§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I am sure the whole House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, for giving us this opportunity to debate higher education. He has certainly attracted to this debate a wealth of academic talent on the list of speakers, among whom, I confess, I tread with some trepidation. Among the contributions we are to hear this afternoon are two maiden speeches, and, as I am the first to speak from this side of the House, may I be allowed to offer them our sincere good wishes and to welcome them to our We very much look forward to hearing from them, for both noble Lords are extremely well qualified in this particular field.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, gave us a tour d'horizon of developments in higher education since the Report of the Committee of which he was such a distinguished Chairman. One thing is certain since the Report of that Committee, and that is that that horizon has been very much enlarged. There can be no doubt at all of the effectiveness of his Committee's recommendations in stimulating the previous Government, as well as the 1281 present Government, to make increased provision for a rapid expansion in higher education. There may be points of difference in the detail of organisation—indeed, there are many points of difference—but I am sure that he and his Committee can take great credit for having expanded the opportunities which exist at present for higher education.
This subject covers a very wide field, and embraces a great many different types of institution and a great many different types of student. I should like to follow the noble Lord in picking out one or two of the main subjects and say a word or two on them. First of all, I should like to mention the Department of Education and Science. It is true that always in cases of ministerial responsibility there is bound to arise a question of where to draw the line between the responsibilities of one Minister and those of another. Whatever decisions are taken, there is bound to be overlapping to some extent. I would point out that the Robbins Committee themselves recognised the strong arguments in favour of the organisation that has been adopted, and in fact there was one note of reservation from Mr. Shearman on that subject. It is perhaps too early to judge of their success, but my own view it that the present arrangements are working well.
In one particular respect, I think there is every advantage in the integration in one Department of responsibility for all education in schools and universities, so as to give a single drive and purpose to meeting the need for more scientists and technologists throughout the educational system. I have a feeling that the universities, on their own, are still inclined to give greater importance to the arts than to the sciences, and to the academic than to the technological. There still exists a kind of intellectual snobbery that pays greater respect to the man who misquotes Horace than the man who can repair his own car. We still tend to speak of the less gifted child, when in fact we mean the less intellectually gifted child, and we disregard the fact that that child may have many other gifts of a quite different nature.
Much has been said—and rightly—about the need for more scientists and technologists, and this applies particularly to higher education. But the supply 1282 of potential students to higher education in these subjects depends on the sixth form in schools. I believe there is a danger that it is a kind of self-perpetuating process—that is to say, that a great proportion of those who come from the schools to study in arts at the university, tend to return to schools to teach and so, in turn, encourage their students to read the arts. Therein lies the main danger, when we note that there are at present vacancies in science subjects at universities, and more arts students than ever before. I was interested to read a recent article by Professor R. V. Jones, at Aberdeen, in which he quoted a speech made by Lionel Playfair in 1873 to the St. Andrews Graduates' Association. Perhaps I might quote one sentence:And yet our Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, and Home Secretary, Mr. Bruce, make orations on the same day, telling us that the old classical system is that which is best fitted for mental culture under all conditions.My Lords, Mr. Bruce was my great-grandfather, and I hope that he will not turn in his grave if I say that in present circumstances I cannot possibly agree.
With regard to the universities, and the Government's decision not to implement the recommendation of the Robbins Report by building six new universities, may I say that we on this side of the House agree with that decision of the Government? But I would add that, like the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I hope that it is not a once-for-all decision, but merely a decision taken in the light of present circumstances. Our main reasons for agreeing with this decision were given in a very fine speech made by my right honourable friend Sir Edward Boyle in another place, during a most interesting debate on higher education which occurred on the proceedings of the Consolidated Fund Bill on March 25 last.
There is, however, one particularly practical reason, which was mentioned by my right honourable friend on that occasion; that is, that, taking the forecast of the Robbins Committee, we should need another 20,000 places in the universities by 1973–74. Even if this figure is an under-estimate, and we need, perhaps, 25,000 extra places, they will still have to be found among more than 40 institutions of university status. So in terms of numbers the problem reduces itself to a 1283 fairly reasonable average of about 500 extra places per institution, and a problem of that size does not seem to us really to call at the moment for the foundation of six more universities. However, as I mentioned before, in agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I hope that this is not an all-time decision, and certainly we shall watch the way the statistics work in the future, in case it is necessary to make further advances.
But having agreed with this decision, may I ask the Government two questions which arise out of two new factors, both of which were mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins? The first is about the fact that the figures given in the Robbins Committee Report have proved to be under-estimates. According to my figures, there will be a further 17,000 students qualified to enter universities by 1975, and over 22,000 more by 1980, over and above the figures mentioned in the Robbins Committee Report. Secondly, the Government have imposed a six-months moratorium on university building. This seems to me to be very much a repetition of the sort of policy which the Government themselves attacked so vigorously when they were in Opposition. They then labelled it "Stop-Go"; but now they are in government "Stop" is called "Moratorium". As we have not yet had "Go" we do not know what it will be called, but it will probably be "New Socialist Advances". In these circumstances, are the Government still confident that they can meet the target set by the Robbins Report for 1975, let alone the possibly increased demand for university places arising from the extra demand by those qualified to enter universities?
The universities themselves have risen splendidly to the challenge and have undertaken to find the extra places that are necessary, and it seems a pretty poor return for their co-operation to have placed upon them this delay, or postponement, for what is said to be six months. Can the noble Lord say whether, indeed, the moratorium will be six months, or whether there is any danger that it may last for more than six months? The seriousness of this kind of delay has been referred to by many distinguished Vice-Chancellors, and Dr. A. E. Sloman, of 1284 Essex University, the other day put his finger on the difficulties, pointing out that building expansion was a complicated affair. Buildings took two years to design and another two to build, and universities needed to know their allocations at least four years in advance instead of the present eighteen months or so.
The squeeze has aggravated the whole of this position. So may I further ask the Government whether they are yet in a position to confirm figures for university building starts in 1967–68 and 1968–69? As I understand the position, the figure for 1966–67 has already been agreed at £33,500,000 (and I hope that the moratorium has not affected that in any way), and that provisional figures have been set for the following two years at £25 million for each year. But what I should like to know, if the noble Lord is able to answer, is whether the £25 million tentative figures have yet been confirmed. Finally, while on the university side of the picture, may I inquire whether the Government have come to any decision about a possible new technological university in the North-East.
May I now turn to colleges of advanced technology? This is one of the recommendations of the Robbins Report which has been accepted by the Government, and it is well on its way to being implemented. There have of course been many problems, some of which were referred to by the noble Lord in his opening speech, but may I inquire what is the position now with the colleges of advanced technology; whether their charters will shortly be granted, and where we stand? There is one development in South Wales in which I am personally interested, where a highly anomalous situation is going to arise. In Cardiff there is already the University College of South Wales, which is a constituent college of the University of Wales, and I think it may feel a little hard done by, if side by side, a much younger technological university receives full autonomy. I do not know whether the Government have considered that position or whether they can comment on it, but it is an anomalous one.
I have no doubt that the colleges of advanced technology in general are pleased to be on the way to being granted their status, but I would most strongly echo the plea of the noble Lord, Lord 1285 Robbins, that their important link with industry—especially the sandwich courses that they run—will not be broken. They started so favourably under the ægis of my noble friend Lord Eccles, that it would be a tragedy if they were to slide slowly into being purely academic institutions. Their acceptance as technological universities seems to me to be a recognition that higher technological education is of the same grade as higher academic education. That recognition would be nullified if they became too academic, and they would have betrayed their birthright.
So far as finance for the colleges of advanced technology or new technological universities is concerned, I hope that they will not live to regret their coming independence. I cannot help recalling a passage from a striking maiden speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Brown, when he drew attention to the case of Brunel College. He pointed out that building plans of £1½ million had been under discussion with the Department of Education, but that when the University Grants Committee finally decided on the amount the College received only £620,000. I feel that independence may sometimes have its drawbacks.
I now come to the technical colleges. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, had a great deal to say which was highly critical of the Government's decision on what is being called the binary system of higher education—the university road and the technical college road. I may say that in this matter I find myself in greater sympathy with the Government than with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, although I think it might be quite wrong to state once and for all that it was so decided the way the two roads were divided. I think there is possibly room for manœuvre in the future, but as things stand at present I personally believe that the Government have taken the right attitude and that it is better to leave things as they are.
It seems to me that, basically, there has always been a dual approach to higher education and it is really a matter of where one draws the line. In their recommendations, the Robbins Committee themselves singled out ten regional colleges for university status. This would have left many regional and area colleges with higher grade status but still 1286 without university status. I think that one has to draw the line somewhere. The noble Lord himself instanced a number of exaggerated claims from a variety of different colleges seeking university status, and I think this points to the difficulties that there will always be wherever one draws the line; but I believe that there really are excellent arguments for preserving the technical colleges in their present set-up. They have, indeed, great achievements to their credit, and many local authorities take tremendous pride in them. Many a student who might not have been suited to a university-type education has found his way to higher education through a technical college.
The Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions has recently produced a pamphlet on the subject of higher education and the technical colleges, which is a very forceful argument for the retention of the present set-up. There is no suggestion made there that students at a technical college should be those who fail to get into a university. It is pointed out that the type of education in a technical college is distinctly different. It is a different approach, much more closely related to a professional career than the more academic course of study usually associated with a university. I cannot do better than summarise what I feel by quoting their summary of the position:Our thesis, therefore, is that higher education in this country has developed, and will continue to develop, along two distinct lines, each with its own tradition and each with its own standards of excellence. The traditions are not in competition; they are complementary.My Lords, I would also welcome the statement that was made recently by the Government that they are aiming at a figure of 70,000 students in technical colleges by 1973–74. This was a projection which was mentioned by my right honourable friend in the other place during the debate to which I referred earlier, and is a thoroughly satisfactory development which will, as I understand, increase the total figure of those in higher education in that year, 1973–74, to a total of over 400,000.
Finally, may I say something about the colleges of education? Once more, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was highly critical of the decision taken by the 1287 Government, and I think it better to leave it to the noble Lord, Lord Snow, to defend that decision for himself, which I am sure he is perfectly capable of doing; but once again may I say that, on the whole, we tend to agree with that decision of the Government. To start with, on purely practical grounds, at a time when both the colleges of education and the universities are tremendously engaged in the priority of increasing the number of places available, it does not seem the right time to upset the whole organisation. But, going beyond the practical, I personally feel that these colleges of education exist primarily as training grounds for teachers, and, secondly, they provide opportunities for higher education for those who are attending the courses there. I do not feel that they are really academic institutions in that sense of the term. They are there for vocational study; and it is all the more important, therefore, at a time when we are so concerned with the recruitment of teachers for the schools, that these colleges should work as closely as possible with the local education authorities.
It is thoroughly satisfactory to know that the numbers of those entering the colleges of education in the current year have reached the figure of 29,000. This is indeed well ahead of the schedule set by the Robbins Committee. It is more, in fact, than their forecast for 1969–70; and, of course, since the Robbins Committee reported we have had another Report from the National Advisory Council on the demand and supply of teachers, which called for a three-year acceleration of the Robbins plan. The figure that we are given of 29,000 entrants this year is indeed ahead of even that three-year acceleration. But if the noble Lords replying from the other side are able to give me the figure, I think it would be interesting to know what proportion of these 29,000 people are women and what proportion are men.
I would echo what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said in paying a real tribute to the colleges of education for the efforts they have made to achieve these figures. They have shown a tremendous determination that, in spite of every difficulty, any candidate who is qualified to enter shall find a place. But this has put them to a great number of 1288 expedients in the form of taking day students and of finding accommodation outside the colleges, and has led to a severe overcrowding of the communal facilities at the colleges. The common rooms, libraries, washrooms, kitchens are all suffering under the tremendous strain of over-population; and the Government, instead of helping them, have merely postponed all new building for six months. It does not seem very fair on them to single them out in this way, especially when the Minister, Mr. Crosland, has often repeated that he will give top priority to the recruitment of teachers. The very fact that we have been able to increase the number of teachers in training in the way that has been done recently must, I think, be credited in some part to the fact that, under the previous Government, between 1960 and 1964, we instituted £60 million worth of starts in training college building, and it is on this basis that the present expansion has taken place; but it will not be possible to expand much further until the Government relax on the building controls.
One final point, on the question of teacher recruitment. It has been proposed on many occasions that a further supply of teachers might be found from courses in regional technical colleges. This is a very attractive proposal, and I believe that it is being actively considered. I hope that, in that consideration, every attention will be paid to the fact that it should be firmly linked to the present system of teacher-training, and that standards must be fully maintained. I hope that, before any arrangements are entered into for these types of courses, there will be the fullest consultation with all the parties concerned.
We have heard a great deal of educational controversy recently on questions such as comprehensive schools and public schools, but in my opinion by far the most important subjects in the educational system are some of those that we have been discussing to-day—the supply and training of teachers above all else, and the whole field of post-school education, on one important part of which we have touched by way of higher education. I am sure that we must all be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, for enabling us to discuss it to-day.
§ 4.49 p.m.
My Lords, when two years ago the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, published his Report, it was received with tremendous acclaim from nearly every quarter as being one of the really important statements on education for almost a whole generation. Then, one by one, the specific suggestions were dropped or shelved first by the previous Government and then by this one. Therefore, this might be the moment for the good Liberal to say, "There is no difference between one Front Bench and the other", and to come out strongly in this case for the noble Lord. But I am afraid that my immediate reaction is not so much to think that they, the two Governments, must be wrong, but to feel that they may well be right.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, to-day made a most formidable defence of his statement; and really what this debate is about is: What has happened to Robbins? I should like to try to meet the noble: Lord's arguments on his main point, the binary system. But before I do that, I should like to say this. If the Robbins Report has done nothing else, it has refuted the doctrine of "more means worse"; and that is of immense importance. For that alone it remains a very valuable statement.
This Government and the Government before it have, as I have said, rejected the noble Lord's solution, first because they thought the places for this "crash" increase in the numbers of students could be found more cheaply in non-university institutions and, secondly, because of the very considerable weight of opinion against the proposal in the universities in the local education authorities (though I know that the noble Lord will question the value of their support) and, indeed, among the technical teachers. It was rejected in favour of the present two types of higher education which we call the binary system.
'The noble Lord and his colleague, Professor Claus Moser, regard this as "this saddening split" between the universities, on the one hand, and the rest of higher education, on the other. He suggests that really able students are not going to be willing to choose technical institutions of education when they can get a place at a, university; that, in fact, the universities, under this dual system 1290 are going to cream off the best students. I wonder whether this is really true? Obviously, it is a danger; but I do not believe it is quite as grave a danger as is another that I feel existed in the noble Lord's proposals—namely, the danger of a split between the schools, on the one hand, and the universities, on the other. It seemed to me that part of the noble Lord's proposals—that of two separate Ministers—would have led to such a split, which might have been worse than that which he now fears, between the rest of higher education and the universities.
I will not say that the game was given away, but there seemed to be an indication of this in a remark by the Vice Chancellor of one of the more important universities who said that the schools have now been preferred to the universities since the Robbins recommendation to give the universities their own voice in the Government—that is, the idea of two separate Ministries—has been thrown out. I think that is indicative of the kind of split that might have arisen. For that reason I feel that the split that could have arisen between the schools and the universities was a more serious danger than the split the noble Lord fears between the universities and the technological institutions. For the same reason, I feel that his fears of jealousy between the Departments on these two sides are unfounded. In fact, doing away with the noble Lord's proposal of having two separate movements has lessened the danger of jealousy between the two Departments.
I do not mean for one moment to suggest that there is no danger of a split here. I think there exists a very grave danger, which I do not want to minimise in any way. I think the noble Lord was right in suggesting that there could be a split between what has come to be called the public sector and the autonomous sector. All I mean to stress is that to me the danger of the other split is greater. Nevertheless, it is obviously very important for the Government to try to make bridges between the two; because the binary system clearly can, and there is a danger that it may, create a split. In fact, it has been suggested to me that such a split has already happened in universities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham, which were designed to 1291 some extent, one might say, even as far as their buildings are concerned, along these ideals of the binary system. One could here be threatened with a split which might be socially divisive and creative of artificial barriers.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, could the noble Lord perhaps elucidate his remark about London University being so designed as to facilitate the binary system?
My Lords, it would take a very long time to try to explain what I mean, but it seems to me that the possibility of a split could arise. What I am trying to get at is that I do not deny that there is a danger of a split, which the noble Lord fears so greatly, within the system. I think it is possible that in certain universities—perhaps I am wrong about London University—there has been a tendency for [...] to take place.
However, there is another aspect here. There is a split which could take place in the present arrangements. I wonder whether perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, who will be making a maiden speech to-day, could say something about this. This other aspect is connected with the National Council for Academic Awards. In this particular case the Government are proposing to use money which was for the expansion of teacher training for the establishment of larger departments of education in regional technical colleges. In principle I do not think anyone would deny that that is a perfectly reasonable proposition; but there seems to be great objection among the Association of Teachers in Training Colleges and Departments of Education and Directors of University Institutes of Education, to the suggestion that the degree given by these education departments should be issued under the ægis of the N.C.A.A. I think this is something which the Government might well look into, because it seems to be arousing a storm of protest among teachers of all kinds; and this, too, is something which could produce a split. Those are arguments against the binary system.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, interrupted me because he thought I had not made myself clear on the particular 1292 point of where a split might arise, although on this aspect I was arguing in his favour. But I am bound to say that, although I keep an open mind on the subject of the binary system, I think on balance we have gone so far that it will be very difficult to extricate ourselves from it. I think it is arguable that we seem to have met and even passed targets that the noble Lord put forward in his proposal. In fact, as the noble Lord said at the beginning of his speech, discussion on the question of numbers is virtually finished. The other argument in favour of the system is that we probably cannot afford more anyway.
This is not really an argument which takes one very far; at any rate, it is only—shall we say?—a temporary argument. Nevertheless, there are certain arguments with which I am more impressed, arising out of certain of the proposals of the noble Lord, which seem to me to point in the same direction. I think it is better in principle to have big universities in big towns rather than a lot of small universities in small towns. I do not say that is always true, and I do not press the matter, but there are arguments in favour of it, such as the question of libraries, student accommodation and that sort of thing.
Possibly the noble Lord was a little unkind to Oxford and Cambridge—I took this to be so—in his strictures on the purists in universities. There are certain aspects, particularly of those two universities, which one must not underestimate, and any attempt to try to make all universities up to the same kind of standard might well detract from their value and produce the wrong kind of egalitarianism. But, on balance, I tend to come down in favour of the Government's proposals for a binary system.
There is one last point which I should like to urge; it is that something be done about the University Grants Commission. It seems to have got into a jam. It appears to be quite unable to take on itself those responsibilities which the noble Lord urged should be thrust upon it. It seems to meet relatively infrequently, and a great many of its members appear to be so heavily committed to other work that they cannot be more than part-time members. If one has nothing but whole-time members there is a tendency for a body to become merely 1293 another department of the Civil Service. I do not know whether the suggestion put forward that dons should be seconded to it for a couple of years, and then come back to ordinary academic life, is a good one. It seems to me quite sensible. It would mean that the body would be a university committee and not, as it were, a Civil Service committee. Obviously it must have much greater facilities in the direction of money, secretariat and that sort of thing.
Moreover there is the issue of independence. There seems to be a difference between the noble Lord and the Government concerning the amount of independence that the University Grants Commission should have. Obviously, no one would deny that such an organisation must be completely independent: that is the essence of the freedom of a university. But one gathers that the Commission is perfectly willing to fall into line with the general strategy of the whole policy of education, when in fact this can be known. I gather that there is a Committee under Sir Willis Jackson which is almost ready to report on the question of manpower, which might make it more easy for the Commission to give the sort of direction, and at the same time be within the national strategy, which such a body could give.
My Lords, I cannot say that I have given a very clear indication of what is the policy of noble Lords on these Benches with regard to the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I can go so far as to say that, on balance, I am inclined to think that the Government and the Government before them were right, and that the noble Lord was wrong. I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord that there are many and grave dangers with regard to a split, and that is something which the Government must watch closely in order to prevent it from arising between universities on the one hand and technical colleges on the other. I am also inclined to believe that we have gone so far in a direction away from the suggestions of the noble Lord that it is probably not possible to go back to them.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF TECHNOLOGY (LORD SNOW)
My Lords, I should like to begin by telling a joke 1294 against myself. When the Robbins Committee was set up I received an invitation to join it. I know the origin of that invitation through no great skill of mine—it was the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I know, because the noble Lord told me himself. I declined the invitation. I was in fact busy at the time, but my real reason for declining it was that I could not believe that any Committee of this type could possibly be radical enough. Little did I know! In fact, I was astonished at the extraordinary originality, thoroughness and humanity with which this operation was conducted. It put to shame the pessimistic evidence which I gave before the Committee, saying that I thought we had gone too far and sunk too deeply into established ways to reform our higher education in time. I should have been deeply proud to have been a member of the Committee and signed its Report. I believe it to be one of the great State documents of our time.
Although the noble Lord has not been specially kind to the Government this afternoon, I should like to tell him from the Government that we feel that the history of higher education in this country divides into two sections, one pre-Robbins, and one post-Robbins. It is true that the noble Lord has been attacked in various quarters, and I would repeat to him the statement of the 19th century Russian poet Nekrasov:If you say anything with meaning, the test of it is that you make the right enemies.In fact, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has made exactly the right enemies.
That said, I would divide our discussion to-day into two parts. The noble Lord is enough for any man to take on alone, and so I propose to deal with his remarks, his criticisms, with the exception of those on the future of the teacher training colleges. My noble friend the Leader of the House will deal with the teacher training colleges and with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. So, with your Lordships' permission, I shall confine myself to those parts of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, with which we agree, and a part with which we do not agree. I should say that if we have this in perspective, the Government are far more in agreement with the noble Lord than 1295 he appears to realise, and that we believe in the essential part.
The great statements of the Robbins Report are now established doctrine. They revolutionised higher education in this country, and I am going to take two matters which are now settled beyond all doubt. The first is the question of expansion, or simply numbers. This has been done. The Robbins Committee made it quite clear that it was necessary for our society to do it, both to carry out the work that we must do in order to earn a living, and in order to become a more humane society. These two activities do not conflict; they run exactly hand in hand. That has been achieved, settled, and is no longer the main argument.
As most of your Lordships probably know, the figures set by the Robbins Report for this academic year, 1965–66, have been slightly exceeded. The Report says that we should have 173,000 students in the universities. The total is actually less than that—168,000—but in other departments of higher education we have appreciably increased on the Robbins requirements, and instead of having 290,000 young men and women in various types of higher education at this moment, we have something between 295,000 and 300,000. This is a remarkable achievement. It makes one feel that things really can happen. It is worth reminding your Lordships that the exactly comparable figure in 1938–39 was 69,000—only just over one-fifth of the figure now—and society then was not so different from ours. It meant that we grossly miscalculated what should be done, what was necessary and good to do.
We heard a great deal of ignorant and foolish comment about how this expansion would mean a diminution in quality of which Robbins had no conception. I think that all this nonsense has been swept way. The phrase that "more will mean worse" is no longer heard, except in the more disreputable parts of academic society. Curiously enough, that phrase has been used almost since higher education began in this country. You will find that it was said with just the same confidence in 1911, when we were educating a tiny number of people. I used to hear it in Cambridge 1296 in the 'thirties. "We could not possibly have any more students," they used to say; "we are already scraping the bottom of the barrel." The deep statistical inquiries which are included in the Robbins Report, and, I must say, the human spirit behind them—because it takes a generous human spirit to want to educate more people, rather than fewer—these two approaches, one scientific and one human, have laid this bit of nonsense for ever.
We still have the highest standard of admission to universities of any country in the world, by a long way. There is absolutely no sign, judging from all the evidence one can collect, from one's own experience and from the experience of academic friends, that there has been any diminution in quality whatsoever. All the arguments are on the other side. So this, thank God!, we can now forget. But I take it somewhat amiss that persons, so far as I know, without any record of scholarship behind them, should think that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and a Government which includes an Adviser who is the present President of the Royal Society and a good many ex-dons, should not have any sense of the qualitative needs of education. I find it bizarre that this was ever said. In fact, we are spending a good deal of time on precisely this aspect of the whole educational task.
I myself have been deeply involved in a scheme to try to track down mathematical talent wherever it arises. Mathematical talent happens to be rare. It is the most classless of talents, and it also has the advantage that it is the easiest to detect and predict. May I mention a curious piece of private enterprise? Mr. Young, a master at Manchester Grammar School, aided and abetted by Professor Heyman, of Imperial College, started a kind of mathematical Olympiad, on the Russian model, purely as a private venture, to attract boys to the subject and test their skills in very difficult exercises. This has now been helped by Mr. Maurice Goldsmith and the Guinness Foundation and they are getting some remarkable results, with which I shall weary your Lordships on some later occasion. This desire to spot talent is going to be a continuing preoccupation, not only of this Government but of all sensible Governments. Mathematics happens to be an easy case, and that was 1297 why we gave it our attention first; but we shall try to do this in other fields of human enterprise so far as we can.
The second point on which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has made a final contribution is his discussion on academic freedom and its relation to universities in a modern society. Universities are odd creations, and the conception of academic freedom is a recent one. It would have meant absolutely nothing to a mediæval university—in fact, it would have meant a great deal of trouble if the idea had been advanced. Though one can see the tiny flickerings of what we should now call the desire for academic freedom rather earlier, the real flowering came in the nineteenth century, as part of the general enlightenment. It is absolutely necessary for universities to have this freedom.
The noble Lord, Lord Henley, is entirely wrong in thinking that there is any division whatever between the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and the Government on this point. We are absolutely with him on every word he uttered, both on the need for academic freedom and on the way in which that freedom must work within the framework of modern society and of extremely expensive and State-run universities. The problem here is a little different from what it is in America—for here we have no private universities of any kind. I think this is a point which is not generally realised. People think of Oxford and Cambridge as rich and famous universities. Famous they certainly are; rich they are not, by contemporary standards. Both of them are supported by the State to the extent, I think, of something like 70 per cent. They could not possibly function as modern universities unless they were State-supported.
There had to be a device by which academic freedom could be maintained in a society which was paying large sums of public money to finance the universities—formidable State finance. We are now spending directly nearly £200 million a year on our universities. It was for this that the University Grants Committee was invented, as a device to interpose a sort of one-way buffer between the Treasury, supplying the money, and the universities, receiving it. So far, so good. I think that no one doubts that, though we have no private universities in this country, our universities are as free as 1298 any in the world. We have every intention that that freedom shall not in any way be altered or affected by an inch.
Now I would weary your Lordships a little by discussing what academic freedom means, and what it does not mean. I am going to take an example and use a character called Murgatroyd. He is a young man of eighteen who has suitable qualifications to enter a university and a passionate desire to read Coptic. He goes to one university and they say, perfectly reasonably, that they do not consider Coptic a suitable exercise for an undergraduate to study. That is completely within their freedom. But finally he gets into a university which I will call Stamford after one of the oldest, though ill-fated of English universities. At Stamford he finds a university which is willing to let him read Coptic, which he does. It is within that university's freedom to prescribe those courses, to examine him, to pass him or fail him, and to do all such things. There can be no conceivable academic interference of any kind from the State at any point. The persons who instruct him are appointed by Stamford University.
Finally, Murgatroyd does very well. He does research in the university. No one will interfere with the university's schemes for arranging his research, for the way in which they examine his research, and so on. All this is a part, and a necessary part, of academic freedom. It is also—and this is sometimes forgotten—not a one-sided operation. Academic freedom is sometimes described as though it meant simply the freedom of the persons running the university. Murgatroyd will have his own freedoms, also. Provided that he does not contravene the law of the land, he is, or should be if he is appointed finally to the staff of Stamford University, able to publish as he wishes, wherever his inquiries may lead, and, further, to speak his mind on any subjects he feels inclined to do. This particular kind of academic freedom has often not been observed in most important universities. All this, I think, any sensible men will agree.
What, however, would not be a very sensible use of academic freedom would be if the University of Stamford, giddy with Murgatroyd's success, suddenly made Coptic a compulsory subject for all 1299 students. This is still within their freedom, and they could not be affected; but I think they would find that their entry would very soon drop. But imagine that they got even more inflated, and they want to build a gigantic Coptic library costing £1 million, much the biggest in the world. This is where the University Grants Committee come in. Using the delicate words of the Robbins Report, ithas the power and the right to allocate and to deny.I should feel that perhaps this particular library would not come very high on their list of priorities for a given year. This is the way in which this sensible, subtle and delicate relation must operate. The University Grants Committee must eliminate waste. It is absurd in modern circumstances if in fact eight universities in this country try to do exactly the same kind of expensive research. It is here that the information, the influence, and finally the allocation and denial of funds by the University Grants Committee become of first importance. This seems to me to be in no sense whatever an infringement of academic freedom. We have to get it clear that this is the function that the University Grants Committee must perform.
There is another one of the same sort. It is clear that, in the long run, the universities must provide society with the people whom society wants. Otherwise, the operations become entirely unrealistic, and I would say, more than that, entirely unhuman, because society is part of mankind. What you learn at universities, and the jobs you do after it, are all part of the same continuing. Therefore, there should be a relation between what is required at any time by the country and what the universities are producing. This is not at all an easy thing to work out. None of us is very good at predicting what the country will really need in, say, 1970. We can make good guesses. We know that we cannot go far wrong if people have general training in mathematics, physics, and similar hard disciplines. They are fairly easily changed to other skills, and probably the more elastic the education the better. But it is never going to be easy.
The University Grants Committee must at least, by disseminating the best in 1300 formation it can get among the universities, lead them to a sensible view of the problem. No university wants to produce a large number of unemployed graduates. The unemployed graduate in any society can be an awkward and disagreeable creature, and, of course, is a shocking human waste. So no university would want to do this on a large scale, and no ordinary student wants to be an unemployed graduate. So this particular problem will probably be solved to a considerable extent by the pure dissemination of information.
The excellent Report which the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said was about to be published, has actually been published; that is, the Report of the Willis-Jackson Committee. This Committee is working very close to the University Grants Committee, and has a great deal of wisdom about all manpower problems—manpower problems which, incidentally, the more I do my particular job seem to be about 50 per cent. of our future problems. So there we have a satisfactory arrangement about academic freedom, and the result of it is that our universities at the moment—lively, vigorous, with more students than ever in history—are taking on a considerably greater inventiveness, in administrative forms at least, than they have at any time, certainly in my lifetime; and I think one has to go a long way back to find any similar flowering.
We have universities like Manchester and Birmingham—by the way, it is always irritating when people think that in this country there are only Oxford and Cambridge and very new universities. Manchester is a great university, with an astonishing record of scholarship, and it has never had the full country-wide recognition that it deserves. Manchester and Birmingham are performing a most interesting experiment with courses of the type in which I am interested—a school of liberal studies for science, something on the lines of modern greats for scientists; and Birmingham are doing something of the same kind. There really is a change all through the university world. There is extreme liveliness and much ground for hope. There, again, we are in complete agreement with, and indeed grateful to, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins.
1301 There are two points on which we disagree. One of them, to my mind, is really quite trivial, and that is the machinery of ministerial responsibility for university education. In fact, the elimination of the second Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education and Science has no meaning apart from a purely mechanical one. Though I am not working there, I see a great deal of it, and the university side, which is run by my honourable friend Mr. Prentice, is in effect autonomous, and would only go to the Minister if there were a serious financial crisis or a serious division of opinion. The reason which the noble Lord gave for having separate Ministers was that the status and liberties of universities could not otherwise be completely guaranteed. I should have thought that in this country the status and liberties of the universities were as high, or as closely guarded, as anywhere on earth; and the requirement that there should be a Minister who can, if necessary, appeal to the Cabinet Committee, or to the Cabinet, does not seem to me to make any difference whatsoever.
No-one liked the recent cuts in university building. No noble Lord can possibly believe that anyone in Government liked this harsh necessity. It had to come to a choice between school building and university building—or it could be regarded as a choice between the two. It was a very hard choice. I think that, on the whole, if the responsibility had been mine, I should have made exactly the same choice. It would not have been different if there had been a Minister for universities alone who had the right of appeal to the Cabinet.
When one thinks of it, the idea that the universities need to have someone to speak for them seems to me a little fanciful. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has said some hard things about universities—and so have I in my time—but neither of us has ever suggested that they are bashful in speaking up for themselves. No organised body in this country is as good at making its representations felt. So this minor argument about the machinery of Government seems to be one that we can safely leave. It is in fact settled. I cannot believe that it makes any difference one way or the other.
1302 The final and magnificent cavalry charge of the noble Lord is much more formidable—his attack on us for lamentable behaviour over the teacher-training colleges (which I shall leave, as I say, to my noble friend the Leader of the House), and his almost equally martial approach over what is called the binary system. Let us be slightly more concrete about the binary system. The noble Lord knows as well as I do that, however we arrange higher education, there are bound to be a great many institutions all over the place directly responsible to the Department of Education and Science—area colleges and the like. The only real argument is whether a very few institutions at the top of this particular tree should be encouraged, within a finite time, to imagine that university status is the only right goal for man.
§ LORD SNOW
It has been stated that the position will remain as it is, certainly for ten years.
This is the argument between us: that a number of excellent institutions should remain within the State system, within what is called, again somewhat oddly, the public sector, for a time, while we see whether this is a reasonable method of conducting a different sort of higher education. This seems to me by no means unreasonable. Indeed, as I listened with my usual admiration to the noble Lord, I felt that lie had been seduced by the very snobbery which he was condemning in us—that in fact he showed no conception that anything but a university should really be the ultimately desirable form of advanced higher education; that this must, in his view, be the only way in which serious academic business can be conducted. I do not believe that. It is certainly worth trying to see whether an alternative can be found.
I suspect that this is very English. If two of us found ourselves on a desert island, and knew that we had to spend twenty years there, we should no doubt make some form of higher education for ourselves. We should probably invent two different forms, and one would have a social cache much higher than the other. In the same way, we have an unfortunate habit of inventing social 1303 trappings about any conceivable educational device which we may put up. This is an English failing, and it is a pity. I have recently been to one of the best of all English colleges of technology, the Rutherford College, Newcastle. I have the greatest admiration for this institution. I talked to a large group of students only last week, and I echo the noble Lord's remarks here. They are certainly as good as, and in many ways better than, any university audience I have talked to recently. They were quick, receptive, highly intelligent, and very articulate—excellent.
Further, this College makes a determined effort to make technology into a humane education—that is, both the results and human purposes of technology are seriously taught, and so are the arts as we normally understand them. Everyone there does about 15 per cent. of his time on non-technological subjects—very much like M.I.T. This excellent institution, and many like it (there are about six to ten like it, perhaps more), can possibly serve the country better, and possibly give a better, though somewhat different, education if they remain directly financed by the State, by local authorities and so on, than if they become one of the more standard university type institutions financed by the University Grants Committee.
One reason—there are quite a number of reasons—why we think this is that they have deep local ties with industry, which are extremely valuable. At another college which I know quite well, Rugby, there are large local firms who are actively and intimately concerned with the college at every stage. If they want another kind of postgraduate education, it can be laid on almost at once. If they want someone to have a year on machine-tool design, this can be arranged very much more quickly than it can in a university which would not have such direct links.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but this is an important point. Could he tell us the difference between the institutions that he is now describing, such as Newcastle, Rugby, and so on, and the colleges of advanced technology which are now in process of passing into the autonomous field?
§ LORD SNOW
My Lords, I should much dislike to attempt to find a difference, but I do not regard the autonomous field as the ultimate heaven which all colleges should automatically aspire to. I find that many of my friends at Rutherford College, Newcastle, were entirely satisfied that this could be made a good thing. But it will need effort. If we are to continue with this plan of keeping such colleges within the public sector, then we must put a lot of effort into it.
We must see that they have intimate contact with the universities, as happens at Newcastle. They have exchanges of staff; professors from the university go to lecture there, and so on and so forth. Students have apparently excellent relations. We have to see that they get prestige—that is to say, we must be as willing to visit them and talk to them, as we are all willing to talk to universities. All this must be done. We must encourage private endowment for these establishments. The English are not good at endowments. When I think of the amount a minor American college can raise every year, and think of what Cambridge could do in the same field, I always find myself very much ashamed. We want some of the local industries to help to give the kind of pleasant luxuries which all institutions of higher education require.
Also, much more important than any of these, we must see that they have the same climate of freedom that the universities already enjoy. This is merely a matter of intelligent discussion and an intelligent and strong-willed decision about certain administrative features. Once that is done, then the freedom which is already there to a large extent will be as great as in any university, just as in a good State university in America, which in fact is under more rigorous control than any private university or any British university: Wisconsin, for instance, has as much freedom as one could wish. If we can manage this, then there are good chances that we may get a different, and in some ways more inventive, sector of education, one in which we are willing to teach young men and women who are not analytically intelligent but have three-dimensional gifts (the kind about which I have a bee in my own bonnet)—the sort of people who can 1305 think in solid terms and make the best of our designers.
Therefore, while we recognise the seriousness of the noble Lord's criticisms and, I might say, appreciate his ebullient and cheerful force, we are still convinced that this is worth pursuing. No Government could possibly say that anything is fixed forever, and particularly no Government dedicated to change, even if it wanted to. We do not say that; we are saying that we are going to give it a fair run. My Lords, I have talked for too long, but I should like to finish with this comment. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, warned us, and rightly, against complacency. Things are much better, although very far from perfect, but it is perhaps a time to count our blessings; we are doing better than we were. Spiritually and materially we are at least partly equipped to face our future. We have been given a fighting chance. If that is so, as I believe, then no single man deserves the credit so much as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD MURRAY OF NEWHAVEN
My Lords, I ask the indulgence of your Lordships on my first address to your Lordships' House. In opening the debate the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, made a brief reference to the problem of the appropriate machinery of government. He spoke with, I think, a certain amount of unease of what has happened since his Report came out, and in spite of what the noble Lords, Lord Aberdare and Lord Snow, have said, I should like, with your permission, to take this argument a little further.
I have very much the same unease as he has about these developments. But what is much more important is that there is much more concern in the universities (and in the universities, of course, I include the colleges of advanced technology) than many people suppose, and I think it is regrettable. Whether this concern is justified or unjustified I am not prepared at this moment to say, but it is regrettable that this feeling of concern should be felt in the universities just at this moment when they are being asked to do a very great deal, when there are severe limitations on their resources, and when it is particularly important that they 1306 should have confidence in the policy of the Government.
Your Lordships will recall that the Robbins Committee accepted the view that responsibility for higher education should move out of the Treasury elsewhere. I will not bore you with too much detail, but the Committee put forward the proposal that there should be two Ministries, one of Arts and Science, dealing with that section of higher education which should and must be autonomous, and the other a Ministry of Education dealing with the schools and other locally controlled institutions of further education.
I think it is worth recalling that this Committee, which spent two and a half years examining the subject, came out with a nine to one majority against the idea of what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, referred to to-day as one gigantic department embracing comprehensively all education, science and the arts; and, I would add, because it is sometimes forgotten, that these institutions of higher education are not concerned solely with the education of undergraduates: perhaps as much as one half of their effort is devoted to the advancement of science and to the advancement of knowledge and to research. They have a dual function which is sometimes overlooked, so that this central Ministry not only controls all education, from the kindergarten to the end of the university career, but also has the responsibility of furthering the advancement of knowledge and research, at least in the civil field.
I think it is worth recalling (I will do so as briefly as possible) why the Robbins Committee came to the decision against the establishment of a single Minister or Secretary of State for Education with control of the whole field of education and research. First, there is the width of the responsibilities, running, as I have said, from the kindergarten to institutions covering the most advanced and most sophisticated forms of research. Secondly, there is the increasing size of these responsibilities—and your Lordships will recall that to-day the Department of Education and Science is responsible, either directly or indirectly, for an expenditure of £1,400 million a year; and if the plans, and the trends envisaged in those plans, continue, this sum may well be nearer £4,000 million in something like fifteen years. 1307 This is an unparalleled responsibility, either direct or indirect, for any single Minister.
Thirdly, and I think most important, the Robbins Committee pointed out that the pattern of administration for higher education, which calls for a marked degree of autonomy, and for education in schools and locally controlled institutions of further education, is totally different. I am glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Snow, that he has no doubts in his own mind about the need for autonomy and the desirability of granting autonomy to these institutions of higher education. Perhaps one of the most enlivening experiences during my period in the University Grants Committee was to see the lively growth in strength of such universities as those at Nottingham, Southampton, Exeter, Hull and Leicester, which were granted their full degree of autonomy about twelve years ago. These, I think, almost more than any of the other older universities, have progressed and grown in strength solely because they were given command of their own destinies.
Finally, there is a widely held fear—as I have said, it may be justified or it may not, but the fact that it exists is bad—that the complete absorption of the universities and the Research Councils into one Ministry might result m the subordination of the interests of higher education to the greater natural preoccupation of a Department with its major field of expenditure in the schools and institutions of further education. Likewise, I am not myself convinced that it is in the interests of the schools to be teamed up with the autonomous institutions within the same administrative machinery. These are some of the reasons underlying the Robbins Committee's view, and the universities' view, on the advisability of not having one large central Ministry.
What has happened in the last two years since the Robbins Committee put forward their views? We have heard to-night about some of them. It is said that they are matters of minor importance. But we found immediately afterwards, under the last Government, that a compromise was reached whereby there was one Ministry, but within that Ministry two very distinct patterns and lines of 1308 administration, kept distinct by the appointment of two Permanent Secretaries and, consequently, two Accounting Officers, the one dealing with the autonomous institutions of higher education and the other with the schools and locally controlled further education. The present Government, according to the view from the universities, strengthened these lines of demarcation. They not only maintained the two Permanent Secretaries, but allocated their duties to the Ministers of State, under the Secretary of State, on the same differential basis. There was in fact one Minister of State responsible for the autonomous institutions and higher education and other Ministers responsible for the other areas of other education.
Recent decisions, however, have destroyed this concept. The duties of the two Permanent Secretaries and Accounting Officers have been merged into one, and in the recent ministerial reshuffle the Minister of State within the Department with responsibilities for the autonomous institutions has also been given responsibilities for the other forms of further education. He is now straddling higher education and research with locally administered institutions of further education. The lines of demarcation have been erased, and what the universities considered to be the safeguards of this dual system have now disappeared. And it is the case, I think, that higher education, like the young lady of Riga, has, after a very short ride, disappeared inside the tiger. It is this blurring of the two patterns within what some of the universities consider to be a monolithic Department that is causing concern, and there is the general fear that higher education and research will suffer from this centralisation of administrative arrangements.
There are certain straws blowing in the wind, and it is only fair to mention them. They may be disproved, but these views are widely held. As the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has said, the Government's attitude towards the status of the teacher-training colleges has been noted by the universities. They are wondering why there is this strong reluctance to delegate responsibilities to institutions which they think manifestly deserve those degrees of autonomy, and, in fact, degrees of responsibility which 1309 have been given, with marked success, to the teacher-training colleges in Scotland. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Snow, has said—and I say this with very great deference—there has been one very serious encroachment in one institution by the Department in that most vital of all academic freedoms, the appointment of staff. This also is becoming known. Then again, rightly or wrongly, the recent cuts are held to have affected the universities more than other branches of education.
It is signs of this kind that are causing concern in the universities about this blurring of responsibilities within the Department. I drew some comfort from Lord Snow's remark that there is nothing sinister in these changes. It may well be the Government's policy to return towards a clearer demarcation of responsibilities within the Ministry. But if that is the Government's intention, I would suggest, with due deference, that some such declaration of intent would do a great deal of good at the present time. As I said before, there are great pressures on the universities. They are working extremely hard to meet what they are told are the national needs, and I think it would create a greater confidence, and relieve anxieties, if at any rate some indication were given that these fears were unfounded and that there was going to be some return, not necessarily as far as the Robbins Committee recommended, but certainly in that direction.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, it is for me an unusual, indeed a unique, experience to rise to speak in this House with any sensation of pleasure at all. But to-day, at any rate for the first few seconds, there is genuine pleasure because it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, on what everyone must have thought to be an extraordinarily effective maiden speech, and my pleasure in congratulating him on that is in no way lessened by the fact that I scarcely agreed with a single word which he said. It was my pleasure, my privilege, to sit under his chairmanship for a number of years when he was Chairman of the University Grants Committee, and he brought to that task knowledge and independence, and not only those qualities but also humanity; and I am sure that he will bring those 1310 same qualities to his contributions to this House. It is appropriate that he should have made his maiden speech in this important debate.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has revealed with, if I may say so, characteristically great power some, at any rate, of the problems that are in the minds of those of us who work in the universities. All I can do—and I want to bring the whole thing down to a much more sort of squalid level because I want to say some things about money—and what I want to do and think I ought to do, is to look at some of those questions from the point of view of someone whose everyday job it is to be concerned with the building up of a new university.
Let us take our minds back two years to the atmosphere following the publication of the Robbins Report, that great document. To those of us who believe in what might be called an expansionist policy, it brought encouragement and it brought hope. The central achievement of that Report—and we must not allow disagreements over particular parts to obscure it—was to demonstrate, with as formidable a statistical case as any report on education has ever had, that expansion of the universities and higher education in general was possible and necessary and it could be done without lowering standards. That is the heart of the Robbins Report. That central proposition was not accepted by everyone in the academic world; it is not universally accepted in the academic world to-day. But by and large it is accepted, and I must confess that I find it difficult to see how anyone faced with the flood of well-qualified applicants that every university now receives could doubt it.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, quite rightly drew attention to the somewhat alarming situation in physics, a situation which we all deplore and which arises from a number of complex circumstances, some of which were forecast by poor, ignorant schoolmasters years ago, which I will not go into now. We regret that short-fall, but it is not an absolute shortfall. The numbers taking "A" level in physics are going up. It is the proportion in relation to arts which is slightly falling. The additional evidence of the past two years has simply shown that, if the Robbins figures are wrong at all, they are probably underestimates.
1311 The need for this expansion was at once accepted by the then Government two years ago—I am anticipating recriminations—and the universities prepared themselves for the effort that would be demanded. A genuine head of steam was generated in them. And what happened? One thing that happened was that we were told the global capital sums that would be available to us for building over the next few years—not for individual universities, but for all of us. These figures are as follows. From January 1, 1965 to the end of March, 1966 (for Treasury reasons it has to be over fifteen months), the amount for all university building was to be £54.5 million; for 1966–67, the amount allocated was £33 million; and the provisional amounts for the two following years were to be £25 million a year. There are the figures—£54 million, £33 million, £25 million, and £25 million. Those figures not only include the existing universities, not only new universities—only three of which existed when this was published—but include also a new university in Scotland which is now in the planning stage and which is being pushed forward with great energy. They included, moreover, the colleges of advanced technology—advanced expanding institutions which would by this time be universities. So this great expansion of English university education that we had all been looking forward to—and we were all convinced of the need for it—rested on capital expenditures of £54 million, £33 million, £25 million, and £25 million. If that represents a great move forward, one really wonders what a great move backward would look like. That was the first thing that happened.
However, the universities were asked to submit to the University Grants Committee the contributions which they were prepared to make to meet the critical situation of the bulge. In fact, the expansion required was over-subscribed. Some of us, even if we felt we were in a particularly favourable position to accelate our expansion, were told that our efforts would not be required. That is fair enough—if expansion could be done more cheaply elsewhere, let us go to the cheapest market. There is little doubt that the figures of university numbers for this year and for next will 1312 be on the Robbins target. This is a triumph for the universities, it is a triumph for the U.G.C., and it is also partly a triumph—honesty compels me to say so—for the Department. I mention the U.G.C. because I think that their efforts over the past two years, which must have been a time of very considerable difficulty for that Committee, have been superb. I speak as someone who has fought some rugged battles with them and who hopes to fight some more.
But what else has happened to the Robbins Report? As all your Lordships know and have been told this afternoon, in July this year we were told by a different Government that, with certain exceptions for special areas, we could start no new buildings for which contracts had not been signed, for a period of six months. Now, six months has little significance for an academic institution. We do not admit students every six months; we admit them once a year. In fact, what was being said was that the universities were being faced with a delay of one year in some vital buildings. Here again was something that depressed university morale, because it was so at variance with national needs and with the mood which the Robbins Report had created. My own reaction, I must confess, was to be bewildered, not so much because of the effect which this pause might have had on my own university, but because of the sheer irrationality of the measure. It seemed to be done on no recognisable basis of priorities.
When I read the list of excepted areas in my region, and realised that if, in a moment of aberration, my own university had been founded at Bridlington instead of at York, I could have gone on with our development plan without question; when one saw that school building could go on—and I wish the noble Lord, Lord Snow, were here at the moment because he quite rightly wrung our hearts about the school building programme—and that buildings in which teachers would be trained to use those buildings were being suspended, one wondered what had happened to all one's Left-wing hopes of a rationally planned economy. I must say here that I am not fighting a private war for my own university. Owing to our contractual arrangements, my own university has been affected by this freeze 1313 a great deal less than it might have been, but that was a matter of good fortune, not a matter of national policy.
What does all this add up to? Your Lordships will say that it all adds up to a disgruntled Vice-Chancellor saying he has not enough money. But it does not, because although we shall for the present attain the present target, although in many ways the universities have not done badly, yet one cannot but feel that some of the impetus and drive of the Robbins Report is in danger of being succeeded by a degree of disillusionment and, above all, uncertainty. Of one thing I am now quite sure, and that is that if the Robbins Report is to make sense we need a completely new approach to the financing of universities. The present situation is that a university knows its approximate income for running expenses for five years ahead, yet it is lucky if it knows how much capital it will have to spend on new buildings for eighteen months or two years ahead.
How is it possible to make rational estimates of the money one needs for running costs when one has no firm estimates of the number of students one can accommodate? How is it possible to plan the ordered development which we require over five, six, or seven years when all one has is faith and guesswork to go on? Surely we need a much bolder and more long-term approach, and if we were prepared to make more use, for example, of negotiated contracts, of long-term planning, it would undoubtedly, in my view, save very considerable sums of money.
Secondly, I believe that the method of calculating grants for the current expenditure has to be related to student numbers. A simple per capita formula will manifestly not do in view of the variations in costs between students reading different subjects and the necessity for making special provision for graduates and, above all, for research. But it is surely possible and necessary to devise a more sophisticated arrangement by which a university will have greater assurance that expansion will bring with it the means to support it, so that it can develop without the fear that one will actually be penalised by increasing poverty if one responds to manifest social pressures by expanding rather faster than at one time 1314 appeared possible, or fear to develop and encourage strong research schools because one knows that one may be unable to support them.
Our present arrangements—the quinquennial grant for recurrent expenditure; the capital grant when you can get it—may work well in a time of very slow change or no change at all, but this is not such a period. By their acceptance of the Robbins Report, both the previous Government and the present Government have challenged the university world to a massive advance. They must overhaul the financial machinery if that advance is to be possible. It may well be that such a system would involve some financial controls which universities have hitherto found unacceptable. I myself would be willing to accept such controls, if within the guide lines they propose we had security and flexibility.
I must turn for one moment from the question of finance to what has been called the binary system. I have little to say about this. The only thing I can say with absolute certainty is that I believe the last Government made a great mistake over the colleges of education. I believe that these should have been brought within the university orbit on the lines of the Robbins Report, and that an appointed day should have been set some years ahead—say, 1970 or 1971—so as to give the L.E.A.s a chance to get used to the idea, and the universities a chance to get used to the new heavy responsibilities which they would be undertaking. But apart from that I find this an intensely difficult problem, and, to be honest, I often cannot understand what all the argument is about. Of course, I understood the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, but some of my academic colleagues—who, after all, have spent their lives stressing that universities are separate from other academic institutions because they are autonomous—now object to that separation being mentioned in public. This baffles me.
It is a very difficult problem, too, for it touches questions such as the prestige of institutions—those imponderable things. One of the greatest of the American university administrators, Lee Du Bridge, the President of Cal. Tech., has said:It is important to the national interest to have many good universities, and it is desirable 1315 for every college and university to get a little better. But it is equally important that there be a few institutions of really superb quality. We must, for the sake of future generations, have a few outstanding leaders, a few institutions that are blazing the trails of the future.That I believe to be profoundly true, and it is inevitable that, if it is true, there should be a picking order in higher education, as there clearly is. The difficulty is to induce those who work in places of second-rate or third-rate calibre to go on working there. But this difficulty is present whether we have a unitary or a binary system. In fact, one of the reasons why some of us actually disagreed with the recommendations of the Robbins Report, and pressed for a single Ministry of Education, was to encourage a greater feeling of unity in higher education generally.
I was one of the few Vice-Chancellors—I should think the only Vice-Chancellor—who believed in a single Ministry, and if I had my time over again I would still take the same course. That unity, rather than this admitted binary system, which I hope we should attain would admit the existence of a hierarchy of excellence, yet because such a hierarchy was not made formal and rigid would enable those working in institutions of lesser reputation and dealing with less advanced students to feel that they were still, nevertheless, as it were, part of a spectrum of learning.
Arising from this, I have one or two other misgivings of a different kind about this binary system. I am anxious lest the universities should be increasingly regarded as more remote, in some way, than other institutions from the social responsibilities and from something called "the real world". I even noticed a tinge of this in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he fell into the good old English habit of using the word "academic" as a term of abuse. There was a tinge of this: "in some ways, the universities are not dealing with ' real things'"—whatever they are. This is a danger to which some in the universities have themselves contributed in the past, and some still do. They have also contributed to the related danger which one fears may arise from the rigid binary system: the dichotomy between pure and applied knowledge. It is a dangerous 1316 dichotomy to create and it is one which is often meaningless. In my own university, in my own little physics laboratory, researches are going on under the name of pure physics which would be equally appropriate in a department of electrical engineering.
It is a dichotomy which sometimes has results which would be absurd if they were not so serious. Let me give one example which is close to my heart. The money available to buy books for the new university library is one half or less that which may be available for equipping a new science laboratory for a single science subject. Why should an absurdity like that arise? Simply because the scientific apparatus is more obviously and materially useful than the books. Yet putting the library at its very lowest, leaving out of account what libraries mean in the very fabric of civilised life, books are just as essential pieces of apparatus for the scientists, as well as for the arts men, as the cathode ray tubes or the spectrometers that we are, in fact, willing to obtain.
Further, I think we shall do harm to the universities and harm to society if we do not recognise the direct and massive contribution which their members can make directly to social welfare as teachers and scholars, and in obvious and direct contacts with Government and industry. It is true that in the past some in the universities have themselves emphasised their remoteness, and still do, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, told us; but to-day my feeling is strong that those attitudes are changing and that we are not yet harnessing sufficiently the technical skills, the general abilities and the idealism that is to be found in the universities, because we fail to establish closer links between them and the Government and industry.
But if this is to be done, we must have the means. Here you will remind me, again, of all the worthy competitors for our limited national resources. You will say that the universities are claiming a special position; that they are like the lady in the Punch cartoon during the war, standing in the butcher's and saying, "Ah, but you wouldn't ration me." The universities know that we are passing through hard times; we know that in such times the community has a right to 1317 demand a very rigorous economy, a social responsibility and co-operation in sacrifice. But in return, those of us who teach have a right to say that, without the knowledge that universities can provide, we cannot solve the actual material problems which underlie our economic difficulties, nor develop the new knowledge without which technical advance is impossible. And that is putting our function at its most material level.
Obviously, there are hard decisions on priorities here for any Government to make, as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, reminded us. We have to ask ourselves whether it is really necessary that education should be sacrificed so that our hundreds of miles of secondary roads should be better than any such roads in any country in the world. We should ask ourselves whether it is necessary for education to be sacrificed so that we can have colour Tv. Is that such an essential part of the good life that we are prepared to spend on it money that might otherwise go into primary schools or into universities? Those I should not think very hard decisions—at any rate, not for some of us—but some are. Should we build two new primary schools or a new college at York? I am glad I do not have to make that decision: that would be a very hard decision indeed. But Governments exist to make decisions, and all one can ask is that they should be seen to rest on a rational order of priorities; and underlying those decisions to-day must be the knowledge that in the modern world, without the teaching and the research that the university alone can provide, progress in other fields will be made all that much more difficult.
That is why, two years after the Robbins Report, one is still a little alarmed, in spite of what has been accomplished, in spite of our successes. Here was a programme, a nominally accepted programme, for what was really a revolution. It kindled in many of us a new spirit and a new determination; a determination that we would review our practices and improve, so far as we could, our techniques and our efficiency, for example in the use of capital plant. I would be the first to admit that we have not in fact been treated too badly. I would be the first to pay tribute to those who have helped us to do fairly well. Yet I think 1318 our hopes for the future are still clouded, not so much by the need for economy as by uncertainty and lack of stability in long-distance planning. If the new spirit and the new determination are allowed simply to fizzle out in some places, if they are allowed to be stifled and frustrated by niggling restrictions and inadequate delegation of decision, then, instead of energy, we shall breed apathy, and instead of hope we shall perpetuate those old suspicions which have for too long in some universities been felt towards the State.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ LORD KINGS NORTON
My Lords, the character and scope of recent developments in the facilities for higher education in this country have certainly been profoundly influenced by the arguments and recommendations of the famous Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, even though not wholly in the directions for which he had hoped. It is because I am closely concerned with some of these developments, as an industrialist and as the chairman of a new organisation which springs directly from the pages of the Robbins Report, that I am addressing your Lordships at a much earlier stage of my apprenticeship in your Lordships' House than I had intended, and I ask for your Lordships' indulgence.
The terms of reference of the Robbins Committee included reviewing the pattern of full-time higher education in the light of national needs. The national needs are, of course, many and various, but I think your Lordships would agree that, if this country is to keep its high place among the nations of the world, one of them is that its industry must be efficient, inventive and in the van of technological progress. The advance of the economy is utterly dependent on the advance of technology and on the efficient management of our resources. If the advance is to be accelerated and on a broader front, as it needs to be, and if it is thereafter to be maintained, industry will need a growing number of talented people, professional people, from the universities and other places of higher education. This is indeed one of the chief reasons for expansion.
There have been doubts expressed about our ability to educate larger numbers and still maintain the standards of academic achievement. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, I was glad to hear, has no 1319 such doubts; and so long as we get enough teachers properly deployed, I, too, shall have little anxiety on that score. My experience in the last few years of the development of the Diploma in Technology makes me believe that we can go a lot further in increasing the entry into higher education without lowering standards. In other words, I believe that increasing numbers of young people will continue to demonstrate a high level of learning. What I am concerned about, very concerned about, is that they should learn what is of most value for the country's economic progress. In saying this, I am not, of course, seeking to hinder pure scholarship and the search after new truths; but the people capable of works of these kinds, whom we must always sustain and nourish, are few in comparison with the large body of people of whom I am thinking—the people whose destiny is to work in commerce and industry and whose professional skills are mainly scientific, technological and managerial in character.
I am not entering on the old arguments of a few years ago, in which so-called "practical" men and so-called "theorists", were highly critical of one another. All that is dead and gone, I hope. What I do allege is that in the fields I have mentioned the integration of the academic and practical elements in the education and training of the professional man has not been achieved on a broad enough front, and nowhere yet in sufficient depth. I should like to see this integration achieved in such a way in applied science, technology and business studies that the young person qualified by a university degree is immediately professionally employable and can begin to gather his professional experience in the discharge of responsible duties. This is true to-day only to a limited degree, and, if I may take a few more minutes of your Lordships' time, I should like to indicate the extent to which this desirable integration is being achieved and how it might be achieved on a greater scale.
In 1955 the National Council for Technological Awards (which became known as the N.C.T.A.) was founded under the chairmanship of the late Lord Hives. It was founded to create and administer technological awards of high standing of a national character, available to students 1320 in technical colleges who successfully completed courses approved by it. The Council's major contribution to the development of higher education was the creation of the Diploma in Technology, an award of honours degree level. By March 31, 1964—and that is the latest date for which uncomplicated statistics are available—the Diploma had been awarded to 3,100 people and was the objective of 9,000 more; and, of that 9,000, 1,300 have since got it. That is a very remarkable achievement. The most outstanding characteristic of this award was not its academic standard, high though that was, but the character of its courses—and they were all sandwich courses, most of them composed of alternating half-years in college and in industry. They were primarily the colleges' courses, but the standards were the Council's.
There had been sandwich courses before, of course, but never of a national character, and the value of the system, in which academic study and practical application could be integrated, was demonstrated on a new scale. There are few graduates in a technology who can take a real job in industry without an initial period of practical training—in my own company it is nearly two years—but normally the Diplomate in Technology can. I suggest that the development of the honours sandwich course leading to the Diploma in Technology was one of the most important advances of the century in higher education, and one which was possible only by the closest collaboration between the academics and the industrialists. Its success deeply impressed the Crick Committee, who hoped to see a similar system created for business studies.
The system, too, gave the colleges of technology a high degree of autonomy; and it was, I think, because the ten of them designated as colleges of Advanced Technology—CATS—showed by their Diploma in Technology work that they were eminently fitted for complete autonomy, that they are in process of becoming universities. I hope that after the metamorphosis their enthusiasm for the sandwich courses will spread beyond the technologies of the N.C.T.A.
Last February, the noble Lord, Lord Brown, said in his maiden speech—which I have recently re-read with a great deal of pleasure and profit—that within three 1321 to five years seven of the CATS may have largely ceased to use the sandwich courses. This, as the noble Lord indicated, would be a disastrous change; and I hope—and I am sure that he hopes—that his prophecy will not be fulfilled. My own information leads me to be more optimistic and I am encouraged by the paragraph on sandwich courses in the recently published report of the Central Training Council to the Minister of Labour.
The Robbins Committee's appreciation of the N.C.T.A.'s achievement led to their recommendation that there should be created, under Royal Charter, a Council for National Academic Awards to replace the N.C.T.A., which, unlike the N.C.T.A., would make pass awards as well as honours and higher awards and would cover areas of study beyond, as well as in, the fields of science and technology. This has been done. The new Council, the C.N.A.A., was brought into being and the Royal Charter empowering it to award degrees was granted in September, 1964.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, now fears that a gulf may develop between the universities and the colleges of further education operating with the C.N.A.A. I do not wish to enter into discussions of the binary system; but in this particular matter of the gulf operating with the C.N.A.A., I would only say that I should regard the development of any such gulf as quite deplorable and it would be utterly at variance with the views of the C.N.A.A., of which I have the honour to be Chairman. It is a Council, I am glad to say, in which the universities, old, middle-aged and new, are powerfully represented. There, for the time being, I would leave this particular matter, and I hope that what I have said about the C.N.A.A. is enough to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Henley.
One-half of the courses of the old N.C.T.A. régime, with two-thirds of the students, moved with the colleges of advanced technology into the university field; the remaining courses have been taken over by the new Council, and many others, scientific, technological and in fresh fields, have been added; so that to-day, little more than a year after the granting of its Charter, there are nearly 4.100 students on 83 courses in 31 colleges working for the new Council's degrees. Ten of these are in new fields 1322 never traversed before by the N.C.T.A. (or, so far as I know, by any other organisation in the educational field to degree standard) such as printing technology, food science and business studies. They are nearly all sandwich courses.
The two characteristics of this great and growing group of new courses which I want especially to commend to your Lordships' attention are: first, the preponderating position of the sandwich course which, in most technologies and studies associated with business and industry, I believe to be of outstanding value; and, secondly, the collaboration between industry, commerce, professions and the teachers which informs the Council governing their standards and contents. There are over 200 individuals voluntarily engaged in this governance. They will, I am sure, with the colleges concerned, develop still further the partnership between theory and practice towards a true symbiosis.
I believe that this pattern should be encouraged to spread beyond the Council for National Academic Awards, beyond the advanced colleges which are being transmuted into universities, into the other universities, new and old. Most of them are, of course, developing their industrial contacts; but few have yet attempted the integration of practice and theory which the sandwich course promotes. I believe, my Lords, that the success of the old National Council for Technological Awards, the experience of the colleges in transition to university status, the initial success of the new Council for National Academic Awards and the attitude of industry to the sandwich course graduate, mean that a great and growing population will seek to be, and will need to be, educated in this way, and that all establishments of higher education should be searching for the patterns of integration which will suit them best
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ LORD TODD
My Lords, I should like first to congratulate my noble friend Lord Kings Norton on what I think your Lordships will agree was an excellent and most informative maiden speech which has contributed notably to our debate. I was interested to hear him say that the subject of our debate to-day caused him to speak earlier in this House than he otherwise would have done; and that, in itself, I 1323 feel, is a very good mark for this debate, because the noble Lord brings to us a wealth of experience in technology, both in Government circles and in industry, backed by a great deal of excellent public service of which we have had some slight indication in his speech. It is certainly my hope, and I am sure that of the House, that now that he has broken the ice we should hear him speak more frequently.
At to my own remarks in this debate, I shall endeavour to make these fairly short. I think the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has put down this Motion at a very appropriate time; because, in my opinion at least, the implementation of the detailed proposals in the Robbins Report has been a little patchy. This is partly, I suppose, and perhaps understandably, for financial reasons; and, partly because the Government have had, rightly or wrongly, second thoughts on some of the proposals themselves. But it is particularly appropriate to discuss this now because, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, said in his admirable maiden speech, the universities are at the present time really very uneasy. They are uneasy because of the recent restrictions in the building programme; they are uneasy about the grant for the new quinquennial which is supposed to start in 1967.
What I should like to do is draw your Lordships' attention to one area of higher education—the area of educational television—in which I regret to say that there has been very little organisational progress, in spite of the fact that, in my opinion, it is of the greatest importance. It is now considerably more than a year since in high quarters we heard a great deal of talk about a "University of the Air." I understand that this project is still under consideration by a Government Committee, but nothing very concrete has emerged from it so far. Of course, if it is the task of this Committee to produce a finished blueprint of an organisation which will conduct television courses on a nation-wide basis leading to a wide range of university degrees, then it is going to take time. But, with respect, I doubt whether this is the best way of setting about it. In any event, it seems to me that the provision of general university degrees courses by 1324 television is not the only, nor even the most important, use to which television can be put.
There are, I believe, three objectives of major importance to this country which ought to have priority: first, the provision of school courses in science and mathematics to offset our present shortage of teachers of these subjects; secondly, the provision of courses in science and technology for re-education and retraining purposes; and thirdly, the development of extra-mural education for adults by the universities. I shall say nothing about the schools problem since, however important it may be, it is only indirectly related to the subject of our debate.
On the re-education and retraining programme I would remind your Lordships that the days when a man could go through his working life secure in the knowledge that the degree or diploma which he secured from a university or technical college at the commencement of his career would see him through to the finish are long since gone. The speed of scientific and technological progress to-day is such that he has to have regular refresher or retraining courses to keep pace even with his own calling; and there is, of course, an added need for retraining in the case of employed persons changing from one industry to another. The provision of means for retraining, whether it be for technologists or technicians, is, to my mind, a vitally urgent matter, if we are serious when we talk about bringing about a technological revolution in British industry. I think it quite idle to pretend that we shall achieve this by some sort of system of day release or other forms of release for people to attend courses at universities or colleges of advanced technology. Quite apart from the financial burden that this would impose, I do not believe that it would be socially acceptable. But I believe that it could be done cheaply and acceptably through the medium of television courses. After all, such courses could be followed by men and women in the factories or laboratories in which they are working.
As to the third area I mentioned, that of adult education by the extra-mural departments of our universities, I believe that television courses could revitalise this and make it the real force that it ought 1325 to be. Make no mistake, my Lords, adult education is a great deal more important than many people who give it lip-service really believe. I believe that in the extramural departments of our universities there is a wealth of talent and good-will waiting to be fully used, but at the present time it is frustrated by the apparent impossibility of reaching the audience which it ought to serve.
My Lords, if we are to tackle the problems of technical retraining and adult education through the universities, or even if, going further, we want to have a "University of the Air", I believe we have to let the universities and colleges of advanced technology do it. We ought to be letting some of them do experimental work in this field now. We should not sit around and wait, hoping that some sort of wonderful organisation will emerge fully fledged from a committee table. I am, my Lords, a chemist by profession, and I know—and I think that anyone in the chemical industry would agree with me—that when a new discovery or development is made in the laboratory, you do not set about putting up at once a vast production unit; you start first by doing some pilot plant experiments. If you do not do this pilot experimental work, you waste an enormous amount of money, and about once out of every three times you finish up by having a process which does not work. I believe that exactly the same thing applies in the field of education. I think it is time that the universities in this country did some experiments in educational television, but it does not seem easy for them to do so.
I should like to quote one example. I suppose I ought to declare a measure of interest, since it concerns the University of Strathclyde of which I have the honour to be Chancellor. Strathclyde has been doing a great deal of groundwork in educational television using, as it has had to do closed circuit systems. It has, however, full equipment and studios available, and it was the hope of the University to start experimental television courses in the Glasgow area in October, 1965. It proposed for this purpose to use a low-power transmitter with a range of about 15 miles, which would not interfere with other forms of television but which would reach a population of about 2 million people; that is to say, it would serve an 1326 area in which it could carry out a worthwhile experiment on re-education course.; and the like.
Last March the University made application to the Postmaster General for a transmission licence in order to undertake this work, but I regret to say that it still has had no definite reply to the application and so is not in a position to make any experiments at all. Surely, my Lords, this fantastic delay cannot be due to Committee deliberations about a "University of the Air". After all, the granting of a licence to a university like Strathclyde does not commit one for ever to a particular pattern. You can always withdraw the licence if later it seems that some other scheme is better, and I can certainly say that the university I have mentioned would be only too happy to co-operate in any national scheme that was decided upon. So I find it difficult to believe that the hold-up is due to the fact that there is a Committee sitting deliberating the question of a "University of the Air".
What else could be causing the delay? I find it just as difficult to believe that there is any difficulty over the allocation of frequencies serious enough to cause a delay of more than eight months. If America, which surely has at least as many military and commercial demands for frequencies, can still manage to put on several hundred educational television stations and have them operating, why should it be so difficult for this country to allot frequencies? My Lords, I feel that this is a matter which requires very serious attention, and not simply for the sake of the University of Strathclyde which I have quoted as an example. I believe that when I say television has an important part to play in higher education in this country the Leader of the House and his colleagues would probably agree. But if they do, may I ask them to do what they can to speed up the organisation of educational television, and let those universities who wish to experiment in this field carry out their experiments, because only the universities are capable of doing it?
The noble Lord, Lord James of Rush-holme, made some comment on university buildings, which is one of the points of organisation on which, if you will bear with me for a moment or two, I should 1327 like to touch. Planning ahead is absolutely vital for universities, and particularly in respect of building. It is putting them in an impossible position when they are in the state in which they now find themselves, where they do not know more than about a year ahead what they may expect to have for building. I think each university ought to know definitely what amount of money it is likely to have over a five-year period. I say a five-year period because if you check up on the various types of student, bearing in mind that many of them stay on for research or post-graduate courses, it may fairly be said that on average it takes about four years to put a student through a university. If that is the case, how can a university possibly plan its intake properly at a time of increasing pressure on entries unless it knows for more than that period of time ahead what buildings it is likely to have? I think that this is particularly important for the universities; they simply cannot get by on a day-to-day budget for building.
I do not think I should be prepared to accept Treasury arguments that they do not want to commit that amount of money a number of years ahead. I believe that commitment beforehand would be a great deal less dangerous financially than the kind of open-ended commitments we have entered into in recent years in the case of a number of international projects and in removing the nominal charge for prescriptions under the National Health Service.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
My Lords, I should like to begin by adding my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, on his admirable maiden speech. My admiration for it was enhanced because, unlike the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, I agreed with almost all of it. I would also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, on his interesting maiden speech, delivered from a standpoint of which he has great knowledge.
What I have to say, I fear, will be on a rather lower plane than that of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and of other noble Lords, because it will not be my purpose to comment on the failure of the Government to carry out all the recommendations of the Report on 1328 Higher Education. I would rather follow the mundane or, as he said, the more squalid trail which was blazed by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, and comment on the circumstances in which doubt has been thrown on the intentions of the Government to support adequately the structure that they themselves have chosen.
I will begin by reverting to the effect on the development of higher education of the restriction on university building put into effect in July. When I recently drew attention in this House to the random effects of this measure, the noble Lord, Lord Snow, admitting that this was so, said, "We must forget about logic in a case of this kind". While it is traditional for us of Anglo-Saxon origin to pride ourselves on lack of logic, we have always prided ourselves on our good sense, and my contention is that this measure, in its effects and consequences, has not made sense.
If one takes as a concrete example a case of which one has personal knowledge, there is a risk of being accused of grinding an axe, but I disclaim any intention of doing this to-day. Like the University of York, the institution of which I am Chairman, Imperial College has suffered, but probably suffered less than many other institutions, from the effect of this ban. The facts of the particular case are as follows. In February, the Government accepted the principle of selective development and expansion of technological education at a high level. They announced their intention of applying this by continuing the build-up of three specialised institutions—the Imperial College, the Manchester College of Science and Technology and the University of Strathclyde.These institutions",said the Secretary of State,will be given priority in the provision of finance, both capital and current.Grants for special technological development of an advanced kind were given on an approximately equal basis to all three institutions at the end of June. But when, a month later, the moratorium on building was put on, it had the curious effect that, while development in London and Manchester was stopped dead in its tracks, Strathclyde, because it was in a development area, was able to proceed. I am delighted for the sake of the noble 1329 Lord, Lord Todd, that this is so and it is not just the green-eyed monster that makes me repeat that the accident of location is totally irrelevant as a criterion for the balanced development of higher education and it makes nonsense of the declared Government policy. This, of course, is a single example, but this irrelevant criterion has been applied over the whole field.
At the moment—and I make no apology for backing other noble Lords who have made a similar point—universities which are not in development areas are in the dark. They have no idea what will happen at the conclusion of the six months, when the moratorium is lifted, and in the absence of any guidance on capital allocation they cannot plan their academic programmes. This affects the immediate future. It is, therefore, perhaps a hardly surprising, but an equally serious, matter for all universities, wherever situated, that no announcement has been made as regards further annual programmes and especially those for the years 1967–68 and 1968–69.
The University Grants Committee, in its rules of procedure relating to non-recurrent grants, lays it down that in order to allow adequate time for preliminary investigations for the development of design and so on, the first schedule for all major works should be submitted at least two or, if possible, two and a half years, before the date on which it is intended to let the contract. So it is clear that even the immediate publication of the allocations of capital for the year 1967–68 will leave only rather less than eighteen months for the preparation essential for the proper control of building contracts. And even a contract entered into at the end of 1967–68 gives only approximately two years for preparation. I think that it is common knowledge that a moratorium on building like that introduced suddenly in July has a disruptive effect. Contractors move off the site, architects and surveyors move on to other jobs and teams are dispersed. Immediate expenditure is admittedly curtailed, but on top of the dislocation caused, the ultimate cost is liable to be increased. The delay in making public the allocations of capital for the next two years may well, in my estimation, have similar effects. 1330 All this is bound to damage the planned development of higher education. It has a lowering effect on the morale of academic staff. It renders fragmentary and uneven programmes of academic development, which should be coherent and steady. Nor are such omens as I have been able to discern very favourable to the prospects of grants for the years ahead being commensurate with the plans and the needs. It would be quite unreasonable, of course, to ignore the economic and financial situation which obliged the Government to curtail expenditure and, however the priorities are assessed, it is also unreasonable to expect that one branch of public spending will remain unaffected. Unless the economic prospects are much rosier than I believe them to be, reductions, perhaps serious reductions, in the planned development of our universities and other institutions of higher education are before us.
On that I should like to make two points. The first is that these reductions should be fairly assessed and applied on criteria relating to educational needs and not on criteria which are irrelevant in this connection. The second point relates to the sources of finance. Before we accept the inevitability of reductions and restrictions, should we not consider whether there are not alternative methods of finding some part, at least, of the finance required?
There are two matters for consideration. The first relates to fees, and the second to loans for students. Both of these matters were considered by the Robbins Committee, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to go over all the arguments. On fees, the Committee pointed out that the proportion of expenditure on higher education met by fees had been declining; that the cost of living had trebled since 1938, but that fees, on average, had risen by only three-quarters. Accordingly, the Committee recommended that the level of fees be revised so that in future they met at least 20 per cent. of current institutional expenditure. That was only two years ago, and, so far as I know, practically nothing has been done to give effect to this recommendation, and in that period the proportion of university expenditure met out of fees has continued to decline. As the Committee pointed out, this was not just a case of altering the proportions in which the finance for 1331 education flows from different national pockets; that is to say, the Exchequer and the local authorities. The total sum derived from these quarters would be increased by the fees paid in respect of overseas students and by private individuals or institutions.
The case for pressing on with the all-round increase in fees has therefore been strengthened in the last two years. However, I think I am right in saying that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has set up a committee to review this situation and to make recommendations. This means that fees cannot now be generally increased until the academic year 1967–68, since proper notice must be given. Therefore, probably a year's delay must now be accepted. However, any substantial increase will involve an adjustment in the subvention from the central Government to take account of the increased burden which the change would involve for the local grant-giving authorities. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the Government will meanwhile examine the procedure for doing this, if they have not already done so, so that as soon as the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has reported, an increase can be put into effect with the minimum of delay.
But if my general fears are justified—and I hope they are not—the raising of fees will make only a relatively small contribution to the solution of the major problem. Therefore, the next question to be re-examined is that of loans to students. This question was touched on by the Anderson Report on Grants for Students, which reported in 1958, but they dismissed it in a paragraph. The Robbins Committee, however, studied the matter more profoundly. On balance, they did not recommend an immediate recourse to a system of financing students by loans, but they envisaged the possibility that, as time went on, arguments of justice in distribution and of the advantage of increasing individual responsibility might come to weigh more heavily and lead to some experiment in this direction. I suggest that, in view of the deterioration in the financial prospects for higher education since the Committee reported this proposition should be taken up again without delay.
I will not go into all the considerations, social, moral and political which can be 1332 adduced for and against this proposal: they are referred to in the Report. I want to say only this. As a result of social policy, improved benefits and services are being made available free to people who could afford to contribute towards their cost. Higher education is one of these. I think, though it is no doubt an unfashionable view, that it is demoralising that those who could afford to make a contribution towards the benefits they receive from the State should not be asked to do so, whatever form the contribution may take. All of these benefits are increasingly taken for granted by the recipients, and this at a time when the working population, from the highest to the lowest paid, is receiving increased emoluments, the cost of providing benefits is rapidly going up, and the increase in productivity to pay for them is not keeping pace.
I was glad to see a report of a speech made at the week-end by the Minister of State for Education and Science, in which he is quoted as saying that the Government are not in a position to rule out the possibility of introducing loans as part of the system for supporting students at universities. It is entirely in tune with what I have just said, that the Conference of the National Union of Students rejected this idea in short order. I hope that the Government will not be put off by this. I do not suggest that another committee should be formed to look into the matter. The Robbins Committee's proceedings are available. If the Government felt that the time had come to make an advance in this direction, could they not take a decision to this effect and ask the departments to work out a, scheme, or schemes, in consultation with all those who may be concerned?
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Snow, referred to finance from private sources, and in that respect drew a comparison between the United States and this country which was most unfavourable to this country. I would certainly agree that the universities should not neglect these sources of finance. But is the noble Lord aware that such contributions in the United States are tax deductible, and that if he could persuade his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make similar contributions tax deductible in this country, the inequality between the two performances 1333 might very soon be smoothed out? I do not expect the noble Earl who is going to reply to the debate to give an answer to-day to the financial points I have raised, but I hope that he may agree to give them serious consideration and let us have his conclusions within a reasonable time.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD HOLFORD
My Lords, not long ago this House discussed shorter speeches, and discussed them at some length. I should not wish for a moment to regret the length of the speeches that have gone before, because I think they have illuminated wonderfully a serious problem, and I, for one, am grateful for them. Nevertheless, I would ask your Lordships' indulgence for a short intervention (I say this more to inform those who follow me than out of any disrespect for the debate) on two points, which I shall put as briefly as possible. This is a kind of high, thin and rather late obligato to the superb sweep of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who opened this debate.
Both points could be put, I think, under a paraphrase of the late Sir Winston Churchill's famous remark about giving us the tools and letting us get on with the job. I speak as a university professor with a large post-graduate department, partly full-time and partly part-time, and also as a planning consultant to a number of universities since the war. The matters that I refer to are, first, the physical equipment of the universities, which I think is particularly important at this stage for the new universities; and secondly the brainpower available to climb the first rung of the ladder of staff promotion—I mean the research fellows and assistant lecturers from whose ranks the future teachers and professors must be drawn. This applies particularly, I think, to the established universities, who have, or can perhaps easily mobilise, equipment, so that they are likely to become the chief training grounds for staff.
I will put two examples to make these points clearer. The first is in regard to equipment. I should like to quote the case of one university which has been extremely generously treated by the Government and by the University Grants Committee—I refer to the University of Kent. They were proceeding very well, doing an enormous amount of building 1334 work in the eighteen months since their acquisition of the site. Had times been normal, I think that no complaint of any kind would have been made at the choice of buildings—and their choice was agreed by the University Grants Committee. Obviously, they could not build any of them fast enough for their purposes. This October the University had 600 undergraduates in permanent buildings. But after July 27, of course, there were the cuts in university expenditure, and the key building of the whole University, the library, was cut out—and that in spite of the fact that the foundation piles were in and that a tender had been secured within the limit agreed with U.G.C.
The point I wish to make about this situation is not in the least to complain that cuts were made—for cuts were obviously inevitable; but I think that a nonsense has been created here. There are no libraries in Canterbury, which is a small town. There is no way in which this particular loss, of this central building, can be made up. They will have to have recourse to temporary huts, which will probably cost quite a large proportion of the total sum. As the noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, has just pointed out, when, or if, the library comes to be built (because it is hardly likely to start on January 27 this next year) it will be much more expensive. In fact the whole problem of bringing it again within the limit of cost laid down by the U.G.C. will require another six months or so from that point whenever it is. So here we have the sort of absurdity which has been referred to before by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme.
The second short instance I want to quote is in an established university, my own, where, as I have said, the great need is to have more staff, which is a matter for recurrent grant. I am referring particularly to the research fellows and the young lecturers whom we need desperately to train, because in the subject that I happen to profess we are desperately short. We made a great many applications, and I received what I was not surprised to receive, a letter saying that unfortunately the times were not propitious for holding out any offer of greater resources of staff or accommodation during the present quinquennium, and it was a little doubtful whether we should receive them in the early years of the next 1335 quinquennium. By the same post, I received a circular from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government urging local authorities to help students in my subject in two ways: first they were asked, as education authorities, to give grants; and, secondly, as employers to allow students the facilities for part-time courses if they could not release them for sandwich courses or a complete year at the university. So, my Lords, on the one hand we were stimulating the demand for students, and on the other, withholding the supply of teachers who alone could teach them. Again I am not complaining about this. I realise that it must have been a cruel difficulty for the U.G.C. when the cuts were made.
The point I wish to make is to draw your Lordships' attention to a gap which has occurred, because, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will agree, there is a difference in the way you plan during an economy of plenty, and the way you plan in an economy of restriction. I suggest that, whereas the present arrangement whereby the economic Departments of Government filter through the Department of Education and Science, through the U.G.C., and so to the individual university, is perfectly right (and, as the noble Lord, Lord Snow, remarked it is a wonderful innovation: he called the U.G.C. a buffer, but he might have called it a filter), in normal times it works most easily. In times of restriction, the Government clutch at the tap nearest to them—that is the building industry—and turn it off; and the unfortunate universities clutch at any pretext they can to make a special case for the building on which they are engaged. I want to point out simply that they have in many spectacular cases been unsuccessful, and with the best will in the world, and with no blame attaching to the U.G.C., these absurdities are now to be found up and down the country.
I suggest, therefore, that what should happen at the present time is that there should be a short cut between the economic Departments of the Government and the universities—in other words, there should be a triangle. Instead of going from the top level, through the U.G.C. and down to the individual universities, there should be some way in which better priorities and better criteria for the cuts 1336 could be established direct with these Departments. That is all I have to say. I wanted to draw attention to this difficulty, and to suggest that this is a gap which might now be filled.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, it is my first pleasant task to join in the congratulations to two maiden speakers to-day on their able, brief, and, may I say, audible contributions. I am the more pleased in that the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, and I attended the same Academy in Edinburgh, though of course at different times. Our ways have lain many miles apart, but it is interesting that they have led to your Lordships' House. While in this debate this afternoon he has trod generally a path which has been well trampled down, I wish to turn to an aspect which has not been mentioned before to-day.
I propose, with your Lordships' permission, to refer for a few moments to the comparatively minor but important aspect of the higher education system, namely, the problems of overseas students. This was touched on in the debate in 1963. I must declare an interest in this as I am Chairman of the Edinburgh Christian Council for Overseas Students, and a Governor of Farnham Castle. These are concerned with certain amenities or—shall we say?—supplementaries for students from overseas. By "supplementaries" I mean opportunities for getting used to life in a strange country, for meeting people, both inside and outside universities or colleges, and for visiting and recreation—frills, perhaps, but an integral part of the educational equipment of the whole man or woman. I am not the only one in this Chamber who has noticed to-day the absence of a reference to character formation in the considerations of this higher educational subject.
I should like to say immediately that I have the greatest respect and praise for the British Council, from which these organisations to which I have referred receive every possible support except finance—finance, of course, being our own affair. But the British Council is not by any means poised to cover the whole field. The Robbins Report, in paragraph 174, said:But it is not sufficiently recognised that, with fees at their present level, provision for 1337 overseas students costs the taxpayers of this country a very substantial amount. Even when the student pays his own fees, as most of them do, the net recurrent cost of each to the public purse is on average about £450 a year; the total subsidy involved amounts at the present time to something like £9 million.None of us begrudge this. It is, indeed, Her Majesty's Government's considered policy to allow them to benefit in this way.
But the fact is that some students from overseas are finding this country cold, in more ways than one. They find themselves lost, and at first a little bewildered, when they join universities or colleges. Many, like any student anywhere, have little money left for recreation or extramural or social activities. There are a number of charitable organisations on the fringe of universities which do valuable work in adjusting this, and a report of one of the trusts which helped to finance this work (and of course there are a number) says:If theythat is, the students—are to gain full benefit from their stay in this country and are to return home with anything like a fair picture of us and our way of life, there should be opportunities for those students to meet British people as persons with whom they can make friends, and to participate in out-of-school activities that will help to combat the boredom and loneliness endemic in all who find themselves in a foreign country with no money to spare.The point I want to make is that private charity is doing a great deal to supplement what the taxpayer is contributing towards overseas students, and in my experience much more could be done if the financial resources were greater. A few thousand pounds spent in this way could yield immeasurable dividends to British standing in new countries when measured alongside the millions spent in direct "stringless" aid to developing countries. The old Students' Amenities Fund of the Commonwealth Relations Office is running down, as more and more countries become independent, and grants, already small, from this Fund are having to be reduced or discontinued. I say "already small", not in any ungrateful sense but they were fixed at a time when the numbers of overseas students were small. I believe that the Government would do well to try to find sources 1338 alternative to the Students' Amenity Fund for assistance in this work.
From a slightly different angle, take the work at Farnham Castle, which organisation is chiefly employed in equipping people going overseas from this country. The O.D.M. are sending 530 fee-paying students next year, but if more money were available, additional courses for incoming students could be organised, say for sponsored students or as a special course as a springboard for study tours. The very few efforts which have been possible within the present means in the inward direction have shown how successful they might be. When we consider the trouble and the expense to which, say, Russia goes to look after her overseas students, I believe the matter is worth another look. The charitable organisations to which I have referred are particularly ones with local roots. There are such nearly everywhere and more abundant life could be injected into them if more funds could be found.
May I attempt to be mischievous and wonder from which compartment such funds could be traced? And I wonder whether compartmentalisation may be an obstacle to the obtaining of such funds.
Incidentally, we all welcome the establishment of the Standing Committee of the Conference of British University Advisors to Overseas Students. I think this is an excellent move and deserves every encouragement, because, after all, the number of overseas students coming here seems to continue to grow, and I should say, on reading the debate in 1963, they are ahead of the estimates made at that time. The task of assimilating them into our higher education system is an important one for more reasons than education alone.
Before I sit down, I should like to refer to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Todd, and to express my keen interest in what he said, his enterprise in the use of television, and his thinking about television in the University of Strathclyde, of which he is the respected Chancellor. I know that my noble friend Lord Bessborough would also strongly endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, has said, had he been able to be in your Lordships' House this evening. Had he been here, I should have drawn attention to the fact that I think he said it is one year since there was talk of the 1339 University of the Air. My recollection is that it is something nearer two years since Mr. Wilson, the present Prime Minister, first propounded the University of the Air. I will conclude, my Lords, by saying that I have to catch a train late to-night and I may not be able to stay until the end; and if I do not stay until the end of the debate, I apologise to the noble Earl and to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I rise at this time in the debate in some confusion, because I heard the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, criticise the Secretary of State for keeping the two sectors of higher education apart, and I then heard the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, criticise the Secretary of State for bringing them together again in the organisation of the Department. This seems to me to indicate that there is some kind of confusion in the air about the nature of the binary system, and while I sympathise very much with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, in his hope that the binary system can be made less rigid, I think there are reasons why the Secretary of State is bound at the moment to have to follow the binary system.
The first was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, when he referred to intellectual snobbery in the universities. While admitting that of course it exists in the universities, just as it exists everywhere, I wonder whether the noble Lord would allow me to modify the word "snobbery" and substitute the term "intellectual emulation"? This is, of course, what happens in institutions of higher education. Every place wants to be a first-rate place, the kind of place which will have a department in it which might conceivably attract funds from the Research Councils; and it is this intellectual emulation which I think brings about the process that every university and every institution of higher education tries to approach the levels of the very highest universities in the country. As a result, we get colleges of advanced technology wanting to become as eminent as the Imperial College, in Prince Consort Road. We get regional technical colleges wishing to give university degrees, as the colleges of advanced technology will now be able 1340 to do; and there is the danger, with this, of every civic university wanting to have a social science degree of the same standard and standing as that of the London School of Economics, of which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was for so long one of the great adornments.
There is a danger, also, of regional technical colleges wanting to shed their ordinary degree work and qualify for university status by teaching only for honours degrees. The noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton, in his' admirable and informative maiden speech, told us of the N.C.C.A. and the way in which the degrees are progressing; and more and more of them are becoming honours degrees. Here again, the tendency is always to push forward towards the very highest status in higher education, and this, of course, has effects which it seems to me every Secretary of State must consider.
For instance, one of the things that happened when one of the colleges of advanced technology was being transformed into a technological university was that two-thirds of the staff petitioned the Privy Council to drop the word "technology" from the title. That is one example. Another example is of a fine civic university—one to which the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, referred in his speech—now being justifiably proud that 90 per cent. of the students there take honours degrees. There, again, there is the shedding of the ordinary degree course, and if that policy is fulfilled within the next quinquennium there will be empty places at universities, because although there are students who are qualified by "A" levels to go to universities, very often, particularly in science and mathematics, these are "A" levels but Class "E" rather than Class "A". The result will be that they will need special coaching and help in their early years, and this may lead to the first year course being of a very different standard from that of other universities where students with "As" and "Bs" in their levels are coming in. This is one of the causes why the Secretary of State is worried about breaking the binary system as it existed before the Robbins Report was issued and as it exists to-day.
The other reason is the more controversial one which I am going to allude 1341 to. That is that the Secretary of State must be worried, when he is being asked to pass more and more of the institutions of higher education into the autonomous sector—that is to say, into the university sector—because the control of universities, of the autonomous self-governing institutions, is desperately diffuse. There are five decision-taking points in our university structure. There is the Government—the Department itself—the U.G.C., the Research Councils, the Vice-Chancellors and Principals Committee and the universities themselves.
If we take these in turn, the Department is at the moment very unwilling to interfere in the university sector for fear of being accused of interfering with academic freedom. The U.G.C. has always been used to treating universities in the most deferential manner possible, by giving advice, by occasionally suggesting a line, sometimes perhaps raising a warning finger, but no more, because to do so would be to infringe academic freedom. Then we come to the Vice-Chancellors Committee. This is, of course, an advisory committee. Every vice-chancellor will naturally say he cannot speak for his own university because the power does not lie in his hands. Where does it lie? It lies in the hands of the council of the university, which is composed of lay members; but the council does not and would not be willing to speak on academic matters. There the control lies in the hands of the senate, which is a body of 100 or 120 full professors and heads of departments. When you actually probe to where decisions are taken in universities it is very difficult indeed to find the precise place, and this is one of the reasons why, when one talks about institutions going into the autonomous sector, it means that they would pass entirely from the control of the Secretary of State.
Would this be a disaster? I wonder whether I could allude to some of the points which are causing some of us in the university world anxiety, points at which we feel there might well be more control, not less. Let me first refer to the question of numbers. In the next quinquennium something like 21,000 more students will be spread over the 47 universities. In crude terms, that is less than 100 a year to each university, though it would not work like that. Who is 1342 going to ration these students between the universities? Because if they are not rationed there will be empty places at some universities, and others, with high prestige, will be besieged for places.
Cambridge a year ago was quite clear in its own mind that while it wanted to increase the number of graduates it wanted no increase in the number of undergraduates. I believe Oxford felt the same. This has changed in the past year. The U.G.C. has now been told by Cambridge that it hopes to expand in the way it has been expanding in undergraduates over the past decade or 15 years, and Oxford suddenly finds that it has 171 more male undergraduates this year. Nobody knows quite how this has come about. It has come about because colleges have admitted more, for highly complicated reasons with which I will not bore your Lordships. But there is here an indication that the ancient universities are going to expand in size in the number of undergraduates. If no indication is given at all as to how they should fit in with the national pattern, it seems to me there will be disequilibrium between the universities.
Passing to the Bosanquet Report, I would point out that it suggested that perhaps there were two or three more schools of agriculture in the universities than we really need in this country. This suggests that two or three of them should gradually be closed down. Who is to close them down? Here, again, is a question on which there is no body which could actually do more than gently influence in one direction. Then there is the question of zoning subjects. We cannot afford to have every university teaching and researching in every subject it wishes. This has been accepted in nuclear physics because the cost is too great. What is going to happen with regard to some rationalisation of what is taught in this place and that place? It may well be that three or four or five departments in some esoteric subject will be needed in three or four or five universities. If they grew, the result would be we should have a large number of small, weak departments in our universities, instead of large strong departments such as would call, very justifiably, for resources from the research councils.
Again, when we turn to staff/student ratios, we find that here the ancient universities have a much less favourable ratio 1343 than the civic universities, because the civic universities have been growing; they have been small, and small universities require more staff than large universities. Is there going to be an indication to the universities as to the norm in staff/student ratios? I mention these points merely to suggest the difficulty that every Secretary of State must face, first on the question of prestige and secondly on control—that he cannot lightly put institutions from what we call now the public sector (that is, the non-autonomous sector) into the autonomous sector without losing control of the object of his duty, namely, to try to use Government money to the best advantage. This, it seems to me, is one of the reasons why, at a time of crisis in the number of teachers in the schools, when drastic measures had to be taken to increase the number of teachers, it was very difficult for the Secretary of State to turn over the whole problem to the universities. Had teacher training passed to university level a year ago, should we have got the number of teachers the Secretary of State has, I think with great brilliance and drive, managed to obtain at this time? These are some of the reasons why difficulties arise when one tries to consider which institutions should be in the autonomous and which in the non-autonomous sector.
There are three great needs to-day. There is the need for technicians who range from second-grade computer programmers into far more humble grades. There is the need for trained social investigators at both high and low level, to go into administration and use statistical and analytical skills. There is finally the need for men and women who are destined for the board rooms, to become acquainted, even if they are not specifically trained as scientists or technologists, with the methods of science and technology so that they will not be completely innumerate—in the word Sir Geoffrey Crowther introduced into our language—when they get to the board rooms. They will be able to understand the kinds of things put to them by men who are far more skilled on the technical side of the business.
How are these problems to be met? There are various points to which I will not ask the noble Earl, Lord Longford, 1344 to respond when he winds up the debate, but I would ask him to bear them in mind when he reports on the course of the debate to the Secretary of State. It seems to me that one of the points that is possible is that there should be more power in the Department itself to prod and strike sparks off the U.G.C. by creating, say, some kind of small research unit, or a unit directly under the responsible Minister, which would look into and identify problems in the university sector. Certainly the U.G.C. might be given more power, not so much in formal terms but in the way of more encouragement. I think it is admitted that universities as a group cannot be fully autonomous; and in a sense they never have been, in that Parliament has always been willing at times, when a need has arisen, to investigate the redevelopment of universities by means of a Royal Commission, and even by statutory Commissions.
There could perhaps be a grouping of universities in order to get co-operation, to eliminate waste; and possibly also the setting up of new regional groups—not in regions of a geographical nature, but in an administrative sphere. There might be so many new universities, so many technological, so many civic, included in each group. This would mean different types of universities being brought together to study their common problems, possibly under a deputy chairman of the U.G.C. It seems at the moment that an impossible task is being placed on the Chairman of the U.G.C., who is trying to give personal attention to some 47 universities. He surely should be given greater facilities and staff to help him in the task of helping and guiding universities in their development. Would it not also be possible to set up special subject committees in the U.G.C., to advise, for example, on a particular subject in the universities as a whole? Recently six Chairs in Mathematics went to six fluid dynamicists. In the opinion of mathematicians with whom I have talked, two fluid dynamicists would have been enough.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question, for the purposes of information? How could that have been dealt with any differently in the machinery so as to avoid that situation and so that only two of them were appointed, as he suggests?
§ LORD ANNAN
May I try to explain the point about subject committees? If one has within the U.G.C. a subject committee of mathematicians who are advising the U.G.C. on the development of mathematics throughout the universities as a whole, surely they would be able to give an opinion to the universities which, on the analogy of what happens in Research Councils, mathematicians in universities would accept. No university department minds being judged by its peers. If people in the biological sciences are receiving their grants from the Medical Research Council, which they know is composed of scientists of immense eminence—Fellows of the Royal Society, and so on, men who are trusted by the biological departments in all the universities, they are more likely to accept what they are told. There has never been any difficulty at all in getting university departments to agree to the decisions of the Research Councils, because those Councils are not composed of civil servants. The Medical Research Council, for instance, is composed of the most eminent biologists. I suggest that if one had that kind of committee structure within the university—and it is only a consultative committee—one could agree on a consensus of opinion among mathematicians as a whole as to the ways in which certain branches of a subject need to be developed.
Again, we ought surely to examine the links between technical institutions, technical colleges, and colleges of advanced technology, which are now universities, as to how they can best use their plant, and how they can combine together to deal with many courses which are common to both technological universities and technological colleges. Here I have great sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who pointed to the fact that, if there were a complete and absolute break between the two systems, it would be impossible to decide where postgraduate education in institutions of this kind was to be carried on.
Finally, I should like to add one last note about a development which is of great importance in our system of higher education. We have heard this evening that the great advanced institutions are labouring under difficulties because they have not sufficient funds—funds for extra staff, and so on. Can we afford to go on 1346 multiplying universities, even multiplying bricks and mortar for technical colleges? Surely we must increase the numbers a little. There is a cheaper way, and in some ways it is a method that makes more sense at this moment, that is, by the institution of correspondence courses—but correspondence courses that have a second half of the 20th century look. I refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Todd, was saying in terms of television, radio, and the fact that in such correspondence courses it would be rare for tutors to write in longhand their comments on the work of students. It would be perfectly natural for them to pick up the telephone—an instrument which, after all, has now been in existence for some years. This, I take it, was the kind of philosophy behind the Prime Minister's suggestion of a University of the Air. It should not be regarded as an extravagant suggestion, but as a cheaper way of producing higher education, a system which is more appropriate to the present day.
If one thinks back to the end of the 19th century, one recalls that that was the time of the movement for university extension, extra-mural courses, the Workers' Educational Association, when tutors went into the field to carry the message of culture. We then had the development of colleges, such as Ruskin, and the bricks and mortar went up. But to-day there are large numbers of potential students in the country who cannot go to the bricks-and-mortar colleges and who cannot be reached by the few tutors who are able to go out into the field, in Cambridge—and this is nothing at all to do with Cambridge University—there is a private enterprise, run by a Mr. Brian Jackson, called the National Extension College. This has been in existence for two years and has 5,000 students, who are having education given to them by correspondence courses of the kind I have described. They are reading for "O" levels, for "A" levels, for the London External Degree, usually in mathematics or economics or English, because these are the subjects which will help them in a career. It is strictly vocational, but it gives opportunities to a wide range of people who cannot get to colleges because the times at which classes are arranged in technical colleges are not always convenient for those who are in jobs; and, moreover, many of the people concerned 1347 live in rural districts which are far from technical colleges. Therefore, this is one of the ways in which our higher education system could develop at far less cost than by the provision of more buildings and more permanent staff.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ LORD LLOYD OF HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I propose to concentrate my remarks, which in view of the lateness of the hour I will try to make as brief as possible, mainly on the situation in which the University with which I am connected now finds itself. Although this may seem a partial approach, I make no apology for it, because of the special character of certain of its problems.
The colleges of the University of London have made heroic efforts to respond adequately to the call to meet the large increases in student numbers entailed by the Robbins "crash" programme, and have done so to a considerable extent in advance of any provision of accommodation or facilities to cope with them. Yet, while the students have poured in, capital provision has been substantially reduced. The situation has recently been described, by no less an authority than the Principal of the University of London, as "catastrophic". No doubt bricks and mortar and land do not make a university, but a university cannot exist without them.
Here I come to the special feature of the London colleges. Hemmed in as they are on constricted sites acquired many years ago, when no one could have foreseen the present need for expansion, if adequate development is to take place it is absolutely imperative for these colleges to be allowed to burst out from their present confinement. In simple terms, they must be afforded the facilities to acquire any suitable sites in the vicinity which come into the market. Only in this way can they find means of developing and contributing to the national need. But situated as they are in the heart of this great city, the colleges find themselves in competition with the commercial market, and in this contest it is not surprising that the University generally finishes up a poor second.
What are the essentials to enable these great colleges to develop in a fashion which is adequate to the national need? 1348 I suggest there are two—namely, a quick and flexible procedure for acquiring new sites and buildings as these come into the market; and reserve funds to enable these to be acquired as needed. But what in fact have we got? On the one hand, we have a cumbrous procedure passing through a variety of steps up to the University Grants Committee, and, on the other hand, no reserve funds whatever, but only a possibility that the U.G.C. may permit the acquisition on the footing that it is to be offset against the existing building allocation, so that there is in effect no net gain whatever in buildings to the University.
However, this is only part of the problem, for I have not yet mentioned the most thorny obstacle of all. The stern rule of the U.G.C. is that grants can be made only where the purchase price is approved by the district valuer, and here we come to the crux of the problem. A site or property comes into the market which would be admirably suited to contribute to the development needs of a given college. A commercial concern has made an offer for it, which provides some indication at least of its market value. Assuming that the college has succeeded in getting to the stage of persuading the U.G.C. of the desirability of this acquisition, the district valuer is then asked to assess what would be the appropriate purchase price.
I do not desire in any way to criticise the district valuers, who are a very worthy, hardworking and conscientious body of men who are only doing their duty. Nevertheless, the fact remains that their training and experience tend to make them adopt what I may call, without any political overtones, a conservative estimate of site and building values. Hence there is generally a gap between the price that commerce will pay and that which the college can offer, and because of this gap the University has lost, is losing and will (unless something is done to bridge it) continue to lose its only real prospect of breaking out of its confining fetters. Of course, sometimes a splendid benefactor has come along like a deus ex machina to pay the difference, but such private benefactors, alas! are not always on tap, and in any event the U.G.C.'s rules will in only very rare and exceptional cases permit an acquisition beyond the district valuer's price, even 1349 where the balance is being obtained through private sources.
With all respect to the district valuers, no one can pretend that valuation is an exact science, and the variation between the commercial price and that of the district valuer is often quite marginal in relation to a very large sum, and may be of the order of about 5 per cent. or not much more. To mention one recent example, the commercial price offered was £600,000 and the district valuer's assessment was £550,000. In this particular instance the happy conjuncture of a private and generous gift of £50,000, and a recognition by the U.G.C. of the exceptional character of the particular situation, led to a successful result for the college concerned. But even here the new building was set off against the existing building allocation in the way that I have explained, so that there was no net gain in buildings to the university. The moral of all this is, surely, that when any new site or building comes fortuitously into the market, the university should, if not given actual priority, at least be able to compete on equal terms and allowed without unnecessary delay to match any legitimate commercial offer.
Your Lordships will bear in mind that the universities have no powers of compulsory acquisition. I am not at all clear from my study of the recent White Paper on the Land Commission, whether the new powers to be conferred on that body will extend to acquisition for purposes of higher education. For my part, I would put in a plea for very serious consideration to be given to the possible rôle of the new Land Commission in relation to the problems to which I have referred. But quite apart from this, what I urge upon the Government is to substitute for the existing rigidities a new formula whereby a London college could quickly put in a bid for any building or site which is necessary for its proper development, without being tied to the precise assessments of the district valuer. This is not in any sense a plea for any special privileges to be conferred on the London colleges. All I am suggesting is that it should be realised that this is a special case, which cannot be dealt with within the framework of the ordinary rules, which are no doubt well enough adapted to a university surrounded by a large and expansible campus but are totally inappropriate to the constricted 1350 conditions of our great metropolitan University, for without an understanding of the nature of its problem and the will to overcome it that University will find itself caught in a strait-jacket from which there is no escape.
Lastly, lest any noble Lord may be tempted to ask whether it is not too expensive to allow London's University to go on expanding and developing its potential, I would put this question. Can we afford not to allow this development full scope? I am well aware of the great rôle the provincial universities play in our higher education, and of the exciting new stimulus that has been imparted to our educational system by the new universities. The fact remains that no university can have the unique features of London, with its central position, its proximity to the great libraries, museums and research institutes, the Public Records, the Royal Society and all the other elements which make London a natural focus for higher learning and research of all kinds. Coupled with this is London's great international reputation for developing research, and postgraduate studies, as well as its immense undergraduate student population. Can we afford, for the sake of a district valuer's marginal assessments or a few acres in Central London, to be deprived of London University's true potential?
Before I sit down, I should like to refer briefly to one other matter which has been stressed by a number of previous speakers, and that is the frightful consequences of the recent moratorium which has been imposed on capital projects. I would give just one example. After years and years of waiting, University College at last has an excellent, cleared, vacant site for a new chemistry building. The chemistry department, which is one of the most important in this country, has struggled for years under utterly cramped and inadequate conditions. Now the project is stopped, albeit temporarily, and the site is being used as a car-park. What sort of effect can this be imagined to have on the morale of the staff? And how can one plan programmes of research and teaching on such a basis? When one links this with a situation where no university knows the scale of its building grants after March, 1967—and the London colleges are indeed in the dark after March, 1966—any suggestion of 1351 planning is really a mockery. Therefore, now that we have a Government who believe in planning, I do urge that our universities be given the means to plan their future development with some sort of rational order. A great system of education cannot be built on a succession of annual improvisations.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, I believe it was a Surrey fast bowler of whom it was said that when he went in to bat the horse used to go in between the shafts of the heavy roller. I now feel a little like that Surrey fast bowler, and I promise your Lordships that I shall not be very long. This debate which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has initiated has put us further in his debt. All of us know how much we owe to the Robbins Report. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will not mind my being critical about it, because my criticism has nothing to do with my admiration for the Report and for the change which it has made in the whole climate of higher education in this country.
I believe there is one serious point about the Robbins Report which is going to affect us in this country for many years. It is that, in my opinion, an insufficient distinction was made between universities and other places of higher education; that the expansion of universities was regarded as being the major field of expansion in the way of higher education. I know that if one looks at the figures one will find that the expansion of the other parts is on approximately the same percentage basis; but, nevertheless, the failure of the Report was, I believe, failure to appreciate that universities exist primarily for the advancement of knowledge and that it is the other sectors of higher education which are concerned largely with the diffusion of knowledge. I do not mean to say that universities do not and should not take a part in the diffusion of knowledge, but if they fail to play an outstanding part in the expansion of knowledge, then indeed we have nowhere else in our society for carrying out this expansion.
This expansion of knowledge is an immensely expensive business, and if one links the whole of the higher education system to the most expensive part of it one gets soaring costs which it becomes absolutely impossible for the community 1352 to meet. I should like to see the whole of the youth of the country going into some form of higher education—not 10, 20 or 50 per cent., but the whole of it—but this cannot be done on our present basis. We in this country have devised an extraordinarily expensive system of higher education if one takes the universities as the model, not only because of the research facilities but also because it has become apparently deliberate policy to send every student from Northumberland to Exeter and every student from Kent up to Lancaster. The result is that we are adding approximately £300 per annum per student to the cost of higher education. If we were to go up to half a million students in higher education, and if we did it entirely on this basis, we should at the present time be adding £150 million a year to the cost of higher education.
I must say that there is no other country in the world which imagines that it is necessary for the student to go away in order to get good higher education. We in this country seem to have become obsessed with what I think the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, referred to as "snobbery in education". What we tend to say is that certain institutions which have not only good teaching facilities and good research facilities but also first-class athletic grounds and many other things attached to them, are the places to which students should go. I think that this is a fantastic approach to the whole of higher education, and I believe that we are dealing with this matter in the wrong way.
To look now at the cost of higher education, the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, referred to it earlier on in regard to capital cost and pointed out how the universities are not going to have the capital sums to carry out their building programmes; but let me take the recurring grants. If one looks at The National Plan one finds in it an estimate of the amount which the Government will be prepared to spend in the year 1969–70 on recurring grants to universities, and the amount is given as £159 million. The amount given for 1964–65 is £105 million. The number of students is supposed to go up from 148,000 to 199,000. If one works this out one finds that this is done by allowing an increase of 2.1 per cent. per annum 1353 in the cost per student in the universities. Yet I think the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, would agree that, if you go back to 1946 and work up to the present day, you find, even neglecting the inflation which has taken place in the economy, that the cost per student has risen by 6.1 per cent. per annum. Therefore, the amount which is being proposed in The National Plan is enough to cope only with 170,000 students by 1969, not 199,000 students.
I submit that throughout the whole of our costing of higher education there has been a cheerful optimism, and a refusal to face the fact that higher education at university level is necessarily an expensive thing because you are trying to do it in the form of producing the most advanced type of learning and the greatest advances in science. This cannot be done except on the basis of a large increase per annum in the cost, even for a system which is taking in no more students. Therefore, in my opinion, the Government are absolutely right to adopt a binary system. I think that, without a binary system, the educational system in this country would founder.
May I raise just one further point, with regard to teachers' training colleges? I think that there are two matters here. First of all, I believe that the best system is one in which the teachers' training colleges, as at the moment, are under the general control of the Ministry and of local authorities, but in which they are related, through institutes of education, with the universities. This gives the university the possibility of influencing standards without doing what the noble Lord, Lord Annan, was afraid of, and I think quite rightly—that is, without stopping the growth of them. I agree with the noble Lord. I am just as afraid of the effect which university control could have upon some of these other sections of higher education.
Then, if one looks at the position with regard to teachers' training colleges, one finds a most astonishing state of affairs. I have taken these figures from the Robbins Report. In 1962–63 there was a total of 55,000 students in the training colleges. Of these, 28,000 were studying art subjects and 10,000 science subjects. The percentages, if one wishes to work them out, were 51 per cent. arts and 18.2 per cent. science. My Lords, remember 1354 that we are in a society which is claiming to move towards a more scientific basis and to understand better the scientific foundations of what we are doing. The prediction of the Robbins Report was that by 1980 there would be 146,000 in teachers' training colleges of whom 74,000 would be studying arts—that is still 51 per cent.—and there would be 26,000 studying science; in other words there would be a drop from 18.2 to 17.8 per cent. That is the way in which in this country, when we are paying lip service to technology and science, we solemnly set out and plan a system in which fewer and fewer teachers will know even the rudimentary science that is taught in a training college.
When we come to look at the intake into the universities, can we wonder that we have a decreasing percentage going in for science? Can we wonder that there are fewer, in the absolute sense, candidates at the advanced level in physics in the last two years than previously; that it has passed through a maximum? Can we possibly imagine that we are going to have a modern society, when we are deliberately training fewer people to know anything about it? I believe that although the Robbins Report did us a great service, we must not regard it as a sacred book. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, would not wish us to do so. We must realise that our educational system is still in a parlous state and that there is a great deal to do to put it right.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I must start by apologising for the state of my voice. It is certainly not at its best. I had no intention of intervening to-night especially at this late hour; but I have listened with some dismay during this debate to speaker after speaker referring to science and technology—and I say this with an apology to the noble Lord who has just sat down—as though they were the sum total of education. I do not wish to decry those subjects at all. They are extremely important, valuable and interesting. But they are specialist subjects. My own subject when I was teaching was a specialist subject also. It was music; but I do not imagine that music should be made widespread or anything more than a specialist subject; although I must say I should be happier to see it have a more
1355 generous place in some of our newer universities.
But not a single speaker during this debate has mentioned the subjects of history, literature or languages; and, believe me, my Lords, the salvation of this country is not going to lie in higher technology: it is going to lie in a very much improved morale. I am convinced that that can be found only by a wider understanding of how other people think and live and how they have in the past thought and lived. So I sincerely hope that that thought will be taken into consideration by the Government.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, we have certainly had a most distinguished debate, and no one will suppose that I am arrogant enough to imagine that I could reply to, or even refer to, some of the most valuable points that have been made. But I am very glad indeed to follow the noble Lord, Lord Somers, because I always think of him as the best listener we have got. When the "University of the Air" is started—and I am sure that will please Lord Todd—Lord Somers will be one of the most effective students who will win the highest honours through the courses administered in that way. I would repeat, as we all must, our indebtedness to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins—our indebtedness to-day for initiating this debate and our indebtedness to him, in the light of history, for his epoch-making Report, to which the noble Lord, Lord Snow, in a notable speech has paid tribute and to which some of us also have paid tribute in this House before. If I compare him with my old master and his old friend, Lord Beveridge, if I compare his Report with the Beveridge Report, then the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will realise that I am seeking to pay him the highest compliment in my power. If I had to find one phrase to describe his achievement afresh, I would say that here, once again, was an occasion when the man matched the hour.
When we turn back to the Robbins Report—and some of us may have done so this last week-end—and pick out our favourite passage, I think one of the most relevant paragraphs is paragraph 42, where we are reminded that: 1356The improved opportunities for secondary schooling are largely responsible for the enormous growth in the senior forms since the War…. In 1938 only about 4 per cent. of children aged seventeen in Great Britain were at school; in 1962 the proportion was 12 per cent. and in addition nearly 3 per cent. Were receiving full time education …".The Report goes on to say:This expansion has not been accompanied by any lowering of standards, but rather the reverse.This was the situation, the dynamic trend, which confronted him when he and his colleagues did their monumental work. They rose to the occasion superbly. That is my opinion; and it will always be remembered when the Robbins Report is mentioned that here was this great, tremendous, almost unsuspected and unrecognised increase in the yearning for education; and he has done more than any one man could have been expected to do to help us to satisfy it.
He will not expect me to agree with everything he says in the Report. Indeed, as I have embarked on this comparison with Lord Beveridge, I may say that I remember listening to Lord Waverley, who was then Sir John Anderson, coming down to explain to a rather disappointed House of Commons and saying that he would have been proud and happy to accept the whole of the Beveridge Report but that that was not quite his position that afternoon. There are analogies here which I should not want to pursue too far, because, in fact, nearly all the Beveridge Report was achieved later. I am not holding out any inducement to-day; but the noble Lord will understand me perfectly. I suspect that many of us will have read and enjoyed Sir Isaiah Berlin's little book called The Fox and the Hedgehog. The hedgehog knows one big thing and the fox knows a lot of little things. For the purposes of this debate, we can regard the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, as the hedgehog, replied to by our counter hedgehog the noble Lord, Lord Snow, and the rest of us are foxes.
I must try to cope with the large number of somewhat unrelated points which have been brought up after the noble Lord had spoken. I will deal, if I may, as foreshadowed by the noble Lord, Lord Snow, with one aspect of the general field, the qualities of education; but perhaps I had better come to that when I 1357 have dealt with individual speakers; otherwise my audience, which is not very extensive now, will have disappeared by the time I came to the general theme.
In so far as there was a general issue, apart from those raised by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, I suppose that this question of deferments may be said to have troubled a number of noble Lords; but I think that no one took up the crude stand that the Government must be condemned out of hand for holding back university building. I do not feel a need to try to make any debating points against, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I had come equipped to remind him that in the debate in August on economics he warned us that expansion could not be pressed too far. But he has not himself attacked us to-day on the grounds of deferment, and I would use his arguments in the debate in August only against any noble Lords who think that the Government have been very mean-spirited to take such note of the economic situation.
What has worried more noble Lords than deferments, I suppose, is the question of how the deferments have been done, and I would strongly submit that if noble Lords will take their own experience they must agree that these deferments have not been carried out in any wooden or ham-handed fashion. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, made one of his immensely attractive speeches. He told us that York had not come out so badly, and at least one other noble Lord said the same about his own college. So far as any first-hand experience was quoted (and if it could not be quoted here in this sort of debate with all these eminent speakers, I do not know where it could be quoted) I think that we must bestow a rather belated laurel on those who were compelled to carry out the unwelcome task of administering these deferments. At any rate, the House is aware (I think that my noble friend Lord Snow told us this on an earlier occasion) that in fact the total value of projects whose starting is now seen to be deferred, either until later in 1965–66 or subsequently, is £25 million; and of these projects to the value of £10 million are likely to start before the end of 1965–66. That leaves £15 million in peril out of a programme of £60 million. I do not say 1358 that this is not regrettable; but at any rate the figures give us the order of magnitude.
What was pressed strongly by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, as it was pressed by other speakers, including the noble Lords, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead and Lord Todd, was the need for making sure, in a sense, that this does not happen again; the need for a capital programme to give the universities some fairly clear idea of how much capital money would be available over a longer period than one year. They would want their capital programme assured, if possible, for five years. Obviously, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, our leading economist, will tell us that that will always be extremely difficult. I sympathise with noble Lords who say that at any rate much more effort ought to be made in that direction than has ever been made hitherto. I am authorised to assure those noble Lords, in particular, and the House in general, that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State fully recognises the strength of this feeling and that he sympathises with it.
That assurance will, I hope, bring some little ray of consolation to the noble Lord, or at any rate give him material, when we next debate the universities, for coming back at us very strongly if nothing has been done about it. My sympathy may not be worth a great deal—it is sometimes bestowed a little too liberally—but the Secretary of State, although he has been criticised for one reason or another, is a man of very acute, rather watchful intelligence; and he is advised by very prudent experts in the Department. I think that the statement I have made goes quite a long way. I hope that it will be accepted in that light.
I should like to congratulate more than one maiden speaker, but I think that the strain of their speeches must have exhausted them, for they have left the Chamber. If they are merely seeking refreshment and return, I will go into their points in greater detail. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was kind enough to give me notice of a number of questions, and perhaps he will allow me to select one or two and to deal with those a little more briefly than they deserve. Both in his case, and in other cases, I 1359 hope to supply fuller replies, where necessary, by letter.
The noble Lord asked whether the Government are confident of achieving the Robbins target for university places in 1975. Incidentally, I should certainly apologise, and apologise twice for not doing it sooner, for my absence at the beginning of the debate. The House is so understanding on these occasions, and the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will understand why I heard nothing, or hardly anything, of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and, I am afraid, very little of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. As a result, it may be that in some cases I shall answer the wrong questions, or questions which he might have thought of putting, but did not put. If that is so, I hope that the noble Lord will correct me.
The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, wondered whether we are confident of achieving the Robbins target for university places in 1975. The Government do not feel able at present to look beyond the Robbins target for 1973–74. They accept the objectives for that year: 390,000 full-time places in higher education, with 218,000 of these in universities. There is no reason to suppose that these objectives will not be achieved. I think that my noble friend Lord Snow brought out earlier that we are ahead, distinctly ahead, of the Robbins targets up to the present time.
The noble Lord asked whether our final figure had yet been agreed for university building starts for the years 1967–68 and 1968–69. Final figures have not yet been settled for the university programme of building starts for these years. The effect of deferments on university building programmes is part of the total information before the Government in keeping under review arrangements for deferring public expenditure. The noble Lord may not consider that the most satisfactory answer in the world, but at any rate, the answer is that they have not been finally settled. But all that the noble Lord has said to-day, and anything that other speakers have said, will be borne in mind, and I will make a special effort to see whether I can cast any influence at all in this direction—though that is not a promise of any tremendous value.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, it seems to me a little odd to be able to confirm that you are going to stick to a target for 1973–74 if you are not quite sure that you are going to be able to build enough accommodation to take these university places.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not say that we should not be able to build enough over the period. I was taking those two particular years and saying that the final figures had not been settled. I think we must assume that the gentlemen who have given me this advice are not guilty of a childish and blatant contradiction, and that what I say is so: that we certainly hope the Robbins target for 1973–74 will be achieved. But, as I say, we have not settled the figures.
I was asked whether a decision has been taken about a new technological university in the North-East. The answer is that this matter is still being borne in mind. I was asked what is the current position about charters for colleges of advanced technology that desire to become universities. Seven of the colleges, and the Heriot Watt College in Edinburgh, have submitted petitions to the Queen in Council praying for the Royal Charter of incorporation. Notice of these have been published in the London Gazette and have now been laid before both Houses of Parliament for the required period. The petitions and representations have been made by interested parties and are now under consideration, so perhaps I may leave the other points raised by the noble Lord and try to answer them by letter.
One of the maiden speakers has, I see, returned, and I am very glad that he has, because I should like to echo many of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Kings Norton. As Chairman of the National Council for Academic Awards he has contributed a very great deal to the progress already made, and I should like him to feel that the Government are not only much indebted to him personally but recognise that the Council has a major part to play in shaping the future of the technical colleges as centres of higher education. I am glad to have a chance of saying that. I hope that the noble Lord will be pleased.
1361 The noble Lord, Lord Todd, made an important speech, which I will not attempt to answer now, but I would assure him that in some Governmental circles, at least, there is an almost fanatical interest in the idea of a University of the Air, so it is not going to die for lack of passionate support. The implications are being carefully considered. I do not think I am giving away any secret when I say that Miss Jennie Lee is a great devotee. I think that when the history of this Government comes to be written, it will be said that what Miss Lee supports is very often successful. I may be wrong—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I answer that point in a little more detail? The noble Lord was wondering which way the wind was blowing, and it seems to be blowing in his favour. However, I cannot make a commitment beyond that.
As regards the University of Strathclyde, where interesting and valuable developments have been taking place in the use of closed-circuit television, these developments have to be considered within a national framework. The Strathclyde scheme envisages not a national service but a series of local or regional stations. I am bound to point out that the University of the Air needs a substantial share in a television channel with national coverage. At the same time, I am advised (naturally I am speaking on advice here, because I am afraid that I cannot begin to compete with the noble Lord on the subject) that the University of Strathclyde could play a useful part in any national scheme that may be developed, by training staff and preparing and producing at the University programmes that could be transmitted nationally. The noble Lord will tell me whether that is at all helpful from his point of view, but that is all I am able to say to him this evening.
§ LORD TODD
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that statement. Of course, it is valuable, but I would make again 1362 one point that I made in my speech. I believe that in this field it is desirable that some individual university should carry out some of the actual field work. It ought to carry out some pilot experiments. I can see no reason why licences for low-powered transmission by the University of Strathclyde or by other universities—because there are others interested in this—should not be permitted, because this would give just the kind of pilot information which would be extremely valuable for the national University of the Air which is being discussed.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord knows much more about this than I do, and all I can say is that I will make a special effort to see that those concerned, and above all Miss Jennie Lee, in the first instance, are made well aware of what he has said. Obviously, his speech this afternoon is of great importance. I am sure that he will allow me to leave it there for the moment.
The noble Lord, Lord Sherfield, was kind enough to say that he would not require an answer from me. He is an economics expert and discussed with great authority the sources of finance There was one point about student loans on which I should like to comment, although I am sure the noble Lord is well aware of all that has been said, since he quoted the Minister's statement. The Government have an open mind on this matter and we want the subject to be widely debated. We should welcome the views of student organisations, local authority organisations and universities, and also, if I may say this on my own authority, we should much welcome the views of the noble Lord. I am sure that the noble Lord will not expect much more than that this evening.
I am sorry not to have answered the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, but I was greatly interested in what he said. My noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones made a speech which, coming rather late in the day, may not receive the attention in the Press which it deserves, but he undoubtedly raised some fundamental points. I should not dream of trying to compete with his calculations, man to man, least of all without preparation. I can only assure him that they will be studied carefully. But since they work out in favour of the Government's policy, I do not 1363 think that we need to be distressed by them.
§ LORD WYNNE-JONES
My Lords, the actual figures I gave were that while the Government are claiming that there will be 199,000 students in the universities in 1970, the money which is stated in the National Plan to be allocated allows for about 170,000. That is scarcely in agreement with Government policy.
§ TILE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I take it that, coining from a loyal supporter of the Government, that is correct. The only calcuation I have been able to make up to now, with some slight assistance, is that the noble Lord's calculation depends on the indefinite extension of the real cost per student of 1 per cent. per annum. Of course we cannot tell whether the increase in students' costs will be of that order, but, as the noble Lord's conclusion from that kind of calculation was that the binary system is the only possible one, he comes down on our side. But perhaps my noble friend might some time put down a Question about these figures, or allow me to write to him.
The noble Lord, Lord Holford, prayed for indulgence for a short speech, but he made an interesting one. I would also mention the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, who still has not recovered from his maiden speech. He has given tremendous service in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, also spoke brilliantly.
Before I sit down, I should like, in view of what was said earlier, to say one or two words about the colleges of education. May I take the recommendations of the Robbins Report regarding the colleges under three heads: academic development, their government, and the further scale and mode of their expansion? As the noble Lord will recall, the Government accepted the Robbins Committee's view that the very limited degree of opportunities hitherto available to students in colleges of education should be considerably extended by the institution of new four-year courses for suitable students, leading to a degree and a professional teaching qualification.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I appreciate that, but I must be allowed to set this out in my own way—I assure the noble Lord that it will not take long. The Government further agreed with the Committee that the appropriate avenue to such facilities should be a university one, through the development of the present institutes of education, with which the colleges have been linked during the past two decades.
I am ashamed to say that I cannot remember which noble Lord dealt with the institutes of education, because this is an important point. I was a member of the governing body of a training college, and chairman of another smaller training college, and I know that these links with the institutes of education have made the whole difference to the intellectual atmosphere during recent years. I will not go into details now, but it is a matter of great satisfaction to the Government that the majority of universities are now proceeding to work out, and in some cases to complete, the necessary arrangements with the constituent colleges in their institutes. Arrangements will vary from university to university. In some cases a substantial amount of work will be carried out in the university itself; in others the course will throughout remain based upon the college itself. I hope that here, at any rate, what is being suggested will be in line with what I should like to think was inspired by the Robbins Report.
I come next to the subject of government of the colleges. This is a matter on which it is no good pretending that we have given effect to the suggestions of the Robbins Committee. It was the view of the Robbins Committee that the place of the colleges in the higher education system would be best assured if they could be given independent governing bodies and administered and financed by the universities through university schools of education with which the colleges would be federated. As your Lordships will be aware, the Government concluded against an arrangement on these lines, and in the last resort I am afraid that one has just got to see how the Government's decision works out. If I may offer my own opinion—and it is a firm opinion, although it can be neither proved nor disproved; and this, if I may say so with respect, is also true of any convictions on this matter which the noble 1365 Lord, Lord Robbins, holds—I feel that if you want to press forward with a supply of teachers, it would be far wiser to allow the existing authorities (that is, the local authorities and the Ministry) to carry on the work that has been carried forward at any rate a good deal faster than the expansion of the universities in recent years.
If I may take one passage from the Robbins Committee's Report (and I think this will be the only one I shall quote), they point out in paragraph 45:that, while the number of university students has slightly more than doubled since the war, the number in training colleges and colleges of education has increased just over four-fold.So the expansion has been much more rapid in colleges of education than in universities. Without wanting to bring too many personal reminiscences into this, it is now eight years or more since I advocated the policy of rapid expansion, since recommended by the Robbins Committee, and in those days I was just regarded as slightly absurd by the heads of universities. To carry my reminiscences one sentence further, when I suggested that the Minister of Education should take responsibility, I was more or less—or it came near to this—howled down in your Lordships' House.
If I may say one more word on this important subject of the colleges of education, again speaking for myself, I should certainly hesitate to say that the set-up of the governing bodies of all the teacher colleges of education is perfect to-day. Therefore, I would myself attach great importance (and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, might say a word about this when he comes to reply) to the Study Group which has been set up to see how the governing bodies could be made even more effective and distinctly more liberal.
I need not go into detail about the Study Group, but it has been examining the rôles and responsibilities which local education authorities (or other bodies providing colleges), the governing bodies, the principals and college staffs could properly be expected to discharge, and how the governing bodies and academic boards of college staff could appropriately be constituted for these purposes. I hope that nobody, and least of all one so well- 1366 informed as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, will simply say that in future all these colleges are going to be managed as they have been in the past. Within the limits that I have mentioned, the Government have an open mind, and I should be astonished if the Study Group did not succeed in very much liberalising the arrangements.
I do not think I need go into the expansion of the colleges in detail at this time. I would, however, point out that we have so far surpassed even the hopes of the Robbins Committee. The Robbins Committee assumed for the purposes of their calculations that the colleges might take in some 22.5 thousand students in 1964, and some 24.6 thousand in 1965. In fact, the colleges took in 24,000 last year, and no fewer than 29,000 this year, which is more than the Committee's projections had assumed for 1969. Therefore, if we are talking of expansion, I do not think the noble Lord would quarrel with it up to now, because we have so far exceeded his hopes. There is that one point of difference about the management, and while we prefer our arrangements—and I speak as someone who has been connected with these colleges for some years, although I should not like it to be thought that I was speaking on behalf of any particular college with which I have been connected—I should hope that the noble Lord would feel that we have not deprived ourselves of what was vital in his inspiration.
I must not keep the House any longer. The univerities are a subject which in this House we are particularly well qualified to discuss. I am sorry that the universities are not yet a popular subject, but in a way they may become a less popular subject in your Lordships' House, because apart from certain strong views held by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, there is a very wide measure of agreement. But that agreement, in so far as it exists, is agreement at an altogether higher level, I think surpasses the degree of complacency of some years back. If there is one man living who has shaken us all up about our thinking so that it can never become static again, it is the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. My last words, therefore, on behalf of the Government, are to thank him once again for his great services to the nation.
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, the hour is late, and I do not propose to detain you for more than a few minutes. I will not touch at all upon the disputed question of the machinery of government. I said in my opening remarks that I adhered to the opinion which I expressed in your Lordships' House two years ago about the appropriate form. I accepted the fact that we had to work on what we have. Indeed, in my speech I confined myself chiefly to issues other than that one, and it was other speakers in the debate who brought it back into the centre of the arena.
So far as the teacher-training issue is concerned, I certainly agree with much of what the noble Earl has said about what has been done. I welcomed the arrangement with regard to the institution of degrees, and I greeted with unqualified approbation the inquiries which are being made into the question of the behaviour of existing governing bodies. I still think, with great respect, that a great opportunity will be missed if eventually these institutions are not federated with the universities. I am still convinced that that is their ultimate spiritual home.
If the noble Earl bases his and the Government's reluctance to see that transfer on the disturbance which might be caused during the period of rapid transition, then, as I said in my opening remarks, I accept that this is a matter on which we may easily hold two views. I think that it could have been done; the noble Earl thinks it would have been difficult. But if he bases his opposition on that ground, he does not, I hope, shut out future evolution. In my reading (I may be wrong) of other Government pronouncements on this subject, the case has been based on other less practical grounds. The opposition has been based upon the philosophy of the binary system, the desirability of keeping the vocational elements in the system of higher education separate from the autonomous institutions.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
If I may interrupt the noble Lord, I felt that the binary system had been dealt with thoroughly on such a high plane that I need not mention it. It was not through any dislike of it, or lack of enthusiasm for it, that I did not refer to that system.
§ LORD ROBBINS
I am sorry to hear that. It would have given me the greatest 1368 pleasure if I had been able to detect some dislike of that system in the noble Earl's observations. The noble Lord, Lord Snow, expatiated at length on this matter, and there are just one or two points which I should desire to emphasise.
The noble Lord, if I may say so, roared "as gently as any sucking dove" on the theme of the binary system. As one listened to his well-considered and temperate observations one might well ask oneself: "Now what is all the fuss about?" But to any noble Lords who have such doubts, I address the exhortation, "Read the Woolwich speech by the Secretary of State", when something much more tremendous than anything Lord Snow placed before us was, if not stated in so many words, at any rate adumbrated by the tone and the style and in individual propositions.
Accepting Lord Snow's extremely reasonable presentation of his version of this system, I think I can say that of course there is no difference of opinion about the wide area of junior colleges, in respect of which there is no question, among reasonable men, of upgrading to any senior status. One noble Lord—I think the noble Lord, Lord Henley—spoke as though the Committee of which I had the honour to be Chairman recommended a sort of universal elevation to university status of local area and regional colleges. That was never the case. All that we put forward in our modest recommendations was that, during the whole period covered by our projections, there should be an eventual upgrading of ten technical colleges, central institutions or colleges of education—which is, surely, quite another thing.
But there is still an issue between us. From time to time the noble Lord—and I confess that I found it difficult to follow him at this juncture—contrasted the university ethos with the ethos of other possible institutions, and suggested that both types were desirable. He upbraided me gently with suggesting that, after all, only one type was ultimately attractive. But, candidly, I do not recognise the university system in the implications of Lord Snow's observations at that stage. After all, the university system now embraces the upgraded colleges of advanced technology. What the noble 1369 Lord did not make plain in response to my interrogation, and what has been puzzling my brains ever since his speech, and what I have not been able to make plain to myself, is the difference between what is desirable in the institutions which he wants to keep, with a ten-year barrier against promotion, at the top of the public sector of the binary system, and the ethos 1370 of the colleges of advanced technology. I think that is all I have to say this evening, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at six minutes before nine o'clock.