§ 5.31 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether, on reflection, they will now reconsider the advice given by the Minister of Education on December 21 last to the University Grants Commission and to local education authorities, that overseas students' fees should be raised to the levels given in the Statement referred to. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in asking Her Majesty's Government the Question which stands in my name on the Order 205 Paper, and in order to save perhaps a little time in the debate which will follow, !and in which such a gratifying number of your Lordships have put down your names to speak, I think I ought to start by rehearsing briefly a few facts which, as I understand it (and the Government will correct me if I am wrong), are not disputed.
§ There are about 71,000 overseas students in this country of whom rather over half, that is to say, about 39,000, are in institutions which are not affected by the proposed increase in fees. They are people who, as I understand it, are studying law, nursing or accountancy, or something which does not affect us this evening. About 32,000 remain who are affected, and many of them seriously affected, by these fees. These are divided fairly equally between the universities and full-time and sandwich courses in further education. Rather less than a quarter of them, that is to say, about 7,000, come from the so-called "rich" countries, such as the United States of America, Western Europe, the old Commonwealth countries, Scandinavia, and so on. The remaining 24,000-odd are from the so-called developing countries; for a large part, of course, those African States which, until fairly recently, formed part of the British Empire and even now form part of the Commonwealth.
§ That is one division. Another division to which I think I should draw your Lordships' attention, in order to make the position clearer, is that of the 7,000-odd who come from the so-called "rich" countries, about 2,200 are undergraduates in our universities. 2,700 are postgraduates, 600 are in advanced courses in technical colleges, and 1,100 are in non-advanced courses in technical colleges. Of the 24,000—in fact, I believe some statistics say 25,000, but one cannot be absolutely sure—who come from the less developed countries, about 6,000 are undergraduates, 5,500 are post-graduates, 5,200 are at advanced technical colleges, and no less than 9,000 are on non-advanced technical courses. So that of the students from the non-developing countries a much greater proportion are, so to speak, in a lower category of education than the ones from the richer countries, and of course this is only to be expected.
§ The fees which all these students have so far been paying—that is to say, the 206 32,000— average about £70 a year for a university course and about £50 a year for a course at a technical college, although at the technical colleges the fees vary considerably. It is now proposed that these fees should be stepped-up to £250 a year for students at universities and those at technical colleges in advanced courses, and to £150 a year for those in technical colleges who are taking courses at other levels. It is estimated by the Department of Education and Science that on the important, but, I suggest, scarcely tenable assumption that there will be approximately the same number of overseas students in this country after the increases as there are now, an increased income of some £5 million per annum will accrue to the universities and the technical colleges, which of course will have their own income from the University Grants Committee or the local educational authorities correspondingly diminished.
§ To these increases in fees there are certain exceptions, and I think reference was made to them the other day by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in replying to the debate in this House on World Population. In the first place, all students on British Government or British Council grants will, I think I am right in saying, have their higher fees paid by the British Government out of an increase in overseas aid funds. In the second place, no student who has already embarked on a course will have to pay more than a £50 increase in the annual fee. In the third place, a fund will be established to reimburse the Governments of the developing countries for the £50 which they will have to pay in respect of students whom they are financing, and who have already embarked on courses. Those are the exceptions and they are, naturally, welcome as such.
§ Of the 32,000 overseas students, it is estimated that about 15 per cent. come under the first exception, that is to say, that their grants will continue; another 30 per cent. or so are those who are here on grants made by their own Governments, though whether the grants will be renewed in future, when they have to cover large increases in fees, remains to be seen. Be that as it may—and this is the real point which we are considering this evening—over half of the 32.000 (in point of fact, I believe about 17,000) are students who, to the extent that they do 207 not have means of their own (and this is the case with the vast majority of them and particularly, of course, those coming from the developing countries) will have to pay up to £200 a year more for their education in this country. I think those are facts which are indisputable.
§ As explained by the Government, the general case for this rather drastic increase in fees seems to be as follows—and in stating it I hope I shall be completely objective. If I am not, then no doubt the noble Lord who is to reply will correct me. But I shall try to be as objective as I can in stating their case as I have learned it from the Press. First, even when raised, the fees will cover only about one-third of the average cost of the courses. The remaining two-thirds will thus remain a subsidy from British public funds.
§ Secondly, the total amount of this concealed subsidy (for such it is) is likely to be something of the order of £18 million a year in 1967–68, which is now, the Government feel, too great a burden for the British taxpayer and ratepayers to bear. Thirdly, if the increased fees result at least in stabilising the present position and in a diminution of the concealed subsidy by about £5 million, this will be in the general interest and should not be too hard on the students, many of whom, it is thought, could well afford it.
§ Fourthly, the number of overseas students has been increasing and is now rather over one-third more than it was in 1959. Fifthly, there is therefore what is always referred to as "an open-ended commitment" of considerable proportions, and it is wrong that the British taxpayer or ratepayer should be asked to foot this bill at a moment when there is admittedly very great need for teachers, school buildings, nursery schools, technical schools, Plowden improvements and so on; in other words, a very great need for carrying out the whole new educational policy of the Government. Sixthly, in any case—this, I think I am correct in saying, is the position of the Government—the percentage of overseas students to the total student population is much higher in the United Kingdom than in most of the developed countries, the richer countries, and there is no reason why at least some of the students should not make more use of the existing facili- 208 ties in their own countries, and thus cease to enjoy cheaper education in this country than they would have elsewhere.
§ Now all this appears on the face of it, perhaps, to have a certain justification, unless one examines the situation a little more fully and perhaps from a rather broader point of view. So let me take, if I may, the arguments apparently advanced by the Government seriatim. It is true, no doubt, that even the increased fees which are now proposed would represent only some 30 to 40 per cent. of the cost of the courses. It is difficult to say exactly how much they represent, because it is difficult to say what the cost of the courses, technical and other, is. But let us assume that the increased fees would cover only some 30 to 40 per cent. of the cost to the taxpayer of these courses. The whole of the education programme of this country, is, of course, subsidised by the State, or, rather, by the British taxpayer, and the overseas students, most of whom, after all, come from the Commonwealth, constitute only about 11 per cent, of it: that is to say, 11 per cent. of those engaged in higher education in this country are from overseas, and largely from the Commonwealth.
§ In his admirable Report on Higher Education in 1963 the noble Lord, Lord Robbins (whom I am glad to see in his place; and I believe that he is to intervene later), recommended that the general level of fees for all students in this country, whether British or from overseas, should be raised so as to cover at least 20 per cent. of the cost of the courses. The Government, as I understand it, have rejected this proposal on the ground that to do that would be, as it were, robbing Peter to pay Paul. But at least if this proposal were adopted it would not result in any discrimination as regards overseas students.
The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, continued in his Report to the effect that he strongly favoured some inter-mixture of home and overseas students in British institutions of higher education, and though this inter-mixture as he saw it did result in a concealed subsidy over which the nation admittedly had no control, he did not suggest that any higher fee should be charged to overseas students than to other students. In fact he was
strongly against this. He further stated, and here I quote:
The presence here in institutions of higher education of students from abroad is widely regarded as valuable, and rightly so. In our judgment it fosters a sense of international community on both sides which encourages a valuable give and take. The communications to which it gives rise are not without their diplomatic and economic advantages, and where students from developing countries are concerned it provides a helpful contribution to their countries' advances. We should greatly regret a dwindling in the number of overseas students.
Yet this is what the effect of the Government's action will, as I think, certainly be.
§ At least 55 per cent. of the overseas students in universities and technical colleges are what is called "unsponsored," and though some of these may have some private means—and a very few of them may, indeed, be rich—the vast majority have little or no private means. It is their families, presumably, who have to produce the £500 or £600 a year which is the minimum required for their physical upkeep in this country. If. in addition, they have to pay another £200 or so per annum they simply will not for the most part, I think, come to this country for their education; and I cannot see how this simple point can be seriously disputed. The total amount of the concealed subsidy, as it is called, to overseas students, say the Government, is now something in the order of £18 million a year. But owing to the fact that the new fees, as we know, will cover only one-third of the economic cost, it is estimated that the total savings to the country, or to the British taxpayer, in any one year will be only £5 million or so. But this depends, of course, on the maintenance at the present level on the number of overseas students which, as we have seen, will inevitably, as I think, at any rate be fairly heavily reduced. In practice, for this, and indeed for other reasons that I need not enumerate here, most of the experts seem to think that the saving is more likely to be something in the order of £3 million a year.
§ But against this, and again from the purely economic point of view, surely we have to face the fact that, as I have said, all students who come here have to spend a minimum of £500 or £600 a year in this country. If, therefore, you get a reduction out of 16,000-odd or 17,000-odd 210 students of a half, more than 8,000, as you very likely will, you will clearly lose an invisible export of something of the order of £4 million a year.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (THE EARL OF LONGFORD)
My Lords, it has taken me a long time before I replied. Is the noble Lord seriously saying that he thinks there will be a reduction of nearly half the overseas students? I can hardly believe my ears.
§ LORD GLADWYN
No, my Lords; the noble Earl should not believe his ears. I am saying that 16,000 or 17,000 students are sponsored and they are particularly affected, the poorer ones. With these heavily increased fees you might quite likely in the next year or two find that about 8,000 of them will fail to come. It is certainly a small proportion of the total number, 71,000; but I do suggest that it is possible, and likely, that by next year, or the year after that, the number will be diminished by about 8,000. If that is so, there will be clearly a diminution in our invisible exports of £4 million a year. That of course will unfavourably affect our famous balance of payments. Apart from any other consideration, this would not seem on the whole, and from the purely economic point of view, to be a very remunerative deal; and if it is not economic, what exactly is the point of it?
In addition to that, on the economic side always there is the thought that we may well over the years be losing many thousands—I have suggested 8,000; but even 2,000 or 3,000 would be bad enough—of potential trade missionaries who, if they are happy in this country, will exercise a very important influence in their own countries in favour of importing British goods in the various spheres in which they specialise. So we shall probably, in addition, be sacrificing an unknown but substantial sum in the way of British exports. Again, on the face of it, this would seem to be at least short-sighted. Generally speaking, the whole economic effect of these measures would, I suggest, be wholly deplorable.
I come to the next point, the allegation that the number of overseas students has been increasing during recent years. My Lords, of course it has. That is true—though I think I am right in saying that the curve has been recently flattening out, 211 and over the last year may well have flattened out altogether. But this increase since 1959 must surely be judged against the recent enormous increase in those who as a result are profiting from higher education in this country generally. If, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins said, it was a good thing to have a certain proportion of overseas students in 1963, it surely is right that this proportion should at least be maintained in 1968. Generally speaking, I think we ought not to grudge but should welcome the arrival in our centres of learning of intelligent and, for the most part, enthusiastic young men and women from abroad. It is a compliment to us that they want to come at all. Moreover, we must remember that the great majority, in order to pursue a course, have to have an adequate knowledge of English and quite high educational qualifications. This in itself is a serious limiting factor. So why proceed against them further? I cannot see that it makes any sense.
As for the so-called "open-ended commitment", which is said to be carried at the expense of our own urgent needs, well, one can see the force of this argument to some extent. But if you must limit foreign students for this reason, why not go in for the solution suggested by the noble Lord. Lord Robbins, and increase fees all round to an agreed but limited extent? That would mean that, instead of paying £70 for a university course, as they do now, they would pay something of the order of £130 to £150. This, more particularly I suppose owing to the progress of inflation in recent years, might be thought to be acceptable by some, and I would not deny it: although even an increase of this order would, in the nature of things, probably result in a drop in the numbers of desirable students. Therefore, if this solution were adopted, I would suggest that it might well be accompanied by some provision for a special fund for assisting worthy students who are really in necessitous circumstances.
As for the claim that we have a higher proportion of overseas students here than do the majority of developed and richer countries, and that, anyhow, we charge students less than they do, I have been into the figures so far as I can. They are rather complicated, and difficult to obtain, but I must suggest that this claim is simply not in accordance with the 212 facts. Apart from Switzerland, which has 30 per cent. of overseas students in her universities, our 11.4 per cent. compares with France, which apparently has 10 per cent., and Germany, which has 7.2 per cent. So there is no enormous difference here. As for the cost, no less than eight developed or richer countries charge lower fees than we do, and at least two underdeveloped countries do so as well. As I understand it (I may be wrong), France charges only a nominal sum in fees in respect of overseas students at her universities. As I say, this is the limit of my present researches, though perhaps I could do better if I had more time.
Why, in any case, we should want to diminish the numbers of students coming from Common Market countries at a moment when we are moving heaven and earth to get into it, I find quite difficult to understand. Were the Foreign Office consulted on this point? Perhaps the noble Earl would like to tell us that. Anyhow, there are, for instance, many more British students in France who are enjoying courses of higher education—incidentally, as I say, at quite nominal fees—than there are French students in this country. It is an illusion, I suggest, to imagine that students from European countries, and indeed from America, are necessarily rich because their Governments are richer than those of the underdeveloped countries. Many of them have no private means at all. Surely we ought to welcome them with open arms, if only because here especially there is room for a cross-fertilisation of ideas and for the elimination of what might be called inward-looking and provincial tendencies to which we are so drawn.
I am approaching the end of my remarks, but here, I suggest, lies the fundamental objection to the altogether regrettable action which the Government have taken. It is, I fear, symptomatic of the way in which many people in this country are turning their backs on the outside world and longing to be an isolated and highly directed "tight little island". The old Imperial tradition that led us into the generous Commonwealth conception has gone sour, and we are now, it seems, chiefly concerned with our own standard of living and the production, through the great new comprehensive schools, of large numbers of highly provincial technicians and teachers. The 213 idea that we may have something to impart to the outside world, some message, forward-looking and democratic, to communicate for the guidance of young people all over the world, seems to have vanished. We are getting into a sort of provincial rut, and if we pursue this line we may well end up where Spain ended up after the loss of her Empire.
As your Lordships know, I have for many years asserted that the best way for us to avoid such a fate is to join the European Economic Community. If we did that, not a mere trickle but tens of thousands of British students would be likely to go to European universities, and thousands would come to our universities from across the Channel. This, after all, when you think of it, has been one of the few concrete but good results of the Franco-German Treaty. So I would earnestly beg the Government to reconsider the action which has aroused such just resentment and indignation, not only in academic circles but throughout the country as a whole, and not least in the Confederation of British Industry.
In his admirable letter to the Financial Times of February 7, which some of your Lordships may have seen, Mr. Peter Tennant expressed himself as follows:The strength of our balance of payments in the years to come will depend more and more on the sale overseas of sophisticated capital goods and know-how. The education and training in this country of our future customers overseas is an important investment in our own prosperity so as to ensure that they are familiar with the latest developments in our science-based industries, new processes, standards, specifications and engineering practice. British firms have for many years taken in foreign apprentices, students, postgraduate students, qualified engineers, teachers and professors either on their own schemes of a general nature, those specifically connected with the fulfilment of contracts overseas, or in contributing to the C.B.I. scholarship scheme for post-graduate engineers.They have also given generously to the universities in this country, not only for our own students, but also for the benefit of those foreigners who will now he deterred. We can be proud of what has been achieved by industry and Government, the British Council and the Ministry of Overseas Development. But we are aware that we are as a country by no means meeting the demand, nor do we think we are matching up to the performance of the United States, France, Gemany or Russia, to mention only four of many countries which are involved in this investment in the future. It is felt that far too little is known of the many dispersed efforts which exist in this country or how they compare 214 in size and quality with the efforts of other countries. It seems to many that the action in cutting back aid to foreign students in our universities has been taken without knowledge of the facts, and no action, civil or military, should ever be taken without a proper collection and appraisal of intelligence".Though Mr. Tennant was dealing with only one part of the subject which I am raising to-night, I feel I can hardly do better than that.
I would therefore end with a renewal of my plea that if the fees have to be raised—and I agree they very well might—at least the method of doing so indicated by Lord Robbins should be adopted, together, perhaps with some rational system of relief, which is also recommended by him, for those overseas students who would otherwise not be able to make use of the great facilities which Great Britain is still able to afford. The continuing "concealed subsidy" would thus be recognised for what it is; namely, a small but highly desirable and effective form of "aid" which happily has no adverse effect on our balance of payments. I know that it is difficult for any Government to admit that they have made a mistake, but I have some faint hope that the present Administration, which, after all, contains many of our most intelligent and civilised citizens such as the Leader of the House, may on reflection, after hearing the views of the many Peers who have far greater experience in this matter than I have, at least bring themselves to make some qualified confession of at any rate partial error.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ LORD MURRAY OF NEWHAVEN
My Lords, I should like to support the eloquent and well-argued plea of the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for reconsideration of this extraordinary decision. I do so on three grounds. First, I think that the instrument which the Government have chosen is an extremely clumsy one. If there have to be economies in educational expenditure, then the Government are using a singularly blunt instrument for what should be a very intricate and selective operation.
Are we certain to whom this applies? So far as I know, there is no clear definition of what is an "overseas student", and surely this is a prerequisite for such a directive if we are to avoid hardship and achieve a satisfactory 215 administration of policy. It is by no means clear what is an "overseas student". Does it, for example, include the 4,000 overseas students who are now taking their G.C.E. and who, under present arrangements, after three years are entitled to qualify for local education authority grants for further and higher education? Does it include the children of British civil servants or British personnel overseas, Service officers, experts, and so on, who are serving their country overseas, and whose children may well, unless the term is clearly defined, be classified as "overseas students".
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has given very cogent answers to the various reasons put forward by the Government for introducing this new policy. I should like to emphasise one of these reasons. It has been argued by the Government that the need for overseas students to study in this country has been lessened as facilities have increased in their own land. This may be true of some, but not all, first degree courses, but it is certainly not true of post-graduate education, for which about half the overseas students in the universities come to this country. Nor is it true, as has already been mentioned, of much of the technical college training, based on sandwich courses, in which periods of training in industry are just as important as training and education in the classroom.
Few of the industries in the underdeveloped countries have yet reached a stage where they can give what industry in this country is so well qualified to provide, and what is essential to the future economic development of these underdeveloped countries. There may be good reasons for discouraging a relatively few overseas students, but not for the indiscriminate action adopted in the present proposals. This decision on policy and the blanket nature of proposals for carrying it out are bound to give rise to injustice, bitterness and hardship, which I imagine will not be alleviated by any ad hoc arrangement for building up a hardship fund in this country.
My second ground for objection is the element of discrimination which, I venture to say, is both deplorable and shortsighted. It has been suggested that justification for this discrimination can 216 be found in the Robbins Report. That is manifestly untrue, and I am prepared to leave it to Lord Robbins, who is to speak later, to disclaim any intention in that direction by his Committee. It has also been claimed to be justified by the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates. I think that, equally, is a misinterpretation of what they said.
One must sympathise with the Department of Education and Science, which has been put in a position of having to save up to £5 million a year at the expense of overseas students, many of whom are ill able to afford it. On the other hand, they might have considered a general rise in fees. That, I believe, would not have been discriminatory. They say, however, that they were unwilling or unable in present circumstances, to pass on the burden to local education authorities. The Department's own proposal to adjust Exchequer grants to local authorities to meet the consequences of higher fees in the transition period suggests that there were abnormal means available to meet an abnormal situation if they wished to employ them.
But more important in my opinion, however, is that this particular economy in expenditure should not have fallen solely, or even primarily, on the Department of Education and Science. As the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, pointed out, the education and training of overseas students in this country can and should be regarded as possibly the most direct and most economic means of granting overseas aid. It is of direct importance as a matter of industrial and commercial investment in education. In this context, an economy of £5 million, in the face of our annual expenditure on overseas aid which now extends to far beyond £200 million per year seems to be niggling. Even the £18 million mentioned by the Secretary of State as a total subsidy still would seem to be a modest investment.
Other countries regard the provision of education to overseas students as an investment, and I would cite one instance from a recent event. The School of Medicine in Nigeria admitted its limited annual intake of 30 students, and there was still a large number of qualified applicants left over. Germany stepped in and took 20 of them en bloc to give them a free medical education. This was not merely philanthropy; it was also 217 sound, good business. I have also ascertained that in fact very few other countries in the world discriminate in fee charges against overseas students. I can find very little evidence of higher fees being charged to overseas students.
Taking, first, Europe, no distinction between fees charged to home and overseas students is made by universities in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. In France, where, as has been pointed out, so many of our students go, only two private technical institutions concerned with textiles charge higher fees to foreigners. Only in Austria is there any general discrimination. In the Scandinavian countries—those models of democracy—the levels of fees, if any, do not distinguish between home and foreign students.
In the Commonwealth countries, similarly, only one Canadian university among 30 charges differential fees. In Australia, the figure is only two among 13. There are, however, three universities in the Commonwealth which do charge discriminating fees: Ceylon, Malawi and Nanyang, in Singapore. But these are all in developing countries which can ill-afford to do otherwise. Thus the Commonwealth picture is overwhelmingly one of non-discrimination. Coming to the United States, one finds the same picture. There is no distinction in the State universities between foreign students and American students from other States. In the private American institutions, there is no discrimination whatsoever. Among other countries, I can find only four where fees to foreign students are higher than to home students: Eire, Ethiopia, Sudan and Japan—and even in these the fees for overseas students tend to be lower than in this country.
I should like to emphasise, from my experience overseas, that I believe that it is not merely the higher fees that will cause resentment and discourage overseas students, but the very implication that these students are less welcome here than they were. But this discrimination, as I have said, is not only objectionable in principle: it is also short-sighted. We are, I believe, deliberately reducing an inflow of good scholars from developed countries, such as the older Commonwealth 218 countries and Europe, who offset to some extent the brain-drain of which we are at present complaining.
I happen to be Chairman of the Board of Management of the Royal Commission for the 1851 Exhibition which has for over seventy years awarded post-graduate research scholarships in science to Commonwealth students, as well as to home students. The quality of these is indicated in the fact that, of just over 1,000 appointed since 1891, of whom about half were overseas students, 109 have become Fellows of the Royal Society, two have become its Presidents and eight have become Nobel Laureates. The overseas students among them have achieved a fair proportion of these successes.
The Government's new proposal, if accepted by the universities, will certainly mean a reduction in these awards because the Commission has a fixed income, and the additional expenditure will be about £6,500 on an annual expenditure of £30,000. We are bound to reduce the number. Nor can it be assumed that these high-quality students will come to this country under other auspices. There is clear evidence—and I have found it myself in the Commonwealth countries—that it is the prestige of the 1851 scholarship which attracts them here, and tips the balance against their going elsewhere—to the United States, for instance.
I should like to give your Lordships one more example, if you will bear with me. The advantage of attracting high-calibre students from overseas can be seen in the staffing of one of the best chemistry departments in this country, known nationally and internationally. Of its total full-time staff of 29, 12 come from overseas, and they came in the first instance as overseas post-graduate students. Finally, as Director of the Lever-hulme Trust, I have on my desk at present a number of applications from university institutions in this country asking for funds to support scholarships, to enable them to promote the interchange of advanced students with European universities. It is surely inconsistent to claim, on the one hand, that this country might serve as the spearhead of scientific and technological development in Europe, if at the same time we are taking the unparalleled step of discouraging European advanced students coming here.
219 For a comparatively wealthy country, with a long tradition of liberality in matters of education and the spread of learning, of encouragement of international trade and commerce, and of constructive overseas aid, the Government's recent decision seems to me to be sadly out of pattern. Overseas it will certainly appear narrow-minded at a time when the Government claim—and I believe with justification—to be international and inter-racial in their attitudes and actions.
My Lords, my third objection to the present proposal is that it seems to me to further the tendency for academic interchange to become concentrated in Government-sponsored schemes. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, has referred to the fact that the British Government have agreed to increase the funds at the disposal of its agencies, such as the British Council and the Ministry of Overseas Development. Overseas Governments will be in a position to do the same, so far as their means allow. But it is the student who comes on his own earnings or his family's limited means, or who is sponsored by non-governmental organisations, who will be hit; and the majority of overseas students, as many as two-thirds of those in the universities, are in these categories. I would ask your Lordships: Do we, in the world of today, in which ideological and political considerations appear to be growing in importance and in influence, want to encourage this trend? I believe that we should stimulate greater not less freedom of interchange and thought. It is for these reasons that I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his plea for a reconsideration of this increase.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, in the powerful list of speakers to-day there seems to be an unusually large gap between the first 18 names on the list and that of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, who is to reply to this debate. I have a horrible feeling that he may find that he is somewhat isolated in this debate, and that the preceding speakers are likely to be somewhat critical of the Government's action taken on December 21 last. I hope for his sake that he may find an ally among them. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will be 220 good enough to say a kind word for the Government—but I see that even he shakes his head.
But, certainly, this proposal of the Government has excited a great deal of anxiety and doubt throughout the country, a feeling which will be reflected in this House this evening. There are speakers on the List from all quarters of the House, and I feel sure that there will be a great deal of serious questioning about the Government's policy in this matter. This is reflecting a great deal of anxiety in the country at large. Letters have been written to the Press, there have been demonstrations of students, there have been pronouncements by senior university staff; and only yesterday there was a unanimous resolution in the Church Assembly. My colleagues on these Benches share the great anxiety that has been so eloquently expressed already by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven.
Furthermore, we think it is regrettable that so serious a statement was issued without, evidently, any adequate prior consultation. The Committee of Vice Chancellors of Universities was not consulted, nor were the local education authorities, nor were any of the other multifarious bodies which deal with overseas students. We are at this moment witnessing a serious decline in British influence overseas.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on one point—because I am afraid that by the time I come to speak it will probably be past midnight. There was consultation with the British Council and with the University Grants Committee. It would not be right to say that there was no consultation.
§ LORD ABERDARE
I am very happy to hear that, although I still think that the Committee of Vice-Chancellors would have been grateful if they had been consulted. But at this moment, when British influence is on the decline, when so many of our former dependent territories are becoming independent and when we are cutting down our military commitments overseas, we should surely he doing everything we can to strengthen the voice of Britain if we believe that we have something valuable to say. Yet 221 what has happened recently is that we have seen reductions in the British Council's activities, reductions in the B.B.C.'s overseas broadcasts and a limit of £50 placed on foreign travel; the Minister of Overseas Development is no longer in the Cabinet; and now, most serious of all, we have this discrimination against overseas students.
I agree with the noble Lords who have already spoken that the receiving of these overseas students into our universities and technical colleges is one of the best investments we can make for the future. Moreover, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, implied, it is a method of overseas aid which is completely under our control, in that the money is spent in this country and, we may be sure, can be used to the best effect and most economically. As well as engendering a great deal of good will at the present, it is a hidden export for the future. It must surely make the task of our overseas salesmen that much easier in the future if a number of people have had some advantage in the way of higher education in this country. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London used a telling phrase yesterday in the Church Assembly when he spoke of the Government's measures as "a tariff on educational exports".
We are fully aware of the rising cost of education and we would willingly support any sensible economies, but I do not think that the present measure is either a sensible or a real economy. In fact, it may cause considerable harm in dissauding many future students from coming to this country. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, gave us some of the figures; and it is important to realise that of the total number of overseas students at universities, less than half are supported by a scholarship grant or fellowship. Even with the present fee of approximately £70 per annum, there are cases of hardship, as every Vice Chancellor knows and as is also apparent to all those who are working in this field on a charitable basis.
Only this afternoon I came across two small trusts, the Council for Aid to African Students and the Zebra Trust, both of whom are trying to help students who are now unable to raise the necessary fees for studies here. Undoubtedly many students who are not supported 222 either by British Government funds or by overseas Government funds will not be able to raise this extra £50 fee and will discontinue their studies. What a terrible advertisement for us when they return to their homeland, and what a frightful prelude to the Fourth Commonwealth Educational Conference in Nigeria this year!
Many universities and technical colleges are feeling that they are being forced by this Government action to break faith with their overseas students. Some of them have already promised places at the previous fee to those students who are working for their "A" levels, and they have already sent out their prospectuses for the next academic year. Many of the less advanced countries send their students over to this country because they have not got sufficiently good sixth-form arrangements of their own, in order to study for "A" levels and for subsequent study at British universities. These countries have set aside money to provide the fees for these students, which fees, if they are increased, they may now well be in no position to find.
But what, also, of those who are not supported by Government grants? What of the private students, who form two-thirds of the total? Do we really want to dissuade them from coming here? Among them are young men and young women who have shown enterprise and initiative in saving up and paying their fares to this country and whose very qualities will probably mean that in time to come they will occupy positions of influence and importance in their own countries. If we put these fees up, may they not well choose to go elsewhere in the future, and may we not find that they will obtain their higher education in Germany, in America or in Eastern Europe? It has obviously been apparent to our own students that this is not a very encouraging step. They must realise the importance to themselves of coming into contact in our universities with others from overseas; and although it may be true that the total number of overseas students is rising, certainly the proportion is falling. And what will be the position if other countries take reprisals? I am sure we shall certainly regret it very much if this action were to lead to similar action elsewhere, and if 223 the whole free interchange of students between one country and another were to be affected.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question, as he is speaking, I am sure, very carefully for the Opposition? Is he objecting to raising the fees at all? Fees have been raised in the past, and I am sure that in any event they would have been raised to some extent very shortly. There are doubtless a number of arguments as to whether the fees are to be raised too far, or in the right circumstances; but is the noble Lord saying that the fees should not be raised at all, and is he not going to set any limit to the amount of total subsidy?
§ LORD ABERDARE
No, my Lords, I am complaining about the discrimination against overseas students. I think there would be a much better case for proposals such as those which we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. I think this is a much more sensible way of setting about things. I am complaining of the fact that overseas students are having to pay more than is charged to the normal British student, and I fear that this will dissuade a number of students who come here on their own means from coming here in the future.
In conclusion, I should like to put two questions to the Government and to make three possible suggestions for the future. First of all, I would ask how the saving of £5 million in a full year is arrived at. Is it on the assumption that the same number of students will come as have been coming recently to this country? Or does it take into account what I fear: that there may be a fall-off in the number who can afford to come? Secondly, I am interested to know—although it may not be possible for the noble Earl to give me an answer this evening—what the position will be in specialist schools like the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine or the School of African and Oriental Studies, which exist mainly for overseas students. If places are not taken up by these overseas students, what will happen?—because there will be no British students available to take them up.
My Lords, I would make three possible suggestions for the future. In the first 224 place, I understand that the Committee of Vice Chancellors have requested that a delegation might be received by the Prime Minister; and I hope that due consideration will be given to that request. After all, it was only a few months ago at the 20th anniversary of UNESCO that the Prime Minister said:We have done our best not to reduce our aid to developing countries and we have expanded, wherever possible, the assistance our schools and universities and Colleges of Further Education give to students from those countries.Secondly, would the Government consider giving some emergency help to present students and to those who are in this country with assured places at universities conditional on their passing their "A" Levels? Would they give some emergency help to these students—through, say, a hardship fund established perhaps through the British Council—which could avoid the terrible plight of those students who may have to break off their studies and return home? Thirdly, in the long term, would they have a close look at this matter again in the light of this debate and, although the cost may be very heavy in terms of educational funds, see whether, in terms of overseas aid, some help could not be given so that we may continue to receive gratefully and willingly the maximum number of overseas students of which we are capable?
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ LORD FULTON
My Lords, I must begin by asking for the indulgence of the House in addressing your Lordships for the first time. I hope to conform to the proprieties of these occasions by being both brief and, to the best of my ability, in a matter which has stirred a great deal of feeling, non-controversial. In the former aim I am assisted by the knowledge that there are many noble Lords speaking to-day who will examine the various aspects of the matter with a knowledge that I could not myself hope to match; and in the latter, by confining my remarks to the general question of why the universities have registered such alarm at the proposal to raise the fees of overseas students. I speak not only as one with some responsibility for a university in the United Kingdom, but as the Chairman, for the past three years, of the Inter-University Council for Higher Education Overseas, a body representative of all 225 the home universities which, where appropriate, advises the Government of the day on overseas education, and which also promotes a close association between our universities and those in the former colonial territories.
My Lords, the universities asked for an increase in the fees of all students, irrespective of domicile. Accordingly, they cannot, and do not, complain at the mere fact of a rise in fees. They are, I think, deeply concerned at the very sharp increase to three and a half times the present figure which is proposed to be applied only to those from overseas. Arrangements of a quite elaborate kind now proposed to cushion the effect on a large number of those who will be subject to the increases, have left the universities still uneasy and, indeed, alarmed. Why? First of all, as your Lordships have heard, they have always been extremely sensitive on behalf of the free-lance student or the student financed by private or charitable sponsors. It is on this class of overseas student that the increases in fees will bear in all their severity. These are generally people of high academic quality; if they are post-graduates they are individually vouched for by overseas academics and carefully scrutinised before being accepted. It would be a matter of profound regret to the universities if the proposals now being debated were to result in a serious reduction in the number of private students; even if their places were taken by others officially sponsored.
There are other, deeper reasons for unease. Many members of universities, senior as well as junior, see this issue as one of aid to the developing countries. In this, of course, they are right. Let me invite your Lordships to look on two contrasting pictures, one of 1946 and one of 1967. In 1946, in the whole of our colonial and former colonial territories there were only two small university institutions, one in Hong Kong and one in Malta. There was also a small though distinguished college, affiliated to the University of Durham, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone. To-day, in Africa alone—and I am, of course, speaking only of our former colonial territories—there are some twenty universities or university colleges, and in South-East Asia, the Far East and the Caribbean, at least another ten. These have been 226 largely built with British capital and staffed by the universities of this country at a time when they were trebling their own numbers.
As a result, undergraduate education is becoming available to increasing numbers of young people in their own countries. To-day, accordingly, there is less need to offer undergraduate places here except for particular subjects and for particular territories, where there are no university institutions so far. What still desperately needs to be done is to provide in our universities here post-graduate opportunities to build up African and Asian staffs for African and Asian universities, and to provide the developing countries with post-graduates trained here until their own post-graduate schools are able to take over the task. To have any setback to this programme would be to suffer a reverse in a noble enterprise of which history undoubtedly will speak well.
But there is more in this than aid to developing countries. We are the gainers, too, from the present overseas students in our universities. The universities of the West know from centuries of experience that they stand or fall by being open institutions. I was once head of an institution which, when I first knew it, was almost wholly composed of students from the immediate neighbourhood. It is very different to-day. But in those earlier days, when a special programme under the Colombo Plan brought in succession to this country groups of some 25 students from South-East Asia for a short intensive course in the social sciences, the institution was transformed for everybody—and most of all for the local students.
I have spoken of the association built up between the Inter-University Council of the United Kingdom universities and new universities in the developing countries for which we were once responsible. They have followed us, willingly followed us, in the example we set of admitting students from other countries to our universities on the same terms as our own. The battle of the open university is never won; it is constantly being fought, over and over again, as the tides of tribalism, nationalism and racialism threaten to engulf infant universities before they have found their strength and maturity. We in the universities of 227 this country believe that our own institutions of higher education are richer in the measure that they are diversified. A student body should be a meeting ground for those of as many different backgrounds and as many different experiences as possible. There is no age like that of 18 to 23 or 24; no environment like that of university studies in which to meet other challenges, other attitudes, other convictions and other philosophies. The unversities, I think, wish to have an assurance that obstacles will not be created which will reduce the free flow of ideas between those in different countries of the world in whose hands the future lies.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I am extremely fortunate this evening in being able to rise immediately after the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, has delivered his maiden speech. I am sure that, on behalf of all, your Lordships would wish me to congratulate him most sincerely on a distinguished speech; a speech which had exactly that mark of distinction which we associate with him in his capacity as the first Vice Chancellor of, if I may so put it, the first of the new universities really to get off the ground and which now is so far off the ground that it is already in the first rank of the universities in this country. Our sadness in realising that he will retire from his Vice Chancellorship at the end of this academic year is, I hone, mitigated a little by the expectation that he will be able to be heard a great deal more often in your Lordships' House.
I came this evening to your Lordships' House direct from a meeting of the Professorial Board at University College, London. I was there left in no doubt whatsoever as to the feeling in academic circles about this measure. There is very strong feeling on this issue of discrimination. There is a feeling among students who have in them a very strong streak of idealism with regard to the developing countries. The feelings of academic staff have been admirably described by the noble Lord, Lord Fulton. We must understand that this has nicked a sensitive nerve in the universities, and I do not think anyone should be under any illusion that the issue of discrimination is felt very 228 deeply. I will not elaborate further; quite enough has been said already on that matter.
The other thing which is also exercising all our minds is the issue of hardship; how, in fact, we are going to meet cases of hardship (and there will be many, I think) among those students who are already in our midst. Those who are to come, if this measure is to go through, will, of course, have had full warning of what their rate of fees will be. But if fees are raised for those who are here, even by as little as £50, it will mean a very great deal to someone who has come from West Africa supported by contributions from his tribe; or to those who come from India supported by offerings from families and relatives; and to those, indeed, who come from countries in Europe which are not among the richer countries, and where, very often, great sacrifices have been made to enable a student to come here. I think we should bear these points in mind. It is a little astonishing, as was said, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, for us to find ourselves in this matter in parity with the countries of Eire, Ethiopia and Sudan.
My Lords, on those two issues I should like to make three requests. The first is that if it is impossible to alter this measure, will the Government as soon as possible give an indication of the date at which the Secretary of State hopes that he will raise the fees all round to home students? I think that this feeling about the issue of discrimination would be allayed if such an indication could be given. The second is, would it he possible for help to be given through the Department of Education and Science to set up a fund to meet cases of hardship? I hope it will be possible for such a fund to be, as it were, administered by the universities themselves, rather than to set up an impersonal organisation to which appeals had to be made. Surely the universities can be trusted—I do not think this is too much to ask—that they should examine cases of hardship and then be able to call on a fund to meet those cases. I hope this could be done, as I say, by a special fund, and not for the universities to be asked to do this at their own cost. All universities are at this moment experiencing what has been 229 a very cold winter indeed—that is to say, a winter which has produced the first indication of the look of the next quinquennium. It is a very frigid experience indeed, when one reads the papers and sees exactly how sparingly the universities are inevitably being treated at the moment. So if a fund could be set up which was not financed by the universities but by the Department, this would do a great deal to allay discontent.
Finally, my Lords, may I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, with special reference to the University of London, which has a very high proportion of overseas students because of the facilities in the capital city, particularly of libraries, the Public Record Office and other specialist organisations? The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare—I thought very properly—drew our attention to two of these institutions, the School of Oriental African Studies and the School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. If some special provision could be made for these two instutions—and any others, I hasten to say, which fall into this category—it would be greatly appreciated.
Having said that, and made these requests, may I also put some points on the other side of the case? I think there has been a lack of feeling and understanding in universities about how this issue of discrimination came about. First of all, surely we must recognise that it was impossible in the present freeze for the Government to put up the fees of home students, because had they done so, inevitably part of the cost would have fallen on the local authorities; and local authorities had been ordered to keep their own costs down. Hence, with the whole philosophy of the freeze, it would have been a difficult undertaking, indeed almost impossible. The second point is this. There was, I think, a lack of understanding in the universities about the actual issue of raising fees. There is some confusion, and the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, in a question to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, gave point to this by asking whether the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was against the raising of fees at all. There are some people in universities who believe that fees should not be raised at all. Yet the Committee of Vice Chancellors is on record in 1965 as having been in favour of agreeing to 230 a rise of £150 for all students; though of course with the reservation that cases of hardship from the developing countries should be met. So I do not think that there can be any case made out for no rise in fees at all.
Thirdly, there is the question of cost. Here it seems to me that if one is to be dispassionate one must have some sympathy with the problem which the Government face. The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said that the proportion of students from overseas should not be allowed to fall. I wonder whether that is right. If the noble Lord means the number as it was before the great expansion of our universities took place, I am sure we would be in total agreement, but when the number of university students has doubled, is it reasonable to say that the proportion of overseas students must be the same?
It is the escalation of the cost of aid to overseas students which has drawn the attention of the Government to this as something which might have to be curbed. And when I say "curbed", I do not mean diminished to nothing, but slightly reduced: or rather that the way in which the graph is moving at present should be changed. Where is the end to come? There must be some check on this matter. Individual universities are used to admitting overseas students largely on their merits. They pick the best of those who apply. Sometimes they admit students on compassionate grounds, because they come from developing countries and need the courses which the university in question can offer. But when universities do this, they have been slow to realise that inevitably in the end a quota would have to be set for the number of students who are accepted from overseas. It seems to me that the universities cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that they are against any kind of major increase in fees, and at the same time say that they are against any kind of limitation on the student number.
There were warnings on this question of fees. The Robbins Report warned that this was something that was in the air. The Select Committee again drew attention to this question of fees. If I may be critical of my colleagues, perhaps the Committee of Vice Chancellors were a little slow to realise that this was going to be one of the major points 231 on which universities would be asked to make economies. It is true that in 1965 they put their case for a rise in fees to the U.G.C., yet they have been slow to realise the feeling in the Department about the escalation of the number of overseas students coming to the universities. However, I believe that the Committee are rapidly gearing themselves to being more on the ball in all these matters. For example, they have set up committees to discuss how academic buildings can be used more profitably, and under what conditions more students could be induced to live at home. Obviously, these are two matters which will come up in the next five years and it is wise for the Committee to have their own views prepared.
In the protests to The Times I was slightly saddened to see no letter suggesting any alternative cut which might be made. This would have been a difficult operation. It could be suggested, of course, that the universities should accept a 2½ per cent. reduction across the board, which would undoubtedly reduce their efficiency, but would produce the figure of £5 million which the Secretary of State had been told he must obtain. I think that there was a reluctance to understand that one cannot always get away without economies being imposed simply because one belongs to a highly privileged section of the community.
Here, of course, the question arises: why should there have been a cut at all? One of the reasons is that inevitably ways have to be found to diminish the cost of higher education, because they are rising so exceedingly sharply. To give one example, the cost of providing scientific equipment, which becomes so rapidly obsolescent, is causing grave anxiety to the universities, for it is essential that some of this equipment be bought if we are to maintain our position in the world of research. Another reason why there must be a cut is the economic crisis which struck this country in the middle of the summer. This imposed the situation with which anyone connected with the Government is familiar. A Minister brings his Estimates before the Cabinet, but before he does that, he has to go to the Treasury, who tell him that if he wants an increase in expenditure, that can be obtained only by a cut in another direction.
232 Why was there an increase in the costs of the Department of Education? The answer to that question is simple. This winter the Plowden Report was published. I am sad that no one in your Lordships' House has put down a Motion drawing attention to that Report.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I must remove that undeserved slander on the House. There is a Motion down on the Order Paper.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I apologise to the House and to the noble Earl. I read my Paper too quickly coming down to the House. May I say this on the Plowden Report? It suggested that there is an enormous need for expenditure on our primary schools, and because of years of neglect the sums required are astronomical. The £5 million which will be obtained by the increase in the fees of overseas students is obviously nowhere near the sum required; but it could do something to meet what the Plowden Report singled out as something which could be done quickly: the setting up of a crash programme for the slum schools—the ghetto schools.
This is a point which I would bring to the attention of noble Lords who are particularly concerned about the developing countries. We have two kinds of people who come from the developing countries: those who come for a time as students and those who emigrate and then live in bad conditions in our great cities. In these bad conditions they have bad schools, schools staffed often by a handful of devoted teachers, a handful because other teachers are not willing to go there to teach children, many of whom cannot speak English. This creates what is known as ghetto conditions.
Can something be done for the education of these children from developing countries? Since we are talking to-day about discrimination, can we do anything about the discrimination against them? If I have to choose between subsidising overseas students from the developing countries and subsidising a crash programme to do something about these schools I hesitate, as someone connected with the universities, to say what action should betaken. But I do not hesitate long. I think that the school programme has the priority. We are always being told that politics is a matter 233 of priorities. Here I respectfully suggest that if we have to surrender this particular matter of overseas students, then the savings should be applied in this particular way.
§ 7.0 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
My Lords, I was warned just now that if I spoke from the Bench in which I was sitting I should be speaking from a Government Bench. While I sympathise with the noble Earl the Leader of the House in the apparent isolation to which he has referred, I cannot support him on this particular issue. Nevertheless, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who has just sat down, while making clear his own repudiation of the decision that has been taken, also recognised some of the difficulties under which this Government—as, indeed, would any Government—labour. Some of the criticisms that have been levelled against the decision, more vociferous outside this House and more moderated inside it, perhaps, do not take into account the duty of a Government at this juncture of time to scrutinise carefully all forms of spending, and in particular the mounting bills for education, especially in the field of further and higher education, and to recognise the difficulty, to which a great deal of thought and study was given in the Report which bears the name of, and was presided over by the noble Lord who will follow me in this debate, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, about the open-ended nature of our subsidy towards overseas students.
It is also true to say that there is a vast number of people, and perhaps the bulk of the people in this country, who have no idea how much we subsidise all further and higher education, and how much is our contribution towards overseas students. Certainly a Government have to bear that in mind. In other words, it would be necessary for any Government to consider this issue and to take some steps about it, and I think that none of us would wish to deny this. It is the manner in which it has been done; and I should have thought the whole crowd of criticism which has been raised in protest would have convinced the Government that they have been unwise in the particular form which their decision has taken.
234 Some of the criticism has been rather of an emotional character. But the fact that so much has come from leaders engaged in education in this country, and experts in their own field, as has already been expressed in our debate so far, should convince the Government that the real obstacles are of a much greater nature than the kind of emotional appeal that has sometimes been issued. It is not for me to attempt to deal with some of the educational features with which so many others of your Lordships will deal. Indeed, I am uneasily sandwiched between a number of speakers of high academic distinction, and I will leave this to them. I should like to say, however, with what great interest I listened to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, the Vice Chancellor of our University of Sussex, speaking not only from his wide experience but from that wealth of experience in the development of university life in most parts of the world. I am sure we all hope that there will be many occasions in future when he will address us from his wisdom and experience.
But there are other people and other bodies who have expressed their concern about this matter, quite apart from academic institutions. Perhaps I may quote a resolution which was passed yesterday in the Assembly of the Church of England and which has been sent to the Minister. It states that it would:welcome the reconsideration of the Government's advice to universities and colleges that the fees charged to many overseas students shall be greatly increased regardless of their circumstances, and an inquiry into the finance available and the alternative educational facilities open to such students in their own countries before a final Government decision is made.It may be asked why a Church body should claim to have any particular interest in this issue. But the churches in this land have shared in the expansion of this country and its reaching out into so many parts of the world. They have very often preceded that expansion. They have been pioneers in much of the education. They know the kind of basis upon which a healthy community life in a new country can be built. They are sensitive, through their contacts on the spot, of the relations between many of those countries and this land. And may I add that they are very jealous of the good name and the place of this country in the present unfolding situation of our 235 world. It is a situation in which hunger for education is one of the significant matters. It is, therefore, a situation in which this country, above all, ought to consider its own fullest possible contribution. If, in fact, a curtailment of our contribution was needed on financial grounds, no doubt we should have to accept it. But the financial gain on this particular step, as the noble Lord, to whom we are all grateful for posing this Question, has already pointed out, is likely to be very small, and much less, it may be, than the actual figure of £5 million, which itself is not very considerable in the whole field.
It may be that the consideration is not finance. I believe the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Overseas Development has expressed the hope that many more students will now go to their own universities or places of education in their own countries; and perhaps this is part of the objective.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I clear up that point? The reasons for this step are financial.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER
I am grateful to the noble Earl, the Leader of the House. I was referring to a quotation of what the Parliamentary Secretary had Certainly any deliberate curtailment of possible students to this country would be of concern not only to academic institutions, but to a wide section of public opinion. Our concern would be what it may signify in terms of Britain's own position and role in the world. Coming with the suddenness that this decision has, it seems to us somewhat illiberal. It suggests a drawing back from our commitments to a world where international exchange and association is on the increase. We should recognise that our role in this world must not be so much in terms of power, as it was in the past, or our own exact place at the conference table; our influence ultimately in our world will stem from what we have to give to it and what we are willing to do for it.
One of our chief contributions must be our own long investment in all the knowledge, skill and culture which is embraced in the word "education". It is especially our contribution now to the poorer and 236 developing countries. This has been recognised by our former aid. Surely where that aid is most wanted is not in things, but in the equipping of persons who themselves may be able to exercise their responsibilities in their own country more effectively. It is, of course, invisible aid. Perhaps it should be made more visible. But it is wrong to think of this purely in terms of part of an education bill at home. I find it surprising when I recall how, from the Government Bench in a debate not long ago on overseas aid and development, a strong statement was made that we would not fall short on our commitments to the overseas world, that this particular point and the aspect which it presents to the world of a cutting down in some way of what we are giving to them has been overlooked.
I suppose we should be concerned, too—and this again has constantly been referred to—in terms of what one might call the justice of the present decision. Perhaps "justice" is not quite the right word, since our obligation to provide for overseas students is certainly not an official duty; but I mean justice in the sense, as has been fully recognised, that the effect of this decision is discriminatory. We cannot get away from the fact that it will hit the poorer countries and, more particularly still, those students—the very great bulk of them—who come to this land without any sponsorship from their own Government or ours. I know that this is not the intention of the step and it is hound up to some extent with administrative convenience, if not necessity.
It is an accident, too, that it may seem to the developing countries, to whom we shall be to some extent restricting our aid in this respect, to be not only discrimination but even racial discrimination. This is not the intention; but an act must be judged in the end not by its intention but by its actual results. I do not believe it will be any good saying to a young man in Botswana or Lesotho (to take the latest independent States) that this step is really aimed at the comparatively affluent young student from New York or Toronto. He is already far too sensitive about anything that suggests discrimination to accept this argument. He will say that this does not help him to believe what Britain wishes to do for him. Again, I think this step 237 is a little out of character for a Government who have in many ways, in legislation and otherwise, tried to make a stand about anything that savours of discrimination. I regret that this point seems to have been overlooked or disregarded in the decision.
I must briefly refer, as others have, to the question of actual hardship at present. There are, we are told, a large number—how large we do not know—of students in this land who are sub-standard in ability, who have come here chancing their arm educationally and maybe to some extent are a drag on or an embarrassment to our own resources. If the Minister had them in mind, then, as the noble Lord who has just spoken quite rightly said, this is a very poor way of dealing with it. To penalise the bright as well as the less bright in the same action is not the right way to cut down on the kind of students one might wish to discourage. We are not thinking—at least, I am not—primarily of the students from the better placed, richer countries, though they have an argument in their favour. I am not thinking only of the sponsored students from developing countries. I must think especially of that very large number of students of one kind or another who are not sponsored. Some of them come with the help of voluntary trusts which are trying to assist in a pecuniary way student life to spread itself and take the opportunity it cannot get at home.
Missionary societies were quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I know one such society in England, of our own Church, which in its budget for next year has put down, out of money contributed yearly from private sources, between £4,000 and £5,000 for bursaries for students coming to this country. Well, they will pay for fewer students, unless indeed we can persuade more people to give more money for this purpose. I know of one comparatively small impecunious religious community which has planned and paid for two men to come from Bantustan for higher education in this country, with a view, after a year or two, to their going back to teach in their own land. This kind of example could be multiplied in a great number of ways. Unless there is some aid, it will mean simply a cutting down of the opportunities for such students to come here.
238 Of course, a great many of them, perhaps the larger bulk, have come through the contributions which have been made by their own homes—their families and communities—and there are many people working in university and technical college life who would testify to the sacrifices which have been involved and the fact that this decision will be quite shattering to some of them, especially those who have come to qualify for university or further education courses and have not yet done so. Many of them are the kind of people we want to help. They are people who will go back and serve their community or their church in ways in which they will never be able to do otherwise. And it may be that they will serve us in the process, for I think the old phrase is true educationally:Cast thy bread upon the waters and it will return after many days.Is there no way in which this process of what would seem to be restriction or increasing hardship can be alleviated? Hopes have been expressed, though not very buoyant hopes, that this Government might be prepared in some way to reconsider their decision. I believe it was a great Parliamentary figure, Oliver Cromwell, speaking in another place, who besought the Members to believe that they might be mistaken. It may be that the wrong kind of official advice has been given in view of all the circumstances. But if it is not possible fully to reconsider the decision, are there not steps, some of which have been mentioned, which could alleviate this situation?
In the first place, could the Government look again at the dating of this proposal? It starts in its new form and with its fullest weight for those who come here at the end of this year. Most of them, I presume, have already made their plans. Others have come over in preparation, in good faith that they will be able to work their way through the course. Some postponement of the date would itself be some alleviation to them, and I should have thought that, without any great loss of face, something of this kind might be achieved.
Beyond this, it is quite clear that some kind of fund must be provided—a development fund, I would call it, since it is in line with our major development fund—to meet the needs of students, not merely now but in the future. It is sim- 239 ply not enough for them to be assured, or for us to be assured, that the Minister or someone else will consider cases of need if they are brought to him. You cannot conduct educational planning on this basis. There should surely be a fund which has for its administration not merely officials from the Treasury or the Ministry but a body representative of those who are conducting education in this country and who know the pressures and possibilities of selection. They would, I hope, consider not merely those who are sponsored by Governments but also those who are sponsored by other bodies. It should be possible to find some way of selecting students on a basis of both need and ability which would remove from us the charge either that we are receiving those who are unable to benefit from education or that we are contributing too much to those who do not need that contribution. I hope that the Government will undertake to set up such a body, as well as such a fund, which would consider both the kind of scale on which overseas students can be admitted and the kind of way in which they can be aided, and, therefore, the kind of way in which this decision, if it must rest, can be alleviated.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, I cannot resist the privilege which I enjoy because of my position on the list of speakers to add my voice to the voices of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken, in welcoming the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, to your Lordships' House. The noble Lord and I are one time colleagues, and I can assure your Lordships that in all sorts of ways he will bring to this House and to our debates a quite special authority on a wide variety of subjects.
My reasons for taking part in this debate are twofold. First, I disagree profoundly with the policy under discussion; and, second, in the course of earlier talk about it there have been references to the recommendations of the Committee of which I was Chairman, and I fear that some of these may be apt to mislead. Fortunately, having regard to the masterly speeches which have already been made, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, I can be brief. I hope that this will not bring 240 false comfort to the noble Earl the Leader of the House. May I make it clear that, unlike some critics of the Government, I am not at all opposed to the principle of raising fees, as such? Indeed, I am very much in favour of it. Before the war the fee income of the universities was in the neighbourhood of one-third of their total revenue. Now it is probably nearer 10 per cent. I do not think this increased dependence on direct grants is altogether a healthy state of affairs. I think it is desirable that it should be ended, and the right way to do this is to put up fees.
I think we should remember, too, that if fees remain stationary, as they have tended to do since the war, while prices and other costs rise, their real value in terms of general purchasing power is continually diminishing. Surely it is an unsatisfactory state of affairs that this should be happening, not as a positive act of policy but as a by-product, so to speak, of the process of inflation. It is unhelpful when we are thinking of the allocation of real resources. Nor, I venture to say, is it conducive to a suitable frame of mind on the part of those who benefit by it—the students who are all too apt to take this side of things for granted and not to realise what they are getting.
I submit that it is no valid objection to the policy of raising fees to say that since the greater number of fees charged to native students are in fact paid by local authorities, an increase in fees would put a greater burden on the rates. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, seemed to suffer from some apprehensions in this respect, but when this matter was discussed before the Committee on Higher Education, the Treasury representatives assured us that if the policy was thought desirable on general grounds there need be no insurmountable difficulty in adjusting the subsidies to the local authorities concerned. And since, other things being equal—I repeat, other things being equal—an increase of fee income to the institutions of higher education would mean a lesser need for direct grants, no increase of the burden on the general taxpayer need result.
There is no doubt, my Lords, that what I am urging is a serious and practical 241 policy. It was not the members of the Committee on Higher Education, it was the representatives of Her Majesty's Treasury who wrote thatfrom the point of view of public finance, it may be regarded as sounder to subsidise the students than to subsidise the institutions".And it was the same high authorities who made it clear that if we favoured the policy we should not be deterred from recommending it by the thought of administrative difficulties.
Perhaps your Lordships will bear with me, since the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has spoken of this matter, if I read from the published evidence given by the Treasury to the Committee to which I have made allusion. Mr. Clarke (now Sir Richard Clarke), at that time a high official of the Treasury, said this:If policy required an increase in fees, and more of the cost was therefore to be borne as it were in the first instance by the local authority, the general grant could be adjusted and this expenditure incorporated in the general grant to give a fair distribution over local authorities. The general grant formula could if necessary be changed to give weight to this, and the general grant could be so rearranged that the burden on the ratepayer would be much the same.He went on:I was putting forward the hypothesis that the general grant could be changed. But if that was not equitable, a special percentage grant could be arranged. I would emphasise that the crucial question here seems to be whether it is desirable on general policy grounds to raise fees. The question of distribution between central and local government and the arrangements for operating the mechanism would not present insuperable obstacles.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that it would take several months of negotiation between local authorities, the Treasury and the Department for such a policy to emerge? It is, I think, a question of time, and that may have been the reason why it was impossible to do it.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Lord, but I deplore the fact that this thought should only just have occurred to the authorities concerned. They have had it before them for some three years.
I now come to the position of overseas students. I was chairman of the managing committee of one of the largest graduate schools in the Commonwealth for over 25 years, and some of my hap- 242 piest personal relationships have been with graduates from overseas. I am proud of what we do for overseas students, and I am not at all unmindful of the indirect benefits which flow to us, both from their presence here and from the loyalties which many of them take back to their own countries. But I cannot see that it is sensible to assume as a moral principle that we should never increase the charges, however much the costs increase. Nor, frankly, do I see the point in providing all and sundry with a heavily subsidised training without any means test whatever. If we wish to give overseas aid to education—and I think it is a very good thing—let it be done overtly, in part at least, by a system of grants, not in a way for which we receive no credit. Yet I have heard it argued—not this evening in your Lordships' House, I hasten to say—that we should refrain from any increase in fees all round just because of the extra burden on this section. That seems to me to be absurd.
In short, my Lords, so far from being opposed to a general increase in fees, I think the arguments for some increase are very powerful. I see no reason to retract the recommendation of the Committee on Higher Education that fees should be raised so as to make fee income at least 20 per cent. of institutional revenue. I personally, indeed, should like to see the increase go much further. Why, then, am I opposed to the policy under discussion to-night? I am opposed to it because it is blatantly discriminatory. It is a sort of financial apartheid. It is a policy which charges the overseas student a different fee just because he is from overseas. It introduces into the world of higher education a distinction which is quite alien to the spirit in which higher education should take place.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Surely he would agree that at the present time there is an effective discrimination. The vast majority of the students in fact are financed by local authorities, and the others have to pay the fees. The discrimination is there: it is not being introduced by this Government.
§ LORD ROBBINS
With respect, my Lords, I will come to just that argument. For the moment let me say that I have not consulted the other members of the 243 Committee on Higher Education, but I am fairly sure that had such a proposal been submitted while we were sitting, we should have rejected it without hesitation, as I am sure it would have been rejected by most of the Vice Chancellors and Principals if they had been given the chance to comment. Our proposal was for an increase in fees all round, and we went out of our way to recommend that to mitigate any hardship to the poorer overseas students there should be set up a fund to provide bursaries for such cases. But to increase fees to overseas students only is a policy which lay right outside our philosophy.
What possible defence can there be for what I may describe (without wishing to give offence) as such a ham-handed policy? How comes it that a Government which professes attachment to high educational ideals and international understanding has done something which must certainly make our name stink in the nostrils of educationists the world over? We do not know how it happened. From the way it happened it might almost seem as if a few millions of economies were needed from the Department of Education and Science and that this must have seemed an easy way of getting them; so that without overmuch reflection or consultation on the wider implications of the policy it was forthwith adopted. I have always contended that that Department had too much on its plate, and I am confirmed in this view by what has happened.
But the fundamental question—and here I come to the question which has been posed to me by the noble Earl, the Leader of the House—is: How can this policy be defended? What can be the official reply to the fundamental objections to discrimination in this field? I have racked my brains for an answer, and the only one I can find is one in which I have been anticipated to some extent by the noble Earl the Leader of the House; namely, that the subsidy which we give to most of our own students is in itself discriminatory; that a subsidy can be regarded in technical economic jargon as a negative price, so that one can say that there is already discrimination of a sort. So what is the fuss about? That seemed to me, as I 244 was meditating upon it last night, quite a good brief for a Minister.
But, my Lords, it will not do. It is formalism gone quite crazy. There really is a substantial difference between making the foreigner pay a different price, just because he is a foreigner, and providing a subsidy to native students who are thought to be needy, especially if at the same time the advice be taken to provide also some subsidy to needy students from abroad. And I confess I find it difficult to understand—again I hope that I speak without offence—the (dare I say it?) spiritual myopia which cannot see the psychological asymmetry between the two policies. The one is something which is surely to be expected of an enlightened and humane Government; the other is in fact, and certainly will be taken as being, an exhibition of xenophobia, the very last thing I should have expected from this Minister and this Government.
For those reasons, my Lords, I sincerely hope that, even at this late hour, the policy will be reconsidered. If, instead, the policy were to be adopted of a non-discriminatory increase, with the appropriate internal modifications of central and local grants, and a fund for the provision of overseas bursaries for an appropriate number of deserving students, the Government would get all the advantages it hopes from the present scheme, in the shape of financial economies, and much more beside, and it would avoid the almost universal opprobrium which persistence with the scheme will involve.
§ 7.35 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said he would be short—I shall try to be even shorter. I have always been very proud of the fact that the National Health Service is nondiscriminatory. I have regretted the element of discrimination which exists, as my noble friend the Leader of the House pointed out, in our fees for universities. I was always rather pleased that the Labour Party Committee on Higher Education over which I presided, and on which the present Minister of Education and Science sat, recommended the abolition of fees for all students, both home and overseas. We knew that we should not get everything we asked for in that report. We got most of it, because we asked for almost exactly the 245 same things as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, recommended a few months later. We got them all out of Conservative Governments.
One thing about which we were quite sure was that there should be no discrimination against overseas students and, furthermore, contrary to the views of my noble friend Lord Annan, that there should be a continuing percentage of overseas students maintained at the level at which we were then maintaining it. I remember very well fighting with the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on this very issue, when we thought that the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, in his capacity on the University Grants Committee, was going back on the promise which we had extracted from the Government that there would be no reduction in the percentage of overseas students in our universities which, of course, is a temptation which comes to all Governments at times of financial crisis.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I may have misunderstood my noble friend, because he appeared to be saying that he and Lord Robbins came to much the same conclusion. If I understood my noble friend aright, he wanted to abolish all fees, and Lord Robbins wanted to raise them much higher. So there was a total contrast.
My Lords, there was a contrast on one issue. There was agreement on 54 others, which I think is satisfactory.
That is a perfectly legitimate point of difference, if I may say so, because it applies to so very few people in practice. It applies only to those who do not have their fees paid for them by the State, and that is the defect of the present fee situation. When I was a member of the governing body of a medical school, the only people who in fact paid fees were the sons of doctors, because they were the only people who were rich enough among the incoming medical students to justify the full payment of the fee at the time. Therefore, it was the policy of the board of the medical school to try to keep down fees for reasons of professional solidarity until directed by the Government to raise them.
246 The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was quite right when he said that the policy about fees has not been thought out at all—it has just happened. I am very glad that my noble friend the Leader of the House has told us the reason for the decision. He said that the reason is financial. He said that, I think, in an intervention in the speech of the right reverend Prelate. That is an absolutely honest and straightforward statement, and I suspect it is a completely wrong statement, because the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, was explaining the situation that will obtain. He is, I understand, Director of the 1851 Exhibition Commonwealth Fellowships, and they have £x thousand per annum to award. If the fees are increased two-and-a-half times, it simply means that £x thousand per annum will go round a smaller number, that is, two-and-a-half times fewer students from overseas.
I am Vice Chancellor elect of a Commonwealth university, and in a few months I shall have at my disposal a sum of money wisely invested by Lord Rothermere in this country for the benefit of the students from my university. There are twelve post-graduate students from the University of Newfoundland studying in this country at Oxford and Cambridge and London, and if the fees are raised from £70 to £250 it simply means that we shall have to cut the number of students from twelve to four or five. That is all it is. The Government will not get any more money coming into the universities.
This is a situation which, I am told by my colleagues in the Association of Commonwealth Universities, applies in virtually every Commonwealth university in the old Commonwealth countries. The Vice Chancellors and the Senate have available a sum of money for sending their best postgraduate students to this country. There is the same sort of strigency with every university everywhere, apart from the exceptional American universities. They cannot increase this sum. They will simply have to send fewer of their best students. What a stupid thing to do! If there is no financial gain in it there is no point in it at all; and I honestly think that there is no financial gain in the idea. I think it is just a mistake. As the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, indicated more politely, I think it is a botched idea, a 247 muddled idea, which has not been thought through. I cannot see that there is any financial benefit to be obtained.
But what a tragedy it will be for the country! It might well be that among the postgraduate students excluded from Australia will be the next Lord Florey. They will get the credit of him in Australia, or he will go to America—and serve us right! Among the postgraduate students excluded from New Zealand may well be the next Lord Rutherford, or the next Professor Porritt, who, having been professor of surgery at St. Mary's Hospital and President of the Royal College of Surgeons, is now going back to New Zealand as Governor-General. He is just the sort of person who might not have come in the top five; he might have been, No. 7 or No. 8. I must not go into his academic equipment. He is a great man, far greater than I am. But what a folly! What a thing to do!
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting, but many noble Lords will, I am sure, have gone by the time I come to try to explain the Government's argument. The noble Lord seriously tells us that he does not see that there can be any financial gain. On the face of it there must be. We are going to reduce the subsidy to many thousands of students. That must, on the face of it, represent a financial gain.
My Lords, I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend. I am glad that he has raised this point. I will explain it again. The situation is that the numbers of students will be correspondingly reduced, because most of this money is coming from overseas universities which are subsidising their students to come to Oxford and Cambridge and London. Even in developed countries these students are not rich: they earn their money to go to university in the first place. There will be an actual reducation in the number of students who are coming.
The noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, was quite right in pointing out the large number of students who are coming on their own resources, marginally. It is a marginal operation for them. I remember so well meeting a Nigerian student in 248 Moscow and saying, "What on earth are you doing here?" He said, "Well, I am here, not because I want to study engineering in Moscow, but because it so happens that the University of Moscow not only gives me free education but pays me a small salary on which I can just live." He, in fact, has just completed his engineering education in Moscow. He kept up with me. He was a fine chap. That was the reason he went there. He did not go to the Patrice Lumumba University; he had no money at home. He went to the ordinary University of Moscow. What a sensible policy on the part of the Russians! But what a silly thing for us not to continue to do as we have done!
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that if we are going to do anything we ought to increase all fees, even though it is complicated. I must say that I remember so well that there was one occasion during the life of the last Government when I said to myself, "They are 'souped': they have had it." That was the point at which the entire academic profession made it absolutely clear to this House that this could not go on. It was from that moment that the last Government went downhill steadily. We must not have this happen now. I beg of my noble friend to take back to his colleagues the message from this House, that this is a most unwise and unhappy decision, and that it is not wrong to reverse your opinions when you make a mistake. Every doctor makes mistakes. Every politician does, too, sometimes. But you jolly well learn from them; and the sooner one reverses them the better.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
My Lords, my reason for intervening in this debate is that I have the honour to be the chairman of the governing body of Imperial College, which has a high percentage, perhaps one of the highest percentages, of overseas students among the institutions of higher education in this country. They number nearly one-quarter of the student body, 850 out of some 3,100. Of these 450 are continuing and 400 are freshmen. About half are studying for higher degrees, 100 are supported by the British Government and agencies,200 by foreign Governments, 249 300 by other bodies and 250 are self-supporting. It is anticipated—this, of course, must largely be a matter of conjecture—that as a result of the fee increases there are likely to be declines in the numbers of the last three categories of students after the increase of fees has gone into effect.
The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, in his admirable maiden speech, laid special stress on this last category, the students who have come here under their own steam. Any decline in these numbers would be a serious loss to the college which we should greatly regret. We should feel particularly the absence of these overseas students, especially post-graduates, coming from European countries and the United States, and indeed many other countries. These make a real contribution to the college and are a valuable asset. Many of them are now liable to go elsewhere. It has been alleged in this matter that students from developed countries and the U.S.A. can afford to pay the increased fees. But this seems to me to be pure assertion; I have seen no evidence for it. The principal disadvantage for us, therefore, is the loss of talented students, but there are other disadvantages of a lesser kind with which I will not worry your Lordships.
On the main issue, I need add little to what other noble Lords have said, but I find myself much in agreement with most of them, especially the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, about the long-range advantage of young overseas students acquiring a knowledge and understanding of British technology. I agree with those who consider that there is the strong case for putting up tuition fees for all students to British universities. It was recommended in the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins. It has been repeatedly urged since, and nothing has been done. If fees were put up all round there would be no valid cause for complaint on the overseas student front, and presumably an all-round increase could be at a lesser sum. The reasons given against such an increase have been effectively dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and I need not pursue them further.
There is also a strong case for devising a system of loans to students. We were told in this House at the end of 1965 that this would be studied, but I have 250 myself seen no sign of any result. All we have is a measure, clumsily introduced, which overtly discriminates against the foreign student. It seems to me to be bad policy and worse psychology. We are told that the reason is financial. I am not quite sure what the financial savings are. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, informed the House on January 19 that they would be £2½ million in a full year. To-day we have heard a figure of £5 million.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I intervene to clarify the matter? My noble friend was not referring to the total of all students. I think I am right in saying that he was dealing with university students only, but certainly not with all students.
§ LORD SHERFIELD
Thank you. It was not at all clear. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said that there would be no saving at all. I assume that the noble Earl who is to reply will ultimately be able to demolish his arguments, and, if he can, as a former Treasury official I must admit that even£2½ million, and certainly £5 million, is no trifling sum. But I suggest that the bad effect of this measure is out of all proportion to the financial savings involved and that in looking for an economy the Government have picked a bad horse. The Secretary of State has, I believe, been reported as saying that he is sticking to his decision, come what may. Here I add my entreaties to those of many other noble Lords. Is it really too late to hold up this measure, for example until fees can be increased all round? I believe it would be quite reassuring to many—and here I echo sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn—if every once in a while the Government would listen to representations and modify a decision.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I have to declare an interest because I am a Professor of International Relations in the University of Edinburgh—I repeat of "international relations"—a university which, for 400 years, has never closed its doors by financial discrimination against any student. Yesterday in the University of Edinburgh was Meal Monday, and in the tradition of the University that was the day when the poorest student, the ploughman's son, went back to his 251 croft to get the oatmeal for his next term's porridge. That was the spirit, which we have maintained. We have never discriminated, and certainly never against foreign students. The peripatetic student since 1583 and onwards did a sort of gypsy trek of Padua, Bologna, the Sorbonne, Leiden, Edinburgh. There haw, been wandering students for 400 years against whom we have never discriminated.
In our university to-day, 900 out of 8,000 students are from overseas. I assure the Leader of the House that he will find that very few universities have been in a position to estimate what in fact an overseas student is, for it is hard to define. We have been unable to determine what proportion of the whole the overseas students represent, certainly in regard to the unsponsored students. But of those 900 students, 600 will have to meet the increased fees.
This decision is a great embarrassment to everybody in the universities at the moment, and great indignation has been engendered. Between now and the beginning of the next term a great many students, even if they are not directly suffering this hardship, will have to withdraw or will not be reinforced in the universities from home. The suggestion is that somehow we are going to encourage them to go to universities in their own countries. I have spent a great deal of my life travelling around and I have seen the development of universities in the developing countries. I know the struggle they are having, not only to create universities but to staff them.
I should like to ask the Leader of the House how one creates the training and the education in those universities to accept and reinforce the student undergraduates in their own universities if one is not training and teaching the people who are going to train and teach them. The only places at which they can be trained and taught are in the centres of higher learning in this country or elsewhere. I assure you that if it is not this country it will be elsewhere. There again, I suggest we are making a serious mistake. Let us make no mistake about it, in the present situation we are discouraging the students from coming here and we are losing them. Whatever hardship machinery one creates, we are at this 252 moment losing our present students, who are now dithering about whether to go home. We are losing our future students because at the moment there is no way in which they can judge what will happen beyond this term.
I ask your Lordships to consider the people who are training for G.C.E. and who expect to be accepted in our universities—people for whom no institution at home can provide. And I wonder whether anybody has considered the position of the unsponsored student. I am not referring to the Government-sponsored student who will possibly get a£50 rebate via the bookkeeping system between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Overseas Development; I am referring to people who have no cover at all, but who are financed by their tribes, like the Ibo villagers who come from Nigeria to our universities, or those who are sent by their churches—in this way Julius Nyerere came to us in Edinburgh in this way Bill Moyers (President Johnson's late special assistant), came to Edinburgh from Texas. In these situations there is no way in which the students can be reinforced from home, nor any way in which they can anticipate continuing here. The hardship is not merely a question of what is going to happen. We are wrecking the confidence of students who are now in this term moving into their examination period. We are disturbing the whole equilibrium of the university.
I should like to follow my noble friend Lord Taylor, and assure the Front Bench that if ever there was a situation which has produced complete and absolute solidarity in the whole academic world of the universities, it is this. There has been complete unanimity on this matter between the Courts—and I have a member of our Court here in Lord Balerno£senators, the professors and the entire student representative body. This is one case in which the students are absolutely and completely identified with their colleagues in other spheres. We have, in Edinburgh, as I say, a particular interest in this question because we have over the years encouraged overseas students, particularly those from the Colonies, and from a quick breakdown of the figures I see that we have had students from every country in the world.
253 In these circumstances, what this decision amounts to, and must amount to, can be nothing but absolute discrimination. At one protest meeting in Edinburgh a Nigerian student got up and provided a salutary example. He said, referring to a number of his fellow students from overseas: "He, and others, has to-night in his pocket a blank cheque for millions of pounds, because he and those other students are going back to be a Minister, a director of irrigation, a man who is going to be ordering, a man who is going to teach people to do the ordering." This I believe to be the situation. It is so extremely shortsighted. With deference, I ask the Leader of the House to do his arithmetic, because I am afraid that none of us in the universities is convinced that the Minister of Education has done his arithmetic. We do not believe that there is going to be recoupal of this amount—and I agree with my noble friend Lord Taylor—because the students are not going to come, and if they are not coming they are not paying.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask one question? Does the noble Lord really mean that we lose money every time a student does not come? We may lose spiritual values, but does the noble Lord say that we lose money?
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, if a student does not come you are not recovering. The University of Edinburgh, for example, are not recovering in the increased charges the comparative increase which you are not charging to your own students.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, since the noble Lord has accused the Minister of being ignorant of elementary mathematics, may I very humbly suggest that the noble Lord is ignorant of elementary logic?
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
I am sorry, my Lords. There must be some weakness somewhere in our accountancy.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
if we are going to recover £2,500,000 or £5 million or whatever it may be from the incoming students and the students do not come, how will you recover anything? Would the noble Earl tell me?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, to put it very simply, you do not have to recover it if you do not spend it first.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, I come from a country where we say, "When the kale pot is on the hob, what is an extra plate?" We are spending the money on the universities and the places, but I assure your Lordships that the places which would have been occupied by overseas students will not be occupied in the coming terms, because we shall not even be replacing them by our own students.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord is incorrigible, but I hope he will still be here when I reply.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I am not going to intervene on that particular argument, except to say that whether or not there is a saving in money there is certainly a loss of foreign exchange. I understand that the Government are very anxious about our present foreign exchange position, so from that angle the argument is unanswerable, and the proposal is unwise. Having said that, as a taxpayer I think all your Lordships would rejoice if the Government could find ways of saving £5 million in a full year and £2 million this year.
Before I would accept this relief to the taxpayers, I should like to ask two questions. First, is the proposal in our long-term interest and, secondly, is it fair and just? All noble Lords who have spoken to-night have brought out very clearly that it is certainly not in our long-term interest. A great number of overseas students go back home and do great things in the political or commercial worlds, which later accrue to our advantage. Nowadays this is of particular importance for us, when our great Colonial Civil Service is no longer operating in those territories. The people who have been students here are just those who will keep our interests going, but in some way or other we intend to damage that relationship.
My other question was whether it is fair and just. I will not talk on the question of discrimination; many of your Lordships have hammered that home hard 255 enough. I am worried, as so many other noble Lords have been worried, about those who are working here already, and about the hardship that will come to them, particularly the unsponsored private students, who represent about half the number. Your Lordships may say, "Well, they are going to be hurt only to the tune of £50 a year". But £50 a year is a 70 per cent. increase in the charges to them, and that is very serious. I know that in some degree the Government themselves have recognised this fact, in that they have said that they want to help those who are sponsored by this Government, or those who are sponsored by Governments overseas. But why discriminate? Why not help the unsponsored ones at the same time?
There is one point of detail about which I am very worried, and that is the question of the safeguards for students who have already embarked on courses. Will those safeguards apply to the students who at this moment are doing "A" level courses, and who have been told that if they succeed in passing they will in due course have a university career, because if they do not I should like to ask what will happen to them. They will 20 through the rest of the course, and then subsequently be asked to pay £250 a year at the university, which they cannot do, so that in a sense they are here entirely under false pretences. I only hope that this detailed point will be taken into account.
I very much hope that the Government will withdraw altogether the circular of December 21. What a Christmas present it must have been for many of the students to hear about! If the Government find that they cannot withdraw the circular, then we must go back to the suggestion in the Robbins Report of a fund to help those who are working here at the present time. I have seen a memorandum put to the Minister by a group of bodies who are very interested in overseas students, headed by the Africa Educational Trust, in which they suggest that the figure for that fund should be £1 million. I hope that the Government will consider that suggestion, and if they will not support it, I would appeal to the students and say to them, "Do not strike, but draw up your own fund. Try to raise £2 a head among you." That would pro- 256 vide £500,000, and I am quite sure that with all their experience of schemes like the Oxfam Fund they would be able to raise a similar amount from others of their friends. I am sure there is not one of your Lordships who has spoken to-night, who would not willingly subscribe if appealed to. That fund would be a testimony to the bad faith of a Government, to the unfairness of a Government's action. It would be a testimony from all of the students, and it would not be forgotten in future days at elections or otherwise.
I do not like threats, and I would appeal to the Government to yield altogether. But if they cannot do that, I would ask them to postpone action for another year so that they may have a chance of working things out on a more proper and a fairer basis, taking particularly into account the problems of the students who are here at the present time. That would cost them only £2 million— and not even that if they would agree to set up a fund to take care of those who are here at the present time. So one is asking for something which is very small but of tremendous importance to the students who are here, to the whose of the academic world, and to all of those countries overseas who look to this country for help in educational matters.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, if anything could persuade me that this particular measure was right, it would be the general condemnation which it has received from every noble Lord who has spoken. I respect, I admire and I much like my noble Leader, and I like to see an Irishman not just facing the world as Athanasius did, but drawing out his shillelagh, and obviously drawing it out to face the House of Lords as it is at present. Let us take another metaphor. My noble Leader had a shillelagh in hand to cope with a whole hornets' nest of vanishing Vice Chancellors. There is not one left, I think.
§ LORD MITCHISON
I do not know what a hornet-elect can be, but a hornet. 257 This is a serious matter, and I am not going to talk about the detail of it in any way. It amounts at the moment to what a plain man, and particularly a plain overseas student, will certainly regard as discrimination. It may be that, to balance it, something or other is going to be done later which will affect other students, but for the moment there it is.
There is another trouble about it. This scheme will not prevent an influx of students from some prosperous part of America or from one of the old Dominions. It may change the character of the influx, but there will be enough people from those places able to afford to come and anxious to afford to come. The people it is going to hit are the poor people from poor countries, especially from poor countries. In other cases the country itself may be able to help, but some of these countries are miserably and wretchedly poor. I stood up here some time ago to say to your Lordships that I thought we had never enfranchised a poorer country than Botswana. We left it, in a five-year drought, without a water supply, after decades of occupation. I am not on anything but its poverty to-day. When you are dealing with that kind of country, you just will not get students from it. You will, of course, get those who can be supported within the very limited resources of the country itself, or those who manage to get support in some other way; but there will be those shut out, and they will be the very poorest.
My Lords, I am Socialist enough to say that quite often the very poorest are the very wisest. They learn out of suffering. From the ranks of the humbler people in this country we have had some very distinguished men indeed. The Ernie Bevins, it may be, or the others from overseas countries (the many others; the Keir Hardies, in fact) will be the people who will be shut out from coming here. What is going to happen? There will be fewer of them from the very poor countries, but they will naturally seek to go elsewhere. One noble Lord mentioned going to Russia. I always keep a few Communists hidden under the desk here just to bring them out and show them to your Lordships—very frightening people! But taking the matter seriously, as one must, I ask; Is it altogether wise to drive so many people 258 to other countries purely on the grounds that they can afford, somehow or another, to go there but cannot afford to come here? I believe in this country, and so, with the usual and proper reservations of any Irishman, does, I am sure, my noble Leader. We have something to offer—a very great deal to offer—in our educational system. I think it badly needs looking at from time to time, and it has had it lately, but I should be sorry to see any general reduction in the education expenses which we ask the taxpayer to carry. I think they are, to use an old-fashioned phrase, the best investment that one can make.
That being the position, what would one ask the Government to do? It is possible to think up ingenious ways of making the same sort of financial gain in another way without, for instance, introducing the element of discrimination. It is too late for this. This particular measure has been introduced. It has had great publicity, not only in this country but in other countries. I humbly suggest to my noble friend that at this moment, public opinion being what it is, the sensible thing to do—I am not going to say "the brave thing to do": I do not believe in this nonsense about political bravery—and the right thing to do, is simply to withdraw this particular measure. What follows after it is another matter. It is in the form of advice to the universities. Let it be just withdrawn. It is sometimes wise and sometimes right to admit a mistake. It is not an enormous mistake. It is a very serious one; but, if the reasons behind it are financial, the amounts involved are comparatively small. I earnestly hope, therefore, that it is going to be withdrawn.
I make my last appeal—because it is an appeal—to the Government from a slightly different angle. I have been a loyal, perhaps an over-loyal, member of the Labour Party for very many years. I am getting on in age. So are many other noble Lords here. I simply say this: I cannot believe that we are fulfilling our duty to the world at large if we let this comparatively small thing go through in its present form. I cannot believe that. It seems to me that we have a responsibility towards the emergent countries, a responsibility towards other 259 countries which one cannot describe, perhaps, either as emergent or as emerged, and a general responsibility to the world. I do not want to see the channels of learning and teaching clogged by financial difficulties. I think we must open them and keep them open at all costs.
What we are considering to-day is, in another form, the same sort of problem that arises out of what is sometimes called the brain-drain. I entirely agreed with my noble friend Lord Taylor when, in a discussion on the brain-drain the other day, he said he did not mind it a bit; he wanted learning and teaching to flow freely over the world. That, I believe, is the real and fundamental answer to the question we are asking ourselves to-day, and it is for that reason that I would reject alternatives which say, "We will raise the money out of education in some other form".
The right thing to do is to drop this measure and leave it at that; and if, afterwards, the Government find they have got to do something else, then they should do it. We are told that we cannot afford it. One is always told this. We are told that it is a question of money, and that money is not real. It is. It is a medium of exchange; and what we are dealing with to-day is a certain amount of goods and services which we ought to make available to other countries in the world. Do not let us get mesmerised about this. We are asked, in fact, to lower our own standards by an infinitesimal amount in order to help to bring up the standards of other parts of the world. I simply say: what is wrong with that? Look around in this city; look at some of the poor countries in the world. Surely it is our duty not to do anything that will make that gap, already too wide, already widening, even wider? I hope that the Government will reconsider this measure, and will drop it.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I rise to support the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, in his appeal to the Government in this matter, and I do so as Chairman of the Edinburgh Christian Council for Overseas Students. I have been able to put aside two speeches this evening, one before the last three speeches and another one now, because so many of the points 260 that have been made are points which at this stage I wish only to reinforce.
First of all, I agree very strongly with the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven—the vanishing Vice Chancellor—in what he said. I am not so disposed to set such enormous store by the fear of discrimination being felt by these overseas students, though what the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said was certainly very moving. But I believe that great importance must be laid, as the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, said, on the idealism of the student and on the frightful blow this has meant to him, not only in terms of his financial anxieties—and many of the poor students, such as those to whom the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, referred, have suffered a grievous blow in this matter—but also to his amour propre, especially the student who comes from one of the emerging nations.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester touched on this most poignantly. He begged the Government to introduce at least some postponement of this measure. I should like to go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has gone and to say, "Withdraw it altogether"—although that may not be so popular advice to the Government, coming from this side of the House, as it may have been, if popular at all, coming from behind them. But surely, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has said, the students already here should be allowed to finish their studies to the end. And when I say "to the end" I turn to the famous Statement of December 21 and draw attention to one particular phrase at the end of section 4:…which extended to the next academic year will be limited to £50 a year till the end of their present course.What is meant by "course"? Here I want to reinforce what the noble Earl, Lord Perth said: that if this means that a student studying for his "Highers" is going to be deemed to have reached the end of his course when he comes to take up a place available to him in the university, it is not £50 but £250 that goes on. If that is what is meant, surely at least the students already here, whether they be in universities or preparing for the university, should be allowed to finish their course on its present terms, on the terms on which they came, if only because any other solution on the basis of 261 subsidising the poor people who are paying their own fees, or are having their fees paid for them by their families, means the introduction of a small measure of means test which is, of course, anathema to the Socialists.
My Lords, I make no reference to the question of postgraduate studies to which other noble Lords have referred. I have some figures here—with most of which I will not weary your Lordships, because the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder has given them—for the University of Edinburgh. The noble Lord said that there are some 900 students, of whom some 600 are affected in this way, being privately financed students, who are going to suffer and who are already suffering this bitter blow to their amour propre and to their future, both financial and otherwise. Noble Lords will realise that it is not a question of sacrificing another year or two of studies; it is a question of sacrificing the whole of youth, the whole period of development for which great sacrifice has been made and which might well have been spent in another country.
I have a letter from our Secretary in Edinburgh. He gave me some figures from the Napier Technical College and he said that there are students affected in that way therewho intend completing at Advanced Higher Levels at either the end of this or of next academic year. The number is 46. There are a further 9 students at Skerry's College.He went on to say:The Vice-Principal of Skerry's tells me that one of his students has calculated that it would have been cheaper for him to go to the United States for his student career than to have begun here, under these new circumstances.I give these details only to reinforce what was said by so many noble Lords.
I would urge the Government to study what was said last week in the debate on world population in terms of the spreading of knowledge and understanding in more ways than one. I said then:Today's students will be the leaders of the 'eighties, and the best possible ambassadors of a doctrine of modern life and of planned parenthood."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 9/2/67, col. 1511.]I see that the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, has resumed his seat. I must apologise for hinting that he might have set off for another place. I am glad 262 to see him, because I agree with what he said.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, made the interesting suggestion that what is happening now is evidence that the Government are on their way out. Much as I hope that this is the case, I must say that, knowing what Socialists imagine Tories to be—and I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, is not rather of this opinion—they must think this measure might well have come from a Tory Government, which, of course, it never would.
§ LORD MITCHISON
The prevalent sin of the Tories is doing nothing; writing no letters; doing nothing!
§ LORD FERRIER
As I said when I began, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that the right thing to do is to withdraw the whole of this. But if that is not possible (though I hope it may be), I urge that the proposals should not apply, in any circumstances, to any students being financed by their own families or their own means who have already started their courses in this country, no matter what stage in those courses they may have reached.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ LORD REAY
My Lords, if I may, I should like to have a closer look at the financial considerations which the Government claim have imposed the necessity of this decision upon them. The Government claim, in the first place, that this measure will effect a full-year net saving of £5 million. There is no question here of foreign exchange; this is purely a matter of additional revenue which will be raised on the internal current account. This is based on an assumption that the number of students will not decline from the present level; and I would support those speakers who have urged the extreme unlikelihood of this.
There is a stronger point to raise in argument against the assumption of the Government. This is that it ignores the fact that foreign students, except in cases where they are in receipt of British Government grants, are very much cheaper to educate than British students. The reason is that foreign students, except in as mall number of cases where they are sponsored by the British Government, receive no grants at the universities. 263 British students, in virtually all cases, receive local authority grants. The figure must be about 90 per cent. in the case of the universities. In other words, for each foreign student deterred from coming to this country as a result of this decision—and the Government are assuming (at least, they look as though they are assuming) that some will be deterred in so far as the assumption of the saving is based on a belief that there will be no further net increase in the income of foreign students—if the place of that foreign student be taken by a British student, the result will be an additional charge on public funds of an amount equal to the grants which the students will receive. It needs only a deterrence of some 5,000 foreign students who might otherwise have come here, and their replacement by British students, to offset more or less (assuming a grant of some £500 per head) half of the supposed saving of £5 million. What it clearly cannot be in the long term is a saving, unless it results in the replacement of those who do not come with a class that pays a higher fee.
I turn to the question of foreign exchange, where it seems to me the thinking has been even odder. Each foreign student actually brings foreign exchange here. In each case he figures as on the credit side of our balance-of-payments sheet. It follows, therefore, that this is a form of aid which I think must be unique, in that it is a form which actually earns us foreign exchange. In other words, the effect of this decision of the Government will result in the debit of our balance-of-payments account. It is not a cut in foreign expenditure at all; it is precisely the reverse. One might ask, is it cheaper to send out to foreign countries teachers and technicians with their families, who must be supported and who are direct charge on the balance of payments account—as the Ministry of Overseas Development are currently doing—or to bring the peoples from these foreign countries here to be trained, who will return as teachers and experts themselves at no cost to us in terms of foreign exchange?
Finally, there is, the argument which has already been referred to, of the longer-term commercial use that the education of foreign students in this country un- 264 doubtedly is to us. Quite apart from the fact that a great number of students will leave this country with a greater knowledge of our institutions, many will have developed more precise affinities with the institutions of this country. They will have a knowledge of our industries, our technical products and our technical language, and a familiarity with the range of our more important skills. They will return home to become diplomats, or to be in charge of Government contracts; or they may be directors in private firms which place contracts abroad. Or they may become Ministers in foreign Governments.
I submit that it is not for sentimental reasons alone that the French have placed such emphasis on disseminating their culture abroad, and it is in this narrow field of financial considerations, and simple commercial effectiveness, that I think we are far behind the United States, Germany, France or Russia. Yet undoubtedly the consequence of this measure will be that we shall fall yet further behind. I think, therefore, that, from whatever angle we look at it, the financial justification for this measure is nonsense. I leave it to your Lordships to say whether you believe that the Government do not see this, or whether you tend to question the integrity of the claim that they put forward to justify this measure.
Some emphasis has been put on the increase that has occurred in recent years in the foreign student population. This increase, of course, has been very much smaller than that of British students, with the result that the proportion of foreign students to British students has dropped. I would accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that this is not something in itself to which to object. Secondly, however, the rate of increase of foreign students into this country has been declining. If we take the average of the last two years, for university students and technical college students it will be found that, compared with the average of the previous two years, the reduction is roughly half.
It has been claimed that the rich from abroad are being subsidised. Apart from the fact, to which my noble friend Lord Gladwyn referred, that foreign students who come from rich countries are not 265 necessarily rich themselves (if they were, I wonder why we should bother to provide our own local authority grants), three times as many come from countries which have been classified by the O.E.C.D. as developing countries as come from countries classified as developed. Here we should look at some of the figures. If you look at the figures of those from the Commonwealth who are studying in British universities, you find that in 1965–66 there were some 9,000. Of these, 4,400 came from five countries—India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. From Australia and Canada there were only 1,100.
If one takes the technical colleges the picture is even more revealing. From the Commonwealth there came to this country 11,000. Of these, 5,900 came from those same five developing countries. From Australia and Canada there came only 110. It is on the poor countries, obviously, that this extra cost will impose the harshest burden, for it is on people from those countries that the margins for being able to afford an extra amount of money are bound to be smaller. This applies principally in countries like Nigeria, where it is traditional for a family to save together in order to send the brightest boy to be educated in this country. For those people this extra burden may well be insupportable; and, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, said, it is just this class of student, the foreign, unsponsored student, that our universities would be most loth to lose. But they will certainly be the hardest hit.
My Lords, there is another reason why they may be discouraged which is worth mentioning, in so far as it applies to foreign Government-sponsored students as much as to the privately financed students. It is the question of foreign exchange. All students coming to this country from abroad will have to get permission from their Governments to spend, or to receive, the additional amount of foreign exchange required to be spent on education. In all cases the Governments will have to provide it, in the case of sponsored students, or give permission for it, in the case of un-sponsored students. Many of these countries have far more difficult and exacting foreign exchange problems than we have, and I think it would be extremely un- 266 likely, if there were a substantial number of cases, that this foreign exchange would be made available by the Governments of the countries concerned. One thing is clear: that a sure way to increase the proportion of rich students from abroad studying in this country is to adopt this measure. It has been suggested that the universities might remit this charge. I wonder. I should like to ask the Government, how many universities they consider will do this.
I think that possibly the worse claim that has been made, or hinted at, is that this country is particularly generous in its treatment of foreign students. In absolute terms this is factually untrue. At the present moment £70 is charged per annum for a foreign student in this country. Germany charges a maximum of £60 per annum for each foreign student. The Netherlands, and the State Universities of Japan charge a maximum of £25; Italy charges a maximum of £17; France charges a maximum of £10. The U.S.S.R., the U.A.R., Denmark and Norway charge nothing at all. It is the reverse of the truth, also, that we educate a great many more of the students from other countries than they educate of ours. The French Embassy say that the figure for British students studying in France (they say that if it is incorrect, it is on the low side) is 2,800. The figure of French students studying here at universities and technical colleges is only 300.
It might be thought that, at a time when we are stretching for the Common Market, and when Europe, and France in particular, is doubtful whether our hearts are actually in the project of joining Europe, we could do better than positively to discourage this interchange. It is not surprising that the French and the Italian Press, as I know to be the case, have commented on this decision and have speculated on the possibility of their countries' retaliating. This decision will make education in this country a relatively less attractive financial proposition to foreign students. Other things being equal, they will tend to choose education which is cheaper in the other countries that I have mentioned. Already in a number of these countries the proportionate increase in foreign students has been much larger than in this country. In Italy, for example over 267 the three years 1961 to 1964 there has been a 64 per cent. increase.
It is overtly discriminatory, as destructive as much for its evident intent of being discriminatory as for its effect in being so. As the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven, said, unquestionably it is an "implication that we are less welcome than we were." Do we want to be virtually alone in the world, developed and developing, as a country that discriminates between foreign students and our own students? I maintain that this is a decision against all international academic principles of equality. It is a decision that has run into almost "universal opprobrium", to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and not insignificantly into a great deal of protest from British students. I consider that this is a measure which is outrageous on the part of a Government that claims to be the Government of a country that is liberal and civilised, that claims to have an interest in improving the poor and unstable countries of the world, that claims to see our future as European and that claims to have an interest in other countries' interest in us.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating this debate and for making such a close analysis of the problem. There is one point he put forward which was further brought out by the noble Lords, Lord Murray of Newhaven, and Lord Robbins, and which I want to emphasise, because I think it is the root cause of the whole present trouble. The cost of living and inflation have been operating in recent years, but the increase in university fees has been relatively insubstantial. This goes back over a series of Governments and the academics themselves cannot be free from blame for not appreciating it. We are as much to blame as Governments and civil servants are. Excuses can be made, but the time at which action should have been taken was at the time of the report of Sir Colin Anderson on grants to students. At that time university fees should have been raised to a realistic level.
The universities then would have reduced their dependence somewhat upon 268 direct university grants. The figure given by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, is significant and I venture to repeat it. In 1939, 30 per cent. of university income came from fees. This has been reduced to 7 per cent. This is a significant comparison indeed. I would direct your Lordships' attention to a Paper which has recently been written by the Master of Pembroke, Oxford, upon the universities and the State. I am not going to quote at length, but in one part where he pleads for the consideration of loans to students, either in addition to or instead of grants, Mr. MacCallum says:The rewards of a university education are now so great, other sources of power and esteem being so much less, it is social justice that they pay for it, if not now, then by some long-term repayment, such as some other countries impose.I think this is the time for the consideration of this proposition, and I am slightly surprised that the point was not made by either the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, or the noble Lord, Lord Reay.
The country which has perhaps done more than any other in loans for university students is the United States of America. A great part of the assistance given to students is in the form of loans. I have here the United States Budget which has just been sent to Congress and which shows that the total Federal aid for college and graduate students, both in direct grant and in servicing of loans, is being trebled in three years, going up from 418 million dollars to 1,127 million dollars in 1968. Individual grants are going up from the equivalent of £150 a year per student to something like £180. It is significant that at this time the United States should be extending aid given to students. At the same time as the Federal Government is doing this, so are certain of the State Governments.
I should like to support what my colleague—I was going to say "my noble friend", and though sitting on the opposite side I think that I could say that—Lord Ritchie-Calder has said of the Edinburgh students, 40 per cent. of whom come from overseas, 600 being unsponsored—a point which was made also by my noble friend Lord Ferrier. To that batch, I should like to add an interesting batch of 100 to 150 overseas students who come, and have been coming for many years, from Norway to what is now 269 the Heriot Watt University. This has been a long-standing academic connection. It is more than 1,000 years since the Kingdom of Scotland was at war with Norway and over those 1,000 years we have maintained these ties. This action is just going to insert a bit of unnecessary friction. Of these Norwegian students who come to study in Edinburgh, a large proportion do not return to Norway for their future life. They seek employment elsewhere, and a number of them are supplementing the technological work which has to be done in industry in this country. To a certain extent they are balancing the brain drain which is going out.
It seems to me a great pity that it is on this point of fees that the clash is coming between the State and the universities. A lot of people have said that as the universities became more and more dependent upon the State there would eventually be a clash between the State and the universities. It seems to me that this is not a point on which we should be clashing, and there ought not to be a major dispute here. I should like to say to the Government that they should be extremely careful on this.
The biggest university in the world, the University of California, has just been thrown into considerable confusion through the State imposing certain edicts, certain dicta, regarding fees: so much so that it was found necessary to remove the head of the University at exceedingly short notice. The repercussions of that will be going on for some time and will be much greater than appeared at the time that the State interfered. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Annan, hit the nail on the head when he described the action of the Government as hitting a very sensitive nerve.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ LORD BROCKWAY
My Lords, my name does not appear on the list of speakers circulated to-day, although I did give notice of my desire to take part in the debate. Perhaps the House will permit me to speak, as I had the good fortune three weeks ago to be the first of your Lordships who raised this issue here. I propose to make only one point, and to make one plea. There has been some dispute as to whether the increased charges for overseas students will lead 270 to a limitation of their number. I think that undoubtedly it will, in the first instance; but whether it will in the long run is a matter of doubt. However, I would put this argument to the Leader of the House: whether it reduces the number of students or not, it will change the composition and character of the students who come to this country.
One recognises at once that there are overseas students whose parents can well afford to pay for their university education here. One finds, particularly at Oxford and Cambridge, sons of princely houses, of sheiks, of chiefs in Africa and of native businessmen; those sons from privileged houses will still be able to come to our universities. But the House will forgive me if I have much more in mind the kind of family of which the noble Lord, Lord Reay, spoke a few minutes ago. I am thinking at this moment of a family in Nigeria. Its members are living in a condition which is just above subsistence level, but the parents save and pool their resources to enable at least one of the children—obviously they would like more to do so—to come to a university in this country. I am distressed that a Government which calls itself Socialist should be introducing a measure under which those who will suffer most are the poorest. Those of us who know such families as I have described know that their passion for education is almost a religion. They desire nothing more in the world except the opportunity of education for their children. To be limiting the very small opportunities that they have now to give their children that chance is something which I am very sorry indeed to find a Government of my Party introducing.
I want to look at this problem from the other side of the picture. I have many friends who are students from Asian and African countries. I know of their struggle. I know how they have difficulty, particularly in London, of meeting the high rents which are charged for their often wretched lodgings. Again, I put it to the Leader of the House (and I hope he will listen to me on this point), that just as this measure will affect the homes of the people in Nigeria who are the poorest, so it will do most harm to the students in this country who are the poorest—they who have a struggle to 271 meet, even at the present charges, the cost of living here. I appeal to the Socialist conscience of the Leader of the House to think of that consideration.
The plea that I make to the Leader of the House is this. He must have been deeply impressed by this debate to-day. I can imagine that there might have been a time when he would have said that he was not very deeply impressed by an overwhelming opinion expressed in this House. He cannot say that about the debate to-day. The extraordinary thing about this debate has been the absolute unanimity of expression of those from our universities, as it is the unanimous expression in the universities themselves. From all sides of this House Members have pleaded for the withdrawal of this measure, not in any partisan, sectarian, or Party spirit, but because in every part of the House we believe that it is something of which our country should be ashamed, and of which a Socialist Government particularly should be ashamed. My plea to the noble Earl is to take the message of this debate to his colleagues; to acknowledge the mistake that has been made—it is a big thing to acknowledge mistakes when they have been made, but it is not something of which one should be ashamed—and seek to solve this problem in a bigger and better way.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, intervened and struck a note which must certainly meet with a response in any humanitarian person, whether he be Socialist like myself, or whatever his political or, indeed, religious allegiance may be. I hope that before I close—and that will not be for a long, long time yet—I might, I say only "might", bring him a small scrap of consolation. I cannot say more. But I hope I would say just a little something that might ease some of his very understandable anxieties. But as I say, that will be a long time from now.
My Lords, I think we are all—I know we are all—deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for opening this debate. He strove hard to be dispassionate. When a noble Lord starts 272 by saying that he intends to be dispassionate or objective, I usually fear the worst—I know that he is going to make a particularly nasty kind of Party speech. But that was not at all the case with the noble Lord. I felt that he had studied the Government point of view and looked at the facts, and I congratulate him on the total result—which does not mean I agree with him. I have a long statement, as the House will realise, setting out the Government's point of view, which I think is what would be expected, and showing the Government's case which has not yet been deployed fully in either House.
However, before coming to this statement, may I make just one or two general comments, if only for the benefit of noble Lords who fall by the wayside; in other words, for those who leave the House before I reach the end? To take up one attractive, but I think rather erroneous, point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, he announced that Edinburgh University had been open to all students for hundreds of years—I think he said 400 years. He probably has not studied the history—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Without financial discrimination—just religious discrimination? I do not honestly feel that Edinburgh comes off any better from the noble Lord's explanation, although I enjoyed his speech very greatly.
My Lords, there was this curious argument that the Treasury did not even know their own business; that, apart from being hard-hearted and unaware of the finer values, they did not even know whether they were liable to make or to lose money out of this decision. If the noble Lord cannot understand that they would save money, whether it is £5 million, or at any rate several million pounds, under this plan, I will not pursue the matter. I am afraid it is too late at night for me to set it out again. But I think it is obvious there would be some saving, whatever the exact figure.
I would say that the note struck most often, as it was struck in response to an intervention of mine by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was this insistence that 273 there must be no discrimination, and that the plan of the Government was discriminatory. He said himself (if I understood him aright), in speaking for the Opposition, that the Opposition were not averse to raising fees in principle. That has been said by various noble Lords, though not all. I think there might be said to be two schools of thought on that issue. I think there was a preponderance of those who dealt with the question in favour of raising fees, but they said it must be done in a non-discriminatory way. I will come to that in more detail later. But I would say what I ventured to place before the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, which point he anticipated when preparing his own remarks. I arrived at it without an undue amount of official assistance. It struck me that the point was there. I arrived at the point to some extent, at least, through the workings of my own mind—that is, that discrimination exists already. We have the reality of discrimination, and the question is whether we now add the appearance. That is really one of the main issues: Are we going to add the appearance of discrimination, so that anybody who has not gone into the question perhaps as closely as he should describes it as discriminatory, when he does not realise that it was discriminatory before? That was part of the argument addressed to us by the right reverend Prelate. He said that we were drawing back from a commitment. Then he slightly qualified that— I am speaking subject to his correction—and said that we appeared to be drawing back. I was wondering whether noble Lords were denouncing what we were doing, or what we seemed to be doing.
What we seem to be doing can become important. I do not want to turn it aside, but it is not the same thing as a discriminatory act. An act which is understood to be discriminatory is not the same as a new act of discrimination. Here I must say a word of protest. I do not say that I have been quiet all the afternoon and evening, but I must say a word of protest to my old chief and dear friend Lord Robbins. He used such violent language. I do not remember what he said last time about the Secretary of State, Mr. Crosland, but the last time we had a university debate I think he accused him of apartheid. I think the noble Lord denounced him very savagely that time, and now again he 274 comes up with these very strong words like "spiritual apartheid."
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, I said "financial apartheid". The adjective was "financial". I referred to "spiritual myopia".
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, whenever I am talking about a spiritual issue someone introduces finance, and vice versa. But last time the noble Lord was very severe. I apologise for mishearing the word, but at any rate there was this reference to apartheid.
If we are really serious—and I am sure we are being serious—this will be widely misunderstood throughout Asia and Africa. By his sort of ecstasy of denunciation, though well understood and appreciated here and among his friends, the noble Lord does nothing to help in Asia and Africa. I would say, with great respect, that he has done a real disservice to the very cause he has at heart; and if it does go out all over the world that this is a policy of discrimination, quite a few of your Lordships will have contributed to that very end this evening. I hope that one or two noble Lords will wonder whether there might not be a grain of truth in what I am placing before them now.
Let us just see whether we are drawing in our skirts or drawing away from our commitments. Are we showing ourselves less ready to help our less fortunate brethren? Take the assistance given to the overseas students. This has gone up. It has gone up very rapidly in recent years. It has gone up during the last four years from £10 million to £18 million. If we go a little wider and take overseas aid, excluding the figures I have just given, excluding the subsidy to the education of overseas students, the figure has gone up from £170 million to £205 million, an increase of over 20 per cent. Within that figure—and I am speaking to the right reverend Prelate particularly but, of course, to the whole House—excluding all subsidy to overseas students, the figure for assistance given to education overseas has gone up from £10.3 million in 1961–62 to £17.6 million in 1965–66. That is an increase of over 70 per cent. So within the figure of overseas aid in the last four years—and this is not in any way a Party point because it is a process which has gone 275 on throughout the period—the emphasis on education has been markedly increased. So when noble Lords speak as if we had suddenly turned our hearts and minds against educating our less well placed fellow men, they should look at the figures and they would recognise that their conclusion is quite false.
That is a general prelude. It would be absolutely wrong to assume that we are shutting the door to foreign students. I would say, clearly, so that it goes on record and possibly goes out along with other more violent remarks, that we welcome overseas students as warmly as ever, and in view of possible misunderstandings I hope they will realise that we welcome them still more warmly than ever. If it would do any good I would say that twice, and ring a bell, as our former Leader used to do when he had something he wanted to emphasise. So I hope there is no doubt about the welcome to students from overseas.
No one can say exactly what the effect on the numbers will be. I thought my noble friend Lord Brockway put it quite temperately, but the calculations, which at any rate I respect, suggest that there will not be any marked reduction, and we are not aiming to produce a marked reduction. That must be plain. If there were a slight reduction that would not be a part of the policy, as I understand it.
§ LORD ROBBINS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Earl a question? Supposing I were the proprietor of a theatre and I decided that all those noble Lords whose antecedents were on the opposite side of the Irish Sea were to pay an entrance fee twice or three times as high as they paid before, no difference being made to those noble Lords whose antecedents came from this side of the Irish Sea, and I coupled with that change of policy the assurance that I welcomed them just as much as before, would the noble Earl find that altogether convincing?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, if the noble Lord wants to know what happens to Irish Peers he will perhaps recall that they have been pointedly excluded from this House, in spite of repeated endeavours to be allowed into it. That is a matter of recent history. The noble Lord is implying that these overseas students will suffer in some way as com- 276 pared with their brethren here. They will pay more, that is perfectly true, but whether we put up the fees of the students at home or do not put them up would make no difference at all, unless we were ready to place some special burden on the British taxpayer which we are not asking him to shoulder at the present time.
May I come to the noble Lord's own line of argument, because I deal with it in my remarks. I will not go into some of the background, because it was set out so clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. I will go along as fast as I can, but for the sake of the record, bearing in mind that some people may read this as a connected speech, I must remind the House that the fees for future higher education students from overseas should be taken as £250—that is, £180 more than the present university average of £70 but the impact of this proposal will be cushioned, as the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, reminded us (and he will forgive me, I am sure, if I put it on record again) in three ways: first, the increase for all students already embarked on a course should be limited to £50, at any rate for that course; secondly, students already on courses who are sponsored by the Governments of developing countries will be relieved, out of a special fund, of the £50 increase; thirdly, where the British Government sponsor a student, additional aid funds will be provided to meet all fee increases. This applies to future as well as present students. Those points were set out by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn.
The context in which this decision was reached is important, and I hope noble Lords will realise that we are talking now in the financial context. When one says that, one does not mean that one ignores all the humanitarian or social considerations, but one does explain why a trend is being modified. We were faced last autumn with the need to make economies in the financial year 1967 and it became necessary to examine the size and nature of the concealed subsidy to overseas students represented by the low fees which obtain both in universities and in further education institutions. The fees at present represent rather less than 10 per cent. of the cost of the higher education provided. All this is common ground, but if I seem to be misstating or blurring 277 the facts there are experts all round to correct me.
I think no one would dispute my next statement, certainly not the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who has examined it with unsurpassed or unequalled skill. The structure of higher education finance in this country is complex; I think we can agree about: that, and it certainly makes comparisons with other countries misleading. So far as the universities are concerned, their main income is derived direct from the Exchequer. Fees income averages at present about 8 per cent. of total university expenditure. So it is a very peculiar set up, whether one likes it or not. In the great majority of cases the full-time students have their fees paid from public funds, the main exception being those students from overseas who do not qualify for student grants in this country. In England and Wales the student grants come mainly from the local education authorities, and therefore are a charge on the rates, and from the research councils. In Scotland they come direct from the Exchequer.
In recent years suggestions have been made in influential circles for an increase in the proportion of universities' income to be derived from fees, say up to 20 per cent. The Robbins Committee made a recommendation of that kind, and the noble Lord has set out very clearly this afternoon how he would tackle these problems. He would like to see an all-round increase in fees coupled with the proposal that the impact of increased fees on necessitous foreign students should be reduced by a special fund to help with the higher fees they are called upon to pay. That was the Robbins Committee proposal, but it was a proposal, I venture to say to my noble friend Lord Taylor, sharply in contrast with the proposal of the Taylor Committee, in that respect at least.
In examining the financial implications of the concealed subsidy to overseas students, the Government had to take into a count this great, and, I think most of us would say, very welcome, expansion in higher education in recent years, fostered so brilliantly by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and this has been, broadly at least, reflected in the increasing numbers of overseas students. The increase in numbers in overseas students for this four-year period 1961–62 to 1965–66 has 278 been about 25 per cent. The cost in money terms—in other words the concealed subsidy, after allowing for fees—of the higher education of these students rose from £10.1 million to £18 million in 1965–66, an increase of about 80 per cent. If this trend were to continue the Government estimate that the concealed subsidy would rise by a further £2 million in 1967–68 to £20 million, and at the beginning of the next decade it would rise to £25 million. These were the calculations available to the Government.
The Government have no desire to see a large reduction in this form of aid or in the undoubted value which the universities derive from the presence of overseas students. I think somebody, perhaps more than one speaker, pointed out that it is not just a benefit that we are conferring on these students; we benefit enormously from them. As one of the few speakers in this House, about the only one, who has belonged in his academic life to the "P.B.I."—in other words been a college tutor for many years and nothing better—standing among all these professors and Vice Chancellors, one who has belonged to the rank-and-file and done the donkey work. I quite agree. I hope one has always benefited, on that level at least—I do not know about the stratosphere—from the presence of these students.
This has confronted the Government with a decision, and they have taken that decision in a certain way and taken it with reluctance. No one can suppose that I come down to the House joyous and pleasantly excited. I could hardly remain in that condition all afternoon in the light of the discussion. I am sure that no one would suppose that this was a sort of proud day in my annals, when I was able to announce the increase in the fees of overseas students. But these decisions in Government, as we all know, are often unpleasant, and sometimes they have to be faced, as here. The effect of the Government proposals, including those for cushioning the impact on overseas students which I mentioned, the three forms of cushion, will be to hold down the concealed subsidy for the time being to its present level at £18 million. Indeed this figure of £250 was not arbitrarily chosen: it was fixed with this object in view. No one can tell exactly how it will work out in these financial calculations. 279 That is the scheme behind it: that we would keep the subsidy at £18 million, bearing in mind that it had risen 80 per cent. in the last four years and that there is no intention of cutting this subsidy. That is not the plan at all.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, would the noble Earl permit one question? Did the Government, in their calculations, ever try to get out an estimate of the amount of saving that would result if Lord Robbins's plan had been adopted?
§ TILE EARL OF LONGFORD
Well, my Lords, I am coming to that kind of suggestion. If I am asked, "did they?", I honestly do not know. I should be surprised if they had not. But I do not know, because by the time this discussion reached Ministers outside the Department that was not an issue. I think it extremely likely that that kind of calculation was made, but I cannot give an assurance. I would point out that this increase of fees is not an unparalleled event. A review would in any case have taken place this year with the beginning of the new quinquennium. At the last review fees were increased by 25 per cent. So I hope that noble Lords will not talk as though this was the first time we have ever dared to lay our hands on these particular fees. Corresponding increases of about 75 per cent., raising the average fee to £125, would have been necessary in 1967 if the percentage of university expenditure covered by fees income in fact were to be restored to 10 per cent. I do not say that that would again have been a binding requirement, but obviously something quite substantial was bound to happen on this occasion.
I turn from the implications for Government and Government expenditure in the proposed increase to the impact on the students themselves. A number of important factors must be borne in mind. Most of them, I think, will be within the consciousness of the House by now, but I think I must set them out. First of all, we ask: Who are the students, and where do they come from? I did not follow everything the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, said as he went on his way, but he seemed to me to be analysing it quite accurately.
One major source of misunderstanding relates to the expression "overseas 280 students", which gives rise to accusations of discrimination. But this expression in no way relates to racial, national, or foreign birth or origin. So that there is no racial discrimination; there is no question of colour coming in. I think one speaker implied that colour came in by some side route, but I must say that I could not follow that particular argument. This expression "overseas students" applies solely to those students who have come into higher education in this country after less than three years' residence here. Those university students with more than three years' residence before beginning their course are nearly all eligible for awards which extend to fees.
One of the main criticisms of the Government's decision, which has been reiterated by a number of noble Lords, is that we are deliberately discriminating against overseas students. Since that word has been used in more ways than one this afternoon, but always with a great deal of passion, I think it just worth clearing our minds of this before we part for the night. The fact is, as I ventured to lay before the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that our existing system of financing higher education—with the fees of home-based students already met for the most part from public funds—in practice makes any form of fee, or increased fee, for higher education for overseas students a form of discrimination. It may not look like it, because the reality is concealed by the peculiar financial arrangement, but that is in fact the situation to-day.
I repeat my earlier point: discrimination already exists, and this, if you like, adds the appearance, or clarifies the actual fact. But when I say that it already exists, I do not mean that there is some immorality about the present situation. It is just a fact that we consider that we have a duty to pay for our own students, and we do not consider—I am sure this is true of almost every country in the world—that we have the same duty to pay for overseas students who have gained admittance to our universities. That is a form of discrimination. Charity begins at home but it is, I am afraid, something which one would find in every country in the world to-day.
281 All the proposals for fee increases, such as those put forward by the Robbins Committee or the noble Lord to-day, are in practice discriminatory in the same way. If in fact one of our British students found his fees increased, but then by the same post received his grant, he would not be any the worse off. It would be simply a way, if you like, of bluffing the overseas student into feeling that he was still on the same footing as the home student, which he would not be any more than he is to-day. It would really be a fake; it would be a form of extreme window-dressing. It is a possible method, but on the whole our method is rather more candid and exposes the realities of the situation rather more clearly.
The formal appearance of discrimination could have been avoided by charging a fee in respect of home students which was then in almost every case reimbursed. This would be the Robbins plan, to which quite a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, were strongly inclined. Then the noble Lord, Lord Annan—and although I cannot be said to have found a supporter in the House to-day, I think Lord Annan came nearer to filling that requirement than anybody else—pointed out that this would have thrown a severe burden on the rates and could even have interfered with the implementation of some vital points in the Plowden Report. The truth is that if you were to do it in that way, if you were going to place heavier burdens on the rates in order to finance the students in their higher fees, you would then either have seen a considerable increase in the rates, or the Government would have had to come forward with some fairly widespread reform of the finances of local government. The Government, weighing up all those issues, came to the conclusion that more harm would come to the community by procedures of that kind than by the method actually adopted.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
May I just finish this piece? The Government rejected this solution primarily because it would have thrown additional charges on local taxation at a moment when it is Government policy to avoid adding to 282 the rate burden. That is the short and simple reason why the plan—if you like, the logical plan—of Lord Robbins has not been adopted.
§ LORD ROBBINS
I was going to ask whether what the noble Earl has said implies that it is now thought that the advice given by high Treasury officials to the Committee on Higher Education was erroneous?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am not going to comment on that without being allowed to study the evidence of the high Treasury officials, which I can hardly do standing at this Box. It is not the invariable custom in this House—although we have not the noble Lord, Lord Booth by, with us at the moment—to accept the voice of Treasury officials as the voice of God, and I am not prepared to do so on this occasion. I should be glad to study any views they may have put forward.
§ LORD ROBBINS
With deep respect, I did not represent the voice of Sir Thomas Pad more and Sir Richard Clarke as having that particular origin.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I will make sure that the last comment of the noble Lord is laid before those eminent gentlemen with proper emphasis. It cannot be said that there is a general principle in higher education against differential fees for overseas students. Such fees have been applied for many years in the colleges of education, and they apply also in many American State universities. We were taken on a tour of the world—I think it was by the noble Lord, Lord Murray of Newhaven—who was rather scathing about countries where there were any differential fees. Finally we had one noble Lord—he shall be nameless, because I was very upset by it—who announced, in a tone of great contempt, that this was the kind of thing that was done in Ireland.
I will not pursue that line of controversy any further. It is certainly argued that the underdeveloped countries benefit from the educational aid offered by our low fees. We must accept that absolutely, and I am coming, I hope, at the end to offer a little bit of consolation to the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, and other noble Lords. But we do contend that even if that be true—as it is—the 283 measure of this help should be regulated and identified, and I do not think the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, disagrees with that. I think he would be quite happy to see the amount of subsidy laid bare before the world, rather than concealed as at present. So I hope that noble Lords will feel that there is at least a strong argument for trying to regulate this subsidy, and for not allowing it to go on open-ended as has been the case up till now.
I am not going to spend long at this time of night on the procedure adopted, but I intervened to point out that there was consultation through the Government's own machinery with the British Council and the University Grants Committee. I gather that the Government would not have taken this decision (I am speaking now rather carefully and from what has been supplied to me) if the University Grants Committee, as their economic advisers, had dissented in principle from the proposition that the position of overseas students required attention from the point of view of fees. That, of course, was a fairly careful assurance from the U.G.C. I do not want to rest too much on it, but I should like noble Lords to realise that there was genuine consultation, and if there had not been this amount of acquiescence the Government, I am informed, would not have proceeded. Overseas Governments were informed at the earliest possible moment.
One is bound to ask then: What will be the impact on overseas students of the proposed increase? First, I should point out, as I think has been said elsewhere, that there is no question of the Government's insisting that the fees they intend to assume for planning purposes should be charged by institutions in every case. Waivers in cases of hardship are always possible, and the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, and other academic leaders are, I am sure, aware that the universities, if they wish, can waive or reduce the fees.
But taking the proposals, which I mentioned at the beginning, for cushioning the increase, these will relieve nearly 30 per cent. of the students in universities at present of the fees increase. Of the remainder (that is to say, about 22,000: the ones who will not be cushioned), 284 about 16,000 are estimated to be from developing countries and the Secretary of State has already made it clear that the Government are very willing to receive any evidence of hardship likely to arise as it affects this group. I am speaking here in the spirit of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway.
I am now in a position to-night to go a little further. I should not like noble Lords who have taken part in this memorable debate to feel that the Government were sending them away altogether empty. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is answering a Written Question this afternoon, of which I would ask leave to pass on the gist to your Lordships:The Government have taken careful note of the representations made to them on this subject, but remain of the opinion that the amount of public subsidy for overseas students must be brought under control.I am using words which will be used by the Secretary of State to-night He goes on:But as I have made clear on several occasions the Government appreciate that fee increases of this order may cause hardship in some cases, particularly where students already in this country are supported by their families.My Lords, what I am saying now is new, and not part of the earlier remarks about cushioning. The Government therefore intend to set up a fund to enable grants to be made towards the increase in fees in cases where hardship can reasonably be claimed. This will be additional to the arrangements already announced for helping students financed by Her Majesty's Government and Governments of developing countries. It is too soon to give details of these arrangements which will be the subject of further consultations, but the aim will be to ensure that those overseas students already here will not be prevented from completing their courses because they are unable to pay the increased fees. The longer-term situation, especially as it affects developing countries, will be kept under review by the Departments concerned.
My Lords, that is the end of the substance of the reply by the Secretary of State to a Question elsewhere. I hope it will bring some small encouragement to those noble Lords who, in this House to-day, have shown such profound, 285 genuine and well-informed anxiety about a vast number of our fellow human beings, now and in times to come, and also about our manifest duty to do all that we can to help to educate them. I am sure we are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, for initiating this debate.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, I hesitate to question him but I was one of those inclined to play down this question of discrimination. In regard to the reply he has just read, there was a point I made when the noble Earl was not in the Chamber. At the end of Clause 4 of a Written Answer on December 21 it says:…the increase in the fee assumed for those already embarked on courses which extend to the next academic year will be limited to £50 a year to the end of their present course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 738 (No. 708) col. 377; 21/12/66.]286 Does that apply to students who have come to this country to sit for a Higher Certificate, and to take up a place which is then open to them at a university? Does the end of that preliminary course mean the end of a course, or not? If it does, that means the increase is not £50 but £250. Is that what is covered by this fund?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I would rather not add to this statement. It will no doubt be widely discussed, and clearly we are at the beginning of some fairly prolonged discussions as regards its precise scope. I would rather write to the noble Lord, or discuss it with him, and not attempt to answer him in detail this evening.
§ House adjourned at twenty-two minutes before ten o'clock.