HL Deb 24 February 1965 vol 263 cc834-8

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to make a Statement which is being made in another place. The Government have now considered the recommendations of the Robbins Committee for the expansion of teacher-training places, the creation of new universities, and the designation of Special Institutions for Scientific and Technological Education and Research. The Robbins Committee recommended a 10-year programme designed to provide by 1973-74, 390,000 full-time higher education places in universities, colleges of education and technical colleges in Great Britain. The Government accept the objectives of 390,000 places in higher education by 1973-74, and of 218,000 places in universities. The Government have now decided that 122,000 of the remaining places should be places for training teachers. This will nearly double the number of students in training. In addition, my right honourable friend is urgently examining all possible ways of increasing the output of teachers from existing facilities.

These measures will not only contribute significantly to the widening of educational opportunity which was promised in the gracious Speech; they will also secure a further large increase in the output of teachers for our schools. My right honourable friend is keeping the whole subject of teacher supply under close review and looks forward to receiving shortly the next report of the National Advisory Council on the Training and Supply of Teachers.

On the question of new universities, the Government have considered the advice given by the University Grants Committee, and it is now clear that the target of 218,000 university places in 1973-74 is within the capacity of existing universities and other institutions of university status.

As your Lordships know, the colleges of advanced technology in England and Wales and the Heriot Watt College in Scotland will be given university status and added to the University Grants Committee's list from April 1 next; and the University Grants Committee will in due course advise the Government on the means by which the Royal College of Art and the College of Aeronautics, Cranfield, should also be brought within the ambit of the Committee.

No change in these plans is involved; but apart from this and such developments as the creation of separate universities at St. Andrew's and Dundee, the Government have decided that no more additional universities or accessions to university status will be needed for about ten years, with one exception. They are actively considering the possibility of creating within that period a completely new technological university institution in the North-East. The Government will, of course, examine well before the ten years are up the possibility that more universities may be needed thereafter.

The Government have also considered, with the advice of the University Grants Committee and the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, the important recommendation of the Robbins Committee that five institutions should be developed and designated as a category of superior institutions to be known as Special Institutions for Scientific and Technological Education and Research.

They wholly accept the principle of selective development and expansion of technological education at a high level. They consider, however, that this will be best achieved not by creating a separate category within institutions of university status, but by continuing the build-up of the three specialised institutions named by the Robbins Committee (Imperial College, London, the Manchester College of Science and Technology, and Strath-clyde University). These will be given priority in the provision of finance, both capital and current; moreover, as I have said, the creation of a new technological university in the North-East is now being urgently examined. But the Government do not accept the recommendation to select one out of the ten colleges of advanced technology for special treatment; and they have decided, on balance, against giving any institutions a special designation as SISTERS.

The House will see that the Government accept the substance of the Robbins Committee's proposals on this matter. But, as to method, they prefer to encourage and expand the many promising developments in the technological departments of other universities, includ- ing colleges of advanced technology; and they wish to prevent the false impression arising, that a first-class technological education is only available in a small handful of institutions.

The Government will keep the whole development of higher education under review, with particular reference to the need to increase the supply of scientists and technologists.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for reading us this long and detailed Statement, although, of course, one of the major decisions contained in it—the decision not to build additional universities—is already well known to us, as it was published in one of London's evening newspapers last night. However, this is a most important Statement, and we should like to give it careful consideration before making any comment upon it.


My Lords, could the attention of the Leader of the House be drawn to the matter to which my noble friend Lord Aberdare has just referred? This is, I think, the third occasion on which we have had a Statement' the contents of which, or the material part of the contents of which, have already appeared in the Press. I hope that something can be done about this.


My Lords, I certainly take the noble Viscount's point. He will appreciate that there is some difficulty in this matter. There is some what might be called intelligent anticipation, and sometimes it is right, and sometimes wrong. But if there is any point in what the noble Viscount has said, I will see that it is dealt with.


My Lords, I do not think this could have come within the area of intelligent anticipation. It looked much more as if the horse had been let out of the stable.


My Lords, perhaps I might comment on what the noble Viscount has said. There has been, to my certain knowledge, on I think three or four occasions, newspaper comment substantially in accordance with the Statement; and there have been at least half a dozen times when newspaper proposals have been at variance with it. There are very few opportunities open to the Government, and the fact that some intelligent journalist should have hit on the ones that the Government have chosen seems to be almost inevitable. I was not aware of the fact that this particular "leak" had occurred yesterday, so I cannot comment upon it. But I recall that on several occasions in the past, going back at least a year, there have been not dissimilar proposals.


My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Aberdare that this is an important Statement, and we shall have to study it very carefully. I understood that there are not to be any SISTERS, as such, but that the Government propose to build up the three special institutions which the noble Lord mentioned in his Statement. May I ask the noble Lord whether there will be a separate allocation of capital for that purpose?


My Lords, this is a most important point. The University Grants Committee is at this moment considering the amounts of extra recurrent grant which are most urgently needed, and I hope to be able to make an announcement before long. I think it is important that the Government's policy on this should be clear to the House. It is not possible, unfortunately, in a matter of this kind to achieve success by dividing one's limited resources impartially and equally among all competing claimants. The Americans have long since decided that they can establish successful schools only by encouraging what they have called centres of excellence, and this they have done deliberately by providing extra funds for the new institutions. We in this country inevitably must go the same way.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend (and I speak as treasurer of one of the new universities) whether the decision not to create more universities during the next ten years will involve the existing new universities—the Essexes, the Sussexes and so on—in a more rapid programme of development than has so far been laid down for them?


My Lords, it is difficult to comment in detail on the plans of these individual universities. I would merely say that when the Uni- versity Grants Committee inquired of all universities how rapidly they could expand, the sum total of expansion so vastly exceeded expectations that it was decided that it was far better to expand existing universities more than had been proposed, rather than add new ones. It inevitably follows that most existing universities will expand more than has been proposed. But, without notice, I cannot say to which particular ones this refers.


My Lords, I may have missed it in the Statement, but will the special technological institutions be responsible to the University Grants Committee or to the Department of Education and Science?


My Lords, they are all three responsible to the University Grants Committee now, and they will retain this allegiance. But, of course, the University Grants Committee has allegiance to the Department of Education and Science.

Back to
Forward to