HL Deb 12 December 1963 vol 253 cc1322-418

3.13 p.m.

Debate resumed (according to Order), on the Motion moved yesterday by Lord Taylor: That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the Robbins Report (Cmnd. 2154), to the years of crisis facing higher education in Britain, and to the need for immediate and long-term action.


My Lords, I rise to continue the debate which was begun yesterday on the Robbins Report. I would begin by joining with all other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, on the magnificent Report that he has produced; on the excellent work that he and his Committee have done; and on the very hard work they must have had over the years in producing this Report. I should like also to congratulate the Government on the tremendous speed with which they have accepted this Report in principle. The normal period of gestation of a Report of this kind is about three years. The Government have accepted this Report in a matter of days. I imagine that they have accepted it without much criticism, and possibly without even having read it. But at least it is very good propaganda and we are delighted that they have accepted it in principle.

I wonder whether they fully understand the implications of accepting this Report in principle. One of the implications is that they are committing themselves to giving, within a limited period, a university education, or the equivalent, to every child capable of benefiting by university education. This is a tremendous undertaking and is, in fact, a revolution; and I have yet to learn that the Party opposite are a revolutionary Party in that respect. Indeed, I would add that if this proposal had been put to them six months ago, they would have been horrified at the idea and all its implications. But to-day—I hope I am right in my assumption—an acceptance in principle does, at least, mean that within the period of time foreshadowed in the Report every child capable of benefiting by a university or similar education will be able to receive it. That is stated in the Report to be axiomatic; but a number of noble Lords yesterday had some doubts about that. In particular, both the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord McNair, both had some doubts as to what was to be the test for ability to benefit by a higher education; they had doubts as to whether mere scholastic achievement would be sufficient.

They had in mind, I imagine, that, in addition to pure scholastic attainment—three good "As", or whatever may be the proposed standard—there ought to be some kind of psychological or other test which would enable a judgment to be made as to whether the particular person was capable of benefiting by a university education. I would ask them to be more specific and say what kind of test. Unless the kind of test to be made is defined, the whole thing becomes valueless.


My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment? For my part, I certainly never suggested a psychological test; what I suggested was that the university should satisfy itself that an applicant had a real purpose, not necessarily a vocational purpose, but a desire to improve himself and make himself a more useful citizen.


My Lords, I did not attribute to the noble Lord the remark about a psychological test, but some kind of qualification other than mere scholastic attainment. I speak very feelingly about this matter, and (although I dislike indulging in autobiographical details in your Lordships' House, and do not remember ever doing so before) I want to state a personal experience of which I was the victim.

Many years ago, obviously, at the age of 19, I was awarded a university open scholarship in mathematics at Oxford, and I naturally expected to go up to Oxford, as was the normal case. The headmaster of my school was of the opinion that I was not the kind of person who would benefit from a university education and he so informed the authorities who would normally have given me a scholarship to make up the difference between the value of the open scholarship and what was required for maintenance. Without informing me of the fact, he had so notified the London County Council. I was just told that I was not awarded the scholarship, and I was not able to go up to the university. I do not know; my headmaster may have been right or he may have been wrong. He made a judgment. I think he was influenced by the fact that I was a young Socialist in those days, and a pretty active one at school; but his judgment may have been right. But the point is that it was within the scope of one individual to ruin the career of a young boy who, scholastically, had achieved what was the right qualification for going up to university.


My Lords, are we to believe that the noble Lord's career has been ruined?


At the time I thought it was, and, but for the greatest of luck, it would have been ruined. I will not pursue this, because, obviously it is a personal matter. But it could have had very serious consequences on a boy just beginning life at the age of nineteen. Unless we are absolutely certain that a test of that kind is as infallible as a scholastic test, I would suggest that the safest and wisest thing is to rely on the scholastic test.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, speaking about university education generally, thought that it was not such a good thing as all that. I imagine that he regarded it as a training for a commercial career. But he suggested that in the field of commerce many employers would be quite happy with people without a university education, because many people without a university education were as good as those with one—and he instanced the case of Ernest Bevin, who achieved great distinction without a university education. That may be. Ernest Bevin was a great man and an exceptional man, but I submit that he would have been an even greater man if he had had the benefit of a university education and all the advantages and culture that a balanced education gives. So I hope that we shall not try to qualify the definite recommendations of the Robbins Committee by introducing conditions such as those which have been hinted at or positively spoken about. All those who pass the required test should have an opportunity of going to a university.

The basis of our educational system and the whole basis of what is being recommended turns on our having an efficient teaching service. Without that, we shall get no higher education. At the same time as we increase our facilities for higher education, we have to increase our facilities for training teachers. The Report makes a number of recommendations with regard to this, and I make no apology for saying a word about them. The broad change which they recommend is the greatest possible association of the training of teachers with the universities. The proposal is that a group of training colleges should be associated with a neighbouring university through an organisation which would act as the medium between them and which would co-ordinate their activities; and that they should get their grants and assistance from the University Grants Commission and should no longer, as at present, be administered by local education authorities and voluntary associations.

According to the Report, at the present time there are 146 teacher training schools, of which 86 are administered by local authorities and 46 by voluntary organisations, mostly religious bodies. Those administered by local authorities have, in the main, been administered by them from 1902 onwards, and those by voluntary associations for possibly even longer. I recognise that it would be a great wrench to the local education authorities and voluntary bodies if the functions of these training schools were passed over to what would be virtually autonomous bodies, the schools themselves co-ordinated by these committees. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that the Robbins Committee have made a case for this change. Many of these schools are far too small to be administered efficiently, to run the requisite number of subjects or to give adequate facilities for the practice of teaching. In the Committee's view—and I think they are right—the minimum size of a teacher training college should be 750. It may be difficult to concentrate these schools, because we do not want them to be too widely scattered, but our objective should be to bring them up to that kind of size, or to a larger figure, as soon as we can.

I think that many of us would regret the departure of the local education authorities from this field and it is suggested that at least one-third of the members of the governing bodies of these colleges should be nominated by the local authorities and voluntary associations. I very much hope that the local education authorities and the voluntary associations will be willing to accept what is for the common good. Without their co-operation this plan may be difficult to achieve, and nobody wishes to exercise compulsion on them. It would be preferable if this could be carried out with the good will and the understanding on their part that it is in the common interest.

We also need the co-operation of the universities. This plan could mean a big increase in their administrative responsibilities. The Robbins Committee felt that this could be lessened by the intermediary co-ordinating committees taking over a good deal of the administrative functions, including even dealing with the grants to local education authorities. These are details which have to be ironed out. But I hope that the general principle of the transfer of functions of the teacher training colleges to autonomous bodies under the wing of the universities will be generally accepted by all parties concerned; that is, the Government, the local education authorities, the voluntary associations and the universities.

Before I pass on to the question of art, there is one important point I want to raise about teachers' training and that is the suggestion that they should have four-year courses for those who are anxious to get a degree in education. I think that is an excellent proposal. The degree, according to the Report, would be a Bachelor of Education. This would, I think, put the academic qualifications for teaching on a par with those for other professions. In this revolutionary era in education, it is of the greatest importance that teachers should have their status enhanced and should be regarded as equal in status to members of any other profession. That may have certain consequences, financial and so on, but I think our educational system would be tremendously improved if the status of our teachers was enhanced in the way I have suggested. It is time that teaching was no longer regarded as the Cinderella of the professions and one to which people turned in the absence of anything else being available to them.

I now come to art. I do not want to say much about the teaching of art. It is rather chaotic. It is taught in one or two universities where you can get a Bachelor of Music degree; there is the Royal School of Art; there are a number of schools in the country, or rather departments of schools, run by local authorities, and there is a large number of schools of pure art which, so far as I can gather, are not answerable to anyone. I am glad that the Robbins Committee undertook a survey of the whole question of the teaching of art. The teaching of art is not only desirable in itself, but is a balancing factor in our education. I recognise, of course, that the teaching of science and technology is of vital importance for our survival, but, at the same time, we must not become an unbalanced nation. The Robbins Committee appear to me to have appreciated this by talking about education in width and depth; but I am glad that they specifically refer to the teaching of art. I think that the teaching of art should definitely come in the same category as our teacher training colleges; that is, under the same body and associated with the universities.

I want to say one word about the teaching of art. I should have thought that the recommendations of the Committee would have been accepted by everybody and I was rather surprised to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that this is not so. I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, who is Chairman of the Arts Council, and who (I do not say this in any unfriendly spirit) has a vested interest in the maintenance of the present system, would prefer that that system should continue. But I have spoken to a number of members of the Arts Council who take a different view. I believe that those who are interested in the welfare of the arts, and recognise the great importance of the teaching of art in our social life, are satisfied that the recommendations of the Robbins Committee are right, and therefore they very much hope that they will be accepted.

I want to say something about the proposed University Grants Commission. There is a certain amount of doubt as to whether the functions of the University Grants Committee should be continual. From a purely theoretical point of view, such a course is a little difficult to justify. Here is a body which, I understand, will administer £500 million a year; which is autonomous, not answerable to anybody as to how it carries out its work, and incapable even of being effectively criticised. It is difficult to justify such a state of affairs when all of us, at one time or another, are preaching the doctrine of public accountability for the expenditure of money. I suppose when we find an institution which cannot be justified on logical grounds functioning—your Lordships' House, for example—we say: "Well, it works all right, and has worked for a long time". One might say that the University Grants Committee functions satisfactorily. Yet the truth is that there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction, and I think that, with its greater responsibilities, a number of changes ought to be made. I do not say that those changes should be final, or that they are necessarily all that could be done. But I would suggest at least two things.

One is regionalisation. I think it is quite impossible for one body at headquarters to be responsible for the administration of an enormous number of separate institutions. There would have to be, in my view, effective decentralisation by means of the creation of regional organisations. But the other and perhaps more radical change is that it should be open to any institution which feels dissatisfied about its treatment to make some appeal to some body. I would not be dogmatic as to whether it should be to the Minister—a course that might be open to objections because of the doctrine of the independence of the University Grants Commission—or whether it should be to an independent body; but I have no doubt at all that there should be a right of appeal. If there were such a right, it would remove all the dissatisfaction which exists and enable this tremendously important organisation to function much more smoothly.

Finally, I should like to say just a word about the future administration of our education service. Here I am in some difficulty, because nobody wants to be dogmatic about this matter. It would be folly for me here and now to say that this or that was the right organisation. The Robbins Committee spent a number of years on this; and, even so, they were not wholly in agreement. But it seems to me that one thing stands out; that is, that the whole of our educational system should be regarded as one, and that there should be one high-powered person in the Government responsible for supervision over the whole educational field. It may be that there would have to be divisions of that responsibility, subject to the overriding responsibility of the Minister. We could have one section, or even one Minister, responsible for education generally, including universities, and another Minister responsible for scientific and technological education. We have to deal with the question of research, and it may be that this responsibility should be left, for the time being, at any rate, where it is with the Lord President of the Council. But whatever may be the future of our administration (my noble friend Lord Longford will deal more fully with this aspect, and I do not want to trepass on his speech), I feel that at any rate this big principle of the overriding responsibility of one Minister over the whole educational field should be the dominant feature in our educational programme.

This debate is not the last that we shall have—at least., I hope not—on our educational system. It is worth a good many debates. I hope that this particular debate has been valuable. It has certainly been interesting. The speeches, including my own, have been a little on the long side, but it is difficult to compress one's remarks into a limited number of words. I hope that we shall all be excused if we have taken a little longer than we had intended in saying what we wanted to say. I hope that the Government will give serious thought to everything that has been said and that, as they have accepted this Report in principle, they will not be above giving serious consideration to the details and to the implementation of these principles, of which there are many. I would submit to the House that the test of the sincerity of the Government in having accepted these principles, and having accepted them now, will be the extent to which they implement them immediately. That will be the acid test of the whole thing. It is one thing to accept a Report on paper; it is quite another to take early or immediate action to implement it. I await with the greatest possible interest what the Government are going to do about the implementation of this Report in the very near future.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, there is really only one point on which I want to address your Lordships in detail on this Report, but, before I deal with that, there are one or two matters of general interest to which I should like briefly to refer. The first thing I should like to say quite firmly is that I support what has been said about this Report, and give it a very warm welcome. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for making me see far more clearly a point about which I was not completely sure. He made the point that there must be one Minister in charge of the complete educational field in the country, although it should be possible to have a Minister of State or some Ministers working under him. It suddenly revealed to me, as it were, something I have been thinking about for a long time, and I am glad that the noble Lord put it so that I can support warmly what he said. If we had a system like that it would mean we should not require a Minister for Science any more, or a Minister of Arts. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that we do not want a Minister of Fine Arts in this country. I do not think we really want a Minister for Science, not that I mean that in any personal fashion at all; I am merely thinking of the work which such a Ministry could do.

I should like to say how much I agree with my noble friend Lord McNair that the University Grants Committee should be kept entirely free from Governmental or Departmental control. We have seen it working very well up to the present. One or two points on this raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, are, I believe, worth thinking about. But we have, too, the example of the Medical Research Council whose work is controlled, in a sense, by the Lord President of the Council, but which is not dictated to in any way at all by the Minister of Health in what it does. One appreciates that the University Grants Committee is going, to deal with far more money than the Medical Research Council, and one trusts that the grant made to the Medical Research Council may in time approach more that made to the University Grants Committee. At present I think they are very meanly treated by Her Majesty's Government.

There is another point about which I am not entirely convinced. There is talk that some of the colleges of advanced technology should be turned into universities. I do not know how far that should spread, or whether it is really necessary. When one thinks of some of the big colleges of technology in the world—for example, the Massachusetts Institute—one realises that the standard is just as good as if they were universities, and that in the fields of technology the standard may be higher. But I am not in a position to judge more of that.

Here, again, before I come to my particular point, there were two points about which I was worried. On one of them my mind has been completely set at ease by what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said yesterday afternoon when he was talking about the standards of people being admitted to universities. He assured me that there was nothing in his Report—and I think we can accept this—which meant that the standards of entrants will be lowered from the high standard we have now. The other point which passed through my mind—I do not know whether it is a very serious point—is whether, if there are too many people obtaining university degrees, it will not in time lower the general value of that degree. That, I think, is a point which should be taken into consideration, and one which requires a certain amount of thought.

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, very much indeed when he asked for an urgent decision about money, because I have seen the difficulty in my own profession. If we are to expand in the way he suggests, we must have more money for staff and for buildings. It is no good the Government saying that we should wait until there is a review in the spring of next year. This is an urgent matter which should be looked into now so that the universities and the teaching institutions can at least have some idea where they are and what they will be confronted with.

The point which I particularly wanted to talk about is one which the noble Lord, Lord Brain, touched on very fairly and well last night; that is the training of medical students. As the noble Lord said, the training of medical students is not dealt with at any great length in the Report. That may possibly be because the Committee thought it was not in their terms of reference, but I feel it is worth while to say a few words more to your Lordships on this matter. One of the things we are told, which I do not think is really important, is that the relative number of medical students to students in general will decline after 1966–67. So long as the absolute number does not decline, I do not think it is very important whether the relative number goes down a little or not. What makes me rather worried is that the University Grants Committee envisage that the number of medical students will increase from about 19,000 in 1961 to 21,000 in 1980, and then we do not know what is going to become of them, whether there will be any further increase, whether that is going to be the ceiling, or what is going to occur.

I think it is quite certain, first, that we have not enough doctors in the country trained by ourselves at the present time, and, secondly, that we shall want a great many more in the future. There are several perfectly good reasons for that. One is that the number of people in the country is growing bigger each year and that more people are being born and more people living to an advanced age.

At the present time we are told by a number of people that the number of doctors in certain parts of the country is short, that they have far too long lists and that they have too much to do to cover the work they should in the time at their disposal. Then, it has been suggested that the general practitioner should now begin to take part-time jobs working in hospitals. I do not really think that can be done if the numbers of doctors are not going to increase in proportion to the numbers of people. You cannot work a person more than 12, 14 or 16 hours a day, whoever they may be. Therefore, I think that is one very important thing.

There is another sidelight which shows the way the shortage of doctors is affecting us, particularly in the type of work that I do—I am sorry to introduce a personal note here, but I work in the geriatric department of one of our large hospitals. I have no complaints for myself, but I have seen similar departments being started in hospitals in other parts of the country where the post is now being advertised as being a "consultant" post, which sounds rather superior and grand. What occurs frequently is that, whereas in the past the job has been done by one person, who was not called a consultant, taking care of, say, 400 beds, with one or two general practitioners coming in to help him, the person in charge is now called a "consultant" and he carries on working on his 400 beds, with one or two part-time general practitioners coming in to assist him, and possibly one junior officer appointed permanently. So the change has not been very great and sometimes one is tempted to call the change in nomenclature, if not quite fraudulent, bordering on the fraudulent. The reason for this state of affairs is lack of doctors. That, I think, shows that at the present time there is real need in the country for more doctors.

The story about the number of medical students is a rather sad one, and it goes back to 1944, when the Goodenough Committee first laid down some kind of figures for the post-war world. But I will not go into those in any more detail. In 1955 there was a Committee under Sir Henry Willink which said that there were going to be too many doctors and therefore suggested that the number of medical students should be cut by 10 per cent. In a very short while that was found not to be very good advice, but not a great many medical schools had followed it because in quite a short time another instruction or advice came round that the number should be increased by 10 per cent.; and that certainly was what happened at the school at which I work. We increased our numbers by 10 per cent. because we had not made any real diminution on Willink, which meant that we had 10 per cent. more than we had at the original time.

But if you are going to call for more doctors, I think you need more medical schools at the same time, because the ones you have in the country, the well-established ones, are practically full, although there is a possibility that they might be able to take one or two more students. One reason for their being full is the sheer physical impossibility of squeezing more people into buildings that were not intended for these great numbers. In any hospital it would be possible to improve the situation if the Government or the University Grants Committee, or whatever body is responsible, were to make substantial grants of capital sums for the increase in size of the medical school.

That might be one way of getting round some of the difficulty, but I think that if you are going to have more students in the school which is attached to a hospital you will then need to make fundamental changes in the teaching of medicine in this country. The way that medicine is taught in England and Wales is by what one might call attaching students to one or two or several patients, with their instructors, the consultant staff and registrars, et cetera, guiding them along in the care of the individual patients. The way it is mostly carried out on the Continent, where they do not follow this system, is by giving lecture-demonstrations. They claim they get as good results from that sytem as we get in this country. I am afraid I do not agree with that at all. I feel that our system of medical education in this country is extremely good, and that the type of doctors we turn out to the world are second to none compared with those coming from any other country in the world. Therefore I should be extremely disappointed if a change of pattern in the way we train our doctors were to come about because of the difficulty of financing new medical schools.

That is about the one criticism I have of the Report: that it does not refer in strong enough terms to the need for medical schools. We have been told that there might be one in the South, but I am not quite sure where. There, again, one has to bear in mind what the noble Lord, Lord Brain said last night: that if you begin a school now, it will be about fifteen years or more before it is really functioning and turning out its proper number of doctors; so the matter is extremely urgent. The training of a medical student takes about seven years, and to get him fully trained to consultant rank takes a good deal longer. And when one thinks of creating more medical schools, there comes a moment, too, when one has to consider to what part of the country they should go. There, I am bound to say, one runs into a great difficulty, because I think it is one of the accepted things that students tend to settle down in practice near to the area in which they qualified. That is not entirely true, but there is some such tendency. Therefore one wants to encourage schools not, let us say, in the South, where there are plenty of doctors, but in the Northern parts of the country; in industrial Lancashire, industrial Yorkshire, the Midlands and other thickly crowded parts of the country. It can be said against that: "Why do you want schools there? You have two good schools in Lancashire, two good schools in Yorkshire and two good schools up in the North-East." But I think we want more facilities for training in those parts of the country, and something must be done fairly soon to establish something of the sort.

One of the difficulties is that we are hampered by the fact that nobody quite knows what number of doctors we shall want in the immediate, the near and the far future; and that, I think, is something that some computer, with a good mind for working out such a problem, should try to find out and give those of us working in medical schools and thinking about medical education something to build on. It is sad to have to say this, for there is no shortage of potential medical students. There was one hospital in London, I was told the other day, which had 45 to 50 vacancies for which 1,000 people applied. A number of the applicants were not at all suitable, but the school thought it worth while to interview about 250 to 300 people for the posts, and they chose 45. There was a report issued by the British Medical Association, I think it was last year, on the recruitment of medical students. It said that there was no shortage of potential candidates for new or expanding schools.

At the present time these medical students suffer two great disadvantages. One is that they are not thought of by the pure scientist as proper scientists, because quite often they do not wish to be seen to take a high scientific degree: they wish to take a degree in medicine and not in science. That leads to—I will not say discrimination, but a certain feeling among the scientists that they are not proper scientists but are something rather different, something rather lower in the educational scale.

The other drawback is that it costs an enormous amount to train a medical student. One can train a student for the arts, on money from public funds, for, I think, about £560, whereas to train a medical student costs £1,061. We are therefore thought of as being in a way not only not very scientific but extremely expensive. To train a student in pure science costs about £900, whereas to train one in applied science will not cost more than £774. One can see certain drawbacks and difficulties there, which I trust will not be taken too seriously, because I am pleased to say that at the present time there seems to be a general increase—not a very big increase—in the number of medical students; they have gone up by about one-fifth in number above the number recommended in the Willink Report in 1955. That, I think, is a very encouraging point.

I do not want to take up any more time except to say one final thing: that it will be necessary, as indeed was pointed out in an article in The Times the other day, coming, I think, from Birmingham, to build somewhere for these students to live—both medical students and general university students. There I would give one word of advice to the University Grants Committee. Supposing they are going to give money for the building of halls of residence or places in which students may live, the money they give should be earmarked for that purpose. If it is given generally it will be soon entirely gobbled up by the academic people, who will build new laboratories, et cetera, and so there will still be nowhere for the students to live. So if it is given, you should say it is for that purpose only. While welcoming the Report, I must agree with what the Birmingham correspondent said in The Times the other day; that inadequate provision has been made for increases in medical undergraduate education

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, we are much in debt to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for giving us this opportunity of a two-days' debate on the Robbins Report, and also for the speech with which the noble Lord introduced our discussion. I should also like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Bessborough on speaking for the first time from the Box and on education. I know how difficult it is to speak on education to an audience of experts whose hands are always outstretched to catch the brick, even if one is the Minister, and if one represents only an interim Minister then it is a very great test, out of which my noble friend came very well.

The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, gave us a splendid speech to every word of which we listened with attention, and I hasten to support him once again—though my support was not effective last time—in his plea to the Government for immediate action on the awards to postgraduate students who might be persuaded to train to be university teachers in time for September, 1965. I really do not think the Government can accept this Report in principle and do nothing about something which is not very large in itself but is of absolutely cardinal importance if we a re to get on with dealing with the crisis that we know is coming.

I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Silk in, referred to the teacher training colleges. The recommendation in the Report is most important—that these colleges should be taken away from the local authorities, the churches and the Ministry, who now share responsibility for them, and given over to the universities and financed through the Grants Commission. This is a very bold proposal about which there is much to be said, for and against. I believe that if the suggestion had been made ten years ago it would have been turned down out of hand. But the teacher training colleges, like the schools, have been making very rapid progress, and I am glad that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London is to speak to your Lordships next, because the resources which the Church of England have put into their teacher training colleges have been of a very high order, and they have done a noble work, in which the right reverend Prelate himself has taken a leading part. The landmarks of the progress in the colleges have been that the course has been lengthened from two to three years and that the qualification at entry of the students has now been so far improved that about half of them could very reasonably have expected a place in a university.

The analysis of the present-day position and the prospects of these colleges, made in the Robbins Report, is quite excellent, and so is the Committee's firm conclusion that the colleges are part of higher education. That means that when they come to carve out a separate province of higher education to be governed by a new Minister the colleges will have to be in it. The logic of that argument and the case for granting a new degree in education to the student who goes on for the fourth year seems to me absolutely clear. It must be accepted and must be defended. But your Lordships may have noticed an ominous sentence in paragraph 360, which says this: … the current discontent in the Training Colleges is not just a matter of wanting degrees. It goes much deeper and involves the whole standing of the colleges in the system of higher education in this country. That is certainly a fair comment, and I should like to add, following the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that it is not only the standing of the colleges about which we should be anxious but the standing of the teachers as a profession.

The teachers in the maintained schools still do not quite enjoy that position in society, that relationship to other professions, which would reflect the range and importance of the services demanded of them by the community. There are more than a quarter of a million of these men and women to whom we entrust nine out of ten of all the nation's children, and I know that many of them suffer from a feeling of isolation, of being something more than a white-collar worker and something less than a profesional man or woman; and the general public suffers, too, because the standards in the schools are affected by the disabilities and the discontents of the teachers. The Robbins proposal to upgrade the training colleges and include them in the province of higher education is, therefore, a chance not to be missed. It will do more than any other single action to raise the status of the teachers. I hope it is going to be generally welcome, and that at the same time we shall remember with gratitude that the transfer could become a practical proposition only because the local authorities and the churches have done so well by their training colleges since the war. That is one side of the question.

On the other hand, the training colleges exist not only to give thousands of students a three-year course and a chance to go on to get a degree; they exist to meet the needs of the schools—that is, to train the number of teachers with the appropriate qualifications to practise in the different types of schools and to teach the different subjects in the curriculum. The problem is how to give the lift to the status of the teachers which is so desirable and, at the same time, make sure that the places and the work in the colleges come as near as possible to meeting the staffing needs of the schools. I think it no exaggeration to say that the supply of teachers has been, and will continue to be, the most difficult task in the whole field of primary and secondary education. It is because this is so that the responsibility for the task in England and Wales is placed squarely by the Act of 1944 on the Minister of Education. In Scotland, the responsibility lies on the Secretary of State.

The Robbins Report does scant justice to the statutory duties of the Ministers concerned, and I should like to recall them to your Lordships. Section 1 of the English Act reads as follows: It shall be lawful for His Majesty to appoint a Minister … whose duty it shall be to promote the education of the people of England and Wales and the progressive development of institutions devoted to that purpose. Your Lordships will notice that the Act does not say, "the education of the people of England and Wales except the higher education"; the Act says quite plainly, "the education of the people". It would have to be amended if the the Robbins recommendations were accepted in full.

Then, in Section 62, the Act defines as follows the Minister's duty in regard to the supply of teachers: In execution of the duties imposed on him by this Act, the Minister shall, in particular, make such arrangements as he considers expedient for securing that there shall be available sufficient facilities for the training of teachers for service in schools, colleges and other establishments maintained by local education authorities. There is no more important clause than that in the whole of the Education Act, and no more essential and onerous duty is placed on the Minister. Ministers of Education have been well advised by a distinguished Council on the broad question of demand and supply for teachers; but, of course, the Council gets its figures from the Ministry, and from time to time the Minister has himself had to take the initiative, hoping he can carry his Council with him.

I give your Lordships just two examples. In the early nineteen-fifties too many students were training to be teachers in arts and crafts in relation to the number training to teach English and mathematics. As Minister, I had to ask for some rearrangement of the courses in the interests of the schools. Again, in 1961 the need for teachers in primary schools was becoming so acute that the institutes of education were asked by me to work out with the colleges a large transfer of places from training for secondary schools to training for primary schools. These were most unpopular decisions of a kind, I think, not likely to be taken except by some one person charged with the ultimate responsibility for the supply of teachers and fully acquainted with the needs of the schools.

But what happens if the Robbins recommendations are accepted as they stand? I will tell your Lordships—something most unpleasant. The Government will have to come to Parliament and ask for the repeal of Section 62 of the 1944 Act. The Minister of Education in England and Wales, and presumably the Secretary of State in Scotland, could not be left with the duty of securing the number and quality of teachers needed once the training colleges had been transferred to a new Minister with separate responsibility for higher education. Would it then be possible to impose upon this new Minister this duty to secure the supply of teachers? Obviously not, because by definition he would know nothing about the schools, or about the technical colleges, or about the difficulties of the 146 local authorites in securing a fair distribution of teachers. His responsibilities, as his experience, would lie only in the field of higher education.

Parliament is acutely aware of the shortage of teachers: so much so that I venture to predict that any attempt to repeal Section 62 of the 1944 Act would run into insuperable difficulty. I believe that if legislation to that end were ever introduced, your Lordships would say that the duty to provide enough teachers must rest where it does today, on the Minister in charge of the schools. The Robbins proposals place the Minister of Education in an impossible position from which we must now find a way out. I do not know if the universities want to take on the training colleges. I hope they do, for the sake of raising the status of the teaching profession. I do not know if the local authorities want to hand over the training colleges. I hope they do, for the same reason.

How, then, are we to combine this transfer with the maintenance of the proper responsibility for seeing that the needs of the schools are met? There is one way you cannot do it; that is, the way suggested in paragraph 354 of the Robbins Report, which is to allow the poor Minister of Education two assessors on the school councils. That would never do it. In fact, of course, there is only one solution—namely, to appoint a single Minister of Education who can, on one side of his Department, delegate the administration and the finance of the colleges to the universities through the Grants Commission, and, on the other side of his Department, watch over the interests of the schools and intervene if necessary to secure the right balance and size in training facilities. That cannot be done, except on a national basis, because one must know where it is best slightly to change the emphasis within a particular college: where one should extend and where one should not. It must be done from a central place. If this were the solution, then Section 62 would not have to be repealed; and, though, of course, the question of legislation ought not to be overriding, it might be a relief to Her Majesty's Ministers not to have to include such a controversial measure in their programme.

I should like now to turn to technical education, about which my noble friend Lord Todd said many wise things last night. This is the area in which the division between higher education and the rest of further education, as proposed in the Report, is most obviously and thoroughly unsatisfactory. In a recent lecture Sir Willis Jackson, Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Imperial College, had this to say: Our national weakness lies not in our research but in our relative inability to translate its results into technological achievement. I am sure this is true. Pure science has gained for this country a world-wide reputation of which we can all be proud, but it has none the less won too complete a victory in the universities and the schools. School children and their parents, teachers and the writers of popular fiction are all fascinated by the glamour of science.

One result, as the Robbins Report shows us very clearly, is that the pupils with the best brains prefer science to engineering and other technologies. When this swing to science started it was a very healthy corrective to the dominance of the arts at that time, and perhaps it ought to go still further; but it has certainly been overdone as between science and applied science. Evidence accumulates that the balance between thinking about science and doing things with science requires a sharp adjustment. It is said that, to some extent at any rate, the universities encourage the belief that a research worker is superior to an engineer. If that is so one should ask who would pay the research worker his salary or provide him with expensive equipment if the engineers were not producing the goods which we can sell at home and abroad?

The Report gives the impression that the shortage of technologists and technicians appeared less urgent to the Committee than it does to those who work in industry. I must try to justify that criticism by giving one or two examples from the Report itself. In the first place, the Committee did not appreciate how vital part-time courses, and in particular sandwich-courses in the CATS and the regional colleges, are now and must remain if we are to educate enough technologists. The inference could be drawn from the Report—and I know of one instance where it has been drawn—that the authors would like to see the CATS, on becoming institutions of university rank, replace their part-time courses with full-time courses of university pattern.

The noble Lord, Lord Todd, said yesterday that this would be a very great mistake, and I would support him with all the emphasis that I can. Many young men, among them some of the most ambitious—and those are the young men we want, in industry at any rate—prefer to be employed by a firm while they are studying for their professional qualifications. It may be they need the discipline, or the interest of being on the staff of a profit-making organisation, or just the money, or some combination of these factors. Industrial employers seem more and more to prefer the technologists who has been through a sandwich-course, perhaps because such a student has learned earlier how to fit in with the management and the operatives in a great industrial concern. Anyway, as the Minister who designated the colleges of advanced technology, and later divorced them from the local authorities with the avowed intention of putting them on the way to becoming independent institutions, I should be extremely sorry, and indeed should feel let down, if these sprouting colleges were now persuaded to imitate universities, giving up their part-time work in favour of full-time courses alone. To do this would be a great loss to industry, and a denial of that flexibility and range of choice which should be the pride of British education.

In the second place, Robbins does not attach as much value to the links between higher education and industry as many people think would be wise. I take one example—the great College at Delft, which was examined by the Committee. There Dutch industry is in full partnership with the academic side of the College. Surely in this country, too, we could benefit greatly from such full partnerships. But the Report is not emphatic here, and if industry gets the impression that the post-Robbins departments of technology and separate technological institutions can get on pretty well without much assistance from industry, that assistance will not be forthcoming. That would be a very great pity.

Thirdly, the Report does not seem to me to say nearly enough about technicians, without whom the scientists and the technologists cannot do their work. I expect this is because it was felt that the education of technologists was not within the scope of the Report; that it was somewhere below the area of higher education and therefore ought not to be examined in detail. However, when the interests of the universities themselves are involved and their own need for technicians is found to be very urgent, this frontier between higher education and the rest of further education is crossed without a blush. In paragraph 547 we are told that institutions of higher education should set up their own effective schemes for training technicians. Of these schemes the Report proceeds to say, with a fine disregard of its own definition of higher education: The costs … should be met either by earmarked grants or by appropriate adjustment of the block recurrent grant. So, when it suits the universities, the Minister of Higher Education is to become the Minister of Lower Education and go into the business of training technicians himself.

I hope, after this example, your Lordships will think it in order if for a moment I look at the training of technicians. We are not yet sure how to define a technician. But we do know that the amount of basic knowledge which technicians should have is increasing, and that their training is becoming more arduous. It is not surprising, therefore, that more and more technicians are coming from those sixth form pupils who at present either do not get or do not want a place in a university. If we are to provide places in our higher education for all who could benefit from it, a very grave problem arises for the education of technicians.

As I see it, one of three things must happen. Either many young people who should from the first have contemplated a career as a technician will be taking university courses that do not fit them to be technicians—in which case the present shortage will get very much worse; or technicians will have to be recruited from a level below that from which they are now drawn, in which case the schools and the technical colleges will have to think very hard what sort of courses might be suitable for this level of boy and girl. Or, thirdly—and I accept that this is what should happen—the expanding universities themselves will have very quickly to provide courses of a kind that would lead on to the career of a technician. I do not think that Robbins really faced up to this in the Report. It seems to me very urgent, because if we do nothing about it we shall find a large number of university students pursuing the wrong courses to fit them for the careers which they should have been aiming at, both in their own and in the national interest. There we have just one more example, if your Lordships need another, of how impossible it is to draw a line between higher education and the rest of education; and therefore, how unwise it would be to create two Ministers to fight over an area which demands a single policy.

In conclusion I should like to pick up one or two of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, in his defence of the proposal to have two Ministers of Education. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, dealt faithfully with the curious argument that the civil servants in the Ministry of Education (and the argument would, of course, apply to civil servants drawn from any other Department) are so rigid and so fixed in their habits that they could not behave as gentlemen to the Grants Commission. As the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, showed, there is nothing substantial in this fear, except that great minds are willing to entertain it. I will say no more about that.

What did astonish me was that someone with the wide experience of government of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, should want two weak Ministries where one strong one is so obviously called for. I say that the two would be weak because, as many of your Lordships know from bitter experience, the most time-consuming and distracting subject in Whitehall is a dispute over the frontier which divides one Department from another. Nothing more delights the professional, nothing diverts his energy more, than the struggle to gain or defend some little bit of power. But Lord Robbins admits that no clear line can be drawn between higher and lower education, and many of the speeches we have heard have emphasised this patent difficulty. So the proposal for two Ministers cannot be other than an invitation to "hot up" the Whitehall war.

Then the noble Lord seemed to say—I hope I have understood him aright—that the big priorities in education ought to be settled, almost as a matter of constitutional principle, in the Cabinet. I do not know what to make of this unrealistic doctrine. If there is one clear trend in government to-day, it is that the amount of expert knowledge required to take decisions of policy increases all the time, and therefore the number of disputed issues which can usefully be settled around the Cabinet table has to be limited. That is why we have a Minister of Defence. It is impossible to bring to the Cabinet the modern versions of the old rivalries between the Admirals, the Generals and the Air Marshals. The problems are far too complicated, and the technical arguments are too much for talented amateurs to understand: they have to be settled outside. The same is becoming true of great services like health and education. According to Robbins, I ought to have argued in Cabinet the relative merits of primary schools and colleges of advanced technology; and according to Robbins, when there are two Ministers they ought to argue in Cabinet whether an increase in the facilities for training teachers is more important than grants for research. These things cannot be argued in Cabinet. They have to be looked at continuously, with all the best technical and expert advice possible, and sorted out; programmes have to be made up and brought to the Cabinet for final endorsement, having passed the Treasury.

My Lords, I remember one, and only one, occasion when a university question was brought to Ministers in Cabinet. As it all got out in the papers, it is no secret, and I think that I may tell your Lordships that the question was whether a by-pass road should be built around the centre of Oxford across Christ Church Meadow. Very soon the voices were pitched high; tempers were ruffled; passions were out in full force. The Balliol and New College men were on one side, the Magdalen and Christ Church men were on the other, while the Cambridge men looked down their noses in smug silence. No page of fiction, no ugly scene from the novels of Sir Charles Snow, could equal that abortive struggle.

Do not, my Lords, endorse a Robbins' proposal which would open the way to the repetition of such ferocious and fruitless arguments every Thursday morning of the week. We want one strong Minister in the Cabinet; and, if it would help the universities—and I am sure that we should wish to do that—let him be his own Minister of State where the Grants Commission are concerned. Let the Commission be housed in a separate building; let them be allocated a private entrance to the Ministry of Education, a lift or a staircase up which no civil servant, no teacher, no inspector of schools, would ever be allowed to pass; and let them come straight into the Minister's room and parley with him there. All this would be worthwhile if we could have one Minister. Then the rest—the schools and the other parts of further education—could be handled, out of sight, by junior Ministers.

I do assure the noble Lord whose Report we are discussing that those of us who want one Minister are as anxious as the most fearful of vice-chancellors to see the great traditions of the British universities preserved. We believe that education needs a single strong voice in the Cabinet, and not a pair of competing voices whose discordant dialogue would play straight into the hands of the Treasury. We want one Minister, because in our country at the age of 21 we now have one head, one vote, male or female, empty or full; and with this distribution of the political power must go a machinery of government that does justice, and is seen to do justice, to the educational needs of all the people.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, although we may differ on some of the recommendations of the Robbins Committee we are at one in our gratitude to its Chairman and his colleagues, both for the sense of urgency which they have expressed and for the boldness of the programme of expansion which they propose. This Report comes third in the sequence of great and important Reports on Education, and I believe that in a sense it can be considered adequately only in relation to the two Reports which have preceded it, and from one of which it has rather stolen some of the thunder. The Crowther Report we have been working upon, but tend rather to forget. The Newsom Report we have hardly yet considered adequately, and I hope that there may be an opportunity for it to be discussed in this House at an early date. For these Reports all hang together.

The expansion of university education will not be achieved, as has been said so clearly, unless and until we have more teachers, and more teachers of the kind which the Newsom Report recommends, in order that the talent which is now in danger of being wasted may adequately be used. And, again, what the teachers hope to do will be frustrated unless and until we have overcome the problems of overcrowded classes and inadequate provision for teaching. We cannot separate one part of education from another, and of that fact I am sure the noble Lord and his colleagues have never lost sight, though I could wish that they had brought it out a little more clearly in the four objectives of higher education which they set out at the beginning of their Report. Those objectives are well and finely stated, but I miss in them another note which is implicit, perhaps, in paragraph 28: the place of the universities in the life of the nation as a whole. Last year, in Tananarive, there was a Conference on Higher Education in Africa, at which, among many other wise things, this conclusion was reached: The mission of a university is to define and confirm the aspirations of the society which it is established to serve. … The African university must regard itself as the cultural centre of the community in which it is placed. That, I suggest, my Lords, is true also of a British or an American university; and when we have done everything we can for research, pure and applied, for the development of the Arts and everything else, unless the university is a centre of community it is not justifying its existence in the fullest sense.

Now we know that our universities have been very mindful of this purpose in the way in which they have developed over the years, but in the widespread expansion to which we are all looking forward it will become not only more important but much more possible. But it could get pushed out, in view of all the competing priorities for time and money. One of the leaders in The Times which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, did not like very much last night—with some reason—did refer, however, to the possibility of our discussing in the future the "evils of an eighteen-plus". Now there is something in this point, and it is only, I believe, when the whole interdependence of education is realised that we can avoid the risk of apparently segregating the community at one age rather than another age: because education is something which is seen to be one and indivisible, and if we are going to get this clear, of course, we must be clear about our objectives.

In a sense (and reference has already been made to this by other noble Lords), the most important single sentence in the Robbins Report is in paragraph 31, where they state the axiom that courses of higher education should be available to all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so". That is a more revolutionary principle than I think the public as a whole has yet realised. It might move us forward into a quite different understanding of university education. The most reverend Primate last night referred to some of the issues which arise from that, and I am entirely with what he said on that subject. I believe too, that the Robbins Committee are right in basing the justification for their axiom not so much upon social necessity as upon justice for the individual—and this too, I think, we must hold on to at all costs. That involves our standards of admission and entrance: both those objective standards which can be tested and those other, intangible standards which are involved in willingness and capacity to pursue a university course, to which reference has been made. But those standards—not only the objective standards, but the rather less clearly defined standards also—can be demanded from students only when the schools from which they come are equipped to prepare them for them; and they can be raised in the schools, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has so rightly said, only when the numbers and qualifications of the teachers are themselves continuously being raised.

The recommendations on teacher training, as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has said, are of the utmost importance; and, speaking as one who has had a certain amount of responsibility over a period of some ten years or more for the training of teachers, I want to say at the outset that I welcome these recommendations most warmly in principle, and very largely in detail. It is logical and right that the colleges of education should come wholly within the university pattern. It is right and just that those students who are capable of reaching the standard for a degree should be given a degree. The only slight question I have in my own mind is whether they should be termed Bachelor of Education or whether, perhaps, Bachelor of Arts might not remove the appearance of a differential between them and other graduates. But I hope that, whatever the actual name of the first degree is determined to be—and it may, I hope, differ from one university to another—the complete equality of those graduates with graduates in other faculties, when it comes to post-graduate work, will never for one moment be in question; otherwise, the objective will be to some extent weakened and destroyed.

It follows, too, that the administrative and financial aspects of the training colleges should reflect their new academic status. They must have strong, independent governing bodies, and the voluntary bodies connected with teacher training in England have indeed been engaged in the process of strengthening and developing the autonomy of the governing bodies of their colleges over the last ten years or more; and with encouraging results. So we know that it can be done. But perhaps at this point it should be said, on behalf at least of the voluntary colleges (though I think I can say it, too, on behalf of the local authority colleges), that no praise is too high for the manner in which the Ministry of Education have controlled their finances and looked after their interests in the period of development since the McNair Committee reported. If it is right that their colleges should move on into the sphere of university control, there will be sometimes, I think, a slight nostalgia for those days when the appropriate officer in the Ministry of Education was very accessible, very understanding, and always most helpful. We owe a very great deal to the encouragement which the Minister of Education has given to the training colleges in their very rapid process of expansion during the last ten years.

It is, however, right and logical that that change should take place, and that the colleges of education within the university framework should receive their finance in the future through the Grants Commission. But it is important, I believe, both that there should be no ambiguity about the way in which this is to happen and also that, in the process of transfer, we should not lose points of value in the present system. It may be necessary, I suggest, to evolve at a national level some timetable for the transference of this control. It cannot happen in five minutes. The universities themselves may not all approach with the same degree of enthusiasm, or with the same degree of affection, the problem of accepting training colleges fully into their midst. We know how difficult it was for the universities to have a common mind in adopting the recommendations of the McNair Report. But the training colleges themselves are faced in the immediate future with a very big programme of expansion. We know that far more teachers are needed; that places must be found for them, and that those places must be provided quickly; and the expansion of university education to which we look forward will not take place effectively unless that expansion of teacher training is taking place simultaneously.

The local education authorities and the voluntary bodies who, between them, provide all the teacher training colleges, will take a little time to build up the effective, independent governing bodies for which the Report rightly calls and to which control will pass. The universities of which the colleges will form part will themselves at this same period be stretched to the limit of their administrative, technical and architectural capacities in carrying out the immediate "crash" programme set before them. There are here, I feel, possibilities of delay in the expansion of teacher training for which no one could be held responsible; and I suggest there is a case for some interim arrangement which will not prejudice the transfer of the training colleges to the universities and, at the same time, will not deprive them of the expert help they themselves need for their own rapid expansion in the next two or three years.

There is another point which is related to this. The Robbins Report, in paragraph 356, says that the position of the voluntary colleges requires special consideration and suggests that a modification of the general financial arrangements will have to be made for them. This is not the point at which I would enter into any discussion of whether a 75 per cent. grant instead of a 100 per cent. grant is right or not for voluntary colleges when set within the university framework. I would only say that I hope that the nature of these modifications will be discussed at a very early date. Forty-eight of the present 146 training colleges are provided by voluntary bodies, mostly by the Christian churches. The churches have been glad to enter into partnership with the State in providing these colleges in the past and they have been modernising and enlarging them in recent years in the endeavour to play their part in the expansion of the provision of teachers for which the nation so rightly calls. We believe that this partnership has been, and still is, very welcome to the State; but the cost to the voluntary bodies, even with the generous grants of the Ministry of Education, has been very considerable. For the Church of England alone the capital commitments for her training colleges since 1946 are of the order of £4 million. I speak for my colleagues when I say we welcome the proposed new development of our training colleges into colleges of education. We welcome this and are anxious to do all we can to further that development.

We believe, as the Robbins Committee said in their Report, that there should be no great difficulty in maintaining a satisfactory arrangement; but those responsible for the voluntary colleges should know where they stand; and I think it is only fair that they ought to know it as soon as possible for they are committed to considering schemes of expansion which will, even at this stage, be pretty costly. They will be only too ready to enter into discussions on future policy at a national level at a very early date. I would emphasise that these discussions must be on a national level. So far as the training colleges of the Church of England are concerned—and I believe this is true also of the Roman Catholic and Methodist colleges—they have been able to expand as they have done in no small measure because they have been members of a group with an effective central policy in the making of which individual colleges have had an effective share.

The maintenance of that kind of relationship may be important for them in the future. It has certainly been so in the past; and I do not think they are in a position to negotiate independently or separately about their own financial future. I hope that there will be discussions on a national level in which the voluntary colleges may be shown what it is they are asked to do and to be and to become; and no doubt their willingness to co-operate to the full may find its expression. The fact that the colleges of education will pass from the control of the Minister of Education to a full share in the administrative and academic life of the universities emphasises, for me, at any rate, the vital necessity of having a single Minister responsible for the whole range of education. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has, I think, dealt so effectively with this question that there is no need for me to add anything to what he has said except the very loud "Hear, hear!" which I uttered at intervals of about 25 seconds while he was speaking. The responsibility for education cannot be divided, because education itself is one and indivisible.

No doubt many detailed modifications in the recommendations of the Committee will be found necessary in the next few years. But I trust that there will go forth from this debate and from discussions in other places not only our sense of gratitude for the labours of the Committee but a challenge to our people to give that measure of support and that willingness to express their support, if necessary in sacrificial terms, without which this bold and essential expansion of education may have little hope of success. The nation looks to its educational system to produce at every level skilled and trained people able and willing to build up the social, economic and cultural life of the society; and, more important still, to give to the young a sense of moral purpose within the nation's life. To that end no effort and no expenditure could possibly be too great.

4.57 p.m.


My Lords, before I speak to the speech which has just been made, I feel that some comment should be made in regard to the Government Front Bench. There are two Ministers responsible for this debate and they are both absent. This surely puts those who take part in the debate in a difficult position. I will leave it at that; but I think it is wrong.

I am glad that the right reverend Prelate, when he commenced his speech, referred to the Newsom Report and the Crowther Report, because these two Reports hang with the Robbins Report. We on this side of the House regard education as part and parcel of one process from the beginning and right through our life. It is one continual learning; not only learning from teaching, but learning from experience. I think we should be wrong if we were to regard further education as in any way different from education as a whole; and those who advocate that a separate Minister should be responsible for university education, and that education in the university should be treated by itself, would, I think, regret it in time to come.

As the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has said—and I think it is accepted throughout the country—whichever Government is called upon to implement the Robbins Report, vast sums of national money will be required for this purpose. These will be a "crash" programme and long-term and progressive investment in the universities. If you treat the universities in isolation you may well find that the public from whom the money comes may say: "Why should we contribute these vast sums of money to those who are fortunate in that they were born with a particular facility for leaning? Why should we contribute money to this, if it is treated in isolation?". I should have thought that it would be easier to persuade the country to accept that the vast sums of money were required for all types of education, if they were not not apportioned to either higher or lower education. I dislike using the word "lower," but I have not been able to find the right word to differentiate from "higher." I think that we should be very wrong if we were to isolate university education.

The only reason why I want to speak in this debate is to refer to paragraphs 405 and 413 and recommendations 64 and 65 of the Robbins Report, which deal with business and management training. I must say that I was a little disappointed at the amount of emphasis that the Committee gave to this side of higher or further education. I do not think that anyone will deny the changing character of industrial production, of administration and of management's relations with the workers. From my own experience in business, I feel that much of our failure in the export market is due to the fact that managements are not looking for exports in the right way, and we do not have salesmen who can compete with the specialist, professional salesmen whom many other countries are sending abroad. And I think that all of us accept that there is increasing competition overseas.

What is the good of increasing the number of scientists and technicians in our universities, with the result of new computers and new machinery on the factory floor, if at the same time we cannot improve the standard of management and provide the trained men who have to co-ordinate production and sale? In this sphere we are still very much in the early twentieth century. We still have the type of management that was satisfactory prior to the great surge forward which we are now seeing in industry.

I should like to recommend to your Lordships the Report of the Committee, which sat under the noble Lord, Lord Franks, dealing with British business schools. If I may, I will read a few words from this Report because I think that it emphasises far better than any words I can use the change in business management. The Report says: Just as nowadays a surgeon has to know many things, possess a range of skills, and be disciplined, exercised and trained in how to apply his knowledge and skills competently in the moment of action: so increasingly the manager of to-day and to-morrow has quite simply to know a lot more things, to be more familiar with a much wider range of skills, know how to apply the knowledge and the skills in a practical and enterprising fashion in bringing different ideas together to form a sensible policy, in making his decisions and in communicating them to those who have to carry them out. I am sure that the men who take a university business training course and then make their way up in industry find the need, just as the surgeon does in the field of surgery, to go back and keep themselves abreast of developments in industry. Many of your Lordships are in business, and I am sure that noble Lords will recognise that they live much in isolation. It is true that they may see developments outside, but I do not think that they impinge upon them and force changes to be carried out that would benefit their companies.

Both the Robbins and the Franks Committees have recommended that two business schools should be created and assimilated into two of the universities. I feel that they have under-estimated the demand. I feel that at least three business schools will be necessary. These schools will certainly be attractive to young men and women leaving the sixth form, particularly if there is a degree at the end of the course, and these boys and girls will come forward in great number. I believe also that men and women who have made their mark in industry and are climbing the ladder of promotion will feel, either on their own part, or on the advice and with the support of their companies, that they should go to one of these university business schools, not necessarily for the full four-year course, but for a part of the course. I believe that this will be an essential part of the work of these schools. Therefore, I believe that, once these schools are in existence, we shall see a flood of entrants.


My Lords, I would only ask the noble Lord whether he has taken into account the immense amount of training of this sort which is now being developed in the colleges of advanced technology? It was certainly with an eye to what is happening already that we framed our recommendation in regard to schools of business management.


Yes, my Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, and I should earlier have paid tribute to the colleges which are doing such good work in this field. But, after talking to industrialists and to other people interested in business management, I am sure they feel they have not the facilities or resources for the provision of four-year courses with a degree. The degree will become important. From the importance of the Harvard Business School degree in gaining promotion in the United States, we can see what a tremendous fillip a degree recognised in industry will become. We may start off with three business schools, but I am sure that others will have to be developed to meet the flood of entrants. The desire for further education applies not only to young scientists and doctors, but also to young people in the world of business and industry, and if we can give these young people the opportunity, it will be seized on a scale that I do not believe we have yet fully understood.

I am not so sure that the noble Lord, Lord Franks, was correct when he suggested that these new schools should be assimilated into the older universities. My feeling is that they should go to the newer colleges which, because they are new, will have new horizons and new visions. But, above all else, these schools must be in areas where there is heavy industrialisation or commerce. It may be that a school should be in London, where there are banking, insurance and other commercial aspects; but I believe that at least two others should be in the industrial areas, not only to take part in the development of industry itself, but in an endeavour to move the administrative organisations to where industry is. It often happens now that heavy industry is in, say, Birmingham and the administrative offices are in London. Therefore, I would strongly recommend that three of these business schools should be established, one in London, one in Manchester and the other in Glasgow. In fact, there is a business school, the Scottish School of Commerce, in the new University of Strathclyde. It is wonderful to see this new university taking what I think is a new science into its curriculum. I hope that the Government will give generous support to this venture.

I must ask the Government whether they will not consider the business schools in a rather different light from the other parts of university training. I cannot help feeling that many of the universities will rather look down upon the work of a business school as a kind of second-class science or a second-class occupation. One knows that business is often looked upon as a rather sordid though necessary occupation. This attitude would be wrong, of course, but I think we should recognise that it may be there. In the early days, when there is a tremendous conflict as to how money and facilities which are scarce should be used, I wonder whether the universities will give these business schools the priority they deserve. I believe they are of national importance, and the sooner they are in operation the better.

Therefore, I hope the Government will consider treating them a little differently, at least short-term, and will give them some special assistance, because there is much to be done, and what is to be done will prove expensive. I feel that these business schools must represent something more than teaching. They are, I think, the basis for research. There is much that can be done towards improving the whole field of business administration, if persons who are outside the turmoil of commerce will look at the subject and make their recommendations which industry can accept.

Before I sit down, I should like to refer to one last paragraph of the Report—namely, paragraph 414, dealing with the study of modern languages. One of the complaints one hears when one travels on business is that of the number of Britons who go overseas to sell but cannot speak a Continental or perhaps a South American language. In this position you start off with one arm behind your back; the buyer has all the advantage. The Robbins Report recognises that the Honours course in languages is not really satisfactory for the needs of commerce.

Therefore, I suggest that the Government, when they look at these business schools, should look at the University of Strathclyde, which is now running as one course business management in all its aspects and, at the same time, it offers one or two modern languages. This is a great advantage to those going abroad as sellers. This is not lowering the language standards; it is merely a change of emphasis. Very little is being done elsewhere, as I see it, in modern languages. I believe that the University of Strathclyde is the only university that offers this business training and a modern language at the same time. In my opinion these subjects go side by side, like so many other factors; and yet we have only one university that offers the two together. It seems to me that the Government, and particularly the Board of Trade, should take a great interest in these schools giving business training coupled with instruction in modern languages.

I have one further point to make. If you go to Germany or to America you will find there many foreign students and students from the Commonwealth working in the universities. We have them in our universities, but not in our business training schools. I should be very much surprised if the fact that a student had gone to a German, American or British university, did not play a large part in his future decisions on where to place his business. Therefore, in this one aspect of business management I believe it would be of great value that we should not only provide places for our own people, but make available to people of our Commonwealth and of other countries the same facilities, because I am sure we should reap great benefit from it. I believe that the Government must take a fresh look at this question of business management and management training, particularly in the relationship of management and worker, and act with energy.

5.18 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to the House, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for the fact that I was unable to be here for the greater part of the debate yesterday. I should like to make a few comments on three aspects of this important Report. In doing so, I must be critical, although, I hope, constructively critical, because that is the way towards the best solutions. However, I hope that nothing I say will be taken as implying anything other than deep gratitude and admiration for the work that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and his colleagues have done. I am well aware that in making these comments, I am, compared to the noble Lord and his colleagues, a mere amateur; and my approach must seem to him superficial, though not, I hope, too incompetent. It is none the less sincere, and I think it is valuable to examine the Report from different points of view.

I look at the Report as one engaged in a branch of industry which is greatly involved in advanced technology, as one who has had some experience of university teaching and administration and takes a close interest in education. The objective of all education, in its broadest sense, must surely be to develop the inherent abilities of each of us, so as to enable us to lead a full and active life in the community. To do this we must be able to employ our leisure time happily and usefully, and to make our contribution to the creation of the wealth and the life of the nation in which we live. Thus, education for education's sake, has, to my mind, no merit at all. Indeed, as the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, said yesterday, this can lead to frustration and dissatisfaction. So it appears to me that the Robbins Report puts rather too much emphasis, at least so far as the universities are concerned, on the need to meet the educational demands of students, and gives too little attention to the requirements of the nation, and of industry and commerce in particular, for the varying categories of educated people.

This point was discussed in Chapter VI, in paragraph 184 and the following paragraphs, and it is there concluded that predictions of the type of skills and training which will be required in the years to come are so difficult to make that it is not worth pursuing the matter further. If I may quote, the Report says that it is not practical to use these estimates in order to make some estimate of the aggregate demand for the products of higher education twenty years hence, and our recommendations for the provision of places are based on estimates of potential supply. The difficulty is quite clear, but there seems to me to be a danger in the conclusion drawn that the best we can do is to press on, regardless, with the expansion of higher education, in the sure knowledge that this of itself will produce the desired results in personal satisfaction and in value to the community.

I am further concerned by the final paragraph of Chapter VI (that is, paragraph 194) which describes a conversation in the U.S.S.R. and the reply that in the Soviet Union there would always be use for people who had been trained to the limit of their potential ability. Where there is a large measure of direction of labour that is, of course, a valid argument. But how will it benefit this country if we produce vast numbers of university-educated men and women, for whom academic excellence and the pursuit of pure scholarship have been the goals, and who therefore emerge quite unprepared for any of the jobs that need to be done? Some of this type of people are certainly required, but we also want social scientists, economists, engineers and historians, who pursue their education against a background of real life. If I may take an example, on the technical side we do not want too many scientists (and this has been said by many noble Lords, this afternoon and yesterday) and engineers who consider themselves unsuited or too highly trained to be the designers and the production engineers (and some speakers have mentioned technicians) on whom the prosperity of the nation will so greatly depend in the years ahead. Both the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, have mentioned these points and made them better than I can. It may well be said that, at least on the technical front, this is all catered for by the SISTERS and CATS, and the engineering departments of the universities. To an extent this is true—indeed, it can be entirely true. But there are some serious pitfalls which must be avoided. I hope your Lordships will forgive my repeating a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said so well this afternoon. I do so because I believe these points need as much emphasis as we can give them.

The first pitfall we must avoid is the risk that engineering and technology departments in universities will not become fully integrated in the industrial life of the nation. Universities must set about removing every possible restriction which impedes collaboration with industry and industry itself must try to make more use of the knowledge and the talents which exist in the universities, by placing contracts and by using university staff as consultants and the like, preferably in a way that involves money passing between industry and the universities; for where money passes, there collaboration will flourish.

The second pitfall is the danger that the developing institutions, such as the CATS, now rightly to be regarded as technical universities awarding their own degrees, will try to copy the traditional pattern of our old-established universities—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Todd, made this point yesterday. Rather, must they retain their own individual methods in close association with industry. They must use sandwich courses, part-time courses, night courses and the like, in close collaboration—as close as possible—with their local industry. This must be done so as to give the greatest possible encouragement to those whose inclinations are to combine theoretical and practical training, and to give the high prestige, which they must earn for their own degrees, to those who will becomes the designers and production engineers, and the like, in the future.

Thirdly, there is the danger that pure science will continue to receive too much attention and prestige at the expense of engineering and technology, and so continue the prejudices, about which we have often spoken in your Lordships' House, which keep good brains out of technology and industry. If we can avoid these pitfalls, then I am confident that there will be little danger of producing unwanted graduates in this field. But the same arguments apply to any other branch of learning—in the social sciences, for instance. It is important that the new institutions which are being set up should also cater for similar close relations between theory and practice, and between the lecture room, on the one hand, and industry and commerce, on the other. For only in that kind of way can all the differing needs of students and of society be met.

The second criticism that I have of the Report is that there seems to be too much emphasis on quantity, and too little on the quality of courses. I have already mentioned one aspect of this, but I now turn to the excellence rather than the type of education. So far as commerce and industry are concerned, I have no doubt at all that there is much I to be said, both for a great extension of higher education, and for the awarding of degrees for a wider variety of courses. But I sincerely hope that we shall not go as far as has happened in the United States, with their excessive variation in degree standards and the tremendous waste of effort involved in the high failure rates. There is no objection at all—in fact there is great merit—in variation in type of course; but surely there is not much to be said for such very wide variation in degree standards. Intellectual power, and the ability to reason, to think and to write clearly, will become more and not less important as industry and society become more complex. The last thing we want to do is to turn out, with all the increased expenditure involved, a rising output of half-trained minds, full of facts that will rapidly become out-of-date.

Paragraph 40 of the Report refers to the need to safeguard standards so that the system produces as much high excellence as possible. But in the later sections the great importance of this point seems to become overshadowed by the insistence on the need for increased numbers. It seems to me that priorities have become rather confused. The need is still to maintain a high standard for each type of course. That need, in my view, is absolutely paramount. This is very different from attempting to bring each type of course up to the same type of course as is given in universities. Numbers are certainly important, but we should do well, I believe, to heed the warning given by the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, yesterday, against the expansion of the universities beyond the real need, and, I would add, at a higher rate than that at which an adequate supply of good teachers can be provided. Surely, this basic question of the optimum rate of expansion of the universities' population would repay further study.

That brings me to my last main point. It seems to me that the Report passes over too easily the problems of finding the teachers needed for the expansion plan. This is particularly true in the technical subjects, where there will be such tremendous competition from industry. I was very glad to see in the report of Lord Robbins's speech yesterday that he drew attention to this as, in his view, the greatest problem facing us.

There is also a very important point made in paragraph 535 of the Report—which, I believe, has come to be referred to as the "Robbins law"—that … an expanding system of education produces enough potential teachers to maintain existing standards of staffing, provided that the rate of expansion is not accelerating". This is clearly arithmetically true, but it refers, as I understand it to standards of staffing; that is, to the staff/student ratio, and not, apparently, to standards of teaching, which is what matters, though it is not susceptible to exact measurement or analysis. To a simple amateur like myself, ignoring the short-term problem, it would seem inevitable that, with increasing numbers, there is likely to be some falling off in the average standard of graduate output as measured by the proportion of first and second class degrees. It is therefore clear that there will be a strong tendency for a falling in standard of teachers, which could itself lead to further progressive deterioration throughout the educational system unless a higher proportion of first and second class graduates go into teaching.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Viscount but I think the very point he made was dealt with in the Robbins Report when the expansion of the universities over the past ten years was considered; and I think I am correct in saying that there had been no falling off of standards and no decline in first and second class degrees. Is that not so?


The whole matter is dealt with at great length in Appendix III. I wonder whether the noble Lord has studied that Appendix.


I regret to say that I have not studied Appendix III, but surely there is some danger, if only from the law of diminishing returns. In the past ten years there has been not nearly so big an expansion as it is now planned to have, and, though I am not suggesting for one moment that there are not many more students available who can benefit from a university education, I should have thought there was some danger that the standard of first and second class degrees, with this large expansion, would to some extent deteriorate. If the noble Lord says that this question has been studied in great detail, I would clearly accept his point. However, I do not think it detracts at all from the argument that in the technical field at least there is going to be tremendous competition for these good first and second class graduates. Certainly, so far as the demand of industry is concerned, it will go up rather than down as the complexities of technical industry increase.

I believe there is another point of some importance (I hope that I have this one more right than the last); that the average age of teachers will surely fall if more of the new output is to go straight into teaching. If this happens in the technical field, it will mean that the emphasis on purely academic teaching by people who have not had experience in the outside world—I am speaking now particularly of the field of engineering and technology—will surely increase; and this, I think, is a matter which causes some concern to those in industry. There is, too, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has fully stated in his Report, and, I think, also in his speech, a very severe short-term problem of enabling the expansion to get under way. That difficulty is fully recognised by everyone, but I could not find any very concrete suggestions in the Report (and Y am fairly confident that I have read this part of the Report fully) for overcoming this short-term problem, except by improving conditions of service, that is, by competing more effectively with other employers, and a rather more general proposal to use more part-time staff. I should like to make one or two rather more positive suggestions, with great respect to the noble Lord and his distinguished colleagues.

In a debate on Scientific Education which took place in your Lordships' House in 1956—if I may ask your Lordships to cast your minds back that long—I drew attention to the problems of staffing in university engineering departments, and in making my first suggestion to-day, I can do no better than to quote, with your Lordships' permission, the point I made then [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 200, col. 509]: … for many years there is bound to be a great difficulty in breaking the vicious circle. Shortage and heavy demand for engineers make it difficult to recruit teaching staff, which leads to a further shortfall in the output of engineers. Already industry is helping a lot: there are part-time teachers. But more are needed. I make this suggestion: that we should look carefully at the possibility of two, three or even four years' secondment of suitable people, designers and the like, from industry to teaching. At the moment, the difficulties are largely administrative, concerned with pensions, pay and similar problems. I do not think they ought to be allowed to stand in the way of that scheme if for other reasons it is thought to be desirable. In looking at the Report of the debate I see that the noble Earl who replied for the Government, no less than our present Prime Minister, neither rejected nor accepted this idea, and, to my shame, I never followed it up as I should have done. But I believe that the idea is as relevant to-day, and, may I say, as important, as it was then.

I should like to add my weight to the proposal in the Report for more part-time teachers, not only from industry and commerce but also from the great Government research establishments such as R.A.E., at Farn-borough, and R.R.E., at Malvern, where there is a tremendous reservoir of trained and experienced talent and where I think (I say this without any disrespect to those who work there) the staff are not so heavily pressed as they are in industry. That more has not been clone in this direction does, I believe, reflect the practical and administrative difficulties I mentioned earlier, and I suggest most earnestly that it would be worth while setting up a small committee, composed of representatives of industry and teaching institutions, to recommend how these practical difficulties can be overcome; because this is a potentially potent method, and a reasonably quick one, of overcoming, at least in part, the short-term staffing problems in an important field.

Another useful contribution would be to introduce a "short-service commission" scheme for teachers, under which suitable people could go into teaching for a limited period, say, four to five years, and could look forward to the attraction of a gratuity at the end of the period. By this means it would, I suggest, he possible to attract into teaching specialists and older people and those who did not fancy teaching as a lifelong work. There would be less danger of filling up the system with poorly qualified people to meet the temporary demand of the next few years.

May I very briefly touch on two other points? First, on the "one Minister or two?" controversy. It seems to me very clear that education is one continuous spectrum, where teaching is the paramount job. It goes all the way from the teaching of the three Rs in the primary school right through to teaching research to the post-graduate student. Though scholarship—the pursuit of learning and research—are all necessary to good teaching, surely this area, where teaching and education is the job, must be looked at as a whole. Whereas if we have a Minister responsible primarily for the advancement of knowledge, research and development, he must surely have his eyes on the practical application of that knowledge, and not principally on the training and education of those coming forward. So, I would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others that we should have one Minister to deal with the whole of education.

Finally, my Lords, I should like very sincerely to support the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, in his plea that the Churches should get together and discuss how best the new universities can grow up in a Christian and not a pagan atmosphere. May I end where I began—and I apologise for speaking so long—and repeat that nothing I have said is intended to detract one iota from the splendid Report which the noble Lord has produced or from the tremendous gratitude which we all owe to him.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, at this stage in a long debate, it might be expected that everything would have been said, and indeed more than once, which was relevant to the problems under discussion; and to a large extent I think this is true. I am afraid that a good deal of my speech will be taken up with crossing the t's and dotting the i's. I should like, as a preliminary, to dot the t's and cross the i's of what was said yesterday by Lord Robbins, and by Lord Eccles this afternoon, about the importance of the Government's getting on with the job of providing scholarships or some other method of keeping the abler graduates at the universities on postgraduate courses. The noble Earl who spoke for the Government yesterday said they attached great importance to the post-graduate schools but it will be impossible to keep people in these postgraduate schools unless they are provided with incomes to live on while they are there. It has been put to the Government that they should make an announcement about this quickly, but they do not seem to be getting on with the job.

There was a valuable letter from Professor Mackenzie, of Manchester, in The Times not long ago informing the public how many of his abler students had been unable to stay on for this reason; and it is an astonishing thing, if you go around the post-graduate departments, how few English students you will find. I invite the noble Earl to come to my post-graduate seminar at the London School of Economics. Whereas in the ordinary lecture room he would find about nine English students to every foreigner, if he comes to my postgraduate seminar he will find five overseas students to every Englishman, and I think that that is typical throughout the universities, to a greater or lesser extent. That is a very serious state of affairs and one which has to be put right very quickly.

The next thing I should like to do is to try to deflate the self-satisfaction of the Government, and of the Government spokesman, if he will allow me to say so, which was particularly evident in the otherwise very pleasant speech which he gave us yesterday, and has been evident all through the speeches of Government spokesmen. I noticed that The Times Parliamentary Correspondent said this morning that Lord Bessborough's praise of past policies had been so lavish that some of his listeners might well have wondered whether Robbins was needed at all", and I think that was a very pertinent and just observation. Why cannot the Government admit that they have been wrong over this matter, and say that they are sorry and promise to do better? Is it because politicians find it almost impossible to admit that they ever make mistakes? I am afraid that may be so. I think we are all really to some extent in a white sheet over this business. Yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, blamed the Grants Committee as much as the Government. I do not think that was quite fair, because the Government have always been a long way behind the Grants Committee.


I accept that.


The Grants Committee are practical men with a very able Chairman—I am thinking about the late one—over all those years. It is no good trying to get out of the Treasury the sort of sums you know they are not even going to start negotiating about. That has been the difficulty. Even we, in the Association of University Teachers, rather underestimated the needs of the community, and we were always well ahead even of the Grants Committee, and a very long way ahead indeed of the Government. But I am free to admit, on the evidence which the Robbins Committee have now brought out, that we ourselves were rather behind what was necessary, and I think we should all be wearing a white sheet in regard to this matter. I believe the Committee of my noble friend Lord Taylor were really the first people to bring before the nation as a whole the fact that we are faced with a very serious crisis. That was the great value of the Taylor Report. There were a lot of things which did not meet with much approval in the universities, but I think most of us agree that they brought that out.

Just let us look, for a short time, at this record of which the noble Earl, Lord Bessborough, is so proud. I should like to quote from the First Secretary to the Treasury in a debate only as recently as November. Referring to the Government's policy, he said [OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 684 (No. 6), col. 839]: Was it a failure to foresee the increased demand when we raised the figure from 86,000 (in 1951) to 125,000 (in 1963)? Was it a failure when we planned for a 20 per cent. increase for this quinquennium?". To which Mr. Harold Wilson answered, Yes. Whereupon Mr. Boyd-Carpenter replied: Then the right hon. Gentleman is setting himself a very dangerous target. It is almost impossible to believe that this could have been said as late as 1963. It is quite obvious from the Robbins Committee that the target was altogether too low.

I could go a very long way back and make a long speech on this topic, but I will not. I content myself with going back as far as 1961, when in January Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced that the universities would be given capital grants sufficient to expand to 170,000 places by the early 1970s. And yet less than two months later he left his Chief Secretary to the Treasury to announce in a Written Answer that the Government were unable to meet what the Grants Committee considered essential to meet its target in the way of recurrent grants and salary increases. That was within less than two months. He said: Considerations of national economic policy have made it necessary to depart from the Committee's recommendations. We have been reminded more than once during the past few months that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors said they really could not do the job on this sort of basis: The target of 150,000 places by 1966 cannot be reached within the limited provision the Government are prepared to make. In the autumn of that year, 1962, which is only a year ago, many universities announced that they were in serious financial difficulties—Oxford, Cambridge, Birmingham, London. Sir David Logan, my old colleague, Principal now of the University of London, said: Vacant posts are being left unfilled, stocks are being run down, maintenance work and repairs are being postponed, and in some cases even newly erected buildings are not being brought into use. It is no wonder that we find in the Robbins Report: It must be recognised that the universities already have cause for lack of confidence in the Government's intentions. In the last few years the universities have wished to go forward more rapidly than they were enabled to do. In many representations made in recent years to ensure that resources should match rising demand they met with inadequate response. Neither capital nor recurrent grants have been sufficient. The Labour Party attacked this false economy decision in a censure motion of the same year, April 5, 1962. I want to refer to that date particularly, because it brought from the Ministers replying for the Government exactly the same sort of self-satisfied speeches to which we listened yesterday. It seems to me to show that they were totally out of touch with the developing crisis and were unbelievably complacent when one considers that all this happened only rather more than a year ago. The First Secretary said: During the next five years we hope for 39,000 (additional places). No one from the university side has ever suggested that the universities could be expanded significantly faster than this. That just is not true, because the Association of University Teachers have suggested it more than once. He goes on to say: … and that is the answer to those who think that between now and 1967 we ought to be planning to expand these places to provide for what is called the trend as well as the bulge. He said that in 1962, and now they accept the Robbins Report, which shows that that was all nonsense.

The Minister of Education, who is still the Minister of Education and who took part in the same debate, said: In my view this target"— that is, the Government's target— represents the fastest practicable rate of university expansion, and no one conversant with our universities has ever suggested that they could be expanded at a faster rate. He ought now to be prepared to get up and admit that he was wrong. That is the same Minister of Education, to whom you want to hand over the whole of the university system, and to the Department which must have prepared the speech which he made in the House on that occasion. Can it be wondered that the universities do not want to come under a Minister of Education who can make a statement like that when he ought to know a great deal better, and who now does not admit that he made a mistake at the time?


My Lords, I do not want to interrupt my noble friend, who is a dear colleague, but if he is differing from the official policy of the Party, may I venture to point out that we had a debate about this, in which he played a distinguished part, about the same time, and the reply to that debate was made by the Minister to whom he wants to hand over the universities.


My Lords, my noble friend knows quite well that he and I disagree completely and utterly, and that he is in strong conflict in regard to this particular matter with all his old colleagues in the universities and those who are responsible for the administration of the universities at the present time.

I should like to remind your Lordships that the Robbins Report says that the increase in university and CAT places needed in the next five years is no less than 64,000, and they call upon the universities and the CATS to expand by a further 10 per cent. That is really the minimum expansion, as I hope to show your Lordships in a minute. The First Secretary was just as complacent about the cut in the grants which was recommended by the University Grants Committee. He said: It is quite true that the University Grants Committee would have liked the Government to provide a bit more, but these are massive figures on any reckoning. Now they agree that these figures are puny compared with the massive figures which they have now undertaken to provide.

The Minister of Education said—again I am quoting from the OFFICIAL REPORT: If the universities can match with student places this rise of 35 per cent. over five years, then we shall be entitled to say, as my right honourable friend said today, that no one has had a reduced chance of getting to a university through being born in the top year of the 'bulge'. That would be an achievement of which the nation could feel rightly proud. It is quite obvious again that this was a complete under-estimate, and if the matter had been allowed to go on in the way that the Minister was suggesting, so far from being given cause for national pride, we should have been in a real pickle about it. The fact of the matter is, of course, that this deterioration has been going on for quite a long time. The Robbins Report makes it quite clear that, whereas in 1957 75 per cent. of those with the minimum university entrance qualifications in Great Britain were getting into a university, in 1961 the proportion had fallen to 61 per cent.; so that over all this period of Government complacency the number of qualified boys and girls who were getting into the universities was falling all the time—and indeed, the deterioration had been going on for a long time before that. In 1955, 57 per cent. of applicants for university places were accepted; in 1961, the proportion had fallen to 42 per cent., and there was a similar or even worse situation in the teacher training colleges.

I suppose the reply from the Government might be that the Robbins Committee were proposing to go too far and too fast. They have not in fact made that reply. Some other people have rather hinted at it. I think that Lord Robbins completely demolished that point of view yesterday in his splendid speech. Actually, the Robbins proposals really present a bare minimum—probably all that can in fact be achieved over these next years because of the thoroughly inadequate preparation which the Government have been providing during recent years. But the Robbins estimates, which in effect are 17 per cent. in full-time higher education by 1980, are based on a number of assumptions—and they admit it themselves quite frankly—all or any of which could prove to be too cautious.

I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to some of them; I am not saying that this is the complete list. To begin with, no increase in the compulsory minimum school leaving age is calculated for, despite the fact, of course, that Sir Geoffrey Crowther and his Committee had recommended that it should be raised to sixteen by 1970, a recommendation which has been underlined in the recent Newsom Report. Obviously, if it were to occur in the later part of this period, that would mean that one of the assumptions was no longer fulfilled. Again, no change in the present 10–6 ratio of boys to girls who obtain "A" levels. They point out the importance of that clearly. Only six qualified girls to every ten qualified boys go into the universities. It has been a significant factor, particularly in the U.S.S.R., that girls may suddenly decide that they want to go to the universities as well; and really the country cannot do without them. If that figure went up even from six to eight in proportion, again one of the assumptions would be wrong and the number of places asked for by Robbins would be too small.

Again, no change in the intensity of competition for places is allowed for, although competition has in fact been intensifying over the whole of this past period, and might well continue to do so. Then again, the increase of only 10 per cent. in the rate of applicants among qualified school leavers is assumed, and obviously that percentage also might increase. This possibility becomes more significant if one looks at what has happened in the United States. I think it is of value to look at American experience in this connection. I take a quotation from an article by Martin Trow, written in the European Journal of Sociology, in 1962. He says: In 1939 college and university enrolments comprised about 14 per cent. of the 18 to 21 year old population, while by 1961 that figure was about 38 per cent. This rate has been increasing at an average of 1 per cent. per annum since the end of World War II. A recent study showed that in 1959 nearly 70 per cent. of children under twelve were 'expected' by their parents to go to college. A decade earlier a similar proportion had indicated their 'hopes' that their children would attend college: the hopes of the earlier decade have become the expectations of today, and most probably will be the enrolments of tomorrow. We are already finding a similar attitude in regard to this sort of thing among parents in our own country.

My Lords, I had not intended in my speech to-day to say anything further on the problem of the two Ministries with which I dealt in the debate on the gracious Speech. But as I spoke on the second day, when most of your Lordships were discussing health problems, my remarks rather escaped attention. In this debate we have heard a good deal about this subject, and, as the Minister indicated that it is still to be regarded as open, perhaps I may be permitted to underline some of the things I then said. A few people have told us that this business is simply one of machinery and that there is no occasion to make any fuss about it. I do not agree with this view. I agree with the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, in opening his speech yesterday, that in some ways it is the most important question of all. Indeed, it is not too much to say that the whole future of British universities may well depend on the answer which is given to it, and that unless we answer it correctly we shall be in grave danger of finding that our magnificent university system is failing to develop fully. I propose therefore to discuss it again to-day, even if it involves a certain amount of repetition.

First of all, I should like to recapitulate as succinctly as I can the reasons why we in the universities support the Robbins proposal for a new Ministry. First, this proposal does not imply that primary and secondary education are inferior—which has been a very unfair propaganda point and one which even the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, descended to making. It implies only that they are essentially different. The inverted snobbery which is being built up around this business is most deplorable. The point is that in the universities research and teaching are inseparable. The Ministry of Education is not equipped to handle the research side of this; it has no experience whatever of the financing of it, and is not really competent to do the job.

At this stage of the debate I should like to refer to something which was said in the debate yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. We are always glad to listen to what the noble Lord says on the subject of education. I think that he cannot quite have heard or read correctly what I said in the earlier debate. Yesterday he referred to my saying that Education … is not a fundamental work of the universities at all. And then this comment was made [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 253 (No. 16), col. 1292]: If one believes that, then clearly we shall have a strong reason for dissociating ourselves from the Ministry of Education. But I did not, in fact, say that. What I said (col. 532) was: The universities are basically institutions for original thought and research.


My Lords, I do not want to chop words with someone with whom I so often agree, but may I quote what the noble Lord went on to say?


I was going to read it all.


I am sorry. The noble Lord can read better than I can.


I went on to say: Of course, they make their discoveries known by teaching, and therefore they must always play a very important part indeed in the general education system of the country. I have always taken the view that research and teaching go hand in hand. After all, the next generation cannot do this research and this original thought unless it is brought up to it in the universities. I think that Lord James of Rusholme might very well have misunderstood what I was saying. Then he goes on—


My Lords, may I quote the passage I had in mind (col. 533)? Education is no doubt, as he said "— that is, as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said— one continuous process; but even if that were all there were to it and my contention about its not being the fundamental work of the universities at all were not true, it does not mean it should all be dealt with by one Minister. By the time one has cut one's way through the negatives, it appears to be pretty clear that education is not the fundamental work of the universities.


Obviously, my Lords, if original thought and research was not going on in the universities there would not be any point in having universities. They clearly have to make their original work and research known in order that it may be continued. I should have thought that that was clear enough.

The noble Lord goes on to criticise the noble Lord, Lord McNair, for speaking about the time that would have to be sacrificed "to routine matters like teaching". I can forgive the noble Lord in his remarks about myself, but I think that was a most unfair attack on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, and it completely—I have no doubt, quite innocently—misrepresents what the noble Lord was saying to your Lordships. I am sorry he is not here to-day because he is very able to defend himself. He made his speech, and was not here when the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, spoke. Lord McNair devoted a long and eloquent passage of his speech to showing how research and teaching go hand in hand.

He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol 253 (No. 16), cols. 1230–31]: It is the duty of a university both to increase knowledge and to advance it. The best teacher is almost certain to be a learner—which means, in the natural sciences, that he must be an investigator", and so it goes on for some lines. Then he says that it may be that, after a particularly exciting spell of discovery and research, the teacher spends some time on the routine task of teaching; and it was that little phrase which the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, picked on. I should have thought almost any teacher must from time to time have found his task was a routine one, and if the noble Lord has never found that I must say he is an extraordinarily lucky teacher.


My Lords, one has also found the task of research sometimes a little routine.


They may require great tenacity and perseverance, but no doubt it is the excitement of it which keeps it alive.

I was referring to these five or six points, two of which I have already dealt with. The Taylor proposal, if I may so describe it, would be strongly resented in Scottish universities if the Scottish universities were to be brought under the purely English Ministry of Education. Equally, it would break the heart of our university world if the English universities were to be placed under the Ministry of Education and if the Scottish universities were to come under a Scottish Department. There is real difficulty in this respect to which attention ought to be paid.

What we university teachers fear is that the universities would be forced into a general mould of institutions, of which the Ministry of Education has experience, if we were in fact placed under that Ministry. Again, a separate Ministry would safeguard the essential freedom of the universities. The Ministry of Education's general administrative system would, we think, seriously interfere with this. Further, the Ministry of Education tends to propose uniformity, whereas the first principle of university development is freedom of the individual. Finally, on matters of university entrance standards and other matters of that kind, the Ministry of Education with its large concern with secondary schools would be an interested party, and yet able to bring influence to bear. A separate Ministry would not preclude consultation but would preserve the universities' right to safeguard standards.

Those reasons seem to me to give unanswerable support to the views of the Robbins Committee upon this matter. I feel that the compromise solution, which was referred to, was dealt with very faithfully by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, yesterday. He agreed in effect with what I was arguing on the previous occasion, that the proposed Ministers of State would really be glorified Parliamentary Secretaries. Every experienced politician and every experienced administrator knows perfectly well that one cannot deal with a Department or a section of a Department controlled by a Minister of State in the same sort of way as one can deal with a Minister himself.

The reasons which I have just explained are to my mind conclusive. But, even if they were wrong, there are practical reasons of very great weight which I think rule out the proposals of my noble friend Lord Taylor. Much the most important of these, in my submission, is the fact that the universities themselves are overwhelmingly against them. Yesterday The Times printed a letter from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors, from which it appeared that they are overwhelmingly against the Taylor poposals. I think the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said in his speech that he was the only one who took this view; and he admitted that he came to this matter as a schoolmaster and not as a vice-chancellor, which I thought was a very frank admission. If you compare the experience as vice-chancellor of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, with that of the noble Lord, Lord McNair, who spoke before him, who was for quite a number of years Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool, and who has worked in three universities, I think your Lordships must admit that his advice is founded on much greater experience than that of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme.


My Lords, may I intervene again, because I am neutral in that particular dispute between two eminent vice-chancellors? Surely, the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has the unusual distinction of having very wide experience of the Ministry of Education through his work as a great headmaster.


That is no doubt true. The point I am arguing is that the universities, whether rightly or wrongly, are overwhelmingly against this, and what Lord Taylor is, in effect, asking affects not only the vice-chancellors but the university teachers also. This is really most important. The teachers in the universities are overwhelmingly opposed to this proposal, just as are the Committee of Vice-Chancellors.


I am so sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again. He raised the point of a Minister of State, and the objections which the vice-chancellors and university teachers would have to a Minister of State. It has always seemed to me that, if the universities went under a Minister of Arts and Sciences, there is a high possibility that there would be a Minister of State there also. The volume of work to be done for a scientific career is so great and is going to become so enormous that there is no guarantee that the universities would have direct access to the Minister, as it were, without the intervention of a Minister of State to do the detailed work under a Minister of Arts and Sciences, any more than they would under a Secretary of State for Education. Has my noble friend any objection to a Minister of State in a Department for Arts and Sciences?


Ministers of State are all very well in their proper place. They do very useful work, and I am not complaining of them in general. What I am complaining of is the proposal to put the university system of this country under a Minister of State, who, I contend, is merely a glorified Parliamentary Secretary. We ought to remember that it is not only the Robbins Committee that is in favour of the view I hold. The Trend Committee, another important Committee which reported at about the same time, is also in favour. My own association, the Association of University Teachers, which represents 10,000 out of the existing 15,000 university teachers, takes exactly the same line as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors; and I should say that the other 5,000 are no doubt equally on our side in regard to this matter. Is this proposal to be put over against the overwhelming opinion of the Vice-Chancellors and university teachers of this country?

It must be remembered that the university teachers are not at all in a happy frame of mind. They have been scandalously treated over salary claims over the last years. The noble Lord, the Lord President, pretty well admitted in this House that they had had a raw deal: he said that in fact it was the luck of the game. But it was a very raw deal, and it all turned on a technical point which was argued out in this House before. But it does mean that they do not come to this difficult situation in a happy frame of mind, and if, in effect, they are to be ordered about in the way that Lord Taylor seems to want to order them about, I think it will be a very unfortunate thing.



If I may say so, I thought he used some very unfortunate expressions in the debate yesterday, and I hope that I have given him the opportunity of explaining the words he used and that he will do so. At the top of column 1223 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for yesterday he was dealing with this matter being a political matter, and he said, in effect, that they will have to take it "whether they like it or not". Then he went on to say that, when all this money is being provided by the public, they cannot really be expected, so to speak, to stand out. If this is what is meant by freedom being maintained in the universities—and I am sure that Lord Taylor was very sincere when he said that he had no desire to deprive the universities of their freedom—there will be a certain amount of doubt as to whether his right hand knows what his left hand is doing.


My Lords, I cannot for the life of me see what the noble Lord alleges I said in Hansard, at the top of column 1223. I think it is a fact—and surely that is the reason why we are having this debate—that these are political issues and they have to be decided politically. I was objecting to the universities' attitude which regarded politics as a dirty business, when in fact universities—also quite rightly and properly—are themselves political animals.


The words are there: Whether they like it or not, it is we as politicians"— who have to decide on this.


Because we have to. We cannot avoid it if we are honest about it.


You can be sensible about what you do. The politicians decided not long ago that it would be in the best interests of the Rhodesias that they should be federated, although it was made perfectly clear to them that the people of those parts did not want to be federated. It may very well be that this is the best thing; but it is important to take into account the views of the people who are working in the universities, both the administrators and the teachers; and if they are treated in the same way the Rhodesians were treated the possibility is that the same sort of thing will happen. You really must work with these people, even if they are wrong.

The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was quite right yesterday when he said, "Try the scheme which we have put forward, and if at the end of ten years it is found it would be better to have one unified Ministry of Education, then we could have it." It would not be the first time that two Ministries have been combined into one. So it seems to me that that is the empirical way of going about finding the solution to this problem; one which is in line with the English tradition and would get over this troublesome, rather academic way in which the noble Lord wishes to handle this problem.

I also pointed out that we are dealing with a crisis situation which has to be handled by a Minister and a Department with great energy and determination. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, wants to hand it over to the Ministry of Education, which already, as he himself pointed out in his speech on the Address, is in some respects falling down on its work. It is faced with the implementation of the Newsom Report. Unless the Newsom Report, or a great part of it, is implemented and implemented within reasonable time, much of the Robbins policy cannot be effectively carried through. These two Reports are to a large extent complementary to each other. The job of implementing the Newsom Report is clearly upon the Minister of Education, and it is a big job. I leave it at that.

The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, pointed out in his speech this afternoon that the question of reorganising the teacher training colleges is a very big job. He was entirely in favour of handling this situation as the Robbins Committee proposes. It is a very big job, and, if that is to be done by the Ministry of Education, how can they possibly do it?


My Lords, I really must interrupt my noble friend. This is a most fallacious argument. One has been equally critical of the Ministry of Science, yet the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is perfectly ready to have the University Grants Committee under the Ministry of Science. Because one is critical of a particular Ministry at a particular time, that does not mean that it is a right or wrong place to put particular institutions.


What I am saying, my Lords, is that to do this big job you have to have a new, enthusiastic, able and vital Minister with a new Department, and if we try to put it all upon the shoulders of a Minister who is already overloaded, the result will obviously be that the whole thing will fail. I hope I have made those points sufficiently clearly.

I should like to finish by repeating one thing which I said on the last occasion. This programme is going to require an enormous amount of work, enthusiasm and thought from the university teachers. I have not the slightest doubt that, when the time comes, they will be prepared to work round the clock in order to do it, and I think that it is much more on those sort of lines that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has calculated than on the fact that it is for the politicians to decide these things. I think that, if he tries to be persuasive rather than threatening, he is much more likely to get good work out of them.

But the point I was making in my previous speech was that the Robbins Committee say that this is, in effect, a crash programme. It means that the university teachers are going to be asked to give up many of their privileges, to sacrifice their research to teaching, to cut their holidays and to work long hours. Now the Robbins Committee asked the Government to give an explicit assurance that, at the end of this period, they would go back to the old position. I pointed out that, in the White Paper in which the Government accept the Robbins Report, there is no reference to this; and, although I addressed this to the Minister sitting opposite at the time, the weeks have gone by and we still have not had any assurance. I ask the Minister, in my closing sentence, to see that this is put right, because unless and until it is done I can assure him that there will be a great deal of suspicion on the part of the university teachers.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I intend to speak on only one part of the very large subject covered by this debate, and, oddly enough, it is on the position of universities if the recommendations of the Robbins Committee are adopted. My approach, if I may be forgiven for saying so, is a rather different one from the discussion which has taken place in the last quarter of an hour. While I was in the Civil Service I had a certain amount to do with, and I was a strong adherent of, the arrangement whereby the University Grants Committee got their money direct from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I saw a great deal of it at first hand. No doubt it was an anomalous arrangement in many ways, but it worked well, and I have no doubt that the universities were well served by it. But I agree that the very large, increase in the number of universities, and in the amount of Government money going to them—now over £100 million a year—makes it essential to relieve the Chancellor of the Exchequer of his direct responsibility for university expenditure. I think the Treasury agree to that, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer agrees to it. Everybody agrees to it, and I need say no more about it. But I should like to seek some elucidation on three points that will arise under the new system.

The first point is the question of what body will have primary responsibility for settling what one might call university policy—that is, the policy governing the universities as a whole; the second point concerns financial responsibility for expenditure of Government money on the universities; and the third is the one which has just been discussed: the question of ministerial responsibility. These are the sort of troublesome questions in which you would expect a former Permanent Secretary to the Treasury to show an interest. Let me plunge at once into the first question, that of responsibility for university policy.

The essence of the normal departmental arrangement is that the Minister is responsible for everything the Department does. He is responsible for the Department's policy and, likewise, for its execution; and he therefore expects to receive from the Department all the material that is needed for working out policy and suggestions for changing policy, when needed, and for its execution. This is the normal arrangement, and it is obviously the right one for general Government business. But the universities have been an exception to this rule, and it is clear that the Robbins Committee intend that they should continue to be an exception. They attached supreme importance to the principle of allowing the universities, so far as possible, to govern themselves and develop their own policies; and the Grants Commission which is proposed by the Committee is, in effect, the University Grants Committee writ large enough to be able to deal with the increased number of institutions which will come within its scope.

So far, so good, my Lords. But there are two matters here on which I should like a little clarification or assurance. The first is how the Grants Commission organisation will work in practice, given the increase in the number of universities and comparable institutions now contemplated. If the Grants Commission is to carry primary responsibility for university policy in this enlarged field, it will have to be responsible for collecting all the facts and information needed for framing policy; it will have to carry out consultations between the governing bodies of universities; and thereafter it will have to formulate and put up well-considered views and plans for the development of the universities. It is true that the Robbins Committee speak of the need for giving the chairman of this Commission two full-time deputies, and they also adumbrate a much more elaborate system of committees which they suggest will be needed. But it seems to me that the task will really involve a rather different type of organisation from any which has hitherto sufficed for the U.G.C. Hitherto, that staff has been remarkable for three things: for its high quality, its devotion to duty and its wholly inadequate numbers. If the new Grants Commission is to do its job successfully, it will require a very much stronger organisation and a bigger full-time staff. Unless the organisation is strengthened, the burden of work on the vice-chancellors, principals or other members of the university staff would become quite intolerable. I hope that will be accepted. My second point on the responsibility for university policy is connected with ministerial responsibility, but I will postpone this until later.

We come now to financial responsibility. In the past the University Grants Committee has had to establish to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's satisfaction its case for the money it needs. Obviously, the Grants Commission will likewise have to make out their case in the same way to the Minister to whom they will be directly responsible. The Commission will have to justify the purposes for which they want funds and to show that those purposes accord with other national policies. They will also have to show—and this is very important—that they are running their own affairs in a way which is efficient and reasonably economical. But it is also essential, once the Grants Commission obtain their allocation from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they shall be left free, as the University Grants Committee have been left free, to allocate it themselves among the universities without interference. Likewise, the universities must be left free to spend it without having to account for it in detail. These points are safeguarded in the Robbins Report.

But there is another point. Given the large increase in expenditure on universities, this Grants Commission will work only if the nation as a whole believes that the universities are efficiently and economically run. The Grants Commission will have to devise a system which sees that that happens and which will ensure public confidence in it. This would not be a radically new departure. In the past the University Grants Committee has on occasion of its own volition set on foot inquiries designed to make sure that university administration and expenditure are carried on in an economic way. All this is on the right lines; but I believe much more will have to be done in future, given the larger number and the greater variety of institutions which will now come under the guidance of the Grants Commission.

Indeed, I should like to see the Grants Commission set up a small organisation and methods unit which would be at the disposal, in an advisory capacity, of any university which seeks its services in order to make sure that one of its branches has been organised on sound lines, and that full advantage was being taken of the best experience and practice in other universities. I am sure that should be done. Let me make this quite clear: this strengthened organisation would in effect be a university organisation working on university problems under the chairman of the Grants Commission.

I now come to ministerial responsibility. This is a much more difficult problem. The Robbins Committee discuss four possibilities: first, the Chanccellor of the Exchequer. They say that the arrangement can no longer be suitable. I agree, and so does everybody else, so there does not seem to be any need to say more. The second is the Lord President of the Council, or some other Minister without Portfolio. This they reject on the grounds of—I believe these are the words— the absence of an organised office that by definition is characteristic of a Minister without Portfolio. They argue that any Department which looked after the universities would have important duties in assessing the advice received and in presenting claims in competition with claims from other Departments. For continuous business of this sort the Robbins Committee say that a Departmental organisation is needed. Here, I am afraid I do not completely agree with the argument of the Robbins Report.

If the Grants Commission is to have the primary responsibility for framing university policy, the Minister responsible for assessing its claims and presenting its case to the Cabinet or to the Chancellor of the Exchequer will certainly need to have a staff to serve him, a staff which will contain a number of senior and wise people. But he does not need to have a large staff; certainly, he does not need a full Departmental organisation or apparatus for this purpose. What he needs in that sense he will get from the Grants Commission.

Indeed, if we are going to avoid duplication and confusion the Minister to be responsible for the universities had better not have a Departmental staff. May I enlarge on this point? The functions of the Minister entrusted with these duties would not be to look again at the whole concept of university policies, from the bottom to the top, and to do over again the work of the Grants Commission. He would test those policies and make sure that they were worked out on sound lines. But, broadly speaking, his job would be to relate the proposed university policies to other aspects of national policy. This seems to me to be a job which can quite properly be entrusted to what used to be called a Minister without Portfolio. But, if that term is now not in favour, let us say a senior Minister with an office but not a Minister in charge of a Department. There is a difference in function which is important.

I confess that I am not wholly convinced by the arguments of the Robbins Committee on this point. I see the matter rather differently. The Robbins Committee, having ruled out this possibility of a Minister without Portfolio or a Minister without a Department, found themselves left with the choice of allotting ministerial responsibility for the universities to a Secretary of State for Education or to a Ministry—I underline "Ministry"—of Arts and Sciences; and they chose the latter course. Here I should like to deal in as cool a fashion as I can with what seems to me to be certain factors which will lie behind any decisions taken on this matter. We are here dealing with three interconnected subjects: education up to the university level; universities and comparable institutions which carry out teaching and research; and scientific research, at present under the Ministry for Science, in which the universities have a great interest but in which they are not the only interested body.

Conceivably one might say that, in order to ensure that there is no break in the consideration of these three interconnected subjects, there should be a single Minister in charge of all three. That would be a very big job, a tremendous job. I think it would be too big; and would certainly proliferate Ministers of State who do not seem to be very popular in certain quarters in your Lordships' House. The result has been that a choice has been sought between either putting the universities with the rest of education or putting the universities with scientific research; and there are arguments on both sides. But I cannot help wondering whether a better answer might not be found, at any rate at this stage, not in attempting to have two Ministries to cover the whole field, but in having a rather more loosely-knit organisation.

I must confess that, in the days when I came to the conclusion that the Treasury would have to give up responsibility for the universities, it always seemed to me that the ideal solution was to hand them over to the Lord President of the Council, working on the lines I have already outlined. I am still not sure that that is not the right answer. If that were so, we should have for the moment not one or two but three units in this field. A Ministry of Education; the universities and of other higher education institutions which might be added to their number, working under the Lord President; and the Lord President, wearing another hat, looking after scientific research. I think myself that there is a lot to be said on merit for that answer. I think also that it might very well be found that this is the best solution to adopt in the present state of affairs and is one which represents a natural transitional development from the position where we are to-day; and which also means much less disturbance of existing organisations at a time when a great deal of new work has to be done. Also it will avoid two of the matters which have given rise to strong controversy in this House and in the country.

There is the argument about splitting education and setting up a Ministry of higher education contrasted with a Ministry of lower education. I quite under- stand the feeling that has been stirred up. Equally, I know that the universities cherish their independence very strongly and that they do not wish to come under the Minister of Education. That does not spring, I know, from any lack of affection for or confidence in Ministers of Education, past and present; nor does it spring, I think, from any particular distrust of the Ministry of Education. It springs particularly from the experiences of what they hear from university colleges abroad. There really is a very strong feeling against this course, a feeling which has been expressed in the virtually, though not entirely, unanimous report from the vice-chancellors and principals of the universities. Anyhow I hope that this little ballon d'essai, which I have thrown out, will be considered at least not a wholly wild idea.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him one technical question? This is not a political question at all. Could he give us a word of advice on this point? Supposing there is a difference of opinion between the Minister concerned, whether he be the Lord President or some other Minister, and the University Grants Commission, should the Minister have power to give a directive to the Commission, in the last resort, and, if so, should that directive be made public and should the University Grants Commission have the right of a public reply? This is a matter which has arisen in the past and may well arise in future, particularly in view of the large sums of public money which will be handled.


My Lords, I have never considered that question fully. I always hope and believe that things can be better managed without laying down such firm rules. I suggest that the University Grants Commission will nearly always be satisfied with what it has as a reasonably fair "do"; and if it is not, I should think that discussion in the wider ministerial circle would be a better arrangement than a firm understanding that the Commission had the right to state publicly that it had been overruled. However, I speak without having thought out the question, and I dare say that by to-morrow I shall have a quite different answer.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, the worst of speaking at the end of a two days' debate is that any ideas one has have probably been better expressed by previous speakers, but I am going to reiterate them, because I think that some of them are worth re-emphasis. The first thing I want to do is to say how wholly I agree with paragraph 26 in the Report. Perhaps I might quote a few words from it: … while emphasising that there is no betrayal of values when institutions of higher education teach what will be of some practical use, we must postulate that what is taught should be taught in such a way as to promote the general powers of the mind. The aim should be to produce not mere specialists but rather cultivated men and women. I could not agree more wholeheartedly with that statement. There is too much specialisation to-day, without the broader cultivation of the mind, and I feel that a broader outlook would probably make for a much more smoothly running country.

This is a grand Report, and one that opens up a wide vista of the future of education. But if the scheme is to be successful, one thing is essential—that is that we should get more teaching staff. This has been emphasised by many speakers before me, I know, but it is one of the most important points. In order to do that, we must build more teachers' training colleges and also more accommodation for the students, and we shall have to find the teachers to teach the students. How are we going to find these teachers? At present, teaching is rather a vocational profession. One goes into it because one loves it, rather than for anything that one is going to get from it. That, of course, is the best way of producing the best teachers. But I am certain that we shall not get a greater percentage of teachers, if we do not pay them a little better.

There is, of course, a difficulty here. Merely offering them higher pay will not necessarily produce the best type of teacher, because the desire for a good job at a good rate of pay does not necessarily endue the ability to teach. Nevertheless, I think that it will be a necessary step, because at present there are many who would be good teachers, who are simply unable to go into the teaching profession because they cannot afford it. Teachers for higher education, after all, must be of the highest quality; and those who teach them to be teachers must be the same. Teaching must remain a vocational profession and the mere attraction of more money will not produce the right type. If we are going to raise the salaries, therefore, there should be a careful process of selection.

That brings me to another point. While the increase in higher education is a very desirable thing, as all speakers have agreed, it must not be allowed to be the cause of a general lowering of standards. That is strongly emphasised in paragraph 40 of the Report. At present, I believe that the teacher—pupil ratio in most universities is about 1 to 8. I think that it would be absolutely fatal if it were allowed to grow larger than 1 to 10, or at the most, 1 to 12. Of course, quality depends as much on the pupil as on the teacher. Higher education must still be regarded as a privilege, in my opinion, even though it is open to all. While we must realise that any artificial social barriers which we may choose to make are wrong and should be done away with, there is no getting away from the fact that all men are not alike. Some have greater mental powers and some have lesser. It is very fortunate that this is so, because how very dull it would be if we were all alike! Just imagine listening to speeches in your Lordships' House, all of which were more or less identical! And then, of course, the selection of a Prime Minister would have been extremely difficult. But we are not all equal. Some of us are brilliant and some of us are extremely stupid.

The question has been raised whether one or two Ministers—or even three, as the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, suggested—should be in charge of this scheme. I am not qualified enough to say which is best—I think possibly one is—but, to my mind, this problem is of comparatively little importance in comparison with the importance of the growth of education itself. I think it is essential that political argument over this question should not be allowed to get in the way of the scheme.

I feel also that there should be a closer liaison between the secondary schools and the institutes of higher education. Would it not be possible, for instance, for head- masters, headmistresses and possibly even staff to be made members of governing bodies of universities, technical colleges and, for that matter, colleges of education? After all, the schools supply the material that the universities are going to use, and close ties would lead to greater understanding of each others' problems. Finally, I do not think we can expect this scheme to be completed in a short time. This is something of which I have often been so afraid. Trying to force the pace has been the death of many a good scheme, and I sincerely hope that the Government will realise that this is a system which must grow at its own pace. There is a lot to be done in the way of building and recruitment before we can see the scheme in its full flowering.

I should like to end by saying how grateful we all are to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and the members of his Committee for having produced this magnificent Report, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord James of Rusholme yesterday as one of the major documents in educational history.

7.52 p.m.


My Lords, without making a speech, I should just like to say one or two things with regard to the point that has been so fully debated on both sides of the House, as to whether the universities should be brought under the Ministry of Education. I do not propose now to go into the slight difference between the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, but I think the comment of Lord Bridges upon Lord Robbins's proposal yesterday should have careful consideration. But now I am concerned with a point on which both noble Lords agree, and that is that a Minister of Education should not have full responsibility for the universities. I will only say this. We have worked under a system which, remarkably enough, in view of the extent of the financial dependence of the universities upon the public fund, has enabled the universities to retain autonomy and independence, and as the fruit of that we have a spirit in the universities that would otherwise have been impossible and will be impossible if we do not retain it. The fruit of that system, for which, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, reminded us, we have to think with gratitude of the action of the late Lord Dalton at the beginning, is, I consider, a very precious fruit, but a very fragile one. I think it is doubtful whether that spirit would survive if the universities were brought into the relationship with the Ministry of Education that has been proposed by a number of noble Lords.

I do not propose to give the reasons for this, but I earnestly hope that the Government will, in making up their minds, have regard to those upon whom, after all, the answer must depend as to whether that spirit can be maintained, and that is the universities themselves. As has been pointed out, the Vice-Chancellors and Principals of universities have overwhelmingly said what is their view; and the evidence of the Robbins Committee and of the Trend Committee are in the same direction. I earnestly trust that this strong collective opinion will not be ignored when the Government come to take their decision.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, I have a feeling of almost physical distress at differing from the noble Lord, Lord Salter, on any matter affecting the universities. His family is undoubtedly the most distinguished of all Oxford families, and he has brought much additional honour on that name by his labours and not least for Oxford herself. I also owed many debts of gratitude to the late Lord Dalton, but one of my lesser debts to him arose on the occasion when we were debating these matters in 1960. I was then looked upon as a sort of enfant terrible, a madman, people knew not from where, when I proposed that the Ministry of Education should accept responsibility for the universities. Lord Dalton, though my colleague on this Bench, interrupted me and spoke at considerable length. So I say that my debt to him on this particular subject is less than in some other fields. I was struck, as we all were, by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and, if may, I will come to his speech and others a little later.

I feel initially that the overwhelming courtesy of this House on an occasion of this sort rather defeats itself. We are so accustomed to referring to any debate as being "immensely distinguished" and "of a high quality" that when we get a debate like this, which in my estimation has never been surpassed since the war for sheer knowledge applied to a great issue, then we are short of words. At any rate, what I have said indicates my attitude to the speeches as a whole. My noble friend Lord Taylor initiated the debate in a speech full of inspiration and knowledge, and my colleagues Lord Green-hill, Lord Silkin, Lord Shepherd and, not least, Lord Chorley followed up strongly from this side. I feel that all the contributions add up to an immense achievement.

I hope that politicians such as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, whose phraseology I envied more than ever to-day, and some of my colleagues, will not be hurt if I say that what was most noticeable was the exchange (if that is the right way to regard it) between the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, yesterday. I have heard some of the biggest speeches made in this House of recent years, including that great speech on the American loan by Lord Keynes, a speech by the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair (who took part in this debate) on the international aspect of intervention in Egypt, and other big speeches, but I cannot remember an occasion when one very powerful speech, such as that of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was followed to quite the same extent and on quite the same level by another speech of similar argumentative power. I am referring, of course, to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who has left us, not in any way abashed, I hope, by the unfavourable comparison that my noble friend Lord Chorley drew between his credentials and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McNair. So it has been a tremendous debate.

It has been suggested that I might say something—I will not say definitive, but, at any rate, something which would help still further to elucidate the attitude of my Party to this question of one or two Ministers and one or two Ministries. I do not feel that my own Party have formulated their own attitude in final terms, although I would say that they have made up their minds quite definitely on the largest question of principle. That is as I see the matter. So on the largest question of principle they have not got an open mind, which the Government claim as one of their advantages. But I would not say that there is no more thinking to be done on our side of the House or in our Party. May I take one aspect of this matter which has not been stressed very much to-day. Perhaps it was taken for granted by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins; and even in the Report itself this particular aspect does not seem to have weighed with him as much as it weighed with me. I feel that the main argument for not giving higher education to the Ministry of Education is that the Minister, being human, might not be able to do all the work required. It might be too large a job for a single man.

When I first began to think about this question, that seemed to me one of the issues, but I did not feel that it was stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, very much, and I do not consider that argument, on balance, decisive against the great arguments for co-ordination which have been explained in various ways. As the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, indicated, we have argued these matters in other connections. We have had the same kind of argument in the field of defence. We all made a number of the same points in that connection. There were special elements there which are not here, and elements here which were not there. In the case of defence, there is the question of the civilian control of the military; in the case of education, there is the question of how you balance research and teaching. Therefore it is not precisely the same argument, but some of the issues are the same. It arises also in business—how far you secure administrative advantages from amalgamation as compared with the advantages of smaller units.

But that was not the main argument on which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, rested his case, and certainly I cannot believe that that argument would have aroused the passion which was felt on his side and on the other side. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, is not here. I feel that it would be difficult to put the case for a single Ministry in a few sentences more effectively than it was put by him yesterday. I can say that dispassionately, as he sits serenely on the Cross Benches. I would pick out only one passage of his speech. The House was not as full as it should have been, and may I say that the speech of the noble Lord was treated very neglectfully by the national Press to-day, considering the great importance which must attach to his views and the brilliance of that utterance. I would quote a few lines which summarise, in my opinion, a very strong part of the case for a single Ministry. The noble Lord said [col. 1290]: I fear greatly the effect on them of creating a hard, administrative division between the schools and the universities. We know the bad effects of the division that already exists. A glance at the volume of diverse requirements, not only for different universities but for every faculty within every university, those entrance requirements that make nonsense of so many of our plans for creating a rational sixth-form education, makes one realise what can happen when autonomy becomes anarchy … He went on to develop that argument. I do not want to talk too much about snobbery, lest I shall be accused of bringing in class feeling or inverted class feeling—I am not sure which is considered to be the worst, but I shall be accused of one or the other. I feel that prestige values, not unconnected with social snobbery, have been the most unpleasant feature of our national system, which has so many curious features. I remember years ago, when I taught for a short while in the Pottery area at what used to be an elementary school, that at that time I played for their Rugger team. The secondary schools in the neighbourhood at that time would not play against the elementary schools. I asked why there was this discrimination, and I was told that it was because they had gowns and we had not. That may or may not have been a fair account of the attitude of the secondary schools, but from the point of view of the elementary schools there was that extraordinary apartheid. To a greater or lesser extent there is still far too much of that to-day.

May I say, as one who loves Oxford as much as anyone here, and who has been associated with the city or county more or less all my life, that it is a weakness of our national system that so much prestige of one kind or another, good, bad and neutral, attaches to Oxbridge—I should not use that expression, I am sure, but Oxford and Cambridge. I felt that it was brave of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and his colleagues, to come out boldy on this matter and indicate that the glorious reputation which Oxford and Cambridge enjoy in the world has its disadvantageous side, and that we must think carefully whether there is any way of mitigating any evil effects.

Broadly, and not only from the administrative point of view but from the logical point of view, I agree with what has been said by more than one speaker, including the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when he said that we regard it as a matter of principle that the educational system of this country, whether in the universities, the schools, the training colleges or elsewhere, should be treated as one; and we are quite clear in our minds that that target is impossible of achievement unless there is one Minister ultimately responsible to the Cabinet. That is a first conclusion on which I feel sure there will be no going back in our own Party in our lifetime. It is not enough to assert that something is wholeheartedly felt. One has to produce arguments or, at any rate, speaking very briefly, try to meet any arguments which seem to weigh most heavily with those who disagree.

I will not say anything to-night about research. It would be rather late to embark on that subject, and Mr. Wilson, the Leader of my Party, spoke about that elsewhere. We have had other statements in this debate. I may be wrong—and if I am, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will correct me—but listening to him yesterday, speaking with an eloquence which certainly no one in this House and, I should think, no one in Parliament can surpass, I felt, as I felt when I read carefully the report of his speech, that the deepest fear seems to arise in connection with what he has called administrative style. It is not mainly, if I understand it aright, that he and those who think like him feel that the Ministry of Education will not have enough time to give to the universities and will not fight their battles hard enough—because, if I may say so respectfully, the same Vice-Chancellors who may be feeling that now, a little while ago did not want any Minister who was going to have too much time and who was going to fight their battles, at any rate too openly. So I do not feel that the deepest objection lies in their desire for a Minister who would be absorbed in their problems, but to lie rather in a fear of a Ministry whose whole attitude to them would be in some way unsatisfactory and intimidating.

I feel, if I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who has done this marvellous work, that his arguments defeated themselves by their very eloquence. He seemed determined to state a strong case in this matter, and yet, if one reads it carefully to-day, one can make very little of that part of his argument. This argument that universities would have so much to fear from the Ministry of Education because it would have a wrong approach was answered point by point last night by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. I will not repeat what he said, though if anyone is interested in the argument I think he would do well to read those speeches side by side.

I would just add one or two thoughts which are really supplementary to what the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said. It seems to me extraordinary to suppose that a Ministry cannot undertake a variety of tasks. Take the Home Office, for example, or one could take other Departments if one thinks of them collectively; they have their different departments and they approach different subjects presumably with a different emphasis. Officials move from one section to another, or, as the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said, from a department outside the Home Office to one within the Home Office. I cannot understand how anybody could feel so strongly that there was this immense danger in a Department which during one part of its day was looking at schools and, in another part, at the universities. I say clearly to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that I do not think he made out a case on that point which would appeal to anyone who was not already converted.

Let us take individuals from this House. We have heard the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, himself a great headmaster and Vice-Chancellor and a member of the University Grants Committee. Take someone perhaps more closely at home, Sir John Wolfenden. The universities seem very happy to have as the Chairman of the Grants Committee one who has won as much fame as a headmaster as he has as a Vice-Chancellor. I do not believe there are two kinds of people, one kind who understand schools and another kind who understand universities. It cannot lie on the personal side. If we take the present Permanent Head of the Ministry of Education, he comes, I believe, from the Board of Trade, and comes immediately via the Brussels negotiating team. Yet he is thought capable of handling the Ministry of Education. I cannot see really what is the weight behind all this talk about administrative style.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl to ask him one question: whether it has never come into his observation that individuals who preserve the integrity of their personality change their style as they pass from one institutional environment to another?


Well, have passed from a number of different institutions and I never noticed any (shall I say?) improvement.


Perhaps everybody else did.


I am bound to say, speaking for myself, that I cannot really accept any weight on this argument at all, particularly when the Ministry of Education would, in any case, obviously be built up on new lines to cope with these new tasks and some department would clearly be organised which would certainly not have been contaminated by some long tradition of dealing with schools. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, very much exaggerated the amount of administrative interference in the schools which the Ministry of Education undertakes. I myself feel that behind all this there is really a deeper fear—I would think a less rational fear. But, as university people are rational people, I would hope an irrational fear would pass away all the more easily.

I remember that when we were discussing these matters before—and I am going back to 1960—the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, in his maiden speech, begged the then noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, for an assurance that the system would not be altered. I do not want to pick on words, but that is what he asked for at that time. He was given an assurance. Lord Hailsham had rebuked me for raising this question of the Ministry of Education at all, but time passes and the enfant terrible of one moment is the Rip van Winkle of the next. I accepted that rebuke as best I could. At any rate, Lord Hailsham said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 223, col. 719]: I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, who at that time, though unnecessarily but, as it turned out, very desirably, sought an assurance from the Government, that it certainly has not crossed our mind at the present juncture of affairs to interfere with the present system, which in our judgment is working extremely well and is preserving those essential interests which I attempted to define.… That was the position in 1960, so I can see that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, must feel a little like Sir Roy Welensky in being left alone in defence of the ancient system.


My Lords, may I say that I think I did say in my speech that I reached the conclusion some time ago that universities should be passed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


I am sorry. I did realise that. I feel nevertheless, if I may put it this way without offence, that the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, adopted a more conservative attitude towards this question than any of the Conservatives who have spoken in this debate. I think that puts it fairly enough.

Where many of us on this side of the House, and perhaps on other sides, differ from what I think is behind the attitude of the noble Lord, Lord Bridges—if it is not, I apologise—and from the attitude of those who defended the system on earlier occasions, is that we do not see any great reason to be satisfied with the results of the previous system. It would be ridiculous to say that it was the University Grants Committee which made Oxford and Cambridge great. They were great long before that system began to operate. These institutions have not been founded in that way. But we on this side say clearly, and it must be repeated in these final remarks, what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said in his fine speech yesterday—and I am afraid that in our view it cannot be said too often: that our present disastrous situation (referring of course, to universities) is due to a failure of strategic planning. Here we cannot absolve either the Government or the University Grants Committee; but it must never happen again. I am afraid that we, therefore, consider that this system has proved fallacious and must be altered. We start from that point of view, though I think that many of these vice-chancellors, not unnaturally, cling to the old system, so far as they can.

I hope that my penultimate remarks will seem to be conciliatory. I do not believe that these fears and anxieties of the universities are justified, but I realise that they are not the fears of ignoble people, and not the fears of people who are trying in some obscure way to obtain an advantage for themselves. They are the fears of some of the most elevated men in the country who hold certain values which they feel are threatened. I speak as an old university tutor, and my own feeling is that they will find that they are quite mistaken. Already it seems to me that they have moved on from the days of 1960, when I was told that if the Ministry of Education took over the universities the vice-chancellors would all have heart attacks. They seem now to have passed from that point of view and to recognise that a Ministry of Higher Education, or the equivalent, would be tolerable. Nevertheless, I recognise that these fears exist, and are likely to continue to exist. That being so, I think it would be wrong for me, and, what matters much more, wrong for the Labour Party, to brush these fears aside: to say, well, it is a question of one or two; we have decided in favour of one; you are for two, so you are defeated. That would be altogether an unworthy point of view to adopt. While not in any way subtracting from what I said earlier about the ultimate responsibility of one Minister, on which we insist, I feel that my Party would wish to go as far as possible to see that these anxieties are allayed. We know that the Leader of the Party indicated elsewhere not long ago that there would be at least two Ministers of State, one for universities and one for education in the schools, under the supreme Education Minister.

It has been said—we actually heard the expression from the noble Lord, Lord Chorley; and one cannot set this aside too quickly, because the same remark, I think, has been made from this side of the House in some of the Defence debates—that a Minister of State is only a glorified Parliamentary Secretary. That is an expression which has been used on more sides of the House than one in various debates. There is no inevitability about that. It has been so quite often, but there is no reason why it should necessarily be so. Without suggesting an exact comparison between what the Labour Party are likely to do, if given the opportunity, and what the Government are proposing in regard to defence, it is worth observing that even in the last week or two the Government have decided to raise the status of the proposed Ministers of State in the defence arrangements. They will not be quite as important as hitherto, but they will be more important than it was proposed to make them when we discussed these matters in July.

Therefore, what I am trying to suggest, I hope in a conciliatory way, is that there is plenty of room for discussion. There are all sorts of strange constitutional developments which reveal themselves. At one time it would have been thought quite impossible that we should see a Secretary of State for the Commonwealth and for the Colonies, with one Department for Commonwealth Affairs and another for the Colonies. Yet we have it to-day. I do not know whether it is working particularly well in that case, but at any rate it is working. There are so many possibilities that I should be anxious to relieve the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, at least, of any fear that insufficient attention was being given to the problem of meeting any anxieties which, whether rightly or wrongly, are certainly held strongly in university circles.

But we return to the thought that the record of the Government is disastrous. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley set an excellent example by repeating previous speeches. I will not do that. But I think I might read out the same passage from the Report as I did on a previous occasion. We were told in the Robbins Report: The universities already have cause for lack of confidence in the Government's intentions. In the last few years the universities have wished to go forward more rapidly than they have been enabled to do. Many representations made in recent years to ensure that their resources should match the rising demand have met with an inadequate response. I can only assure the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, that that expresses our own convictions very powerfully.

Before I close, may I put three questions to the noble Earl, of which I have given him notice? I have mentioned them almost in shorthand. They have already been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. They are: Will he say something about the possibilities of having a Committee to study the problems involved and the legislation needed to enable new universities to be established in our great cities? Secondly, will he say anything about a study group on the future organisation of university institutions in the Greater London area? Will he, finally, say anything about investigation into the number of doctors needed in the next fifteen to eighteen years and the number of places? I know he will do what he can, but I recognise that he may not be able to say very much this evening. My Lords, this has been a debate which I feel fittingly attempts to cope with the immense problems discussed in the Robbins Report. That Report will certainly go down to history, and I think it should be regarded as a privilege to all in this House that Lord Robbins should be among our Members.

7.25 p.m.


My Lords, the Government are truly grateful for the wealth of knowledge and wisdom which has been contributed to this debate, and I should like to begin by agreeing with what the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has just said about that. I do not suppose there can be any assembly in this world in which so many people know so much about this subject. I would add that your Lordships' discussion has been, and will be, of the highest value to the Government in formulating our educational policy.

In replying to the debate I should like first to relate the Robbins Report to what has already happened. I would then say a little about the emergency programme from now to 1967 or 1968, because I think that that is what has, naturally, caused the greatest amount of concern to your Lordships. I shall not say anything, or at least very little, about the longer-term programme, the ten-year programme, which we have accepted, and the Robbins programme projected up to 1980; not because I think long-term planning is not important—on the contrary I think it is of the very highest importance—but only because, as the long-term programme develops, all the problems which are incidental to it are bound to change their character as the programme gets nearer to maturity. And finally, although, as your Lordships know from the White Paper, I cannot say a great deal about what the Government are going to do, I must in this debate say something on the question of administrative machinery, because so many of your Lordships have spoken about it with so much conviction, if not always with so much harmony as you have shown about other questions arising from the Report.

It has often been said, particularly in your Lordships' House, that the appointment of the Robbins Committee arose out of a debate, to which I think the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred in his speech, which we had three and a half years ago, in May, 1960, on a Motion introduced by the late Lord Simon of Wythenshawe calling for the appointment of a Committee to examine the needs of higher education, in which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, took a distinguished part. I happened to have the duty of speaking for the Government in that debate. I should like to remind your Lordships what it was about, and the attitudes which were then taken by the Government and by other speakers on the question of setting up a Committee. I said that although we always looked on the University Grants Committee as a kind of permanent and very highly efficient advisory body, having the nature of a Select Committee or Royal Commission, at the same time we certainly did not rule out the appointment of a general Committee to give us more specific information about our needs for the immediate future.

At that time the university population was about 100,000 and the population of the other institutions of higher education—training colleges, CATS, institutes of training and so on—was about 80,000, making 180,000 altogether. The Government target had been to raise the university figure from 100,000 to 135,000 by the end of the 1960's. I pointed out, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will remember, that up to about 1955 or 1956 the universities, for various reasons which I will not go into, were not particularly anxious to have a rapid rate of expansion, but that since then they had become so, and at this time, in 1960, we—that is, the University Grants Committee and the Treasury—had just decided to raise the university figure by the end of the 1960's to 175,000; that was an increase of 75,000 on the existing figure in 1960.

I think perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Longford, may like me to remind your Lordships that a few years before he had foreseen that this would become necessary. The University Grants Committee had not foreseen that so many more people would voluntarily stay on for secondary education after the age of 16, and then become eligible for a place at university. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, did foresee that, and it was some satisfaction to him to be able to say so in that debate, which I at that time acknowledged. But I should just like to mention what I said to the noble Earl about it. I said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 223, col. 653] that the Committee—that is the University Grants Committee, sought and obtained from the Chancellor authority to enter into discussions with the universities in order to ascertain whether, as a first stage—and I would emphasise that phrase—the further expansion of … 40,000 places beyond the present target of 135,000 would be practicable and what the capital cost would be. I mentioned that only as a first stage— that gave us a figure of 175,000, which vindicates what the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, said—though, of course, for all we know we might find that his estimate was even too little. So, my Lords, I did contemplate that even this enlarged estimate of the noble Earl which the Government had now adopted might be too little.

I mention this point, although I do not want to enter into a violent controversy on what the noble Earl has said about the Government's record. But I should like to remind him of that, and also of what I said in conclusion—I quote from col. 658: It would not be right, when we are talking about our programme of expansion over the next 10 or 15 years, to give any more optimistic figures than those of which we can be absolutely certain at this moment; and it may be that the figures I have given your Lordships this afternoon will be out of date before very long. It is the policy of the Government to expand our universities at the highest rate which is consistent with the highest standard of teaching. I think it is right that I should remind your Lordships of what the Government's attitude towards this question was at that time, because so many people in all parts of the House appeared to assume that the Robbins policy is a quite new and revolutionary idea. In that debate I think most of your Lordships who spoke felt that the University Grants Committee was not enough, and that we ought to have a particular Committee appointed to advise us in general about our needs for the next ten or more years. Whether it was in consequence of that debate or not, the fact is that the Robbins Committee was appointed quite soon afterwards.

The Committee had not yet reported when we had our last debate at the end of July, in which again I had to reply to the most interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, he being Chairman of a Committee which had just produced the Labour Study Group pamphlet entitled The Years of Crisis. At that time I said to your Lordships and, as he will remember, to the noble Lord in his absence [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 252 (No. 121), col. 821]: What we want to do is … to get the highest number of students which it is physically possible to educate without lowering the standard of university teaching. The Government, Parliament and the universities will have to judge whether this rapid rate of expansion can and ought to be increased still further when we have the Robbins Report". It had not come out then, and I said that I thought our principle of the maximum expansion without a lowering of standards was not irreconcilable with Lord Taylor's principle of giving university education to everybody who was capable of benefiting by it.

Since that time, of course, the Robbins Report has appeared, and we are now discussing it; and in the last two days it has received from your Lordships a great amount of well-deserved praise and a considerable amount of well-informed criticism. I know much less about it than most of your Lordships who have taken part in the debate. I cannot deal properly with most of the criticisms, even if there were time. Having listened to the debate, I would say that most of the criticisms of the Robbins Report have been in respect of omissions, or a failure to develop certain arguments and certain lines of thought and recommendations, which probably was inevitable. It rather seems to me that if the Robbins Report had contained enough material to satisfy everybody, it would have been too long to satisfy anybody, and that it would probably have taken five years to produce instead of three.

As for the tributes which have been paid by your Lordships to the Report in this debate, I have not enough knowledge to express informed appreciation of this Report, but there is one small comment that I should like to add to what has been said. A week ago, when I was in Minneapolis, I had to give a lecture to the School of Political Science in the University of Minnesota, which is one of the largest universities in the world, if not the largest—it has no fewer than 37,000 full-time students. They did not all come to my lecture, but I was greatly surprised to find that this audience of Middle-Western American students had all heard of the Robbins Report, and a great many of them had actually read it; because among those who talked to me afterwards there were some who correctly quoted from the numbered paragraphs and tables. So, whatever the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and his collaborators set out to do, they have certainly succeeded in producing a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic. I have made some inquiries from Her Majesty's Stationery Office, and I am told that the demand for the Robbins Report, both in the United States and in Australia, is considerably greater than the demand for the Denning Report—which shows that people's standards in priority in these countries are not always quite what we are apt to assume.

My Lords, let me now say a word about the emergency programme, which I think is the most critical part of the Report and the part which has caused far the greatest amount of anxiety. There were only a few points in the admirable speech of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, with which I disagreed, and most of them, I think, may perhaps have been verbal. There were one or two adjectives he used. He said that the changes proposed in the Robbins Report were astronomical, and that he was surprised that the Government had accepted them so rapidly. I hope I have shown your Lordships from my quotations from our previous debates, going back as far as three years ago, that there is no reason at all for surprise as to why we accepted the recommendations so rapidly. As for the astronomical character of the figures, may I just remind your Lordships of the difference between the programme which had already been planned before Robbins and the programme which has now been accepted. The total higher education population—that is, universities and other higher education combined—was only 100,000 in 1951, and it went up to 216,000 last year.

Reference has also been made to the comparative Table 61 on page 260. That goes to the year 1967–68, which is not quite correct because there was not any place plan for that year; it was merely a mathematical projection imagined by the Committee. They had to do it because that was the last year of the "bulge." The end of the quinquennial period is 1966–67 for which the Government had planned 168,000 university places including CATS; 124,000 in other higher education; making a total of 292,000. The corresponding figures needed, according to the Robbins Committee, which we have now accepted, are 187,000 compared with 168,000 and 125,000 compared with 124,000, making a total number of 312,000 places by 1967, compared with the existing plan of 292,000. That is 20,000 more, which is an appreciable increase. It might be called a substantial increase, but I would not call it astronomical. I do not think it could be called astronomical in any sense of the word, nor should it give any particular reason for surprise that the Government have been so ready to accept it. I prefer the earlier phrase used by Lord Taylor when he said that he thought the acceptance of the Robbins programme was a victory for sober statistical science. I agree with him there; but that is not the same thing as astronomical science.


My Lords, the astronomical table was Table 30. That was the one which struck me as being astronomical. We get the figure of 528,000 students in higher education in 1979–80. I felt that we were facing an enormous change in the nature of higher education.


My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's point of view about this. But if you go to 1973–74, which is the furthest year ahead for which the Government have planned, our figure for all higher education by that time was 335,000, compared with 390,000, which we have now accepted. That is hardly what I would call astronomical, but it is substantial. The noble Lord added that, although astronomical, it was not to be compared with what America, France and Russia are doing. That is true, if you take the entry each year into universities in these countries. But in regard to America and France I always feel that this kind of statement ought to be qualified by adding that in Great Britain we have only 14 per cent. of entrants into universities who do not receive a degree; who fail to pass through the university; whereas in America the figure is 45 per cent. of failures, and in France I think at least 50 per cent.—I have been told by some who have estimated it that it is more like 60 per cent.

The result is that although the proportion of entrants into universities here is lower than it is in America, the proportion of those who actually take their degrees is, in fact, a little higher. I think for the sake of accuracy that should be mentioned when we speak of comparisons with America and other countries. I will not go into the other aspects of the question which may be misleading, such as the quality of the education. That varies vastly in America, but there are a large number of universities where instruction from the age of 18 to 21 is roughly comparable to our instruction in the sixth form in secondary schools, and not to our university education at all.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has particularly asked me to return to a point which he mentioned yesterday and with which my noble friend Lord Bessborough had already dealt. Lord Taylor has asked me to clear up the doubt which appears to have arisen about Sir John Wolfenden's letter concerning overseas students. The noble Lord thought that perhaps the University Grants Committee was departing from the recommendation about this in Robbins. The Report in one place says that it would greatly regret, as would we all, any reduction in the number of overseas students at our universities. I would call the noble Lord's attention to paragraph 813, on page 258, which repeats that There is no reliable evidence on which to base our estimate of the demand from overseas students. But, in the short term at least, all the signs are that it will grow although it does not follow that it will—or should—grow at the same rate as the demand from home students, because the home demand in those years will be the outcome of factors that have no necessary parallel overseas. The noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that that means for the period of the "bulge".

When the "bulge" is going on and one is providing for an increase of students to meet it, it is reasonably to be expected that a larger proportion of the increase will come from those who are making the "bulge"—that is our home students. That does not mean that overseas students will be reduced. All that Sir John Wolfenden said was that the proportion, not the numbers, might have to be reduced. Suppose one has a college of 100 students of whom ten are from overseas, that means there are 10 per cent. of overseas students. If one increases the numbers in the college to 200 and supposing the overseas students are increased to 16, then the overseas students have gone up by 60 per cent., but they have gone down in proportion because 16 is only 8 per cent. of 200. That is what Sir John Wolfenden meant. I think it is clear from his letter which has already been read to your Lordships. The letter says: It is certainly the Government's hope that as the extension programme develops the universities will be able to offer facilities for an increasing number of oversea students, particularly at post-graduate level. Then it says: But in the emergency period … the Committee feel that the universities will not dissent from the view that priority should be given to the increase in the home demand, on which the Robbins figures now adopted were calculated; and that a corresponding proportionate increase in the intake of over-sea students could not be expected. I think that there has obviously been some confusion between an absolute increase and a proportionate increase. I give the noble Lord the assurance that the Government wish to see that increase, and when the Chairman of the University Grants Committee spoke of a lower proportion he meant more students: a lower proportion of a larger number.


My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Earl for that very helpful statement because it certainly was believed, and is believed, by many university officers that they were not to increase the absolute number. The assurance that they can increase the number of oversea students provided they do not exceed the present proportion is very helpful indeed.


My Lords, I am delighted to have made that clear. Several of your Lordships—the noble Lord, Lord Todd, in a very powerful speech last night, my noble friend Lord Eccles this afternoon, and also my noble friend Lord Caldecote—criticised the Robbins Report on the ground that it had not given quite enough attention, or at least not quite enough relative attention, to the claim of technology as distinct both from pure science and from the arts. I am not going to discuss the question whether the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has or has not given rather too little attention to this aspect of the problem. I only want to say that the Government agree entirely with the noble Lords, Lord Todd, Lord Eccles and Lord Caldecote, on the importance of applied science and technology and the need to attract into these branches of study a sufficient number of able students—people, as my noble friend Lord Eccles put it, who can do something with science as well as know something about it. We agree, also, that the close relationship with industry, which has been such a feature of the colleges of advanced technology, should be retained or made even closer in the future. I think that is obviously right, because without the support of adequately trained technicians it is not possible for scientists and technologists to work to the best advantage.

My Lords, I certainly would reject any suggestion that this emergency pro- gramme will give opportunities to students or would-be students whose ability is less than the ability of those who are now coming forward. But there is, of course, the problem of keeping up the quality of teaching, which will probably be some strain on the staff. What particularly impressed me in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, yesterday was his plea for some earlier pronouncement to be made about post-graduate awards, because clearly that is a thing which, if it can be done now, will encourage more people to be trained as university teachers for the critical period. Paragraph 302 in the noble Lord's Report deals with post-graduate awards, and paragraph 303 also deals with State studentships offered by the Ministry of Education. The Report points out that in 1962 they reached a figure of over 300, having increased from 240 to 260 in 1957. The noble Lord is probably aware—but if not I am glad to mention—that since this Report was published the figure for the following year, 1963, shows a very much bigger increase. It has gone up to 427, which is an increase of more than 25 per cent. I have done my best in this matter, and I would in any case have referred it to my right honourable friends the Ministers who are responsible, but I should just like to tell your Lordships as much as I can tell you now.

I would just mention, since the noble Lord had some criticisms of a statement by my noble friend Lord Hastings in the debate on the Address, that I do not think Lord Hastings was referring to the number of awards; I think he was referring to their amount, which is periodically reviewed and which has recently been very considerably increased. But I was impressed by what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said about the need for an early decision on the increase in the number of post-graduate awards. I can assure your Lordships now that for the coming academic year the Government will make available, both in the sciences and in the arts and social studies, substantially more awards than were made this year. I hope that this explicit pledge, which will be followed by the necessary financial provision, will reassure the universities that this aspect of their expansion is not going to be neglected.

There have been some criticisms of the Report from another angle by a few of your Lordships and in some parts of the Press, on the ground that, as one leader put it, the universities are being asked to undertake a degree of inflation which is bound to lead to devaluation. As your Lordships know, it is a principle of our policy—with which I think we all agree—that we must do our best to bring this increase about without any devaluation. I have already told the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that I agree with what he said about sober statistical science. I think these estimates are based on sober statistical science. That is why the Robbins Committee were appointed, and the Government have, I think rightly, accepted their figures, and I do not believe there is any great risk of any deterioration of any kind in the standards of university teaching, even during this temporary emergency period.

Suppose there were some risk. Would it be better to refuse to take it, or ought we to take it? I am strongly in favour of maintaining our standard, but when I hear some of the despondent prophesies which are being made about this, I cannot help thinking of certain foreign universities which I am sure all of us have visited at various times. Seven years ago at this time of the year I was at Vancouver visiting the university there. At that time there were only 6,000 students, which was considered an enormous number—there are probably more now. But the point is that in this great modern progressive city the university had been expanding so fast that there was accommodation for only about half of the students, even in lodgings. What were the other half doing? They were all taking jobs as part-time domestic servants. They did a bit of work when they got up in the morning, they did the rest of their work, such as washing-up, when they came home in the evening, and for the bulk of the morning and afternoon they went to the university and attended lectures. Those were not ideal conditions, not the kind of conditions we would recommend here. But it does show that these students preferred the opportunity of learning to physical comfort and convenience, as I think they were entitled to do.

The other example, which I cannot help thinking of, is a Parliamentary mission to China which I happened to be on in the middle of the war, in 1942. It so happens that all the four members of it are now in your Lordships' House—Lord Ailwyn, Lord Teviot, Lord Lawson and myself. We went to Chung-king, which was then the temporary capital, and then we went to Chengtu, which was a provincial town. There were about 30,000 students there who had come from all over China, and from the great universities of Peking, Shanghai and others. They had not stayed to be occupied by the Japanese. They had walked on foot with their teachers, carrying their books for 1,000 miles, and there they were, sleeping in wooden huts on straw mattresses. Their only garments were coarse gowns which they wore all the time, and their only food a bowl of rice every day. They are not the kind of conditions we should want here for our universities, but it shows the value these students set upon learning. While I am not proposing that we should adopt the standards of a backward Asiatic country or anything of that kind, do let us get our priorities right in weighing the value of intellectual training, on the one hand, against physical convenience and comfort upon the other. Much as I am in favour of physical convenience, because I think it is an aid to learning do not let us put it out of its place.

My Lords, I am not going to say anything about the further ten-year programme, for this reason: that I think that all the most important problems are concerned with this five-year emergency programme. After that we shall have an easing of the situation by a temporary decline in the bulge—although it rises again later on, I am glad to say. But things will then proceed more smoothly and with less strain, always provided, of course, that our economy remains sound. That is a consideration we can never forget when we are talking about this subject: that all this great social programme depends on not allowing inflationary increases of personal incomes to take place—increases which, in the end, always defeat their own object. Therefore, when we are dealing with these economic questions we must always remember that the things we care about more particularly, such as education, do very largely depend upon it.

My Lords, on the queshion of administrative machinery, as your Lordships know, I have an exceedingly easy task, because it is explained in the White Paper that the Government have decided so far only upon one interim change, which is the transfer of the University Grants Committee from the Treasury to my right honourable friend the Minister for Science. That is all we are doing for the time being. And, having listened to the most eloquent, even passionate, conviction with which the most knowledgeable of your Lordships have argued on different sides all the many different points of view about this, I think that the Government are wise not to have rushed into too hasty a decision.

There was a very powerful speech from the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, against having the universities transferred to a single Ministry of Education. There was a very powerful speech from the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in the opposite sense. Then there was a speech from my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, who rather agreed with the dissenting Report of Mr. Shearman, recommending that the universities should be transferred to the Ministry of Education but strongly asserting that this must not apply to the Arts Council, of which the noble Lord is Chairman. I think your Lordships all agree that the history of the arts in this country has been very different from what it has been on the Continent. In Europe, the benevolent despots or autocrats of the 18th century treated the arts pretty well. They gave enormous proportions of the national revenue to opera, picture galleries, libraries, museums and every kind of public art; and when the liberal revolutions came along in the 19th century the new democratic Governments continued this practice, and had a Ministry of Fine Arts which went on giving a large slice of the revenue to spend on art.

In our own country, however, Parliament would never give a penny to art: it had to be left to very rich patrons. In the present century, when the former rich patrons are taxed 19s. in the pound and 80 per cent. in death duties, they, of course, have not been able to give quite so very much; and so the arts have suffered, because until very lately our tradition of Parliamentary parsimoniousness has continued. But now, in the last decade or so, the Treasury has been persuaded to give a bit more, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, and the Arts Council no doubt feel that they are on a good wicket. The Treasury has now been persuaded to "cough up", and at the same time the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his officials do not know enough about it and are too busy to interfere; which an officious Minister of Arts and Science or Fine Arts might be only too apt to do.

Then, my Lords, there is the Party opposite. I must say that I sadly missed this afternoon the resonant, booming basso-profundo of the late Lord Dalton, continually interrupting and, indeed, drowning the fainter tones of his colleagues on the Front Bench in an altercation of such violence that I think it could easily have been heard down the corridor in another place. I felt that the comparatively feeble efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, this afternoon were a very sad come-down on this. In fact, I felt that on this occasion the Front Bench had very much the best of it. I am not quite clear yet whether the Labour Party is officially committed to a single Ministry or not.


I will tell you. We are.


I am interested to hear that, because when the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, recommended it in the Report of his Study Group I observed that the Leader of the Labour Party, in his Foreword, had been a little cautious on the subject. He said: While the N.E.C."— that is, the National Executive Council— is not committed to every detail proposed, the document is fully in line with Labour Party thinking. Here is a plan for action: let it now be tested by further discussion and criticism. I thought he was exercising a great discretion in saying that, but I now gather from the noble Earl who leads the Opposition that the result of the discussion and criticism has been that the Labour Party is officially in favour of making this change. That is a very interesting thing to have learned, my Lords. I would say that, of course, there have been some divisions on this side of the House, too.


The noble Lord, Lord Eccles.


The noble Lord, Lord Eccles; and one or two others, I think. But I would say that, while these disagreements are certainly not too shallow to be disregarded, I hope they may not be too deep to be reconciled. The Government are very anxious that, if possible, they should be. I think that most of your Lordships are agreed upon these general principles: that we must proceed with this ambitious but well-considered advance in higher education; that we must strive to proceed without a lowering of standards even during the emergency period; that the Government and the University Grants Committee must act with the most careful sympathy and understanding towards all the academic institutions with whom they have to deal: and that, whatever new developments or changes in administrative machinery may be found necessary to achieve these objects, the corporate independence and the academic freedom of our old universities and of our new ones must be protected and preserved for the benefit of future generations.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, I started this debate with a very long speech: I will finish it with the shortest. I wish to thank every noble Lord who has taken part in this memorable debate—especially the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, for having made it possible, and especially all those of your Lordships who have stayed to the end. I now beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.