I think it was) the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, who asked me to look at the schools in relation to this particular matter.

I should also like to say that, when we are talking about universities in this country, we are probably talking about rather fewer kinds of course than are recognised as a university course in many other lands. That makes it very dangerous—although I am far from deprecating the fact that it has been done—to quote crude figures of comparison between, say, America and Britain. I, as Minister of Education, am depart-mentally responsible for all the technical colleges including the colleges of advanced technology. My predecessor promised to designate eight of these colleges and, apart from those he designated, two more have been designated in my time. I was for about twenty years Governor of the Regent Street Polytechnic. I can say that even in the Regent Street Polytechnic, which is not, in the main, concerned with technological education in its advanced phases, many of the students are taking courses which in other countries would rank for a university degree.

When the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for instance, says that everybody capable of receiving a university education ought to have one available for him, it is certainly true, I should have thought, that every person who qualifies for entrance to a college of advanced technology under the new scheme is a person who in any other country would be treated as fitted for a university education and would receive one. Therefore, although I am the last person to criticise noble Lords for pointing to insufficient numbers in the universities—up to a point I agree with them— I think it would be to allow a misconception to go forth if I did not, on behalf of the Government, and holding, so to speak, a watching brief on behalf of the reputation of further education in this country, emphasise that in this country a university degree, and entrance to a university, is a description that refers to a much more advanced type of course than in other countries; and that, if a true comparison had to be made, one would have to take into account the great number of institutes and institutions managed under the general ægis of the Ministry of Education, as well as those which rank as universities or as university colleges. I think it is important that that should be said.

I fully endorse, on behalf of the Government, every word that has been uttered about the necessity of increasing the number of scientists and technologists—an aim which has, in fact, been the subject of recent Government policy and recent Government pronouncements. But, here again, I would respectfully issue a word of warning against those who quite crudely make a comparison with, say, Russia in this important matter. We are seeking, in our far more complex society, to produce a whole range of leaders in all kinds of social, business and political activity, of which the technologists and the scientists are a most important part, and a part of growing importance. But the problem with which we in this country are faced in further education is radically different from that with which the Russians are faced. They have been engaged upon an operation of raising to a remarkable degree the technological achievements of a society which was, in this respect, relatively undeveloped. We are trying to advance a complex society in which leadership of every kind has to be prepared on a very large scale indeed. Therefore, although I am the last to complain of these statements, because, on the whole, I endorse them, I think one should take care against doing an injustice to this country by making the comparison too exact.

I was glad to notice from the debate that the system of the University Grants Committee came in for general approval. The system whereby university Parliamentary grants are administered through this Committee is, as has been said, unique. It is regarded, as again has been said, both by the noble Earl who spoke last, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and by many others, as a model. It is, I hope, a system which commands the confidence of the universities themselves, and it is certainly a system within the ambit of which the Government would desire to continue their activities. I fully agree that with this quantity of public money going into universities, and, if I may say so, with the acknowledged importance that universities must have in the development of our national life, the Government cannot disclaim interest in what is going on there. Nor can the universities disclaim interest in our increasingly acute national needs. But this system is one whereby the affairs of the universities are co-ordinated by the University Grants Committee, and in which they can retain full academic freedom.

I think it would be both wrong and complacent for me to suggest that, at least in my judgment, everything connected with the system is perfect and does not require consideration as time goes on. But I should be desperately anxious not to give the smallest ground for suggesting that this balance of force was one with which the Government in any way desires to interfere at all. What I would say, with respect, is that the terms of reference of the University Grants Committee—which I would think are relatively well known—are so wide that it may eventually turn out to be the case that it may require to develop some kind of professional staff to enable it to carry out some of its activities in greater detail, if it should not be sufficiently equipped in that respect. That is one of the matters which, I think, may prove worthy of inquiry. Secondly, I think it may become desirable for both the Government and the universities to consider whether liaison of thought as to national needs will be sufficiently close between them. But nothing of this derogates in any way from what I have also said about the value of the work of the University Grants Committee and the Government's determination to continue that system unimpaired in any way.

Perhaps I should say in this context that it is, of course, for the University Grants Committee to pronounce upon the prospects of the University of Sussex. The right reverend Prelate knows, because he was there, and the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, knows because he was good enough to quote from my speech, that whilst I was still, as the noble Lord put it, "at large" and not, as I presume he desired to say, as now, "under restraint ", I took part in the public meeting which was designed to launch this, to my mind, wholly desirable project. I still retain all the sentiments which I maintained then, and I do not unsay a word or a syllable of it. But it would be constitutionally improper for me to endorse a word or syllable, either as Minister of Education or as the spokesman for the Treasury, so I must leave it at that. What I can do is to give some information as to the way in which the thing is viewed at the moment by the University Grants Committee.


May I interrupt the noble Viscount and I apologise for doing so? Surely, in the last resort we are entitled to ask a Minister of the Crown and, I presume, the noble Viscount as Deputy Leader or Acting Leader of the House, either to-day or on some future occasion, to give us the decision of the Government on this matter.


I think the noble Lord is quite wrong. I had thought that, having given his graceful tribute to the University Grants Committee, the last thing he would try to do in the same debate would be to ask me to undermine its freedom. Its freedom as to where any university expansion should take place must be regarded, at any rate on the present constitutional advice I have received, as absolute. I am told I should be encroaching vilely on their functions were I to yield to the temptations of the noble Lord. So, for the moment at any rate, I must be proof against that. What I will do is to tell the House, if it is not too much to trespass upon its patience, how the matter is viewed by the University Grants Committee, because I think the House may be interested in this particular project. I certainly have been, so I hope that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord may find a certain amount of encouragement from what they say. They say: In general the University Grants Committee have to approach the proposals to found new university institutions with caution ". I am sure we should all agree with that. They go on: The planning and inauguration of a new College requires the full-time attention of a highly qualified staff for some years before the new College fructifies in an output of new students. Even then, if the new College is not to outgrow its strength, a further period must inevitably elapse before it is large enough to be economic. Yet a new College at Brighton has special attractions for the Committee. London University cannot, owing to shortages of lodgings and the congested sites of its Colleges, expand sufficiently to meet the prospective demands upon it. At Brighton it is hoped that lodgings will be easier to obtain than elsewhere, as students will be on vacation at the peak of the holiday demand. Brighton may therefore do something to relieve the pressure on London. At the moment the University Grants Committee await a reply to a letter which they have sent to the Director of Education. In this letter the Committee say that the decision on the College must depend on whether the necessary facilities can be provided at a cost per place which compares reasonably with the cost of providing them elsewhere. From the point of view of economy of construction (and also from that of accessibility) the site offered is less satisfactory than it would be if the Corporation offered other adjacent land in their ownership, and they have therefore been asked to reconsider the area to be allotted to the College, and also to assure the Committee as to the availability of lodgings for students and housing for staff. The project is being studied on the assumption that the College would begin with an annual intake of 200 students a year which would be gradually increased. Thus after three or four years the College might contain 600–800 students, depending on the length of the degree course, a matter which cannot be decided at this stage. This number would have to rise to over 1,000 before the College could be fully viable. I am afraid that is the best I can do for the right reverend Prelate and for the noble Lord, and I hope that in doing so no one will suggest that I have transgressed my functions.

At the same time I can say—which I hope will satisfy the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, and the noble Lord, Lord McNair—that the University Grants Committee is considering extremely actively the problem of residential accommodation, with a full awareness of the importance of the problem and of the kind of consideration to which the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord gave voice. It has in fact appointed a special sub-Committee to do so, and although I am not in a position to give any further news than that, I hope they will both feel that what they have said has fallen on fertile soil and will be carefully considered in connection with what is being done.

The next, and one of the most important questions about which I was invited to say something by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was the question of university awards. What he had to say really divided itself into two separate arguments. One was connected with the means test, and the other dealt with the alleged variation between the pattern of awards over the country. In the first place, I should like to say this. I think, with respect, the noble Lord underestimated the misleading character of the figures which he gave, whose limitations he frankly recognised. They were based on a percentage figure for numbers per thousand of the general population of the area, and I wish, if I may, to point out the extent to which those figures may in themselves be misleading. The first point I would make is that it is by no means true—indeed, it is very far from true-that the figures for particular age groups in different parts of the country are constant. It is not necessarily true, for instance, that the percentage of the population aged seventeen in Staffordshire is anything like the same as that in London. I cite those areas by way of example, and without knowing the figures for either. But it has to be remembered, in dealing with these figures, that the age groups represent different proportions of the whole population in their parts of the country.

Secondly, the apparent variations bear in many cases an almost exact relationship to the differences in the number of people who stay on voluntarily at school after the compulsory school leaving age is passed. Quite clearly, this is a matter which ought to engage the Government's attention by way of encouraging people to stay on at school, but it cannot immediately alter the pattern of university awards which is related to these differences of social habit until in fact the social habit is overcome to the extent of the areas with lower rates of awards following the ways of the areas with higher rates.

Thirdly, I should like to assure the noble Lord on one point, I think he grace-filly said that my Ministry were concerned in eliminating undue variations; that is true. In recent years, the policy has been, on the financial side, to secure substantial uniformity in the main features of local schemes of awards on the basis of conformity with the arrangements for State scholarships. By 1956–57—that is, the current year which has just concluded—so far as awards to university students were concerned, those had almost entirely been achieved. The rates of grant and the method of assessment recommended by the Minister—that is, in effect, my predecessor—have been substantially adopted by all local education authorities. Thus, apart from differences in treatment of such matters as vacation allowances and other subsidiary elements in award schemes, university students in almost every area in England and Wales are in fact receiving similar treatment during the present session in respect of rates of grant and methods of assessment. I am always ready to take up with an authority matters of lesser importance in which it differs from State scholarship practice, but it has not been thought right to press authorities to change where they have seen fit from current practices which are based on long experience of making awards and which genuinely reflect local conditions and conviction.

There is only one other point I should like to make in connection with this business and this also I think throws a critical Light upon the use of the crude figures of awards based on population. As I was saying to begin with, a very great number of institutions which in other countries would have university status are not included among universities properly so called in this country. The actual frame of mind in different parts of the country about formal university education differs rather considerably. For instance, in Wales the interest in a university education is very much greater. It is not possible—and within certain limits it is not desirable—for me at any rate, to attempt to influence a young man in favour of one type of institution rather than another, for either of which his abilities might suit him. It is on the contrary necessary for anyone in my position to take account of the traditions of the locality and of the desires of the parents and of the young people, always trying to move them into what we regard as desirable channels—but always by persuasion and never by methods of compulsion. This, I think, is something which is not generally enough appreciated outside the Ministry. We are the men in Whitehall. We are not always right, although we think we are right, but we recognise our fallibility at least to this extent, that, while we tell people what we think is the right way of doing things, we very often do not even try to compel them to do them.

The second main point which the noble Lord raised on the question of awards was the means test. Here, I have a very great deal of sympathy for what both he said and what the noble" Viscount, Lord Cherwell, said about it. But I think, with respect, that both tended to oversimplify the problem. To begin with, the present situation is governed by Statute. I am not free to discontinue a means test so long as Sections 81 or 100 of the Education Act, 1944, remain unamended. That does not answer the question as to whether or not they should be amended but I must emphasise that any form of abolition of the means test must be accompanied or preceded by amending legislation. I am not free to take it as an administrative step.

Secondly, I would say this. I myself do not accept the analogy drawn by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, between the secondary and provided schools in this country and the universities. What is provided in a university award is, fundamentally, subsistence. What is provided in the provided schools of the country is tuition. They are two quite separate conceptions, and rather different considerations apply to the two systems. For instance, no-one in the main suggests in relation to education in the schools that we should pay for children to board except where boarding is a requirement of education in rather an unusual number of cases. Everyone in relation to universities suggests that the award should include subsistence—that is, the cost of boarding—because otherwise the student would not be able to attend the university. In other words, the problems are not entirely the same and I would not accept the view that the analogy is a good one.

The next thing I would say is this. I am, of course, attracted by the suggestion that you could treat State scholarships differently from the other university awards. At the moment I am inclined to think that I cannot honourably or justly do so. People who take the local education authority awards are, I think, about three times as numerous as those who obtain State awards. They do not, by any means generally, do worse at their universities: that is to say, there is no general grounds, I understand, for stating that they are less praiseworthy than the State scholars, although people tend to suppose that the State scholars are clearly the higher class of the two. I am told that there is no fundamental difference between their achievements. They do at the moment enjoy comparable awards in sums of money, and they are subject to the same rules with regard to means. To do what the noble Lord suggested, and to single out the State scholars for special treatment, would, I believe, be administratively and conscientiously difficult, and impossible in practice, for me to sustain. In an extreme case, there might be a scholar who had received a State award; he might be receiving his full subsistence and whatever else was involved, although his father was earning, let us say, £4,000 a year; whereas the local education authority scholar whose father might be earning £3,000 or £2,500 a year, would be subject to a means test. I rather doubt whether this makes sense. The cost of abolishing the means test for both classes of award would be approximately £3 million a year, not £800,000. I am advised that it would be extremely difficult to stop there, because there are a very large number of institutions, as I keep on emphasising, which are really of university status but which are not technically universities.

What, for instance, would be said about the student at the Royal College of Music, as compared with the Cambridge music student, or the painter at the Royal College of Art compared with his fellow at the Slade School, which is part of London University? We should be driven, I think, step by step to the point where we should have to accept the principle that fees and maintenance grants should be given, without regard to income, to all students receiving public help for all courses of full-time education taken after leaving school. And the annual cost of this would not be £800,000 or £3 million, but, I think, much more.

As the noble Lord quite rightly said—I thought he said it generously, and I think he said it wisely—I have to consider matters of priority in education. If my general view is right, that this country, on the whole, is spending too little on education, and that it needs expanding on a great scale, I must deal with those priorities recognising that I shall not get from the public opinion of this country everything I want. What I have to consider, quite calmly, with all the sympathy in the world which I feel for that kind of argument—and especially that which was put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell—is this: if I am to ask the Treasury and the taxpayer for something like £6 million a year, or more, whether the way in which I should prefer to spend that additional £6 million is on ensuring that the children of wealthy parents get their university education as free as those who are not so wealthy?

It may be that this should not claim priority. I should like to assure the noble Lord, however, not only that I have taken account of what he has said, but that I am sympathetically disposed towards it, because my own education was largely affected by this particular issue all along, although it was before the time of a State award or a State means test. Personally, what I, as a scholar, found was that from about the secondary school age onwards I, like other adolescents, was anxious to stand on my own feet; I was anxious not to be beholden to my parent, even though my parent could afford it. I regarded the scholarship that I won as a proof that I was able to stand on my own feet; and I am perfectly sure that if I had been wondering whether to stay on at full-time training, rather than branch out for myself in industry, the fact that I had won it for myself would have been one of the factors which would have entered into my calculations. I am perfectly sure that there are thousands of young men in this country at that stage of their lives who are similarly affected. Therefore, I do not, by any means, want to give the noble Lord a flat negative to what he has suggested. On the contrary, I can assure him not only that what he says will be considered, but that I will be ready to consider it more than once, if I do not yield to him immediately. I think I have dealt with the question of means tests as fully as I can to-day.

Now we come to the very important question of specialisation. Here is a problem on which I think it is necessary to draw a distinction between two cognate but essentially similar questions. The first is the degree of specialisation required by the universities in their own degree courses; and the second is the degree of specialisation required by the universities from entrants from the schools as a preliminary to the university. I do not feel constitutionally competent to make any observations on the former point—namely, the degree of specialisation in university courses. My sympathies tend to be with the noble Lord, but I think it is exactly the sort of point on which the Government should take advice from the universities rather than vice versa.

I think the noble Lord to some extent underestimated the degree to which specialisation in the universities is accounted for by the fact that the frontiers of knowledge are always expanding. As they expand, what might be described as the working face becomes longer and longer, and progress can be maintained only by increased numbers and new specialisations. For instance, biochemistry, which started as a special field of organic chemistry related to medicine, is now of increasing interest to all biology. In many places it has become a Department, and a subject in its own right. Therefore, the price of specialisation can be seen in its genesis. I do not feel competent to deal with that aspect in detail. There are other factors to be taken into account. But I felt that perhaps the noble Lord was underestimating the extent to which that process would be inevitable and, in a sense, desirable.

If, however, and to the extent that he was—because clearly he was—referring to over-specialisation in the demands made by the universities on their new entrants, then he is approaching a subject within my own departmental competence, and on which my own opinions are much the same as those of the noble Lord—that is to say, I am somewhat critical of the extent of specialisation that is now taking place. I am somewhat critical of the demands made by the universities on the schools, and I would give emphasis to what I said at the beginning—namely, the need for close understanding between the universities and the Government, and also, I would add, between the universities and the schools. Although, as I said to begin with, constitutionally it is true that the universities have nothing whatever to do with the Department of Education, in the sense that they are not within my departmental competence, it is by no means true that the universities have nothing to do with the schools.

On the contrary, although the Minister of Education is, quite rightly, kept clear of the curriculum in schools by the same kind of demand for academic freedom in another sphere as is made by the universities, the demands of the universities upon the schools are largely in the hands of the teaching profession.

Of course, they value their independence, but it would be blinding one's eyes to the facts not to recognise that in the secondary schools the curriculum is largely dominated by the requirements imposed by the universities on new entrants. And that, in practice, means the requirements of heads of faculties and heads of colleges. If these become too exacting (and I must say that in my own opinion they are too exacting), the effect is to compel the teaching profession in the schools to thrust their ablest pupils into over-specialisation. This, in turn, distorts not merely their curriculum but the whole curriculum of the school; and it tends to deprive it of precisely those elements of general culture and current social aptitudes and knowledge which are most beneficial. Moreover, such is the effect of the university entrance requirements that this distortion is felt throughout the upper forms of the grammar schools: that is, by a higher percentage of the school population than is represented by the university entrants. And such is the power of imitation that I am persuaded the effects of over-specialisation are to be seen even in some of the secondary modern schools as well.

The remedy for this over-specialisation is not one which can be provided by a Minister of Education, because if he stepped into the fray he would be justly suspected of encroachment on the freedoms both of the universities and of the teaching profession in the schools. But I hope that such an encroachment will not be suspected if I simply express an opinion, a personal opinion, which is widely shared by educationalists, and shared, as I myself can testify, by numerous heads of faculties in the universities and many headmasters, that though, to some extent, it is for the schools themselves to resist the worst excesses in all this, basically the school work of those who are going on to the university must be determined largely by the content and nature of university courses.

Do the universities take full account of this when they make their own plans? Do they trouble to find out what effect they must be having on the schools and in the schools? Do they get together with the school teachers to reach some kind of agreement, particularly in the newer scientific subjects, as to what part of the ground is best covered at school and what best at the university? I know, for instance, that that is the opinion of many distinguished heads of faculties at Cambridge, that much of what is taught in the last year at school could be taught in the first year at the university. Is that sufficiently taken into account? Above all, do they consider the effect on the schools of the methods they employ in selecting candidates for admission to universities? Schools cannot plan their work as they think right if this means that the particular pupil has no chance of getting to the university of his choice. That is the alternative with which many school teachers are now faced; and the task of selecting students for the universities is admittedly very difficult. They have to select from large fields of competitors those who will make a success of their university work, and that is very difficult, particularly when competition is as heavy as it is now.

But there is a good deal of evidence to show that the process of selection is contributing to bad work in the schools and that this is defeating its own purpose. Nobody outside the university world would dare to put this as strongly as it has recently been put in a report by the Principal of London University, from which I believe the noble Lord quoted in part of his speech. I would add a longer quotation. This is what the Principal of London University has said on this subject: Within the general limits prescribed by the Senate, however, a wide measure of discretion has to be left to Boards to determine the kind of training necessary for entry to a particular degree course. Not all of our Boards of Studies have exercised this discretion in the way which I had hoped. Some still require, in my opinion, too high a degree of specialised knowledge in a limited field, and a candidate, if he is to stand any chance of obtaining admission, is compelled to concentrate unduly on that limited field during his time in the sixth form. The result is that we tend to get many candidates whose specialised knowledge is above the average for their age but whose development in other fields and whose general powers of thought and expression have not advanced in proportion beyond the sixteen-year level…It is just crying for the moon to expect the vast majority of students on entry to the University to have a broad general education and a good command of the English language when they have been forced by entrance requirements to spend an undue proportion of their time in the sixth form accumulating a high degree of specialised knowledge in two or three subjects. Again, after referring to the independence of the colleges that make up the University, he says: The difficulty of obtaining admission to universities is so great—and it is likely to increase in the next decade—that schools, in drawing up their teaching programme, must concentrate on the maximum requirements demanded for entry if their pupils are to stand any chance of being accepted. From the broad, national point of view, the excessive degree of specialisation required for entry to some of the better-known university institutions has a profoundly bad effect on the organisation of teaching in the sixth form up and down the country; though it may suit a limited number of exceptionally gifted students. I would say humbly, so far as it is proper for me to do so, that I endorse what the Principal of London University has said.

I feel that I have been taking a great deal of your Lordships' time, but a great number of points have been raised in this debate and I thought it proper to answer them. Considerable discussion took place about the increase of numbers, and I do not complain that that should be so. It will be remembered that in the last public statement on this subject Her Majesty's Government broadly endorsed the view that further expansion was necessary. It was stated The Government believe that the universities should be encouraged to expand even more. The University Grants Committee have advised that larger expansion would be desirable, if resources can be made available. They would like to invite the universities to consider still further expansion to meet national needs. The noble Lord said he thought that that was possibly unconsciously a trifle disingenuous. I am not sure how one can be disingenuous, possibly unconsciously. Nor am I sure why he should have taken that gloomy view of this statement. I would thoroughly endorse the idea that further education and higher education should be expanded still further, beyond what has been announced so far; but I am persuaded that we cannot talk about expansion of numbers of students in quite the same way as one could in laying down a plant to expand the number of motor cars produced from an assembly line. The whole system of education has to be expanded in this country at the present time, even to produce this limited expansion.

The quality of university training must not be allowed to deteriorate; at least, that is my own belief. Teaching staff have to be recruited, as one noble Lord rightly said, in competition with the requirements of industry. These things are essentially matters for discussion and I do not think any help at all is gained by pressing too hard in criticism of any of the parties to such a discussion. I suppose all of us wish to see our country develop in this way. I have been greatly encouraged by a fact referred to by the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, from the point of view of industry, in a stirring maiden speech. That fact is one of the most encouraging features in my present Ministry, and it is that the demand for further education, and more of it, is no longer coming only from idealists or educationists but is coming from industry as a practical requirement. That enables me, in dealing with the very large number of people who from time to time complain to me about the high cost of education, to point to a practical argument based on necessity and expediency, as well as to the other argument to which my own inclinations would have been more prone.

I say no more of that, except that I am grateful to the noble Lord who introduced this debate, and I very largely endorse the kind of view he was seeking to put forward. In particular, I would myself endorse the emphasis which he laid on the necessity for bridging the gap between the artist and the scientist. I have never been of the opinion that an Arts course was necessarily broadening. On the contrary, I am very conscious that my own education was in some ways a narrow one for not having been enriched beyond quite early boyhood with the disciplines of mathematics and science. I should consider that an artist becomes a better artist if he is aware of what those disciplines require and the general features of their effect on the modern world.

On the whole my sympathies are with the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, in the kind of criticism he has been levelling, to my knowledge, for thirty years against certain limited types of Arts philosophy. On the other hand, I have never subscribed to the view that the scientist, because he is a scientist, is necessarily limited. I believe, on the contrary, that the disciplines of mathematics and science are one of the royal gateways to intellectual sensitivity and appreciation. It is often the best mathematician who is also the best musician. The noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, is himself an example of what I intend to convey; and I should have thought that the ideal at which to aim was not so much an attempt to build up a certain number of scientists to counter-balance the existing number of artists, or a certain number of artists to counterbalance the existing number of scientists—because I believe that that would tend to produce a schizophrenic society at the universities in which two sides tended to glare at each other (shall I say, as if across Dispatch Boxes?)—but to try to effect a marriage between these two streams of our national culture.

Our civilisation is based on the Christian religion, but our civilisation has made its greatest achievement in the realm of technology and science. Those two streams in our national culture must be reconciled if we are to present a rational and, in the end, a tolerable society for the future. That is to be done by the scientist acquainting himself with the general studies which have come to be known—perhaps arrogantly—by the name of the humanities, and by those who specialise in the latter acquiring some knowledge of the characteristics and requirements of the disciplines of science. I thank the noble Lord for introducing this debate. I should also thank all noble Lords who have taken part in it. I hope I answered most of their points, although I am aware that with the large variety of viewpoints that have been expressed there must be great parts of the debate which will remain unanswered.

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, the debate has been answered, and finely answered, by the noble and learned Viscount. Having spoken at inordinate length in the early part of the afternoon, I will not take up more than a minute or two now. I must express my congratulations to the noble Marquess, Lord Exeter, who is clearly a real addition to our councils. I should like to endorse practically everything that was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Cherwell, by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester, and by my noble friend, Lord Pethick-Lawrence, on subjects which I myself had raised. I would thank them for the kind words they said about my own efforts. I should like to support very strongly what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, about adult education, in particular, and by Lord Chorley about the plight of the university teachers. I also support all that was said by the noble Lord, Lord McNair, and by the Lord Bishop of Exeter, about the halls of residence.

I should like to add further support to the plea for the strengthening of religious life in the universities which was made in detail by the two Bishops and was so clearly implicit in the remarks of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. If I may say so. Lord Simon of Wythenshawe speaks with an authority as great as anyone in the country on the subject of university education, but I was sorry to hear him say that he thought that 120,000 to 130,000 would be quite a good target for the next ten years. I feel that it would be failure if the figure fell below 130,000 and I hope that we shall achieve something a great deal larger. But the noble Lord will perhaps allow me to discuss that matter with him on another occasion. Certainly anything he says on this topic must be studied with special care.

I sincerely thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and I am not going to venture to argue with him tonight. Those who have listened to us both will know why it was that when practically every other Labour candidate in Great Britain was winning, the noble Viscount held Oxford against my assault and battery. They may also understand why he was regarded as the finest classical scholar at Eton and Oxford during his time and mine. I am not upset by his attack on the figures I produced. I was much interested and instructed by what he said about variations in alleged criteria as between local authorities in giving awards. He said, in effect, that there is no evidence to suggest that there are differences of criteria so far as one can see. I naturally take it from him, though I cannot help telling him that there is a very widespread belief to the contrary among students who receive those awards. Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to discuss that matter with him on some other occasion.

As I have said, I do not want to argue with him further. He made a splendid speech. He reminds me of a great West Indian cricketer who has just arrived in this country and who has been described as "a giant of a man who treads as lightly as a cat ". When the noble Viscount was dealing with his position vis-à-vis the universities, I think that that description applied not inaptly. I am still not clear how we are to continue to press this matter of a university at Brighton. I am much encouraged by what the noble Viscount has said, but I might point out that if such a university is to come into existence the money has to be provided by the noble Viscount and the Government. If it is not forthcoming, some way must be found to induce them, to produce it. But that is another matter which can be discussed on some other occasion. I was very much encouraged by what the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Chichester said about Brighton, and I am very grateful indeed to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I am glad that we have as Minister of Education someone whose heart is so clearly in the subject. I now beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.