HL Deb 16 May 1962 vol 240 cc660-740

4.8 p.m.

Debate continued.


My Lords, I must confess that I was somewhat relieved by the timing of the intervention for Lord Dundee's Statement, inasmuch as it came as something of a breather after the forceful, eloquent and persuasive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. I should like to begin with an apology, in that a long standing engagement means that I shall probably have to leave the House before the concluding speeches of this debate, and I shall therefore miss the reply of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I am sorry that I shall be doing so.

In a letter which Lord Melbourne wrote to Queen Victoria—and I have substituted a fictitious family name for the one actually in his letter—he said: What's all this I hear about education? None of the Smiths can read or write, yet they do very well. We have certainly moved beyond that position, though no doubt there are still many people who "do very well"—though not perhaps in the sense that Lord Melbourne meant—without much in the way of education. The vital importance of higher education to the life of the nation, to modern thought and culture and to the lives of those who benefit by receiving that education needs no declaration. But the question as to who should or should not receive higher education in a university is a more difficult matter than the one which is under debate this afternoon. The number who should ideally be receiving university education (and I am leaving out of account at the moment the capacity of the universities) can be estimated in three different, ways. First, by the number of young people leaving school who are available and deemed fit for a university education—and I should regard that basis as the most important one; secondly, by the national requirement for graduates, and thirdly by the amount of money available to pay for them. It is desirable, but improbable, that the figures produced on these three bases will be the same at a given time; and although for each of them we have statistics available, one must, I think, be careful in interpreting them.

For instance, in considering the number of young people available and deemed to be fit for university education, one must admit that, in spite of the pressure on university admission, there is a great deal of wastage of those who are accepted. Some of them fail to complete their degree courses, and perhaps some kind of loss of that sort will inevitably and always take place. A good many more come out of the university with little to show for their time in it but a piece of paper which they themselves have been encouraged to cherish too dearly. They do not appear to have grown in the qualities that make their paper qualifications really valuable to the public, though they will find a place in the statistics of graduates produced.

However, in spite of a certain failure rate—and I believe that that failure rate is a serious and important issue for the universities; though it would be difficult to estimate its precise extent—and despite the fact that a great proportion of these failures may be due to mistakes made in admission, all the evidence goes to show that there are at the present time many more young people who are fitted for university but who fail to get a place. It looks as if this number will increase faster than the rate of growth for which provision is at present being made, or even for which provision is made on the basis of the University Grants Committee recommendations. This is a serious matter. It is a serious matter to bring young people to the point of readiness for higher education and then to submit them, after rigorous competition, to undeserved rejection. It is serious for them personally; it is serious for the country, and it is serious for the world at large when there is a famine of fully educated people.

When one turns to statistics or statements about national requirements for graduates, these provide a valuable guide, but they have sometimes led to a line of thought and argument which is misleading as to the nature of university education itself. The function of a university is not to produce to order a given number of graduates with this or that qualification, but to give to young people capable of responding to it the time and opportunity to grow up in such a way that, among other things, they may choose a career or vocation based on thought, knowledge and judgment and on advice from their seniors which they have thought about and weighed. The choice of their course of study and the eventual choice of their career will, of course, be governed by the openings available, by the needs of the community, the national need; and it is, I would submit, in those terms that we should consider this factor.

When it comes to the question of the money available, or the money that ought to be made available, for the universities, this of course, as has been noted in the speeches that have been made already by your Lordships, is related to other demands on the National Exchequer and on the total amount of that Exchequer. But without indulging in arguments on the relative amount spent on armaments, for instance, or on other social services, or on the rate of taxation itself, surely university education should take a very high priority. Even in regard to appeals made for help to under-developed countries, in addition to the money they need—and they certainly need that—they also need, in particular, the assistance of educated men and women.

Like so many of your Lordships, I wish the university allocation for the next quinquennium could be larger and that a decision to make it so could be made very soon, not only because we are at the beginning of another quinquennium—and the importance of this particular point has been argued and presented—but also in view of the way in which this will affect the plans for new universities. Naturally enough, I have a special interest in the University of Norwich. If one is faced with a delay in university expansion up to the numbers calculated on the basis of the other two methods of assessing how many university places there ought to be, one is faced then with the grave alternative either of denying university education to more of those who are capable of benefiting by it or of leaving out of the life of those who go to the universities some of the things that a full university education should supply; and I should prefer to put it that way rather than necessarily speak of it as a lowering of standards, though in fact that is what it comes to.

Among the universities, the nineteenth century foundations played a special part in emphasising the importance of research. It has been of enormous value in building up the corpus of knowledge on a given subject and recruiting to the work of doing so the able student and the young university teacher. It has helped greatly in establishing the status of universities which often had little encouragement from their older sisters. But it is now widely recognised that research was often done at the cost of teaching, that university posts went to men with large dossiers of off-prints from learned journals rather than to those with a reputation for endless patience or unflagging enthusiasm in the equally arduous work of teaching.

University teachers must, of course, do both. They must have time to teach and time to meet their students, and the conditions and accommodation which makes it reasonably possible for them to do so, and they must also be engaged in work of their own. Cuts in staff-student ratio, which is already low enough, in all conscience, means a weakening of the most important of all the relationships in higher education, the one on which the student's attitude to his work, and to much else, most markedly depends. Economies compelling, in particular, a drop in the staff-student ratio are the most false economies of all. But if we are to maintain them for the future we must provide now for the means for post-graduate work, and this is the most costly part of building expansion.

The staff-student ratio will not of itself guarantee that staff and students see anything of each other beyond their formal teaching. In too many universities (and, though one is sorry to say it, this is becoming true, owing to difficulties of accommodation, in Oxford and Cambridge at the present time) living accommodation for university staffs and their families is a really acute problem. Quite a number of dons live a long way from their work. The greatest discouragement to qualified men and women taking a university teaching appointment is not only or always, or perhaps chiefly, that of salary prospects, but the fact that the conditions and environment available are not such as will enable them in the full sense to live a life and to do the work of a university don. The availability of resident accommodation for staffs and students close to the buildings for teaching and research is of the utmost importance.

The older of the newer universities (if I may use that phrase, because I wish to avoid that dreary word "red-brick") have a tremendous backlog in the way of residential accommodation and they need all the help they can be given in their anxiety to remedy this. The new universities have made this matter of residence on the campus an essential factor in their plans and are going all out for large sums of money for that purpose. The University of York—and I shall listen with great interest, to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme—has already made its appeal, and the University of Norwich, with its splendid site at Earlham, is launching its appeal to-morrow. And both are greatly concerned in their plans to provide the type of community which a university really ought to have. These plans will inevitably be hampered if the money needed for the salaries to maintain an adequate staff-student ratio are not available.

The quality of higher education is what matters, and the total environment of university life and of the university as a community go a very long way to make the standards of university education. If a university is to fit its students with a mature background for their profession in later life it should also be a place in which they have an opportunity to form tastes in which they may continue in later life connected with or separated from their studies; tastes in the arts, tastes in all forms of culture, and interest in sport for that matter: and not least—for this is an issue which rightly and inevitably is of the deepest concern for students and their teachers—the consideration of all their studies and interests in terms of the end and destiny and objectives of man.

This atmosphere may or may not be more important to the breadth of university life than the degree of specialisation of the curriculum. It seems to me that what is of vital importance is that, however specialised the syllabus may be, the students themselves are living in an atmosphere which stimulates interests of the widest kind which they can continue in later life. You cannot force culture in the fullest sense, but you can put the students in a setting where they have the opportunity to acquire it.

The quality of higher education is what matters. We cannot ensure quality in the present situation just by restricting numbers. The restriction in numbers of students below that which the universities themselves say they can accept may indeed be the way to destroy standards and quality. Too much restriction will drive the schools to even greater pressures. Our institutions of higher education will then be filled, not necessarily with the best students, but with those most able and willing to undergo pressure-cramming. I believe that expansion is an urgent requirement, and if the universities are to grow and expand we must keep the diversity of our institutions, with their different emphases and their suitability for different types of students. We must preserve and develop patterns which foster good teaching and good relationships. We must give a place within all institutions for a genuine engagement of minds and for a serious, as opposed to a casual, encounter with those forces in human life which give to it a sense of meaning and a sense of purpose, of which religion and the respect of and care for one's fellow-men are surely the chief.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, as one of the few professors in your Lordships' House I feel that I should make some contribution to the debate this afternoon. I hope that in what I have to say I shall not seem to be indulging in special pleading for any particular university interests or exaggerating their importance. But I should like to speak as much as possible from personal experience which must be limited to my own field.

My Lords, I think it is difficult for the average person to understand fully with what anxiety and hope the universities awaited the Government's decision on financial aid that is being discussed to-day. To most people March 14 was just another day, and this was just another Government announcement. To those responsible for directing the affairs of the universities, whether in faculty, school or department, it was of crucial importance. In the first place, it would indicate how far there was to be any relief from the constant anxieties of the past few years, and in particular this year—the last year of the present quinquennium.

Everybody knows that the universities have had a difficult time, but few outside the universities know how difficult it has been. Trying to make ends meet in an age of inflation, on budgets largely fixed on the basis of grants allocated years before, has led to cuts and economies in all directions. Important posts that have been established have been left unfilled, or no successor has been reappointed when a holder has left, possibly for a better post abroad; and I can assure your Lordships that emigration of university staff and leaders in research is a most serious matter, as other noble Lords have said. There can hardly be a head of a university department in the country, particularly those concerned with research, who does not know of such cases, either from his own experience or from that of his colleagues. Many are leaving, not for any reasons of financial advancement—though they certainly could not be blamed if they did—but because they can no longer put up with inadequate facilities, constant frustrations and anxieties about financing—an atmosphere which is sapping morale and destroying idealism. Some men are being forced to take advantage of offers from abroad.

May I give one example of this from my own experience? There is in my department at the Post-graduate Medical School, a young man who has been working for several years on some fundamental aspects of immunity and who has become an expert in the field. The importance of this subject in relation to infectious diseases has, of course, been recognised for a long time. But we are now beginning to appreciate that it has a great significance in at least two other areas of medicine—namely, the so-called "auto-immune" diseases, and also in the transplantation of tissues, as, for example, when the surgeon attempts to replace a diseased kidney with a healthy one. Immunology may even contribute to knowledge as to the cause and progress of cancer. The subject is therefore a most important growing point in medicine.

Every medical school, however, is hampered by a great shortage of staff in this field. We have therefore been most fortunate in having the scientist I have referred to working with us. This has been possible only through a personal grant of several thousand pounds per year from American sources which has covered his own salary and nearly all the expenses of the work. This grant is now coming to an end, but it is understood that it would be renewed and increased, in view of the importance of the work, on the understanding that the scientist was given a salaried appointment on the school staff. Unfortunately, it has not been possible to promise this, in view of the financial position and the uncertainties of the future. He has recently received two invitations, to which answers could not be delayed, to go and work in a senior position in the United States. In both cases there are much greater facilities for research than he could hope to have here, and in both cases his salary would be two or three times what he could hope to receive here at present. In spite of this, he did not wish to leave, provided that his future could be made secure. As things are, he has had no alternative and will be going at the end of the year. A colleague in another department has lost three similar promising young academic Leaders in one week. In present conditions, the exodus of scientific staff from the universities looks like developing into a landslide.

Nor has the position with regard to capital expenditure been any easier. Many university schools have had to put up with completely inadequate buildings and accommodation. For some the position may be eased owing to the generosity of private benefactors, and perhaps also, as in the case of my own school, by appeals in this country and abroad. I helped in the launching of these appeals in South Africa and Canada—incidentally, hardly the sort of thing that a professor should have to be doing. In both these countries there was a most generous response. On these occasions I was frequently asked how much the Government were doing to meet the needs of our university schools for new buildings. I must say that I found the question most embarrassing.

The problem of accommodation has, of course, been greatly aggravated by the ever-growing demands for university places, about which a great deal has already been said. Everyone who has a son or daughter who is trying to get into a university will know what this means. But the increasing pressure to enter our universities has come not only from students from our schools, but also from students from abroad, and particularly from the Commonwealth, many of whom have been encouraged to come by the Government's Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme. It is this aspect of the problem on which I should like to enlarge. To illustrate this, I should like, if I may, to refer further to the medical school with which I have been associated as a professor for many years, the Postgraduate Medical School of London.

Many of your Lordships will be familiar with the work that is being done there. It gives further training to qualified doctors in general medicine, surgery and pathology; in other words, it teaches them to be better doctors, and it is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth. Over 14,000 students have studied at the school since it was opened nearly thirty years ago. More than two-thirds come from overseas, about half of these from the Commonwealth, many from the under-developed countries. On their return home many of them take up key positions in the medical services of their country; many also take up teaching and pass on to others what they have been taught. The influence of the School in raising medical standards everywhere is therefore very great, and it has acquired a world-wide reputation. Unfortunately though, three out of every four doctors applying for admission have to be turned away for lack of space. Only last week in my own subject, pathology, we were considering over 60 applications from students from 23 different countries for next year's course, for which only 16 places are available.

But the School has an influence far beyond the practice of medicine. By bringing together doctors from practically every country in the world to learn each other's ways and outlook it plays a great part in promoting international understanding. Each on his return home becomes an ambassador for this country and, indeed, for the whole of the English-speaking world. In fact, of course, it is in such practical ways that international good will is most effectively promoted. It has been an inspiration to have watched the development of this great project, and one longs to see the concept as fully developed in other fields.

The Postgraduate Medical School is not, of course, alone in its international character and aims. It is only a part, though a major one, of the larger Postgraduate Medical Federation, which includes similar advanced training in the various medical specialties in different Institutes in London; and medical schools throughout the country also play a great part, at undergraduate level, in training doctors from the under-developed countries. The value of this is only too evident when one meets them at postgraduate level. With few exceptions they are in a class apart from the others from their own countries. Also, of course, the medical schools are only some of the many teaching institutes which regard the training of students from overseas as a most important part of their functions. The Imperial College of Science and Technology, with which also I am privileged to be associated, is a notable example.

It seems hard to visualise a more vital contribution that this country can make to the world than in the field of education, particularly in the training of those destined themselves to be teachers in schools and universities. The dividends that must accrue from helping to raise living standards and promoting good will in such ways are incalculable. While I do not intend to enter into any controversy over priorities, such a contribution is likely to be; a far more effective weapon in the fight against Communism than, for example, projects such as Blue Streak.

But it is not only from such angles that the role of our universities should be viewed. My mind goes back to a speech which the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House made a year or so ago—though not in your Lordships' House—in which he spoke of the future of the universities. As I remember, he made the point that though this country might in some ways seem to have departed from its former greatness, it has an incomparable heritage in its universities that fits it to be a world centre of culture and learning. How right he was, and is—but how dim the prospects of promoting that ideal now seem!

My Lords, I have already referred to scientific research, which is an integral part of the activities of so many of our university schools. However important may be the contributions made by full-time research institutes or from industry, the university must remain the centre of research activity in the country. There, after all, is the future research worker fashioned from undergraduate material. There is the fully-fledged research worker most likely to retain a breadth of outlook as the result of regular teaching activities, often on subjects unrelated to his own research, and also through intercourse with those engaged in other disciplines. There, above all, has he the fullest opportunity to inspire others with his own vision. And if he does not do this, however brilliant he may be, he has only partially fulfilled his purpose.

Whatever lowers the standards of the universities as a whole, therefore, lowers the standards of scientific research, with all that this means for the country's future. All of us are most concerned at the ever-mounting cost of the Health Service, but it is largely by raising health standards through the fruits of research that it is likely to be kept within bounds and made more efficient. The conquest of tuberculosis alone is estimated to have saved the country £60 million a year in treatment costs and in productive capacity of young lives. Economies that affect our standard of medical research are, therefore, short-sighted, if only from a financial point of view.

My Lords, I have tried to add a little to the background and details of the picture that is being painted this afternoon of the role of our universities and the difficulties with which they are faced. I hope that when this picture has been completed it will be evident to everyone how utterly inadequate are the Government's proposals to meet their present needs and future obligations. In the circumstances, these proposals can be regarded only as a policy of attrition.

Such a policy, which among other things leads to the banishment of some of our best research brains on reaching maturity, in the early thirties—and, after all, these are among our greatest national assets—seems absolutely suicidal. We are told that the grants proposed are all that can be spared in this time of grave economic difficulty. All one can say is that the country must indeed be in desperate straits to justify this course of action—a course which, in the long run, can only leave it worse off than before. Certainly no one is entitled to feel the slightest grounds for satisfaction from any improvement in the economic situation if it is to be brought about in such ways as this.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we all ought to be grateful to the noble Earl for giving us the opportunity this afternoon of turning aside from our normal politics to discuss the situation in our universities. During the course of his speech he referred to the Report associated with the name of Geoffrey Crowther, which was very much the topic of discussion in your Lordships' House some years ago, and he said that some of the targets mentioned there were out of date. I could not help thinking, especially when I saw the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, in his seat (he is now, as your Lordships know, the Chairman of another Commission—this time on higher education), that the largest part of the Crowther Report is yet awaiting implementation by the Government. Knowing something of the tremendous enthusiasm, energy and care which Lord Robbins and his Commission are putting into their researches into the question of higher education, I can only hope that when their report appears it will receive more satisfactory treatment at the hands of the Government. But what has been going on during these last few months does not really give one any sort of confidence that that will be so.

My Lords, it is no exaggeration to say that the universities of this country are at the present time seething with discontent. At this very moment, representatives from practically every university in England, Wales and Scotland are in the Lobbies outside the other House, seeing their Members of Parliament on this very problem, and nothing of the sort has ever happened before in the history of the universities of this country. I submit to your Lordships that it is a very significant fact indeed that what is sometimes called mass-lobbying should be going on by university professors and teachers in the House of Commons at the present time.

This subject is quite obviously one of extreme national importance, and I was very glad indeed to hear the forthright speech of the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who I think made that very clear indeed.

Our universities have played a very great part in the proud position which this country holds in the world to-day. When one thinks of the technological work which has been based on the researches of Newton, Darwin, Rutherford and others of our great scientists, one cannot but be proud of the contributions which they and our technologists have made. But never before have we stood in such dire need of such, and indeed, much fuller, contributions, and never before have we been starved to the same extent, in comparison with the work which is going on in other countries, countries which are our great rivals in the fields of industry and commerce.

Only within the last few weeks an important independent committee, which has been considering the problem of the expenditure required for the necessary developments, in our higher education, has underlined the importance of higher education to our community by choosing as the title of their Report the significant words, "Investment for National Survival". I submit to your Lordships that that is not too high a title to take for it, because it is our national survival which depends on the work which is going on in our universities at the present time. That document is a remarkable document which points out that we are rapidly coming to the end of our one time abundant mineral riches, that we lack many of the physical resources which are found in large quantities in other parts of the world, and that, indeed, our survival as a great nation depends on the manner in which we make use of our human resources. This is really the whole matter which is being put before your Lordships' House this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Longford and others who are taking part in this discussion.

This committee makes it perfectly clear that the need for rapid (and I underline the word "rapid") educational expansion is altogether too urgent for the nation to accept the complacent satisfaction which, unfortunately, is characteristic of the speech of the Government spokesmen in the recent debate in another place. So far from being satisfactory, we now know from the Observer of last Sunday that the University Grants Committee were so upset by the reduction in the expenditure which they had proposed to the Government, that they seriously considered handing in their resignations to the Treasury. It might have been a good thing if they had, because that would have brought the matter home in a way which nothing else could have done.

Mr. Henry Brooke's speech was, if I may say so, in quite a number of respects definitely misleading. I have no doubt that he did not quite appreciate that it was so. No doubt the material was provided for him by people who did not really quite understand the situation as they ought to have done. But this has been made perfectly clear, again as appeared in the Observer only on Sunday last, by the Chairman of the University Grants Committee himself, Sir Keith Murray, in an address which he gave only a week or so ago to the Institution of Electrical Engineers. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury in his speech had stated that recruitment of teachers for the universities had recently been so good that the overall ratio of staff to students had much improved over that which existed before the war—which, incidentally, as I was involved, I can say was certainly not at all satisfactory.

However, Sir Keith Murray is reported in the Observer to have described this statement as "very misleading"; indeed, very misleading it is, because in the domain of natural science and technology, which is at present the absolutely vital part of the front, the ratio has in fact deteriorated, and deteriorated very substantially indeed, from 1 in 7.6 before the war to I in 10.7 now—a deterioration of something like one quarter. Mr. Henry Brooke's figures are therefore in fact misleading. It may be that over the whole field something of the sort is true, but in order to get the picture accurately one has to make the analysis which Sir Keith Murray made in that speech.

Moreover, as I think the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Norwich pointed out, we are now very properly concentrating a great deal more on graduate work in the universities. The production of Ph.D. students, of course, requires that they shall stay at university longer and be given a great deal more individual attention on the part of the teachers. If one takes this into consideration, which one obviously ought to do, again one sees that the complacent statement made in the House of Commons is altogether misleading. I really wish, my Lords, to devote the main part of my argument this afternoon to one particular aspect of this matter, but I could not help making those remarks in the light of what I had heard earlier on.

The particular aspect of the matter which I wish to concentrate upon is the rejection by the Government of the recommendations of the Grants Committee in regard to the salary increments. At this point I suppose it is right that I should declare an interest, although I think that most of your Lordships have heard me say this before. I have for quite a number of years now been the Honorary General Secretary of the Association of University Teachers, which is the organisation which represents the teachers in their discussions with the Grants Committee and with the Vice-Chancellors' Committee.

I should like to say that it is exceedingly distasteful to most university teachers to find themselves involved in squabbles of this kind. There is nothing which they dislike more, because they want to get on with their job. Indeed, quite a few of them—mostly from Oxford and Cambridge, where conditions are noticeably better than in the newer universities—have written to The Times deploring what is going on; and, indeed, more than one of them have asked what right the Association of University Teachers has to speak for them. The right is the necessity in the modern world of having a negotiating body, a body which in fact includes almost three-quarters of the whole university profession. University teachers do not ask a great deal from the community to which they are giving tremendous services, but they do—and I think they ought to—insist on a reasonable standard of life, because it is not only for themselves, but it is for their wives and for their families that they are concerned.

I think it may truly be said that in the great modern universities, in which after all much the largest number of university students are now being educated, the staffs have been inadequately paid from the very beginning. I think anybody who really knows about it must agree that that is so, and certainly in 1962 we have had a very serious setback. I hope, my Lords, that you will be prepared to listen to me for just a few minutes, while I narrate very briefly the actual facts of the last year or more in relation to this question of the salaries claim, because it is only by doing so that I can make clear that there is this feeling of despair—really that is the only word which describes it—among such large numbers of university teachers at present, and why they have come from all over the country and are now gathered outside this Chamber talking to their M.P.s.

The existing scales came into operation in January, 1960, although they were not announced until May of that year. This retrospectivity is more apparent than real, because that claim had been put in very much earlier, in 1959, and had been lying on the Chancellor's table at least from the beginning of that year. In parenthesis, I should like to say that this question of retrospectivity is a very sore one with university teachers, because, as a result of the rather difficult, complicated machinery that operates, it is never possible for a decision to be reached until quite a number of months—it may be six, eight or even nine months—after a claim is first put to the Vice-Chancellors for discussion with them. After discussions with them, we have to go to the Grants Committee and have discussions with them; then the Grants Committee have to have discussions with the Vice-Chancellors' Committee; and then the Grants Committee, after they have come to a conclusion, have to go to the Treasury and have discussions with them. By the time all this has happened, as a result of the inflation which is going on all the time the original claim no longer reflects the actual situation. Then, when the Chancellor refuses, as he almost invariably has, to give any real measure of retrospectivity, there is great feeling among the university teachers that we have been cheated—and that is a very unfortunate thing.

I was saying that the existing scales came into operation in January, 1960, although they were not announced until May of that year. Now it is important to notice that the claim had been based on what is called "job comparability", under which, for the purposes of comparison, the Civil Service had been chosen, as it usually had been by everybody in this connection in the past, although I think Mr. Henry Brooke, in his speech, threw a little cold water on this practice. I need not go through the reasons for this, for it would take too long, but all the discussions with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and the Grants Committee had taken place on that basis.

Therefore, it came as a tremendous shock to the university teachers when, only a few weeks after the announcement from the Treasury in May, 1960—that is to say, in July of the same year— it was announced that the principals in the Civil Service (the ones which were always equated with the lecturer grade in the university world) had had their maximum raised by no less than 25 per cent., and that that had been backdated, not just to the beginning of the year but right back to October, 1958. Now the officials in the Treasury must have been aware of this while all the discussion was going on between them and the Grants Committee during the early months of that year, and your Lordships can see why it was that, when this announcement was made, the university teachers felt that they had been "led up the garden path" and cheated. That feeling is still rampant among them, and it has not yet been explained by anybody in authority how that came about.

Naturally, the university teachers decided to put in a rectification claim, because the whole basis of their calculations had, in effect, been destroyed, and they did that as soon as the Long Vacation was over, in October, 1961. But before the discussions about this had in fact been opened with the Grants Committee, in January, 1961, the Civil Service got a further advance of 4 per cent., making the comparative position even worse. Then when, at last, in April, 1961, we came to have discussions about our rectification claim with the Grants Committee, they told us that, in the light of the whole situation—the claims which were coming in from the colleges of advanced technology, the teacher training colleges and other places; the new situation created by the setting up of new universities; and the whole problem of university development—they felt that, instead of tinkering with salary increments, it would be better to look at the whole structure of the salary position in the universities and try to get a rational basis for it. They therefore said to us, "Will you take your rectification claim away, look at the whole situation again, and come back to us as quickly as possible with suggestions for a new salary structure?" (Well, working night and day, pretty well, we succeeded in doing that within a month and we put it into the Grants Committee in about the middle of May last year. I think the Grants Committee dealt with it very quickly, because, as I understand it, it was in the Treasury either by the end of May or the beginning of June. And there it was on the fatal day, July 23, when the pay pause began to operate.

My Lords, is the Grants Committee a Government Committee? Would it not have been only right and fair to say that, when a claim like that had been formally made to and by an organisation which the Government themselves had set up to deal with these matters, it should have been regarded as "in" on July 23, when the pay pause began to operate? And was it a fair and, indeed, an honourable position to take up, to say that it was too late, bearing in mind that it was accepted that claims which were in could be dealt with? I suggest that it was really a little in the nature of sharp practice to rule out this claim on that basis. If we had not taken it back as we had been requested to do by the Grants Committee (the Chairman of which is, ineffect, a Government servant, and the Secretary of which is a civil servant seconded from the Treasury), it would no doubt have been dealt with, and, at any rate, we should have got something.

In view of that, one cannot really be surprised that there is this feeling in the university world that we have not really had a fair "do". That has been accentuated by the fact that during the following months a number of other sections of teachers in higher education have received very substantial increases in their salaries, which carry them altogether beyond the 2½ or 3 per cent. which the Chancellor of the Exchequer regards as proper under the pay pause. On the face of it, it looks like discrimination.

Now, my Lords, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a rather long speech in another place which I have read very carefully and which occupies ten columns in Hansard, devotes only one column to the question of salaries, although that was the gravamen of the attack which was launched against him by the Leader of the Opposition; and even in that one column from that long speech he nowhere tries to deal with the question which I have been putting before your Lordships about the unfairness of what actually happened in the summer of 1961. Nor did he deal with the discrimination which, on the face of it, appears to have taken place. Because recommendations were made in respect of the salary increases in the Colleges of Advanced Technology in November, long after July 23. They were dealt with very rapidly, and I believe it is right to say that the 16 per cent. increase granted operated from January 1, and that that was so not only for the Colleges of Advanced Technology but also for the Training Colleges, which are now looked after by the Pelham Committee. The Pelham Committee made recommendations, as I understand it, in November of last year, and that was followed by an increase in the salaries of the teachers in the Training Colleges, which again operated from January 1, this time of no less than 20 per cent.

I have given the noble Viscount who is to reply for the Government notice that I want to know why this is fair for them but not for us; how he explains that there is no discrimination in what has occurred; and why the Burnham Committee can have its awards implemented while the Grants Committee cannot. Because, after all, all this money is coming from the Treasury, whether it is for Colleges of Advanced Technology or for Teachers Training Colleges, or whether it is Burnham money. In the universities we just do not know why we should have been put, so to speak, at the back of the queue while all the other people should have been treated in this way. It seems to me that it would not be inaccurate to describe the attitude which has been taken up by the Treasury in this matter as both doctrinaire and wooden, and you really cannot expect people to work happily, contentedly and well when they are labouring under treatment of this kind.

I should like to finish by saying that it is not only the teachers in the universities who are worried and upset at the present time. As has appeared from some of the speeches made earlier this afternoon, the authorities themselves in the universities are equally worried and uncertain. Quotations have been given by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and by the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, which are very apposite to the point and which I do not propose to go over again. But I should like to refer for a minute to some of the observations of Sir Douglas Logan, Principal of the University of London, in his report for 1961–62. This is an annual document issued by the Principal of the University of London which has come to fill a very real place in the University world, so much so that it is read very carefully, not only in our own universities but by university people abroad. When I have been visiting foreign universities I have been told by the rectors that this is one of the "must" documents which they have to pay attention to, because it tells them in a very able way what is going on in England. I hope your Lordships will get this report and read it, because it is a most valuable document.

I should like to quote two or three short passages from it. At page 9 he says: A further cause for alarm and despondency is the inadequacy of the proposed increase in academic salaries. That is a pretty strong expression coming from the Principal of the University of London. On the next page he goes on to say: This latest salary decision puts the universities at a marked disadvantage in recruiting at home, and makes the retention of staff in the face of intense and international competition even more difficult than before. That is a point which has been particularly rubbed in by the noble Lord, Lord Stamp, who speaks from his own personal experience. Sir Douglas Logan goes on to say that his academic staff are constantly receiving very tempting offers from abroad. He says: For example, in a single week last month one of our senior science professors received personal letters from colleagues in four Canadian and two American universities inquiring whether members of his department would accept appointments on their staffs. He goes on to refer to the puny answers which were given in another place to the Question put down there in regard to this particular matter, in which it was said that officers of the Central Office of Information at the airports are asking people why they go abroad. He said: The answer ought to be crystal clear; they want reasonable remuneration and adequate facilities for teaching and research. Surely that is the core of the whole matter, and unless and until the Government can see that that must be provided they cannot expect the universities to make the contribution to the life of this country, the industry of this country, and the progressive development of this country which they want to make, which they are really very capable of making, and which, indeed, only they can make.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, my interest in this subject is so obvious that I scarcely need to declare it. My job for the next few years must be to build, with the help of colleagues of various kinds, a new university, and, as I interpret it, to build a university as fast as possible if it is to make any impact on the critical time ahead. By far the greatest part of the finance for that institution must inevitably come from the State, and hence the attitude of the Government towards universities is clearly of deep personal concern to me. In so far, too, as I touch on salaries—and I shall touch on them very little —I am clearly personally involved. But actually, my Lords, there are, I think, few of us in this House who have not an interest in this debate. For what we are really discussing to-day is not the prosperity of a small group of university teachers, or even the well-being of a group of students: what we are really discussing is the prosperity, the security and the health of the nation.

We have heard about the statement of the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals. That statement, I would emphasise, showed not only profound and unusual disturbance at the Government's announcement—and, on the whole, the Committee of Vice Chancellors is not what I would call, from my short acquaintance with it, a hysterical body. It went on to say that they believed the universities were being asked to do something impossible—to reach a certain target of numbers without lowering standards, yet with inadequate resources. Resources, it is important to note, judged to be inadequate, not simply by the Vice Chancellors, but also by that independent Committee charged by the Government themselves with the task of examining university finance, the University Grants Committee. Was this protest then simply the usual noise and dismay that anyone makes when he gets less than he asks for? Were the Vice Chancellors simply going through the routine motions of saying, "Not enough"? My Lords, I do not think so, and I will be as brief as possible in saying why.

The first and, to me, most important cause for real alarm about the Minister's statement concerns the position on the U.G.C. That body, as we all know, is charged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with, among its other duties, that of assessing the financial needs of the universities and distributing the money that Parliament votes. The whole U.G.C. mechanism is one Which has the confidence of the universities, not because it is soft (I had the privilege of serving for ten years on the U.G.C. and, believe me! soft is the last word that one could reasonably apply to it) but because it is really knowledgeable. And what has happened now? We have set the universities a certain target of numbers. It is a target which involves expansion, but simply because, as we all know, the number of young people in the population is increasing. The U.G.C. presents to the Chancellor the bill which we must meet to achieve this target. It is not what the universities themselves say that they need; it is what the University Grants Committee, knowing all the facts, believes that they will need—the very least with which it can be done without a decline in standards.

If the finances of the country have got into such a state that the money is not there, then clearly the universities cannot have it. No one disputes that. But in that case the Chief Secretary must surely say one of two things. He must say: "We cannot meet this target. Deplorable though it is, the boys and girls of 1965 will have less chance of going to a university than their elder brothers and sisters". Alternatively, he could say: "We will reach the target, although in doing so I am aware that in some ways standards must decline; that is the price we must pay." Either statement would, I think, be sad: the first one would be lamentable. But either would be comprehensible. In fact, he has not said either of these things. He has said that we can reach the target without lowering standards and with less money. In other words, the University Grants Committee is wrong. With what possible knowledge, on what possible advice, can he have come to that decision? That is the question that is worrying many of us in universities.

It worries us because the universities are in a curious position. The Minister who is responsible for them is the same Minister whose principal duty is to discourage expenditure. It is a system that can work only if the advice of the University Grants Committee is taken—not, of course, as to how much money the universities shall have, but as to how much is needed to accomplish certain objectives. The University Grants Committee is not, with all respect to what the First Secretary said in another place, quite on the same level as many Advisory Committees. I have sat oh other Advisory Committees—I was on the Crowther Committee—and our view was turned down. That is all right—one expects one's views to be turned down! But with the University Grants Committee one is dealing with something different.

Some of us believe that what the system needs is an overhaul. Some of us hope that when the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, reports, they will favour perhaps a University Grants Committee working within some ministerial framework other than that of the Treasury. But what we are seeing now is a change in the relationship between the universities, the University Grants Committee and the Treasury which gives the universities the worst of all worlds, leaving them without the defence of a Minister to fight their battles in the Cabinet and with a University Grants Committee whose technical and considered judgment is overruled.

The second reason for this very genuine alarm in the universities is the belief that even to-day we have not grasped either the part that universities must play in our national life or the pressures that the wave of qualified candidates is going to put on them in the next few years. We are frequently reminded of the number of demands on our national resources. We must, we are told, take our places in the queue. Why should universities, after all, be in a privileged position compared with hospitals or roads? On the whole, university people are not altogether unreasonable, and they see the force of these arguments. But they are also aware that in dividing up the national "cake", or whatever other cliché one uses, qualitative as well as quantitative considerations must arise.

The kind of contribution made by the various competing interests and its effect on the actual income available has to be considered. It cannot be too often emphasised that many of the other candidates for the national income are simply not going to progress at all without the flow of knowledge, and still more the stream of educated men and women, that only the universities can provide. In another place, Sir Edward Boyle said that, because of the increase in student population, the teaching function, as distinct from research, may well have to be uppermost in the years ahead. Those of us who are most anxious to emphasise the educational aspects of universities may well deplore this curious association of a new stress on education with an economy measure.

Nothing could do more to make it appear of secondary importance. We may also well regard it as an extraordinary way to stimulate enthusiasm for teaching in universities, to give their teachers a 3 per cent. increase in salaries while other teachers receive 15 or 20 per cent.

But that is not the main point I am making. I am trying to emphasise the fact that a threat to university research is a threat to national prosperity and national security. Of course we all know that some researches are trivial. We all know that some university teachers make research an excuse for neglecting their educational job. But admitting all that, the broad fact remains that, without providing opportunities for research, we shall not recruit university teachers. And to-day that research is not simply one among a variety of activities that we may or may not be able to subsidise. It is often a prerequisite for those other activities to go on at all. If your Lordships discuss defence or health or agriculture, the discussion—I say this with respect—is utterly unreal unless it presupposes both a supply of university-trained people and a rapidly growing body of knowledge that arises out of university research. And if one says that much of this could be carried on in research establishments, as it is, where are the recruits to such places to come from, if not from university laboratories? If we view with equanimity the flow of scientists, not only to these institutions but also across the Atlantic, and say that such export is valuable, as it is, we still have to ask ourselves who is to train and educate the scientists before we can export them, if the university departments do not prosper. The truth is, my Lords, that the activities of universities in the modern world make them not simply members of a queue of applicants for Government generosity: they are vital prerequisites to economic advance.

The second general point I want to make, very briefly, concerns our plans for the future. Is our proposed rate of growth sufficient, even if it can be attained—and here I want to underline what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said? Are we investing enough capital in our universities? In another place, figures were quoted with some pride to show that the percentage of the age group going to universities will remain, if all is well, reasonably constant over the next few years and will then actually rise. But is that really good enough? In a race—and if we are to hold our own in the world to-day, higher education is a race—is it enough to say, "We are doing splendidly. We hope to be in about the same place in three or four years. Actually our expert advisers say we shall not even do that, but I am sure we will. Keep, running!"

If the best happens, we shall keep pace with the population bulge. But what about the tendency for more children to go on in school and become potential university material? Here we know that the Ministry of Education and the schools are the heroes, or, if you like, the villains, of the piece. They have been too successful, too persuasive, too good. They have encouraged more boys and girls to stay to go into sixth forms, and have provided sixth forms for them to stay in. They have sold higher education to social classes who never had it, and now, faced with these new resources of talent from which to draw, the greatest treasure that any nation could ever have; faced with this great national opportunity, are we to say, "Thus far and no farther. There are no places for you, well-qualified though you may be"? The Minister of Education is opening a door of opportunity. Do the Treasury wish to close it?

We are told that a somewhat greater population of our students actually graduate than in some European countries, but we are not told that this European graduation is the result of a five or six years' course and more closely corresponds with one of our higher degrees. In any event, these international comparisons are nearly always misleading: they are extremely technical. But if they are to be made, are we really to believe that our sense of urgency in approaching the next few years in higher education really compares with that of the United States or Canada or Russia? There are, of course, many in the universities who are to blame in this respect, in that they have been less than half-hearted in their approach to the opportunities given by our expanding sixth forms, talking about "scraping the bottom of the barrel", and so on. But is the Government's attitude likely to vitalise them?

Because of the important question of principle involved, I have referred to the cutting back of recurrent grants below the University Grants Committee figure, but I think it is capital expenditure and salaries that will provide the more serious problems. Ever since the war the universities have received far smaller capital grants than they have needed. Even when larger grants are promised, the rise in building costs diminishes them by a figure that is quoted as 12½ per cent., and which we know is probably much more. And the universities are told that the greater part of this must be "absorbed". What does "absorbed" mean? What can it mean except build more slowly?

There is another shadow—the need for more residence. I am not speaking now of its educational value; that might well be sacrificed—and in some ways not unreasonably sacrificed—on the altar of national economic crisis. I am thinking rather of the fact that many universities will very soon be unable to expand at all, not only because of the laboratories, the lecture halls and the libraries being inadequate but because there will be nowhere at all for the students to live. If we are to meet the bulge, let alone the trend, we have simply got to look afresh, I believe, at our capital programme, and particularly our policy as regards residents.

A few months ago I mentioned international comparisons. It is sometimes pointed out that our staffing ratio is better than that of many countries. So it is, although it is illogical to make that comparison while at the same time pointing out that abroad some of the work done in universities really corresponds with that of our sixth forms. Can we economise in staff? If we are prepared to pay the price, we can. But it will be a heavy price. Such economy can scarcely be reconciled with a desire to foster the educational side of universities. Let us remember that our philosophy of university education differs from that of some other countries. We employ a generous staffing ratio to give a very good education in a short space of time to comparatively small numbers. Some other countries believe in giving a less good, because less personal, education to a much larger number, and continuing it for the chosen, not for three years, but for five, six or seven years. The fear in our minds in the universities is that we are about to get the worst of both worlds; to be forced to worsen our staffing ratios without being given increased time; to compromise the standards of our universities without the justification of the vast numbers which some other countries can boast.

I have talked about buildings. Ultimately, as we all know, certainly if we have anything to do with education, the quality of what we do depends on the teacher. For years we have been saying this about the schools, sometimes unavailingly. It is no less true of universities. I have often in the past been critical of our universities, and I have often said that there was insufficient personal contact with the students and insufficient care for them. I still believe that in some departments in some universities a new wind must blow. But if we are to ask our staffs to work harder, if we are to urge on them the importance of teaching as well as—not instead of—research, if, for example, we want to make, as some of us do, a genuine tutorial system general, can we in honesty do it with people who are badly treated over their own salaries?

I know that nothing is more difficult than to fix the salaries of professional people who like their work and are doing a congenial job. But I also know that to treat university teachers in such a markedly different way from other teachers, without a rational justification, is going to lead to problems of recruitment and morale that may well jeopardise all our hopes and plans. If we are to expand, we must recruit a very large number of teachers. It may be that some special inquiry is needed into the methods of negotiating university salaries, and into their whole structure. I think myself it is. If so, then let us have one with all speed. What is intolerable is to go on in the present position—a position in which we have to expand our staff, in which we shall be calling for great efforts, in which, above all, we shall be demanding new ideas and a new vision from our university teachers, and to do all this with men and women who are not unjustifiably disgruntled.

My Lords, in what I have said I have stressed simply what I may call the economic justification for giving greater support to universities. There are other arguments: the argument of justice that we shall be denying legitimate opportunity to thousands of able young people in the next ten years unless we plan and build and spend now; the argument of standards; that the community looks to its most able citizens for much else besides the means to economic advance. Those arguments I have not used, although I believe that few could be more sympathetic towards them than the noble Viscount who will reply to this debate. But I believe that for a very small sum of money—small, that is, compared with what we spend on defence or on agriculture, or on many other things—we are at this moment committing several wrongs. We are threatening a system of university control that is the envy of most other countries; we are frustrating a body of men and women, small in number, great in influence, or potentially great in influence; frustrating them to such an extent that we may fail to recruit their successors. We are threatening to weaken at their source the springs of advancing knowledge with all its hopes for economic and social advance. All these things are being done against the advice, not simply of people like myself who are involved as interested parties, not of idealists and visionaries and educationists, but of that body of experts charged by the Government itself with the task of being knowledgeable about university affairs. My Lords, on this issue is it really too much to ask the Government to think again?

5.26 p.m.


My Lords, it is with some trepidation that I enter a debate which has already mobilised so much academic manpower and has still more to mobilise, for I must confess that it was only last year, at what I suppose I must regard as my elderly middle-age, that I found myself for the first time in my life a professor, and even then only a temporary professor—and I should perhaps add, in view of some remarks on the subject which were passed in an earlier debate in your Lordships' House, an American professor—when I had the honour to be invited by the University of California, Berkeley, to go to them as a Regents professor. Being a Regents professor is a very agreeable and pleasant occupation in which one is not required to do a great deal of work apart from a few lectures and a little graduate seminar, but in which one is primarily invited there to be, as they so nicely say, "around the place to exchange minds". So one's purpose is to talk to those members of the faculty to whom it would seem to be agreeable to talk, and to be there for them to come and talk to you.

It so happened that I arrived there at the culmination of a development which I found interesting, and which I believe may be regarded as relevant to this debate. For the University of California, under the direction of the President of the University, an admirable statesman educationist, a Dr. Clark Kerr, had been, in conjunction with the Congress of the State of California and the Governor of the State of California, as with the Regents of the university, trying to plan out what university education ought to be for the next fifteen years. It is only on the basis of a long-term detailed planning of that kind that one can hope to deal with the question of university education. You cannot, as the Government seem sometimes to think you can, just stand around hoping that when the moment comes you will be able to conjure educational rabbits out of non-existent hats. You must plan; you must determine what your aims and objectives are; and you must decide what you can spend.

The present student population of the University of California—and, as my noble friend the mover of this Motion said, the State of California, with a population of under 15 million, already spends more than this country on university education—spread over a number of campuses is, at present, 44,500; and the master plan which was agreed and is now being put into effect is to raise that total in the course of the next fifteen years, by 1975, to 119,000, and to set aside for the purposes of expenditure on building and equipment alone the sum of one billion dollars. They are doing this because they believe as the Commission which they set up to investigate told them, that this is necessary if those of talent and ability in their State are to get the education which is necessary to their requirements and which is desirable for the future of the country. Indeed, they are making this enormous expansion not by any diminution in the standards of the University but the contrary, since accompanying it there is also to be a great expansion of State colleges and so on. In fact, the level of entry into the University is to be raised, and instead of taking, as now, some 15 per cent. of high-school graduates (and it is important to remember that only some 50 per cent. of those who go to high school in fact do graduate) they will take only 12½ per cent., in order that stress on quality and excellence shall go alongside this enormous expansion in numbers.

Although we sometimes tend to think of American universities as being extravagant, I am assured that there was no extravagance in this. Indeed, in this long-term planning a most careful bugetary Commission was set up, and it was set up not only because of the natural desire to avoid waste but also because the State Congress is well aware that it has to face its electors very shortly. The Governor of California, who is very much involved and approved this master plan, is also well aware that he is in an extremely vulnerable position, since he represents the first handicap on the first leg of the formidable Mr. Richard Nixon's attempt to race back to the White House. So you can be sure, my Lords, that all the figures and estimates of what wa9 necessary to meet the requirements of this community were most carefully examined. Already 43 per cent. of the student population of the University of California are concerned with graduate study—what we call post-graduate study—and that number is to be increased in the expansion, and the amount spent on research further expanded.

That is one aspect of that expansion, but there is another to which many noble Lords have already referred in this debate, the enormous attraction, the inevitable attraction, of the expanding American university to the talent among our university teachers. I asked those concerned with this great expansion plan for university education in California where they hope to obtain the faculty members, professors, associate professors, lecturers and so on, to match this enormous expansion. They told me that they were hoping to draw to a considerable extent from the United States, but that they also hoped to draw particularly from the United Kingdom. They had the highest respect for British university teachers.

On three occasions while I was there I talked to young university students from over here who had had fantastic offers. I remember one, a young geography lecturer from King's College, London, who was at the Santa Barbara Campus of the University of California—and Santa Barbara, if any of your Lordships knows it, is a place where the sun always shines; where the University is on a promontory which sticks out into a beautiful ocean, and where the ratio of cars to families is four per family, which might be regarded as a kind of paradise of material wealth. This young lecturer in geography had been told that they wanted to set up an institute to study and do research in the particular branch of geography with which he was concerned, and that if he would stay he could have the job of creating that institute and of becoming its director, at a salary about four times that which he was getting in London.

Another young man came to me with an introduction from my wife's brother, who is on the staff of Imperial College. The young man, one of our most brilliant young experts in cybernetics had been offered a job at Berkeley, where all the possible kind of equipment in the world was spread out before him and the most fabulous and attractive offers placed before him to try to persuade him to stay. The third was a young Cambridge don who was assured that if only he would agree to stay he would be given a full professorship within two years. I am glad to say, my Lords, that in each of the three cases the young men refused and decided that they wanted to go back to England.

They refused partly because they found, I am glad to say, that on the whole England is a more agreeable country to live in, but also because, as they said to me, "We are obviously on the eve of a great expansion of univer- sity education and research in England". They mentioned the statements that had been made by the Government and by the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House, and they, poor things! believed them. I have not seen these three men since, but I wonder what they are feeling now. And I wonder what all the other hundreds of university teachers, of the greatest talent and ability, who are going to receive offers of that kind from the University of California, and from other expanding universities in the States, are going to think, in the light of the decisions made by the Treasury.

On my way back I had the good fortune to visit with my wife a friend of hers, a Dr. Gardner who is the President of the Carnegie Foundation. He had just completed a book on a theme which was becoming one of the dominant themes of American education, a book which had as its sub-title the question Can we be equal and excellent too? Of course, American education has always thought in terms of an equal opportunity, but is now more and more thinking in terms of excellence and the necessary expenditure for excellence. When I came back I quoted this to a leading educationist in this country and he said to me, perhaps correctly, that he thought that here we might put it the other way round and ask, "Can we be excellent and equal too?" But whichever way it is put, surely there can be no doubt whatever that the needs of this nation require that we shall have the most excellent possible kind of university education available for the largest possible number of those who can benefit from it and they shall have an equal opportunity to secure it.

As has already been said in this debate, many of the great raw materials on which the strength and wealth of this country was built are no longer so important as they were. But we have this immense raw material of the talent and the ability of our people. Of course, all government is a matter of priorities. There is never the time or the resources, or perhaps the political wisdom, to do all that we need at any particular time. But surely the case against the Government in the light of this decision is that they have their priorities all wrong. The budgeting commission which was set up to advise on this great plan for Californian expansion said this in its conclusion when it was putting forward its plan: More and more as we investigated the needs we were driven to the conclusion that the question we had to face was, not can we afford to have an effective education system but can we afford not to have the best possible education system to call upon the talents we need at this time. Surely that question is equally appropriate to our condition.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, may I at the outset express my interest in this debate? I have, at the university of which the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, is Chancellor—a very distinguished and admired Chancellor—held a teaching post for forty years; for the last 28 years I have been head of a university department. It is, I think, significant—and I hope the Government will not lose sight of this fact—that every speaker in the debate so far to-day has deplored the decision made by the Chief Secretary in his statement on March 14. I should like to stress (and this confirms what the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has said) that not only is there bitterness and resentment among Vice-Chancellors and Principals, because they believe that they have been deceived in this matter—let there be no doubt about that—but there is frustration and despair amongst the staffs of all our universities.

I witnessed, as indeed many of your Lordships who have spent some time in universities will have witnessed, the postwar expansion; that was an inevitable expansion; it was an emergency due to the return of our ex-Servicemen who rightly wished to enter a university. University teachers willingly accepted the much heavier burden which flowed from that expansion. In my own university, fortunately, lectures could be given in a theatre which held 350 or 400 students, but laboratory classes had to be duplicated and even triplicated because of the lack of laboratory accommodation. The present situation is not parallel to that. We have not in the immediate past had another world holocaust whose wreckage we are now seeking to salvage.

Just over two years ago the universities were asked if they would produce plans for expansion. My own university agreed; and I think this was the view of all universities, certainly it was that of the older of the newer universities—for the sake of shortness I shall call them "red-brick universities". My own university agreed in these terms: on the understanding that all necessary assistance would be given by the University Grants Committee for the provision of the additional staff required, for new academic buildings, halls of residence and ancillary services. The Chief Secretary took note and, indeed, congratulated the universities because although ten years ago the target set was 102,000, they had in fact reached this year 110,000 students, and that due in part to the supplementary block grant which was made in 1959 to the universities, but also due in part to the fact that many universities used their own resources in order that they might make the opportunities for those who were clamouring at their gates.

The Government cannot disclaim knowledge of what the true situation was. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has told us that the University Grants Committee, after careful deliberation on the applications of each university, made specific recommendations to the Government. In January of this year the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals met the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and in a document which unfortunately is labelled "Confidential, for private circulation within the universities", but which I suspect many of your Lordships who are not in universities have read, the Vice-Chancellors and Principals, apart from the pleasantries which pass on these occasions, put a cogent and unanswerable case to the Government, to the Chief Secretary, regarding university education, not as an uneconomic luxury but to fit our students to play their optimum part in the life of the community. Expansion in university education has not principles which are a monopoly of expansion. If it is to be expanded, university education must expand on the principles of university education. That means that expansion must not lower standards; it must not be pursued to the detriment of the principles of university education.

Many noble Lords have this afternoon stressed the importance of research. This is a fundamental concept of the university: that it exists not simply to transmit knowledge, but to pursue and advance knowledge; that it is not simply an institute of instruction, but is an educational instrument for those who are indeed the aristocratic minds of the community. It must be undertaken by teacher investigators who will imbue their students with a research spirit. We need not less, but more, research than formerly.

What do the Government suggest? The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has quoted the Financial Secretary to the Treasury emphasising that in increasing the student population the teaching functions of the university may well have to be uppermost. But the Chief Secretary to the Treasury also had views. He said: What is the right course for a Government to follow in the circumstances of expansion? Is it to go steadily for higher standards and not worry over much about meeting the needs of a generation which was caught up in the bulge? Or alternatively, is it to make a great effort to increase student places by 35 per cent. in five years, even if it means some crowding and some postponement of higher standards until the peak of the bulge has passed? The Government's hope is that universities will go for the latter course. But there is a third course—namely, that we should provide for the needs and retain standards. This is what the Government have so far not done. Let me say at once that the suggestion that there will be a later ease by 1973 because the number of students then in proportion to the teachers might be less, when we shall have passed the bulge, takes no note of the trend which has been mentioned, and I think that the suggestion of an ease is illusory.

To achieve expansion what do we need? We need adequate staff. We need adequate facilities—laboratories and libraries. We need adequate residential accommodation for our students—I do not mean simply halls of residence; we need places where our students can live. This lodging problem, which is uppermost in the minds of a number of modern universities, has not been adequately tackled. May I give your Lordships some figures from my own university? In 1950–51, ten years ago, Mersey-side, which is the normal drainage area of the university, provided 32.5 per cent. of our students; in 1960–61 it provided only 19 per cent. The rest of Lancashire and Cheshire—some of the students no doubt live within a travelling distance of the university—in 1950–51 provided 38.2 per cent. and in 1960–61, 334 per cent. But the remainder of the country, which means places well outside the daily travelling distance, have increased their numbers by 60 per cent. over the 1950–51 figures, and our halls of residence can accommodate 30 per cent., as compared with 24 per cent. earlier.

I do not propose to stress, as so many have, the real functions of the university in increasing post-graduate needs, the need for more teachers and more space. That has been done. But how have the Government approached this problem? I do not believe that we ought to speak in generalities, and I propose to quote some figures from the University of Liverpool. They may, of course, be provisional for the moment, but I think that little change is likely. The Government were warned, both by past history and by the Vice-Chancellor, of the significance of the transition from the end of one quinquennium to the beginning of another. Liverpool—and I suspect this reflects the position in other universities—required for the end of this last quinquennium, which is 1961–62, £2,104,150. They are its known commitments for 1961–62. For 1962–63 its commitments, with the expansion, will be some £2,482,000. That means that the commitments for 1962–63 require an additional £378,000 to be found. What have they been granted? They have been granted £29,850 for the additional commitments of 1962–63. It is true that in later years the percentage discrepancy narrows, but the actual amount of the deficit in the final year of the quinquennium, 1966–67, will still be £440,900.

It is true that the Chief Secretary has said—and I quote: It would be right to make a further review of the universities' financial situation in, say, two years' time, in the light of how the U.G.C. thought then that expansion was going forward, how prices and so forth were moving, and how the long-term economic outlook had developed. But policy cannot be formulated in advance to a month or two, or even six months. Policy means that we must know the amount of our grant, so that we can in fact plan ahead. We know that a number of items—for example, the wages of technical staff—will continue to rise during the next quinquennium. We know that there will be other erosions. I do not propose to discuss those. The University Grants Committee are in an unfortunate position. Let us recognise that the University Grants Committee has been virtually devastated by the response of the Treasury to its recommendations for the forthcoming quinquennium. What have the University Grants Committee suggested to meet the difficulties, the crisis in which the universities of to-day find themselves? First of all, it is said that we might adjust our programme. Adjusting the programme can only mean one of two things. It means that we reduce the size of our planned buildings—we are, as your Lordships know, constrained by certain recommendations of the University Grants Committee to be fairly economic in our buildings—and, secondly, that we postpone certain buildings. Surely this militates against expansion.

The second suggestion is that we might use our own resources. Universities have used their own resources. I owe my own department in medicine to the munificence of the late Sir Montague Burton, and there are many other people with large departments built through private generosity. But, your Lordships know, few universities of the red brick type have extensive resources. They are now utilising the income from those resources for current expenditure. If they sell their investments to provide money for expansion they will have carried out a once-for-all transaction, and even the money from their investments will no longer be available.

I am certain that the Government cannot be unaware of the widespread feeling that the contemplated expansion will not occur without additional grants. In the last three days, in addition to those observations which were quoted by the noble Lord,, Lord Boothby, and by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Professor Mansfield Cooper has said this: In spite of an increased number of applications it is probable that this year's intake of students at Manchester would be pegged at last year's level. The Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, whom Lord Boothby did not quote, said that the amount Oxford will receive from the U.G.C. for current expenditure in the five years 1962 to 1967 will not allow for expansion. And only a day or two ago, in The Times, the Principal of the University College at Swansea, Dr. J. H. Parry, is reported as saying that to try to expand on the grants to the promised rate would mean a serious decline in the standards of educational service we give to students". My Lords, there is another point which I think it is fair to make—it was made to me, though I hope that it will not be generally made: that if the universities are unable to open their doors to larger numbers of students to meet the expansion which the Government have suggested, the fault will be laid at the universities' door, and the universities will be blamed for not being sufficiently resilient to absorb the students who wish to become undergraduates. That is opprobrium which I hope the universities will not have to face.

Another suggestion that has been made (and it was made by a very distinguished person) is that, after all, the universities are the servants of Government; they receive the vast amount of their support from the Treasury, and therefore the Government will force them to absorb these students. I do not think that anyone in this House would support any such suggestion, certainly not the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House, but I would remind this House that the universities are not the servants of the Government. The universities are partners with the Government in an enterprise which is ultimately to the national advantage. They are autonomous bodies; they have a legal independence which is conferred on them by their charters, and in this partnership they claim a responsibility for the educational aspects of University work.

They know, of course, that they have to work within the limitation of the size of grant which is imposed on them. They know, after University Grant Committee discussions with the Treasury, that there are certain broad policies which the universities must try to follow—for example, that they should have a greater proportion of science and technological students, and so forth. But otherwise they are free agents; and this freedom is the very life-blood of a university. If the universities are to discharge their responsibilities to the best advantage, then this freedom must be maintained. My Lords, I pray that the Government will have second thoughts in this matter. As I said before, we are not dealing with an unnecessary luxury; we are dealing with a matter of vital concern to the future of this country.

Let me say at once that I do not share some of the criticisms which have been made of the Government to-day. I do not believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby said, that this is a major attack on higher education by the Treasury. I do not believe, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford said, that this is a deliberate policy. I think it is a mistaken policy, but, after all, we make mistakes without being deliberately in error.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I do not think I accused the Government of being deliberately in error. That would be an extraordinary accusation to make against someone outside of a mental home.


Nor did I, in fact, say so. What I said was that the noble Lord had accused the Government of following a deliberate policy, which was to keep down university grants. I do not believe this. I think that the Government are mistaken: that they are erring, not because they are deliberately trying to keep down university grants but, if one is to judge from the words of the Chief Secretary, because they are misinformed.

I think that Governments of all persuasions have made notable and impressive contributions to the educational life of this country. If I may speak from my own experience, in 1917, when I took a scholarship to the University of Liverpool from Birkenhead, there were then two scholarships—one for a boy and one for a girl—to the University of Liverpool from Birkenhead. The population of Birkenhead was 120,000. There were certainly 2,000 in each of the age groups 17 to 18, 18 to 19, eligible for universities. So that the provision of university places is nearly fifty times as great as it was some forty years or so ago. The Butler Act of 1944, for which both Parties, I would hope, were responsible during the Coalition phase, opened wide the gates of education, and I believe that they have a responsibility to keep those gates open as the educational ladder is ascended.

My Lords, I do not think that we can ignore the trend; I do not think we can concern ourselves solely with the bulge. But let me say this: I doubt whether, even if universities are given adequate money, they can, in fact, do much more than meet the Government's suggested figures in the next quinquennium or in the subsequent quinquennium. Buildings have to be built, staffs have to be provided, and we ought during the next two or three years to be training the staffs who will take their place in the universities in seven, eight or nine years' time. This is where I see part of the tragedy of the present situation. We must not by temporary measures—and this is a temporary measure—ignore the true purpose of university education. I know that the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of this House has a great admiration for Disraeli, and I need not remind him that Disraeli regarded a university as "a place of light, liberty and learning." Well, my Lords, the lights in the universities of this country are dimming—indeed, in some of their departments they may well go out. An inadequate short-term policy will postpone, but will not replace, an enlightened long-term policy.

What the Government need, as many of your Lordships have said, is to review the priorities. Reference has been made this afternoon to Sir Charles Morris's book, Investment For National Survival, and there can be no better investment than in the aristocracy of minds which make up the talent, the skills, of this country. Unless the Government have second thoughts, those who come to universities, and who are given less than they need—as well as those who are prevented from coming because of an irrational parsimony—will, in twenty to forty years' time, when aspiring to help keep this nation at its proper level in the comity of nations, have reason to look back in anger.

My Lords, there is just one further point. I would hope sincerely that in his reply to this debate Viscount Hailsham will make it clear that the Government are now prepared to have second thoughts. If the noble Lord is prepared to do that, then I will not follow the noble Earl, Lord Longford, into the Lobby. But, despite the fact that I should hesitate to vote for this Motion, I will certainly do so with conviction if the Government retain their present attitude towards the grants which they have so far made.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, I do not find myself impelled by what I have heard to add to the remarks I had intended to make. On the contrary, I find myself in agreement with almost all that fell from the noble Earl, to whom I am very grateful for initiating this debate, and with all that fell from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme and from the noble Lord, Lord Stamp. Agreeing as I do with them, I propose to curtail my remarks and to confine them to two points with which I have some personal connection.

To turn, first of all, to the current expenditure, let me explain my anxiety as to its adequacy by giving an instance from my own experience as Chairman of the College Committee at University College, London. My object in doing so is to illustrate the effect of inadequate recurrent grants in restraining growth. With a large supplement from industry, University College was able to erect the first stage of a new engineering building, designed when completed to double its output of graduate engineers. As soon as the first part of the building was completed in 1961, it was occupied and the engineering departments increased their intake of students for the current session by about 40 per cent. But we were not able to make a corresponding increase in the teaching staff. We have been able to provide only a very limited number of additional teachers—one lecturer in each department, and no additional post for the current session. Moreover, we could not provide in our current budget for the number of technicians necessary to maintain the expensive equipment installed in the buildings, and were able to deal with the emergency only by having recourse to a reserve which is not likely to recur.

The only other point to which I wish to refer is the question of salaries, which is perhaps less delicate for me, as I am not a salaried officer of any university, than it has been for some of those who have addressed your Lordships to-day. I do not challenge the correctness of the statement in the White Paper Income PolicyThe Next Step that the objective must be to keep the rate of increase of incomes within the long-term rate of growth of national production. But the rate of growth will not improve unless there is an increase in the number of available scientists and technicians, and their availability must depend on an adequate supply of teachers in our universities and technical colleges to train them.

Like one of the correspondents of The Times, I do not for a moment think that the main reason which draws people into the academic staff of a university is financial, but adequate salary is an important consideration to a man with a family. Moreover, justice requires a higher reward for the important work that the academic staff of a university perform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, according to a quotation which I found in that invaluable document to which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred—namely, the Report by the Principal of London University—is reported as having said that He did not dispute that university salaries had fallen behind some of those with which they could justly be compared, but so had many others … If we are to hold out against inflation there must be temporary sacrifices and inequalities. It seems to me, as it seems to many of your Lordships, that the staffs of universities have been made an invidious example for the latter part of the Chancellor's statement.

Moreover, the implementation of that document has already indicated one comparison that may be made by persons contemplating entrance to the teaching profession. Paragraph 2 of that pamphlet intimated, among other things, that, as from April 1, 1962, effect would be given to certain wage and salary increases in the National Health Services which had been agreed since July, 1961, and which had been held back for implementation on a date to be decided by the Government. Among the increases sanctioned pursuant to this paragraph has been an increase in favour of technicians employed in hospitals. The increase is large, amounting on the average to about 25 per cent. I am not disputing the justification for their increases but the reaction of such a large increase on those who are being tied to the 2½ per cent. increase, or 3 per cent. in the case of academic teachers, mentioned in the Government White Paper is obvious. However, this afternoon I am concerned more with the effect of this increase on university finances.

In a medical school with which I am connected, we have technicians working side by side with technicians employed by the teaching hospital. Although the award does not directly bind the medical school, it is difficult to see how we can avoid keeping step with the hospital; if so, the increase in our wages bill will be some £11,000 per annum, and under existing arrangements there does not seem to be any supplementary grant to cover this additional charge, the cost of which we could meet only by abandoning planned academic developments. Let me say (I think one of the speakers who has already addressed your Lordships has referred to this point) that a comparison between the salaries of university lecturers and those payable in a College of Advanced Technology, or to Government scientific officers, is another source of potential discontent.

My Lords, having criticised the Government to some extent, let me say at once that I welcome, as I think all the speakers have done, the target which they have set up for the student population. My doubt is as to whether the Treasury have yet appreciated the inevitable cost of carrying it out, if it is to be carried out without a lowering of standards. I only hope that the noble and learned Viscount, when he replies to the debate, will be able to remove those doubts.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know that there is very much more to say in this debate, after what I think is one of the most devastating attacks I have heard in either House on Government policy, and furthermore, delivered by some very highly qualified individuals. I think that of the speakers only the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, and myself have not actually been fellows or associate professors or holding some office at a university. I think even the noble Lord who has just spoken is an honorary fellow of New College. We have now lost the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams, who we gather is a Regents Professor. In looking around I can see two Chancellors of Universities, a Vice-Chancellor, and I do not know how many Lord Rectors. When we remember last week's debate on pressure groups, it might be thought that we had a very considerable one to-day.

But, my Lords, it has been a very sorry tale. We have again had the story that we know so well, argued with extraordinary force, as I am sure the noble and learned Viscount will admit. There have been the obvious things which those of us who have children know about so well, with the "rat race" of trying to get into a university. Here it is worth recalling that, certainly so far as Oxford and Cambridge are concerned, the admission standards are a great deal higher now than they were at the time I went there. This tragedy of no places is, as has been pointed out before, contributing continually to this pressure for early specialisation. At a school one hardly ever hears a parent whose boy or girl is going to try to go to a university, who does not lament, particularly if the child is at a public school, that the school is not doing enough to fit him or her for entry to the university. You hear references to the advantages of being at grammar schools, and so on. This is not the point: this is the tragedy of there not being enough places.

My Lords, this, I think, is pretty generally accepted, and I should like to refer briefly to certain particular points, most of which have already been covered in some way in the debate, because they are points on which the Government have taken their stand in defending—and, indeed, I will go further than to say "defending": in another place, in actually boasting about—the effective nature of the Government's policy. For instance, Mr. Brooke talked about five years ago. He said that the total public expenditure on university education then was £50 million, that to-day it is £100 million, and that in five years' time it will be £155 million. This sounds very considerable as a figure, but, of course, so far as the next five years are concerned, it is a declining rate of increase rather than, as one might have hoped, an increasing rate.

It seems now to be pretty well established—and I hope that the Government will admit this in view of the opinions that have been expressed by so many people—that the hopes of reaching the chosen target of expansion of 155,000 by 1967 (I think that is the date) are not likely to be achieved; and it is no good the Government saying that they hope the universities will, if possible, achieve that target, because we know on all sides that it is no longer attainable. When we look at the figures, there is not really all that much to boast about, but I think we should be more inclined to accept the Government's good intentions if they were rather more frank in their explanation of these figures. I must confess that, reading Mr. Brooke's speech in another place, without imputing dishonesty in any way he certainly presented his case (as would be expected, of course, reasonably) in a way which was most favourable to the Government but one which has aroused an absolute storm of protest in academic circles; and it is on this ground in particular that the Government are open to censure.

My Lords, we have been told about the increase in the recurrent grant, and that there will be in 1962–63, I think, an increase of £6½ million; but it would surely have been reasonable for the Government to have pointed out that some of that grant—and the Principal of London University, Sir Douglas Logan, has estimated it as £1 million—is purely a transfer from D.S.I.R. to the University Grants Committee, and the figure is in fact considerably less than £6½ million or 13 per cent. We should like to have from the Government what they believe to be the real figure in purely monetary terms.


The real figure for what? I am sorry; I was not attending.


The real figure for the increase of the university recurrent grant in 1962–63. The noble Viscount, if he looks at Mr. Brooke's speech, will see that he mentions the figure. He says [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol 657 (No. 91), col. 741]: In the first year of the new quinquennium starting on the 1st August, 1962, the increase will be from £49½ million to £56 million—£6½ million, not £5½ million, as the right honourable Gentleman inadvertently mentioned. That was a mistake that Mr. Gaitskell had inadvertently made, though the Leader of the Opposition had in fact been more accurate than he realised, because that figure of £6½ million really needs to be diminished, in terms of increase in expenditure, by a figure which has been estimated by Sir Douglas Logan at £1 million, which is the element representing the figure which had previously been paid by D.S.I.R. and which has now been paid by the University Grants Committee.


My Lords, I will try to get that information in time for me to give it to the noble Lord. I will send for it if I can, but it is a very detailed point, and if by chance I do not get it perhaps the noble Lord will put a Question down and I will try to clear it up in that way. I am bound to say that I am quite unprepared to deal with it on anything that I have at the moment.


It is a point which has been made by the critics of the Government, particularly in Sir Douglas Logan's admirable speech, address or report to which we have all drawn attention. Perhaps it would be a mistake to go on pursuing this particular point here, but if the noble Viscount would also like the reference to it, it is on page 9 of the Report of the Principals.


I will send for it and see whether I can get it in time. The noble Lord has given me ample detail. What I am not sure about is whether I can get it in time. If I do not get it in time, he must put a Question down, and then I shall be very happy to answer it.


It is, of course, a substantial point, and I should have thought that his advisers would have picked this out from the Report of the Principals.

My Lords, it is on ground of this sort that there is criticism of the Government in terms of lack of frankness; and when we look at the cost of the new institutions, the rising price of goods and salaries, and at the fact that there is a back log of "carry-over" from the previous quinquennium, we find that the amount of money which is available for expansion is a great deal less than would be suggested by the bald figures. Here, again, it has been pointed out that in 1960–61 no less than £4,700,000 had to be devoted to meet erosion costs—costs which had gone up owing to rises in prices, and for which there was no contingency provision. Every university, so I am informed, ends the quinquennium with a deficit and with posts unfilled which are not themselves regarded as a commitment but as a development which has to be financed out of the new surplus. There has been reference to the statement by, I am not sure whether it was the Bursar of New College or whether it was in fact Mr. Norrington, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, which makes it very clear that the amount of money available for further expansion is relatively small.

Again I should like to ask the Government a question, and it may be that this also will have to be answered later. I should have liked to know what is their own estimate of the effect of rises in cost upon university budgets. We know that there has been a great rise in the costs of certain equipment, particularly of scientific equipment; and in the allocation of the grants and in arriving at the figure they have taken these increases into account. Is there any precise budgeting in arriving at what is the proper figure? If they know these figures, it would be helpful if they could be revealed. I should like to give an example, again from the scientific field, where, in particular, the costs of equipment tend to be so high. A resistance box—this comes from a physicist—costing £14 in 1950 costs £40 now; and the calibrations by the National Physical Laboratory cost three times as much as they did four years ago. It is interesting to note that some of these increases have in fact occurred during the famous pay pause, when one hoped that at least some price stability might be achieved.

I should like to turn, briefly, to the non-recurrent grant, also, and here again we are on difficult ground because it is so difficult to disentangle the figures. If I understand it aright, the present figure for the non-recurrent grants for universities in 1962–63 will be £25 million. The University Grants Committee have made their allocations, and their estimates in respect of the non-recurrent grants is a figure of £30 million. There is some suspicion among university heads and others that this figure of £30 million is not yet confirmed. It may be that I have missed it and that there is some Government figure, and that it could be argued that this is part of the internal negotiations between the Government and the University Grants Committee; but in the last resort these figures go into the pipeline and come out at the other end with detailed estimates and allocations, and it certainly seems to be apparent that the University Grants Committee have been operating on the basis of a figure of £30 million. As has already been indicated, this £30 million, if it is correct, is still not going to be enough to take account of the rises in costs of various kinds.

I should like to turn briefly to a matter which is very much Within the field of the noble Viscount, and that is the effect on the output of scientists. In our debate last November, the noble Viscount said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 235 (No. 9) col. 713]: It is the business of the Chancellor … to solve the present economic crisis. I am concerned to prevent one in 1975. My Lords, it is in this way that we hope in fact to prevent it. It is in regard to the matter we are now discussing that we hope an economic crisis will be prevented. I should like to ask the noble Viscount whether in fact he hopes that the output target—and, after all, we debated it in these terms—mentioned in the Report of the Advisory Committee, of 27,000 by 1970 and 30,000 by 1975, is likely to be now attained. We know that the cost of training a scientist is likely to be more expensive, and it is more difficult to expand. You cannot pack in physicists and chemists in the same way that you can students of the humanities. They need equipment, and from some of the Vice-Chancellors and others who have been quoted, it is apparent that there will be a delay in the provision of much of the essential equipment.

I know that the noble Viscount is not very anxious to make comparisons with foreign countries, and I sympathise with him in his attitude because of the difficulties in doing so; but I think enough has been said to-day, even if we leave aside the direct comparisons with the University of California, of which my only knowledge was confined to a book I once read called Don Juan in America. I do not know whether it is the level which now prevails; I very much doubt it. But even if we discount some of what they are seeking to do—and it is very difficult to do so in view of the evidence put forward by my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams—it has already been acknowledged that American output is two to three times higher proportionately than ours, even accepting (and this is a well-accepted figure, which I think the noble Lord himself at one time accepted) that about 20 per cent. of this is at a lower level than ours. I think that this was in the Report of the Advisory Committee.

Against this we have had to-day some pretty devastating evidence of the loss of scientists. This has been talked about, off and on, over the last few years, and I fully accept the views that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, has expressed—that it is obviously impossible for us to seek to match American standards or even to maintain standards in terms of income. This is simply not on. But there is the feeling, which has been so fully expressed, not merely by my noble friend Lord Chorley but by others, that they are not getting a fair deal from the community in which they live, which is leading to frustration. We know that this relates particularly to research facilities, but the pay issue has now become acute. I think we are faced with something which is much more serious than it has been in the past. Plenty of evidence has been put forward on this question. There was the evidence of what I think was called the Physics Society which was given to the Robbins Commission, and, looking through that, one finds that no fewer than 28 British physicists trained in British universities are now professors in America. We have to realise that in this respect we are competing in an international (league and that the pressure from other countries to recruit British academicians is growing all the time.

I should have liked to say something about post-graduate teaching. This has also been a matter of pretty severe adverse comment. I would say only that it is rather depressing to think how badly we treat some of our post-graduate researchers in the matter of grants, as compared with the amount of money they could get if they went straight into industry. I fully accept that there are attractions of a kind in university life which are very great indeed; but there is a degree of criticism and complaint about now of a kind I have never encountered before among my friends in university circles.

There was also the issue, which has been raised by a number of noble Lords, about the relations between the University Grants Committee and the Government. We are confronted with a really unprecedented situation when we find that Sir Keith Murray, as my noble friend Lord Chorley made clear, is criticising the responsible Minister for the figures he gave in regard to staffing ratios. I am wondering whether the Government ought not now to face up to the fact that it is known that there is a conflict between the Government and the University Grants Committee, and arrive at some agreed statement so that it would be more easy for us to judge what is the situation. There is, indeed, an impression (this is no doubt unfair, and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Longford in no way suggested that the Government were deliberately seeking to repress university education; what the noble Lord said was that deliberate policy has produced this result) that the Government regard universities rather like girls' finishing schools, but with different subjects. Somewhere there is a breakdown in the liaison between the Government and the universities. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount's personal interest in science and his own standards are such that it would greatly improve the situation if these responsibilities, at present held by the Treasury—and I make no direct imputation against the Treasury—were transferred to someone like thte noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. This is a matter which has led at the present moment to a degree of distrust and disillusionment in the universities, and something has to be done to try to restore confidence.

My Lords, not all of your Lordships have heard all the speeches in to-day's debate—the references to the frustration, the distress, the despair; and the really strong language which has been used so effectively against the Government. There is no doubt that the Government have to-day, so far as the debate is concerned, taken one of the heaviest beatings which they could have taken. It used to be the custom of the Conservatives, when they were in Opposition, to criticise the Labour Government for damaging confidence in the business community. They have successfully destroyed confidence among a group of people who are not likely to be drawn as a body into politics. To have driven so many professors mad is a considerable achievement.

The time has now come when the Government should "come clean" a good deal more than Mr. Brooke did in the debate in another place. We know that all Government expenditure is limited by our economic performance, but it is tragic that our economic performance is not enough to let us compete in the way we believe, as many speakers have suggested, other countries are now able to do. The noble Viscount, Lord Esher, said that he had detected signs of frustration on the faces of the Government. As my noble friend Lord Longford said, our criticism is that they carry on, with bright optimism, to promise review and some action some time. What is needed is action now—not a review in two years' time. If we are to get near our -target by 1965, decisions have to be made in 1962. If they are not taken, the blame will be that of the Government.

A number of your Lordships have quoted from speeches of Vice-Chancellors and Principals of universities. The Principal of St. Andrews University, in particular, has been brought into the battle, and I would quote the final remarks he made on a public occasion recently, after describing the difficulties and the impossibility of meeting the target which the Government had had imposed on the universities and which they had gladly accepted: For the situation which I have described responsibility lies with Her Majesty's Government, and the public should be left in no doubt of the fact.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I am acquiring a reputation for making very long speeches, and I am sadly aware that this reputation is becoming not altogether unmerited. I am afraid that I shall do nothing this evening to merit a better reputation for brevity. For that I think the fault is not altogether mine. When one comes to reply for another Department, one has to attempt to find out, as honestly and as clearly as one can, what the argument is about, what is the true nature of the dispute, where the merits lie; and to try to identify, isolate and, if possible, reply to, the real bones of contention. But I must confess, having listened to this debate throughout its length, except, I am sorry to say, for a part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Francis-Williams (though I was lucky enough, I think, to hear the greater part of it), I was altogether unprepared for the extent of the misconceptions which exist both about the situation and about the scope of this debate.

I do not believe that I can do much more than try to clear up some of the misunderstandings (I do not think that I can tackle them all) and point out the extent to which they are within or without the terms of the Motion. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, put down a Motion of censure on a statement of my right honourable friend on March 14. Curiously enough, there are some items of dispute which are genuinely within that statement. Salaries, for instance, are within the terms of the statement. It is so important a subject that I propose, in a later part of my speech, but not, I think, now, to devote some special attention to that question.

Building, however, is one of the most important issues for discussion, and that is altogether outside the statement which is the subject of the Motion. The dispute there—and I will come to it, despite its technical irrelevance, at a later stage of my remarks—is about the extent to which the rise in prices since the announcement of the building programme in January, 1961 (not Mr. Brooke's statement of March 14), will affect the practicability of our target of 150,000 students. That is altogether outside the terms of the Motion, but because it has been adverted to, and because, in my opinion, it is one of the most important matters of discussion, it is something to which I shall return.


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt, but if I said nothing, the noble Viscount might think that I agreed with him that it is outside the terms of the Motion. I do not agree with him for a moment.


My Lords, the statement of the First Secretary dealt with three subjects: student numbers, university salaries, and recurrent grants. What I am saying is that one of the most important subjects we really ought to be discussing—and some speakers have done so: indeed, the noble Earl spent a little time on it—is the building programme. I should have thought that it is much the most important thing. Yet, curiously enough, the noble Earl so drafted his Motion, he was so keen to censure my right honourable friend, that this subject was left out. I was trying to say that the point of the discussion there is not about the adequacy of the target but about what the universities called "erosion": what I should prefer to call inflation of prices and how far that has rendered the target impracticable. This is very important, and I want to come back to it.

The second question which arises is the effect of the same process upon recurrent costs. These are obviously non-staff costs, because salary rises are outside the terms of the statement, and have been expressly provided for by assurances which have been given. Neither on this question nor on the building programme can a fair elucidation of the area of dispute be made a subject of censure, though there will still be a good deal about which to disagree. Nor are these questions on which my right honourable friend has adopted a "wooden", "inflexible" or "immovable" position. They are matters about which discussion is possible.

The third issue in dispute relates to the extent to which during the expansion of 35 per cent. in student numbers in five years we can do more than hold the staff—student ratio at its 1961–62 level and hold the non-staff costs of recurrent grants. Here again there is an argument to be discussed. But I am bound to say to the House, in all seriousness—and I do not want to overstate my case in any way—that when the noble Earl comes here and uses epithets like "discreditable", "dishonourable", "disreputable", "meagre", "mangy", "callous", "humbug" and "a great gulf fixed", and all this rhetoric about Motions of censure, I do not think he helps. On the contrary, he has done his best, so far as I can see, to muddy the waters of controversy by the use of extravagant language which is designed to divert attention from the true issues rather than to elucidate them. When the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, with his masterly ebullience, talks about "reckless" and "hopeless" and the Treasury's being "disastrous" and "dishonest", all this is very fine in its way. It would be better on television than in the House of Lords, if he will allow me to say so, but we are glad to hear him. But it does not help the discussion very much, for it is rather important to discuss it soberly because, strange as it must appear to a visitor from Mars who might be looking in on our debates, the Government care just as much as do the Opposition or anybody else in this House for the well-being and expansion of the universities.

I would fully agree that there is no subject upon which I personally or, I think, the Government generally, would more welcome a debate than on the subject of the expansion of the universities. In my view—and it has been the view of many speakers—it is in fact the cardinal issue of education policy at the present time. I do not think I am over-stating the position in the least when I say that. Indeed, if I were to criticise the attitude of the Party opposite, I myself would regret that the Leader of the Labour Party, in a recent speech, endorsed by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, confused the issue of this cardinal question of the expansion of the universities by his references to the raising of the school-leaving age in the secondary modern schools. This was described in the Roman Catholic Weekly—to which I know the noble Earl pays attention—as being irresponsible. I think the cardinal view in education at the present time is the expansion of the universities.

Nor in the least do I resent a criticism, either of the size or of the plans for expansion, although there I must claim a certain measure of agreement between the responsible bodies, including the University Grants Committee and the Government (although the noble Earl opted out of this unanimity), or of the financial provision made to implement them. Of course these things must be discussed. Nor has the level of university salaries, distasteful as it clearly is to all of us to have to discuss it, been immune from criticism, especially as the Government have promised to review the matter next year. These are very important issues, and there is deep feeling about them in the universities. Like all other subjects about which there is interest and feeling, I would say that the more discussion there is about them the better. But everything depends, surely, upon the spirit and the context of the discussion.

I think the peculiar disservice which the noble Earl bas done to this discussion is to cloud it from the start by a Party Motion of censure, in language which scarcely could be treated as moderate. Of course, I recognise the feelings of those in the universities. I cannot help thinking that the shrewd political judgment of the noble Earl—and he is one of the shrewdest Party politicians whom I have ever come across—has, on the whole, led him to seize a desirable prize, the capture of opinion in the universities, which are, after all, the core of the intellectual life of the country. I myself think it would be a great disaster, both to democracy and to the universities, if any Party obtained either a monopoly or a preponderance here or, indeed, if the universities themselves became the subject of bitter Party controversy. And I think this was a mistake on the part of the noble Earl.

I must make one other general observation, which I am afraid will take a minute or two of time. I really must do so, because the noble Earl went on in his opening to repeat a set of figures of comparison between this country and others which are almost wholly misleading. I want to deal with it partly because it sets this whole subject in its true perspective, and partly because I do not think that a member of the Government, quite irrespective of the position of his colleagues, can allow to go unchallenged a set of figures and comparisons which are a gross libel on the state of further education in this country. It is really indefensible that the noble Earl should go on repeating them year after year, long after they have been exposed.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Viscount for one moment? I will try not to do so again. As I said, the Minister of Education, his own colleague, said in a recent speech that we have the lowest proportion of our population going to the universities of any highly-developed country in the world. Does the noble Viscount accept that statement?


My colleague was no doubt making the statement in its appropriate place and context but the noble Earl was misusing it.


No, no!


The object of what I am now going to say—I hope it will not be too lengthy; but it will be as long as it has to be for the purpose—is to discuss exactly how far the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Boothby (my colleague as Rector), have really done a disservice to British education by going on with a point which really has no justification at all, making it clear, as I have always made it clear, that nothing I say by way of differentiation between this country and others qualifies in the least my belief that the expansion of university education is the cardinal educational issue for this country to face.

The first thing which the noble Earl will not face is that there are at least two, and I would say, three, characteristic ladders to the top in further education in this country. This is a salient feature of further education and higher education in Britain. Whether you take the Church, the Bar, the solicitors, chartered accountants, doctors, engineers, architects or chemists, any profession you like to choose, there are in Britain two ladders, whereas on the Continent the university is virtually the main ladder up. There are two ladders at least in Britain, one of which leads through the universities, and one which does not. The relationship between the two ladders is extremely complex, and numerically the non-university ladder is at least as important as the university ladder.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount allow me to interrupt? I think that is absolutely untrue where medicine is concerned. Virtually no non-university students now qualify.


In law it is becoming obsolete, too.


I do not believe it is becoming obsolete in law, but I accept what the noble Lord said about medicine. At any rate, to take the engineers, it is somewhere between two out of three and three out of four who take the other ladder. I was making a statement about total numbers, and not about individual professions. My father, for instance, became Lord Chancellor of England, with some distinction, without a university degree in law or anything else until he became Lord Chancellor, when he was given a number of honorary degrees. He started his professional training far too late for him to go to Oxford or Cambridge. It is not good enough, when men of that intellectual eminence reach that kind of intellectual distinction in the life of the nation, simply to treat the universities as they are on the Continent, to the exclusion of all else.

But there is a second factor to which the noble Earl himself referred which wholly invalidates the comparison. If you take a thing, for instance, like staff-student ratio, about which a good deal has, quite rightly, been said this evening, the staff-student ratio in the law faculties of France is 1 in 62; in the sciences 1 in 20, as distinct from 1 in 10.7, about which the noble Lord, Lord Stamp rightly complained. And the other proportions are similar. The failure rate, if one can call it a failure rate, or the departure rate without graduation, is something like 70 per cent. And, my Lords, my right honourable friend, who has been so much abused this evening, was surely quite right in claiming with certainty that the true comparison is that of graduations as a proportion of age groups. And when once that is taken, the comparison becomes favourable to Britain: 3½ per cent. to 4½ per cent. in Britain against 3⅓ per cent. in France; 2⅔ per cent. in Germany, and 1¾ per cent. in Holland. And to go on, year after year, making these outrageous comparisons which put us below the student population, I think, of Egypt, when they have no kind of relevance to the educational system, only betrays the ignorance and prejudice of those who make them.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount allow me to interrupt him? In the middle of his rather excited remarks he made some reference to staff ratios, but he did not deal with the point that several noble Lords have made—namely, that Mr. Brooke made an incorrect statement when he said that the ratio of staff in British universities was better than before the war. That has since been denied by the Chairman of the Universities Grants Committee.


I can deal only with one point at a time, and I felt that it was absolutely essential, in view of this wholly misleading passage in his noble friend's speech, that I should now deal with it as faithfully as I think it deserves to be dealt with. It is, of course, true that the noble Earl claimed that we had discovered these somewhat astonishing figures since the universities were last debated here. That, so far as I am concerned, is perfectly true. I did not know. And it may be that I should have done. But then neither did he—because I certainly would not accuse him of being so disingenuous as to know them and not refer to them. But, of course, whether I or he ought to have known them or not, they are true; and they are not only relevant but completely destructive of the validity of the comparison which was being made. What is less excusable is that the noble Earl should go on making the comparison long after it has been exploded.

But even that is not the end of the case. Even at the expense of being dull I must refer to two more of the simple facts of life concerning further education in Britain. The noble Earl said that he hoped I would not make this point, and out of courtesy to him I will quickly pass over it. The standards of staff ratios and quality of teaching are much higher here, in the main, than elsewhere, particularly in North America as a whole. Though some of the most distinguished universities in the world are in North America, the pattern over the North American Continent as a whole is very uneven.

But that is not the point. What is, is that outside the statistics which the noble Lord quotes there are a great number of institutes of further education in this country that produce courses which are fully up to world standard of degree courses. I need only mention colleges of advanced technology, with 9,000 students, rising to 15,000 by the mid-1960s. To take another aspect, the series of educational institutions in London—most of which were founded by my grandfather—Regent Street Polytechnic, Woolwich Polytechnic, Chelsea Polytechnic and Northampton Polytechnic, are all London institutions with great numbers of students, a very great many of whom are taking what, in any other country, would be treated as degree courses. And there are teacher-training colleges, expanding very rapidly, with 40,000 students, all of them of degree standard, with three-year courses, instituted, incidentally, by myself when Minister of Education, and none of which the noble Lord thinks fit to mention when he makes this comparison. In addition, of course, there are numbers of other institutions, like colleges of art, music and drama. I mention these, my Lords, not in order to defend the Government, but because it is a little too much to hear speaker after speaker really insulting further education in this country when the figures upon which they base their insults are really without foundation or validity.

Indeed, I go on to say, the noble Lord having quoted a number of my statements in May, 1960, that to-day I stand by every one of those statements. In spite of this rhetorical talk about a great gulf being fixed, no humbug on one side and nothing but humbug on the other, the true difference between the Opposition and the Government in this matter is not—at least I hope and believe it is not—a difference of purpose or even of diagnosis. It is based on the fact that the Opposition and Government critics tend to see, as they are well entitled to see, issues in isolation, and the Government is compelled by its very nature to treat them in relation to other Issues—contemporary issues in other matters; inflation, incomes policy, shortage of capital, the expansion of schools, houses, roads—and university issues in the light of their historical contact.

May I deal first with the last of these? In my judgment, at any rate, university education in this country is suffering literally from generations, even from centuries, of neglect. This neglect has been due to many causes, not least of which, I am sorry to say, has been the overshadowing influence—which to some extent still exists—of the two great centres of learning of Oxford and Cambridge.

My Lords, the process of expansion is extremely difficult. Amenity has to be improved in order to remove the overshadowing influence which I have been mentioning at the very moment when the most elementary teaching arrangements and equipment are still deficient. Staff has to be provided at a time when the professions, industry, schools and, not least, the Civil Service are clamouring for graduates of every kind. Teaching must be expanded at the very moment—as I think several noble Lords, not least Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, pointed out—when research has never been more important, either to teaching, or to industry, or to life generally. Above all, quantity is needed at a time when qualitative standards need also to be tightened and improved. And this has to be done—let us face it, because this is our responsibility, the responsibility of each side of the House and of the Government—in a free democracy when betting, bingo, and television are more highly regarded by many than scholarship and learning.

My Lords, let me say this to your Lordships, quite bluntly. I am not in this context ashamed of the record of my colleagues or myself. I am not satisfied, either. If I were satisfied in a situation like that which I have been trying to describe, I should be rightly condemned as complacent. But because the noble Earl, with his partisan outlook and superficial knowledge, has been unjust, it is necessary that I should give credit where credit is due, and I should be disloyal to my colleagues if I did not attempt to do so. There has never been a time in the history of Government when the universities have been improving so rapidly, so continuously—in amenity, in crude size, in range of coures, in standing and prestige—as during the last ten years. The late noble Lord, Lord Dalton, to whose love of learning I paid tribute, rightly in my opinion, earned a just renown in 1946 when, in effect, he inaugurated a new period in the relationship between universities and Government. I do not seek to detract in the least from Lord Dalton's credit. He fully deserves it. He deserves it because his efforts at that time were in a real sense the efforts of a true pioneer. But, both relatively and absolutely, they were puny compared with what is being done now. I must now remind the House what at any rate I believe the figures have been.

As recently as 1951 the recurrent grants were as low as £17 million. By 1956 they had gone up to £28 million; in 1961–62 it is £49½ million; and, according to the plans which have come in for so much criticism, they will be £76½ million in 1966–67. All except the last figures, of course, would have to be corrected to take account of inflation. This is, of course, exclusive of building; it is exclusive of student awards, a system which I think I am right in saying is far more generous in this country than certainly others on the Western side of the Iron Curtain, and compares very favourably indeed with the standards provided elsewhere; it is exclusive of Research Council grants, which during my period as Minister for Science have multiplied by a factor of 3; it is exclusive of grants for heavy and expensive equipment, like computers, the NIMROD accelerator or inter-university nuclear reactors. I am not ashamed of that record, any more than I am satisfied.

Take building. As recently as 1954, three years after we took office, building starts were still as low as £3.4 million in the calendar year. In the current year they are £25 million, very nearly a factor of 8; they will not be allowed to fall below these figures, although they may rise to £30 million by 1965. This again is exclusive of the enormous building which anyone can see going on in Imperial College, the provision of sites, computers, expensive equipment, and Research Council grants. The non-recurrent grants, which were annually only a little over £7½ million when we took office, will be over £40 million according to present plans for 1966–67. It must therefore be recognised that, tight as things are, the rate of expansion of a thing like a university, which depends on the provision of staff, buildings, and equipment of a certain quality, is limited by other things than mere money. I would defy anyone to claim that the rate of expansion shown in these figures to date has been significantly slowed down by mere financial considerations. It remains to be seen—and I shall endeavour to argue—exactly how far it can be claimed that finance will be the limiting factor in the coming quinquennium.

This brings me straight on to the quinquennial recurrent grant Which was the main subject of the statement by the Chief Secretary, which is the subject of the Motion to-day. The first thing, in my judgment at any rate, is to try to establish exactly what the argument is about and, having discovered that, to try to see whether it justifies the expressions of alarm and despondency to which the noble Earl has given voice. The first point I wish to make here is that the recurrent grants, of course, are broadly current expense, not capital, and they deal, according to the Motion and statement, with the five academic years beginning with next October. The first point which arises is the question of the size of targets, 150,000 in the five-year period. The noble Earl, with characteristic want of generosity, I thought, referred to it as "meagre aspirations" and talked of it as being Wholly inadequate. I must say I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, when he said he very much doubted whether, with all the money in the world, a much bigger rate of expansion could as a technical operation be undertaken by the universities without inadmissible lowering of standards.

Again, may I revert for a moment to the comparison with foreign countries? They are prepared to put up with this vast student-staff ratio, even to put students in lecture rooms with closed circuit television instead of a lecturer. Of course, we could go much faster if we did that sort of thing, but does anyone seriously want us to? The fact of the matter is that I am informed nobody, no responsible person, regards the figure of 150,000 as otherwise than about right. And it is, in fact, whether it is right or wrong, an unprecedented rate of growth even for the period of growth to which I have been referring, 35 per cent. over five years. Of course, if in 1966 we had staff and buildings of unlimited capacity, I would be the first to admit (indeed, although I was talking about a slightly later date, the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, reminded me I toad been talking about 1970 in terms of 200,000, and I do not regret it at all) that if we were to meet the full demand, by which I mean available candidates of suitable quality, I have no doubt we could fill universities of this size, although there would be many people in the university field who would criticise me for saying so. But the limitations on the rate of growth of institutions of this kind are not purely financial or material.

I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, that the agreed figure is the right target to aim at. Whether it is right or wrong, it is an agreed figure; and the noble Earl opposite cannot really have it both ways. If we were wrong not to accept the opinion of the university authorities on other matters, we certainly cannot be wrong to accept it here.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount one other question? Does he feel that it is quite in order to disclose the views of the University Grants Committee when it suits him to do so but not to disclose the figures which the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked for?


I was not aware I was disclosing the views of the University Grants Committee, although it appears that the noble Earl knows what they are. What I said was that this was virtually an agreed figure—and I think it is—as to what is possible.

Here I think it is important to point out that in calculating the sum of money, which is not the only limiting factor, necessary over five years to cover expansion of this order, there are certain numbers of variables about which it is necessary to make assumptions; and, of course, one of those is the size of the building programme. This, as I have pointed out, is outside the terms of this particular Motion as it was of the Chief Secretary's statement. But the size of the building programme is, to my mind, the heart of the real subject we ought to be discussing this afternoon.

Whatever else may be said about the building programme, we may assume that only 18 months ago it was adequate to provide for the expansion I have mentioned—that is to say, when the building programme was announced—since the universities were allocated their projects after the announcement of the building programme in January, 1961, and they thereupon put in their programmes for recurrent grants based on an expansion of this order. It is fair to say that since then they have been asked to absorb part of the rise in costs. That, I think, is a legitimate subject of discussion. But I must, I think, make one or two general observations, which I hope may not be wholly unhelpful, about the way in which, over a period of quinquennium and looking in advance, a Government can be expected to discount in advance, in plans which it accepts in advance, the effects of any possible inflation; I think I shall carry the House with me when I say that it cannot be expected to do that.

The kernel of the present dispute is really this—and if we have misunderstood the dispute, nobody would be more happy to be put right than I would. At least in our calculations, keeping pace with the "bulge" we have assumed an increase of student numbers in the universities of 150,000; that is, 35 per cent. We have provided recurrent grants rising by 55 per cent. Can that objective be achieved? I deal first with the building programme because that is the most important, although it is outside the recurrent grants; the building programme is a four-year university programme again of unprecedented size, and now in its first year. There is no intention of cutting that. I know it has been said that it is cutting itself and that the allocations, large as they are, have already been eroded by the rising costs of building.

Some provision already exists because the programme itself contained a contingency allowance of 5 per cent. I think it is not unreasonable that universities, like other builders, should in their planning be conscious of the spur which rising costs must apply. But clearly there is a limit—and noble Lords have rightly complained that there is a limit—beyond which the universities cannot be asked to absorb increasing costs without imperilling their main objective. That is why my right honourable friend gave the asurance on April 5 last, that if further increases in building costs took place—and by that was meant ascertained increases in excess of 12½ per cent. or so (of course I know that the universities are afraid of an increase above that figure) above which it is unreasonable to expect the universities to absorb the cost—the Government would certainly consider sympathetically an increase in the programme figures. I can say quite clearly that my right honourable friend made it perfectly plain that it is the intention of the Government to carry out the university expansion.

Reverting to the effect of erosion on the recurrent grants, which unlike the non-recurrent grants on the building programme relate to non-staff costs in the quinquennium which is in front of us, I think one can, without being too precise, clear a good deal of misconception out of the way. I think the House would agree that one cannot, and indeed one must not, discount inflation in advance. One has to meet it if it comes, after having taken whatever measures are open to us to stop it, and deal with it then. If one tries to discount it one only finds one has to meet it in greater force later, because one has built (inflation into one's plans.

If you look in the past upon what has happened when inflation has taken place, you will see that the Government have shown, by interim grants during the present quinquennium that increased academic salaries are not left to be met out of the original recurrent grant. There is a specific pledge to review the next quinquennium after the next two years, when costs will certainly be taken into account with all the other factors. That seems to me to be the answer: to compare the increase in recurrent grants over this quinquennium, when it is over, with all the compensation that had to be injected in inflation over the grant for the next five years. That seems to me to be the true position with regard to erosion and, as I say, I have taken a little trouble to try to find out what it is which is really worrying universities at the present time. I am fairly certain that I am near to the truth when I say that the fear of erosion of their building programme and of their non-staff recurrent grant comes very close to the centre of the issue.

My Lords, having reached that point, I come back to the variables. The implication of the present dispute on the variables is simply this: the building programme is one, and I have discussed that. Another is the target for the student places to be available. That is virtually agreed at 150,000. But there are two other variables which have to be taken into account. One is the present staff-to-student ratio; that stands now at 1 to 10.7. I recognise that this is far from comfortable. In the scientific disciplines, in particular, the unfavourable ratio is felt. That is the present ratio. In the scientific disciplines it compares with 1 to 20 in France and is vastly better. The question really is whether when we are seeking to expand at what I have, I think rightly, described as an unprecedented rate of 35 per cent. in five years, we can do much better than hold the present ratio whilst that expansion is going on.

It is not that we desire to make the target of students smaller—quite the reverse. Our calculations are based upon the target of 150,000, and no other. But it is recognised, of course, that whereas the universities have undoubtedly hoped, and would have been supported by the University Grants Committee, for an improved ratio—I could not give the actual figure, but a marginal one in the ratio over that period—the present calculation means that it cannot come during the period. I would candidly admit that it is most inconvenient in the scientific field, and a similar argument applies in relation to the non-staff recurrent cost, the overheads, as it were, of running a university. The calculation is based upon the present situation, which is far from comfortable; but the proposition is that in a period of expansion at this rate, with a target for expansion of this order, it is not unreasonable to hold it rather than to improve it marginally as had been hoped.

That is really the limit of the dispute which has arisen. There are, of course, those who argue that the University Grants Committee is a highly expert and a highly responsible body, and that we ought therefore to do, to the last million, exactly what it wants. No one in the Government would dispute the claims that are made, both for the expertise of the University Grants Committee and for its sense of public duty and great distinction. I would go further and say that if one viewed the claims of the universities completely in isolation, we ought to do at least as much as they say. But, of course, that is exactly what no Government can do.

We are increasingly advised by expert bodies. I do not want to compare one with another. Some are more expert than others; some are more independent than others; but all are highly responsible. Some of them are completely independent of the Government, and some are Governmental organs. They all advise as to the minimum we ought to do in one field or another—the defence forces on which we are advised by the Chiefs of Staff, the roads, wages, professional salaries, schools, hospitals, houses and scientific research. Of course, if any one of them were given complete priority of money, men and material, it could get what it wanted. But in peace time this is not in practice what happens; nor is it what ought to happen. We are engaged in this country in a complete revolution carried out by evolutionary means into almost every facet of our national life. People ask why after ten years of our Government, we still have too few hospitals, schools, roads and universities. To that I reply that ten years is a comparatively short time in the history of a nation. We have done very well in ten years.


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting my noble friend, but I think it would be most helpful for the House to know whether he can tell us what the University Grants Committee has said, what they have asked for, and what is the margin of difference between what they have asked for and what the Treasury have agreed to give.


My Lords, I do not think I ought to do that. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was at me when he thought I was betraying their confidence before. I think it would be a betrayal of confidence of the relationship between the University Grants Committee and the Government to say what the figures were. But what I think I am entitled to say, and what I spent a great deal of time in trying to say, is that the area of dispute, apart from the effect of erosion or inflation upon the building programme and the non-staff grant, relates to the two issues of whether to hold the staff-students ratio at its present level and whether to hold the non-staff recurrent costs at their present level, or marginally to improve both. I think it is a relatively narrow area of dispute. It is possible that both the Government and the U.G.C. have made a mistake in calculation. But we are not, of course, to-day discussing mistakes in calculation because mistakes in calculation can be put right on more helpful occasions than the present.

What I am trying to say is that during the whole period of social revolution, which will certainly carry us into the middle of the 21st century, going at the best possible speed we can go, we shall have to scale down almost every assessment of needs by enthusiasts, or even by experts, until we have a balanced programme of expansion, the total of which is bearable in the light of limits of manpower, material or taxable capacity. The proportions are the legitimate subjects of debate, but hardly of censure. There is no great gulf fixed between one set of people and another, the sheep and the goats, as the noble Earl tried to say. That, therefore, is the greater part of the case.

My Lords, I promised to refer to the second main bone of contention arising from my right honourable friend's statement, and that was the question of university salaries—a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, rightly drew attention and rightly devoted the major part, if not the whole, of his speech. I do not want to deal with it at quite such length as he did, but personally I consider it to be by far the harder part of the case to defend. Indeed, I would not attempt to defend it out of the context of the present incomes policy, nor even within that context would I attempt to defend it, if it had not been for my right honourable friend's promise to review the question next year. But viewed in this light I do not think that it is out of line with other decisions which have had to be made. At the same time I think it is worth arguing exactly what is and what is not defensible about the present decision.

It is true, of course, that university teachers are recruited from the same grade of distinguished first-degree graduates that supply the administrative and scientific Civil Services, industry, some of the professions, and the higher ranks of other teachers. At the same time I am certainly not going to accept any exact doctrine of comparability. There are some things about university life (I think the noble Lord, Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, referred to this) which add to its attractions. There is greater intellectual freedom; there is the pleasure of extending the frontiers of knowledge, and there is the prestige, which is certainly great. I am not prepared to say that university teaching is exactly comparable either with teaching in a school or in a college of advanced technology; or, for that matter, acting as the principal private secretary to a Cabinet Minister—though very few people might think that that was an agreeable task.

My Lords, there are indeed some facts—not, as I say, conclusive facts—which indicate that, even with a slight differential against them, university teaching is more attractive than either. But I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, that the whole intake of the administrative Civil Service, with which he did seek to make a comparison, is about 50 a year, which can hardly be compared with the very much larger intake of the university teaching profession. So far as a comparison with the scientific Civil Service is concerned, about 7 per cent. of the newly-qualified scientists going into employment in recent years have been recruited to that Service. A similar proportion has been going to the universities. When it is realised that the scientific Civil Service employs about 10 per cent. of the total qualified scientific manpower in the country, while the universities employ only 5 per cent., it can be seen that the universities are, on that comparison, attracting their full share of the available supply.

My difficulties about defending the present 3 per cent. increase do not arise from statistical comparisons with other walks of life. They arise from two sets of facts—one of which seems to me to impose a moral obligation on the Government, and one of which seems to me to suggest a practical interest. The moral obligation arises from the fact that I do not think that fortune has favoured university teachers in recent pay increases. I do not attach the same importance as the noble Lord did to the dating of the last salary increase on January 1, 1960, although I know that it caused a lot of ill-feeling at the time. What gave rise to the ill-feeling was a comparison which was not analogous with the then position of the Civil Service. But their present claim, although I thought it went beyond what was justifiable, was certainly put forward with considerable restraint—and it was, to say the least, very unfortunate (I do not think that it would be in the least wrong to say this) that it was caught by the pay pause in July, unlike the comparable claim of the teachers.

If I may answer the specific point which the noble Lord put, the test of whether a claim was caught by the pause of July is not whether the claim was in, but whether the Government had committed themselves to meet it. In the case of the teachers such a commitment, although not quantified was recognised, and they received a substantial increase. Unfortunately, the university teachers did not, although some people might think——


May I just ask—


Perhaps I may just complete the sentence. Although some people might think that this is a pure constitutional accident, that the teachers and the technical teachers are covered by Burnham and Pelham awards, the fact is that if you are going to impose a pay pause and have a criterion by which it is effected you must stick to the rules you have announced. I fully agree that it was an extremely unlucky thing that the teachers in the universities were on one side of the line, while the teachers in the technical colleges were on the other.


Does the noble Viscount say that whatever the Pelham Committee recommended the Government were committed to carry out? Because while the U.G.C. put in a claim on behalf of the teachers in July, the Pelham Committee did not put in its report until November.


I think the noble Lord is mistaking what I said. I said that the Government had committed itself to some increase before July. The Burnham award quantified that of the school teachers, and Pelham was consequential and generally recognised as part of the Burnham award. I do not think that one should confuse the obligation of the Government and the negotiating machinery of the trade union body concerned with the award of the body, which is either administrative or advisory, as the case may be, as to amount. I think that is what the noble Lord has mistaken, if I may say so.

Now, my Lords, the second and to my mind, much the more serious of the arguments arises not from the moral point, which I think is a strong one, but from the programme of expansion to which we are committed. This involves the necessity for recruiting staff to keep the staff-student ratio at the present level during the expansion to 150,000 students by 1966–67. In a sense, of course, all these arguments have to be tested by the acid test of recruitment. In a profession of persons as sought after and of such high quality as university teachers, recruitment must remain a fairly accurate guide both of the acceptability of conditions and of the adequacy of rate. If people flock into its ranks there can be nothing seriously wrong with it. On the other hand, if the numbers are not recruited, no argument that conditions are acceptable will be found to be convincing.

What worries me about the 3 per cent. is not any argument from comparability, but the fact that, although the difficulty is as yet only marginal, two-thirds of the proposed expansion is scientific, and there is evidence that in science faculties there is difficulty of recruitment, both in numbers and in quality. To some extent, of course, this can be compensated by concentrating the entire 3 per cent. on the recruiting grades. But, of course, this can be only a temporary expedient at best, and we Shall have to recruit more than another 3,500 academic staff by the mid-1960's to cope with the expansion. This means that the situation must, to say the least of it, be very closely watched; and, as I say, I would not defend the present levels except in relation to present income restraint, and except in the light of my right honourable friend's promise to review the matter next year.

I bad intended—but it is getting late—to say something in general about the relationship with the incomes policy, but I do not think that at this hour of the night I should be justified in inflicting this upon the House. There are only, therefore, two further points that I desire to raise. Three noble Lords, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, is the last, following the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said that one of the lessons they drew from the present controversy was that the responsibility should no longer lie with the Treasury Ministers.

My Lords, especially with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, on the Cross-Benches, I do not think that I ought to seek to anticipate what he may or may not say about that particular issue. Certainly, my colleagues could not allow me to anticipate what the Government might think in anticipation of what Lord Robbins may say. It is undoubtedly well within the terms of reference of his Committee and, if noble Lords feel strongly about it, they will of course, if they have not already done so, add to the very large numbers of those who have submitted evidence to it. I think there is something in the argument.

It is not—and I want to make it clear that it is not, because I think I owe it to my right honourable friends to say so—that the Treasury Ministers do not loyally put forward the claims of the universities in Government circles. I think it ought to be very generally known, that they do loyally put forward the claims of the bodies for which they are responsible as a spending Department—very loyally, indeed—within Government circles. But I agree that it can be embarrassing, both to the University Grants Committee and to the Treasury Ministers, that it may be thought that they do not. Moreover, there are now a very large number of grant-aided bodies for which the Treasury is responsible, in the sense of being the sponsoring Department, which might like to review their position in the light of modern Government developments. That is outside the terms of this debate, but I would say that those are things which must be considered.


My Lords, can the noble Viscount give one undertaking: that it will not be handed over to the Minister of Education, and that he will do his best to get it for himself?


My Lords, I think I had better not interfere with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. But anyone who attended the debate here in May, 1960, will remember that when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham (as I think he then was) suggested that it should be handed over to the Minister of Education, he met with considerable opposition. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, when he considers his Report, will be aware of the state of feeling on this issue.

My Lords, I would end by saying only this—and I must apologise again for being so long. If the noble Earl who moved this Motion believes, with our record and indeed with his, that my right honourable friends and we in this House are less solicitous for the well-being and expansion of the universities and their teaching staffs than is his own Party, I can only tell him that he is guilty of gross injustice and he suffers from a dangerous and unjustifiable illusion.


Hear, hear!

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, I think applause must be out of order. I heard someone clap his hands. I think that was a well-earned tribute. However, I do not think anybody—certainly I, least of all—would complain of the length of time taken by the noble and learned Viscount. Although he left out my remarks, which I understand must be attributed to a sort of mixture of cunning partisanship and superficial knowledge, and a lot of undesirable traits, he still had a formidable array of speeches to which to reply. I do not think most noble Lords will feel that they have been replied to. I should doubt whether there is a speaker in the House who feels that the noble and learned Viscount has in fact answered his point. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Cohen—who, of all the speakers, was the only one who indicated any doubtfulness of attitude—feels that he has been replied to, but certainly I am sure no one else feels that he has been.

I should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount for the vim which he has imparted into his speech, and I should like to thank all the speakers who have supported this Motion. They will forgive me if I do not mention them by name; but I think about the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, because I believe he himself had it in mind to put down a Motion of this kind and he found mine on the Paper. No doubt he would have done it a great deal better, and I am only sorry that I was not in a position to back him up. I should also like, if I may, if it is not patronising, to thank those who have listened and are still awake. But particularly should I like, if I may, to thank the noble Field Marshal, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, who I believe has sat in the Chamber from the beginning.


My Lords, I have listened with great interest to noble Lords all the afternoon, and the impression I gain is that, if you have not had a university education, you are not really any good. I do not know whether the noble Earl considers that I am no good because I did not go to a university. I am rather like the father of my noble Leader, who reached the top of his profession without a university degree and then received a number of honorary degrees. I have received honorary degrees from fourteen universities, one of which is the noble Lord, Lord Boothby's——


I am delighted to know it.


—which is in the tribal areas, of course. I would say that, if you had a count in this House of how many noble Lords (had been to university and how many had not, you would find that most——


Order, order !


My Lords, I was going to pay the noble Viscount the compliment of saying that he was the only strong, silent Field Marshal, but I was quite mistaken there.

There has been a tremendous onslaught on the Government, and I do not recall a debate in which expert opinion has been so unanimous in criticism of the Minister. I have been here fifteen years and I cannot recall such a debate. Others who have been here longer may have some dim recollection, but nothing at all like it comes into my mind. The only large group in this House—and they are a very large group—that has not of course been represented, has been the great body of Conservatives outside the Government. They sit there. I can see within a few yards of me at least two former Ministers of Education. Although we are told that the Minister of Education has to be careful about laying his hands on the universities, I am sure they would have had a lot to say.

However, the noble and learned Viscount and his colleagues have not been able to find a single Member—and I have no doubt many Ministers would have sprung forward to do their duty—outside Government stalwarts, who would say a word in their defence. That is the actual position, and it must give those who have listened to this debate, and those who have come in rather late, a good deal of cause to think. It must be an unprecedented situation. Not one word can be found to be said for this, except by the loyal colleague, the noble and learned Viscount.

I would add only one other general comment—and this, again, is for the benefit of those who perhaps have not been here all through the day. It is that the speeches made by great experts—gentlemen much more expert than I am; gentlemen whom even the noble Viscount, in his most ebullient moments, would hardly say were superficial in their knowledge of universities—were made when the House was thin, and those speeches were made in the knowledge of what was said in another place by the two Ministers there. I think that they would agree with me that the noble Viscount has added nothing to what was said by the other two Ministers. So they made their speeches well aware of those replies. And yet they were prepared to substantiate their charges and their severe criticisms, in spite of the fact that those things could be said. I mention this only for the benefit of those who have not heard the whole discussion, and who may have just arrived and heard only the noble Viscount.

The noble Viscount made, as I said, a vigorous speech, and I am not going to try to reply to it now. I have heard the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor say that there is an old slogan at the Bar—not, I think, followed by all the best practitioners—which says that when you have no case at all, you abuse the other attorney.


My Lords, were the other noble Lords described as dishonest, disreputable and discreditable?


I did not use all those words.


I wrote them all down.


Not in relation to any individuals. No; I laid the charge against the Government. The noble Viscount made a charge against me, but I do not take it very seriously, any more than I take the rest of his speech seriously. I regard it as something of a joke, really. He accused me, with a gaiety that I, at any rate, could not misunderstand, of "characteristic lack of generosity". Well, I suppose that might be thought to be a hard thing to say, if one did not know the noble Viscount. But when people know what he has said about me in the past, they realise that that is virtually a compliment. Luckily for my peace of mind, on the last occasion that the noble Viscount spoke in this House in relation to me, not very many weeks ago, he said that I showed—"habitually showed", I think—" considerable generosity, even towards my oldest friends." Now I suffer from a "characteristic lack of generosity". I know my character is deteriorating as the years pass, but I did not realise it was as fast as all that; I did not realise that my character had deteriorated so much in the course of the last fortnight. When I heard the noble Viscount pouring out words of that sort, which I do not think mean much to him, I am afraid, I did not feel bound to take the rest of his speech very seriously.

On the other hand, we take the question of the universities very seriously, and we here have said, in essence—one with this emphasis, one with that emphasis—as I mentioned at the beginning, that the targets are shockingly low; and, as I have also said, that even those low targets, and particularly the first 150,000 places by 1966–67, cannot be achieved with the amount of help which is to be given by the Government. In various ways that has been developed by my noble friend Lord Shackleton and others, but in fact we have had no answer to either point. I am not going to become involved in comparisons with other countries. Twice this afternoon I have quoted Sir David Eccles, and I am beginning to think that he is out of favour, because apparently no attention is paid to him at all. He said that we have the lowest proportion of our population going to the universities o:: any highly-developed country in the world. When the noble Viscount gets up and says that anybody who makes these comparisons is doing a grave disservice to education, or words of that sort, that leads me not to take his speech very seriously.

The other question is: shall we get there?—and here, of course, there is the expert opinion of the Vice-Chancellors that we shall not. I will not quote that again, but I must make it plain to anyone who has just arrived with instructions to vote, who has heard only the noble Viscount and who perhaps wonders whether he ought to find out if there is another side, that the Vice-Chancellors have come out solidly with the view that these targets cannot be attained with the amount of assistance that the Government are offering, and it seems very hard to put that opinion aside.

There is only one other point that I need mention at all, and I do this because I think there was a genuine misunderstanding by the noble Viscount of what the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said. The speech by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, will have made the deepest impression of all, I should think, on most outside people. There was, I believe, a genuine misunderstanding there. The noble Viscount seemed to feel that some of us, and possibly the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, were claiming that the University Grants Committee were so expert in every way that their opinion on the amount of money that the Government should provide must be accepted. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, did not say that. He said, if I remember rightly and if I took down his words rightly, that they are the experts, and the only experts really available to the Government, who can say how much money is needed to attain certain objectives. That is surely the important distinction.




That is a very important distinction and I did not want any misunderstanding on that point. My Lords, it has been a memorable debate. Those who study the speeches will feel, I am sure, that they have not been replied to by the noble Viscount; but I do not think it was possible for him to make an answer. I once heard a speaker at a public dinner following a chess conference say, "When I see a great master polishing off some opponent and making a great display of his art, I recognise his genius but I am not particularly interested; but when I see the same man making a bad start, losing a pawn or two, getting into a hopeless position, and possibly" (I am afraid this must come out) "if he is a little bit drunk besides, and if he continues and struggles through and finishes somehow, even if he gets only a stalemate, then I say, 'Some player!'." I pay tribute to the noble Viscount for getting through somehow with a hopeless case.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I should like to say that no one is here under instructions to vote, at any rate so far as the Government supporters are concerned.


I accept every statement of fact that falls from the lips of the noble Viscount, but I have never come across a statement from him which I have found it harder to accept, in the true sense of the words, than this one.

Well, my Lords, the future of the universities is at stake, and I think the most relevant words at the moment are those from the noble Lord, Lord Boothby. No one who votes against the Government to-night will bring the Government down, but he will testify to the fact that this country insists on much

more generous treatment for the universities than they are being offered at the present time; and I believe that everybody in his heart to-night, including the noble Viscount, would like to see effect given to that policy.

On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 32; Not-Contents 49.

Airedale, L. Francis-Williams, L. Shepherd, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Henderson, L. Somers, L.
Boothby, L. Hughes, L. Stamp, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. James of Rusholme, L. Strang, L.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Kenswood, L. Summerskill, B.
Burton of Coventry, B. Listowel, E. Taylor, L.
Chorley, L. Longford, E. Walston, L.
Cohen, L. Lucan, E. [Teller.] Williams, L.
Cohen of Birkenhead, L. Peddie, L. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Crook, L. Rea, L. Ypres, E.
Darwen, L. Shackleton, L.
Ferrier, L. Margesson, V.
Ampthill, L. Forster of Harraby, L. Merrivale, L.
Atholl, D. Fortescue, E. Mills, L.
Bathurst, E. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Molson, L.
Brentford, V. Goschen, V. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Carrington, L. Hailsham, V. (L. President) Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Chesham, L. Hampton, L. Newall, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hastings, L. Newton, L. [Teller.]
Colyton, L. Home, E. Radnor, E.
Conesford, L. Horsbrugh, B. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Cork and Orrery, E. Howe, E. St. Oswald, L.
Craigton, L. Hylton, L. Soulbury, V.
Denham, L. Iddesleigh, E. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Devonshire, D. Jellicoe, E. Teynham, L.
Dundee, E. Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.) Waldegrave, E.
Ellenborough, L. Lansdowne, M. Wolverton, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. McCorquodale of Newton, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Motion disagreed to accordingly.

House adjourned at seven minutes past eight o'clock.