HL Deb 11 May 1960 vol 223 cc615-732

2.42 p.m.

LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government to appoint a Committee to inquire and report on the extent and nature of the provisions of full-time education for those over the age of 18, whether in universities or in other educational institutions; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I begin by explaining my justification for moving this Resolution? It is that I have been a member of the Council—that is, the lay governing body—of Manchester University for nearly fifty years. I have seen this University grow from about 2,000 to nearly 6,000 students. It is the oldest and largest regional university in England. The regional universities of this country have now become, and especially will this be so for the next twenty years, by far the most important universities of the country, in the sense that practically all the expansion will be in the regional universities.

In the last twenty years the number of students in the universities of Britain has doubled, from 50,000 to 100,000. At the same time the dons have increased 2½ times—that is to say, at the beginning each teacher had 12 students to look after, but he has only eight now. That is striking proof of the steady help given through the University Grants Committee by the Treasury in staff salaries. At the same time, the universities during the last twenty years have adopted many new fields of study, chiefly scientific—new kinds of chemistry, physics, engineering, and exciting nuclear development; so that, on the whole, both as regards numbers and as regards variety of work, there is no doubt that the teaching and research standards have been fully maintained in spite of the increase in numbers. At the present time Oxford and Cambridge have between them 16,000 students, and London has 20,000. Between them they have one-third of the students, the other two-thirds belonging to the regional universities, English, Scottish and Welsh.

In the last few years there has been a remarkable acceleration in the vigour and energy of the University Grants Committee, due to the fact that (and this came out in the Crowther Report the other day) there is a great increase in the number of sixth form and of persons anxious to go to the universities. Public opinion has been demanding that places should be available for all those willing to go, and Parliament looks like paying three quarters of the necessary funds. I have discussed this with various authorities, and it seems to me likely that the numbers having doubled from 50,000 to 100,000 in the last twenty years, they may double again in the next twenty years, from 100,000 to 200,000, and nearly all that increase will be in the regional universities.

I had an interesting lesson in the new vigour which the University Grants Committee and the schools and others are putting into this when I visited the University of Sussex at Brighton a few days ago. Some of your Lordships may have noticed in the Daily Telegraph to-day a long and vigorous article about the prospects of Brighton. I saw what was being done there; I saw the energy and enthusiasm of the Vice-Chancellor, and I must say I came away very much encouraged and feeling that the University Grants Committee, who have always done a good job in many ways, are warmly to be congratulated on making their new plans with imagination and vigour. The Vice-Chancellor was most interesting. He thought that, for the first time in the history in this country, it was possible, owing to the fact that there were so many willing parents and so many children in the sixth forms of secondary schools and money available from the University Grants Committee, now to plan in advance a new university, with all the modern knowledge, right from the start. That, I think, is a most encouraging thing. Incidentally, they have there a lovely site.

My Lords, my Motion calls for study not only of the universities, but also of non-university institutions for those of eighteen-plus. There has been a remarkable growth in recent years. To-day, there are 30,000 people in teacher training colleges and 40,000 in technical, commercial and art colleges: that is, 70,000 altogether, which is not so very far behind the 100,000 of the universities. All the non-university institutions are under the Ministry of Education. It has just been decided that the training colleges are to extend their course from two years to throe years. I had hoped that Lord McNair, who some years ago brought out two most important Reports on these training colleges, would be here to explain the whole position, but I am sorry to say it has been found impossible for him to arrive. I had also hoped—I think we had all hoped—that Lord Weeks, who was chairman of a Ministry of Education Committee on higher technical colleges, would talk about their most important development. He was quite recently chairman of one of the largest concerns. It is unfortunate that he has been taken ill and is in hospital. He knows more than anybody else about these top training colleges. Training colleges are now called "C.A.Ts." Just before going into hospital he made a full speech on this subject, and sent a copy to the Lord Privy Seal and to me. It is so important that, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to say just a word or two about it.

Your Lordships know that these C.A.Ts., as they are called, are high-level training colleges. They award the "Dip. Tech.", as it is called. Lord Hives had a lot to do with the introduction of these. They are supported by some of the largest engineering firms, and practically all the boys in the C.A.Ts.—and girls, if there are any—of whom there are about 9,000 now, do what is called a sandwich course, half the time in the works and half the time in college. Universities do not do those courses nor produce that kind of person. The contacts between the colleges of advanced technology and the universities are very slight—in fact, this coordination is almost a new movement. It is, however, very important, and it can be done only by inquiry, and by co-operation between the universities and C.A.Ts., and only if Her Majesty's Government set up a Committee, appointed, no doubt, partly from the Ministry of Education and partly from the Treasury, with authority to look into the whole subject and co-ordinate those two. I would further suggest to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Privy Seal, that that is one of the most important tasks for the kind of national Committee we are proposing.

I understand that this is the first debate dealing with the broad position of about 180,000 young men and women—a total which in a few years is likely to rise to about 300,000—partly in the universities and partly in local, non-university organisations. It is clear that our standards of living in this country, and especially our export trade, depend greatly on our scientific, professional and technological education. Those young people are equally important as our future leading citizens strengthening our civilisation and our democracy; and I should like to repeat that, of all the important reasons for appointing a Government Committee to co-ordinate the work of universities and other organisations, this may well be the most important of all.

May I at this stage say a few words about the way in which our universities are governed? There are 27 of them, each with almost complete academic freedom, receiving three-quarters of all their capital and income from the Government, and administered by the University Grants Committee—a typically British, unusual and admirable body under the Treasury. I believe your Lordships will hear a great deal about the University Grants Committee during the course of this debate. As your Lordships will know, that Committee is headed by a university man picked by the Treasury—a very able Chairman—with about twenty able university men and other part-time advisers. We are fortunate in having here to-day the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer, in 1946 gave the U.G.C. new terms of reference as follows: To assist in the preparation and execution of such plans for the development of the universities as may from time to time be required to ensure that they are fully adequate to national needs.

The vice-chancellor of the universities willingly accepted these terms, and I am sure noble Lords will agree that the terms make very high demands on the efficiency of the universities. May I, in this connection, also warmly welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who as head of the Treasury for many years has kept a fatherly eye on the U.G.C. and has helped to ensure their efficiency and protect them from irresponsible attacks. It is gratifying that he has chosen to make his maiden speech in your Lordships' House on this subject.

The essential work of the University Grants Committee is to study the needs of the universities, to persuade Parliament and the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make adequate grants and then to distribute those grants with absolute fairness to the best advantage among the 27 universities. I believe that the Committee are remarkably successful in doing that—certainly, Manchester University has no complaints. I think it will be agreed that the history of our universities under the U.G.C., especially in the last twenty years since World War has been a story of continuing development and great success of which we can all be proud.

May I mention a few other problems which I feel ought to be dealt with by one of the Committees appointed by the Government? I have already mentioned the possibility of aiming at a total number of 200,000 students by 1980. That may be all that we can manage, and certainly would represent important progress. But the number of students per 1,000 of our population to-day is almost the lowest in the civilised world; and even if we were to double the number again we might still be below—and much below—the figures of Russia, America and other countries. I hope that this whole question of total numbers will be dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who as honorary secretary of the Association of University Teachers has unique experience in this matter. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, too, has ideas.

May I turn now to a very important new question, the size of individual regional universities? Twenty years ago, Manchester had 2,500 students; to-day it has 5,000. In a few years, under pressure from the U.G.C., we shall have 7,500 there. If we add those at the Manchester College of Technology, which has now become part of Manchester University, we shall soon have 10,000 students, making us larger than either Oxford or Cambridge, or any other university except London. We are getting rather near to the giant universities of the United States which many of us regard with concern and some dismay. The needs of new universities have already been mentioned. We had Keele nearly ten years ago, and we now have Brighton coming along. A great deal of thought is required, and has already been given, to where these new universities are to be situated—whether in beautiful country, in industrial areas or near to famous laboratories; and what size they are to be. Clearly, in regard to the size of regional universities we have rather drifted. There has been no serious thought about them, but the time has now come when serious thought is badly required.

Next I wish to say just a word or two (for many noble Lords will wish to speak) on halls of residence. Opinion in this country has been greatly strengthened in favour of more and more halls of residence. It is recognised that although these cannot give students the advantages that, say, Balliol or Trinity give them there are certain advantages to be gained, if we can get good tutors, to do something, at least, to break up the mass of 5,000 or 10,000 students. That point certainly requires more inquiry. Another subject which requires inquiry is finance. Her Majesty's Government have been steadily more generous since the war. Though far from generous with building grants originally, they are now getting better; and at present the U.G.C. are giving about £60 million to the universities. And that amount will, of course, increase. There is one aspect of the U.G.C. which must be watched. They have immense power. They are paying three-quarters of the cost of the universities and, if they desired, could become almost an autocracy. They have tried to avoid that, but there is some nervousness; and it is clear that that aspect needs careful watching.

There is only one other administrative point; that is, whether we are learning what we can learn from foreign universities. Many of our professors go to see what their opposite numbers are doing in Germany and Russia. The whole organisation of M.I.T., of Cal. Tech., of various Russian universities and of Aachen and Zurich is in many ways in advance of what we have done here; and we do not know how and why. I am told, for instance, very emphatically, that the big American law schools, such as Harvard and Yale, produce types of industrialists and others in the public service who are a long way ahead of those we produce. We may be a little complacent in that matter, and I hope that my noble friend Lord Chorley, who has been to Harvard, who knows about it and who has a great admiration for it, may tell us something about it. I hope that we shall have what I think will have to be a Government Committee which is ready to go and learn what it can in America, Russia and other countries.

I have indicated about seven matters, all mainly of an administrative nature, which urgently require examination by a national committee: the probable rate of expansion over the next twenty years; the relationship between the administration of university and non-university educational institutions; some aspects of the work of the U.G.C.; the best size, location and number of universities and the need for responsibility; the whole problem of university finance, and the great need of learning more from overseas universities. There are plenty of acute problems to be investigated there, and I hope that the Lord Privy Seal will not fail me. Apart from these administrative questions, there are a number of academic questions which go on from year to year and generation to generation and never really get solved. There are at this moment—perhaps it is the most acute matter—more boys and girls anxious and qualified to go to universities than there are places avail- able. There is, therefore, very keen competition and very much specialisation. The question of entry is, admittedly, unsatisfactory. Although the Vice-Chancellors have produced an important report, the question is far from being solved and further inquiry is needed.

Another internal question is the balance between teaching and research. Oxford and Cambridge have strong teaching, as well as research, traditions. Many students and dons live together in colleges, and contacts and teaching are very good. In the regional universities they are much less good. It still happens in some universities that a good many teachers have not a room of their own, which makes individual teaching, which is the best kind, totally impossible. That situation was remedied twenty years ago by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, at the London School of Economics, but too many of the regional universities, including, I am sorry to say, my own university, have not yet solved it. I hope that he will be able to tell us how he did it and what the results are.

I think that another problem concerns the fields of study. Over the last 100 years science, which at one time hardly existed, has now come to dominate the university. In the last ten years technology has come on, and is becoming still more powerful. The social sciences have been greatly strengthened, but the arts have not been strengthened: although the numbers of students are increasing the arts, as a proportion of the universities, are decreasing. The one thing that we do want is general education which includes both science and the arts, and we do not know much about how to get it. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, and, I hope, the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, will deal with some of these academic problems which are much the most difficult and, in many ways, much the most important.

My Lords, I have suggested the setting up of a number of committees, both administrative and academic. Some of them might be appointed by the U.G.C. or by the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, but it would be hardly fair to ask these two Committees to take on a study of these long-term problems themselves. Moreover, they have so much responsibility for the present work of the universities that it would be hardly reasonable to ask them to sit in judgment on their own work. For these reasons it is quite clear, I think, that some, at least, of these subjects should be dealt with by independent persons nominated by the Government. I suggest, therefore, that it is reasonable to ask the Government at this stage to appoint a Committee or Committees (I do not know exactly what sort of a Committee or whether there ought to be one or several), or possibly even a Royal Commission. But certainly the conditions under which these 180,000 men and women are now working, are a matter requiring serious thought and study, and a report on proposed developments over the next generation.

Of course, there is always the danger that a powerful Committee of that sort may slow down existing work, and that must not be allowed, in any circumstances. I hope that the Government will announce that this Committee, or Committees, when appointed, are to work for three or four years to consider the next twenty years, or even the period right up to the year 2,000. But the U.G.C. and the Vice-Chancellors' Committee should be told that they must go on with the work they are now doing, and that in three or four years' time we expect a report that will indicate the best kind of development over the next twenty years. In the meantime they should go ahead as hard as they can with the present proposals of the U.G.C. and the Minister of Education. I have pleasure now in moving the Motion standing in my name. I beg to move for Papers.

3.7 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by expressing my great gratitude to the noble Lord the mover of this Motion—and I am sure that gratitude will be shared by all Members of the House—for giving us the opportunity of discussing this vitally important question that he has raised. His Motion covers a large amount of ground. I shall limit myself to one part only: to universities and their problems. That is not because I think that the universities are the only important subject within this Motion. I do not think that at all. But it so happens that the universities are the only part of the noble Lord's subject about which I personally know anything.

The universities are a blessed interval between the two disciplines that make up life—a sudden freedom. I remember saying that just more than thirty years ago, in welcoming a new body of students to the London School of Economics. The first discipline in life, of course, is that which parents and schoolmasters apply to children. The second discipline comes, when the university course is over, to those who have finished their course and then set about earning and managing their own affairs. When I welcomed the students to the School of Economics in those terms I did not stop at merely welcoming them to have a glorious party: I went on, as parents generally go on when they are welcoming their children to a party or taking them to a party, to play the heavy father and to warn them that they must learn how to behave. After saying. "The universities area blessed interval between the two disciplines that make up life—a sudden freedom," the "heavy father" went on: "Every man is known best by the way in which he uses riches; and the greatest of riches is freedom." That was as good as telling the students that they would be judged by the way in which they behaved at the university, by the degree of responsibility they had for their work and for their studies, and by their behaviour in general.

I am glad to say that on that occasion the students of the school took their "heavy father" well, and I hope that on this occasion this House will take me as its "heavy father", if only half as well. Because to me the university years are not meant to be treated, and should not be treated, as a good time for all. They are a privilege given to a limited number of people, carefully selected for a public purpose; and that privilege has to be taken and used responsibly. To me, our universities should be taken very seriously indeed, as a part of our social structure; as a vital instrument for increasing the happiness and wisdom of all our people, not only those who take part in the life of the university or its activities. Although those who take part in universities, whether students or teachers, will always be a small proportion of the total population, they can add to the happiness of all. But they can and will add to that happiness only if those in charge of universities accept three principles, which I wish to lay down for guiding their actions.

The first is that those who control the universities should recognise that the most important purpose of a university is to spread knowledge, rather than to add to knowledge. Of course, any university teacher worth his salt will wish to add to his knowledge. He cannot be a good teacher unless he is interested in learning more and more. His work may well include the guidance of advanced students in research; and he will have, I hope, from time to time, a sabbatical year, so that he may be able to learn more himself. Many of them, although they teach admirably, ignore research: others, who indulge in a great deal of research, cannot teach. Those of us who have experience know those alternatives. But what is essential is that the teacher must not sacrifice teaching the next generation for writing his own books.

That, I am glad to remember, was laid down to the dons of Balliol just before I went there, years ago, by Jowett. He said that the business of dons was to look after young men, and not to write their books; and that was one of the things which made my college, Balliol, the absolutely marvellous place it was at the time. After all, research can be done without teaching: it can be done in an institute. At this moment, there are 70 institutes in Oxford itself which are concerned not with teaching but with research. It can be done without teaching. But you cannot turn young men and young women into useful citizens without teaching them, and without doing many more things in the process of teaching. That is my first point: that the most important function of any university or of anything entitled to call itself a university, is teaching rather than making new knowledge.

Let me now come to my second point: that the blessed interval of freedom at a university should be given to young men and young women, not on grounds of wealth or of birth, but on their personal qualities. With the demand for entrance to a university to-day so immensely exceeding the places available, admission is a privilege which must not be wasted on anyone who cannot use it well. I shall return to that problem of selection at the end of what I have to say. In the meantime, it is enough to say that selection is much harder than before, chiefly through the extension of the different kinds of schools from which the students come and of the social background from which they come; and although I know, from direct knowledge, how the devoted university authorities welcome their task of selection, often they cannot avoid making mistakes, letting in one person while keeping out someone who is better and who should go in. But let me say that that possibility of mistake is one of my reasons for reinforcing the plea, which I shall make in a moment, for keeping evening study for university degrees alive, so that the person who fails to get in at university age but who is a born student can, after he goes out to work, still go on being a student.

Thirdly, the personal contacts and practical conditions of life of every university student should make easy and natural for him his personal contacts, not only with fellow students but with senior members of the university outside the laboratory or the lecture room. That point is strongly and most justly emphasised in several Reports made by the University Grants Committee, particularly those on university development, from 1947 to 1952 and from 1952 to 1957. In the first of the Reports they described the failure to raise the proportion of students living in colleges or halls of residence, as opposed to those living in lodgings or at home, as the "outstanding disappointment" of that quinquennium, 1947 to 1952. They said—and I quote: At the beginning of that quinquennium nearly all the universities and colleges expressed a strong desire to extend largely their provision of residential accommodation. At the end of the quinquennium, exactly the same proportion of students were in residence in such accommodation as had been at the beginning of it. The number in residence had risen, but so had the number of other students; and, in the view of the University Grants Committee, at the end of the next quinquennium there would still be only about a quarter of all the students in such residence—just a little more but very little more.

The University Grants Committee had another disappointment, and I want to be allowed to illustrate that disappointment by a few detailed facts drawn from what is, to me, one of the most important publications of the Committee: a table showing for each of the 29 separate university institutions in Britain which were receiving grants the number of students living, respectively, in colleges or halls under academic care, as opposed to those in lodgings or at home, during the last academic year for which we have records, 1957–58. From this table I have had the temerity to prepare a table of my own giving all these appallingly dull figures as percentages, which can be understood and compared directly; and I found that they were of absorbing interest. Let me say that I have furnished members of the Government who are going to answer in this debate with a copy of that table, and if, after this debate, any other Member of the House is interested in what I deduce from the figures, I shall be happy to supply him or her with a copy. Indeed, I wish that I could read every figure out so that the whole table should be printed; but that is not for me to say.

I found the table of absorbing interest. It shows, first, the extreme differences of practice between one university institution and another. Let us begin upon the percentages of students who live in academic colleges. There is a maximum figure of 97 per cent. in the small college of North Staffordshire, and a respectable one of 61 per cent. in the Durham colleges; but the numbers go down to 3 per cent. in residence at Glasgow and to 1 per cent. in the University of Aberdeen, which, I am delighted to recall, gave me my first honorary degree. Aberdeen prefers this sort of provision to starting residences for its students.

To look at another item, at the numbers living at home, of all the students in Glasgow University to-day, 73 per cent. live at home; at Exeter it is only 4 per cent. and at Cambridge and Oxford, only 1 per cent. I cannot help suspecting that one of the attractions about Oxford and Cambridge—and they are both very attractive—is that students get right away from their families. Then we come to the question of lodgings. The figures vary from 63 per cent. at Birming- ham and at other civic universities of that size down to 35 per cent. and less in other institutions. To me one of the most interesting contrasts in practice in regard to student residence—and I wish to emphasise this difference in practice of universities because I want to deal with their differences from one another in their surroundings and traditions of work—is that between two of the oldest universities in Scotland, St. Andrews, founded in 1411, and Glasgow, founded 40 years later, in 1451. Let me show how they compare in 1957–58. St. Andrews had about 40 per cent. in colleges and halls, nearly the same proportion in lodgings and 20 per cent. living at home. Glasgow, founded for the same purposes and in the same spirit, had 73 per cent. living at home, 20 per cent. in lodgings, and colleges and halls for only 7 per cent. This is a most striking illustration of the way in which the surroundings of a university affect the way in which it develops.

I hope I may be allowed to add something about the close personal interest which I happen to have in the great university of Glasgow. My father, though born in a different part of Scotland, owing to the recurrent insolvencies of his father, was moved suddenly to Glasgow so that his father might earn a living writing unreadable, interminable books, which he did with success. My father—he was going to be my father—took the opportunity of taking a degree at Glasgow and that did him so well (it was obviously a very good university) that at the age of 20 he came out top in one of the first examinations for the Indian Civil Service. Having gone to India, he became an oriental scholar, and when he and my mother died in 1929 I had the pleasure of giving, under their instructions, all his oriental books to Glasgow University. My father never forgot his alma mater.


My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me for one moment if I venture to suggest, as one who has no little interest in the University of St. Andrews, that what he has said with regard to residential buildings, may give rise to the impression that we can consider the position at St. Andrews with equanimity. It is not so bad at St. Andrews itself, but the problem of residence in Queen's College, Dundee, and the lodgings problem has now risen to almost frightening proportions. I should not like the noble Lord to give the impression that, while things are very bad at Glasgow, all is well at St. Andrews; because it is not satisfactory.


My Lords, may I say that so far as possible I am avoiding any judgment, good or bad, upon any university or anything we are discussing to-day. The whole purpose of what I have to say is to beg that a really impartial body be appointed to consider the many difficult problems affecting universities to-day.

I have dwelt on this fascinating problem of the differences of various universities and the fact that in different ways they do equally well—I do not know; we have to find that out. I must pass from their differences to the second point, to the broad picture of the kind of provision for student residence as it is to-day. My table shows that though the earner British universities, from Oxford to St. Andrews, were collegiate, designed for common residence of teachers and students, nearly all the larger modern universities have taken a different line. Of the 29 universities and institutions in my table and that of the University Grants Committee, 19 (two out of every three) rely more on lodgings than on anything else for the residence of their students, and between them these 19 "lodger universities"—I hope I may call them that without offence—contain two out of every three full-time students. Broadly speaking (and I do not say this as a criticism but merely as a statement of fact) our university system in Britain, having begun as collegiate and still retaining many intriguing varieties between one institution and another, has become in bulk a system for lodgers. The University Grants Committee are frankly disappointed and unhappy about that, and so am I, because I do not believe that the lodger system is the best system for university students.

Before suggesting how the remedy for that can be found, may I be allowed to set out a few conclusions from my personal experience, in Oxford and then in London? My time at Oxford as an undergraduate at Balliol showed me, once and for all, the vital importance of personal contact, not only and not mainly between student and student, but also between student and teacher. Both kinds of contact were very easy in my day because few of the dons were married and the number in the college was so few that one could spend many years there. I had three years, whereas now a student is pleased if he can get two years, and some can get only one. But personal contact with seniors was, and I think is, in some ways even more important than contact with one's fellow students.

The purpose of a university to-day is not to teach men how to make money in professions; it is to make them fit and eager to render professional service to their fellow citizens. The university is there not simply to sharpen wits, but to build character. How better can you build a desirable character than by giving to young men as friends dons whose purpose in life is obviously neither to make money for themselves nor to get fame for themselves, but service to others? I have spoken here of my own experience, as a student mainly in arts. I suspect and hope that there are better contacts even to-day in science and in the laboratory than there was or is in arts subjects.

Let me now come to the University of London. There I went as Director of the London School of Economics in 1919 and my eighteen years there showed me, once and for all, that there could be full community life of old and young, of teachers and students, in a university, without making them all sleep together in a mediæval building or in a red brick building, either. To show this, it was necessary to do many things at the school which had not been done before I got there, and to three of these things I attached great importance. The first was that every regular teacher must have a room, and did have a room, of his own in which he could see students. Secondly, every regular student, from the beginning to the end of his course for a degree, or the like, must be attached individually to an individual teacher—that was the tutorial system carried out by us, without joint residence in a mediaeval building. Thirdly—and this is most important for the universities which are not going to be fully collegiate—the building of the School must provide for everything except sleeping in it, and must be kept open at all waking hours, from early morning until late at night, so that the students who come to study by day should find full opportunity for everything else—concerts, drama, debates, lectures, games and all the rest—in the evening. That is what we set out to do.

That happened to be easy in the School of Economics in my time, because we had a great body of evening students—three day students to every two evening students, in the beginning. The proportion of evening students is much less now, due to the war, but there is still a solid body of evening students and they are an important element in the life and variety of the School. I say no more about the School, except that I know from recent experience—and I go there whenever I can to meet the students and teachers—how vital a community of young and old of many different races the School remains to-day, without having residences.

London University and its colleges may well add some halls of residence to what they have already, but I do not see how they can ever be mainly residential. Nor, I am sure, can the larger civic universities become so in any reasonable time, if ever. But they can, and should, all become communities for making good citizens by friendly contacts between their members of all ages, as the London School of Economics has done, as was done in Oxford and Cambridge and the collegiate universities, by the full use of their buildings. Individual contact between teachers and student is vital. It can be got without the full collegiate system, and no university authority should rest until it has done its best towards that end.

I am already taking much longer than I intended and I must hasten on to the next item. As your Lordships all know, the world around the universities has changed greatly since the time of my experiences, which are all in the dim past. Although there are these other changes, due to the redistribution of wealth, full employment and the rest, the really important change is the change of the provision of Parliamentary grants on a large scale for university students. There were no grants when I was a student at Oxford. When I got to London I found (and these are approximate figures) a grant of £1 million out of £3 million, just about one-third; and in the last year before the Second World War the grant was still one-third of the total income of the universities, although it was doubled and was £2 million out of £6 million. In 1957 and 1958, as we can all discover for ourselves, the Treasury grant was £34,455,000 out of £49,418,000, representing 71 per cent. of the total university income. Our universities have become a public service, though, as I shall urge before I end, a public service of a very special kind, whose management needs something different from most public services. I express great sympathy with what the mover of the Motion said about the importance of self-government, so far as is possible, and the new conditions of universities.

I want now to give a short list of the problems affecting the universities which should like to see considered by some kind of impartial body. There is, first, the problem of the total number of students at which to aim. My personal view on this matter is coloured, I admit, by the fact that to me quality of university teachers and students seems more important than quantity. Enjoyment of university life, as I suggested, is not a citizen right, but a privilege to be given, irrespective of birth or wealth, and after stringent selection; and stringent selection, as we are all finding, is becoming more and more difficult, admirably as I know the university authorities work at the problem. There is a further ground for perhaps going a little slow in pushing up the number of university students, and that is that it is no good having university students without teachers good enough to teach them. That is the kind of problem that will arise with universities, as I have heard it said in this House it arises in other fields of educaton.

The second question is the method of selecting students for universities. Selection to-day, with the much wider range of schools and social backgrounds from which applicants come, is, as I have said, undoubtedly much harder than it used to be; and it is worth adding that I have come across a number of suggestions and criticisms from people who think that there is an undue proportion of failure among students at our universities to-day. I shall be happy to give to any Member of your Lordships' House who is interested references to some of the quotations I have seen. Some of them come from my native county of Fife, some from the U.G.C. Report itself and some from a Fabian tract. I hold no responsibility for the Fabian tract or the U.G.C.; but there is the criticism.

Thirdly, there is the size of the particular universities, particularly those which are or must be collegiate. Frankly, I should be sorry to see either or any of them grow much larger. There are limits to the growth, particularly of collegiate universities, and that is one of my reasons for so strongly supporting the new universities, to which the Government have already committed themselves. I only mention, without saying anything about them, three other changes: change in the scope of studies, bringing in more natural science and its applications and more social science, with added emphasis on research. That produces problems. There is the relations of universities to other forms of advanced adult education in this country. That is one of the most important problems of all, because, without flooding the universities, we want more people than they can take on university lines and we want to open all the other means of higher adult education to them. That, I am glad to see, is also included in this Motion.

There is the question of how much we can learn for our own universities by comparison and contact with universities in other countries. I am afraid I cannot help remarking on one thing which has struck me about my old university of Oxford, and that is its changed social structure. In my time, it was a purely masculine society. The dons were not married, and I am wondering whether what is happening now is really necessary and the best thing for a learned institution. When I was at Balliol I was given the advice of the Master of Balliol, Edward Caird, that, until my studies at Oxford were safely over, I should not become either a philanthropist or a politician. I cannot help feeling that if it had occurred to Caird that I, or any of us, was contemplating undergraduate marriage, he might have added a third to his list of activities for postponement. Until Greats were over, he said we should become neither philanthropists nor politicians, nor husbands and fathers. Let me say at once that he would have gone on to say, as he said to us about philanthropy, "When you finish, go and philanthropise as much as you like." As he was happily married to a slightly alarming Mistress, I think he would have said, "When you have taken your degree, I hope you will be as happy as I am."

My plea for an inquiry depends on seven practical problems, and I think it would be helpful if I was allowed to read them out. These are the practical problems upon which I want to express no judgment myself, but to get an impartial judgment from somebody not directly concerned either with the Ministry or the universities themselves. They are as follows: the total number of university students to aim at; the method of selecting students; the size of particular universities; the growing emphasis on research; the relation of university education to other advanced education for adults in Britain; the study of university methods outside Britain and the changes of social conditions and their effect on university life. My plea for a study of those problems—and any others added by other noble Lords—implies no reflection whatever upon the universities themselves. The case for examining our universities is not, as I think has been suggested by some statisticians, that we are behind other countries in the number of university students in relation to the total population. I say at once that I frankly do not accept at all the figures I have seen on that subject. I do not believe the figure of 1 student to 163 inhabitants in Soviet Russia. I know they are not doing the same as the 1 to 611 inhabitants in Britain, and I am sure the same remark applies elsewhere. I do not think we are behind.

My case for an inquiry starts from the increase of our leisure and from the changed world in which we have to live. Growing leisure should be turned to good use and to civilisation rather than to idleness. That is one of the functions of the universities. To hold our own, in a new world we must know more. Universities are the instrument for spreading knowledge, for increasing knowledge, and for making good citizens. All our universities are different from one another in their local problems and their relation to surroundings. I do not believe that our universities, as they stand to-day, are a good subject for drafting a Bill at once by the best possible civil servant, or even by a committee as admirable as the University Grants Committee have proved themselves in practice. Any serious change in the treatment of universities should be preceded by an inquiry as distinguished, impartial and thorough as it can be made. This is my final point. Our universities are nothing if not free and self-governing, and each with a character of its own. Somehow they must be kept so, in spite of having become a public service drawing so largely on the taxpayers. University making and management are among the most important of all the applied social sciences; and the basis of all applied science is free experiment.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I begin by repeating the thanks that I am sure we all wish to tender to the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, for initiating, not for the first time, a debate on this very important question of the universities, and also for his suggestive and wide-ranging speech. I should also express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, under whom I served for many years on the staff of the London School of Economics, but who afterwards gave me tit for tat by serving under me for a short period when I was President of the Board of Trade: he made out an ideal scheme for rationing fuel, but, owing to political opposition, it could never be introduced. Afterwards, he was kind enough to start the building of two New Towns in County Durham when I was the Minister responsible for that matter. Therefore, he and I have reciprocal regard.

I also wish to say one more personal word, echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said about the noble Lord, Lord Bridges. He is one of the outstanding public servants of our time, and this House is enriched by his presence. It will be further enriched by the speech which we are all eagerly awaiting. He is not only the son of a Poet Laureate; he is also a man of great distinction in many fields, including the field of university education, of which he has considerable knowledge; and he therefore has also chosen an apt occasion on which to address your Lordships' House for the first time. He was for nearly twenty years Secretary to the Cabinet and Permanent Secretary at the Treasury, and those twenty years included the two last years of Mr. Chamberlain, the whole of Sir Winston Churchill's Coalition Government, the whole period of Lord Attlee's post-war Administration, and also Sir Winston Churchill's post-war "second innings". Therefore the noble Lord has seen a great deal of history close up, and has also helped to make it; and I repeat, we are all looking forward eagerly to what he will say later in our debate.

If I may make one personal reference, again echoing what the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe said, it so happens that immediately after the war I was able to play some small part in the early post-war expansion of the universities. And I was very proud to do so, because for me, as I think for many others, at the end of the war the universities stood out clearly in my vision of the new Britain which we were all determined to build when we had at last defeated all our enemies. And indeed great progress was made. At the Treasury I was well served by the University Grants Committee at that time, of which Sir Walter Moberly was then Chairman, and I was well advised at the Treasury not only by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, but by Sir Alan Barlow, author of the famous Barlow Report which the Government of the day adopted, the aim of which was to double the total number of university students within a period of ten years—and very nearly, though not quite, that target was hit within that time.

Much may be said about the question of quantity versus quality in the matters of university expansion. For my part, while taking account, I hope, of other considerations, I am strongly of opinion that we still need a very considerable increase in the total number of students in our universities. Let us not complicate the simple. I am sure that that is nationally necessary, and it is within the terms of reference that were just quoted of the University Grants Committee. We do need more students. As to the question of the article to which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred, about how we stand relatively to others, I will, if I may, touch upon that matter later; but I am quite sure that, in terms of the numbers of the university population, we should all have an expansionist bias. I hope that as regards the universities we are all expansionist now. Of course there must be an appropriate increase in the number of teachers—and good teachers—and all the other requirements necessary to enable the young men and women coming into the universities to make the best of their opportunities. But all this, in a sense, is ancillary.

As to the target for the total number of students, my noble friend Lord Pakenham initiated a debate on this subject in 1957 and ventured an estimate of 176,000. He said that by 1966 we should have in Great Britain a university population of 176,000. Many cautious men commented that this was a wildly excessive figure. I hope that my noble friend was not unduly discouraged by these cautionary tales but was rather perhaps comforted by the words of Blake in one of the mystic books: The road of excess is the path to the palace of wisdom", where we are now arriving, because very soon we shall hit the Pakenham target, if I may so describe it, of 176,000. I will quote a few (but only a few) more figures in a moment. It has been shown that 176,000 was not an excessive estimate in relation to the desirability of rapid expansion and the practical possibility of achieving it. In March this year, we have been informed the Chancellor of the Exchequer asked the University Grants Committee to discuss with the universities a further expansion by 1970 of from 35,000 to 40,000. That further expansion would be over and above the present target figure of 135,000 for the later 1960's. So, without wearying your Lordships' House with much arithmetic, I can say that we have reached a point where the target is set at 170,000 to 175,000, very close indeed to what my noble friend Lord Pakenham indicated three years ago. I hope that in the coming years we shall not set our sights in respect of total numbers too low.

Now I come to the article which has been referred to (the author has not been named), by Mr. Bowden, who is the Principal of the Manchester College of Science and Technology and who published a very startling article in the Universities Quarterly of January, 1960. His figures are designed to show that the proportion of the population of this country in full-time attendance at universities is much smaller than in most other countries. So that, according to Mr. Bowden's researches, in this competition we are almost at the bottom of the world league, which is not prima facie a creditable position for this country. He quotes figures in this article which I commend to anyone who may be interested in it. And according to a table he gives—I will comment on the reasoning in a minute—in the proportion of population in full-time attendance at university not only are we much behind the two giants, American and Russian (we are accustomed to being assured of our inferiority to them, though we need not believe all we are assured), but, what is more striking, on his figures we are also behind France and Belgium, both Germanies and Italy (I take only a few names), besides Yugoslavia and our own Commonwealth countries of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Indeed, he gives a long list, with the statistics of most of the known countries in the world; and on his estimate the only countries below us, in terms of proportion of the population who are full-time students in universities are Ireland, Norway and Turkey.

Of course definitions of universities vary, and standards within universities vary—this is platitudinous. But the basis of Mr. Bowden's argument is very clear. He allows the different countries to declare what are universities within their countries. He leaves it to them to declare what are their universities, and to declare what is the total number of students attending at these universities. This is a perfectly intelligible process and, so far as it goes, logical; and however these figures may be qualified or in part explained away, I cannot think that the position is at all a happy one for this country. Certainly it reinforces the view which I put earlier: that, whatever else we do—and we must do a lot more—we must very substantially increase the numbers of our young men and women who are full-time students in our universities.

I agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, and I think Lord Beveridge agreed with him: that if we are going to set forth on a substantial further increase, the main part of this must fall upon what I prefer to call the more modern and younger universities. I warmly agree that Cambridge and Oxford—I prefer to put them in that way; that is the alphabetical order; whether it is also the order of merit is debatable, but I am in the habit of so describing them—should not grow much more. I think they have probably already passed the optimum size, and great congestions and difficulties are developing in both, upon which I will not elaborate. Shortly, perhaps, they should grow a little more. At Cambridge we want to see Churchill College completed and occupied, and there is one women's college which needs to be expanded up to a reasonable size—the so-called New Hall. I should hope that beyond that there will not be much growth at Cambridge in the total numbers, but that the numbers will become nearly stationary, or at any rate increase only a little more. I suspect that for Oxford the position is not dissimilar.

These two universities will, of course—this is one of the facts which might be looked into from various angles by one of these Committees of Inquiry—and to some extent deservedly, have an overwhelming prestige with large numbers of schoolmasters and parents over and above all other universities in this Island. In some respects that is perhaps not quite a healthy situation, but I think that this overwhelming prestige of our two oldest universities (I believe there were some medieval institutions started before them elsewhere) will stop or diminish only when some of the younger and modern universities have increased their own reputations, especially with schoolmasters and parents, and when some of these younger universities have become famous in their own excellence, at least in certain studies, and. I would add, when they have also increased their social facilities and amenities in general, including, but not only including more and better halls of residence. But I shall return to that subject later.

At the present time, as I understand, a further increase in numbers is being discussed by the University Grants Committee with each university separately. That, I think, is the right procedure under our arrangements. But I hope that the Treasury will strengthen the hand of the U.G.C. in these discussions by assuring them that there will be an increased total financial provision to be distributed by them among various universities over the coming years; and I hope that the universities, when facing the question of further growth, will be imaginative and audacious and prepared to co-operate in working out plans which will, I have no doubt, be suggested to them by the University Grants Committee, in some cases for substantial additional numbers.

I, too, am most anxious that a number of new universities should be created, should become strong, and should play their full part in the total expansion which I have been urging. Perhaps one of Her Majesty's Ministers who is going to reply will give us in the course of his remarks a progress report about the promotion of new universities. Many paragraphs appear in the paper, and I meet various people who are genuinely keen upon one or other of the new universities and are anxious to take part in raising funds, and generally promoting and assisting the growth of these new institutions. We know of the University of Sussex situated at Brighton. I had the pleasure of talking to the new principal, Sir John Fulton, who did a splendid job of work at Swansea University College before he came to Brighton, and who, I think, is one of the most lively, dynamic and talented of the younger men holding high administrative posts in the university world. I gather that they will fairly soon become, if I may so put it, a going concern.

Then we read of York and Norwich To both of them I wish all success—I am sure we all do. I think that these are two admirable sites. I do not think that Cambridge is afraid of any unfair competition from Norwich. We read that their creation has been accepted in principle—that was the phrase I saw—and I hope that we may hear how they are getting on. Then I gather that there is considerable pressure building up behind Canterbury as a claimant for a new university. I should think that Canterbury also would be a good site for a new university. But are there any more? I hope that either the noble Earl who is to follow me or the Lord Privy Seal later on will give us a progress report both as to what is contemplated in regard to new universities and, in particular, whether any others, possibly those which have been men- tioned by myself, are, as it were, on the road up and are likely to gain this particular status soon. I am sure that we must have new universities—perhaps a few more than those I have mentioned—in order to give reasonable opportunities to people coming from different parts of the country, and to adjust the present geographical distribution.

Now I wish to say a word about the University Grants Committee. This body has been described by previous speakers. Under Governments of both Parties since the war it has become the chosen instrument of the Government for university development, and in my judgment it has done a very good job. Sir Keith Murray, the present chairman, is proving himself as good an educational statesman as his predecessor. I venture to claim that the U.G.C. is a characteristic creation of British pragmatic genius or, if you prefer, British administrative common sense. It has the confidence of the universities, which, after all, is a most important consideration, and it also has the confidence, I believe, of the Treasury, which is its paymaster. Therefore it is a good starting point, and I myself would not change the present system whereby the U.G.C. acts for the Government in relation to university development. But I do support the proposed new high-level committee of inquiry which is adumbrated in the Motion, and which has been referred to both by Lord Simon of Wythenshawe and by Lord Beveridge. I will say a word about that in a moment. I think that such a body is needed, not to replace the U.G.C., but to work with it and assist it to do its work.

I am going now to make a blunt remark about the Ministry of Education. In my view, the Ministry of Education should not intervene directly in university matters. I wish my opinion about this to be quite clear. Others may disagree with it—indeed, I know that my noble friend beside me does, but I shall seek to convert him to my opinion. In my view, the Ministry of Education has plenty to do as things are—not only all the tasks which the Ministry of Education a few years ago had to tackle, but the new ones crowding in upon the Ministry by reason of the great development of teacher training colleges, with their new three-year course, which is going to lead to a greater volume of work for the Ministry and the teacher training colleges. There is a great mass of activity upon which the Ministry of Education quite clearly can properly embark, over and above the university field altogether. To seek to aggrandise the Ministry of Education at the expense of the University Grants Committee in the field of university education would, in my view, be a great mistake. Nor do I believe there is much backing behind such a claim.

I remember my friend Miss Ellen Wilkinson, who was Minister of Education in the first years when I was at the Treasury, coming to me on this subject one day. I suspect the idea had been put into her head by some of her officials, eager for new kingdoms to conquer—what are called in another context "imperialistic motives". She and I were very good friends, and that made it all the easier. She was a graduate of Manchester and a very eager personality. After a friendly talk, she was convinced that I intended to do my best for universities at large, not excluding Manchester and other regional universities. I said to her, at the end, "Will you leave this one with me?", and she said, "Yes". I am sure that it is better left so, because, to begin with, to aggrandise the Ministry of Education in the university field would be most unpopular with the universities; of that I am well assured. I have much evidence.

Bluntly, universities do not trust the Ministry of Education as they trust the University Grants Committee. They are quite clear as to their preference. In the second place, anyone who knows the simple facts of life in Whitehall will know that the Treasury have far more power for good or for evil, under all Governments and under any Chancellor of Exchequer, than the Ministry of Education, either at ministerial or official level, can ever hope to have. I regret to say that some Ministers of Education within living memory have been only marginally in the Cabinet; and the universities could not have a more powerful friend at court, or in the Cabinet, than the Treasury. And I believe it is both their wish and in their interest that this relationship should remain.

May I just say one word about the proposals that have been made for inquiries. It is often said in an easy way that we ought to have a Royal Commission on the universities, and I admit that at some stages I have been attracted by that idea; but on second thoughts I do not feel that a Royal Commission is the best instrument for what is desired by those who have spoken to-day or those outside who take an interest in this matter. The field of university education has now widened so much and is now so very wide that even the most devoted and talented Royal Commission would certainly take quite a long time—several years—to cover the whole field in any adequate way. There is also the danger if they were appointed, that while they were sitting great delay would follow, where what we need is not delay but vigorous forward motion, largely uncontested (provided the money is provided), in many sectors of the university front.

I believe a much better plan than that for a Royal Commission would be what I have called, for short, in preparing these notes, some kind of high-level Committee of Inquiry, something authoritative and distinguished in personnel but not a Royal Commission, and not charged with such wide terms of reference. There could be a series of inquiries stemming from one standing Committee of Inquiry which might run on for some years. These are details on which I do not pretend to dogmatise, but I suggest that it should be some body not less authoritative than a Royal Commission, which would help university progress and the University Grants Committee by separately studying and reporting from time to time on a great variety of questions relating to the universities. Subjects such as have been suggested by the noble Lords, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe and Lord Beveridge, and others, could be added. I believe that this would be a better approach to the subject than contemplating a Royal Commission in the ordinary sense of the term.

There are only two other matters on which I wish to say a few words. First, with regard to halls of residence, in my view—and many others (though not all) would agree—we cannot have a true university without a substantial residential element; and without such an element the best that we could hope to have is a glorified day school with the working day from 9 to 5 and what is called in various official Reports "the 9 to 5 mentality". That is well enough if we cannot do better, but in my view it is much preferable to do better and gradually to inject into all universities claiming university status a considerable residential element. I am not wanting to be precise or pedantic as to how substantial that element should be. I would simply say that the larger the better, within possibilities.

This view of the essential nature of a substantial residential element, although it has not always been accepted in university circles, has been rapidly gaining ground in recent years in a great many places where a few years ago it would not have been seriously entertained. I would recommend to all who are seriously interested in this subject what I regard as a first-class work, Halls of Residence, published by a subcommittee of the University Grants Committee in 1957. That is a first-class study of both the general argument and of particular problems, including details of how to administer halls of residence, where the warden should live, the formation of what was called the "high table", senior common room and so on. All these arguments are admirably deployed in this Report.

As the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has explained to your Lordships in detail, the present position is very patchy in some of our universities. At Cambridge and Oxford, after all, they have only 56 per cent. of the men and 75 per cent. of the women living in college at any given time. Their figure of 56 per cent., or just over half, for men must be taken in relation to the fact that very often an undergraduate who is up for three years is not in college for more than one or two years; for relatively few are there for the whole of the three years. If one must take a shot at this and indicate an estimate that is not totally out of reach, I should like to see the overall average of residents in the halls of our universities brought up within a reasonable period of years to about 50 per cent. Nor do I think that that is quite out of reach if we study carefully the detailed figures, to some of which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred.

The percentage at a number of our younger universities—those born only in this century—is already just over 50 per cent. while others are well within striking distance of it. The University of Nottingham which, on such evidence as I have, I regard as one of the most lively and hopeful of our young universities, announced last month that they are to build six new halls of residence over the next few years—five for men and one for women. Roughly speaking (and I took some note of the details) the halls of residence for men will have just over 200 students and the hall for women, 150. When all these are built, Nottingham will be housing in halls of residence just over 50 per cent., not of its present number but of the number expected after a further period of expansion, by the year 1968. If Nottingham can do that, it shows that others can do no less, with equal effort. Another point which I must mention in connection with the Nottingham announcement, because it seems to me most admirable, is that they are to provide suites for six resident dons in each of their halls, and, in addition, wardens' houses. It is, I believe, most important.

We often think that more halls of residence are needed in order to enable more undergraduate students to sleep in and enjoy the benefits of a residential life. But they are not less important to enable a number of dons to sleep in. I am very glad that Nottingham are taking this initiative, because it is most desirable to mix up some of the dons with the undergraduates in one community; and that can be effectively done only if the dons have a room of their own (I will come back before I finish to the reform of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, of which I was one of the beneficiaries) and if there is established a mixed community of those of undergraduate age and those who are somewhat older and who are engaged in teaching in the university.

I am delighted to see from the Halls of Residence Report that I have been referring to, that in some of the new halls of residence being planned for some of the younger universities they are even going so far as to provide married quarters. If we have to deal with the sociological fact of the earlier marriage habit extending also to university teachers, it is surely most desirable that we should have some facilities, as good and as agreeable as we can make them, for dons who marry, so that they may occupy married quarters in the halls of residence attached to the university.

If I may for a moment be reminiscent, when I look back to my golden years at Cambridge, not long before the First War, next after my friendships with my contemporaries, which I valued most of all, came my friendships with some of the younger dons in King's who lived in college and regarded it as one of their chief duties—I emphasise that—and as one of their great pleasures to have a series of friendships, personal friendships, year after year, with a number of the undergraduates passing through the college. I am sure that that is one of the things that should give the greatest value of all to a university life: to be on easy terms of friendship and frankness with a number of dons who are not yet so old as to be past understanding what the young man thinks; and the recruitment and appointment of dons should be so regulated as always to allow a considerable number of persons in that age grouping to be available.

But it is, of course, a platitude that all these dons with whom, as undergraduates, we used to mix had rooms of their own in college, to which one could go and sit down and talk about anything under the sun, without inhibition and without restraint. That was one of the most valuable elements—and, I believe, still is, when it can be arranged—in the education of young men and women. It is essential—and the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has already referred to this point—that the younger and developing universities should aim at providing teachers, particularly those who are going to live in halls of residence with the younger men and women, with at least a room, and not too small a room, of their own. When the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, was carrying out a number of revolutionary improvements in the London School of Economics just after the end of the First War, it was indeed quite a sensation when the reforms to which he has referred were brought into actual reality; when all of us who were then on the teaching staff were able to see, and chat quietly, freely and confidentially with, students, in a room entirely of our own. That is still far from being universal in the younger universities, and I hope that the University Grants Committee will be encouraged to see that this most desirable provision is universal.

There is only one more point on which I wish to make some very brief remarks, and that relates to what I may call the Commonwealth background to our discussion to-day. We have all followed with great interest the Commonwealth Educational Conference that was held at Oxford last year, the first of its kind ever to be convened, when many admirable schemes were adopted, including, among others, the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan. Your Lordships will be familiar with that scheme and with others that also have been adopted and are to be put into operation. It is a most admirable development, bringing out the simple truth that no member of the Commonwealth can live unto itself alone in education, any more than it can in other matters: that we must co-operate and seek exchanges and movement of persons from one place to another and from one occupation to another.

The schemes devised at this Commonwealth Educational Conference will be mainly of benefit to post-graduates of universities. The scholarship plan that I have just mentioned lays down that normally the people who will benefit from this scheme will be graduates who will travel to some other university than that at which they graduated, mostly post-graduates of universities in different parts of the Commonwealth and also persons concerned with teacher training and technical education throughout the Commonwealth. There are great possibilities for these exchanges and ideas, all admirable schemes. But there is one noticeable gap in this new Commonwealth educational network. Nothing is proposed to help boys and girls leaving school in this country to go as undergraduates, not post-graduates, to universities in the Commonwealth overseas. Yet this would surely be a most desirable development, among all the others. Many of the universities in the overseas Commonwealth are now admirable universities with high standards.

I beg your Lordships' leave to refer, in a sentence or two, to a scheme which has been devised in an effort to begin to fill this particular gap, an effort made by the Drapers' Company, a company which has often in the past pioneered and financed new educational developments in this country. And since I had the honour to be the Master of this Company last year, and so was personally involved in the discussion of this project, I was delighted to read in The Times last Wednesday, May 4, an account of the newly-created Drapers' Commonwealth Scholarships. It may be that some of your Lordships also noticed this account. What the Company is doing is to award, as a pilot scheme, nine such scholarships to be available at undergraduate level at universities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We have within the past month chosen the first three scholars. One is going to Canada, to the University of British Columbia; one to Australia, to the University of Western Australia, at Perth; and the third to New Zealand, to the University of Canterbury, at Christchurch. I hope my Lords, that this new venture, in creating what I think is a special kind of new educational opportunity within the Commonwealth, may both arouse interest and, perhaps, give a lead which others, each in their own way, may decide to follow.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank the three noble Lords who have spoken with such great authority for the very constructive and helpful observations which they have all made on this extremely important subject. There are a great many more of your Lordships to whose speeches we are all looking forward, and I think it will save time if I confine myself now to those matters which are the responsibility of the Treasury, and not of the Ministry of Education—that is to say, to the policy and planning of the University Grants Committee. My noble friend Lord Hailsham, when he comes to wind up, will no doubt have something to say on questions such as how we can best co-ordinate the activities of our universities with those of other educational institutions, such as the colleges of advanced technology, in the light of the many interesting things which we shall no doubt hear as the debate proceeds.

This Motion, my Lords, calls for a Committee of Inquiry. There are, of course, a great many official Inquiries which are continually going on, usually with very fruitful results, into a great many aspects of adult education. The Government certainly do not rule out the possibility of a more general Inquiry such as the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, appeared to have in mind, provided, as the noble Lord was himself very careful to mention, that it would not in any way delay either the developments which have already been decided upon or those further developments which might be decided upon during the time this Committee of Inquiry was sitting. We certainly do not rule out the possibility if it should seem to be useful, but I should like to submit to your Lordships that the University Grants Committee is in itself a permanent Commission of Inquiry. It is not simply an administrative body whose only function is to allocate sums of public money from year to year: it has the function of advising the Chancellor of the Exchequer about university policy for as far ahead as it is reasonable or practicable for anyone to look; and it has the duty of trying to ascertain what is the best way of carrying out the general aims and objects of the Government in regard to our universities.

A former master of my own college and that of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, the late Lord Lindsay of Birker, in a speech in your Lordships' House on this very subject in 1947, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 147, col. 708]: I have an uneasy suspicion that if only the University Grants Committee, or even that other great body … the Vice-Chancellors' Committee were asked to report on this matter"— that is, to look at the whole university set-up with the idea, perhaps, of some revolutionary change— you would find how surprisingly satisfactory everything was. But, my Lords, I think that the events of the last thirteen years have shown that the late Lord Lindsay of Birker was doing some injustice to the University Grants Committee in suggesting that it might be too easily disposed to be satisfied with things as they are. The policy of every Government, from the time of the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, when he was Chancellor in 1946, to the present time, has been, I think, that we should aim, first, at a general and rapid increase in the total number of university places: trying to provide for the greater proportion of boys and girls leaving schools who are capable of going to universities; and, next, that we should give a greater weight to science in our universities. We do not want to achieve a greater number of science students by reducing the number of art students. What we contemplate is that, of the general increase, a larger proportion will be among the scientists; and that is what we are still aiming at.

My Lords, one thing which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said was that, although he thought the Government had been fairly generous in their annual grants for recurring expenditure they had been far from generous, until lately, with building grants. Of course, that is so. I often think that when difficulties disappear people are very soon apt to forget about them; and I think that quite a number of people are apt to forget that, for the first ten years after the war, we were obliged to have very severe building rationing and restriction, and that building restrictions were not lifted until 1956. Until 1956—that is, for the ten-year period, 1947 to 1956—the amount of the building grant given through the U.G.C. to the universities was at the rate of £4 million a year. In 1957, when building conditions had become easier, it went up to £10½ million; for 1958 and 1959 it went up to £12 million a year; and in the present four-year period, from 1960 to 1963, it was provisionally agreed at £15 million a year—and that is for the moment the accepted figure.

My Lords, in spite of the difficulties caused by the shortage of building labour and materials in the earlier years after the war, I think the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, would agree that, from the time when he introduced the wider terms of reference for the University Grants Committee, not only has it acted with foresight, looking a long way ahead, but frequently—indeed, usually—its performance has been better than its promise. It was in his time that the sub-committee of the U.G.C., the Barlow Committee, recommended the doubling of the university output of scientists and technologists in the following ten years. Together with a substantial increase in the arts, this target was in fact achieved in five years, when the number of full-time students in science and technology was increased from 13,000 before the war to 27,000 in 1952–53.

Then in 1952 there was a further demand for more graduates in science and technology. The Government decided to double the size of the Imperial College in ten years, and major developments in higher technological education were put in hand at a number of universities outside London. In 1956, the Report of the Scientific Manpower Committee, which was accepted by the Government, gave the universities and technical colleges the target of doubling their 1955 output of scientists and technologists by the late 'sixties—that is to say, to about 20,000, compared with the then existing level of 10,000. The universities are responding fully to this demand, and it is likely to be met. The number of full-time students in both pure and applied sciences has increased from 28,000 in 1954–55 to 40,000 in 1959–60, which is an increase of 43 per cent. in five years.

Now I think that if we look at the present programme of general expansion put forward by the University Grants Committee, we shall find it is perhaps in many ways relevant to the suggestion that we should have an inquiry—or, at least, it possibly throws some light on the kind of thing which should or should not be considered at any new inquiry. I will not go back any further than 1957, the year in which Lord Pakenham made the estimate which has been referred to. In that year the University Grants Committee advised the Chancellor that, on the evidence available at that time, they considered that places in the universities should be made available for 124,000 students by the late 1960's, with the probability that this number would have to be increased by 10 per cent. to 135,000. They suggested that this expansion could be achieved in the existing universities, together with one new one—the new University College of East Sussex, to which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, referred in his opening speech.

I know that the University Grants Committee would have agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, in setting the target much higher had it not been for two considerations, both of which would have to be taken into account by anyone conducting an inquiry, whether it was the Committee itself or some other body. First, it seemed unlikely that at that time the universities could have carried the higher building programmes which this target would have entailed. One very important factor in planning is what the universities feel they are actually able to undertake from a physical point of view. The other consideration was this. It was evident then to the University Grants Committee that there was what is called a "tail" of students in some universities—that is, not enough people competing for places to make sure that those who were admitted were capable of taking advantage of a university education, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, put it. It was thought in some universities, though of course not in all, that an increase in competition for entry was desirable.

In the light of this advice at that time, the Chancellor authorised a building programme of the figure I have mentioned, £15 million a year for each of the four years 1960 to 1963. He was looking, on the Committee's advice, three years ahead. He did not exclude the possibility of an increase in these figures if the need were shown and if the economic situation allowed. It was recognised that this provision for building did not meet the universities full requirements for a student population of 135,000 by the late 'sixties, but that it would provide the most essential buildings. While we cannot go beyond the figure in any official statement at present, I think it is evident that it is the desire of everybody that more building should be done. Indeed, that is one of the many reasons for protecting our economy against the harmful results of inflationary pressure—one of the things which might upset all these plans, whether they are considered cautious or optimistic.

Last summer, when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, was proved to have been right in his intelligent anticipatory estimate, the University Grants Committee reviewed the situation in the light of the fresh evidence supplied by the Ministry of Education and the Scottish Education Department, that more children than had been expected were staying on at school until seventeen years or over. It was clear then than the potential student population in the late 'sixties and early 'seventies would be much higher than their plans had provided for. The Committee also considered the position in the universities and concluded that their experience in handling the larger building programmes in the years following 1957 would now enable building programmes to be increased. It was also held in the universities that the quality of recent entries resulting from increasing competition for entry had risen to an extent that a deduction for "tail" was no longer justified—that is to say, it was no longer necessary to encourage increased competition in some universities.

On the other hand, in advising the Chancellor on a target, the University Grants Committee had to have regard to the likelihood of obtaining sufficient staff of adequate qualifications, a problem which, of course, will have to be kept continuously under review. Therefore, it was felt that whatever plans were made, they should be kept fairly flexible. The Committee sought and obtained from the Chancellor authority to enter into discussions with the universities in order to ascertain whether, as a first stage—and I would emphasise that phrase—the further expansion of 35,000 to 40,000 places beyond the present target of 135,000 would be practicable and what the capital cost would be. That gave us the figure, mentioned earlier in the debate, of 175,000, which vindicates what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said—though, of course, for all we know, we might find that his estimate was even too little. But it is on this basis that discussions are now proceeding.

It is clear from the discussions which the University Grants Committee have already had that the universities generally are now in a mood for expansion—they are feeling more buoyant than they were two years ago—provided, of course, that the necessary funds are made available. The response of the universities in general and their willingness to face the often considerable academic and physical difficulties of expansion have been most encouraging and the Committee are confident that the target increase can be achieved at the existing universities, together with some contribution from the establishment of new university institutions.

It was also last summer the University Grants Committee set up a subcommittee to examine applications from places which desire to be considered as possible sites for new institutions. When it became clear that there was an urgent need for at least some new ones, the University Grants Committee, on the advice of this sub-committee, got authority from the Chancellor to go ahead with plans for the development of the two new university colleges which are now projected at York and Norwich. Both York and Norwich have been considering the foundation of universities for a number of years and their plans had reached the stage where immediate action was possible. The noble Lord, Lord Dalton, asked if I could name any other possible places. I cannot name any others, but the University Grants Committee will continue to consider whether there is a need for further new foundations. That is being considered all the time.


My Lords, there is, is there not, truth in the rumours which circulate that Canterbury is very eager and has not been turned down?


My Lords, that is a rumour which I cannot either contradict or encourage. I cannot go beyond York and Norwich at the present moment. These are two which have been decided on. Of course, this further large expansion of the universities which is now contemplated must raise the question of whether staff can be recruited in adequate numbers and quality to cope with the additional number of students. That is a difficult question, although the present revision of academic salaries may help. Your Lordships will possibly have noted the statement made by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place on Tuesday last. He began by saying [OFFICIAL. REPORT, Commons, Vol. 622 (No. 105), col. 56]: I am satisfied that a revision of the salaries of academic staff at the universities is now necessary if regard is to be had both to salary increases in comparable professions and to the need to retain and recruit staff of adequate calibre during the forthcoming period of great expansion in the universities. It is considered by the U.G.C. that we should attach particular importance in choosing sites for new universities to those factors which will help in attracting good staff—that is, cultural amenities, proximity to other learned institutions, libraries, housing for staff and school facilities for their families. We think that in deciding where to put the new university you should look for a place which the dons will like, rather than a place near to the homes of large numbers of potential new students, because students are becoming more mobile while the dons are not becoming more easy to please.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, and other noble Lords have laid so much stress on halls of residence. In an Answer which I gave a few weeks ago to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I mentioned that the University Grants Committee had now produced plans, and got them approved by the architects, which would result in halls of residence being built at a cost of only £1,300 for each student, compared with the previous figure of £2,000, without lowering reasonable standards of accommodation. I am crateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, for giving me the figures in regard to Nottingham, which I think are most interesting. It is certainly the intention of the U.G.C. and of the Government that more students of more universities in all parts of the country should enjoy those advantages to which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred, and which he and I both enjoyed at Balliol—although I hope that perhaps the external appearance of some of these buildings will be more endurable than ours.

One thing which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said was that the percentage of students in this country compared unfavourably with any other country in the civilised world. But I think that, if the noble Lord were to examine or analyse the figures upon which that conclusion was based, he would agree that they are not really comparable at all. In nearly all cases figures of students in foreign countries include part-time students, which ours do not. As for the comparison which he made with the United States, as any of your Lordships who have been to universities there will have noticed, the students at the age of 18 or 19 are learning the same kind of things as are learned here in the fifth form at public or secondary schools. You see them sitting in a large class, with a blackboard, being taught what schoolboys two years younger, at the age of 16 or 17, are being taught in Great Britain. What is really comparable to an undergraduate course here is the post-graduate course in America. There is, in fact, a well-known saying in the United States that it does not do a young man any real harm to go to college provided he is willing to learn something after he has graduated.

There is another difference which is perhaps worth mentioning. In Great Britain the number of university students who either give up the attempt before trying to take a degree, or are unfortunate enough to be sent down or requested to go away, amounts to only 10 per cent., but in the United States I am informed that the number of students who take their departure without taking their degree is no less than 50 per cent. When you take all these considerations together, I think that, if the noble Lord went on one of the visits to American universities which he has recommended, he would perhaps not feel quite so much dismay and concern as he displayed in the course of his speech.


My Lords, I should like to ask a question. As I have intimated several times, I know a little about this matter. We always hear the kind of abuse of American universities to which we have just been treated by the noble Earl. I wonder whether he could induce the University Grants Committee to investigate the matter and let us have the correct figures.


The figures I have given are obtained from them. I do not accept the statement that I wish to indulge in any kind of abuse. My remarks were not intended to be abusive, but merely to correct false conclusions which might be drawn from figures which are not really comparable.

One of the greatest problems, I think, about modern government, which applies to many other aspects of policy besides education, is the problem of reconciling national planning with individual freedom. That has some bearing on the problem of entry from the schools, which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. So long as you do not force people to go to a particular university but give them a choice of entry, which we do, I think the problem of entry is always bound to be a complex and difficult one; and it has an even greater bearing on the grants, the great subventions given by the State to all the universities. As the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said, 70 per cent. of their incomes comes from the University Grants Committee and another 7 per cent. from research grants from various Government Departments, making three-quarters altogether, which is an enormous proportion of their income.

We want to ensure that, in spite of these great subventions from public funds, our universities do not become a kind of branch of the Civil Service, but retain their freedom and independence which has always been of such great value all through our history, both in England and in Scotland, to our culture and to our liberty. The universities themselves are always extremely anxious that these grants should be paid to them on the direct responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and not through the Ministry of Education, because they seem to think that Ministers of Education, whether it is Ellen Wilkinson or my right honourable friend, often have too many ideas of their own, whereas the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it is my right honourable friend or the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, is always a docile and amiable creature—


Bereft of ideas.


—who will give them all the money they want without imposing too vexatious conditions as to the manner in which it will be spent.

The University Grants Committee is appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with specific instructions to preserve the freedom of the universities; to see that their freedom to teach in the way they think right is not impaired, and that they are also left with the freedom to spend their block grant—that is, the recurring grant—as they think fit. The University Grants Committee has the task—and it is a great and delicate task—of trying to guide the universities so that they will spend these great and growing sums of public money in the way which is most consistent with the national interest and yet, at the same time, retain their autonomy and their freedom. It would not be right, when we are talking about our programme of expansion over the next 10 or 15 years, to give any more optimistic figures than those of which we can be absolutely certain at this moment; and it may be that the figures I have given your Lordships this afternoon will be out of date before very long. It is the policy of the Government to expand our universities at the highest rate which is consistent with the highest standard of teaching.

I submit to your Lordships that both the University Grants Committee and the university authorities, with whom it is their duty to collaborate, have justified the confidence which has been placed in them by the Government.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I hope I may receive an especially generous draught of the tolerance which your Lordships are good enough to extend to those who address you for the first time. I was given two pieces of advice. One was to wait a good long time before I addressed your Lordships, and the second was to attend as many debates as I could before I addressed your Lordships. I have carried out the first piece of advice to excess and very largely, I fear, neglected the second. I am afraid it is one of the occasions where excess and neglect cannot be balanced one against the other.

I must start by declaring an interest, in that for the last few years I have had a small finger in the administrative pie of three universities—universities of very different ages and sizes. But, more important than that, I have for many years taken a wide interest in the affairs of universities; indeed, their well-being has seemed to me to be one of the things that matters most for the nation as a whole, and it is certainly one of the subjects which always move me most deeply. I want to start by saying a few things about the University Grants Committee although, thanks to what has already been said, I shall not have to say as much as I intended. To show my impartiality, I shall make two very mild criticisms as to how the system works. Notwithstanding that, I firmly believe that the system is far the best system in operation in any country of the world.

It has two supreme merits. The first is that it protects the complete academic freedom of the universities, notwithstanding the fact that to-day the State, very rightly, suggests the university subjects in which expansion is most needed. It is no small thing that each of the universities should be left free to settle the ways in which the various subjects are studied, the different lines on which research should be pursued, and that there should be no bias in favour of conformity to one single monstrous pattern of academic status. In these days of large organisations and powerful interests, all of which tend to exercise quite legitimate pressures to secure their own ends, it is surely a very important thing that the universities should do their thinking, their teaching and their research in their own way. The second reason why the present system is so valuable is that it combines a large degree of self-government with a highly responsible and economical administration. Indeed, it may be that on occasions it is almost too economical. But I am sure that the trust which has been reposed in the University Grants Committee by successive Chancellors of the Exchequer has always been justified.

Now for my two rather mild criticisms. They are criticisms of tendencies and not of men, for no one has a greater respect than I have for the very able men and women who have run the University Grants Committee during the last thirty years, and for their vigorous administration and wise leadership. I believe that the expansion of our universities since the war has been one of our success stories, although there is a great deal more still to do. I admit that I have sometimes thought that it might have been carried out a little more quickly if not quite so much emphasis had always been spent on making sure the amount of money which was needed—and I am now thinking mainly of building programmes—or the precise amount which the university could or ought to spend.

I will not emphasise the point after the comforting words of the noble Earl, which promised that money for building programmes will be more readily available in the future, or so I understood him to say. I am not going to quote figures. I should prefer to quote the Bible: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. I know that "running over" is too much to ask for, given the traditional way in which we manage our national finances. Nobody knows that better than I do. But "good measure, pressed down" I think our universities are entitled to, and I am sure the country will get good value for it. Indeed, I think that if it was found possible to carry out the expansion programme with slightly less meticulous supervision of detail, the work would be done faster, and I do not believe that it would cost any more. The experience of big building programmes shows that you cannot both urge people on and hold them back at the same time. You have to make up your mind which you are going to do.

Now for my second criticism. Nearly fifty years ago Lord Haldane was Chairman of the Committee on Grants to University Colleges. This was the Committee which recommended what has since become the University Grants Committee. One of the cardinal features of Lord Haldane's recommendations was that the Committee should not be bound to adhere to a rigid formula in the allocation of funds. I am sure it was very wise, and I sometimes wonder whether in recent years the pressure of events—I think that is a nice, impersonal way of putting it—may have led the University Grants Committee to rely just a little too much on statistical comparisons—I think they are called norms; so much space per head in the lecture room and so much space per bed in a hostel. Of course, if you are faced with the problem of persuading all your clients that they have all had a perfectly fair deal, it is wise to have a formula to fall back upon.

I have heard it suggested—and this is only a marginal criticism—that on occasion the norms have been insisted upon in rather small matters. It is important that the University Grants Committee should be in a position and should be willing, good cause being shown, to depart from these statistical norms. The universities should not all develop on precisely the same lines. If some university wants to go a bit "high, wide and I handsome" on some particular feature, I hope it will be able to do so, provided, of course, the overall cost remains reasonable. Notwithstanding these minor criticisms, I firmly believe that the present system is the right one and should not be changed. I confess that when one hears bright ideas being bruited about university reforms, one of the first things I look to see is whether any threat is intended to the present system. I was wondering if I should ask the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal whether he could give any assurance that Her Majesty's Government have no intention of impairing the system. But I am not quite sure that what has been said already does not really imply that there is no such intention.

I apologise for having spent so long on a subject which is not perhaps directly related to the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, but I hope I have said enough to persuade other noble Lords that I do not think that there is any need for an inquiry into details of organisation. I agree with many of the suggestions which have been made, that there are other matters which could usefully be looked into. But this raises two questions: first, what sort of inquiry should be held, and, secondly, what are the subjects which need inquiry.

On the nature of the inquiry, I admit that I am influenced by my history. I spent five years of my working life as Secretary to three Royal Commissions; and since then I have sat, I do not know how many times, in the witness chair, and have recently had the fun of questioning the witnesses. All this has given me a great deal of time to reflect on the equation which exists between, on the one hand, the labour of those who make these inquiries, the labour of those who are inquired into and the labour of those who prepare briefs for both of them, and, on the other, the actual results which follow from such inquiries.

I have no doubt myself that the equation is least unfavourable (your Lordships will see that I am unable to escape the double negative) when the inquiry is directed into a few quite broad and simple issues: What aims should some organisations seek to bring about? Is the policy now being pursued successful or should it be changed; and, if so, how should it be changed? These broad inquiries, to my mind, carry far more conviction, and in the end are far more valuable to the nation, than those which end in a list of 275 recommendations designed not so much to suggest broad changes in the policy which are needed as to give a blueprint of how a particular reform should be carried out. I hope, therefore, that whatever inquiries are carried out will be broad inquiries; and, like the noble Lord Lord Dalton, in a matter of this kind I do not fancy a Royal Commission, with its rather long and laboured procedure. It seems to me that something at a higher level, directed to broader issues, is what is really wanted and what will give good help.

I turn to the matters to be inquired into. I believe that the main point which needs to be inquired into to-day is nothing less than what the nation is expecting, and what the nation ought to be expecting, to get from universities—not so much in numbers as in quality. Are we looking for people with well-trained minds or for those who have acquired knowledge in a particular speciality up to a high level? How should the two be combined? Or should the emphasis be placed on one thing rather than the other? I am sure that your Lordships will hear a great deal more about this question to-day from others who have much more knowledge and experience of this than I have. But there is one thing about this question of increasing speciality and the relationship between the arts and sciences which impresses me; that is that, while everybody agrees that the situation is not right, everybody also agrees that the blame lies with somebody else. The preparatory schools say that the grammar schools and the public schools ask too much of their entrants, those who go in for examinations and scholarships. The public schools and grammar schools put the blame on the universities. All the universities can do is put the blame on the professions and industry, who demand a certain type of man or woman at the end of a university career.

This seems to make it quite clear that we shall not find an answer to these questions in any purely educational inquiry. Of course schools and universities can contribute a great deal from their own experience. They know what kinds of study and what kinds of training are best calculated to produce the sort of grown-up citizen whom we want to-day in a civilised community. They know, too, how big a part is played in the life of the university by sufficient leisure to enable the students (though I hate the word) to educate each other. But we have also to include in the inquiry what it is that the nation and the professions have come to expect and to look for from those who have finished a university education. Are they looking for the right thing or not? Or is it possible that some of their ideas on this matter may need thinking out afresh. It seems to me that a broad inquiry on these lines, including academic experience but not confined to it, is what is most needed to-day to tell us what it is that the universities ought to produce; and that seems to me to be pretty near the kernel of our problem.

Then an inquiry—whether it is the same or another one I do not know; and I express no view on this—could very properly cover the rate of expansion in the universities in the years ahead, and in particular the ways in which that expansion should be carried out. I am sure there is a good deal to be said for a fresh look at the processes by which new universities are set up. Have we abandoned, or should we abandon, the idea that regional universities should cater in any large degree for those who live in the surrounding areas? And if we have abandoned that idea, where should new universities be sited—in or near large industrial cities, at the seaside, in small cities including the cathedral cities, or where? And ought every new university to cover the whole range of university studies? What size should the new universities be; and, very important, at what size should they aim from the outset? I am sure there is much economy to be found in having clear thinking from the outset about these questions. Those, my Lords, seem to be the sort of questions which I believe could usefully be looked at at the present time in a broad way, though I express no views as to the precise body which should inquire into them.

5.17 p.m.


My Lords, we are all honoured by becoming Members of this House, but there are few of us, very few, who bring honour to the House itself, and I think we all regard Lord Bridges as belonging to that extremely select body. He has spoken to us, as we should expect, with immense wisdom, and I only hope that he will be prevailed upon to speak to us again. Whether or not he can find the time to come and listen to others, I hope that he will come whenever he can find a moment, because there is certainly no one whose services to the nation equip him more completely to guide all of us in this place.

My Lords, we are this afternoon treading on very delicate ground. We are trespassing on the innermost shrine of the Establishment, as any Rector of a university, like the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, or any other of the great university pundits would be the first to agree. The noble Lord, Lord Dalton, was kind enough to pay tribute to some forecasts of mine, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, was also very generous. It would be pleasant to, as it were, souse your Lordships in a series of tributes, but that is hardly my rôle this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who has I think left us, indicated that nearly all the subsequent speakers were men of vast experience in this field whose ideas would be absolutely sound. I think almost the only noble Lords he excepted were myself and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher.


He did not say anything about me.


He took it for granted that the noble Viscount was immensely sound. But he did mention me in rather a different tone of voice from the others, as someone who might have some ideas. That was rather a weak spot. I do not think the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, was even credited with ideas, but I am sure he will be capable of producing many. I have not come to inflict many ideas on the House, but I have one; one is more than none, and more than I sometimes produce, so I hope the House will bear with me while I develop it in a moment or two.

I must endorse what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, about the painful impression made by these figures comparing our provision of university facilities with the facilities abroad. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, I thought, if I may say so, was a shade frivolous about the whole issue, considering it has been raised often in several journals, but we look for a more solemn handling of the matter from the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, when he winds up, on this whole question of comparison. I would only echo what I think the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who seems to have left the House, I hope not in dudgeon or in distress at the answer I have given, said, that if in fact there are better figures we should have them produced. But on the figures that have in fact been exhibited to the world by reputable academic people and others for some years we come badly out of it and are practically at the bottom of the league.

Therefore, if in this remarkable atmosphere we are glad to congratulate everyone who has laid a finger on the universities or seen them through a telescope since the war, then that result is extremely bad so far as these comparisons go. Therefore I cannot join in the view that the closer we look into it, the more satisfied we shall become. I am afraid that that is not the view which I hold. While I am not the only college tutor who speaks in the debate, I am one of the relatively few Members of this House who earns his living not on the high plane of a Rector or Reader, but as a poor, beastly college tutor.

I spoke last time at great length, for 46 minutes, but the noble Viscount clocked in for 55 minutes, so I will not get into a white sheet about that now. I am going to speak briefly this afternoon. I am going to say nothing more about specialisation, except that I endorse everything that can possibly be said about the evils of specialisation. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, will stress the horrors of our present failures in that respect later on. I should have liked to speak, because I have such a high regard for the National Union of Students, about grants to students, but we all know, I think, that the Anderson Committee is now considering the whole question of how to select and finance students. There is a rumour that the majority of this Committee are favouring the abolition of all means tests for students. If that is so, I can only express my firm hope that the Government will accept the majority conclusions. But in order to press on with my single idea—the only idea with which I wish to detain the House this afternoon—I will not say more on that subject, either.

May I come to the university system—what is, so called, the University Grants Committee system, though, of course, in a sense that is only the actual body and is only one feature of it. In order not to be misunderstood, may I say that three years ago I paid tribute to the charm and sagacity of the Chairman of the Committee, and I should like to redouble that tribute to-day, if it is possible. I only hope that, where I am concerned, the charm will not be unduly strained, but I am sure that his sagacity will not be impaired by anything. No one who spoke in our last debate was unaware of what an odd system the present system is. We all know that the universities receive three-quarters of their money from the State, and yet the Government Departments concerned have no direct control. It is distinctly obscure as to whether the Government as a whole accept responsibility, and this is a general point that I should like to put to the noble Viscount. I apologise to him in advance by saying that I shall not be here to listen to his answer; the rival claims of the Bishop of Johannesburg carry me away from the House. I must apologise for that to the noble Viscount and to other noble Lords, but I should like to put this question to the noble Viscount—namely, do the Government accept responsibility for the general level of university provision in this country?

I should like to put to him that question, because I am not quite sure about the answer. I should think that the answer was probably "Yes," but the answer may be, "No." I do not know whether the noble Viscount feels that we ought to know the answer to that question: do the Government accept responsibility for the general rule of educational provision in the universities? The last time we were discussing this subject I and others were pressing the claims of the new University for Sussex, for which, when he was a free man, the noble Viscount laboured so hard. I join in the tributes paid to Dr. Fulton, who undoubtedly is going to make a great success of that university. I had the honour to be a member of the Provisional Council, and I am glad to know that a lot of progress has been made.

But when I was pressing on the Government almost three years ago the question of what the attitude of the Government was to the new University of Sussex, the noble Viscount gave me a full answer. I then interrupted, and he then interrupted his answer. I would extract only this one sentence this afternoon, but if it is unfairly extracted the noble Viscount will no doubt ask me to read the whole passage, which may take me some time. The noble Viscount said, among other things [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 203, col. 1131] that the freedom of the University Grants Committee 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 that I should be encroaching vilely on their functions were I to yield to the temptations of the noble Lord. This was said in reply to an intervention, and perhaps one ought not to put too much weight some years afterwards on replies to interventions. But I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether he still stands by that kind of reply this afternoon.

I must assume for the moment that he does, and that that is the correct doctrine, because, if so, he was not saying and he would not be saying to-day, if he were repeating it, that the Government have simply to wait on these occasions for the views of their expert advisers, as the Home Secretary might wait for the views of the Prison Commissioners, or the Minister of Defence might wait for the views of the Chiefs of Staff. He was saying, and the Government would be saying to-day, that the final decision as to whether there shall or shall not be a University of Sussex, when it is called for by all these people, is outside the hands of the Government and rests with the University Grants Committee, which is from the public point of view irresponsible—that is, outside public criticism. I wonder whether he would confirm that doctrine again.


My Lords, the noble Lord has fallen into the error of not quoting the question in reply to which my answer was an answer. He asked me this question … to give us the decision of the Government on this matter". That was the question he asked me, when obviously the decision was to be a decision of the University Grants Committee. That is the error into which he has fallen. He has read my answer without remembering his own question.


The noble Viscount is quite wrong. I have my question and all the rest of it in my notes and I could read it out if need be, but I was trying to save time.


The noble Lord will forgive me, but this is what he said, speaking to me: could I give the House, either to-day or on some future occasion the decision of the Government in this matter". That was the question.


It was, and as I said, the noble Viscount went on to say, as I quoted just now, that the freedom of the University Grants Committee must be regarded as absolute. I do not see any need to retract anything that I have said. I am simply interested in the question of whether, in a matter of this kind, the final decision does rest with the University Grants Committee or with the Government. On this doctrine it would appear to rest with an irresponsible body. That is as I understood it last time, and as appeared from the text. But the noble Viscount will be replying at the end of the debate. I quite appreciate that what the noble Viscount said then was that the decision whether these expansions should take place rests with the Government; he did not say the decision as to whether there should be any expansion anywhere. But for myself, I feel that if the decision as to where expansion is going to take place depends on the University Grants Committee, it would be almost impossible for the Government to take effective decisions about the total scale of expansions.

The noble and learned Viscount would be the first to point out (and I am conceding it) that in fact on the last occasion I endorsed the system. I endorsed the view expressed at that time by a leading article in The Times newspaper entitled "Leave Well Alone", but I described it as a constitutional curiosity. My actual words were these: It can only be justified because it works and so long as it works. And for the few moments that I want to take up the time of the House I should like to consider the question of whether or not the university grants system works. Here I am talking of whether the whole system, and not just that little group who form the Committee, able as they are, has worked well since 1957, judged by results—bearing in mind that we appear to be at the bottom of the league.

If we take the question of numbers, in 1957 the latest available figure of those at the universities was 89,000. We were told just before the debate that Her Majesty's Government were encouraging the universities to expand even more. We were actually told that there was to be a planned increase to 106,000, but that that was not the limit and that the Government were thinking in terms of higher than 106,000. We were told that the Government were quite ready to entertain a higher figure but we were not given any actual figure. I suggested, as noble Lords have been kind enough to recall, a figure of 176,000 by 1966, and therefore Her Majesty's Government, by stages, have reached the target of 176,000, although they have not promised it by 1966. Or, rather, to judge from what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, they have not ruled out the possibility—


My Lords, the noble Lord has mentioned 1966. I believe it is 1970. I think I am right on that.


My Lords, let me recall this. I said that we were to aim at a figure of 176,000 by 1966. The Government have accepted that target, but have not said that they will get there by 1966.


My Lords, I thought the noble Lord had said the opposite.


My Lords, I am always ready to believe that I have said the opposite of what I meant, but I would not mind betting the noble and learned Viscount half a crown that he will find that I was not mistaken. I am simply concerned with the fact that the Government have now accepted the target but have not said that they will get there by the date I have mentioned, but by the late 1960s or early 1970s. It is, of course, a great improvement, but they have moved towards the target rather belatedly. It was not until 1958 that they announced an expansion to 124,000 by the middle 1960s, with a further possible expansion to 136,000 by the late 1960s—which may well prove permanent, according to my information.

The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said that this advice was given in 1957, and I have no doubt that it was; but, unless I am mistaken, it was not until early 1958 that they announced the revised figure. So that the public were presented with no official target higher than 106,000 until 1958. And it was not until this year, so far as the public know, that we were presented with what many of us are now inclined to think may be the correct figure—although we should like to see it achieved sooner rather than later. That cannot be regarded as showing great foresight on the part of the authorities. No one can come round to your Lordships' House and say, "What a marvellous system we have! They have been late all the time, but they are now somewhere near the right figure." I am afraid that is not the way that I view it.

It seems to me that the Government were wrong in 1957 in thinking in terms of more than 106,000, and wrong that we should find ourselves in 1960 before they begin to think of the figure of 176,000. It is extremely late in the day and I cannot feel that they have not helped the task of getting to any of these figures by the appropriate dates. Therefore I am bound to say that I do not feel inclined, ungenerous as it may seem to some, to pay any special tribute to anyone concerned; because as a story of planning it has been a rather dismal failure, and has made the task of getting teachers and all the other tasks much harder.

I may be asked what light this throws upon the system. I believe it throws some light on this much belauded, sacrosanct system of Treasury control plus the University Grants Committee. I am not criticising any individuals. One difficulty here is that we are being called upon, it seems, to express opinions on the merits of high officials, which is most undesirable. Because I happen to know Sir Keith Murray I have a high regard for him, but in this House we should not get into the position where we have to say that a group of officials have done well or badly. We should find a Minister who should be the target of praise or blame.

Let us see whether we really have anything of which to be so proud. This universty grants system of ours has become a kind of Sacred Cow, but the trouble is that it is not giving much holy milk. We are not getting the results that we have a reasonable right to expect. At the present time the University Grants Committee are organised, on their own showing, as a buffer between the Government and the universities, and if our main interest is to see that we give priority to the defence of academic authority then I believe we shall be well satisfied with the system. But while we all stand for academic autonomy I feel that many of us consider that the main danger at present is that we shall not provide an adequate supply of university facilities. By that standard I cannot think that the system is proving very successful.

Let me here distinguish. I am not saying that the University Grants Committee should be abolished. What I am saying is that it seems very peculiar that the responsibility of this matter should rest with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The noble Lord, Lord Dalton, has expressed a very strong view in favour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer retaining that position, and he is well qualified to speak for he was an exceptionally able Chancellor of the Exchequer. But I hope he will not think me offensive, however, if I say that he is possibly biased by reason of his personal achievements as Chancellor—


My Lords, I would not say that at all. At the end of the war it fell to me to hit the ball first, but I believe that the universities have been very lucky in the series of Chancellors of the Exchequer we have had. I was followed by Sir Stafford Cripps, who was just as eager as I was, and as my noble friend is, for university expansion. He was followed by Mr. Gaitskell, though for only a relatively short period of office; but he, too, was extremely eager. After him came Mr. Butler, often regarded by opponents of the Conservative Party as one of the most progressive members of it. He was followed by Mr. Macmillan. The universities have been lucky in that run of Chancellors of the Exchequer—but I will not bring the list up to date; I will halt there.


My Lords, if we have done only this much with all these wonderful Chancellors of the Exchequer I cannot imagine what it would have been like if we had had some "duds". I am going by the results, and it would certainly be cruelly unfair to fasten blame on any of these various Chancellors, or on the gentlemen who man the University Grants Committee, and very unfair, of course, to blame it on any Treasury officials. We know that the universities must not be touched; that one must not say a word against them, nor blame any of these gentlemen; but we are confronted with a very depressing set of facts.


My Lords, may I remind the noble Lord that some of us think each one of these Chancellors of the Exchequer that we have had in the past decade has made a series of absolutely disastrous mistakes in handling the economic policy of this country.


My Lords, the debate to-day is on university education.


My Lords, that puts a thoroughly different complexion on it. Had we been lucky I should not be arguing in quite the way that I am attempting to argue now. I will not keep the House very much longer but let us ask for a moment why we should leave this to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and why we should make him responsible for a constructive job of this kind in the university services. It would not occur to anybody to do it now. It happens to have grown up with the universities, which were once much less important in our national life. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer is such a master hand at this kind of enterprise as the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, has, in his friendly way suggested, it is just as well to hand over to him health, housing or national insurance. But to pick on this particular section of education, is there any logical reason in choosing the Chancellor of the Exchequer for this thing and this thing for the Chancellor of the Exchequer? None has been suggested so far.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who always puts these things much better than I can, pointed out on the last occasion that all this was paradoxical, to use his own word. By Section 1 of the Education Act, 1944, as he pointed out, it is the business of the Minister of Education to promote education in this country. Yet for some extraordinary reason he has nothing to do with the universities, which play an ever more important part in education. In this, said the noble Viscount, this country is unique: if we are not right on this policy we get into difficulties. It reminds me of a story—and if I am not correct in this the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, will correct me; he is a Gladstonian scholar—somewhere in Morley's Life of Gladstone. It was said that in one of Gladstone's earlier elections he made a comparison between Britain and some foreign country, and a working man said, "God damn all foreign countries. Old England's good enough for me!" Morley said that that is not the first time that Gladstone learnt wisdom from a humble source, but I think he was speaking ironically. I should say to the noble Viscount that this extraordinary, irrational, paradoxical system is unique here and presumably we can judge it only by results.

The Times Educational Supplement says that this matter is being discussed in high quarters at the present time, and, this being so, they hope that the Government will on no account take over universities. I am not suggesting that they should take over the universities. But, as the noble Viscount said last time, the First Lord of the Admiralty does not take over shipbuilding: he is the sponsoring authority. In the same way, the Minister of Education could easily be the sponsoring authority for universities without taking them over or nationalising them or interfering with them, in that sense, any more than they are interfered with at the present time. We could transfer the responsibility from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Minister of Education, in theory, without interfering with the University Grants Committee, but if we wanted to alter that we could do so.


My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord a second time, but he surely realises that if this responsibility were, in fact, transferred from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Ministry of Education a gasp of horror would go up from every single university in this country; and I think a good many of them would collapse.


My Lords, I know one Rector who would not, and I think he should give a lead to the others. I think there are only two arguments for leaving things as they are. They are that the Minister of Education would interfere unduly with universities, and that people would come and take you aside and tell you terrible stories of what happened in Germany, or of what might happen, or would happen, in South Africa. I do not think any one supposes in a democratic country like ours that any sort of totalitarian interference would be accepted for a moment, and so I do not take that argument seriously.

The other argument is the one mentioned by my noble friend, from whom I have had so much kindness over the years, Lord Dalton: that the universities get more out of the Government this way than they would if the Minister of Education were looking after them—a sort of informal access. If that is so—and it is rather hard to believe—it is not a particularly edifying feature of our democracy that the way to get some really big money from the Chancellor of the Exchequer is through the quiet lunch here, or possibly not through direct contact, by a raised eyebrow or a nod in some secret place, in the best of West End clubs, of which I have the honour to be a member. I am glad I am carrying with me at least one former Minister of Education, and I think that if this is really the way it is done then the sooner it is stopped the better. But I do not myself believe that there is that sort of potent influence at work, and I feel that to have it all done in an open and aboveboard way in the hands of the Minister of Education would satisfy us all much better.


My Lords, does the noble Lord assert that there would be no increased danger of interference by the Government in the decisions and actions of the universities if the person giving them their funds was interested officially in general educational questions and liable to ask about them? Does he think that possibility does not exist?


My Lords, I would certainly say that there was no danger of pernicious interference. The Minister of Education is already responsible for the higher education of more students than are in the universities. I do not know whether my figures are quite up to date, but according to the latest figures available to me there are 146,000 students in higher educational institutes outside the universities for whom the Minister of Education is responsible. He does not interfere unduly with them. Why should he do so with university students?


Is it not the case that universities ought to be free and self-governing? I am not saying a word about the other ones, but I should have thought that that was clearly so.


My Lords, I cannot believe that we are the only country in the world where there is any academic freedom in the universities; that that is solely a British prerogative. I say that with great deference, in the presence of my former master. But I am bound to repeat what I said a moment ago: that no one, so far as I am aware, argues that there is undue interference by the Minister of Education in all these higher colleges for which he has responsibility at the present time. That is about as far as we can take it between us. In other words—I am speaking only for myself—I come down strongly in favour of the view that this responsibility should be transferred from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Minister of Education. Clearly, that does not mean what is called aggrandising the Minister of Education at the expense of the universities. That presents a separate issue. I am putting the question of who is to be responsible for the U.G.C. and I say the responsibility should be transferred from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Minister of Education.



Well, it is a free country and I hope it is possible in the House of Lords to state a view that has not been stated. I remember taking part in an election campaign when a question was put to the speaker and he said, "That question has not been asked before in this election and therefore I declare it void." I hope that no one is going to declare my speech void on such grounds.


My Lords, if the noble Lord does not think the Minister will interfere, could he tell the House why he thinks the universities would be better off by getting money from the Minister of Education rather than from the Chancellor of the Exchequer?


My Lords, I think that the whole question of the University Grants Committee will be one that will need to be looked into by the Committee proposed by my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. But I am asking who is to be the person responsible, and I think the answer is perfectly plain. The Minister and his staff are much more qualified professionally to deal with any educational topic than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, marvellous as he may be, knows absolutely nothing about this question.


That is the point. Then they will interfere.


My noble friend was careful to say that he spoke only for himself and was not seeking to commit anybody, and certainly not the Labour party, to which we both belong. I will read him, in case he may not have read it, an extract from a document in Learning to Live, issued by the Labour Party just before the Election and setting out our policy and some admirable points on universities. It says the universities … must be free—not compelled by Governments or private interests to propagate particular doctrines, nor cajoled into giving their sole attention to immediate practical problems … To ensure their freedom and to meet their needs they are kept quite outside the control of the Ministry of Education. They owe their existence to Royal Charter and get their share of public money from the University Grants Committee, for which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is responsible. This passage occurs in a eulogistic context where there is not a flicker or a hint of any change at all.


I remember that. But of course the Election was fought in October and, though the noble Lord has forgotten it, the Labour Party did not win that Election. The Labour Party has been doing a lot of thinking since that time. The Labour Party is still capable of thought. For example, I would quote Mr. Michael Stewart, who is undoubtedly the leading education expert in the Labour Party. He points out to me one particular argument in favour of the Ministry of Education taking over this responsibility. He points out that it would gather strength in the unification of all education, and in this way we should have a stronger Ministry of Education.



I know there is a rectoral angle on these things, but I do not see why this should necessarily prevail over the interests of the students. I must look at it, I am afraid, from the point of view of the students, and not from the angle of some of these other interests. I can only assure the House that, in my opinion, which is shared by a lot of people (though the issue is still an open one, and, so far as I know, the matter has not been discussed by the Labour Party Executive), the Minister of Education and his staff, and not the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would know more about education. I do think you want a Ministry which knows something about the subject which it is trying to foster.

Secondly, they would have a greater interest in the subject. If you are trying to promote something, surely it is better to have an interest in it than to be somewhat detached and dispassionate. Thirdly—and this I have not time to dwell on now—a method of this kind would undoubtedly emphasise the ever greater need for unity and co-ordination between university education and the other forms of higher education which have been stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, in the technological colleges, the technical colleges, the arts schools and the teachers' training schools. If we are going to have co-ordinated policy for the 100,000 or so in the universities and the 140,000 outside in other colleges of higher education, it is fairly obvious that we should have one Minister rather than two; and if we are going to have only one person responsible, nobody is going to suggest that it should be other than the Minister of Education. My noble friend Lord Dalton referred to our present system as a product of our characteristic British genius.


Of our administrative common sense.


Of our administrative common sense. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, went a bit further last time. He described it as one of the inscrutable dispensations of Providence. Now I am always anxious to recognise the hand of Providence at work in the world, but I hope it will not be thought blasphemous if I suggest that the existing arrangements have perhaps a less exalted origin—and here I come nearer to the description of my noble friend Lord Dalton than to the attribution of Divine origin which lay in the mind of the noble Viscount. But my view is that it is high time that it was brought under organised human scrutiny; and for that and for other reasons I should like to say how strongly I support the admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, for differing from him on this one point in public, when I have followed him on almost every other point for so many years.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I am not generally very diffident in your Lordships' House, but the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has made me feel that I have no right whatever to make a speech on this subject: that he himself has only one idea, and that I have not got any at all. Nevertheless, I feel that the outsider has a right to his point of view this afternoon, but I would assure your Lordships that, in such distinguished academic society, I shall not venture for very long to represent the layman's point of view about university life.

Your Lordships have discussed since March 1 the three most urgent and difficult problems of the modern world: leisure, secondary education, and now, to-day, university education. All three of them require the attention of the modern eye. If we are to retain our present position as leaders of the world, I think we must look further into these important questions. Germans and Japanese, Africans and Asians can sit with bowed heads in libraries and take a First at the University; but we must not lose, if we can help it, the peculiar superior qualities that have built up and adorned our glorious past.

On the same day that I received notice of the Motion set down by Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, I got an advertisement pamphlet saying: How long has it been since your mind was stretched by a new idea? That question would no doubt be embarrassing to many Members of your Lordships' House, and, I think, most embarrassing to most of the speakers this afternoon, who simply seem to have patted themselves on the back with satisfaction at the present system, and to have shown no sign that there is anything wrong with it at all.

My Lords, I believe that the university system should be widely extended on a voluntary basis. I should like everybody in this country who feels the desire to go to a university to be able to go there without an entrance examination and without cost. Everybody has been throwing bricks at the Minister of Education this afternoon, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been the pet of the debate. The Minister of Education is considered to be the most dangerous man to let into anything. I picked up Whitaker's Almanack and saw that three of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State have been, by our wonderful, elastic, unwritten Constitution, put below the salt. The Secretary of State for War, who can no longer fight a battle; the First Lord of the Admiralty, who cannot keep a fleet in being; the Secretary of State for Air, who can never again fight a Battle of Britain—none of them is in the Cabinet. It is true that the Minister of Defence is still there, although he has not got the foggiest idea of how to defend us. He will not remain there for very long, and you will find that he, too, will go below the salt.

Now it seems to me that, instead of running down the Minister of Education, which the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, has been engaged in during the afternoon, and boosting up the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we should try to make the Minister of Education into a respectable man by making him into a Secretary of State, and by giving him a more superior office than the one which he now holds. The Admiralty is obviously so empty that the Prime Minister and the whole of his administrative staff can be moved into it overnight. Therefore, I cannot see why we should not move the unnecessary people from the War Office and put the Minister of Education into it, because there are two traditions there which I think are of great importance in the field of education. The first is the voluntary principle which produced such good soldiers and which will. I believe, provide equally good students.

Of course, many people will not want to go to the university; many will prefer to start their active careers: but surely everybody who feels the desire to do so should be allowed to go. This will bring change and give variety to the pattern of university life. At present, only boys and girls capable of getting a First or Second have a chance of getting in. If they cannot do that, they have no hope. The pattern is stereotyped. The specialists, of course, must walk along their chosen road. The Foreign Office official, the civil servant, the lawyer, the chartered accountant, the doctor and the scientist must learn their jobs. But place must be found surely for the freelance, the adventurous young people of enterprise, ready to take a risk—the sort of fellow who might become a Cabinet Minister, the head of a television company or climb Mount Everest. In my opinion, in no other way can the character of this eccentric and unusual nation emerge in future.

I was talking last week to the head of one of our great industries, a business on which the economic future of this country depends and which employs thousands of people. He told me that he had sent a recruiting committee down to one of the major universities, one of these perfect institutions, admirably governed, without a flaw we have been told to-day, to look for likely talent among these Firsts and Seconds, to recruit for this great business, and they came away without a single recruit. "Cut to a pattern," he said, "All the spirit knocked out of them". It seems to me that the second great tradition that a Minister of Education established in the War Office could inherit is the Field Marshal's baton that may be in every private soldier's knapsack. Some of your Lordships may remember those old-fashioned lines: Vain mightiest fleets of iron framed, Vain those all-shattering guns, Unless proud England keep untamed The strong heart of her sons. The ironclads and the guns are as obsolete as the Blue Streak or the V-bomber, but we must surely not tame those strong hearts.

I said to an undergraduate the other day, "I suppose you read what I call the essential, civilised books, books which are everyone's foundation—Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Symond's History of the Italian Renaissance, Shakespeare, Boswell's Johnson, Balzac, Jane Austen, Trollope and Tolstoy?"He said, "Not unless they are in the curriculum. We have no time for anything that is outside the curriculum. You can't get a job without a good degree." Many employers, unfortunately, have got accustomed to take up this disastrous position. My intelligent industrialist, to whom I have referred, took exactly the opposite line. He would not look at people turned out by a curriculum merely to pass examinations, and I am glad to say that he does not stand alone. A woman friend of mine runs a small but growing business to which she cannot give all her time. She advertised for a bright girl ready to take responsibility, and, choosing what she thought was the best, she wrote to those who had educated her for a character. She was told that the girl was popular but could not be recommended as she had made no mark whatever during her educational career. My friend, being a woman of the world, engaged her at once, and with conspicuous success. But supposing my friend had not been a woman of the world, this girl would not have been given the job. That is why these boys work so hard and do not read the essential, civilised books: because they feel that they have got to get the degree which so many Cabinet Ministers have failed to take.

I suggest that when the Minister of Education reaches the War Office and enlists his army of volunteer university students who have passed no entrance examination, he should make a new degree at the other end of university life. The entrance system of the modern girls' college at Cambridge called New Hall will give him the clue. It consists of only three essays on unprepared subjects and a personal interview, and it brings forward the best type of girl. We want, in fact, a new degree for intelligence, capability and enterprise—the I.C.E. degree. It will produce a rush for the services of those who pass it. I must apologise to those academic noble Lords who think that I have no ideas on education at all, but I feel that if we were to do the things that I suggest we should produce a generation in this competitive world which, in the words of that noble Viscount who never took a First, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, would "hit them for six".

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, obviously at this time of day it would be wrong for me to waste your Lordships' time by re-emphasising the importance of the subject that has been introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, with all the authority of his experience and his devoted service to our education. So much of our prosperity, our security and our culture rests on the kind of education that we give to the ablest of our school leavers. That means that few subjects we could discuss can be of greater urgency or with wider complications.

I should like to emphasise the pressures under which all our institutions of higher education, and most clearly the universities, have been working during recent years. There is a relentless pressure of new knowledge which it is their function to extend and transmit. There is a social pressure demanding ever more highly trained graduates for industry, for the public service and for teaching, and for occupations that did not exist ten or twenty years ago. There is the pressure of increased numbers which educational and social policies have enabled to clamour at the doors of the universities. A rising birthrate and increased educational opportunity, a growing awareness that education is both an economic asset and a good in itself, have contributed to this three demographic entities, the bulge, the trend and the plateau, that create such problems for those responsible for university policy. To these combined pressures I think the response has been good, in spite of the criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, with which from time to time I had a good deal of sympathy. We have seen in a few years a doubling of our university population; we have improved our university staffing ratio until it is probably the best in the world, with an average of about seven students to one teacher; and we have laid plans for increasing our university population very considerably by enlarging existing universities and creating new ones—although many of us, I think, may feel that we have not been bold enough or imaginative enough. All that has been accomplished under this unique system about which we have heard.

In the University Grants Committee we have evolved an instrument for reconciling academic freedom with great and growing support from public funds—an instrument that is at once the envy, the admiration and the riddle of the academic world outside Britain. I think it is true to say—it is not merely a manner of speech—that the U.G.C. is not the least of our national contributions to the eternal problem of reconciling liberty and authority in the State. I was glad that when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, attacked Treasury control it was not necessarily the U.G.C. itself that he was attacking.


That is true.


Here may I say, in support of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, although I do not agree with him, perhaps, that control should move to the Ministry of Education, that I can no more agree with his critics who regard falling into the maw of the Minister of Education as a fate worse than death. I have been living in that maw myself for some years and have found the rule tolerant, enlightened and undictatorial. We must not be too ready to criticise the simple words "Minister of Education" when we hear them in an educational context.


I was hoping that the noble Lord would explain why, on balance, at the moment, at any rate, he would prefer to leave the responsibility with the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


It is difficult for me to speak dispassionately about the U.G.C. and its relations with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because it is a body of which I was a member for ten years; but perhaps I might say this. I would say, first, that the privilege of learning from my colleagues on the U.G.C., and, in particular, from the three successive Chairmen under whom I sat, was the most educative and certainly the most enjoyable of the experiences I have had outside of my own job. I think I should say, on balance, that we should leave it with the Chancellor of the Exchequer simply because I want so many more things from the Minister of Education over the next few years. The Minister of Education has disappointed me in his reception of the Crowther Report, and at the moment I am not really prepared to say that I want to make this important radical change until he has digested the Crowther Report and has done something more of what I want about it. I do not know whether that is an answer to the noble Lord, but it is the best I can do on the spur of the moment.


I am obliged to the noble Lord.


It may be said: Is not the U.G.C., a permanent Committee, giving all, and more than, the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, wants; and what is the justification for a further inquiry? I will try to deal with that real and pertinent question in a moment. First, let me say a word or two about the reaction of the universities to the pressure of numbers and the problem of entrance which it raises.

We have all mentioned the autonomy of the universities. No principle in education is more important than that which asserts that a proper freedom for the academic institutions is a condition for their proper growth. But let us remember that that ought to apply to all academic institutions and not merely to universities. A too jealous defence of autonomy can create certain difficulties for one's neighbours. For not only does every university and nearly every college within those universities regard itself as in many ways an autonomous body, but as regards a vital question like entrance qualifications every faculty within every university feels itself free to impose its own special requirements. And these bodies are not, in fact, genuinely independent entities in some academic vacuum. Whether they like it or not, they are part of a wider system. The young men and women who enter them are products of sixth forms, and the curricula of our schools are deeply affected, in content and depth, not merely by nominal university entrance qualifications but by the sometimes capricious demands of individual faculties. As regards the actual subjects demanded, something has been accomplished by consultations between the heads of universities and schools. But vice-chancellors are always quite frank in admitting that in those consultations they can never commit their universities. It is apparently one of the essential elements of university freedom that no one can speak for the universities. The result is that even now we find ourselves in a jungle of university and faculty entrance requirements that no one can remember and certainly no one can defend.

More important than this bewildering variety is the problem of standards. With the increasing pressure of numbers on our universities, entry to them has clearly become increasingly competitive; and this competition inevitably tends to increase the pressure of specialisation in the schools. Here there is a very real difficulty and, if I am frank, I must admit that many of us in the schools are inconsistent in our demands. If qualities and qualifications other than purely academic distinction are demanded, and if a close personal relationship between school and university is created, as at Oxford and Cambridge, we hear complaints that the public school is favoured at the expense of the grammar school and that the "good commoner type" is preferred to the abler, if socially immature, boy from the poorer home.

On the other hand, the system more common in civic universities of admitting almost entirely on "Advanced" level marks has clearly unfortunate results on the sixth-former. The boy who is told in February that he will be admitted to a given university if he secures 3 marks of 65 in physics, chemistry and mathematics in June, will be under a great temptation to devote his entire attention to those subjects. The fact is clear that university entrance is in danger of becoming simply a chaos of conflicting qualifications, of a struggle for marks, of multiple entries to many universities, and, behind it all, the dangers of injustice, on the one hand, and unfilled places, on the other. This was the situation that overshadowed a good deal of our thought on sixth-form curricula in the Crowther Committee, but because education beyond the age of eighteen was outside our terms of reference we were unable to make very firm recommendation about it.

The long-term solution is to provide more places in institutions for higher education. But I myself believe that much of the pressure on sixth forms would be relieved by the simple creation of a clearing-house for university entries. But such an innovation is opposed as cutting across the independence of the individual university and the individual faculty. Be that as it may, we have in the problems of university entrance a clear example of the way in which autonomy can become irresponsible, when institutions forget that they do not stand alone but are part of a wider educational system.

That phrase, "wider educational system", leads us on to much more important questions than those of entrance. How are the universities to react to the sheer increase in knowledge that is clearly one of the dominant features of our age? It is becoming abundantly clear that this extraordinarily rapid growth of what there is to know in every field will produce grave educational evils if we assume that every undergraduate is to be brought to the frontiers of knowledge. There is a tendency to compromise the education of the sixth forms by pushing down to them what are properly university studies. There is the necessity to overcrowd the university course itself. Must we not, in fact, move towards a normal university course of four years instead of three? Cannot we prune our university syllabuses by transferring much that is in them to the post-graduate stage?

Behind those questions and those difficulties lies the most important question of all—the question approached by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, in that speech which, if it is not impertinent to say so, I found so delightful and which we shall so much look forward to reading. The fundamental question is: What in fact are universities for? There are, broadly, two possible answers to that. There is first the answer of Jowett, which regards universities as a place where young men and women will be confronted with new and different ideas which they will assimilate and discuss under the constant guidance of men who regard themselves primarily as teachers.

The rival view, the view of Mark Pattison, expounded in the nineteenth century, the view of the great German universities, emphasises the duty of the university to extend knowledge, and envisages research as the only proper end of university work. Those two rival philosophies co-exist to-day in our universities and have profound effects on curricula, on methods of teaching and, indeed, on the whole climate of university life. Oxford and Cambridge are still committed to the idea of the educational university founded on a college system. It is that idea which leads their teachers to establish far closer relationships with their pupils than is usually the case elsewhere, and to adopt a tutorial system that puts a weight of teaching on the don three or four times as heavy as would be considered tolerable in many other universities. It is a system that earns the undying gratitude of those of us who have enjoyed it.

The two approaches to the task of university are not entirely incompatible, or even approximately so. Although, as I have said. Oxford and Cambridge are teaching universities, they have, as we all know, research schools that are second to none in the world. Although some of our civic universities are more concerned with research, many of those working in them enjoy the closest contact with students for whom they feel the greatest responsibility. Nevertheless, those two philosophies do exist and they produce quite different practical results. If the first aim of a university is to produce research, we shall appoint and promote our university teachers, not by any ability they may have as teachers, but by consideration of their published work. We shall regard the teaching of undergraduates, as I once heard a university teacher describe it on an official occasion, as a "distraction." Our methods of instruction will be such as to leave more hours free for research. The Oxford and Cambridge tutorial system is not, in fact, made possible by a more favourable staffing ration; it is made possible by the belief that personal contact between teacher and taught is so important that it is worth accepting a load of 18 or 20 hours teaching a week to obtain it. If half the teaching staff of a civic university took two more hours a week from their research, it would be possible for every undergraduate in Britain to have a fortnightly tutorial in a group of four. Would it be worth it? That is the question one has to ask.

These are some of the practical problems that arise from the fundamental controversy as to whether universities are primarily places for education or research. My own view is quite definitely that in our newer universities the balance has moved too far towards research, and I believe this to be particularly true in arts subjects. With many of the average students who now find their way into universities, it is personal guidance that they need and a broadening education, rather than to be treated as future pure scholars, which very few indeed of them are. Whether that view is right or wrong, it is at any rate one which deserves examination.

We may be led by considerations such as these to ask whether we need to create new kinds of institutions. Two lines of thought lead one to make that suggestion tentatively. As we all know, few questions in higher education are more keenly discussed than that of broadening the background of specialists. We have hitherto assumed that general education is entirely a matter for the schools, and that at the university stage all formal general education has ceased. I would contend that the assumptions on which such a view has been possible are no longer true. Our undergraduates are drawn from wider social backgrounds than they were even a few years ago. Much of the literature, the political ideas and the philosophy are too difficult for any but the most able at the school stage We may well ask whether many of the present university courses designed to produce scholars in a narrow field, rather than for the education of those with no genuine pretentions to scholarship, are the most suitable we can devise. There is something to be said for continuing work in general education, one would hope by the tutorial method. That is why I think the statistics I gave just now are important.

Here, of course, Keele has been a pioneer along one path, An alternative is to think in terms of a new kind of institution. I believe that we have been too eager to see the, admitted faults of American education, and too slow to see its merits. It is, if I may say so, too easy to make jokes about courses in air hostess-ship. On the one hand the general education given to scientists of the highest calibre at Cal.Tech or M.I.T. is something that an English observer simply cannot but envy. On the other hand, the really good liberal arts college is an institution that I think ought at any rate to be in our minds when we expand our university populations.

These, then, are some of the obvious problems on the education side of university education that spring to the mind of all of us as we contemplate the expansion that lies ahead. But why, your Lordships may ask, has the noble Lord asked for a Committee to consider it? Does not the University Grants Committee always have these questions before it? There is no doubt, of course, that it does. Some have been mentioned in its quinquennial reports. Nevertheless, I think myself, as an old boy of the U.G.C. if I may so call myself, that there is a case for another more detached view from time to time. The U.G.C. is concerned primarily with the detailed needs and aspirations of particular universities over a fairly short term. Further, its relationship with the universities is a particularly delicate one. If the vital principle of academic freedom is to be preserved, the U.G.C. may suggest, it may hint but concerned as it is with ultimate financial power, it must avoid the kind of controversial and even dogmatic statements in which a more detached Committee could indulge, and which would provide such valuable material and stimulus for discussion and experiment in the way which the Crowther Report is doing now for the schools.

Even more important, perhaps, is the fact that the field we are discussing is wider than that covered by the University Grants Committee. The pattern of the university scene, the complex itself, is made still more complex by the colleges of advanced technology, and teacher-training colleges altogether outside the orbit of the University Grants Committee. And how far they are outside it is shown by the very slight references to them that we have had to-day. If I may say so, it shows how much we are in danger of getting a purely lop-sided picture of this problem, because most of us who have spoken to-day are familiar with the universities and we do not see these institutions, with their immense potentiality and great problems. New as they are, many of us are already beginning to wonder whether they can discharge their functions with their present constitutions and their present status.

One may ask whether they would not in fact be better under the direct control of the Ministry of Education. At present, as your Lordships know, they are partly under the control of local authorities. For them, I believe (although not all my friends would agree), direct grant from the Ministry of Education would be, as it has been for fortunate schools like my own, a liberalising and liberating influence. One may ask what proportion of the sixth-form leavers they should take; how those should be selected in comparison with university entrants; and there are many more questions which will increasingly demand clearer answers than we have now.

It is clear already that in thinking of full-time education above the age of 18 we are considering a field of immense complexity that will become more complex still, if, for example, some of the new universities that we are contemplating are founded on a somewhat different model and with somewhat different aims from those we now have, as I hope they will be. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that there is, in fact, a case for a comprehensive survey of the whole field so that we may have some clearer picture of the needs and functions and inter-relationships of the diverse elements in the pattern. It may be that the subject is already so complex that a number of related inquiries is called for; that, for example, the needs and problems of Oxford and Cambridge are so peculiar to themselves that they should be the objects of a separate study, as I myself believe.

But whatever our view of the details, none will deny the importance of the subject. We are, after all, concerned here with the most important of our natural resources, the highest levels of ability in our population. It is related to the expansion of knowledge and hence to our economic prosperity. But it is concerned with something much more important than that. Coleridge used the word "clerisy" to mean the body of the most educated men, the men who, by reason of their high intelligence, their keenness of perception, their richness of imagination, would set standards of value for society. It is with the education of this clerisy that we are concerned to-day, and it is right that we should remind ourselves that from its members we demand not only technical skill, not only new knowledge but, in the last resort, those judgments of value which can illumine the life of the whole community.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, I hope very much that the Government will agree to set up this Committee of Inquiry. There is a major decision which may have to be taken within the next few years and it ought not to be taken without the best advice we can muster. We may have to decide what proportion of the population should be trained in a university, whether we ought not now to plan for some really great expansion, to take, say, 20 per cent. instead of 5 per cent. There is obviously an interesting uncertainty in the comparison between the number of university places over here and the number in the U.S.A. or the U.S.S.R. But even if it is not as bad as it seems, I think we shall be urged to expand our numbers or, at any rate, we shall want to consider doing so, but there are all kinds of problems which are bound to come up in reaching a decision of such importance. Some of them are urgent, related to the particular university set-ups we have now, and some of them would have to be gone into very thoroughly before we could decide that a really large expansion was desirable and possible. Many of the pressing problems have come up already this afternoon. Some of them are so important that they would justify an inquiry in any case.

But the basic problem, I think, is that of future numbers, or perhaps I should say numbers multiplied by ability. It is really the percentage of university-trained people that we ought to aim at 20 years hence, and it is a major decision because it will affect the whole social policy of the future. It will raise a great many questions exceedingly difficult to answer: whether we ought to have a very large increase if it means lowering the standard much; whether training ought to be more specialised or less; whether research ought to be done in the universities or concentrated in special research institutes, as they do in the U.S.S.R. and the countries that follow its lead. Many of us have very decided views on many questions of this kind, though they are mostly in the category of "hunches". I doubt if the best committee that the Government could appoint would be able to get very much further than that, but at least they could collect evidence about it and see how the "hunches" add up.

There is another reason, though, why I think this is the time for a special inquiry into our policy in higher education. It has come up to some extent this afternoon. We are already planning considerable extensions in the technological field and in the field of education as well as in the universities. They have been carefully planned and are highly desirable, and we ought to do very much more on those lines. But whatever we do, we must be rather careful that we are not setting up machinery which would threaten the independence of the universities. Learning financed by the State is always in danger of being geared to State policy, and university people in every country are bound to be concerned about the way they are governed. Most of them are paid by the State now and it is natural for some States to insist on calling the tune.

They may call for patriotic exercises or compulsory instruction in the creed of the ruling Party. No great harm would be done by that over here, I expect, because our students, fortunately, do not always believe what we tell them. Or it may be only that the professors are nominally appointed by the Minister of Education. But even that degree of control can be, and in fact it has been recently, a threat to independence. Government aid for universities could always be used to support a particular system of ideas. So, of course, could Government aid for education, but I think the ideas that are put in at the school stage probably do not matter quite so much as the ideas that we put in in universities. Our University Grants Committee administers the Treasury grant and it is bound to exercise some control. For instance, it exercises control over university salaries, and has always managed to act as an effective buffer to prevent too much Government regulation and, the other thing, too much standardisation of university policy.

Like the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, I am biased by being an old boy, but in the last few years I have seen a good deal of universities in other countries and it is remarkable to find how much they know about our University Grants Committee and how much they seem to envy us for having it. It would not be easy to transplant, particularly in countries where there is a Federal Government or semi-independent States that are rather jealous of their own autonomy, but all of them seem to be aware of the help that we get from it here. And it does allow our universities to develop, without really threatening their independence to develop on the lines that they want. I should be very sorry if the setting up of any Committee of Inquiry meant much interruption in the normal work of the U.G.C., and, of course, sorrier still if it led to any curtailment of its powers or any transference of control of the kind that has been suggested this afternoon.

But if we go on with the present kind of development of other forms of higher education without a general review of the machinery that we are using, I think we may be in some danger of weakening the effectiveness of our machinery for the universities—losing some of the independence that it gives us. I may be exaggerating the danger. The U.G.C. is one of those British institutions which works so well because we have all learned to trust it, and to trust that successive Governments will never allow their politics to dictate its membership. But nowadays, when the universities are not the only bodies concerned—there are the technical colleges., the teacher training colleges and so on, under the Minister of Education—it would certainly, I think, be a much tidier system to put the whole system under the Minister of Education, to make the Ministry responsible for our universities as well, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, suggested.

No one supposes that the Ministry of Education has not a profound respect for higher learning, but I think we must be careful that we do not drift into the position in which the Ministry might have to take over, whether they liked it or not, some of the functions of the U.G.C., because I am quite sure that higher learning would be the worse for it. The mere suggestion of direct ministerial control would have a bad effect on university morale, not only here but in other parts of the Commonwealth. People concerned with education are never really happy about the way that they have to run it. University people are no exception, and they would find much more to grumble about if they had to take their grievances to a Government Department instead of to an independent committee. University independence is so vital a matter that any suggestion of interfering with it would amply justify an inquiry, even without the need for one to consider university expansion.

Clearly, the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, is right in thinking that the inquiry cannot be left to the bodies that have all the current problems to deal with. Of course, the University Grants Committee and the Vice-Chancellors would give valuable advice on what could be done in the distant future; but everybody knows how hard it is for bodies that are in constant session to detach themselves from the agenda. In my time, at all events, the University Grants Committee had no quiet week-ends or meetings devoted to the discussion of these wider issues. They were sometimes broached on the long train journeys that we had to make to visit distant universities. The members are all busy people with their own jobs to attend to—that is part of the virtue of the system—so they cannot be expected to decide the whole social policy of the future. Although they may not do so, it would be a great mistake to think that the members of the U.G.C. and of the Vice-Chancellors Committee are not constantly aware of all these problems, and in fact constantly attending meetings to discuss them.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to the Report of the Committee on Australian Universities which was published in 1957. The Chairman of that Committee was Sir Keith Murray, Chairman of our U.G.C., and the introduction to the Report is an admirable summary of many of the problems that have been raised to-day. It might well have been issued as a guide to our debate, and it certainly would be a most valuable guide to any Committee of Inquiry on university policy. I am exercising great restraint in not quoting whole sections of that Report to your Lordships, but I am going to end by quoting one sentence. It is in the introduction, and it says: Every boy or girl with the necessary brain-power must, in the national interest, be encouraged to come forward for a university education, and there must be a suitable place in a good university for everyone who does come forward. I think we need the best advice that we can get if we are to provide those places.

6.47 p.m.


My Lords, late as it is, I cannot resist the temptation to make my speech, and particularly I cannot resist the temptation to point out that this afternoon has been largely a London School of Economics party. As one who has been privileged to teach in that remarkable institution for some 30 years, I point out that the opener of this discussion is an ex-Governor of the School; that Lord Beveridge who spoke second was Director of the School for many years; that Lord Dalton held a Chair there; that Lord Bridges is now the Chairman of the Governors, and that Lord James of Rusholme has, at any rate, delivered to us one of the most remarkable orations that we have had. I think that almost everyone has had some connection or another with it, so that—


My Lords, may I just add my name to the list?


My Lords, I had Lord Pakenham on my list. He was one of the first persons I met at the School. He was on the staff and a colleague of my own.

I entirely endorse everything that has been said about our indebtedness to Lord Simon of Wythenshawe—a point that Lord Dalton made—who not only gives us an opportunity about once a year of discussing matters of really fundamental importance, but who so organises the team, so to speak, that most of the people of real eminence on these subjects who are Members of your Lord-ships' House can be relied upon to come and give us the benefit of their views. In this sort of company, I, as a comparatively humble teacher, feel rather diffident, and might well have forborne accepting the invitation, but for the fact that for some thirty years I have been much mixed up in the affairs of the Association of University Teachers and therefore am, I think, much in touch with the views and opinions of the average teacher in the universities of this country. From that point of view, I hope to bring a certain amount of relevant information to bear in this discussion.

Now the main proposition which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has put before the House this afternoon is that we ought to have a kind of Crowther Committee for the universities as well as in connection with the general educational system of the country, and I would endorse that as emphatically as I possibly can. It has been very interesting and encouraging to see how much of the eminent opinion which has been expressed this afternoon takes the same view. I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, that in drawing up their own plans for postwar expansion and development in the universities, the Association of University Teachers strongly advocated the establishment of a Universities Council as a planning body. It was intended to do very much the kind of work that Lord Simon of Wythenshawe has asked should be entrusted to this new Committee that he has proposed this afternoon.

This was a serious proposal on the part of the Association which was put up to the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals who considered the matter and replied that they did not really feel that there was the need for such a body. They suggested, as an alternative, the holding of an annual conference to discuss topics of salient importance in the universities. They thought that that should be sufficient. It was all that we could get and in fact was the origin of the Home Universities Conference which has held useful discussions, some of them fruitful I believe, on some of these problems. But that, of course, is no substitute for the continuous work and thinking of a body which is in more or less permanent session.

The University Grants Committee is in permanent session and it may be—in fact it has rather been suggested this afternoon—that that Committee should do this work, at any rate to some extent. I should like to endorse what was said by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. I do not feel that the University Grants Committee can quite do this job, for to a considerable extent that would destroy their own position in the universities. University people are distinctly suspicious. They are suspicious even of the U.G.C. and are always looking to see whether there is not some hidden motive governing that Committee's actions. The Committee have to be very careful to maintain the astonishing position which they have in the university world.

I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, cannot really be as closely in touch with the university world as he once was or he could hardly have put forward his proposal. The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, was quite right when he said that it would be received with groans throughout the university world. I do not think there can be any doubt at all about that, and I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, so strongly endorsed that view. I do not know that the university world is particularly interested in the fact that it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who provides the Ministerial direction of the University Grants Committee—though he does not provide much; very sensibly he refrains from doing so. It might be possible for some other Minister, such as the Lord President of the Council or somebody else, to do that, but I am sure that the Minister of Education should be the last person to be given the job, however logical may be the argument in favour; and there was a great deal of logic in the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham. It would be almost an outrage to university opinion, and on that basis alone I feel that it is really a completely impracticable proposition.

The University Grants Committee, while they are primarily a grants committee, have, as the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, has said, from time to time gone a little beyond their functions as such; and their reports are valuable surveys of the whole situation. Very sensibly, they never attempt to provide the long-term thinking and planning which is really so essential and which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has advocated this afternoon. I would add my tributes, very heartfelt and sincere, to the work of the three men, all of whom I have known, who have been Chairmen. There cannot be any question that the present Chairman is a man of great ability. He succeeds in giving an impression of effortless ease in the work he does, but the detailed administrative knowledge which he has and his capacity for putting his hand on every point shows that his energies must be entirely taken up with the day-to-day, week-to-week and month-to-month work of the Committee. I feel that he is in no position, as Lord Simon of Wythenshawe has clearly pointed out, to embark upon the kind of research, consideration and planning which is urgently called for.

The other existing body is the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals, who have undoubtedly increased their stature very much since the end of the war; but they are a Committee of very busy men, and without arguing the matter, it is pretty clear that they are not cut out for a task of this particular kind. The Committee we need would be of a rather different type, possibly with a Chairman like the Chairman of the Crowther Committee, a man connected with but not in the university world, like the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, himself, who has maintained a connection with the university world without ever having actually been a teacher or administrator in a university. With such a body in operation we might begin to get the answers to the questions, most of which are really fundamental, which have been posed by several noble Lords, beginning with the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, himself, and particularly by the noble Lords, Lord Jarnes of Rusholme and Lord Adrian. They are questions fundamental to the whole business and ought to be looked at by an authoritative body who are in a position to prepare the ground and do the necessary research work, and have a real basis on which to form their "hunches", rather than do the kind of guess work which is at the bottom of so many calculations that are now made.

Probably the best thinking that has been done over these last fifteen years or so has been done in the pages of the Universities Quarterly, for which we are again indebted to my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, who thought of it, provided the organisation and, I believe, the finance for it for many years, and who maintains a very close interest in it—typical of the work which he has done for our community in many ways, and which is not always realised by the people of this country as a whole or even in the universities where he has had so much influence in this benign and effective way. Such a Committee, among other things, could answer the questions which have been put by my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe.

A matter which comes to my mind on which I should like to say a word or two is the problem of differential salaries for university teachers. Nothing during the last ten or twelve years has caused more discussion and given rise to more bitterness of feeling in universities than the introduction of differential salaries in connection with the medical schools: and, unfortunately, in the statement which was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and which was referred to by the noble Lord on the Government Benches in his speech, that differential has in a rather covert sort of way been extended. It seems to me that it is fundamentally wrong that a revolutionary move of this kind should be made without the possibility of the workers in the universities being given the proper opportunity to make their representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If we had a Commission of this kind it is just the sort of matter which could be referred to them and which could be properly debated and pondered upon before a decision is made. This decision, in my view, is a most unfortunate one. It has already done a great deal to destroy the value of the salaries increases which were announced, and the last has certainly not been heard of it.

Again, a Commission or Committee of this kind could, with great advantage, consider how far we could benefit by introducing methods which are used in foreign universities. I agree entirely with the criticism that was made about the noble Earl who spoke for the Government, that he was too complacent in regard to that. That is a very common failing, if I may say so. A noble Lord quoted from a heckler of Gladstone, who said that we do not want to be bothered with what goes on abroad. Really, at this time of day that is a very shortsighted attitude to take.

My noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe referred to the great American law schools and asked me to say something about them. It is quite true that I have had the privilege and interesting experience of spending some time in some of them. They are a unique part of the American educational system in the universities. Our own law schools in this country, curiously enough, really developed rather later than the American ones, and although we have made good progress, in some ways remarkable progress, during the present century, we have no law schools in this country which are of the same standing as the law schools at Harvard and Yale and Columbia and others of the great American universities. The influence which the Harvard Law School has played on the recent development, not only in American law (which is a very important side of their national life, of course) but in industry and commerce, would, I think, repay most careful investigation. Anybody who has had the advantage of travelling about much in the United States must have been surprised at the number of key positions in that country which are filled by graduates of the Harvard Law School or of the Yale Law School; and I think that a Commission of this kind could investigate this type of institutional development, which is so important in that country, and could very well report upon it.

Incidentally, I should like to add a word in support of what was said as to the danger of looking down on the American university system as a whole. There are, I think, something like 1,700 universities in the United States. It is quite obvious that among those 1,700 there are a number of not very serious institutions. But, after all, we have only 29, and we could multiply that number by several integers and still be within the limits of the good universities in the United States.

My Lords, a number of important questions have been raised which I should very much like just to say a word or two about, although, as the hour is so late, I will compress my remarks as much as possible. I think that the present Government target of 170,000 or so students in the universities by 1970 is an attainable target, and I do not altogether agree with the criticism of my noble friend Lord Pakenham of that, because it has only recently become evident from the extraordinary increase in the sixth forms in schools, and particularly from the increase in the birth rate again, that the trend has, so to speak, become accentuated. The A.U.T., working independently, arrived at the same figure as the Government figure two or three years ago, a figure of 130,000 to 140,000; and, again working independently, we came to the conclusion towards the end of last year, not very long before the Government's own figure was announced, that we had under-estimated by 30,000 or 40,000, for the very reasons I mentioned.

There are various factors involved which I should like to go into but have not time to do so. I am sure that by the time secondary education has been developed in the way envisaged by the Crowther Report the sixth forms will have expanded still more and we shall have some 200,000 young people, maybe up to a quarter of a million young people, who are quite capable of benefiting by a university education. But these figures are all guesswork, and one of the reasons why it is so important that we should have the Commission that my noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe asks for is that they will be able to do the necessary research and will be able, I think, to provide authoritative reasons why we should go ahead. It is a great pity that these fundamental decisions should have to be taken on what the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, referred to as "hunches" without very much in the way of scientific research or investigation to work upon.

The problem of the size of the universities is, of course, one of very great importance. I content myself with pointing out that my Association very much favour a largish number of small universities rather than a few large ones. It is obviously much easier to expand existing universities than to found new ones, but it is only by founding new ones that we can get the necessary experimental work done, that we can get new ideas, and that we can discover the best lines of development. We have, so far as we have gone, I think done very well. The experiment in North Staffordshire, for which the late Lord Lindsay of Birker was responsible, is undoubtedly the most interesting experiment which has been carried through in the university world within the British Commonwealth of Nations for a very long time. Also, I think that Brighton, although perhaps in a way a little more orthodox, is pointing in an interesting direction.

There is room, quite obviously, to have eight or ten new smallish universities, if not a larger number, and I hope that the Grants Committee, which has been reasonably open-minded in this matter, will tend to go along those lines rather than to pursue the policy of stepping up numbers in universities like Manchester. My noble friend Lord Simon of Wythenshawe referred to the possibility of 10,000 there. I think he was a little doubtful as to the wisdom of it. I know that at Birmingham, where they have been Pressed by the Grants Committee to expand in a similar sort of way, although they have accepted the advice, they are doubtful as to its wisdom. I was glad to hear that Bristol had "dug in their heels" and said that they were not going to expand themselves in that way because they felt it would destroy a great deal of the value of their work. But here, again, it is a matter of guesswork very largely; our guess in the A.U.T. is 4,000 to 5,000. There is no scientific study that has been made of the subject, and it is just the sort of thing that ought to be properly studied and on which an authoritative statement should be made.

The problem of getting the staff required for this expansion is an exceptionally difficult aspect of this matter which has not been very much touched on this afternoon. It is the one which worries me most. The competition with the schools, which must not be deprived of their best teachers in order that they may go into university teaching, which is a very real danger—and it is interesting to note how many of the recent recruits on to university staffs have come from the schools—with the Civil Service, with the professions, and with the new colleges of advanced technology, is all very serious. We obviously cannot afford to have too large a proportion of our intellectual élite working in our universities. Conversely, we cannot afford to have men working there who are not first-class. This is undoubtedly a problem which requires the closest attention and which merits the authoritative investigation of a Commission of the kind which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, is advocating. These obviously are problems of the first importance, which I should very much like to discuss at much greater length; but, as I have already remarked more than once, time is very short, and I will therefore bring my speech to a close.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, for his very timely initiation of this debate. It is difficult for me, following so many distinguished speakers, but before starting on my speech I should like to take up one point which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, made when he referred to the use of differential payments for the salaries of university teachers. There is no doubt that in certain faculties in universities it is very much more difficult to recruit teachers than in others, and I can see no possible reason for the university teachers asking to be let out of the operation of the laws of supply and demand. It happens everywhere else in life, that if the skill which you have is in short supply then you can command a higher salary.


May I point out to the noble Viscount that the Association of University Teachers, which represents a very substantial majority of university teachers, has, at two Council meetings, passed resolutions flatly contradictory to the point of view which he is putting forward.


I am not quite clear what point of view they contradict: whether it is that some university teachers command a higher salary than others, or the need to have differential salaries. But whether or not the university teachers pass resolutions on these points does not seem to me to affect the issue, which is that if you want to get the best university teachers without unduly swelling the bill for salaries then you must apply differential salaries—and I very much hope that the authorities will not avoid doing that, as they have proposed

There are two main points that I should like, as briefly as possible, to put before your Lordships. First of all, there is the need for a closer integration of education after school for those over 18 years old. This matter has been referred to by many other speakers, and I am afraid that the remarks I am going to make will be at complete variance with what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has said—and I am only sorry that he is not here to interrupt me. My second point is the danger of the too early specialisation which is now resulting in schools from university policy. Again, that has already been touched on by other speakers: in fact, more than touched on; it has been dealt with already, perhaps adequately, by such speakers as Lord James of Rusholme, whose speech I so much enjoyed.

The present set-up, as your Lordships will know, is that the universities are administered, so far as their finances are concerned, by the University Grants Committee, whereas all the other bodies or institutions of higher education—technical colleges, colleges for advanced technology, and the like—are administered by other bodies, either through the Ministry of Education or through local education authorities. I believe that there would be a very great benefit indeed if all suitable institutes which are carrying out full-time adult or higher education were to come under the University Grants Committee. I have had some experience of the University Grants Committee from the receiving end, and when I was at Cambridge I was always impressed by the speed at which they operated; by their great experience; by their concentration on the needs of the universities, and by their great understanding and skill. And I should be terribly sorry to seethe universities, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, removed from the sphere of the U.G.C. and so direct to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

There is no doubt at all in my mind that the present system for selecting university students is far too efficient. It is a very efficient selective system. The academic competition is far too severe; and the pressure on all universities, particularly Oxford and Cambridge, is getting greater and greater every year. In the past, there was a very satisfactory random selection of students for universities by means of money. I do not mean that it was satisfactory in the sense that it was good to select on the basis of whether or not a boy's parents could pay for his education: I mean that it was satisfactory in the sense that it brought to the universities people of widely varying academic standards, which was of great benefit to the nation. There is now an increasing tendency at all levels to "cream off" the best brains, and that leads to premature specialisation in the schools, which is a subject I should like to return to in a few minutes.

My Lords, I do not believe that, in our society as it is organised to-day, we could have such people as the late Ernest Bevin. Such great leaders as he in the trade union movement and in industry would now have gone to university, and would have gone to quite other professions, quite other vocations. That, in my view, is a very great loss which society is suffering because of this over-efficient selective system. We seem to me to be in grave danger of moving from a position where graduates were selected from far too narrow a social strata to one in which they are selected from far too narrow an academic strata. In industry to-day there are many leaders and managers of all kinds who, if our present system had been in operation in their young days, would have gone quite a different way. They would perhaps have gone into research, into the Civil Service or into one of the professions, and their great talents would have been lost to industry, to the detriment of the country.

It seems to me that there is far too wide a gulf at the moment between those who go to university and those who do not, and that gulf is being made wider by this efficient selective system. If we compare that with the system in the United States, to which several noble Lords have already referred, we see there a vastly greater university population. At all levels in industry there are graduates: on the shop floor, in production, in research and in development—and not nearly so narrowly selected as they are in this country.

My Lords, the standard of university education in this country is very high indeed, and I have no complaints to make about that. It seems to me that where we should look very carefully is at the methods of selection. The end product is, I believe, not nearly widely enough diffused. Now, what is the remedy? Is it a new selection policy? Is it propaganda? Is it examination changes, broader curricula; or more places? All those have their part to play. But surely most important of all, is the provision of more places. Now any expansion that is proposed will be limited by the resources that can be made available—resources in money and, perhaps most of all, resources in teachers. New universities will take time to mature and to take their place in the educational scene; but, meantime, we have these very excellent colleges of advanced technology, which are making great strides, and I believe that if we could liberalise those full-time colleges, give them perhaps some arts faculties, as well as their technological faculties, we could then recognise them as embryo universities which in due time could award their degrees like new universities. This would be of immense benefit to our educational system.

In the past, many noble Lords, and I myself have been with them, have been frightened of degrading the standard of a degree, but already there are different standards throughout the universities of this country. Times are changing and the universities must change with them. What must always come first is surely the needs of the country. It is a balance of advantage whether we should keep a degree a relatively narrow award to a comparatively few people or broaden it so that maybe for a time it will become of a slightly lower standard. I believe that for the broad good of this country the latter course is the right one to follow now, if we believe in the value of university education, in the broadening of the minds of men, in the enriching of our society and meeting the nations needs. There are three ways of increasing the number who can benefit from university education: by expanding existing universities, by bringing in existing colleges, as I have suggested, and by creating new universities. If we are really to make an effective advance in this direction, I believe that all these three are necessary and that they should all come under the University Grants Committee.

My second point is to draw attention to the damaging results which recent university policy is having in premature specialisation in schools. I believe that this applies particularly to Oxford and Cambridge, where the pressure of entry is so great, but I may well be wrong and that it is of equal application to all universities. The universities are now demanding a minimum of two "A's", and I believe there has been a suggestion that not only will they demand two "A" levels but that boys and girls shall have them one year before entry. At the same time, scholarship standards are rising and pressure on places is rising. In grammar schools and public schools this is leading to a most unhealthy pressure. Parents are demanding that their children must have these qualifications to get to the universities and sometimes headmasters feel that they must maintain the number of "A" levels they get every year and the number of scholarships they get to the universities. Far too great attention is being paid to examination passing, to the great detriment of broad education; and if a boy does not get a broad education at school, he is not likely to get it later on. Let us take this example. A boy of medium ability will take two to two-and-a-half years to get two or three "A" levels. He will have a much better chance if he does a bit of specialisation at "A" level, with the result that if he is to get the best chance of getting anywhere in the "A" level scholarships, he must make some decision about subjects of specialisation at the age of about 13.

No one is keener than I to have more technical education, to have the greater proportion of our school leavers properly educated in the arts and in science, but I do not want to see that done by over-early specialisation. As science becomes more and more important in our everyday life, so does the importance of a broad education increase, if we are not to find that science is becoming our master and not our servant. A very great teacher at Cambridge, Sir Charles Inglis, always said that the one subject you could afford to pay little attention to during your time in his engineering department at Cambridge was the subject in which you were going to spend the rest of your life. That is as true to-day as it was before the war. You have the rest of your life in which to specialise, but you have only the time at school and, it may be, a little time at university to get a broad education. So I believe that this effect on the schools of the present university entry policy is a serious one.

I have drawn your Lordships' attention to two points. There are many others. On principle, I am opposed to Inquiries, Commissions and the like because they take up a lot of time of distinguished and important people. But in the case of adult education, clearly a great expansion has started, and when expansion comes, it would be a good plan to have a look at the way it is going, at how to control it and at how to maintain standards while spreading the benefits; and some changes are inevitable. Above all, I think that at the present moment we want to look at how univerity policy is affecting education at our schools. So I am glad to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, for the appointment of some Commission or Committee to investigate all these important points, not in any spirit of criticism of the education that is provided in our universities, certainly not in any criticism of the way the University Grants Committee administer the financing of the universities, but to ensure that the scarce and precious educational resources of this country are used to the best advantage.

7.27 p.m.


My Lords, in view of the observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, I think that I ought to say at the outset that my only connection with the London School of Economics is that at one time I applied for employment there and was not successful. It would indeed be disastrous if the idea were to get abroad that the London School of Economics had made a successful "take-over bid" for your Lordships' House. Therefore I wish to put before your Lordships this small piece of evidence that this is not the case. If we are declaring interests, as we seem to be, perhaps I ought also to say that for a short time, a very short time, I was a member of the University Grants Committee until (if I may so put it) I was seduced by a more powerful organ of education in the form of the B.B.C. I am very proud of that connection and could wish that it had been longer. I think that the University Grants Committee is the only part of our university structure which has not received any criticism in the course of this debate.

Surely the question to which we have primarily to address ourselves is simply: what are, the grounds for asking that some other Committee or Commission of Inquiry should cover what on the face of it might appear to be the same ground as the University Grants Committee? This Committee does in a most remarkable degree consider, and comment in its periodical reports upon, questions of broad policy, as well as upon the day-to-day problems of administration and finance with which it is primarily concerned. Perhaps the first and basic reason for some other Inquiry is the one which was inherent in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. He made the point that, after all, the universities provide only for a relatively modest proportion of the whole population over the age of 18 which is enjoying some kind of higher education. And all experience shows that the more non-university education develops in the years from 18 to 21 or 22, the greater will be the pressure to bring non-university institutions within the ambit of the universities.

It is true that our modern institutions can give qualifications such as that which describes itself as "Dip. Tech."—and there are no doubt many who are proud to have the right to put "Dip. Tech." after their names. But so long as the universities have the prestige which they enjoy, pride will always be a little damaged, and there will always be a preference for some such qualification as B.Sc., even if modified by some technical suffix. So the main problem that I think will face the Commission for which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has asked (and we are all grateful to him for this Motion) is to draw the line between education within and education outside the universities.

There I must say a word of appreciation for the kind things that the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, said about the efficiency of the selection for university entrance. As one who has from time to time had to take part in selection procedures, I must say that I was as much astonished as I was flattered by his observations. We sometimes thought that, try as we may, what we ended up with was a great deal nearer the random selection of which the noble Viscount spoke than the highly efficient selection that he was good enough to assume we in fact achieved; and one year, in deep despair, before we started on our remission procedures, we did discuss, although not seriously, whether it would not save a great deal of time and make little difference to the result if we admitted all those who took a particular size in shoes, which would give us about the right number.

Other reasons why we may need a wider range of inquiry are, I think, to be found in some of the changes that have happened in our universities over the past 20 or 30 years. I hope your Lordships will bear with me if for a moment I speak of a few of those changes, particularly as many of them have come within my own personal experience as a university teacher. First, I would say that in this period the universities have become much more vocational. They always were more vocational than they would admit, but many of their professedly non-vocational subjects, particularly in the arts, were in fact vocational training for certain professions, notably teaching and, perhaps, the Church. But I think the students have become much more vocational in outlook. If you ask the contemporary student when he enters the university what he is hoping to get from his experience there, you find that he commonly answers in terms of the profession that he proposes to pursue when he leaves. And I have always felt it a little unfortunate that the intervening years, which are perhaps three of the best years of his life, are regarded merely as a passage leading to some qualification in a profession he will pursue for the rest of his life. I do not know whether the pious hope of the University Grants Committee that during those years he will come to see that intellectual pursuits are enjoyable for their own sakes is at all certain to be fulfilled.

Secondly, we have seen a great process of democratisation. If there is no longer random selection of brains, there is at least a much wider social selection, and our universities now admit a far higher proportion of all social classes than would have been the case 30 or 40 years ago. But here again the process is not complete. There is evidence that there is still a great waste of ability. The early leaving reports of the Ministry of Education found only a few years ago that two-thirds of the boys who enter our maintained grammar schools at the age of 11-plus, two-thirds of those who are in top class for ability, are the sons of manual workers, but only one-quarter of the university entrants are the sons of manual workers, and in between economic pressures have led to the melting away from the field of education of these able boys and their able sisters. Moreover, this democratisation is very unevenly spread—it reaches a much higher figure in the universities of Scotland and the University of Wales—and it is, I regret to say, particularly low in my own original University of Cambridge, where the Kelsall inquiry showed that only 9 per cent. of the men entrants, and only 5 per cent. of the women, came from the manual working class. Correspondingly, in the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge there is a much higher proportion of young men and women who have gained their school education in boarding establishments. This means that the democratisation is unevenly spread and that the opportunity for the students in these universities to gain a wider social experience, as well as intellectual stimulus, is correspondingly restricted.

Thirdly, there is one recurring complaint that one hears from students, and that is the complaint of disappointment that they do not get the kind of contact with their teachers which they had hoped for and expected. I fear that this complaint is heard in Oxford and Cambridge, with their tutorial systems, as well as, if not perhaps as much, in London or the regional universities. This complaint is not entirely met by the proposal, admirable though it is, of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, which we cordially endorse, for a greater development of halls of residence. You can be neglected in a hall of residence just as much as you can be neglected in lodgings; and I regret to say that sometimes you are. Sometimes I think that none of us has very much idea of what goes on in universities, even those of us who teach there or those who hand out the millions.

The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, remarked that if every teacher in the regional universities sacrificed two hours of his research this would make possible a great development of the tutorial system. It would, provided that he had two hours to sacrifice; but any proportion of zero, as the noble Lord will be the first to recognise, is also zero; and it is by no means certain that it is the conflicting claims of research which in all cases are responsible for the lack of student-teacher contact. I should like to see some attempt to inquire into the distribution of the burden of teaching and research among the staffs and faculties in different universities. Some remarkable divergencies would, I think, emerge.

Now, if I do not detain your Lordships for too long, I should like to say a word or two about the development of scientific studies and the scientific outlook. That has been responsible, among other things, for a certain corruption, in my view, of those studies which are not ordinarily thought of as scientific; that is to say, a corruption of the arts. It is, I think, a most remarkable thing, almost a confession of failure, when the University Grants Committee boldly say that many arts students find their honours course "unsatisfying". The Committee do not wholly associate themselves with that opinion, but they do describe it as a danger signal, and leave it at that.

The arts have tried, in a sense of inferiority, slavishly to imitate the sciences. For that reason they have often allowed themselves to be entangled in what the University Grants Committe have called the "and minutiæ of scholarship." Misplaced admiration of the sciences has led also to an over-emphasis on certain kinds of research in the arts. One of the differences between students of my own time and contemporary students in the arts, particularly in the subjects with which I have been myself concerned, is that if you ask them what they hope to do on the termination of their course they now tend to say, "Research." If you say "It is fine that you should wish to advance the frontiers of knowledge. What are the burning questions to which you want to find answers?", there will be an uneasy pause, followed by the observation, "My professor will suggest a subject". That again is due surely to a slavish imitation in inappropriate fields of kinds of research which have their place no doubt in some of the more highly specialised sciences.

Again, the development of the scientific outlook has always given rise to what Sir Charles Snow has so admirably described as the two cultures in the university which exist side by side, and which are unable to communicate one with the other. Between these cultures there has grown up in the last 20 or 25 years a middle group, the one of which I would particularly speak, the group of the social sciences whose raw material lies in matters of human concern, but whose methods become increasingly scientific. This new culture might possibly form a bridge between the other two. At present, I think it is more likely to be equally despised by both.

I am profoundly grateful for some encouraging words that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, said when he was President of the British Association about the future possibilities of the social sciences. The existence of this new group of studies, and the invasion of all studies by scientific techniques, surely calls for some very profound thinking. Perhaps it calls even for a new division between the arts and the sciences. It may be that if we redraw the line between these two groups we may find that the difference between them is more profound than we have ever yet appreciated. On the one side of the line there would stand subjects which are concerned with the understanding and the mastery of our environment, both human and social, and which raise questions to which positive answers can eventually be found. On the other side of the line, there would be those studies which are concerned with the fundamental and insoluble problems of human existence—questions of judgment, judgments of value, questions of morals and questions of taste. We may need some complete reassessment of the relationship of these two groups of studies, and of the value which the second has for the first and the first for the second.

There is one last change of which I would speak. Might it not be possible that a Commission such as the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has asked for, would review university education in a better perspective in relation to our educational system as a whole? Here, with the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, on my left, I would not dare in any way to associate myself with the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and I must in the interests of my personal safety maintain a strictly neutral line. I will only remind your Lordships that at one conference of academic persons some time ago, where this subject was raised, one of the professors present, referring first to the University Grants Committee and then to the Ministry of Education, said, despairingly that he thought it would be dignified, though unpleasant, to be gored to death by a bull, but intolerable to be gnawed to death by rats. That, I am afraid, is the reaction which will be obtained in our universities to the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, for having rescued the Ministry of Education from the very unfortunate position into which it appears to be falling. The words which the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, read from a pamphlet issued by our Party, he read with an emphasis which I think they were not intended to carry. They were words referring to the need to preserve the universities from all danger of propaganda. Surely it is not suggested that the great educational system over which the noble Viscount who is presently to reply formerly presided is steeped in propaganda such as raised the alarm, if not the voice, of the noble Lord, Lord Dalton? I must confess that for myself I was discouraged and disappointed by the contrast in Her Majesty's Government to the proposals that we have recently had for the development of education at the school stage, and the enthusiasm with which they are welcoming the development of the universities. All praise to the latter! But, surely, if we are going to concentrate on the superstructure, we ought to give rather more attention to its relation to the foundation below.

Here I thought it was astonishing that nothing—or almost nothing—has been said in this debate about the function of the universities in producing teachers who, after all, are the mainstay of the educational system on which ultimately even the universities rest. It is still true that about five times as many non-graduates enter teacher-training colleges as take up graduate teacher training courses. If we cannot have the proposals of the Crowther Report implemented, surely through a development of our universities we might at least do something to raise both the quantity and still more the quality of our teaching profession. Therefore, a Commission or Committee of Inquiry, or several Committees of Inquiry, might well give their attention not purely to the location, the size, the educational curriculum of the universities themselves, but, as I said at the outset, first to their relationship with other institutions of higher education, and, secondly, to their own relationship to the schools, by which they are themselves fed.

Few of the changes that I have mentioned have been deliberately caused. They have been recognised, welcomed or deplored, as the case may be, in nearly every case after the event. But we surely do not need, and we certainly do not wish to allow ourselves, to be the purely passive creatures of events in so important a matter as the development of our higher education. What has been said in this debate has surely given us ground for hope that the conditions which the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, indicated as essential for fruitful inquiry could in fact be fulfilled in the case of an inquiry into the whole structure and purpose of university education and of education outside universities for young men and women over the age of eighteen. Such an inquiry surely would be valuable, not only for the answers that it would give, but also because, in its characteristically British way, it would create wider and wider circles of educated interest in these topics, first among those who took part in these investigations, then among those who had to give evidence before such committees, and then still more widely among the public who are in contact with those whose primary duty it is to take their share in such investigations. For those reasons I would very warmly associate myself with the proposal which the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has put before us to-day.

7.50 p.m.


My Lords, after what has been a very interesting and satisfying debate which has yielded a great number of distinguished speeches, including one memorable maiden speech and at least one remarkable clash of opinion showing divisions of an apparently irreconcilable nature in the Party opposite in a totally new sphere of policy—after such a feast of interest and instruction—I expect the last thing that anyone wants at this hour is a reply from the Government. I suppose, however, that I should not be doing my duty if I did not attempt some rational answer to what is, at any rate in form, although I fear not altogether in substance, the purpose of this debate: that is, the demand for a Committee of Inquiry to report on the extent and nature of the provision of full time education for those over the age of eighteen, whether in universities or in other educational institutions. I must do that, I think, conscientiously, and I also must admit somewhat diffidently, to those of your Lordships who have survived the experience of this afternoon and are still here, that I should myself, in any case, apart from my Governmental duties, have desired to participate in this debate. In how many other debates in which I wind up this would be the case it would perhaps be unwise to speculate at this hour.

This is a subject which interests us all, and it interests me particularly. I was for seven years a Fellow of an Oxford College, and I am President of the Classical Association, somewhat to my surprise. As Minister for Science, I have contact with some of the most distinguished scientific minds in the country. Moreover, for the last 20 years I have been closely associated with a technical institute in London which is largely concerned with the education of those of the age of 18 and over. I should say last, but by no means least, like the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, I am Rector of a Scottish University. So that I cannot disclaim an interest in various departments of the subject.

I would begin with a somewhat coarse political proposition. Democracy, as we know, has many failures to its discredit, perhaps more failures than successes to record. Transplanted, it has proved all too often as half-hardy as dahlias in April and as fragile as Dresden china in a Corner House. Yet there would be no one of your Lordships who would doubt that the success of our Western philosophy of freedom under the law is the only way in which our industrial and scientific civilisation can be brought to peace and made to work. What has been the cause of failures in the past? What are the conditions of success in the future? This is indeed a grand theme, and reflection upon it led the philosophers of Greece, or particularly Plato, to propound a system of education and philosophy which differed hardly at all from Fascism and Communism in our present day and which has been rendered respectable solely, in my opinion, by the passage of time, and made gentle by the adhesion of numbers of academic minds of the utmost distinction and learning.

What is the answer to this conundrum? I would not seek to give an answer at this hour of the day. But part, at least, of the answer, I am convinced, is that neither democracy, nor Parliament, nor freedom, will work unless a nation has an adequate supply of graduates. In that, I would accept the praise of the worth whileness of education lavished on it by the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, in the enjoyable maiden spech which he gave us; and I would also put this perhaps unduly practical consideration side by side on the other balance of the scale to the noble Lady's reference to the growing vocational balance in our universities.

By graduates I would not limit myself to university graduates, nor, under the English system, could I hope to do so without doing injustice to several other institutions of almost, if not quite equal, importance. And by the expression "adequate", I mean adequate in point of quantity, in point of numbers, to provide an instructed public opinion and to man also the thousands of qualified posts in administration, in industry, in the professions and in Government, which can be competently filled only by graduates. I would mean adequate in point of academic independence, so that Government never obtains control over the patronage of the academic world or seeks to impose Party tests of loyalty or orthodoxy. I would mean adequate in point of quality, so that the academic world of this country is still truly enfranchised in the true international of letters where the frontiers of learning are enlarged, where there are no secrets but the important truths which can only be known to the people with the discipline and the intelligence to find them—the only democracy where there is no nonsense about equality, and the only aristocracy in which wealth and privilege count for nothing.

It is not too much to say that a free country must have an adequate supply of graduates in this sense or it will cease to be free. A democracy must be ruled, or at least guided, by the provision of those graduates not merely in government but in general administration, or it will be dominated by its charlatans and its crooks. And although both systems may have their disadvantages, like Disraeli I would express myself on the side of the angels—that is, of the graduates.

But have we an adequate supply of graduates, in the sense that I have tried to describe? The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, asked me to define the responsibilities of Government, and he put to me a number of questions, some of which I thought posed false dilemmas. For my part I know of no better definition than that which was in July, 1946, recognised by the universities themselves when they assured the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, if I am not mistaken, was the noble Lord sitting opposite, that the universities entirely accept the view that the Government has not only the right but the duty to satisfy itself that every field of study which in the national interest ought to be cultivated in Great Britain is, in fact, being cultivated in the university system, and that the resources which are placed at the disposal of the universities are being used with full regard both to efficiency and economy. Of course, the Government accept that responsibility.

But I should have thought it was a wholly false analogy and extension of that doctrine to suggest, as in one passage of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, attempted to do, that there really was no distinction in principle between a great administrative social service like the Ministry of Health, or the system of schools of this country, ruled over by an executive Department, and the relationship which exists between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the University Grants Committee, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer's duty is, no doubt, to see that all is well, but is also to ensure that one factor in all's being well is that the actual work should be done by those whom it is his duty to protect from Government interference as well as to ensure that they are adequately supplied with funds.

Although I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and the noble Baroness who summed up for the Opposition, say that it really is quite wild to suggest that the Minister of Education, or the Ministry of Education, or their officials, are guilty of interference in a political sense with the system for which they are responsible, in my judgment at least it is equally false to draw an analogy between the executive Departments and say: because it is true that you have a Ministry of Health, and because other countries undoubtedly place their university systems under their Ministry of Education (if they have one, which the United States certainly have not) then it must necessarily follow here that the Minister of Education is the most suitable person to sponsor the universities.

I have a much more detached point of view about this controversy. I think, on the whole, that it was stated perhaps with too much emotion and heat on both sides this afternoon. I would seriously say to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that his experience this afternoon ought to have taught him, if nothing else, that if he is going to raise that issue he is going to raise a hornets' nest about the ears of anyone who wishes to expand the universities, at precisely the moment at which the universities ought to be preoccupied with the problems of expansion and not with profound constitutional issues of the kind which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, sought to raise. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who at that time, though unnecessarily but, as it turned out, very desirably, sought an assurance from the Government, that it certainly has not crossed our mind at the present juncture of affairs to interfere with the present system, which in our judgment is working extremely well and is preserving those essential interests which I attempted to define when I said that it was important that we should have an adequate supply of graduates.

But this leads me to ask again, have we such an adequate supply? In point of the quality of the best of them, and in point of independence, I would give, I think, to your Lordships' House an unqualified "Yes" by way of answer. Our graduates, in point of quality, are, at any rate as to the best of them, equal to the best in the world; and in point of independence our system has a degree of integrity which I believe is possessed by no other country in the world. To a large extent, I think that perhaps we owe this quality to the system which gave rise to such a heated controversy. But that leaves unanswered the question of quantity. Speaking of quantity, I have, equally, absolutely no doubt about the answer there. Britain has never had an adequate core of graduates in point of numbers. So far as I can see into the future, we should wish to expand, without sacrificing either quality or independence, at the best rate the universities, as institutions, are capable of expanding without losing their identity or their standards. But, of course, as a general proposition, that does not necessarily help the Government in the task of judging whether its own responsibility is adequately discharged. By what standards should we judge whether the number of graduates is adequate or not? By the efforts of other countries? No, I think not.

Here I must say that I was a little disappointed that two or three noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, lent added weight to the figures which were referred to in the quarterly magazine which I think was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Dalton. I have nothing but respect for the author of that article; he is one of the most distinguished and greatest driving forces, certainly in technological education. But he does, I think, have a reputation for somewhat enjoying "putting the cat among the pigeons", and I would say that those figures are grossly misleading and are really a gross libel on English education. The truth, as I shall endeavour to show—among a number of reasons which my noble friend has given and which I will not go over again—is that the English figures ignore the students in a large number of institions which in this country, owing to the peculiar pattern of our university system, do not qualify for the name of university, and thereby do not come to be quoted in the statistics. A great number of students in the Regent Street Polytechnic, in fact, qualify for a London degree. The whole of our teacher-training colleges will from this year onwards have a three-year course, with an increasing number of entrants with two "Advanced" level passes. Our colleges of advanced technology have presently, I think, about 9,000, but shortly many more students who will work a three-year course, admittedly of university standard, which in America would qualify for a university degree, and indeed which are all themselves modelled on the American university, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

One could go on enumerating the institutions. In this country there is a vast number of evening classes which yield a high degree of professional attainments; there are the great professional institutions; there are the Royal College of Music, the Royal College of Art, and other institutions. In other countries these would swell the statistics, and to describe, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham did, the present system as a dismal record of failure, and to talk about being "bottom of the league", is really to talk educational rubbish. This country is very high in the educational world. Although I should be the first to agree that we have a long way to go before we have achieved the optimum for our own needs, I would not state that there is a perfectly good case for introducing really misleading statistics from other countries.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount regard Wales as another country, because the proportion of students in the universities of Wales per thousand of the population is much higher than it is in England? That is true of Scotland, too.


I was trying to say that we have a long way to go before we achieve the optimum for our needs. I do not wish to be drawn aside into a disquisition on the particular educational pattern of Wales and Scotland. It is statistically true that Scotland has, I think double the number of undergraduates per thousand of the population to England. But it is also true, as we saw clearly when we discussed adult education just before the last Recess, that the pattern of English further education is such that that in it- self is not a significant statistic. I would say to the noble Lord that the real course is to use the efforts of other countries as a spur to measure our own needs in the light of our own circumstances, and to make our plans to meet these. This, as I shall try to show later, we have been trying with some success to do.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Viscount would allow me to put to him this question: is it not also true that, from the point of view of doing for a student what the University Grants Committee urge and urge again—the establishing of more contacts with teachers in residences—both Scotland and Wales are far behind this country?


My Lords, I have heard what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said, and I am far from denying it; but I believe that if I were to make any positive assertions of that kind I should get into grievous trouble. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has put his question, and he carries behind him the weight of great experience and knowledge of this subject.

Can we judge the adequacy of our graduate numbers by reference to the talent in our schools? Yes, I believe we can, but I would now say that the talent in our schools is something which we have consistently under-estimated. One of the most striking features of British education since the last war, touched on by several speakers and particularly by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has been the increase in sixth forms. Between 1958 and the mid-1960s the sixth forms in this country, so far as I can tell, are going to double in size; and, in my view at any rate, there is no reason to believe that the increase will stop there. These sixth forms will yield a reservoir of talent which at the moment undoubtedly exists and is going to waste. I would also say of the sixth forms that, judging by our experience of those who now wish to go to a university, and try to do so, at least an equal proportion, when they pass out of the sixth form, will be clamouring at the gates of the universities, trying to get in.

In making our plans for higher education, fortunately, we do not have to look to the universities alone—and this is another great change which has come about during the last twenty years—for we now have, alongside the universities, as the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, has said, three other highly important kinds of institutions which can provide further education, not yielding a university degree but still equal in standard to foreign universities, upon which we can draw.

First, there are the colleges of advanced technology—eight at present, but a ninth, Bristol, to be added this year. These are new colleges, created in 1956 and, as I have said, being built in the image of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and, of course, the great Technicahochschulen on the Continent. Their undergraduate courses are pitched at honours degree level, and I believe that this has been generously acknowledged by the Vice-Chancellors' Committee; and they now have a post-graduate award—the M.C.T. (Member of the College of Technologists) to match the Ph.D. at universities. Already they are providing for over 9,000 students on full-time or sandwich courses, and a further 10,000 part-time students all of whom are at university level.

Then there are the other technical colleges many of which, like the Polytechnic, Regent Street, have for years been preparing students for university external degrees and other qualifications leading to professional status. These colleges contain a further 16,000 students on advanced full-time or sandwich courses, and as many as 40,000 taking advanced courses by part-time day study. It is not generally realised that one scientist in every seven, and three engineers out of every four, in this country have received their education in a college of advanced technology or a technical college. And having said that three engineers in every four in this country have received the qualification in that way, I have also said that three engineers out of every four in this country do not come within the statistics which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, quoted in denigration of this country's educational system. Thirdly, in addition to the colleges of advanced technology and the technical colleges, we must add the teacher-training colleges, because they are now to offer a three-year course, and more and more of their students will enter the college with two or more passes at G.C.E. Advanced level. There there are already over 31,000 places.

Noble Lords have asked on what basis we have laid our plans for the future and what evidence we have taken into account; what criteria have been adopted, and what arrangements there are for co-ordinating development between universities and non-university institutions. First of all, I will say that we have looked at the prospective growth of sixth forms and I would say there, for the reason I have given, that at least up to 1970 our difficulties will lie in finding enough places for the talent that will be available from the schools, rather than the other way round. This, of course, is the core of the problem of over-specialisation mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, to which I will return shortly in a slightly different context.

Next, the universities have discussed with the University Grants Committee, in the light of this knowledge, what should be their rate of expansion and how far they can increase. Listening to what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, described as a dismal record of failure, I could not help being reminded that a university is not something like a factory which can be put up to double its capacity by the mere expenditure of money and the aggregation of bricks and mortar. Quality is a necessary part of it—quality and tradition and the human staff—a corps of teachers with a tradition of academic excellence. These are not things which can be made to order like a railway bridge. The rate of expansion must to some extent, at any rate, be of the biological rather than the engineering order.

Several noble Lords have said that no attempt has been made to arrive at an optimum size for a university. The question asked in the present context is: how fast and how far can each in dividual university expand? Earlier this evening my noble friend explained the grounds for the decision, first, to increase the university provision to 135,000, and now to explore the possibility of a further expansion to 175,000. I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, for endorsing the view held by the University Grants Committee, and by Her Majesty's Government, that this represented both an attainable kind of target and more or less the limit of what could reasonably be done without unduly sacrificing quality. The University Grants Committee believe that that can be achieved by the existing universities together with a contribution from new universities; and, of course, one has to look further into the future and to ask whether, as the demand will be there, still further expansion may not be possible.

Thirdly, we have examined separately the problem of how to meet the national need for scientists and technologists. On this matter we have had the benefit of useful reports from the Scientific Manpower Committee. As your Lordships will remember, this Committee recommended that the annual output of scientists and technologists, which was 10,000 in 1956, should be at least doubled by 1970. The 10,000 were shared almost equally between the universities, on the one hand, and the colleges of advanced technology and technical colleges, on the other. The plan of Her Majesty's Government was that by 1970 the universities should be producing rather more than half the total of 20,000. These plans are really going well. We can now foresee by the middle 1960s an annual output of about 12,000 from the universities and, if all goes well, 10,000 from the colleges of advanced technology and the technical colleges.

Next, we studied the probable demand for school teachers during the next fifteen years. I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, for reminding us that in many ways the best source of school teachers are the universities themselves; but in practice, as for many years past, the teacher force will continue to have to be recruited in the main from the teacher training colleges; and we have decided to increase the training colleges by 25,500 places in all.

These, then, are the bases upon which the plans have been laid. Of course, this does not dispose of all the questions that can legitimately be asked—and many of them have been asked in this debate. But whatever questions may be posed, I should like to make it clear that we do not wish to undermine either the academic independence of the universi- ties themselves or the constitutional machinery through which this independence is preserved, despite their increasing dependence on Government finance—namely, the University Grants Committee. Perhaps in parenthesis, though I think not without some value, I should here say that the mere fact that three-quarters of the funds of the universities are channelled through the U.G.C. from the Government, and that a proportion of the remainder comes from the various research councils, makes it more, and not less, important that private benefactors should give, in one way or another, generous sums to the universities; because in this, as in all else, there is danger in monopoly, even if a well-run one. A court of appeal in the shape of a separate source of funds is not a bad thing for a university to have.

It was partly for this reason—here I am coming nearer to the specific requirement of the Motion—that when, with my colleagues, I was discussing before the last Election the contents of our Election Manifesto, we did not duplicate in that Manifesto the demands Which appeared in at least one comparable document, for a Royal Commission an the Universities. I was glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, on the whole agreed with our judgment in this respect.




I should regard a Royal Commission as an instrument of last resort. I would myself agree that it is still available, but it has never been used since, in its modern form, the University Grants Committee got going. I should personally like the University Grants Committee and the Vice-Chancellors' Committee to regard themselves as, between them, responsible for providing us with, as it were, a kind of running commentary on university problems. If they have a fault it is that they are perhaps too conservative. That is a fault which by many, including myself, is considered to fall on the right side, and I am personally not convinced that any probable Royal Commission can be relied on to share it.

But there was another, and I think more conclusive, reason why I thought that a Royal Commission was inappropriate to the present situation. This was that many of the problems facing us are extremely urgent, as many noble Lords have stressed this afternoon—particularly among these I would mention problems of size, scale and balance, such as the noble Lords, Lord Beveridge and Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, and many others, have referred to—whereas, whatever other virtues a Royal Commission may possess, it certainly has one defect: in the nature of things it is an infallible recipe for holding things up for four or five years while its terms of reference are considered to be sub judice.

I hope that, by contrast, the various organs of the Establishment, including the University Grants Committee and the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, will work de die in diem, if need be, in these years of crisis in the world of further education. I should like to say that, whilst I reject the idea of a general inquiry by a Royal Commission. I have always been very much more friendly to other, and perhaps more limited, forms of investigation. For instance, your Lordships will remember that when we last debated the subject of education I told the House that I thought the closely related questions of school curricula, university entrance requirements, and over-specialisation, to which several noble Lords referred, are fully, and even urgently, ripe for discussion, and, I would say, action. Of course to some extent the whole question is a function of the pressure of numbers clamouring to enter the universities. As my noble friend Lord Caldecote reminded us in another connection, even the universities cannot be wholly exempt from the law of supply and demand. But I would think that there are probably a good many things which can be done to mitigate the evil; and, because it is such a serious evil, they should be done relatively quickly.

Clearly, I would say, the form of such discussion is almost dictated by the subject matter. It must be by its nature an inquiry on which the universities, the schools and the Ministry of Education are represented. Here I would hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, in his strong-minded warning to the Minister of Education to keep out of university politics, would not be too much of a sea-green incorruptible. It is impossible to pretend that questions of curriculum are not common to both bodies, and that the university requirement does not in fact distort and sometimes preoccupy the minds of the schools. I should think there was a good case for investigation here. I should personally like to see account taken, in any such inquiry, of the views of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy. Your Lordships will know that discussion in this field is already in train, and a great deal of action has already been initiated, and I hope that it will proceed with expedition over a wide area.

There are other subjects for inquiry, or at least discussion, on which decision in the next few years may well be crucial. One such, as again has been mentioned in several quarters, is the whole question of the future of the colleges of advanced technology. They have, as I have said, made a most encouraging start. But will the administrative framework which has served them well in their early years suit the next stage of their evolution? This question must be answered, and we have heard two suggestions about it already this afternoon, one involving a transfer to the University Grants Committee and another involving a transfer to direct grant from the Ministry of Education. We shall have to answer the question, and we shall have to decide whether it can best be answered by those most directly concerned or by some independent body of inquiry. Ought the local education authorities or the Ministry to be responsible? Or, if the latter, ought some intermediate body to advise the Ministry on the position?

As to the University Grants Committee, my own feeling is that the University Grants Committee would be an inappropriate body if only for the same, but in a sense identically opposite, reason that was in the mind of my noble friend Lord Caldecote, who saw in it, I think rightly, if it were adopted, a means of introducing university degree status of a direct kind to the colleges of advanced technology. It would cause, I am informed, a great deal of ill-feeling, and it was the battle fought, and I thought decided, a certain number of years ago. Similar questions can also be asked about the teacher-training colleges. Is their place in the educational structure satisfactory, or are any changes desirable?

Then I would touch on the question which has been raised, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Dalton (I say this although I think no one can be a more loyal son of Oxford than I am), of bringing to an end the dominance and superiority of what one might call "Oxbridge"; not by reducing the quality—as the noble Lord, Lord Dalton, has said, it is approaching its optimum, perhaps maximum, size—because to reduce its quality would be a national calamity, perhaps an international calamity; but rather by improving the amenities and, wherever necessary, the other standards and facilities, of other universities. Here I was particularly glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and others, who referred to the value of the close contact between the teachers and the undergraduates. I sometimes think that the conditions in which undergraduates work are less favourable than those in which industrial workers work. This is a national question almost equal in importance and in urgency to others we may be trying to consider. But I should think the necessity is for universities to solve their own problems, very largely, in this field.

My Lords, another subject, and by no means least important, is: ought we to be satisfied with our present arrangements for co-ordination between the universities and other places of higher education? I have already said that I regard the question of the status of the diploma of technology as a closed question. But neither the colleges of advanced technology nor the universities can afford a policy of academic separateness: their relations must be warmer than that between the Jews and the Samaritans. The same must surely be true of the teacher-training colleges, with the improved status and higher standards inevitably consequent on their greater size and longer courses. For instance, the kind of question which may arise is where a cyclotron is to be placed. There are arguments for both universities and colleges of advanced technology having expensive equipment of this kind, but it is quite clear that not all of them can have one in every given place. Have we machinery between the University Grants Committee and the Ministry for answering a question of this kind, which may arise? I should myself think that such machinery and closer liaison and co-ordination ought to exist.

Then there is the question of the use of central facilities by universities, and the use by universities of research facilities available in Government (and perhaps in industrial) research institutes. The University Grants Committee raised this matter in their last Report. Sir Keith Murray, I know, is examining it; and I have asked the Research Council secretaries to look at it, too. It is good to know that the Vice-Chancellors, also, are having the matter in mind.

I had always supposed that Parkinson's Law was largely one which related to civil servants, but are there no applications of Parkinson's Law to the academic field? Scientifically, we are moving into a period when research facilities cannot be indefinitely reduplicated. We cannot build a Jodrell Bank, a Nimrod, or a C.E.R.N., at every university. It follows that we must work out methods of co-operation—consortia of universities, as at the Nuclear Institute; consortia of countries, as at C.E.R.N.; inter-university relationships to make use of radio telescopes; methods by which studies can be dependent, not on the facilities naturally available at mediæval sites, but on the really objective requirements of the case.

On the Motion itself, as I have made clear, a very considerable degree of planning a full-time education for those of 18-plus is already being undertaken. But the Government are sympathetic to the objective of the Motion and will ponder very carefully the various suggestions made in the debate. However, we want to make sure that, before any inquiries are launched, the problems have been correctly identified and that the particular inquiry in each case is carried out by those most likely to bring the matters at issue to a constructive and reasonably speedy conclusion. We are faced with a number of dilemmas, which I think we must ponder, as the result of the discussion this afternoon. We do not wish to undermine the University Grants Committee; but if we had a separate body to inquire into all the matters which have been canvassed, we should certainly do so. We do not wish to hold matters up by our inquiries; but if we are to inquire into all the matters which we have been invited to investigate, we certainly should do so. We have been invited to consider a longer-term investigation, and the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, would appear to advocate this course. But there can be no doubt that, as in politics and in administration, decisions of to-day prejudice radically the long-term future of institutions such as universities and technical colleges. The decisions which are going to be taken one way or another in the next four or five years are going to determine to some extent the pattern of these institutions for a very long time to come, and these decisions cannot reasonably be delayed until an inquiry at a high level has reported what the optimum shape may be.

My Lords, it is this consideration which makes any decision as to an inquiry difficult, and I would therefore ask that I should be allowed this evening to say that the Government will deeply reflect upon the various points of view which have been put forward in your Lordships' House, and will seek to give effect to them in the best possible way that we think practicable in the circumstances. My Lords, I hope that this is not the last debate that we shall be holding on this subject; and, speaking for myself, at any rate, I can tell your Lordships that I have very greatly enjoyed it.

8.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to thank the numerous noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and who have, I think, presented the case with a wealth of information, knowledge and authority which I certainly did not expect. Secondly, I should like to thank the Lord Privy Seal for the amount of information which he has collected and for his very stimulating speech. It seems to me that the promise which he has made, that the Government will consider the debate and all the various possibilities, is all that we could expect. I, too, have thoroughly enjoyed the debate. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.