HL Deb 23 April 1969 vol 301 cc438-542

2.54 p.m.

THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL rose to call attention to the question of student participation in Higher Education; and to move for Papers. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, as I beg leave to move for Papers on the subject of "student participation", I feel that some explanation is needed as to why I should venture to do so in a House where so many of your Lordships have far greater experience and authority than I. The immediate cause of my asking that this subject should be on the Order Paper was the sit-in at Bristol University last Christmas and its distorted presentation in the Press and other mass media at the time. A fellow member of the University Council, my noble friend Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, a pro-Chancellor of Bristol University, I am glad to see, will be speaking later in the debate. I have also had many friends among young students in Bristol University and elsewhere, not to mention my having four children who in the last few years have taken part in student life, who have enabled me to keep in touch with what students are thinking and saying.

A somewhat similar debate took place in your Lordships' House nearly a year ago on the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who called attention to university students' discontents. The number of noble Lords who have agreed to speak in the debate to-day ensures that those who have more authority and experience than I will make certain that we hear contributions as notable as those of a year ago. But it is good that we should continue to keep this subject before us, because although the approach to, day is somewhat different, the subject of student life continues to be one of absorbing public interest.

My Lords, to speak of student participation is not to speak of a new idea. It is essential to the idea of a university that it should be a community in which teachers and taught have always their own distinct contributions to make. But I would suggest that there are three reasons why student participation needs to be reconsidered at the present time. First, the student element is a larger percentage of society as a whole than it has ever been before, and it is rapidly growing. We have been told recently that the 380,000 or so university students of today may well become between 700,000 and 750,000 in the course of the next decade. The growth of the academic community in recent years has already been phenomenal and, as I shall suggest later, is in itself a major cause of the difficulties which we encounter. But if this expansion is to continue at the rate which is foreseen, the difficulties which are inherent in expansion itself need continuously to be scrutinised and the lessons learned.

Secondly, this expansion is taking place at a time when responsibility among the younger generation is being more widely shared and is being offered and accepted at a younger age than previously. Speakers in the debate in this House a year ago frequently mentioned the Latey Report. It was the noble Earl, Lord Longford, who reminded the House then that it was not the students who set up the Latey Committee, but that it was the older among us who officially told the young that they are much more mature than we were at their age; that they are more developed and more to be trusted with all kinds of responsibility. I realise that it is a question which some noble Lords will wish to debate as to whether students are, in fact, more responsible than their predecessors or if it is only that they feel more responsible and ask for more responsibility; but even if it were only the latter, the whole community needs to respond.

Thirdly, a fresh consideration of the meaning of student participation is imposed upon us by the rapid pace of change in society around us. Universities are at no time completely isolated from the life of the community, although, at the same time, if they are to do their job they need some kind of separateness. But the nature both of the contact and of the separation is continually changing. One of the areas of society outside which affects the university is the phenomenal speed at which fields of specialised knowledge increase. Especially in the area of technology, though not alone there, the rapid development of fresh insights and methods is making demands upon the fields of university teaching and learning. One effect of this is to create fresh tension between senior and junior members of the university and also to make more acute the perennial tension between the research and the teaching aspects of university life. It was never more difficult than it is today for teachers to keep abreast of new developments in many of the fields in which they are called upon to teach, and at the same time to make their contribution to the advancement of knowledge.

It also has an important psychological effect in that the students may more easily feel that the knowledge on which they are being tested and examined is already out of date by the time they have acquired it. It is the world of tomorrow for which they are being trained, and yet it so often seems to be the world of yesterday in which they are being instructed. There has surely to be a fresh distribution of responsibility between the different bands of the spectrum of experience within the university community.

It has been pointed out to me by a Vice-Chancellor that one of the effects of the rapid expansion of the university has been totally to upset the graph of the balance of ages within the teaching community. In a university of stable size the line of age distribution at any given moment within the teaching community between the ages of, say, 25 and 65, is, roughly, a straight line; but when a university multiplies by four in a couple of decades the graph rises sharply between 25 and 35 so that there is then an altogether disproportionate number of junior members of the university, teachers with comparative inexperience of its tradition and ways as compared with the senior members of long experience.

One result has been that student unrest has shown up not so much a division between university teachers and the undergraduates as between the more senior university members, on the one hand, and the junior teaching staff and the post-graduates and undergraduates on the other. This, I suggest, is in part a reflection of the tension between the university as, on the one hand, a repository of inherited wisdom and, on the other hand, a mirror, reflecting the rapidly changing society outside itself.

All these three reasons, my Lords, are themselves aspects of the changing conceptions of the university's task. Exactly twenty years ago, in April, 1949, Sir Walter Moberley published a book Crisis in the University which, looking at it again, I realised was a truly prophetic piece of work. He has a chapter surveying the changing conceptions of the university. He characterises three. The first is what he calls Christian-Hellenic, namely, the type of university which Oxford and Cambridge exemplified in a highly distinctive way, based on Christian and Græco-Roman tradition. It is the ideal of Jowett, Newman, J. S. Mill, and Whewell, and I think that I need not elaborate on it further, for its main lines are deeply etched in the minds of all of us.

But one important aspect of it is being challenged. The relation between staff and students was regarded as being paternal on the one side and filial on the other. Now part of our difficulty sterns from the fact that the twin concepts in statu pupillari and in loco parentis are both under challenge. And, of course, another feature of this tradition was the pervasive influence of religion. The architecture of the Oxford or Cambridge college in which the dining hall and the college chapel were outstanding features is eloquent in itself.

The second type of university Moberley characterised as the "liberal". It had much in common with the Christian-Helenic conception, but with differences of emphasis and some new features. Investigation has come to matter more than instruction, and learning for learning's sake is the proper business of the university. Out of this grows a conception of the university as a community of science and learning which is quite distinct from the community of Church or State, of commerce or industry; and it should never be subservient to any of them. It has its own business, said Sir Walter, which it understands better than any outsider can do. Its proper task is to promote neither money-making nor good citizenship nor holiness, but simply sound learning. Again there are here ideals which have eaten deeply into our conception of a university and again ideals which are under challenge.

Thirdly, Moberley speaks of the "technological and democratic university". This he traces primarily to the growth and achievements of applied science. Here is a fresh recognition that the universities are genuinely in touch with the culture and ideas and responsibilities of the world outside their walls. It is essentially an empirical approach to learning. The development of this type of university coincided with the foundation of what were commonly called the red-brick universities and the consequent rapid extension of the social field from which undergraduates were drawn. It is in this sense not only technological but also democratic.

With the rapidly expanding university field, do we stand at the point were a fourth conception of the university is emerging? The so-called provincial universities, of which Bristol is one, are no longer to be numbered among what used to he called "the newer universities". We need to remember that there have been, I think, nine new universities in the last decade, not to mention the thirty or so regional polytechnics, each of which has something of the size and many of the characteristics of the university, and in addition the important and expanding field of the colleges of education. But I venture to give this misleadingly brief account of the development of what may be meant by speaking of a university in order to remind ourselves that the idea of the university is not a static one and in order to provide the background upon which we may seek to hear sympathetically the kind of thing which is being said by students to-day.

In an interesting article by James A. Perkins, the President of Cornell, called "The Restless Student", I came across this analysis of the proportions which seem to me broadly true of the university situation in this country also. Perhaps as much as 80 per cent. of the student community still live and behave in traditional modes; live more or less as their parents lived and have their minds fixed on entry into some profession or occupation. They look forward to the time when they can get jobs, raise families and do whatever seems appropriate, or at any rate inescapable, as members of the larger society. There seems to be a rough correlation between this type and certain faculties, but I would rather leave it to those actually engaged in universities to say in more detail whether they find this to be so.

Then there are 15 per cent. or so who are concerned, but not activists; sensitive, worried, troubled by the world they see ahead of them, but not usually committed to involvement in efforts to force immediate or abrupt changes, though they are ready material for recruitment in any causes of the more activist at certain moments of crisis. But possibly not more than 1 per cent. to 3 per cent. are in the activist wing, in such bodies as the revolutionary Student Socialist Federation. They can roughly be divided into two groups: those who would improve their society by the most vigorous means in order to make it conform with their ideals, and those who believe that society must be destroyed. Some of the would-be destroyers think of the destruction as a prelude to a new social order; others seem to care for nothing but destruction.

Another 1 per cent. to 3 per cent. have withdrawn from concern with society. They share the repugnance towards their contemporary society and culture expressed by the activists, but because they are insufficiently aggressive or lack well-organised characters they avoid the direct clash with authority. They have left the battle and gone off into the dream world provided by drugs and other forms of withdrawal. But inasmuch as the activist small minority and the larger, but still a minority, of the concerned are those who are causing the present crisis in the universities, they can accurately be called a protest movement. As I have listened to them and tried to understand what it is they are protesting against I suggest that we can distinguish these four elements of protest.

I label them by slogans in common use. First, they are anti-élitist. This surely lies behind the sporadic demonstrations of the "Free University" and was the original impulse before the Bristol University sit-in to demand reciprocal membership in the University Union for all other students in the vicinity. Their consciences are uneasy at being a privileged minority in society. They have no wish to be regarded as somehow more admirable than the vast majority of their contemporaries and actively seek a society in which their privileges can be more widely shared. I think that this is a generous impulse. And I have often found it in the minds of sixth form public school and grammar school boys as well as in the universities and colleges of education. The more thoughtful of them realise that there has for a long time been a serious debate in educational circles about the right relationship between equality and excellence. But that does not get rid of their own sense of uneasiness about having benefited from a pattern of education which they want to see more widely shared.

Secondly, they are anti-ivory tower. This may seem a ridiculous term to apply to the contemporary university, but behind it lies an aspect of the long unresolved tension between the functions of research and teaching in higher education. As one student put it to me, "It's the whole silly idea that the best students do research while the worst students are the poor bastards who have to go and look for jobs". Again, they recognise that there is a perfectly valid problem to be solved in the structure of university life in how to relate the extension of knowledge to the task of communicating it. But again they feel that there is an element of moral injustice in the standards which govern the whole structure of distinctions, including payment, in the academic world.

Thirdly, they are anti-authoritarian. I do not here mean any naive forms of being "agin authority". Neither is this simply to be identified with the normal rebellion of the young in every generation. It is more specifically academic or intellectual anti-authoritarianism. It has to do with the pursuit and sharing of knowledge. They question the concept of one set of people who have all the answers which they simply communicate to those who need to know them. I suspect that this is partly due to the fact that a number of university students have experienced at school newer methods of teaching, in which dialogue and open discussion have played a larger part than lies within the experience of some of those who are teaching them. Inasmuch as some of the younger teaching staff have shared something of this educational experience, I think that it may in part account for the divided sympathy which exists between senior and junior members of the teaching staffs. But the nub of this protest lies in the suspicion that a good deal of the knowledge which they are expected passively to absorb is useless knowledge. As Miss Margaret Mead has put it: College professors don't know what their students know, and they don't know what their students want to know.

Fourthly, they are anti-power structures. This, of course, is tied up with the political overtones which are to be heard in so much of the student protest generally. Vietnam becomes tied up with the image of the United States as the prototype of the big capitalist Power; Biafra becomes tied up with the neo-colonialism of the armaments manufacturers and vendors. Often ignorant of the history of how far the big industrial and commercial enterprises at the end of the last century and at the beginning of this brought the present provincial university pattern into existence, they resent the presence on university councils of the representatives of industry who do in fact, on university courts and councils to-day, devote a great deal of their time to the administration of the vast educational industry which the centres of higher education have become. There is a deep mistrust and hatred of the whole world of capitalist competition and materialist values with which they identify these institutions. They feel ensnared as creatures who are being moulded, whether they will it or not, to take their due place in that kind of world and they are deeply haunted by the fear of seeing their ideals wither away, of leaving their jeans and their hitch-hiking and settling for the bowler hat, the umbrella and the commuters' slow drag in suburban trains.

These are some of the elements in the protest. I recognise that it is a mixed picture. There are unworthy elements, elements of mere bloody-mindedness, elements of sheer hooliganism. But that, I believe, is only a small part of the picture, and we can be thankful for the genuine moral passion and the honest and consistent idealism which also lie behind the protest. But it is much easier to protest than to construct. When one begins to ask what kind of university they are seeking to replace all this at which they protest, the answers, to me at least, are far from clear.

May I conclude by suggesting that each of the four areas of protest contains possibilities for "student participation", as it appears to me from my position somewhat on the touch line. First, élitism. Here, surely, is a legitimate plea for more mutual participation by the universities in the life of comparable institutions. I am not competent to discuss the working of the binary system, but surely the university world and the other segments of higher education have common interests which are too little known and university students could be enriched by, and could enrich their contemporaries in other types of college—educational, industrial and so forth. Could more be done to foster this community of interests? I suspect that more is done than is realised, which underscores the need, here as elsewhere, for better lines of communication.

Yet universities also have a distinctive character and no one need be ashamed of having secured a place in one, so long as privileges are accompanied by obligations. It is in this awareness of obligation that many students seem to me to be weak. For example, a community devoted to effective study demands its own kind of disciplined social life. The old pattern of quasi-monastic life may be now irrelevant, but if no other discipline takes its place the quality of academic life itself will suffer. No one is compelled to be a student, but those who accept the privilege must expect the obligations. Student participation in the disciplinary system of the university can well be extended, provided that there is a common conception of the social disciplines which are needed for effective study. If a man is not ready for that, his place is not at a university. Neither teacher nor student can accept the same social freedom as exists outside.

Secondly, there is the "ivory tower". The plea here is for a fresh apprehension of the relation of learning to life. But the relationship presupposes a recognised role for learning. Here, surely, the liberal concept of the university is right to demand academic independence. As Professor Bernard Williams pointed out in an oration at Birkbeck College, part of the trouble in the United States of America stems from classified research which has no place in our tradition. The freedom of manœuvre which the University Grants Committee give to universities in their allocation of public funds is a vital freedom. Much is already being done, and more will be done, to widen the area of participation in academic free choice.

The Joint Statement from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and the National Union of Students last October has focused and stimulated the working out of "effective student presence on all relevant committees", including a lively and varied debate on the meaning of the word "relevant". But this debate must take place at the level of rational discussion. As Sir Eric Ashby has recently said, the job of a university is to teach in such a way that the pupil learns the discipline of dissent". Undisciplined dissent is destructive of the existence of the university itself. Student violence has been a reminder of the extent to which civilised society depends upon consent, but the consent must never be too lightly taken for granted. Militant methods may have a limited justification if they hasten desirable changes of which the need should have been seen earlier. But I believe that the principal condemnation of sit-ins, the siege tactics of the activists, the constantly recalled union general meetings, and even more the use of violence, is that they distract energy and thought from the real question: the achievement of a balanced, rational and dynamic academic community suited to the needs of our time.

Thirdly, we have authoritarianism. Obviously, nothing can alter a basic inequality in university life, that some persons have knowledge which others are there to acquire. But I think I have caught glimpses of ways of sharing knowledge which are unfamiliar and exciting. The lessons of "group dynamics", the "unstructured conference", and other modes of participation, all suggest that we ought not to grudge, but to welcome, the probability that we shall have to live for some time in the educational world in a ferment of experiment. There is, after all, no single way of sharing knowledge in the academic tradition—the disputation, the colloquy, the seminar and a host of other devices other than the formal lecture have always been known. It is in dialogue, and not in monologue, that understanding is best kindled, so that we can welcome the many experiments which are going on to enable students to participate in the debate about syllabus, teaching-method and assessment, in faculty and department joint staff/student committees and so forth. But it is surely part of the academic independence to which I have just referred to leave the universities and colleges themselves to work out the details.

But one point seems to me worth considering, and that is whether our university students are not too immature to be capable of sharing in responsibility. Many university teachers and students have told me that those who come up to university with some experience of the world are capable of making better use of their time, both in their studies and in the general life of the university. The year spent, for example, in voluntary service overseas between school and university represents more than 12 months' worth of growing up. Any form of national service may on other grounds be undesirable, but is there nothing which can be done to provide opportunity for school-leavers destined for further education to serve their fellows, either at home or overseas, which would bring them to university more capable of seeing why they are there?

Fourthly, we have "power structures". This I find the hardest point to formulate. Here is concealed the whole question of the role of the universities in a rapidly changing world. One young teacher told me he considered that the role of the university is "to be the catalytic agent of revolution in society". A senior professor said that the purpose of a university is "to teach people to ask the right questions". Need the two approaches be irreconcilable? In (to quote a memorable phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in last year's debate) [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19/6/68; col. 754], a world at once too complex to understand and too impersonal to control", the great need would seem to be for a complex of personal relationships within a pattern of agreed responsibilities. Neither is easily achieved. The very size of modern institutions, including universities, brings a breakdown of former patterns of personal relationships, and they cannot be restored without care and conscious fostering, as good personnel work in industry demonstrates.

A pattern of agreed responsibilities implies agreement on social goals and values which is all too evidently lacking in the modern world, both nationally and internationally. Can the universities rediscover a role in which each person feels able to count as part of a common enterprise, and yet in which the asking of the right questions, based upon wide, accurate knowledge and disciplined thought, contributes to the better ordering of society itself? My Lords, I fear that I have chiefly asked questions. I hope that others will say whether they are the right questions and, in their greater wisdom, contribute the answers. I beg to move for Papers.

3.27 p.m.


My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol has drawn on his deep experience of Bristol University to give us a most perceptive analysis of student thought, and particularly the thought of those students who protest the most, and I know that all your Lordships will be most grateful to him, not only for his most interesting speech, but also for giving us the opportunity of debating this Motion. It comes at an opportune time. After all, only yesterday another place had to accept student participation in its debates. In this House we are rather more fortunate, and we are more used to having students participating. However, I am sorry that among the list of speakers to-day we have nobody who is in fact a student, although some of our Members are students. I regret that they cannot he here to-day.

But this is an opportune moment for this debate, at a time when the whole subject of the growth of our institutions of higher education, and the future of the ever-increasing number of students who attend them, is much in the centre of public discussion. As the right reverend Prelate told us, things have changed very rapidly over the last few years. Since the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was published in 1963 the number of universities or equivalent institutions depending on grants from the University Grants Committee has increased from 31 to 34, and the number of students in them has doubled. Not only does this vast and quick increase cause problems of its own, but other factors enter into the situation.

The first among them, perhaps, as the right reverend Prelate also noticed, is the question of the age of majority. The legislation based on the Latey Committee Report has already been through your Lordships' House, and the Government have undertaken to introduce votes at 18. So the universities, which like the schools had responsibilities in loco parentis, will no longer have such responsibilities; they will be dealing with adults; and adults expect to be treated rather differently from school children. Moreover, students the world over have become much more conscious of their place in the world and much more anxious to have their 'voices heard. There are of course those extremists who do not believe in our form of society and whose object is simply and solely to wreck its institutions. But there are far more of those who are politically self-conscious and genuinely anxious for greater responsibility. To my mind the danger is that unless we act wisely those in the latter category may be driven into the arms of the extremists. Perhaps for the sake of justice I might mention a third category of students—the largest, I believe, of all—who are neither extremists nor politically self-conscious, but who want just to pursue their studies in an atmosphere of peace and good order.

There was once a slogan, "No taxation without representation". To-day the slogan is, "No administration without participation". Indeed, in our institutions of higher education the principle of participation by students in the affairs of their college or university has already been recognised. A most significant event mentioned by the right reverend Prelate was the joint statement from the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the National Union of Students on October 7 last year. I think we should pay tribute to both parties to that joint statement. The National Union of Students showed a statesmanlike appreciation of the need for constructive agreement with the university authorities. The vice-chancellors showed a ready spirit of cooperation with the aspirations of the students. Obviously, neither party was in a position to make binding agreements. Details had to be worked out within the constitution and administrative arrangements of each university. But at least this joint statement laid down some most important broad principles.

The first was that there must be significant student participation in the taking of decisions related to the field of student welfare. The second was that students' views must be properly heard and taken into account before decisions are made relating to curriculum and courses, teaching methods and major organisational matters. Thirdly, that students should have the opportunity to discuss the general principles involved in appointments, staff matters, admissions and academic assessments, and their views should be properly considered. These are guiding principles, and they are important ones. Whether they lead to student membership of the court or the council or the senate is a matter for each separate university to decide.

The National Union of Students adopted a very firm line at its recent conference at Liverpool, where it passed a resolution seeking a student representation of one-third on governing bodies of colleges and universities. I must say that I find this is a somewhat excessive demand. So often the court of a university is composed of a great many representatives from all different walks of life, and surely no one interest could be justified in having a representation as high as one-third. They also seek a 50/50 staff/student representation on committees with decision-making powers in individual departments. Again, I think they are being a trifle greedy. I very much hope that students who have achieved a great deal already in participation will not spoil their case by now demanding too much.

On the other hand, I personally believe that students should be represented on the decision-making bodies of their college or university. Consultation alone fails to identify them wholly as full members in one common enterprise, and tends to reinforce an attitude of "them and us". I would stress three points in cases where student members are admitted to membership of a council or committee. In the first place, they should be representatives and not delegates. They should be able to participate in the deliberations of the council or committee on their own behalf, representing students, without having to refer back to the body who appointed them. Secondly, they should be in sufficient numbers to feel that their voice is heard, and to be able to give some continuity to their membership. In the third place, care should be taken that they are properly briefed and encouraged. The difficulty of student participation is that students come and go with some rapidity, and just as they may have become familiar with the ropes they leave and are replaced by inexperienced colleagues. This throws a great responsibility on adult members of committees to help the student members and not to allow them to flounder in ignorance and feel that they have no effective say.

Quite apart from student representation on formal bodies, the joint statement also encourages the formation of joint staff/student committees in new and more effective forms, and in particular at faculty and departmental level. I am sure that this is important. Many issues which might eventually blow up into major trouble could so well be solved by better understanding at their source. One absolutely key matter for students and vice-chancellors alike is the question of discipline. To what extent should students participate in disciplinary procedures? The joint statement is quite clear: There should be provision for specific student participation in disciplinary procedures, especially in instances where a student's future might be at stake". It went on to recommend that universities in close consultation with their students should review their existing arrangements relating to their various disciplinary procedures and examine the areas within which it would be appropriate for disciplinary responsibility to be delegated to the student body.

I find the whole of this document highly commendable, but in many universities I am happy to say that it went no further than confirming a situation that already existed. It is impossible to survey the whole university field, and a great many of your Lordships much better acquainted with it than I am are to speak later in this debate. I have merely drawn on my knowledge of the University College in Cardiff. There, students are represented on nine standing committees of the Senate, and these include the all-important disciplinary committee. That committee has six members and includes two students. Also on the disciplinary appeals committee, which has a membership of three, sits one student. Students are also represented on four joint committees of the Council and the Senate, and on the sites and buildings committee of the Council; and most departments have staff/student committees. I am glad to say that at the last meeting of the Council the president and vice-president of the students' union society were invited to serve on the Council, and the students' union has been invited to elect two representatives to the Court of Governors. That seems to me to be excellent progress, and happily staff/student relationships at Cardiff are good.

A similar joint statement to that issued by the National Union of Students and the Vice-Chancellors was issued last November by the local education authorities and the National Union of Students. This followed somewhat similar lines and, to my mind, represented an equally considerable gain for the National Union of Students. Just as, in the case of the universities, the local education authorities had to be negotiated with separately and no one single document could commit them all, nevertheless, the joint statement seemed to me to be a generous gesture on the part of the local education authorities, and I must say that I personally am very sorry that at their recent conference this joint statement was rescinded by the National Union of Students. I understand that the trouble was that in one or two individual cases the students had negotiated with their local education authorities agreements which went slightly further than the joint statement. Even this, however, would seem to me not to be a sufficiently good reason for jettisoning the possible advantages over the whole field that were offered by this joint agreement. Moreover, I think there is a danger, when agreements entered into are rescinded, that it may result in a lack of confidence in the good faith of the party concerned.

The National Union of Students has recently gained a high reputation for its responsible and constructive approach, and I am sorry that this joint statement has been torn up by the conference. Its terms apply to one particularly important area, that of the colleges of education. They, like the universities, have expanded extremely rapidly and have suffered all the consequent strains. They are at present facing up to the problems of the new articles and instruments of government under the Education Act of last year. As a result of that Act members of staff of the colleges will participate in their government, and now the students, too, hope that they will have a voice on the governing body. Their claim has been backed by the Association of Teachers in Colleges and Departments of Education, who have expressed themselves strongly in favour of student participation, both on the governing body and on its committees, and, where feasible, on the academic board and its committees—although with certain obvious exceptions. They also support the idea of student representation on the disciplinary committees of the colleges of education.

The Weaver Committee, whose Report inspired the Education Act, advocated arrangements for students to make representations on matters of proper concern to them, to the governors, the academic board or to the principal, and it is essential that proper arrangements are made which meet the students' demands in this field also. My Lords, there is no doubt that higher education is facing challenging times. We are all aware of what has been called the "generation gap" and it can be bridged only by good will and co-operation from both sides. This is an argument for greater student participation in the running of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, and I personally believe that an encouraging start has been made. Further progress will depend on the wisdom and understanding of adults in authority, and on the common sense and patience of students—and also, I should add, on the good humour of both.

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, we are indeed grateful to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol for instigating this debate, not least those of us on these Benches, for we see this as an important corollary to the debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Byers a year ago on student unrest. To a certain extent, as the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, these two subjects overlap. A certain amount of student unrest is about participation in higher education, and likewise the whole attitude of students to participation in higher education is flavoured by their attitude to authority as a whole.

Mr. Kingsley Amis, in a recent novel, has pointed out that the slogan of the rich is "I want it now". If you can afford something, why wait for it? It is an understandable, if not very endearing, attitude, and as Professor Shils has pointed out in a most percipient article in this month's Encounter, it is characteristic of the student generation. For the first time they feel part of an affluent society. For the first time scarcity is not seen to be the predominant feature in their lives. The resources of the world seem adequate, or almost adequate, to solve the world's problems. They want it now—not just for themselves but for the world as a whole, and I think this diagnosis is borne out by a recent National Opinion Poll which found that there was a greater tendency towards interest in extreme political demonstrations among students from better-off families.

At its worst, this attitude ignores that of which the noble Baroness who is to sum up keeps on reminding us: that resources are still limited. At its best it can be summed up in the words of Robert Kennedy: Other men look at this world and ask why? I dream of a world which has not yet been and ask, why not? This will be my last reference to student unrest as such, but I believe it is important to bear this attitude of theirs in mind when we are thinking of the student's attitude to reforms in universities. Whether it is a good or a bad trait, the fact remains that having seen this vision of participation and of liberty, he wants it now.

The questions that seem to me to be before us this afternoon are as follows. Is it desirable that the students should take part in the decision-making in higher education, and, if so, how far should it go and how should it be done? To the first question—should there be student participation—we on these Benches, like many of your Lordships in all parts of the House, say an unqualified "Yes". This is because we take the democratic ideal seriously, not because we are certain that democracy is the best form of government—though it may be—but because we are certain that it is essential for the liberty of each man and woman that he or she should have as much power to control the environment as possible, and this involves a say in the social organisation of his or her life.

Such a declaration leads us to at least two conclusions which impinge on student participation. The first is that wherever possible those affected by administrative and political—in the widest sense of the word—decisions should have a share. The second is that you will not get adults to take part intelligently unless you educate them to that end. Therefore we would wholeheartedly repudiate the attitude of mind which says that students are not at university to take part in its administration; they are there to learn. Indeed, my Lords, they are there to learn, but we believe not only that they have a basic right to take part in administrative decisions affecting themselves but also that some of the things that they are there to learn they can learn only by taking part in these processes.

It is a provocative thought that very often it is those who hold most strongly that university life should be a period of enrichment and that far from the total value is gained from the studies themselves, who most object when that external enrichment changes from what Mr. Waugh has described as the sound of the upper classes baying for broken glass or the theoretical debates of the Union Society, to something which is truly education and truly valuable. And, of course, the vandalism of the lower classes and the youthful high spirits of the upper classes—the difference between which must be profound—are both far less annoying to the authorities than a desire to be constructive about education. Universities would be splendid places "if it were not that there are so many of these damn undergraduates around".

The second question is how far should participation go, and should it extend to academic subjects, academic courses, methods of selection of lecturers, et cetera? There are many who would draw back here and who would consider that a student had a right to a say about meals and accommodation but that in academic subjects "Daddy knows best." I must confess that I do not follow this argument. The university is meant to be a place of reason, and in spite of some physical thuggery on the part of a small number of students, as the right reverend Prelate has pointed out, and some intellectual thuggery on the part of a small number of dons and administrators, most universities still conform to this description. And if this is so surely a contribution by the students to the planning of their own education can be treated reasonably. Surely students will either manage to persuade or be persuaded. In other words, is there any reason why the normal basis of discussion and decision-making should not take place with students on these important subjects? After all, the students have a great stake, an even greater stake than the dons, in what is taught. As a writer in the Financial Times put it recently, The business of being educated involves a lot of effort on the part of the educated and in a sense commits him for life". In some universities (and here one would particularly like to mention the University College of London, under the strong and benign influence of the noble Lord, Lord Annan) it is exactly at the faculty level of discussing course content in bodies with equal representation of students and staff that such participation seems to work most smoothly. Nevertheless, we believe that it is not enough for it to happen at this level; nor, indeed, does University College. At faculty level it is very much within the influence of the individual professor to make the question of participation either a reality or mere shadow boxing. It is not until the student is seen to have representation as of right at all levels that the whole question of student participation is seen to be, not one of pandering to slightly unreasonable demands of a pressure group, but of the right way of approaching the whole problem of learning and education in all places of higher education.

There have been some objections to representation of students at the top—the equivalent of the senate, or whatever it may happen to be—and many of these objections are reasonably founded. But I do not believe that there are not ways of getting round them in almost every case. For instance, there is the question of confidentiality of certain things which the senate discusses. To start with, confidentiality is here, as in so many other places, very much overdone. Occasions have arisen when the whole of an agenda has been marked as confidential when in fact there was no single item on it which could reasonably have been regarded as such. A way forward can often be found by winnowing out those items which are genuinely confidential, firmly making it known that they are such. Then any representative knows where he is, and responsible students are as aware as anyone else of the need for confidentiality in matters where it is appropriate. They are also aware, as is the declaration of the National Union of Students and the Vice Chancellors, that it is not necessary for them to attend meetings dealing with forbidden areas of individual promotion, examination results, and so on; and again in many cases ways round the difficulty have been found. The obvious way is for the senate to appoint a sub-committee which is smaller than itself for dealing with those matters which exclude students.

This representation all the way up is much more important than the numbers concerned. The student presidents to whom I have spoken, contrary to the decision of the N.U.S. conference, are unanimous in saying that quality is better than quantity, and that so long as there is some representation it is not important that it should be 33⅓ per cent. or 25 per cent. or any particular proportion.

My Lords, there is one remaining objection which I should like to touch, and which has been touched on already; and that is the one of mandation. The National Union of Students, at its recent conference, passed a resolution saying that for the exercise of true democracy mandation on principles is essential. I gather that this resolution went through "on the nod", in a mass of other resolutions, and was not given the time that such an important point deserves. I would merely say that, like the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, I regard this resolution as being totally unworkable; and so do a great many responsible students. It sounded very nice to pass at the N.U.S. conference, but it is surely something that they themselves would have repudiated if it had been passed in their own universities and they had been the people who had to carry it out on the committees. It is obviously undemocratic and unworkable and, together with other betrayals of intellectual standards, such as non-negotiable demands, must be resisted.

The increase in student participation in higher education is of course likely to lead to further reforms in universities themselves. Particularly from the students' point of view, they are going to press for the improvement of teaching standards. If one looks at it with the fresh eye of a man from Mars, it is almost inconceivable that those entrusted with the teaching of undergraduates are not taught how to teach and that, in the great majority of cases, their promotion has nothing to do with their ability to teach. Indeed, the whole system, with its emphasis on research and publications as criteria for advancement, is specifically designed to see that even without special instruction for teaching the temptation is to devote time and energy to research and writing rather than to teaching. It is greatly to the credit of the university teachers in this country that, in spite of this, the standard of teaching is so high.

Another change that should have come before, and will almost certainly some as a result of student participation, is in the construction of some kind of proper community relationships in the universities. From among many letters I have had I would, with your Lordships' permission, quote one: it comes from a very sensible, sane and responsible member of the staff at the University of Manchester, who is well known to me. He writes: In general, I would say that much of the demand for student participation arises out of the inevitable feeling of remoteness in an institution of several thousand people (without colleges to introduce the humanising effect of smaller units and the remedial assistance of informal communication), in which the tutorial system, of each student having one member of staff responsible for him, often works extremely badly, because the staff themselves feel remote, because they are given no incentive (and no introductory information at Manchester) to spend time helping those they tutor, so that many students do not know a single member of the staff at all well. He goes on: This is a major factor in the feeling of alienation many students develop; and it is made worse by the University Administration's lack of attention to the desirability of internal communication. This university has no internally circulating information sheet for either staff or students (2 requests from the staff—there are over 1,000 of us—have been turned down on the grounds of 'cost': estimated at £4,000 a year) … The resulting lack of information breeds suspicion—as it does in any large organisation, industrial or political or social … And the staff's own frustration about not knowing what is going on naturally feeds back to their students, which further reinforces their feelings. Other changes which will no doubt occur are to do with the assumption of responsibility for their own lives by students in matters only marginally affected by the control of university authorities themselves. One of the most interesting developments in this line is the start of student co-operative dwellings. These housing societies, run entirely by students for students, will not only improve student accommodation, but lower the cost of residential education, and be a considerable contribution by students to solving some of the problems of higher education. Likewise, the development of student community action, such as is happening in London through the organisation for student community action, is proving a most successful attempt by students to make a positive contribution to the society from which they are getting so much.

So far I have dealt entirely with universities. I should like now to say just a word about other colleges of further and higher education, where the picture is not nearly so rosy as the picture we have heard to-day. In some colleges of art (I only say "some"), colleges of education, technical colleges and other similar institutions there are many situations where no hint of this change of wind has stirred. There are many colleges where not even the union funds are in the hands of the students themselves; and there are some where the president of the union is the principal of the college and where consultation consists of a soliloquy. Here too, of course, there are some spendid exceptions, such as the North Staffordshire College of Technology, which this term is allowing students to sit on the Academic Board, its main policy-making body. It is quite obvious that these colleges must take a strong step forward; many of them still have a quite reactionary outlook.

Of course these changes are going to create difficulties and often trouble. To my mind, in the long run the changes are both inevitable and intensely desirable. Incidentally, they will take some of the heat out of the main student unrest. The N.O.P. survey stated that an important implication of the polls that they had taken was that if current negotiations for increased student participation succeeded, the cause of much of the current unrest could finally be removed.

The students want reform, and they want it now. We have a choice before us. It is quite simple. We can try to make life easy for ourselves and for our universities by attempting to continue in the same traditional way. It is possible that, if tackled wholeheartedly, such an attempt might succeed and student unrest of today might prove to be a temporary phenomenon. I do not believe this would happen, but if it did, I think it would be a great loss. In a world of changing situations and technologies, where the old are almost immigrants into the world of the young, where the old need to learn as much as the young of what is happening today, there is an urgent need for partnership of the two, a partnership which will be uncomfortable, difficult and at times intolerable. But unless we allow this partnership, and allow the young to have a say in their future, starting mildly with the administration of the schools and universities they find themselves in, embarking more daringly perhaps on the education which is to fit them for the world of tomorrow, and going on to accept them as partners in government, at a time and an age when their predecessors were not admitted to the privilege, we shall be losing possibly the greatest opportunity that we have had in the educational field.

what would not the great educational writers and philosophers of the past have given to know a generation who were not any longer prepared to accept authority as such, but who needed and demanded to be reasoned with, and to reason with their elders? They would have looked upon it as the coming of age of education. Can we not do the same?

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I have really little that is new to say on this difficult subject which, after all, we discussed not long ago in the wider context of student unrest. Nevertheless, I know that we in the universities will be most grateful to the right reverend Prelate for keeping this subject in your Lordships' minds and, if I may say so, for the way he has done it. I felt that I had to say something, since this, after all, concerns my job, and particularly since I think that the situation has changed somewhat since our last debate. It has changed, I think, in three ways: first, in the sense that one felt, reading the accounts of the N.U.S. Conference, that many members of the National Union of Students were moving somewhat further in their demands for participation than had appeared from the joint statement with the Vice-Chancellors.

Secondly, the position has changed in the sense that a great number of universities in this country have set up strong working parties of staff and students partly as a result of the Vice-Chancellors and the N.U.S. Concordat, but in the case of some of us dating from before that appeared. One can see all over the country concrete suggestions coming forward from university after university for specific kinds of participation.

The third way in which the situation has changed slightly is that the kind of backlash that was provoked by the extremists among the students has already set in more strongly than ever before, and it received particular expression in the so-called Black Paper published by a group of academics, which has attracted a great deal of publicity and which many of your Lordships will no doubt have seen, stimulated by the quite extraordinarily violent reaction to it of the Secretary of State.

It is an interesting document, including some contributions with which I agree while dissenting vigorously from others. There is in particular, I think, a brilliant article analysing the whole idea of youth culture by Dr. Brian Wilson, which I think is well worth reading. But the Black Paper is not primarily concerned with student participation. It is quite legitimately expressing views on all kinds of educational topics, including comprehensive education, new methods in primary schools and student unrest of the more violent kind that I think some of the contributors ascribe to what goes on in primary schools. To that extent, I cannot follow their argument. I am myself alarmed by it—it alarms me and so does the reaction of the Secretary of State to it—because I think we may fall into the error of associating together certain attitudes towards a whole range of widely differing subjects, and labelling them "progressive" while applying the word "reactionary" to those who find themselves unable to swallow the whole package deal. Education is a much more complex business than that. I myself, for example, happen to believe in highly selective education, while at the same time regarding the work in many of our primary schools as one of the best things in English education. I cannot think that either is immediately relevant to student participation at the university level. I must confess, therefore, that when the Secretary of State refers to the publication of this interesting if sometimes misguided pamphlet as the blackest day in education for 100 years, I find it difficult to find in that statement signs of either the education or the science for which he is nominally the spokesman.

The purpose of these introductory remarks is simply to make a plea for us to avoid catchwords and stereotypes as much as we can, and remember that we are dealing with the specific subject of student participation, which is not the same as student violence and is still more remote than the methodology of teaching in primary schools. It seems to me that there are four questions that we have to answer. The first is: what do we mean by student participation; in what fields is it appropriate; how far it should go, and lastly, what are the difficulties which its extension raises?

By "student participation" we mean, quite simply, that members of the student body should take a share in the making of policy and the exercise of discipline within places of higher education. I think there are few of us now who would reject those ideas in their totality. Indeed, I think that some of those not concerned with university government have often underestimated altogether the amount of such participation that already takes place and has taken place for years, as the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare pointed out. In my own university that is comparatively very new, and it has had neither the time nor, I am glad to say, the inclination to allow committees to proliferate on the scale of some institutions. We nevertheless have student representation on 16 committees out of our comparatively small number. On some of them their presence is a most helpful element, and it enables those concerned to serve the university community much more effectively.

The difficulties come when we consider exactly how far such participation should be extended. Here surely the test must be the usefulness of a given individual; the usefulness that comes from knowledge. In fields such as catering, or the provision of some kind of social facilities, it is perfectly reasonable that the students should have a prominent and sometimes even a predominant voice. At the other end of the scale there are areas in which it is difficult to believe, if one is frank, that their knowledge or experience really fits them to make a very useful contribution. I certainly feel this about myself. I am, I think, an ex-officio member of all committees in the university, and this is in a way reasonable, since I am supposed—quite erroneously—to answer for almost anything that happens in my university. But there are a number of committees to which I rarely or never go, simply because I have neither the interest nor the knowledge required to make a useful contribution compared with the other members. It should surely be one of the principles of universities, of all places, that power should have some relationship to knowledge, skill, and experience.

But what about committees which clearly affect the lives of the student and yet demand a breadth of knowledge that they inevitably rarely possess? Such are the supreme governing bodies, the committees concerned with purely academic affairs such as curricula, and, thirdly, those concerned with discipline. As regards the last of these, I am myself perfectly prepared to associate students with the exercise of discipline to a greater extent than at present—they are, of course, associated at present in most instances—not because I think that young women or young men of 20 or 21 are particularly qualified to act judicially but because in so far as disciplinary action has to be taken (and it is easy to get this out of proportion, for in most universities serious disciplinary offences are not very common) I think it is worth making great efforts to secure the confidence of the majority of students in the fairness of disciplinary decisions.

As regards members of the council, or whatever any particular university calls its supreme governing body, I am myself, I admit, unenthusiastic about formal student membership, but it is not an issue on which I would die in the last ditch, given two provisos. The first is that students should not be in a more advantageous position than junior members of the staff, and in my own university I am glad to say that we include non-professorial members on the most important decision-making bodies. That is, to me, a far greater liberalisation than student representation. Secondly, I believe that there must always be a few starred items for which students should withdraw, the obvious examples being staff salaries, appointments, or promotions; and in my experience this kind of arrangement does not produce any real difficulty.

It is when we come to the organisation of the actual academic side of the university that I feel that one's doubts inevitably are more serious, because, after all, this is the heart of the university. I am sure that university teachers can and often do learn, and have done for years, a great deal informally from their pupils about the courses they provide; but I am far less sure that this kind of discussion is fostered by making students who, ex hypothesi, cannot possess a very profound knowledge of the subjects which they come to the university to learn, full members of faculty boards or whatever we call them. I would urge that we stop being mealymouthed about this, and admit that teachers know more about their subject than their students know, and more, in fact, than most of their students will ever know. This in itself does not make them great teachers, or even good committee men, but it is a fact that does have some bearing on their judgment about the relative importance of different parts of their subjects.

One word that I fear in this context is "relevance", and something has been said about that already. Although one of the complaints of students is that they are simply being trained to fit into a certain kind of social nexus, at the same time they complain about the social ir- relevance of much of what they learn. Thucydides, for example, lived a long time ago; why read him now? But for some people the illumination which he provides in forming rational judgments, in relating the transitory to the perennial problems of political action, and the sheer literary quality which he demonstrates makes the reading of him, living well over 2,000 years ago, completely relevant at the deepest level to the problems of our own day in the sense that it is part of an attempt that a university must make to produce wise as well as clever men.

It is here that I fear most crude arguments about "relevance"—and they do not come only from students. It is here, in an area that lies at the very heart of a university as a place where teachers and taught can discuss and evaluate difficult and sometimes original ideas, that I am most doubtful whether formal participation in the routine work of faculty boards, or whatever we call them, by students is justified, convinced though I am of the value of informal discussions with them. But even here I am prepared to be converted.

If I am, as your Lordships will see, on the whole an advocate—if a somewhat cautious one—of increased student participation, there is one area in which I am sure that such participation would be altogether harmful; that is, in the assessment of those who teach them. No section of a conspicuously jejune report is more inept than that in which the Prices and Incomes Board suggest this as a possible way of determining the effectiveness and hence the payment of teachers. No one can have urged more consistently than I have—because, after all, I am not really a university person at all, I am a schoolmaster—the importance of the educational function of universities, a function which they often, it is true, have minimised. But there is, and should be, an ambiguity about the phrase "university teacher" that makes a straightforward assessment of teaching ability particularly difficult.

Universities, after all, are not factories efficiently producing detergents to satisfy a body of consumers. There must be a place for the gifted scholar whose obscure and even badly delivered lectures may illuminate, as nothing else can, a difficult problem for a minority of very able students. How is he to be rated against the gifted orator who packs his lecture room weekly, or the devoted don who may not be a very good lecturer but who has a concern for individual students that some will always remember with gratitude and affection? How will either compare in the minds of rather ordinary students with the clear expositor, or even the gifted crammer, who secures good examination results for those students industrious enough to absorb, sponge-like and uncritical, what they provide? I find it impossible to believe that a simple rating by students can do justice to what are necessarily such diverse talents.

Thus, though I believe wholeheartedly in student participation in some areas, not because it is inevitable and expedient but because I believe it is right, I still think that there are certain limits beyond which we should not go in extending it. I believe, moreover, that there are very real difficulties which it will require all our patience, all our good will and all our courage to overcome. Some of these difficulties I have already mentioned. Another is more obvious in some universities than in others. It is what is called "student apathy" by those who deplore it, and is welcomed by others as a sign that the students are primarily interested in their work, which is, after all, the first concern of a university, and outside it their games or personal social service to the community or their cultural activities or whatever it may be, rather than in attending meetings or sitting on committees. For, whether we deplore it or welcome it, the fact is that in many universities the majority of the students simply could not care less about political power. Therefore, it is very difficult to be sure exactly who student representatives represent when they are elected by general meetings which may consist of less than 5 per cent. of the students.

There is the further difficulty referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that many of those representatives regard themselves essentially as delegates "mandated", as they express it in that appalling term, to make certain demands. It is hard for them to be constructive partners in making decisions. Inevitably one doubts whether all student politicians realise that for participation to be useful it must be knowledgeable, and involves some understanding of the actual machinery of university administration. Do they know, one may ask, enough about the relationship of the universities with the U.G.C. or with Government or with the P.A.C. or whatever it is? Do they realise that the more fundamental aims of university policy demand for their apprehension, for their modification, for their improvement, a very great deal of solid reading and hard thought and talk that few of them have the time, and some of them have not the ability, to give?

Above all, I, and many of my colleagues, have one underlying fear that clouds our uncritical acceptance of massive student participation in every department of university life. It is the fear that every university committee will come to be thought of in terms of confrontation: that instead of gatherings of individuals who, though they may differ and should differ, and differ strongly, are none the less united in their desire to reach rational decisions as to what is best for the university as a whole, we may have a group, bound by their mandate, speaking as they have been instructed by a minority for the supposed interests of the students. I believe that this polarisation would be disastrous if it replaced rational discussion by constant negotiation between supposedly opposing groups; if it replaced confidence and often friendship between partners in a common enterprise of education and learning, a common recognition of the great scholar or the good teacher, by a series of battles with barren victories which, whoever were the victors, would impoverish the atmosphere of respect for reason in which alone universities can flourish.

My Lords, I have mentioned some of the difficulties, and I have mentioned them in some ways as toughly as I can. Therefore, it may seem to be naïvely optimistic, and even paradoxical, to say that I nevertheless believe that the way in which we can try to meet these dangers is by increasing student participation in university affairs as far as we conscientiously can. This, I am sure, is the way to show that the violent fringe is not only insignificant in numbers but isolated from the great majority of students, who resent violence and disorder. I cannot emphasise too strongly that, unless we learn how to control and isolate this violent fringe, all our talk about genuine participation may well come to nothing, because participation, discussion, cannot take place in an atmosphere of disruption and uncertainty. Secondly, we must examine the internal organisations of our institutions, and particularly the very large ones, so that, as has been said, we may be sure that participation can be more widely diffused and not confined to a small group of politically active students.

Lastly, I believe that we must not only continue the process of informed self-examination of university life, the continual asking of questions which in live institutions should, and does, go on all the time about such topics as the balance of teaching and research, the techniques of teaching and, ultimately, the purpose of the universities; we must make it clear—clearer than we have often done—that such a continuous dialectic does go on and has gone on for years. If we adopt these attitudes, if university teachers and administrators summon all their resources of wisdom, patience and humanity, and refuse to be disillusioned or simply authoritarian in spite of the provocations which they suffer, then it is possible (and this is, if you like, naïve optimism) that we shall end, by reasonable changes reasonably arrived at, with universities that are actually better because of the difficulties that some of us now face.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for introducing this subject to-day. I have listened with great interest to the somewhat sombre speech of the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme. For once I have not found myself in complete agreement with him. Usually, I must admit, I find that what he says strikes an immediate response with me. On this occasion I find that I do not so fully agree with him. The question of student participation is obviously one of immense importance. I first realised it fifty years ago when I entered university by becoming a member of that same college which a young man of high promise has just entered in order to study the language and history of Wales. When I was in that college the rules and regulations were very strict. We were not allowed to go to any of the licensed houses of refreshment. We were not permitted to be seen at night outside the buildings of the college with any female member of the university.

It was at that time that the National Union of Students first got going, and I can remember well the meetings that we had in that college at Aberystwyth, when we fought hard, first of all, to remedy what we considered the intolerable restrictions inside the place—which, incidentally, did not prevent us from having a very good time—and, secondly, for an enlargement of the powers of the National Union of Students. I recollect that I proposed at the time that the National Union of Students should become affiliated to the Trades Union Congress. So your Lordships can see that I have, perhaps, been a militant for a fairly long time, and I do not find my attitude in these matters so very much changed to-day.

Although I have now been in universities for fifty years, with a short exception of two years during the war, I have found all the time that there remain inside the universities a great many things which should be altered; and I have found, as I was warned on one occasion by the late Lord Eustace Percy, that the academic staff of a university is normally extremely conservative. He put it in this way. He said that he found that a meeting of the senate of a university reminded him strongly of the thesis submitted by a candidate for a higher degree in a university, which was the different forms of the negative in Greek. Indeed, one finds that, on the whole, in universities we have acquired extremely efficient methods of politely and very reasonably saying, "No".

This does not mean that universities do not do excellent things, but what it does mean is that we are always slow to change in matters which concern the running of a university. One might say that this is rightly so, because we have got the correct way of running universities. If that is the case—and it may be true, of course—I think it is an extraordinary thing that all the other institutions of higher and further education have not developed equally good ways. Reference has been made this afternoon to the training colleges. Surely, my Lords, if ever there were institutions with antiquated restrictions, with ridiculously imposed regulations, they are the training colleges, perhaps rivalled only by schools of art. Up and down the country we find institutions which still have the most ridiculous restrictions on the normal liberties of citizens, imposed because it is thought that inside the teaching institution it is right and proper that they should behave differently.

I think that in London we are faced at the moment with a very serious example of this. I think it is an astonishing thing that to-day a board of a university institution should summarily dismiss a member of the teaching staff. I think it is preposterous and outrageous that this should be done. I think this strikes at the very roots of academic freedom. This is the sort of thing for which, in my opinion, universities have rightly stood in the past: the freedom of the academic to say what he wants, without any thought of the consequences—and here we have an institution actually dismissing two people. I think it is preposterous. It is this sort of thing which has helped to make students up and down the country feel that everything is not well inside the body academic.

We have, I believe, three types of participation with which the student is concerned: the participation in learning, the participation in administration and the wider participation in society. Unfortunately, we have ourselves created rather a monster of administration, and it is not only students who proclaim violently (as the noble Lord, Lord James, will well know) against administration in universities; the staff equally complain about administration. Some of this, it is said, is inevitable—and, indeed, some of it arises because the Government and this very body, Parliament, require more and more information, a great deal of which seems to be irrelevant to the running of the universities but which nevertheless throws a considerable demand upon them. I believe that a great deal of the exaggerated view of the importance of administration has made not only students but also staff in universities feel that the administration is something hostile to them.

This was not nearly so true many years ago, at least in this country, but I remember some years back that I spent a whole morning discussing with the vice-president of an American university the running of American universities. He went through the whole thing in great detail with me and said, "The first thing you have to realise is that in an American university we do not have the place run roughly on the same lines, academically, as you do in Great Britain, but we have an administration which is appointed just like the board of a business, and this administration is regarded by the academics as something hostile". He said, "Throughout all the universities—it does not matter whether they are private universities or State universities—the administration in America is just the same; it makes very little difference. You have, on the one hand, a board of regents or a board of trustees, and, on the other hand, you have the academic staff; and now, of course, you have the students—and these have been in rivalry with one another" In the past, we have largely avoided this, and I think it is vital that we should continue to avoid it in this country. I believe that we can avoid it best by having the maximum of participation throughout. In this way we can diminish the importance of administration, which I regard as something largely irrelevant to a university, with all due respect to noble Lords here who are in administrative positions in universities.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? He has mentioned the system as adopted in American universities. Would he say that that accounts for the extraordinarily low level of American university degrees?


My Lords, I would say that two questions are implied in that one. I am not certain that the level of American university degrees is low, but I would say that some of the problems—not all—which have arisen in American universities are the consequence of the American administrative system. We have just seen, within the last fortnight, a really violent revolt at Harvard; and I have a quotation from McGeorge Bundy which says: Harvard has a tradition of quite highhanded and centralised behaviour—and it has not suffered, on balance, in consequence". That was a good few years ago. Indeed, for a time all went well with Harvard because it accumulated vast sums of money; but I think they are reaping the whirlwind to-day, because they have this tight, centralised administration.

The same thing was true in Columbia, and it was only a year ago that they had riots at Columbia. I have here the report which was sent to me by my daughter, who is a graduate student at Columbia, of the Cox Commission on Columbia. This Commission was appointed last year and consisted of Archibald Cox, professor of law at Harvard University, and certain other people—a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, a former United States district judge and the Dean of the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania. This report on the Columbia crisis is a very interesting one to read. It went through the whole problem of the crisis at Columbia and it ended by making quite clear that a great deal of the blame fell upon the administration.


My Lords, may I interrupt for a moment to ask the noble Lord a question? I am not quite clear where his argument is tending. I entirely follow him in his criticism of the American university as being a university which is divided between administrative staff and faculty; that is to say, the academic staff have comparatively little power to take the final decisions. But in his criticisms of the London School of Economics, is he not aware that the decisions, whether one approves of them or not, which are being taken in the London School of Economics, are being taken by the General Purposes Committee, which is largely composed of academic staff?


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for explaining that point. I was not criticising a particular form of administration, although in this matter I am dealing specifically with the American one which I think is very much more authoritarian than ours. But I believe that any administration runs into this danger. It must be very careful, whatever the form of administration is.

In the case of Columbia the Cox Commission stated that: among the purely internal causes of unrest were: 1. At a time when the spirit of self-determination is running strongly, the adminis- tration of Columbia's affairs too often conveyed an attitude of authoritarianism and invited distrust. In part, the appearance resulted from style: for example, it gave affront to read that an influential University official was no more interested in student opinion on matters of intense concern to students than he was in their taste for strawberries. In part the appearance reflected the true state of affairs. The machinery of student government had been allowed to deteriorate to a point where Columbia College had no student government. It went on: 2. The quality of student life was inferior in living conditions and personal associations. 3. Columbia, like other universities, has scarcely faced the extraordinary difficulties that face black students in the transition from a society permeated by racial injustice to one of true equality of apportunity. There are, obviously, certain special conditions peculiar to Columbia College which is right on the edge of Harlem; but, apart from all this, the main problem, I believe, in practically all the American universities has been an administration too remote from the ordinary person. I believe that that is a danger in this country, too. Even when that administration is largely academic it can still become remote from both the ordinary lecturer inside the institution and from the student. There is one other section, incidentally, which is always forgotten and to which no reference, so far as I can see, is ever made: that is, the technical staff of the university. In my own university at Newcastle, in my own department of chemistry when I was there (I have now retired), we had an academic staff of thirty-five and a technical staff of fifty. This technical staff consisted of highly-qualified people doing an extremely good job. In my opinion it is quite wrong that they should be neglected and not brought into participation in the running of the university.

When we look at the main difficulties that students are faced with to-day we find that these difficulties are partly the difficulties of not understanding and of having no influence in how the university is run. But they are present also very substantially in the field which I thought the noble Lord, Lord James, played down, the field of actual learning. I do not believe—and this is where I differ from probably many noble Lords in this House—that a university is a place in which you teach. It is a place in which you learn. I believe that when people talk about training university staff to teach they are talking nonsense. University staff must be people who understand their subject, are working in their subject, are advancing their subject and are in continuous contact with young people round about them. I never learned anything from lectures when I was at university. Like many others I cut most of my lectures. It was not from being lectured at that I expected to learn in the university; it was by contact with, by argument with and by discussion continuously with both teachers and those who were alongside me as students. Although at Aberystwyth in my day we may have had very arbitrary rules and regulations about social behaviour, there was no shadow of doubt that there, as anywhere else in Wales, you spoke your mind. I believe that this is the all-important thing. It is vital that there should be free communication and constant communication throughout a university; that it is this which really makes the university work properly.

My Lords, not only have we this as one of the great troubles which affect students, but we also have to-day the whole problem of society. I think that few of us dare ignore this and few of us now want to ignore it. A recently-published book by George Kennan on Democracy and the Student Left has a number of interesting letters in it, letters written to him and to the New York Times about an article which he had written. When one looks at these letters one sees some of the things that are really worrying students to-day. I quote from one of them. George Kennan, in his article ' Rebels Without a Program ', chastises the student Left for failing to create a systematic political ideology capable of serving as a basis for constructive change. It seems to me that Mr. Kennan's generation, and not the student protesters, must answer for the ideological bankruptcy with which America faces crises in race relations and in Viet Nam. Mr. Kennan, with all his experience and scholarly discipline, has himself failed to offer relevant new ideas…Kennan responds by telling us that we must respect our elders and restrain our emotions. All well and good, but this really isn't much help. That is from a graduate student at Rutgers University.

Letter after letter in that book is along the same lines. I think that these are significant because the student is being touched right at the centre of his emotions. Furthermore, with the draft laws in America he knows that there is a high chance that he himself may be thrown into a cauldron, a cauldron which he does not want to see there at all, which he has not placed there and which he is not interested in. So I believe that when we talk about the participation of students we mean something much more than participation in governing bodies. We must, I believe, mean student participation throughout the whole life of the university and student participation in things outside the university as well. It is no good on the one hand saying that students should take a greater interest in things and on the other hand denying them the right to do it.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I think your Lordships will all be in agreement when I say that this is a very suitable subject for your Lordships' House. It is a suitable subject for the House as at present constituted and a very suitable subject for a reformed House of Lords. I would only say, in passing, that I greatly regret that the recent efforts at reform have been, I hope temporarily, withdrawn, and that there will be future occasions like this in a reformed House when the House of Lords may perform as useful a service as that to which the right reverend Prelate has introduced us this afternoon.

I shall be quite short, not only because I believe that a speech can be just as effective if it is short but also because I am deep in the middle of all this, and I think that the less surface one leaves behind one the wiser it may be on these occasions—because whatever one may think about one's young friends, they are very voracious in reading every word one says. No doubt my noble friend Lord James of Rusholme was well aware of that when he made his excellent speech earlier this afternoon.

I have a fairly wide interest, not only where I am at present situated. I have been Chancellor of Essex University since its foundation. One of my reasons for saying something this afternoon is that I think there has been so much exaggeration about what has been going on, particularly at that University, that in what I have to say generally I want to create a rather more optimistic impression about the present position of students and student participation than has been found in the columns of a great many of our public commentators. I am not only Chancellor of Essex University; I am also Chancellor of Sheffield, where I am going on Friday and where, I am glad to say, I have at present nothing to report. I have also had the very doubtful and difficult pleasure of being Rector of Glasgow, when I was the object and subject of so many missiles that on that subject I am a greater expert than on dialectics.

Nowadays, my Lords, an academic job is no sinecure. I am continually being asked how I feel, having left the difficult and stormy waters of politics for the calm sinecure where I now live. I can assure your Lordships that this is not an accurate picture, and that we are kept awake day and night—as the right reverend Prelate will be fully aware from his own university—by the activities which go on in our own midst. Fortunately, I live in a very friendly and quite cheerful atmosphere. Nevertheless, one has always to be fully awake and fully prepared, and always thinking of what to do next.

I will, with your Lordships' permission, refer chiefly in the few opening remarks I have to make, to the position as I see it in British universities. I would summarise my main impression as follows. There should be personal contact (to this I attach vital importance) with the young people; personal contact not between the older members of the staff or the heads of the establishment but between the younger members of the staff deliberately appointed to keep contact. I think that the reason we have had trouble in some English universities and institutions is that the boss is always trying to do everything, and the older members of the staff are always trying to do everything, whereas I believe that young deans and young people specially appointed ought to be the main contact with the students at the present time, reserving the head of the institution to be in the chair when there is something important to carry out.

If there is personal contact, and if there is no sudden unexplained or unexpected act of dismissal (I say this on purpose, because we found this particularly so in Essex) which has not been fully prepared for by a semi-official process, then I think there is in most of our universities, provided that reform is steadily taking place all the time, a majority for reason and reasonableness. I use the word "majority", but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord James, that there is of course in the universities a majority of young men and young women who take very little interest in these things. They are the actual physical majority, and we must always remember them. And we must remember that sometimes the more physically active of them mobilise themselves into bands designed to attack and beat what they regard as the anarchists of the Left. This in itself is rather a dangerous phenomenon, for although we have a very convenient river running through the university in which I live it would be a pity if all academic discussion ended in the calm waters of the Cam. I think it is better that the majority should take care, as much as the minority who are interested in these subjects, to steady themselves and to keep a sense of discipline in our midst.

My noble friend Lord James described in some degree certain measures of reform, and I have said that I think there is a majority for reasonableness provided that reform is seen to be taking place. I would say that reform should take the form of participation in the main committees and bodies concerned with the college or university or institution concerned; and that such matters as catering should be largely the concern of the young people themselves, aided of course by those who really understand the matter. The question of hours affects a college such as that in which I live more than it does a university such as Essex.

I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord James, said about Faculties, because I do not think that association and participation should be only in committees, governing bodies and other bodies of that sort. I think that it ought to be at the Faculty level as well. I am, for my sins, chairman of two large Faculties in Cambridge University, one of them concerns one-sixth or one-seventh of the whole of the students at the University itself. We have decided only recently that in all matters concerning staff/student activities the students shall be present at the Faculty Board and ready to help us discuss them. That may not seem much of a revolution, but I believe that it is a sensible one, because it means that on all questions in any way affecting students this particular Faculty will now have the benefit of their attendance.

As regards discipline, I followed what the noble Lord, Lord James, said. What I have found about discipline, not only where I am now but elsewhere, is that when young people are brought into discipline, the discipline becomes all the more severe. This is a fact that we must face—whether it is a good thing or not, I do not know. But I think that some association of the young idea with discipline is a good thing, and it certainly will not be that the discipline gets weaker.

In general, therefore, my Lords, I agree with what has been said in this debate about the National Union of Students' Vice-Chancellors agreement. I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and with the noble Lord, Lord James, that some of the recent manifestations of the N.U.S. annual meeting are rather more difficult to swallow. They are not, however, so difficult to swallow as the experience I had the other day, when I had an honorary degree conferred on me at a very distinguished university. When this agreeable ceremony was over the professor took me aside and said, "Do you really think we ought to concede to the students that they both set the exams and sit for them afterwards? "I said, No; that I thought that really was a slight exaggeration of student participation. So the noble Lord, Lord James, may be satisfied that there are limits to which none of us wants to go.

I was very interested in the important attempt of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol to analyse what is the ideology of the young people of to-day, and I should like to read a few sentences from Stephen Spender's book, The Year of the Young Rebels. He said that the slogan of the Sorbonne student, "L'imagination prend le pouvoir", expresses the wish of the students for a world created after their human image as against a world dominated by the politics of power and the production of things. The whole emphasis of the student movement is on individual life challenging the machine. Diana Trilling, in an article on the Columbia students, says that they call themselves existential. By this they mean to emphasise whatever in them heightens their consciousness of being persons, since they feel that they live in a society which denies personality. To them the central value of living is life itself.

Like all these attempts at definition, that is extremely general but there is something in it. And there is no doubt that even the most moderate of the people with whom I have to deal have vague ideas of this sort at the back of their minds. The strange thing is that we can go a long way to meet them, if we try to help them with the participation in practical things to which I have been referring, and if we keep up a perpetual and hard working contact with them week by week, never letting a moment go without being in touch with them. But what we have to stand up against is the wrecker, the person who wants to destroy the university of which he or she is a part.

I had a very amiable conversation with a particularly advanced young man who had gone a long way beyond Communism, Maoism and Marxism, which from his point of view were antiquated Right-Wing theories. I asked him why, if he was so keen to reform the university, largely by trying to wreck it (he was not at the university where I am but at the one at which I was taking part in the discussion) he did not go into the world of politics and try to reform that. He said rather pathetically that there were no Communist Members of Parliament and he would have a very rough time. I told him that he should start a new Party, get busy and leave the university alone. If the students do not leave the universities alone, I feel that your Lord-ships would agree that a positive attitude of standing up to any wrecking attempts ought to be taken by the universities, because we cannot easily tolerate a wrecking of our own institutions.

Before I sit down, I want to make two other observations. First, there are two countries—Czechoslovakia and South Africa—where, I tell some of my young friends, the students really have something to worry about. I have not much to add to what has been reported in the Press about Czechoslovakia, but I have just come back from delivering a lecture on liberty at the University of Witwatersrand, in South Africa. I am back whole and hearty, so this escapade into the realms of liberty has done me no harm. But what impressed me was the extraordinary courage of the young people in the open universities of South Africa. By standing by what they believe—namely, open universities with open admission, which is not now allowed by the Government—they are prejudicing in many cases their own future careers. And they are doing this, not only in Cape Town and Witwatersrand but elsewhere, with great courage. I think it is sometimes valuable, when we are considering a somewhat academic question like participation, to realise that there are students in Czechoslovakia and South Africa who have something really vital in their lives with which to concern themselves.

The other observation I want to make is that I do not think that any of us, whether I or any vice-chancellor, or any person in a position of authority in a university (and in this I include members of the Government and of the Opposition) ought to make ex cathedrâ statements about the situation. Such statements as have been made about the students have not been well received by the young people. Such statements as that the grants from local authorities will not be renewed unless the students get their hair cut and behave, cause nothing but exacerbation and annoyance, and I very much hope that local authorities will pay no attention to these alleged threats to cut the students' grants. This is not the way to deal with what is a world-wide and shaking problem. If this problem goes wrong, noble Lords on the Government Benches will find that the Government itself is affected, and noble Lords on other Benches in this House will find that they in their own lives are affected. Thank goodness! one is able to see a slight improvement in the situation over the past few months. Whether the situation can be kept improving, I do not know. It will demand ever-continuing vigilance by those of us who are in touch with students and young people to-day. It will take patience and toleration if we are to turn the flood of student power in our country into its proper channel, its real objective, of academic freedom.

5.6 p.m.


My Lords, my own experience as a student is almost lost in the mists of antiquity since my student days were prior to World War I, but I have been privileged to have a close connection with Bristol University as a member of its Council for over thirty years and as chairman of the Council for a few years after the Second World War. I must confess, however, that I have not had as much discussion with the students of to-day as I should have liked. Nor can I claim to be able to appreciate or assess their point of view otherwise than at second-hand and from having read a good deal of the evidence that has already been published by the Select Committee, evidence given by the students or on their own behalf.

In his eloquent and inspiring introduction to this debate, my right reverend friend the Bishop of Bristol covered a wide field and, if I may be allowed to say so, I agree very much with his broad assessment of the situation. But mindful of the number of noble Lords who have still to speak this afternoon, I will concentrate my remarks mainly on two points. The first is that universities are and should continue to be essentially independent institutions. The second is that at the very heart of this question of student participation is the problem of communication.

On the first question, as was pointed out by various speakers, including the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack speaking for the Government, in the debate on June 19 last, a debate to which I listened with great interest, the universities are free to decide their own curricula, free to maintain discipline as they think right; and although the Government must decide the ultimate money available, the governance of the universities is a matter entirely for them. I believe that even if they wanted to, the universities, by reason of variations in their charters and statutes, could not all arrange for student participation in precisely the same way and I think it is important that they should retain at least their present degree of independence. Moreover, although some colleges of further education have in their charters specific provisions for participation, and the extent of it, they are not all on precisely the same footing. Irrespective of the practical difficulties of securing alterations of charters and statutes, I venture to think that the fact that there are these differences is rather a good thing. Complete uniformity in methods and administration could be soul destroying. I must say that I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said on that point.

On my second point, I feel that the key to the solution of the problem of student participation is to be found in setting up and maintaining good communication. Universities are not opposed in principle to student participation. The argument is on extent, character and timing in each particular university or college. As we have heard, substantial progress seems to have been made since last year, when the joint statement of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, on the one hand, and the National Union of Students, on the other, was issued. And I should hope that the account of the recent meeting of the National Union of Students represents but a temporary phase, and not a serious interruption, in that progress. The Edinburgh statement in February, and the Manchester announcement reported in The Times on the 14th of this month, and much of the evidence which the Select Committee has so far collected and published, tends to confirm this.

There can be a danger, I believe, particularly perhaps for those who have had some responsibility for administration and control in fields other than the academic, of being too dogmatic about the nature and method of the communications required here, and of attempting to draw too close analogies, for example, between industry and the universities. Yet there are some broad analogies which are relevant. In talking to employees of the company with which I used to be connected, I frequently quoted Nelson's application of his declared ideal: Individual freedom within an understood framework of discipline and order. History bears witness to the success with which he applied that ideal. And it is perhaps appropriate, even though almost superfluous in your Lordships' House, to take note of the fully comparable success with which Field Marshal Lord Montgomery applied the same principles 150 years later. In their different spheres, those two great leaders went to immense trouble to ensure that those for whom they were responsible knew what they were going to do, why and how.

A first sight, that may seem remote from student participation, but appreciation of the fact that understanding is a pre-requisite of successful co-operation is surely fundamental; and it is axiomatic that no institution, academic or industrial, can function well unless the line of authority and its administration runs clear and is understood by all. I must, in all honesty, register disagreement here with one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said in that respect, although I agree with so many of the other things that he said.

I suspect that a good many of the younger generation to-day tend to think of axiomatic—something proved by experience—as too suggestive of "the establishment" to be readily accepted in any guise. But I believe it is important to keep clear the distinction between unwillingness to learn the lessons of experience, on the one hand, and discontent with the existing order of things, in whatever sphere, on the other. The President of Cornell, Mr. James Perkins, to whom the right reverend Prelate alluded in his introduction, talked of students' sensitivity to the imperfections of life as it is lived to-day. That is a feeling that many, and not only students, have had throughout the ages. But when that feeling is translated, as it was in a quotation which Mr. Perkins took from an undergraduate paper (happily not in this country), into the aphorism that only the young can be truly moral, because they and they alone are not contaminated by experience, then not only are we coming close to the theory that it is the young per se who must hold the reins of government, but we are confronted with that very situation to which the right reverend Prelate referred in his quotation from one of the activists, that Today the university is the catalytic agent of the revolution of society. Nonsense though that may be, it is the sort of claptrap that can become a slogan. May I say here, in parenthesis, in reference to the quotation from the undergraduate paper about the young, that it has no relevance whatever in my mind to what was clearly a youthful tour de force in another place yesterday.

I do not think it would be appropriate in this debate that I should take up your Lordships' time by discussing various features of the present situation with regard to student unrest; there are many here much more qualified than I to deal with this question. However, I feel that a brief reference to the experience in Bristol last December might be appropriate. There a "sit-in" was started on December 5, and the Senate House (the Central Administration block) was occupied for 11 days to the substantial disruption of the administration of the university; and it was only by superhuman efforts on the part of those responsible that the examinations due to be held at that time were completed, and no student down to take the examination was prevented from doing so. But that was not to the credit of those who inspired the "sit-in". Initially the number participating was close on 300, rather less than 5 per cent. of the student population; but in fact not all were students of Bristol University. The alleged reason for the "sit-in" was a claim for reciprocal facilities between the Union of Bristol University and similar meeting and recreational centres at other adult educational establishments in Bristol.

By a coincidence—certainly it was not a curious coincidence—the "sit-in" started on the day after a similar "sit-in" at Birmingham had ended; and some of those so-called activists who had been at Birmingham duly appeared at Bristol. The alleged reason for the "sit-in" was a myth, because the university authorities had already agreed in principle to this claim from the union, but had pointed out that there were some real practical difficulties, as indeed there are; and a meeting of the joint committee of the union and university authorities, which would in the ordinary way deal with this matter, namely, the Union Finance Committee, had been called for, and in fact met on the very night on which the "sit-in" began. As a result of that meeting (despite the "sit-in"), the question has been usefully and profitably pursued since, and I understand that virtual agreement has been reached.

The point that I want to emphasise here is the very great handicap which university authorities are under in the face of such action. If the "sitters-in" are clever enough to obtain occupation without doing physical damage or inflicting personal injury, the universities have open to them no means of ending this without recourse to the inevitably somewhat lengthy process of injunction and subsequent action in the courts. The police, in such circumstances, cannot themselves; evict all the occupiers; the university staff certainly cannot evict without being guilty of assault; and forcible action by other students, whether or not supported by the university, merely produces a riot.

Surely, my Lords, if we believe not only in freedom of speech, but also in the corollary that that freedom must not be exercised in a way which infringes similar rights of others, some way could be found of dealing with this situation better than it can be dealt with at present. I recognise that there are legal difficulties, but surely some Order, temporary if necessary, can be made to prevent what seems to me as a layman a gross abuse of the law of trespass being allowed to continue to the detriment of academic institutions, and to the prejudice of the great majority of students who want to get on with their education.

It is, I believe, undisputed that a very large proportion of the students regard the primary purpose of their membership of a university as being study and education to enable them to make the best use of such talent as they have in their chosen sphere, and therein to serve the community effectively and, in the best sense, to make a success of their lives. They do not want to be distracted from that objective by devoting too much time to argument about curricula or systems of teaching or even the merits of their teachers; although most are naturally concerned with conditions affecting their own welfare while they are at the university. But there are among them those who genuinely feel—and I think that this is accepted by most of those concerned with university administration—that, transitory though the student population is and must be, it has something of real value to contribute from its experience at the university. And, as a background against which that contribution can most usefully be made, an understanding of how the university is governed and what considerations influence administrative policy in all spheres of university life is clearly desirable. Therefore, I think we should welcome the action which is currently being taken by the universities to implement the understanding between the Vice-Chancellors and the N.U.S. As I indicated earlier, I believe that, broadly, real progress has been made. But I think perhaps a point has been reached when the only thing that can retard further advance is an attempt by some students to force the pace by militant action.

Lastly, my Lords, in relation to the framework of understanding, to which I referred, good communication, as I see it, is not simply a matter of understanding particular problems and participating in discussion of them. Incidentally, as has been said in this House before, student representation for this purpose must not be mandated representation. The students who sit on these bodies must sit on them as individuals, free as other members are to express their own opinion. But I think that the understanding should go further and include some knowledge of the background, an appreciation of the university as a community. That is not so easy today as it used to be, and I think the reason may be that the rate of increase in the student population, an increase even faster than the Robbins Report predicated, has been fully matched by the increase in the academic staff. In many universities to-day a very large proportion of the academic staff, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol pointed out, have very short service in the university and have had little opportunity to familiarise themselves with the university's tradition, its functions, its methods, its objectives and its experience. It is not easy for them therefore, however qualified they may be in their respective faculties, to transmit to students this understanding of the university as a community, which I think is an important part of the background to the understanding that is the basis of good communication.

The opportunities for the close personal relationships between tutor and student are frequently to-day less clear in most universities and colleges than they used to be in the older universities, and perhaps the situation requires that some conscious efforts should be made to improve it. The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, I think gave some very interesting examples and points about this matter. In conclusion, my Lords, it would seem to me to be right, if one puts this problem in perspective, to say that the universities to-day are fully alive to the importance of student participation, and that speaking generally useful and helpful discussions are proceeding to this end. I hope that this debate, with its emphasis on discussion and understanding, may help to encourage that progress on lines that best suit the differing circumstances of the various universities and colleges.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, everyone in your Lordships' House who works in universities will wish to thank the right reverend Prelate for initiating this debate on student participation. What is it that stands in the way of student participation? Well, most things have been mentioned this afternoon. The first, of course, is student syndicalism; and by this I mean the violent disruption of universities and the perpetual confrontation. And, let there be no doubt about it; this can destroy universities. The Free University of Berlin is in ruins to-day. Its buildings are in ruins and the morale of that University is shattered. This is not the only example one can cite. The State university of San Francisco has been closed for three months. This is merely an indication of what can happen if violent action continues. This has been alluded to so often that I do not think I need mention it any further.

The question to which we must surely address ourselves is this: why is it that quite often the syndicalists can get a considerable measure of support, and indeed, in the end, mounting support, from students? What happens in these confrontations to that mysterious and elusive creature the moderate student, who does not seem to oppose the activists? One answer, of course, is that the syndicalists are extremely able tacticians who are as able at rigging a meeting as the militants often are in trade union meetings. But there is another reason, a far more important reason, and that is the existence of a state of mind among a considerable number of dons which could be fatal to student participation. It could as fatal as student militancy. That state of mind can perhaps be best described as mulish immobility—the refusal of a considerable number of dons to recognise that the shape of universities has changed.

Five years ago, when I was Provost of King's College, Cambridge, I remember a group of students—not merely entirely inoffensive, but highly respectable, reputable, responsible students—one from each college, who got together to ask whether they could not found a student representative council which could negotiate with the university, as opposed to the college authorities, and put to the proctors some little matters of interest which the students had in mind. The reaction of the heads of houses in Cambridge in 1964 to that proposal, with half a dozen honourable exceptions, was, I think, lamentable. Either they were totally apathetic or they were intransigently reactionary. That is to say, their state of mind was not only that in which they were prepared to die in the last ditch; it looked as if they had been dead already in it for several years. This state of mind is fatal, and can produce the very thing which all Members of your Lordships' House and all people in universities, including the students, want to avoid.

I am very glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, who was not then of course a head of house, as he is now, that things are changing. But I still wonder whether things are quite right when I recall that only the other day I heard of a head of house who, when asked what would happen if he found the high table of his college completely occupied by students, was at last persuaded that perhaps the sensible thing to do would be to go and ask them why they were sitting there. He then added, "Of course, if I found there was one among them who was not a member of my college I would call the police immediately". That is not merely reactionary, my Lords; it is hysterical.

This is a state of mind which I regret to say—indeed, I hasten to say—can be found not merely in the ancient universities: it can be found at London University—and I am here not alluding to the London School of Economics—and it can be found in all our universities. I have come across it on exactly those issues which are likely, if they are not handled with tact, with discretion and with sympathy, to inflame student opinion. It is this, I think, which might produce in the universities a totally different state of negotiation in which we do not just argue and talk amicably in committees, in which each man is there to do the best he can for the university as a whole. It could lead to two bodies, the student body and the academic body which would be opposed to each other; and I think the natural method of negotiation would then be the kind of hard bargaining that goes on in an industrial dispute. That, I think, would be deplorable.

The reason why there is this intransigence so often among academic staff is because there is the disinclination, which is not peculiar to dons, to face the fact that the institution in which they are working is changing. This disinclination is known in many other professions. It is also known in industry, both on the side of the employers and in the trade union movement. But the change which is happening in universities is a very significant one, and therefore changes must also take place in the relations between the academic staff and the students.

Of course all of us believe chat a university is a place where dons are paid to do their research and to teach. That was the old tradition of the German university, and it was a great tradition in the nineteenth century—the tradition of the don, the dedicated professor, who researched, who talked to anyone who cared to come along and pick up the crumbs that fell from his table, and was often in very friendly relations to his students, but did not feel that there was more which was required of him than that. It was an idea which assumed that learning itself was one of the greatest experiences which you could have in youth—so great an experience that men were prepared to go into this profession, which was very ill-paid indeed at that time, and devote their lives solely to learning. I hope that this respect and love for learning will never vanish from our universities. But we cannot delude ourselves. The university has changed. It is to-day one of the greatest trainers of skilled manpower, and even those subjects which would never claim to do more than to provide for undergraduates a general education—and may I say that if any subject claims to do that it is claiming a great deal—subjects such as classics or history or the study of literature, these have to respond to changes in the general climate of ideas. They will have to respond or students will justly begin to complain that they have no relevance to their own lives.

I wonder here whether I might break a small lance with the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, on the question of Thucydides. Of course I am entirely with Lord James about Thucydides. Any cultivated man must admit that the study of Thucydides is a way of acquiring wisdom. Why, then, in classical faculties was so little time devoted to the study of Thucydides? Because one of the tragedies of the study of classics in our universities is the fact that for decades the dons insisted that so much time should be spent by students, not merely in translating from Greek and Latin into English but in translating from English into two dead languages. So much of the curriculum and the hours of work were spent in perfecting these delicate technicalities that too little time was spent in the acquiring of wisdom. That is why I feel that the noble Lord, Lord James, was very right indeed to say that the study of an ancient author can be strongly relevant to our own society. But it is equally true that students have a right to ask sometimes whether other things could be studied, whether more time could be devoted to this rather than to that. This seems to be a reasonable request, but it can only be a request, for this is a matter on which the academic staff must in the end use their best judgment to balance the claims of one part of knowledge against another part of knowledge.

Then again dons should not ignore the demands by students that the dons should learn something about the technique of teaching. Here again I entirely sympathise with what the noble Lord, Lord James, said. He was quite correct when he said that those who have been to universities know that it was not necessarily the spell-binding lecturer who gave one most; it was often some scholar mumbling into his beard and who nevertheless conveyed some idea of the importance of his subject and inspired one to go and find out something about it oneself because one could not hear.

Nevertheless, we cannot base our ideas of teaching in universities solely on that, and I have often wondered whether universities paid sufficient attention to the Report of the Hale Committee when it came out. That Report gave a lot of useful information as to how universities should set about improving the pure technique of conveying knowledge and of helping the student to learn, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, rightly said.

Then there is the question of discipline. Here again we have seen a remarkable reformation. No doubt some of us will look back with affection as well as with amusement on the days when there was the old Paternal relationship between the don and the student. I remember the other day in your Lordships' House the noble Lord, Lord Denham, said to me, "If I had done some of the things which students do to-day when we were at King's together and you were a don and my tutor, you would have had me sent down". I said, "I agree that I certainly would, but the difference is that in those days you would have gone down". To-day, of course, we have to have these quasi-judicial bodies which in fact are necessary to establish the degree of guilt and to distinguish between a mild impertinence and a disastrous confrontation.

I am sure, too, that we would all agree with the view expressed, that it is wise to ask students to serve on these bodies. I must confess that at first request they are not always keen to do so, but this is perhaps relevant to something which I should like to say in a few moments about university government.

May I now turn to that important point, because it was something that I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, for raising. The concordat between the Vice-Chancellors and the National Union of Students delineated two zones, one of which was absolutely appropriate for students to have consultation and representation and participation in decision-making. That was the zone of the curriculum and of the general conduct of examinations. The other zone—the appointment of academic staff and the actual examinations themselves—were not things on which it was desirable that students should participate. There was agreement on this, but this leaves a wide area open, and it was that to which the noble Lord, Lord James, referred—the area of the crucial decision-making in the university about the allocation of resources. The allocation of resources is something which faces university government, however that government is structured, with a lot of unpleasant decisions to be taken.

There are never enough resources. One is always having to ask, for instance, if the University Grants Committee comes across with an offer of a quarter of a million pounds for a new building: which of the buildings—and there is always an enormous list—does one really prefer to build? Does one prefer to build the extension to the Student Union or does one prefer to build the extension to the physiology lab., which is now grossly overcrowded owing to the fact that the university is trying to teach more medical students? Or does one prefer to try to give better rooms to the administrative staff, who always live in deplorable quarters because they are always at the end of the list of priorities? Or does one prefer—my Lords, one could go on. There are numbers of choices. One can always get a sound majority of dons to vote against any proposal which is put up, because one cannot satisfy all these claimants. One is bound to take a decision which means that half a dozen claimants do not get what they want and only one does.

This is merely one example of the very hard decisions which are being taken about the shift in studies. It may be that if students do not present themselves in sufficient numbers to certain departments those departments will have to contract, and that others in which students do present themselves in larger numbers will expand. I call these decisions unpleasant because they are almost always highly controversial.

I wonder whether universities will not have to reconsider, when student participation comes, the structure of university government. We have tended in univer- sities to confuse two things, representation and participation, on the one hand, and managerial efficiency, on the other. Manchester University had its constitution confirmed in 1907, and this was made the pattern for civic universities all over the country. In those days the academic staff was composed almost entirely of professors, though there were a few, assistants, so it was perfectly natural for the supreme academic body to consist entirely of the professoriat.

But in these days, when the non-professorial staff greatly outnumber the professoriat, it is absurd that junior staff should have no representation, and they are being given representation on these bodies. But what should be the proportion? If all the professors have a right to sit on the supreme academic body, is a third of the non-professorial staff adequate? What, if any, should be the proportion of students sitting on this body? And so you go on, adding and adding; and as there are a very large number of professors in a good-sized university to-day you will eventually find yourself with a body of 200 or 250. And this, of course, is the decision-taking body. The universities, in their structure of government, have to face this problem. In the new universities, such as that of which the noble Lord, Lord James, is Vice-Chancellor, this problem was faced when they were given their new charter and statutes.

It is, I think, impossible to combine these two functions in one body. I believe the future lies in small executive bodies, with a constant turnover of academic staff so that they do not become oligarchies, but that all important business should first go before those who have a right to participate in the business of the university: that is to say, representation of the academic staff and the students. In this way, I submit, one can get participation without completely hamstringing the decision-taking operation of the university. That as I say, is one of the main governmental problems facing the universities.

But this matter is also applicable to the student unions themselves. Student unions should also consider their own reform. I do not think it is axiomatic that the best way of eliciting student opinion is necessarily the mass meeting called in the student union and that the decision, taken after a hot, fiery and splendidly vivid debate, is necessarily always the wisest one, when one is often having to discuss complicated administrative problems. Here I think there is room for another kind of representation among students, which comes from the departments in which the students are taught and learn, because that is a natural division in the university; the departmental committees, and representatives chosen from departmental committees to sit on the other academic committees, make one of the best ways in which student unions could consider representation on academic bodies as opposed to some of the welfare bodies.

There are various other matters to which I think we ought to address our minds. One was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, whom I must thank for an extremely kind reference to me—the question of confidentiality. Of course it is true that some matters are confidential. It is also true that many of the matters in university business are not confidential at all. But the truth is that although confidentiality is often used, as I am afraid the committee system is also used, to cover up on various problems, one has to admit that it is difficult to operate a committee system as a way of doing business if the committee, while it is deliberating, is under organised pressure from pressure groups passing resolutions and demanding that certain action be taken before the committee has had time to deliberate.

Let me, however, if I may, finish on a lighter note with a reference to what Lord Butler very wisely said about the danger of generalising about student bodies as a whole. We are always being told today that the public is disgusted by the excesses of students in universities, and also that youth has never been in such a sorry state. My Lords, it always has been in a sorry state. Only the other day the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, satirically asked the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, whether students at the Open University were to be entitled to damage the property of that university. He may have temporarily forgotten the damage which, I will not say he, but perhaps his friends, caused regularly before 1914 every Saturday night during his time in Oxford, damage caused by the Rugby clubs and boating clubs, the Bullingdon and Anna. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, alluded to the famous passage from Evelyn Waugh which described a party given at that time: A shriller note could now be heard issuing from Sir Alistair's rooms: anyone who has heard that sound will shrink at the recollection of it; it is the sound of the English county families baying for broken glass. At all times students have found ways of expressing themselves in disreputable and objectionable ways. Hardly a century ago it was customary for the Chancellors of Oxford and Cambridge, even when the Chancellor was the Prince Consort, to be howled down on degree day. We are all too apt to forget our own youthful depravities. At the beginning of the 17th century the second Lord Burghley in your Lordship's House fulminated in a long speech against the disgraceful conduct of university students, and he argued that universities were far too crowded and there were too many students. I think he may have forgotten that he was sent down from Oxford, and having been obliged to go to France to get over the disgrace, proceeded to seduce a nun, and, what was worse, a nun from a high-born French family.

My Lords, I do not condone these excesses; I deplore them. But I hope that we shall maintain some sense of proportion and set to-day's disturbances to be judged in relation to rag days, the 5th November or indeed any time in the past, when students suddenly began to behave as if Circe had waved her wand over them.

5.49 p.m.


My Lords, my interest in this subject arises out of the fact that I have for a number of years been one of the Court of Governors of the London School of Economics, and therefore this kind of problem has been rather thrust upon my attention. In what I am going to say to-day I naturally do not represent anybody except myself, but I should like at the outset to say one word about the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones. He complained about the dismissal of two lecturers in that university college, after careful and conscientious examination of the case, and said that he thought it extraordinary that they should have been dismissed and that this was a denial of the free expression of opinion. I do not know whether he has neglected to read the papers with accuracy or whether he has misremembered. There was not any question of the expression of opinion, but of being involved in the organising of violence in the school.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord on what basis he makes that assertion? We know very well that in one case, at any rate, it was stated by the chairman of the governing body that expressions of opinion will be free and only incitement to action will be actionable. In the case of one of the lecturers there was absolutely no question of incitement to action, but merely a comment after the events occurred. If the noble Lord knows otherwise, I should like to ask him to produce the relevant documents. I can.


My Lords. I should be pleased to see any document that the noble Lord likes to produce. I am stating what I know to be the facts, and I leave it at that. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, did not, of course, refer to cases of this kind as being victimisation. The word "victimisation" is now being used generally in this country, both in industrial disputes and in the universities, as being the application of proper disciplinary measures against those who have been responsible for indiscipline or for misconduct. The adoption of the word "victimisation" is really an indication of the way in which almost any attempt at the enforcement of discipline is now regarded as unreasonable and as being in some way inconsistent with the liberty of the individual.

I am sure we all listened with interest and appreciation to the sympathetic and understanding way in which the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bristol, described the ideas which lie behind so much of this student agitation and this demand for participation. I must say that to me it seemed that a number of the points he made proved that what is being asked for is inconsistent with the principles for which universities have always stood. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, who in a previous speech said that universities do not stand for equality, they stand for quality. I am sure that is something which we must preserve if our higher education is to remain what it has been in the past. Surely its object is first to teach students to think dispassionately and accurately, and it applies to them mental discipline and ability to study.

I would say that that is the justification for the study of the classics in the past. It has been the case so often that when those who have been trained on the classics come later in life to apply themselves to more practical issues, they bring a trained mind which is able to master these new subjects in a short period of time. To me, it is always a matter of admiration in what a short period of time those at Oxford who had read classics and the Greats were able to turn their minds to the law and learn it, in a fraction of the time and far more effectively than I had been able to do.

Then there is the almost equally important matter of general culture. To me, all these things appear to be deeply involved in those principles which apparently are now being called in question by the student movement. I think, too, that we in the universities must recognise the importance of the acceptance of personal discipline. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, said that in the days when he was a young don and my noble friend Lord Denham was an undergraduate, if my noble friend had been told to go down he went down, whereas to-day there would be something like a sit-in. It seems to me that this involves the whole question of discipline in the universities and is one upon which there can be no compromise.

The noble Lord, Lord Annan, referred to the fact that the universities are now producing a large proportion of our skilled manpower. Of course that is true. But I hope that it will continue to be considered in most cases a minor function of the universities, and that the production of people with broad culture and trained minds will always be regarded as of greater importance. There are, of course, many cases in which the two things can be done simultaneously, but we must never come to regard the universities as being the means of training young people to earn their living in life.

I also have read and studied the Joint Statement issued by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and the National Union of Students. I am bound to say that it seems to me in some respects to go rather a long way. I wholly accept that in anything to do with the general living conditions in the university—welfare, catering and matters of that kind—it is obviously reasonable and desirable that the student body should be taken into consultation. I can also agree that it is desirable that the views of the students about the methods of teaching should be considered. I have no doubt at all that that is so in the case of nearly all universities, as it is at the present time, and has been for quite a long time, in the London School of Economics. But I am quite sure of one thing; namely, that those who are being taught are not at the time that they are being taught in the best position to pass judgment upon the merits of their teachers. Looking back, I can think of a number of teachers who at the time did not seem to me to be teaching me a great deal; I remember well what they said, and I have afterwards come to regard them as among the most valuable teachers under whom I have worked.

There is also no doubt at all that in a great many cases students are not in a position to express any useful opinion about what curriculum they should study. One has merely to give the example of medicine to realise how impossible it would be for a medical student to express any useful opinion as to what he should be taught when he is qualifying to be a doctor. In these days there is a great distrust of examinations. The holding of examinations requires a special expertise—the kind of thing on which the Civil Service Commissioners have specialised over a great many years. But examinations still remain the most effective way of testing the qualities of a student or of any young man; and if sometimes it is said that there is such a thing as the nervousness of those undergoing examination, well, throughout life people are confronted with nervous stresses and strains, and those who lack the toughness and mental quality to be able to stand the nervous strain of an examination are not those who are likely to be most useful in any job. Above all, examinations are effective not only in preventing favouritism but also in dissipating the fear of favouritism, which people—and especially their parents—always fear when they have failed to be awarded some particular post

In the agreed statement of the Vice-Chancellors, reference is made to discipline, and it is said: There should be provision for specific student participation in disciplinary procedures, especially in instances where a student's future might be at stake. I see no harm at all in students being present in order to satisfy themselves, and those they represent, that the process of trial and investigation has been fair and impartial, but I was very glad that later the Vice-Chancellors turned down the proposal that in each case a specific offence should be cited and that there should be no more general disciplinary offences, such as that of bringing the name of the university into disrepute. I think it is generally accepted by lawyers that one of the great difficulties throughout history has been to define in precise words the kind of conduct which is antisocial and is open to strong objection. In the case of the Army the general phrase was that something was done, and it was specified what it was that was done, "contrary to good order and military discipline", and I believe that something of that kind will always be necessary in the case of the universities in order to include all those offences which most reasonable people would agree to be an offence and which ought to be subject to discipline but which are extremely difficult to define.

Recent events have shown that in the case of many universities the existing statutes are not suitably drafted to enable effective action to be taken. There will, I am sure, have to be an increase in the powers of discipline given to the universities by their statutes. The statement by the Vice-Chancellors refers to the need to maintain the university as an ordered working community. I am sure all your Lordships would agree that that is essential if university life and work is to continue, and I have no doubt that as things are at the present time neither the statutes of some of the universities nor the ordinary law of the land are able to ensure that that will be done.

It has been already pointed out in this debate that the age of majority has been reduced from 21 to 18. A privilege of this kind also carries with it responsibilities. Young people who claim to be treated as adults at the age of 18 must also be willing to be disciplined in the way that older people would regard as reasonable. If the kind of actions continue of which there have been so many in this country and still more elsewhere, it will be necessary for the police on occasions to be called in to assist the university authorities. I was surprised when Mr. Heath, the Leader of my Party, referred in a speech not long ago to the need for the universities not to call on the police but to maintain discipline themselves. How can that be done when there are hundreds of young people willing to indulge in violence if the police, under the law of trespass as it is at the present time, are unwilling or unable to take any effective action? A sit-in by hundreds of university students is disruptive of the whole academic life of the university and prevents other students from continuing to follow their studies, and the liberty of the subject involves for that great majority of law-abiding people the right to have protection against the minority who are seeking to interfere with their rights.

The expansion of higher education which was called for by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, in his famous Report has made very great progress, but it has resulted, I think, in the admission to universities of many who lack the education and the intelligence to benefit from this kind of education that is given there; and I believe that that has a great deal to do with the manifestations which have taken place in the universities. Student participation must be welcomed, as it has been to-day by all the noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, so long as it ensures that the students feel an increased sense of corporate responsibility for the university to which they belong; but it must not be carried to a point where it will enable the disruptive elements in the universities to continue and to carry further the damage which has already been done to our academic life.

6.8 p.m.


My Lords, I must first admit to being a don—I hope not a mulish one—worse than that, to being a professor, and worse than that to being a head of a department that is always asking for more money. Having got that off my chest, may I join with other speakers in thanking the right reverend Prelate for initiating this debate. I think it is extremely important that we keep separate the problem of student unrest —which we discussed under a Motion initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, just under a year ago—and the problem of student participation. I am convinced that the connection between the two is far less real than perhaps some other speakers have suggested.

In the university there are two possible courses of action: either we are all colleagues or else there is "them" and "us". I regret very much that the latter approach appears to be now the one to be adopted by the newly elected President of the National Union of Students, who wishes the N.U.S. to become like a trade union. In such an approach the university authorities and the students sit down on opposite sides of the table and negotiate. I am particularly concerned by one aspect of this matter, because the university teacher then tends to become a neglected third party whose views are considered relatively unimportant by the two contracting parties: that is, the administration and the students.

The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, has already made some reference to the position of members of university staffs in this respect. Provided university teachers are brought in we might perhaps have a triangular table. Of course, we might take as long as the debates over the shape of the table at the Vietnam conference. Perhaps a triangular table would do, with the administration, the teachers, and the students. Such a procedure might work but the resulting organisation would not be a university as I know it.

I am old-fashioned enough to believe that a university is a place where people work in the pursuit of knowledge, and in that sense the teaching staff and the students are colleagues with a common aim. Incidentally, this is why I support the suggestion made by my former chief, my noble friend Lord Todd, during the debate on the Swann Report; namely, that all science students doing postgraduate work, even if for only one year, should include in their work some research so that they really can participate. The real difficulty is in building up the necessary organisation so that teaching staff and students can participate, each according to the value of the contribution that he or she can make.

To my mind, talk of students being elected to senate or faculty boards completely misses the point. Elections should have little part in the running of a university. May I, first, consider the case of the teaching staff? If, as I regret many members of the Association of University Teachers seem to suggest, members of university senates and faculty boards are to be chosen by election, on what grounds are the electorate to vote? Democracy used to work largely because of the Party system and because each candidate presented an election manifesto to his electorate. If I wish to be elected to the senate, am I to tell my colleagues, "Vote for me, and you will have to give one less lecture a week"? No such procedure is possible for university staff. I find it very stimulating to see how much happier are the inter-staff relationships in the universities in which I have served where the appointment to faculty boards is by rotation, than in the universities in which I have served where it is by election.

If the difficulties of election of teaching staff are great, the difficulties in regard to student elections are almost insurmountable. As has been frequently said this afternoon, a high proportion of the students—usually those most interested in study—are not willing to devote their time to political wrangling in the Union or on several student committees. Just as in staff elections teachers primarily interested in teaching and research would be unlikely to secure the vote, so in student elections the scholar would be neglected. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, made that point.

We cannot afford to have our universities controlled by committees whose main interests are other than those of teaching and research, so what do we do? I do not know the answer; I wish I did. Mass meetings and teach-ins are, of course, simply crude devices advocated by extremists to secure action which they know the majority will never accept. No elections, no mass meetings—what, then, are we left with? I am not sure, but I am certain of one thing, which is that the greatest source of trouble comes from a lack of interchange of information. The majority of information available in council and senate papers could, and should, be available to all members of the staff, and most of it to the student body. Here I strongly echo what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, and the noble Lord, Lord Sinclair of Cleeve, said on this point.

Supply of information from the centre outwards is easy, although, unfortunately, is very seldom done. The collection of information and opinions from the periphery to the centre is much more difficult. Student/staff committees cannot really work, because the student members, if they are honest, have to admit that they do not really know what the majority of their colleagues want. Perhaps some such means as a regular questionnaire, completed by all staff and students and the combined results published, might be of value. There arc plenty of ways nowadays of processing this kind of information. The problem is: who would devise the questionnaire?

The problem with student participation is but part and parcel of a much wider issue affecting all aspects of modern society. I am convinced that collective bargaining in industry is out of date and that we must seek to replace it in our society to-day. I hope I am not speaking too much out of turn if I say that I find it hard to equate Socialism with collective bargaining, which is surely almost an extreme form of laissez-faire—my labour against your capital. Just as I am convinced that we should all participate in the universities, so I am convinced that the distinction between workers and management should be done away with in industry. I do not believe that a democracy based on an electoral system can effectively work in communities like universities, and I rather doubt whether it is efficient on the shop floor. Universities are, in some respects, microcosms of present-day society. If in universities we can work out methods for us all to participate fully, we may provide a signpost for others to follow.

My message is this: that student participation in decision-making must be increased for the well-being of us all, but increased participation does not simply mean elected students on faculty boards and senates. The first step must be the free flow of information between the three parties involved—the administration, the teaching staff and the students. Once the free exchange of facts and opinions has been established, perhaps we shall be in a position to consider the next organisational step. I have no answer; only suggestions about what we should not do.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, I have no claim to speak with the professional knowledge which has illuminated so much of this debate, and I hope that what I have to say will not be thought irrelevant if I approach the subject from a different angle. To begin with, I want to pick up a hint dropped by the right reverend Prelate in the splendid introduction of this theme (for which we are all grateful to him), that some of the student attitudes to-day might well be engendered at at earlier stage in their career. I remember looking at the introduction to a new syllabus of religious instruction which was introduced by the Inner London Education Authority last year—replacing, and I suppose transforming in the process—one that had stood for twenty years or more. The aim of education in this field, it says: is not the production of adolescents who can give slick and correct answers to a series of catechetical questions, but the development of adults who will continue to reflect seriously upon the fundamental problems of human existence and to arrive at the decisions which life calls for …in a spirit of responsibility. No doubt it would have been tempting to keep that comment for a debate on religious education, when questions of brain-washing or indoctrination come up. I have quoted it not only because it shows a different kind of approach to the presentation of one part of knowledge, but also because it makes clear that it is to be centred on the personality of the individual, his own integrity, his free formation of doubts or convictions, rather than on the acquisition of a body of knowledge. It emphasises also a new relationship between the imparter of knowledge and the receiver of it. It says: The pupil is not a blank page upon which the teacher writes indelibly; he is a person who, however much he is assisted, must discover for himself whatever truth he eventually holds. I mention this here because this is an emphasis at a far earlier stage in education upon the development of the individual person in freedom and responsibility.

Obviously, it does not apply to one subject alone. This emphasis on the person is being taken up and directed into quite a new field under the initiative of the Department of Education and Science, in a project which it is sponsoring for the boys and girls of average intelligence, the kind of pupils who will remain on at school when the age is extended but without any prospects of higher education. This project, called a Humanities Curriculum Project, is one for perfecting some new techniques for the discussion of important human issues, such as personal and family life, education, peace and war and so on. Behind it lies the conviction, which they claim experience is already proving, that normal, average-intelligence pupils in their middle teens are capable not merely of discussing but of forming responsible moral judgments for themselves on the basis of balanced evidence and impartial chairmanship, so to speak, in the heading of their dialogue.

This may seem a very far cry from the theme of our debate, my Lords, but it is a reminder that a search for responsibility, for personal discrimination, for judgment, even for self-discipline, which we recognise to be a part of maturity and which hitherto has been primarily the preserve of the university or the college, is something that is now being antedated into the school. The process is being pushed further and further back in the education system; and at that earlier level, too, they are being confronted with a situation which implies open-mindedness, which implies a considerable renunciation of authority and which implies a critical assessment not only of ourselves but of the society in which we live—and this not only, inevitably, on an academic level.

I know, for instance, that when it comes to the question of authority pupils are encouraged to consider how their opinions are formed, the influences affecting social attitudes; the authority of the Church"— as it is in the this case, but it might be of the university— contemporary events, scientific discoveries, the newspapers, television, radio, advertisements and hidden persuaders; the effects of the Welfare State … other ideologies. Once you engage pupils on this kind of thing, if you are doing it seriously, then you are looking at society around you with a critical eye. Suppose this works. Suppose pupils, even in their teens, respond, as some of them indeed do, to a more critical, a more rational, approach to the world around them. Can we expect it to stop there, at the academic level? What will happen to these young people when they merge into society?

There has not been much thought given yet, perhaps, to the development of the individual freely and responsibly in the kind of mass society which is ours to-day, and which is something that cramps the individual in his development. The Crowther Report referred to this, but if I recall rightly it was thinking of protecting them from the pressures of society rather more than of sending them out to shape them. But, however they fare there, in society, what will happen when they come, as they are coming, to the further flights of education in university and college? It is easy to see that these embryo stages of critical development which the school has planned will he magnified for them ten times over when it comes to the greater freedom and the heavier pressures of large student communities. It is likely, indeed, to enhance the possibilities of participation. It is certainly likely to enlarge the necessity for it as they come into this field.

Inevitably, society tends to expect the goal of higher education to include not only the acquisition of knowledge and skill but the learning of responsible and disciplined citizenship, rightly or wrongly. They recognise that, as has been recorded here so universally, this must mean for a student a sharing in part, in the whole setting of his life; but they assume that this growth of responsibility will be carried out without the painful process of trial and error. Even W. S. Gilbert regarded the prospect of a House of M.P.s "all thinking for themselves" as something that he could not "bear with equanimity", but in this kind of society the acquiring of responsibility by the many has a high cost. It means a chance for irresponsibility for some, and for exploitation of that irresponsibility by others: and, unfortunately, it is, as society sees it, the extreme cases that find the headlines. In one university which has not been mentioned in this debate, but for which I have a very high regard, there was an unhappy incident last year which received great publicity; and the main photograph of the violence or the discourtesy was in fact supplied to the newspaper by one of the ringleaders himself. But there was no reference to the way in which the student union itself, a large body of 1,300 or 1,400 people, in two separate meetings, handled this matter afterwards, or of the responsibility which they shared with the vice-chancellor in a quite remarkable degree. This is not seen: only the first incidents.

The public indeed realise that the main issues in student self-discipline or participation are being worked out within the educational field itself, but is it not important also that students should not become a class of people separated from the rest of the community—suspected, resisted, or even extravagantly praised by it? I should not like—and I am very glad that others have supported this view—participation to be limited to a technical kind within the university itself. Are there not to be found within the framework of what is possible, ways in which the student can come to grips with those who are actively engaged in the community in which he is going to be involved later, and in which already he feels he has some part?

What seems to be the entirely new phenomenon of student unrest is naturally causing a great deal of bewilderment, even irritation, in the community at large, and if it were to grow it might do serious damage to the whole cause of higher education. It affects families, it affects any groups which have some claim to authority in society; and I suppose that from these Benches we should recognise that it raises critical questions for the Churches, with their own stress on tradition, authority and the accumulated wisdom and experience of the ages. There is a great danger lest these things, for us, might raise a barrier between what we essentially stand for and the aspirations of the young.

In this field of outer participation, I should like to record that the Board of Education of the Church of England has begun to organise consultations between its own members and a number of student delegates from different universities in this land. They have found great value in meeting together, where reverend seniors and irreverend juniors have joined in frank and open discussion. Students have laid bare their hopes or their frustrations and have had them clarified, modified or even defied by the higher critics—and the reverse process, of course, has gone on, too. It is a process of bridging between the communities which should continue. We have had, of course, closer links on our Board through the chaplains to universities, and through their own informal associations with students. They meet together; and some of them also meet with their counterparts, the pastors to universities in Germany, France and Holland. From these conferences emerges a much wider picture of the significance of the unrest in some countries and the varying degrees of participation. But it brings home to us the fact that it is not the educational system only that is involved, but the kind of society in which students are growing up, and their reactions to that.

It may be that we ought to be sharing their unrest, and be more exercised, like them, in the question of participation in this society. One educationist asked some young people recently, and reported, how they spent their time in the evenings, and received the common reply that they were out in the streets or elsewhere because there was nothing to do at home but sit with their parents watching television. This is not a high educational issue. "Perhaps", one of them added, "when I am 40 I shall come home tired from work and want nothing more than that." Perhaps! Was he not voicing a fear of something against which students may be in revolt, a kind of de-personalised mass culture which we call democracy and which in fact involves relatively little participation on the part of the community? Their protest against all this may take the form of a mass culture of their own; but still we should sympathise with it. They are looking for something more human than what they sometimes see.

Some of the unrest stems, no doubt, as has been stressed in this debate, from revolution or anarchism which must be exposed. But much of it seems to be a protest on behalf of certain human values that we have taught them to look for in life but which they do not always find. They may seem very unconstructive when they protest about Vietnam, racialism or the arms race or about any other vast issue which confronts our world; but they forcibly raise the question for us of where our society is going and whether we are inclined to accept many things as insoluble, as part of the facts of life enforced by power structures which cannot be questioned, without any serious attempt to change them. There are many hard facts and we have, like Carlyle's lady, to accept the universe. But they will learn this better if they participate in facing it. There are things that do not have to be accepted, and they may be right to refuse to regard the status quo as sacrosanct. They have a valid claim, as the younger generation who are going to inherit our world, to have some sense of sharing in the decisions which form policies not only within the university but within the community into which they are growing. In all this, are they not posing to us serious questions about the kind of society we want and the kind of ways in which ordinary, responsible, citizens are expected to participate in our modern society? Even when we have discounted the folly or exuberance or nihilism of some of the student world, must we riot say that in an gage sc subject to rapid change we need student participation just as much as they do; and that, perhaps, upon the success with which we give them a chance to share in our own responsibilities will depend the way on which our modern society moves, whether towards a freer community or towards what may prove to be stagnation or even strife?

6.33 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I shall not detain your Lordships for long; there are other speakers still to come. This could be a very large subject or a very narrow subject. I agree with what the last speaker said, that we could talk at great length about why students are unhappy. A number of people touched on the theme. I think the answer is a simple one: they are unhappy because they sense a shape and form of society that they do not find entirely satisfactory to themselves. That is hardly surprising. This is an enormous Theme. We could not develop it in one afternoon here, and certainly not at this hour this evening. But I think it is unrealistic not to accept that the shape of our society to-day would be discouraging to older, more robust, more experienced people than students. If, therefore, we encounter manifestations of unhappiness and uncertainty, then those of us who have shaped society and have the continuing responsibility for doing so should accept a large measure of the blame and must not try to assign it to the unfortunate persons who are expressing their anxiety, unhappiness and discontent.

But for a student who came here today, and who might be in the public galleries, I think he or she will have found it rather a disappointing experience because of the extraordinary reasonableness of the speeches made by all noble Lords. That must be profoundly frustrating to someone who was hoping to hear expressed the ordinary conventional reaction of the older generation. I would advise students who place trust on the words spoken here not to attach too great an importance to them; because I am not sure that very much has emerged in the way of tangible promises or benefits.

We have heard a number of distinguished educationists. Nearly all of them have spoken with great approbation of the principle of student participation. I hope that I may utter a word of calculated reaction. I do not attach enormous importance to student participation. This I do not think is a subject of very great importance at all. I know that one speaker, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, who spoke earlier, seemed to regard it as the millennium. He seemed to think that the moment we had full-scale student participation, all the university problems would be solved. For my part, I would afford full-scale participation far more freely and willingly than any speaker I have heard to-day; but I should expect very little to emerge from it. I do not think it would solve any problems. I think the student participators would in the end wish to withdraw from participation as being rather wasteful of their time. I think it would be exciting and novel, and it may be even constructive in certain fields, for them to participate, but the idea that you are going to reshape the universities because a number of young people are invited to sit in council with their elders without going into the whole question of the policies that are to be considered and the reasons that are to be considered and the road that you are taking seems to me to be fanciful nonsense.

Therefore my position is a simple one. I would not hesitate for a moment—as I was sorry to see Lord James hesitate—in having students sitting in committees even on matters as revered and sacred as the pay of lecturers. I do not see why students should not participate in discussions on that subject. I should not leave the students to have the ultimate decision in the matter or give them a preponderance of votes, for obvious reasons; but it is perfectly acceptable that a student can be seated at the table and air his views as to whether a particular lecturer is worthy of a particular increase of pay. If there are others who say that although the lecturer does not lecture very well he is an immense authority on Greek adverbs, and therefore he ought to receive higher volumes of pay on that account, then their views could prevail, the views of the student having been heard.

I believe that a rather half-hearted offer of student participation is likely to create a notion of hypocrisy and humbug. I think the offer should be made unconditionally and wholeheartedly. But we should recognise that it means little more than a token and that it is not going to resolve the extremely deep and difficult problems that exist in the universities and are a reflection of the problems which exist in our society to-day. Those problems are not to be solved by student participation or by the participation of any other section of the community. They would not be solved even by lawyers' participation, if I may venture to say so; they would not be solved by the participation of clerics or by the participation of any section of the community, because they are deep social problems that have to be solved by social discoveries on our part.

We are enormously concerned in talking about students as a community. I agreed with the right reverend Prelate when he said that this is rather a dangerous form of language to use. Also I think it is a slight absurdity. I do not think that students are a community in the sense that one should expect a whole group of people to line up on a particular issue because they are a particular age group and because they inhabit a specific number of buildings in particular areas. I cannot think of any social problem of difficulty on which a group of students asked to express their opinion would themselves be unanimous. I cannot think of any social problem of difficulty on which a group of students united with a group of older people in one room would divide, with the students on one side and the older people on the other. That is unrealistic and false. Difficult problems need to be solved by the decisions of wise people of all ages, whether they be students or any one else.

That brings me to the final matter to which I wish to invite your Lordships' consideration and, if I may venture to say so, the students' consideration. The purpose of all education, the purpose of all this, is not to produce people with degrees; not to produce people who have professional or other qualifications, but to produce civilised human beings. In my view the controversy that is said to have been raging has been greatly exaggerated, and I think that one of the values of today's debate has been to hear distinguished educationists telling us that both the problems and the suggestion of student unrest have been exaggerated; and that the difficulties and problems of environment and so forth are not to be found as a wide-scale manifestation. I think this needs to be said, and said loudly. But in the controversy enough has emerged to make clear that some students are forgetting that it is more important to be civilised human beings than to be effective members of the student body. Some things are happening within the student world that makes it necessary, I think, to invite them to stop and reflect about the essential values of human behaviour.

My Lords when one reads that students burst into the rooms of their tutors and steal documents; when one reads that students are assaulting their lecturers; when one reads that students are conducting campaigns (and I saw one of unparalleled vilification) against their teachers in terms which would make Titus Oates drool with envy, one wonders whether they have a real sense of the issues involved; whether it is so important to have a say in the curriculum; whether it is not more important to realise that these things are the ultimate enormities and that even if you leave the university without a degree, even if you have some doubts about the excellence of the curriculum, it is better to have had inculcated in you those principles of reasonable and decent behaviour that will make you acceptable to society as a whole.

In short, my Lords, if principles of partnership are to prevail, let us try to emphasise to the students that we want acceptable partners. They tax us with all sorts of inadequacies. Let us not for once hesitate to tax them with a few inadequacies and say that if they are to enter into a fruitful partnership, they must learn to behave as we would hope to behave. This has nothing to do with student participation, but it has to do with behaviour of human beings; and it has, I think, much to do with the future of this country as a nation.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Goodman was, I think, a little pessimistic about the value of student participation. I think it will achieve rather more than he thinks, though not as much as those who are advocating it so violently suspect. In my experience it does achieve something. I would also cross swords with him on its being impossible to have a line-up of staff, faculty and governors on one side and students on the other, after a reasoned discussion. I have seen this happen, where the students have all been mandated to vote a certain way by the student union; and a perfectly silly situation it is. It does happen, it is regrettable when it happens, but I can assure him that it is a risk that occurs when free discussion is stopped by mandation or by students becoming delegates.

I must apologise to your Lordships for having been absent for a little while from the debate, but I want to express my gratitude to the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Bristol, not only for having put down his Motion but for having chosen to-day to put it down; because it enables me to speak on one of the rare occasions when I am in England. I thought his speech a most interesting and illuminating one. I entirely agree with his analysis of the four elements in student protest. I was interested in his statement about the necessity for awareness of obligations; of the need for discipline among students. One of the commonest problems I find among students is staying up late—their refusal to go to bed. They stay up until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, night after night, listening to record players, discussions, et cetera, and that is not much good for 9 o'clock lectures, or 9 o'clock tutorials, or 9 o'clock chemistry classes, though what you can do about it I do not know.


My Lords, would the noble Lord not agree that what is done after midnight is often much more profitable than what is done before?


My Lords, I am not quite sure whether it is profitable to go on doing it continuously after midnight. I personally get frightfully sleepy towards midnight; but then I am getting old. I admire their capacity to stay up, but I also notice their somewhat somnolent attitude at the start of the day, and I wonder a little bit about it. This, indeed, is one of the main problems, so far as I am concerned, when dealing with students.

My Lords, so far as I know, I am the only Commonwealth Vice-Chancellor in your Lordships' House. Our university, Memorial University, in Newfoundland, serves the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador and meets all the needs for post-secondary education for the Province, including teacher training and the education of businessmen and civil engineers. It will soon meet the need for doctors, but we do not yet cover law. We have about 5,000 active, young and vigorous Newfoundlanders and our students include a number from the rest of Canada, the United Kingdom, the Caribbean, the U.S.A., South East Asia and Africa.

Owing to the enormous geographical distances which separate us from other universities, from our neighbours, one can perhaps see the problems of student life in rather more pure culture than one can where the universities are all on top of each other, as they are in London, or within a few miles of each other, as they are all over Britain. We have our share of student problems. Student un- rest appears almost to be an infectious disease; it hops hither and thither, and so far as I can see the immunity lasts for about three weeks. Then they start off again on something else. It spreads from university to university across the world at staggering speed, thanks not only to the national and the international news media but to the students' own news media. They all publish their own journals and send them round to each other and they all want to "keep up with the Joneses".

Last September we had a strike in our high schools. This was an unprecedented event in Newfoundland. Our high schools are all church schools, but the high school students struck with fairly good grounds, owing to a staggering of classes, and they marched on our Parliament building. Our university students were pretty upset at this. They felt that they were being beaten by the high school students and they looked round for something to strike about, too. They at once announced that they were going to hold a mass meeting to show their solidarity with the high school students. They circulated a document calling upon the students to meet in the engineering quad to show solidarity of student power. I got hold of a copy of this within ten minutes. The next morning at breakfast I produced it and said, "They can't even spell 'solidarity'", and my son said, "I typed it, Dad". So I then learnt that student activism is a fairly universal phenomenon.

Since I have been there we have had a sit-in; a boycott of an opening ceremony; a park-in (which I must say was very interesting; this was over parking places which is a continuous problem; we have about 1,200 students' cars to deal with and inadequate parking places) a mass demonstration outside my office—and I was burned in effigy on Guy Fawkes night, along with a reverend gentleman who is master of one of our colleges. In each case the leaders of these particular activities were my personal friends among the students. You could not have nicer young people. In each case they had a reason for their activity—except the burning in effigy; I do not know why they did that, but I think it was just on first principles. Those reasons were not perhaps the best in the world. On two occasions they were wrong and they lost; on two occasions they were right and they won.

Signs of student vigour are by no means wholly bad. It is all too easy for university authorities, even Members of your Lordships' House, to get stuck in a sort of intellectual and administrative rut from which they need shaking out. I must say that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Molson, showed signs of the old-fashioned approach to these problems with which I cannot quite agree. I felt that I might be demonstrating, if he were looking after me. But senseless demonstrations and violence—for example, a little while ago we had the smashing of computers with axes at Sir George Williams University in Montreal; 1,500,000 dollars worth of damage done over an alleged discrimination by a biological lecturer against two coloured students, although anyone less likely to discriminate than this particular lecturer was hard to imagine—do serious harm not only, manifestly to the computers, but also to the cause the students have at heart. They make potential donors extremely unwilling to donate and make the public and politicians less willing to continue the massive fiscal support which every university all over the world now needs.

Your Lordships will have already noticed the odd fact about student unrest; that is, that it is largely confined to students in certain faculties, particularly in the social sciences. There is little or no unrest that I can detect among the engineers. For example, I do not think that Imperial College has had many problems. There has not been much trouble among the medical schools and at Oxford and Cambridge. Several factors go to produce this. Those who are preparing for technical professions are so keen and so fully occupied, not only with lectures and reading but also with practical work, that they have neither the time nor the interest to agitate or to become interested in student politics.

The second factor, which I think is very important, is the poor facilities in many universities for extra-curricular activities, especially in relation to the large number of students who are now working in universities. Thanks to the generosity of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Fleet, we have just completed an enormous building called the Thomson Student Centre where, for the first time, our students have a huge hall about 400 feet square available for all kinds of games and other activities; with adequate union and other offices all round two sides in galleries; plenty of space for playing cards, cafeterias and so on. For the first time, they have enough space to begin to do some of the things that students ought to do. When I think of the university I mentioned a little while ago, Sir George Williams University in the heart of metropolitan Montreal, which for all practical purposes is an enormous office block, with the majority of its rooms with no windows, I think that the physical planning and construction of universities, the lack of ordinary physical facilities for the great majority to exercise themselves, to work off steam and just to amuse themselves, is an important factor in student unrest.

The third factor I would mention is the lack of accessibility to those in authority. Certainly at our university any student can come and see me at any time he wants. I hope that every student knows me. I certainly do not know every student; I could not possibly do so—but every student should know and be known personally by one or more members of the faculty. As noble Lords have mentioned, the impersonality of a university can become ghastly, and the larger the universities become the more difficult it is. I can see the value of breaking down into smaller units for social, for some academic and for residential purposes—that is to say, the collegiate system.

As regards student participation, my starting point was perhaps in line with that of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. I was not too happy about it, but the more I have seen of it, the more I think that student participation works. I think that one is bound to try it and, as the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has suggested, one is bound to try it pretty unconditionally. On some things the students have a great deal to teach us, but one runs into difficulty with the supply of students who are available and willing to play their part. For much of it is very dull. For example, we have a large number of students on our faculty councils. We have students serving on our undergraduate studies committee, graduate studies committee, library committee, bookstore committee and so on. The amount of time they have to give to these committees is really substantial and I have a feeling that often it interferes with their studies. Often it is hard to get a students' quorum.

One of the students' first experiments was in teaching assessment. Some of them came to me and said that they wanted every student to fill up a questionnaire on what they thought of the courses they were taking. Since I have spent a great part of my life making up questionnaires, I helped them to produce one which they administered to the entire student body. Then they produced an interesting report on what all the courses were like and on what the teachers were like. After I had read the report, I sent for them and told them that they had not condemned anybody. There appeared to be no bad teachers. Something had gone wrong, as I was sure there were some. They replied that as a matter of fact they did not include all the results, because some of them were so confused. I think that emphasises the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, that strangely enough there are teachers who, though considered to be extremely bad by some students, are nevertheless considered to be extremely good by others These the students were not prepared to assess.

We are about to have students on the Senate. We have had students attending the Senate for special purposes—for example, to present reports, and they have been excellent. We shall have six undergraduate and two graduate students serving on the Senate, and just over half of the Senate, the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, will be surprised to hear, will be elected. I do not think it will be very different from the normal, elected Senate. Most faculties will probably elect those who have been representing them in the past. There will be some changes but I do not think that there will be a great many. I think, and hope, that this will work well. It certainly seems only fair and right, if the students are having elected representation, that the faculty should also have elected representation.


I do not wish to imply that I regarded election as wholly bad, but merely that we should be able to think of something better that would give a broader picture of student opinion; of getting information on what the students think in a more general respect than one could do by elections.


There questionnaires come into their own. But when it comes to election, I think the important thing is the construction of constituencies, and to make sure that one does not get en bloc the selection a group of student activists from the social sciences, but gets a fair representation of the whole of any university, whether it be from the point of view of the faculty or of students.


My Lords, may I suggest to the noble Lord, in connection with election, that those of us who have the privilege of sitting on university senates and similar bodies might perhaps feel that election will simply result in the selection of just those people who are prepared to devote the time to the job. Sitting on such bodies as they are now constituted is not a very inspiring business.


I should agree entirely with my noble friend; they are, indeed, not all that inspiring. I sit in the chair and endeavour to engender a bit of fun and life into the discussions, but it is not always easy. However, I think that people will be prepared to do this chore of serving on the senate, and they will regard it as a duty to be done rather than as an immense privilege.

I should explain that the ultimate authority for the university, and especially for university expenditure, in almost all North American universities, so far as I know, is vested in a Board of Regents. A Board of Regents is a very powerful body indeed. It is a lay body composed of businessmen, lawyers, doctors, leading local citizens, the alumni of the university, with two academic administrators also as members; and on this body I personally, as an administrator, lean greatly. I do not think we have yet reached the stage when we should be altogether happy about having student membership of the Board of Regents. There is a technical difficulty here. Students throughout North America are pledged to a policy of open meetings; that is to say, they are pledged to having a public gallery at every meeting, so there is nothing secret, unless the committee, the senate, or whatever it is, agrees to go into committee, which may be strongly resisted.

In the case of a meeting of the Board of Regents, where we were dealing, for example, with the budget of the university in relationship with the budget of the Provincial Government, it would have been quite impossible to do this at an open meeting. But I do not think it impossible that this will come, and there are universities which have students on their Boards of Regents. As I say, I think this may happen, and it may work out all right; but we should take it step by step.

The senate is the ultimate academic authority, but it does not, and cannot, make appointments. These are departmental recommendations to the academic vice-president, then to me, and then to a Regents Appointment Committee, simply because of the speed at which appointments have to be made in North America, due to the shortage of academic people and the highly competitive nature of the market. I should not in the least mind students' attending; nor should I mind their knowing about rates of pay, as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. It would not make any difference. It would not add to the sum total of human knowledge, except that the students would learn something from it. They would learn a little about the difficulties of hiring a professor of anthropology as compared with a professor of neurophysiology, and the different market rates for these two jobs.

Our Board of Regents has created a student affairs committee to deal with any non-academic matter. It consists of a majority of students with a student chairman. We had the greatest difficulty in getting a student to take the chair of this committee. This, I am afraid, was my fault, because I had told them that it was the custom in the House of Commons for the Speaker always to vote against change. Whether I was wrong or right in this I am not sure, but I told them that it was good practice on the part of any chairman, if he had to give a casting vote, always to vote for the status quo. This put the students off being chairman, and not until I retracted would they agree to take on the chairmanship of this committee. We have on this committee mem- bers of the Board of Regents, members of the Faculty, and myself, with one or two of my administrative colleagues; and so far it has worked very well.

This committee has recently been dealing with the difficult problem of enforcing discipline in serious cases. Here I take a very different view from that of the noble Lord, Lord Molson. I started off with his view, and tried to apply it; it worked in a rough-and-ready sort of way, but with many troubles and difficulties. There are the problems of discipline in residence or colleges and problems of discipline in the rest of the university. Owing to two cases which occurred the students became extremely indignant, and they made three demands. The first was that we should have strict rules about the collection of evidence. They came up with very sensible proposals, much like the ordinary rules for police interrogation; that is to say, if a student had committed a serious offence which might involve his being" kicked out "from a residence or expulsion from the university, great care should be taken in investigating the matter. They were no at this moment criticising the sort of "catch-all" legislation which the noble Lord said is necessary—and which indeed, we have on conduct prejudicial to the good order of the university—but they were criticising the manner in which the evidence was obtained. This seemed to be a fair and reasonable point. They worked out a set of rules, which the student affairs committee and I subsequently modified, for the collection of evidence in the case of alleged serious offences.

Their next demand was to be tried by their peers. It struck me that they were confusing—and indeed they were—the role of the judge and the role of the jury, because they are in the nature of things, as has been mentioned in this debate, transient. The necessity for building up an experience of what one might call case law and rules of procedure would be impossible if we had a fresh jury, selected by what they call the "Monte Carlo" method (which means nothing mote than chance), and this body conducted the disciplinary inquiry and made the necessary disciplinary decisions. So we all finally agreed that the thing to do was to have an experienced faculty member as chairman of a disciplinary committee, he to guide the proceedings, but to have five students, two ex officio and three selected from a panel, on a "Monte Carlo" method, to make the decisions with him, he having no vote. We have yet to see how this works, but I think it will work all right.

It so happens that in the United States there have been experiments with teenage jurors for teenage alleged offenders, and it has been found that what one might expect has happened: they were excessively severe. My fear has been entirely that the students would be exactly the same: that they would be excessively severe. I find them very, very fair in their judgments, but not so inclined to temper justice with mercy. They demanded, and we agreed, that the disciplinary committees should be open—that is to say, there should be a public gallery, as it were, to which other students should be admitted.

Their third demand was for something which we already had; namely, an appeal committee for serious cases. Here they agreed, and we all agreed, that the proper thing to do was to have half faculty and half student members, because here one wanted to have a perhaps more lenient body than the initial body. And we wanted also to have pretty strict laws of procedure for our appeal committee, so that the unfortunate witnesses who had to give witness of the early offence were not necessarily called a second time to repeat their evidence. In fact, I modelled the procedure, so far as I could, on the procedure of your Lordships' House sitting as a Court of Appeal.

We evolved this system pragmatically, but the main drive has come from the students themselves. It is still experimental. But we have not yet solved the problem of law-making, of rule-making, within our student community. It is easy enough to sweep away existing rules. For example, we have recently swept away rules about student dress simply because only a minute minority observed them; and we said merely that we hoped students would observe reasonable decorum when reasonable decorum was called for. I hope that our student affairs committee will in fact become our main rule-making agent.

We have, however, the odd problem which I have no doubt other vice- chancellors have; the problem of double jeopardy. Where a student breaks the law and is found stealing from Woolworth's, or misbehaving himself in some other way, should the university intervene on the student's behalf with the magistrate or the magistrates' court? The general reaction of our students was, "No; we want to be treated exactly as other citizens". We had to point out to them that there were special problems for students in residence a long way from home whose parents might be 800 or 1,000 miles way, whose relatives could not come to their aid and bail them out; and that here we had to be prepared to help.

They hate the thought of the university's being in any sense in loco parentis. Indeed, they often accused me of being too paternal. I do my best not to be paternal, but I also tell them that I want to do all I can to make them good and efficient politicians and administrators. I must say that on the whole they respond very well indeed. One thing I do not want them to do—and I think the more responsibility they get the less likely they arc to do it—is to turn into third-rate union leaders; for the activities of some student agitators as prophets of "mobocracy" indicate that they are fitting themselves for nothing other than a very low rank in political life.

I think I see signs that the pendulum is swinging back again against excessive permissiveness. I thought that the speech of the noble Lord. Lord Molson, was characteristic of this. Young people do need some rules, if only to gripe about them. But they must impose these rules themselves. My job, I think, in the future will be to see that they do not make these rules too severe, and that they do not create a new authoritarianism which is worse than the old.

Last Saturday I dined in the Hall of King's College, Cambridge, and how wonderful it was to find girls there!—and such nice girls and boys, delightful young people, a really extremely healthy and splendid atmosphere! They were wearing, perhaps, jeans; their hair was long; they had sideburns. But their conversation covered every subject. Their manners were delightful and natural, and I saw very little wrong with them—in fact, nothing wrong at all. What a change over the past twenty years! I must say that I see very little wrong with our young people, the enormous majority of them, whether they are in England or in North America. It is a privilege to work with them and for them, and I am pretty sure that they are going to make a better job of things in the future than we did.

7.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am afraid that I ask your Lordships to listen for a few minutes to some thoughts again from a professional Vice-Chancellor, or ex Vice-Chancellor. I do not agree entirely in approach and emphasis with all that has been said by my colleagues, although of course I agree with a great deal of it. I have been in universities all my life—20 years as a don at an Oxford College, with a turn as senior proctor; 15 years as Vice-Chancellor of a large civic university, and now for six years as pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of one of the new technological universities. I am a wholehearted believer now in student participation, and in going the whole hog with it. I think that the sort of student we shall get on the relevant committees and bodies will be very valuable. There are various reasons why we need them on these bodies, and various reasons why we shall have to have them.

The universities are changing. Some of the universities aim to conceal the fact that they are changing; other universities make great virtue of the fact that they are changing. All the universities have been affected by the foundation of the seven new universities; and now again they have all, including the new, begun to be affected by the latest technological universities. There is great change. There are a lot of things to which we do not know the answer. We do not know the right answer about the structure of departments or schools. We do not know the right answer about examinations. We do not know the right answer about how much formal lecturing ought to be done nowadays. We do not know the answer about the crowding of the curriculum so that the student has far too heavily engaged a week. And, of course, we do not know the answer about the great question of whether, at the student age, in the university first degree course students ought to read both science and the arts or ought to study, as they do in general at present, one or the other. In all those matters it seems to me that student participation in discussion and decision can do nothing but good.

On the big question of the overcrowding of the curriculum, nearly all opinion has said for twenty years that the curriculum is overcrowded. The average student in a scientific or technological course in the kind of university I have been in recently may have anything up to 30 hours a week committed on a time-table. That is too much. Yet nobody has succeeded in reducing it. Again and again I have seen committees set up to reduce the commitment in the course, and the committee has ended by adding 6 per cent. to what there was before. I cannot believe that in cases where people made up their minds that the aim and object was to reduce the commitment of students there would have been this failure over twenty years to get the course reduced. But that is another matter.

As I have said, I think that in any case we shall have to have student participation. Not only have the universities changed, but the students have changed. In the first place they will now reach their majority at 18 and they will be able to vote at 18. No university ought ever to have tried to restrict the political activities of its students. None of those with which I have been concerned has d me so. Of course, some dons have regretted that pupils have spent time on political activities, but most of those dons would have said the same about their own senior lecturers or lecturers, or indeed about anybody else. They were the sort of people who would have thought that everybody would be spending his time better at something other than political activity.

Students around the world have become very important bodies. It is true not only in the developing countries, where inevitably there is a gap in the political spectrum; if students do not fill it nobody will do so. That is not peculiar to the developing countries: it is true of the semi-developed countries. It is true at the present moment of Czechoslovakia. Students ought to be doing something and ought to be taking a line, as they are. Even in a country like ours, or, for the matter of that, though not to the same extent, the United States of America, or Canada, or Newfoundland, where they have traditionally not taken much part, there is naturally great questioning as to whether students ought to be doing something. Universities have inevitably become political societies, and we have to take the facts as they are. It has to be recognised that there is such a thing as student opinion. There is a dynamism in student opinion as a fact. The universities have to live with it, and even if it were not good for them to have student representation they would have to have it.

All this turns on student government being able to be reasonably democratic and reasonably disciplined. I believe it can be, so far as my experience leads me to speak. A practising Vice-Chancellor has to manage to emerge always as a man of high principle, of course, because a university is a high-principled institution.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I do not think any of us would deny that there is such a thing as student opinion, but to me the question is whether that opinion is based on any knowledge of the subject; and, if not, is it worth listening to?


My Lords, I am going on to that, if I may, in a moment. The noble Lord has raised an important point. On general questions of judgment I must confess that my experience is—and I believe many of my colleagues will agree with this—that the sort of people who have been put up to represent students, and notably students' presidents, have been people of great judgment and responsibility. The student president in our great universities is normally elected by a direct student vote, not tied to anything else at all. There is no ticket tied to it, no other appointments tied to it, no other elections on the same day. The whole thing is a direct student appointment. In these days of excitement the vote is very large—larger than it would have been even in the old days of heavy political activity in the 'thirties. My experience is that under that system the president has so far always been a man of responsibility, judgment and dedication. In this system of election the vice-president tends to be the wild man. He is elected on a different day and he probably gets a large vote. But, as I have said, the student president tends to be a man of responsibility and discipline, and if you asked any Vice-Chancellor the sort of person he would like to have on a working committee on almost any subject you like, the student president as a rule would stand pretty high in the list.

In these days of student turmoil, if you have to represent and go back and talk, with courage, to a constituent body of 8,000 lively students, you have to do something which not all Members of Parliament could do, which certainly not all professors and certainly not all Vice-Chancellors could do. Student presidents know more about the handling of committees, more about the handling of persons, more about the difficulties of human nature in relation to politics than most people they are likely to meet on the committees on which they represent students. I am talking about things that are fairly obvious.


My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me. I assume that he is not speaking as ex Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds and referring to the most amenable people that he would have on committees?


My Lords, I am saying that the views people take about these things, I believe—as is the custom of this House, and even, I believe, often the custom of another place—are taken in good conscience. I am saying firmly that in my experience the kind of person who, by this method, is elected to the post of student president, would not be elected unless, whatever in conscience be the views he holds, he goes for the ends that he has in view, with responsibility and judgment; and he is, in that way, a good man to deal with any matter of that kind, business, political or otherwise.

I do not want to be stirred into talking so enthusiastically that I speak like a missionary. If I can, I want to speak merely of the facts. It is quite true, of course, that some of the constitutions in the student unions will have to be greatly revised for modern conditions. There is not the slightest chance of getting public opinion, or the opinion of this House or the opinion of the other place, behind a change and supporting the universities in such a change without student agreement to these revisions. These things have to be done with student discussion and student agreement. There are things in those union constitutions which make the life of, say, the president or vice-president, however good he is—and he has to be jolly good to handle a constituency of 8,000 students—almost intolerable for him, and there will have to be changes. Students will see this, but they will see it only if they have responsibility and participation.

The noble Lord, Lord Goodman, said that we should tell them that they must be suitable people to deal with. In many ways they are like the intellectuals of India before independence. Those intellectuals came from our best universities, and many of them did as well as anyone could do in our ancient universities. They knew how to conduct discussion, like anyone else. But they were absolutely intransigent and unable to be dealt with, until they had had some experience and some responsibility. After a little time, with responsibility and experience, they thought much the same things as many of the Members of this House and many of the Members of another place. But the responsibility has to come.

I have only two short points to add. From the point of view of a practising Vice-Chancellor, who has to be a pragmatist, some of the speeches in this debate have not been about the right things. From the point of view of the pragmatic Vice-Chancellor, it is the business of the university to look after and embrace and protect and develop the powers of and give a full education to the wild man. It is part of the British university system that the wild man who holds strange views in conscience and otherwise should have as good an education as anybody else, and that the country will benefit. He should not be excluded. The university has to do everything it thinks needs to be done for any of its members. The pragmatic Vice-Chancellor knows that he has to argue with the wild men; he has to keep his end up; he has to show them respect and try to acquire their respect. But the Vice-Chancellor knows perfectly well that he will never convince them or change their minds, and the wild men know that they will never convince him. He is concerned with the large number of perfectly ordinary students if and when they line up behind the wild men. When the Vice-Chancellor gets into a situation where the ordinary students will line up behind the wild men on almost anything, then he says "Something has gone wrong here and it is time we did something about it".

It is universally accepted that everybody was surprised by the happenings in France in May. Everybody realised that something had been bottled up in large sections of the community, so much so that when it had the opportunity to come out it was almost irresistible. We have been complaining for a long time about apathy in our young men. In the 'thirties they joined the political Parties in great numbers. At Oxford, with 4,500 students or thereabouts, 1,500 belonged to the club of one of the Parties. After the War, and especially of recent years, they have not found comfortable homes in Party political societies; they have not found any causes or societies where they found themselves at home. The vast number of students in the Senator McCarthy movement, which was wholly or largely made up of students, showed that they had a strong political urge and no home for it.

We have found this same bottling up among the students during the years when we were saying that they were apathetic, that we should like to see more spirit and so on. These things were bottled up, and cut they came. This has not been very fierce in this country; it has been fierce once or twice at one or two universities for a short time, but so far it has been a relatively unfierce affair. If a Vice-Chancellor found that large sections of his Senate were voting against him just because he put something up, he would say to himself, "Something has gone wrong". He would not say to himself, "I am not as good at arguing as I used to be". And if things got worse he would say, "Something very drastic has got to be done", one thing being that possibly he would have to go. The same thing applies with authorities and students. If things get bottled up and reach a stage where the students will line up behind anything, something has to he done. One thing is participation, and genuine participation.

I agree with the noble Lord who does not believe that participation will solve very much. It will not, but it has to be there to solve what it can. All the great reform movements have been dissatisfied with the results that their reforms have produced. This will not all be over in one movement; in fact it will get worse, or should get worse. As a political nation, with high political sophistication and responsibility, we know that they will want more and more, and their standards will go up and up. But they will learn a great number of these things only by taking part.

I want to end by emphasising something that has been mentioned several times already, and that is that this will not be the end in other ways. There will be other problems. The non-professorial staff have for a very long time felt very strongly that they do not play enough part in the running of universities. I have felt great sympathy with this feeling for many years, and many universities have come round slowly to meeting it. An immense amount of the real hard, daily work is on the plate of the non-professorial staff; much depends on them, and they need to be satisfied that they are playing their full part in running the university. With the younger ones a good deal of the brain-drain is due to this question; and so far as it affects the university scientists and others, it is very much connected with this question of participation. This problem will go on, and many universities will find that they will have far greater trouble with their junior staffs—not necessarily all young men—than they have had with the students. I come back to the point that I think we must have participation, and for myself I hope very much that your Lordships will regard it as one of the great questions of the coming years.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, I did not originally put my name down to speak because, very much like the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, I felt that I knew very little about participation. I have not participated myself in the last four years in the working of a university and therefore I know relatively speaking little of the present mood and the present opinions among the children. However, it seems to me that certain statements have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, which I, for one, could not not answer. I could not not answer because, after all, I am one of the very few Members of your Lordships' House who has only a very lowly academic job, of course lasting for a long period: I have been 35 years in English higher education and 30 years in Oxford. But of course, I never attained any eminence, and therefore can only give a sort of worm's eye view. But the worm sees things so very differently—it may be because it has glaucoma in its many eyes; maybe because it perceives certain things which more highly placed people, apart from my noble friend Lord Morris of Grasmere, with whose speech I thoroughly agree, do not perceive.

Let me first say that a university is not there for efficiency. This is an extremely important thing to say because nowadays we are tempted to get American efficiency experts into the university whether the administration works badly or the other way. I feel very strongly that the university is not there for efficiency. It is there for human relations and to give a certain example to people; an example of fairness, of tolerance, of fire, of intolerance, of everything; and it seems to me that one of the most important things about a university is that it should have violently clashing views among the staff. The university which produces a community, in the sense in which the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, used the term "community", is not a university community, because it is not universal. I was very surprised when he said that students are not a community because of their different points of view. Some of us in this House have different points of view, but you cannot claim that the House of Lords is not a community of a certain sort, or even that Britain is not a certain type of community, although we have very differing views.

Now about the students. There is, of course, a small minority of students—I would call them "Ali Bendit and his 40 thieves": Tariq Ali and Cohn-Bendit, a sort of composite figure—who are wreckers. I am not saying that these people, by being wreckers, are criminals. I do not even say that they are unprincipled or that they are bad. No; they have an honest view about the society in which they live, and the problems which that society poses to them. After all, let us not forget that when we were university students there was no biological warfare, science had not been exploited to enable men to go to the moon, or to be in a position to shoot at one another 10 megaton warheads in complicated array. Therefore, on the whole, the students of to-day are right to question. They are also right to question this rat-race between advertising, production, consumption, status seeking and all that. It seems to me that before we condemn them, as Lord Molson condemned them, we ought to try to understand them, because without understanding them we are not going to cure them.

But I admit that there are a number of wreckers in the universities. We have to deal with these wreckers, because if we do not deal with them they will deal with the universities, and I have no doubt that they could wreck them. They can certainly wreck the sort of mutual trust between the staff and the students on which absolutely everything depends. I told Lord Robbins that I should mention his name and also the London School of Economics. Unfortunately he had an unavoidable engagement but he will understand that I am not going to refrain because of his engagement, from mentioning this. It seems to me that on the whole it is in those universities where something had, according to Lord Morris, gone wrong, that the unrest really spread. It was in those universities in which the militants could get the nonmilitants and part of the staff on their side, that things have gone wrong. I would suggest, as Lord Morris suggested. that the Vice-Chancellor or the Chairman of the Governing Body of that institution should be most tolerant and self-critical, and should ask himself whether something has not gone very wrong indeed.

In seeking to know what has gone wrong one might as well start with the speeches of the right reverend Prelate and of the noble Lord, Lord Butler, who in his unparalleled witty way touched on a point which is most important; that is, that we must have young people to deal with young people. I regard myself as quite young and most unorthodox and all that; but they do not. And, after all, that is what counts—not what I think. Participation ought to begin with the young staff. We are talking about stu- dent participation, but I must confess that even after 35 years in English higher education I think it would be quite interesting to have a debate on the lecturers' and assistant lecturers' participation in university affairs.

I do not know at which university the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, is, but at some of the provincial universities, and especially at some of the new ones, the "glass plate" universities, they have a most interesting system of government. They certainly cannot be called democratic. In that, obviously they completely fulfil Lord Tedder's idea of bliss. But they are oligarchies in which I fear laymen of conservative character, in the main combine with professors of a conservative character in order to dominate the situation in the university.

I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said about certain American universities. American universities are not the only ones where lay bodies are dominant. At most of our universities lay bodies are dominant, and they are lay bodies which are necessarily Establishment bodies. Who is going to be put on a university court but an Establishment person? And the more open the university has been, the worse it is. The poor old Webbs, Beatrice and Sidney, must be really on a merry-go-round in their graves: they do not turn; they turn and turn, and turn about. What has happened in the L.S.E. is this—and here I must ask for the forgiveness of my noble friend Lord Annan. He is mistaken in thinking, as he assured Lord Wynne-Jones, that the contentious decisions have been taken by the General Purposes Committee of the L.S.E. I fear that the decisions which are now under consideration have been taken by the Special Committee and the Standing Committee of the Governors which are not mainly academic bodies. So let us get the record clear.

It seems to me that if you have a lay body colluding with conservative professors, if they are a self-perpetuating body, and on top of that a body which appoints the professors, who in turn appoint the lecturers, it means a system which, potentially speaking, might be most explosive. In Oxford this cannot happen; in Cambridge hardly. Cambridge is slightly different from Oxford, because at Oxford the colleges have the right of appointment without any ado, without having to ask of the professors. in Cambridge, the professors and certain of the more Establishment bodies coming from the General Board, and so on, have a most important rôle to play in appointments. But even in Oxford professorial appointments are private conspiracies, privately arrived at by seven people, of whom at most four are of the profession. I do not think that this is exactly the sort of government which we want; and it is here that I have found myself in such an awkward position, because I am terribly angry. I am terribly angry because men of great good will (I have no hesitation in assuring Lord Robbins or Mr. Walter Adams that I find them men of great good will, men who want the best) have become insensitive. Lord Robbins has for a long time grown up in a commanding position in the School; he has become a little intolerant.

My Lords, intellectual freedom is something which is most precious. Intellectual freedom is not freedom to order nonstandard lavatory pans, as some people assert when they want to question the right of the University Grants Committee to see whether the lavatory pans ordered were of the cheapest and the most standard type. Lavatory pans are not the object of intellectual endeavour; nor is the self-glorification of the architects who put up these monsters of new universities, which have cost us certainly far above anything that was necessary, so enabling a much greater expansion of our universities.

I think that nothing can explain academic freedom better than Article 28 of the London School of Economics Articles of Association. It says: …and no member of the corporation, or professor. lecturer, or other officer thereof shall be under any disability or disadvantage by reason only of the opinions that he may hold or promulgate on any subject whatsoever. I submit that this has not applied in some of the universities in this country, and I submit, with very humble apologies to various pro-Vice-Chancellors and pro-Chancellors, that in a number of universities the professors have created new departments in their own image; and only God can do that. Professors cannot do this, unless they commit what I consider a grievous breach of academic freedom; and this is exactly what has happened in a number of our universities.

It was not the State that encroached on the universities; the State has never questioned an appointment. Intellectual freedom has been violated, and is being violated in the L.S.E. now, by the professors, by the small oligarchy of conservative professors and conservative laymen who do not wish to tolerate opinions contrary to their own. That is what has happened. Mr. Blackburn has been accused only of having praised the removal of the doors from the London School of Economics after they went. There was a binding agreement signed by the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, that nobody should be prosecuted on that score. He says: Let me say with all the emphasis I can command that the Governors are not hostile to academic freedom. On the contrary they are proud of the traditions of the school which has upheld such freedom from its inception, and they intend to maintain it. But they do not believe that academic freedom involves freedom to destroy academic freedom…I confess that I see no sinister double entendre in the last paragraph of my statement, but if there is a misunderstanding I would like to say explicitly that the word 'encourage' in this context means direct and public encouragement to action likely to endanger the integrity and orderly conduct of the school. Mr. Blackburn has never been accused of that, and certainly has not been convicted; yet he has been sacked. People like Professor Robbins and his followers in my profession have signed a "round robin" in which they have asked for the creation of a new free university which will be free from Government interference, and which can really guarantee freedom. May I say to your Lordships —and with this I shall sit down—that not in France, nor in Sweden, nor indeed in any of the countries in which the Minister of Education is responsible for the hiring and sacking of people on the basis of the recommendation of the faculty of the university, has there been any dismissal. Not after those terrible scenes in Italy; not in France; not in Sweden. In Europe we have the proud achievement of having sacked someone for his opinions. I am deeply ashamed.

7.45 p.m.


My Lords, with the usual enthusiasm of one trying to depress, one of my colleagues said to me a little earlier, "I don't envy your having to reply to that star-studded programme of academics". I emphasised to him, and I emphasise to your Lordships, that I am participating and not pontificating; and I notice now that I have to include in this "star-studded programme of academics", "pragmatic Vice-Chancellors" and "mulish dons". I am glad that in initiating this debate this afternoon in, if I may say so, a very thoughtful and compassionate speech, the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bristol, has chosen this particular theme, the "participation" by students in the running of their universities and colleges. As several of your Lordships have said, we have heard a great deal in the last year or so of "student unrest", "student power" and so on, which are rather vague themes with emotive undertones. I feel certain we all welcome the opportunity of directing our attention instead to something solid and constructive.

I think it is important to make this distinction because the various newsworthy aspects of student life are apt to be a bit confused, at least in the popular mind, and to be associated indiscriminately with a somewhat repellent student image. But this movement for greater participation is in fact a very different thing from sit-ins, turbulent demonstrations and the general upheavals which have recently marked the university scene. It is a clear-sighted and responsible development which I feel, with your Lordships, is greatly to be welcomed. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals recognised this in a statement which they issued to the Press last June. They said: We distinguish sharply between disruptive activities of this kind and the increasing and responsible interest of a large body of students in many of the affairs of the universities. This interest we recognise and welcome. Our institutions of higher education are merely bringing into sharp focus, as has been expressed by so many of your Lordships, something that is going on in society generally, and not merely in this country but the world over. Young people are conscious of the contribution they can make to society, and they have a certain solidarity when confronting their seniors. Within families, as many of us have observed, there is an increased independence among the young and a diminished readiness to accept the precepts and authority of their elders. I often feel very cheated because I was of the generation that had to be seen and not heard, and, now that I have a chance to speak, the pattern has completely changed. Outside the family there is a similar feeling of resistance to discipline and authority exercised in loco parentis. It is one of the tides of our times, and we should be foolish, even were we so disposed, to ignore it or to resist it.

Your Lordships have indicated, and I think the university authorities would not disagree, that you would not want merely to accommodate it or pass it over with tactical concessions for the sake of peace or as a safety valve against militancy. It is something to be welcomed and to be harnessed in valuable and fruitful ways for the benefit of the academic institution as a whole. Moreover, for the students themselves—those of them who are prepared to give it the considerable time and sheer hard work required—it can be no mean training, an experience of management education, learning "the hard way", an induction into public responsibility and a graduation in active citizenship.

We must not forget either that the publicity given to student unrest tends to obscure a considerable amount of the hard and unglamorous work by students concerned to help the community. A large number of colleges have groups helping old people, the handicapped, hospital patients and so on, and I should like to pay a tribute to their devoted work. It is particularly encouraging that most of those concerned have again met, this year at Nottingham, to discuss their aims and problems. I must emphasise that the authorities are not in any way unresponsive; they accept and they welcome the need to move with the times, despite some of the criticisms that we have heard this afternoon. The offering of greater opportunities to the students to participate in the decisions that affect them has been described by the Minister of State as the "main current reform" of institutions in the field of higher education. It is the method of giving these opportunities which we have been discussing, the refinements and complexities of applying the idea in valid and workable ways, that now occupies their time and energy.

Certain noble Lords from the university world have shown far better than I could what is involved in the translation of this general idea into practical terms. I would merely add that if we are fortunate in our student organisations, I think we are no less fortunate in the skill and experience of our contemporary Vice-Chancellors and Principals and of others who exercise authority in our institutions of higher education. This has been seen at its best during the discussion this afternoon.

Some reference has been made, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to the joint statement issued by the National Union of Students and the local authorities. Several of your Lordships have referred to this. It followed discussions between the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the National Union of Students. Subsequently, in November, 1968, the local authority associations and the N.U.S. published a joint statement on student participation in the government and administration of further education establishments and colleges of education. This was a very significant and promising development, but the situation has changed because the National Union of Students' National Conference, held recently in Liverpool, rescinded their joint statement on the grounds that it did not go far enough. This means, as I understand it, that the National Union of Students' Executive must now seek to re-enter negotiations with the local authority associations.

But more recently, following discussions with Mrs. Shirley Williams, the Joint Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science, the associations have issued to their members a memorandum of guidance, which sets out in great detail their views on the provision to be made in the instruments and articles of government for polytechnics and colleges of education. I should like this on the Record, because there has not been so much reference made to these organs of higher education. This letter of guidance covered four important points, three of which were: student representation on governing bodies, on committees and sub-committees, and discipline. It said that there should be a clearly defined procedure for discipline, including the use of a committee on which both staff and students should be represented.

I was extremely interested to hear so many noble Lords refer to the fact that when one invites the young to discipline one another they are always very harsh. I am intrigued by the way we nowadays use the word "discipline", since the Oxford Dictionary defines this as instruction imparted to disciples or scholars or a brand of instruction or education", whereas in my academic career I always found that discipline seemed to be allied either to corporal punishment or to something unpleasant. One hopes that we shall recognise that the idea of imparting something to a disciple may also be a way of using this word. The fourth point in the memorandum was that arrangements should be made for representations with the students' union on matters of proper concern to the students. These representations should be made to the governors, the academic board or the director.

So the authorities are now reexamining their instruments and articles of government in the light of this guidance, and the Secretary of State will expect the four points set out to be considered and appropriate amendments made before he approves the documents. This is very important. Of the 110 maintained colleges of education, at least one-third are likely to include students on the governing body, and of the 27 polytechnic schemes received, 22 have already made such provision. So far as the colleges of education are concerned, the instruments and articles of government for most of the 53 voluntary colleges of education were drawn up before the recent developments about student participation. They give the students rights of association, representation and appeal, but in no case are students included on the governing body. The Department intends to consult the voluntary bodies about this matter very shortly.

A considerable interest in student affairs is reflected in the fact that the Select Committee on Education and Science, convened in another place, is inquiring into the whole question of student relationships, which of course includes student participation. Many of your Lordships will probably have read the published minutes of evidence, but we can expect very shortly a Report which will give further definition to the issues involved and will offer a stimulus to those responsible for shaping contemporary patterns of student relationships.

I must remind those of your Lordships who have taken part in this debate, and who have presented so many admirable ideas, that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has no statutory responsibilities in relation to the universities, each of which is established by, and derives its constitution from, its own Charter and statutes, or occasionally from a Private Act of Parliament. This means that the points which have been raised are more properly the concern of the universities than of Government, and I have assumed that your Lordships have really been airing many of these points with that in mind.

They were all points of great importance. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, spoke of remoteness being a major difficulty in any institution of any size, while the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, spoke of lack of accessibility. The noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, mentioned lack of communication, and the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, talked of the need for personal contact. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, and the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, went very fully and very brilliantly, if I may say so with all humility, into the patterns of principles of government and dealt with the complications which will arise if we have these major changes.

It would not be right for me, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, to comment in any way on these institutions themselves, or on the way in which they are trying to hammer out changes. I would only remind noble Lords that we have talked a great deal to-day about the democratic ideal, and I think your Lordships will agree that leadership and authority are both necessary in a democratic community, but leadership of the kind which exercises power with, rather than power over, and authority of the kind which the situation demands and not that which the authoritarian demands. Both of these are in tune with the funda- mental principle of democracy which, I suggest, is respect for personality.

I once asked my little juniors to hammer out with me what they thought was an educated person, and I have been interested to find that what we decided runs on parallel lines with many of the points raised to-day. We believed that an educated person should want to go on learning and discovering; should be tolerant to other people, able to adapt to changing situations, able to communicate; should want to participate, and should have the ability to analyse. I should like to convey my encouragement and good wishes to those institutions which are trying to resolve difficulties, and to express the hope that they will achieve their aim not only by a tactical accommodation, but by something in accordance with the spirit of our times—a really vigorous academic community.

8.7 p.m.


My Lords, fortunately it is not only impossible but also unnecessary to attempt to summarise a debate of this kind, since the purpose of the Motion has been to elicit precisely the kind of weighty and experienced contributions which have occupied us this afternoon. I would express myself as more than well satisfied that the motives I had in putting down this Motion have been realised. I have had plenty of time in which to regret the temerity with which I asked for this debate, but I am indeed fully grateful to all those noble Lords who have more than justified this discussion, by getting on to the Record the sort of opinions which, as the noble Baroness rightly said, are not the direct concern of Government but which we believe serve the common weal by being uttered in a place that still has the resonance of debates in this Chamber. Therefore, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.