HL Deb 26 February 1973 vol 339 cc471-518

7.25 p.m.

VISCOUNT HANWORTH rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will raise students' university grants to take account of inflation and will do this by means of an interest-free loan which would be repayable after graduation, if and when the graduate's earnings reach some specified level. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I am sure that at this late hour your Lordships will be relieved to know that I shall not be speaking for more than about ten minutes. I think I should first explain why I have raised this Question only a short time before a general debate on the White Paper deal-mg with education may be expected. The reason is that I believe my Question raises a potentially emotive issue, and it would be a pity to risk altering the tone of a more general debate. I should also like to deal briefly with the subject of student unrest, because I do not believe the facts are sufficiently widely known and appreciated.

The history of student grants since their introduction in 1961 has been one of trying to cheesepare barely adequate grants. For example, the total increase recommended by the Brown Committee in 1968 was cut from £11 million to £5½ million and not restored to the recommended figure until 1970. By that time, of course, inflation had outdated the original Brown figure and, my Lords, do not let us be misled into thinking that a new review can be independent of the amount being paid at the time that that review is being made. The latest Government manoeuvre is to make £76 million available for the improvements of grants over the triennium 1971 to 1974, and to distribute it under three main heads: first, the phased raising of maintenance grants over the three years; secondly, improvements to the parental scale; and thirdly, certain increases in supplementary grants.

The Vice-Chancellor's Committee have been concerned about the changed emphasis from individual needs to a total sum being made available, and are not satisfied with the result of the review, in particular with regard to the maintenance grants. This is, first, because the Department of Education and Science has calculated the cost of implementing the increase in grant established as necessary by its Working Party, in conjunction with the N.U.S., as being £72 million over the triennium. Further, it was generally accepted before that as halls of residence charges had been artificially pegged in the preceding period, the necessary rises, estimated at £8 million, would be taken into account, making the total grant required £80 million instead of £72 million. Secondly, as against this £80 million only £61 million out of the final settlement figure of £76 million is devoted to a general increase in grants. In the event, inflation from September, 1968, to September, 1971, proceeded at a higher rate than the Working Party anticipated, making a further £8 million necessary to restore the purchasing power of student grants.

The current academic year is the second year of the triennium for which maintenance grants were fixed in 1971. The grant for most universities was £430, as against a requirement of £478—a shortfall of about 10 per cent. Taking into account further inflation, a comparison for the year 1972–73 shows a shortfall of 12½ per cent., which is really an intolerable state of affairs when you realise that grants were always very minimal. I may say that I think many students in any case feel that they have, quite rightly, to do a certain amount of work in the vacations to increase their income. That is allowed for to some extent when we make these calculations. But even that does not get the situation out of the red.

My reason for suggesting that any addition to the present grants should be by way of an interest-free loan is twofold. First, it would be much easier for the Government to take this approach during a period of freeze or wage restraint. Secondly—and to me this is far more important—I believe people value more those things for which they themselves make some contribution. I further believe that we should prevent universities from becoming a soft option or line of least resistance for those who want to delay facing the harsher realities of outside life. Students who deliberately decide to go to university are far more likely to benefit by it and justify the very considerable cost to the nation which it involves.

A university is not a universal panacea for improving everyone or even giving them equality of opportunity or culture. It is a nonsense if students believe that they have a right for the nation to support them regardless. If they hold that view, then the State has a right to dictate what they should study and direct them to the jobs afterwards. Nobody would feel that that was a reasonable way of going about it. I know that there are difficulties in devising a scheme on the lines I suggest, but several other countries have done so with success and I do not believe that it should be too difficult, nor do I think that the Opposition need oppose such a measure on principle. The repayable portion of the grant which would meet what I have in mind could be quite small, perhaps £50 or £100.

Finally, my Lords, there is the problem of student unrest. I believe that nothing but good can come if more people have a knowledge of why and how it operates.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount forgive my interrupting him? When he says "£50" does he mean over one year or over three years, making £150 in all?


My Lords, I meant that figure for one year. Between £50 and £100 would provide this psychological incentive that I feel is so important and would get us out of the immediate trouble.

Continuing with the problem of student unrest, as I said, I feel it is important that people should know how it operates and should avoid condemning students as a body. In brief, the mechanism is an age-old problem and it has occurred in some trade unions. It is accentuated to-day in our permissive society, and because moderates are less sure of the line they ought to take than they ever were before they are less effective.

In the general analysis I am now making I am quoting figures which of course have no claim for absolute accuracy and which are used simply to illustrate the point I wish to make. The majority of students will go through university making a reasonable use of their time, although, as I have already said, a number will not benefit by such education. There is, however, a very small, hard core—in England this is not more than about 1 per cent., although I believe that in some countries abroad it may be greater—of activists who are militant Communists, Maoists, and others with extreme views. They seldom agree with one another's views in the main, but they have two things in common: first, they are agreed that our present capitalist society is so bad that reform is impossible and that it must be completely destroyed before anything better can take its place. Just conceivably, my Lords, they might be right. But their second point of agreement can only he regarded as wholly evil: they believe that any lie, any misrepresentation, and almost any action, is justified in achieving their ends. Strangely enough, these people have no blue prints for a better society; they like to say, when asked, that it is a "non question". In fact, they think that it will take long enough to demolish existing society to have time to formulate alternative proposals. Among this hard core are a very few people who can be classed as such fanatics that they would gladly sacrifice themselves and die or kill others if it would further the cause. Nothing of this is of course new, but we need to recognise the threat.

There are, I submit, two things which should be done. First—and this is very relevant to the grants question—we must prevent justifiable grievances from going unremedied, because it is only when this is the case that the activists can get support from others. Secondly, moderates must be made aware of the threat and be encouraged to take their part in shaping the future. As has been said: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men shall do nothing. I also believe, and I will say more in the general debate, that those far-sighted, responsible people within universities must be encouraged to make such changes as are needed within the extremely tradiditional ivory tower which the corporate body of some universities present. I think we must also remember the old saying that he who pays the piper has the right to call the tune. As I said before, the nation does not owe students a living. They are in university for only two or three years. Let us listen to them, but not necessarily immediately accept their views. Change, I believe, is necessary, and the modern concept in society is active protest; but let us be a little tougher where the need arises. Protest is one thing, indiscipline is another. And do not let us think that everything can be justified under the convenient umbrella of "democracy".


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I question him on his age-old quotation which he said was: He who pays the piper has a right to call the tune"? I always thought that it was: He who pays the piper calls the tune", which I think is almost exactly opposite.


My Lords, I must confess that I made two quotations. The first one was: All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men should do nothing". I spent a long time searching for that with absolutely no success. The second quotation is one of those I have often used, and I have nearly always found that anything I quote frequently is inaccurate. I will certainly try to find out which of us is right.

7.39 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I shall not seem to be eroding our appreciation of the noble Viscount's having raised this subject if I say that I hope his first proposition in respect of grants attracts unanimous support in your Lordships' House and that his second proposition in respect of loans attracts no support whatsoever. Saying that, I should like to thank the noble Lord for the moderation with which he has expressed himself on this subject, and say how particularly glad I was that he acquitted most students of the charges which are so frequently made against them. I have some knowledge of students' unrest and I regret that sometimes students express themselves in ways which I personally find uncongenial. The broad mass of the population, particularly the Press, forget the vast majority of students who are marked by their compassion and their serious-mindedness. I wish that more often we could find good things to say about them than the media appear to find justifiable.

Coming to the Question that the noble Viscount has raised, I should like to sub mit, first of all, that there are strong grounds for saying that discretionary grants should be at the same level as mandatory grants. That is the practice in Scotland and it was recommended by the Local Authorities Associations in 1971. At present there are many severe hardships which result from differences in policy between local education authorities and also from the parental means test. In fact we discriminate against students working, for example, for the Higher National Diploma, for membership of professional institutions and for paramedical courses, although the living costs of these students are no less than those of students coming within the mandatory system, whose grants anyhow are below what is required.

It is important to know how widely awards to students over 18 attending full-time courses which are not of designated course standard vary between one authority and another. Grants for London, for example, range from £410 and £400 in Devon and Leeds respectively down to £310 in Southend. Grants for institutions elsewhere vary between £370 in Durham and £285 in Gateshead. The grants for students living at home range from £284 in Brecon to £180 in Dorset. These are fairly random examples and there may well be more glaring discrepancies which I have not detected.

At this stage I feel that I must refer to the question of the parental contribution. I have always felt that this was wrong in principle and was only tolerable if financial circumstances meant that it could not be scrapped without damaging some other sector of education. I therefore support the National Union of Students in calling for its abolition. I do so first because a place at a university or other institution should be regarded as having been won as of right by the student and he or she should not be dependent upon help from a father or mother. Secondly, the system is unjust because some parents do not pay up—some because they cannot, others because they will not. I find it quite unacceptable that a student who has quarrelled with his comparatively well-to-do parents should therefore be denied a university education. Thirdly, I submit that it is absurd that the young man or woman who can vote about the country's future should have their own future decided by their parents.

I know that last year there was some adjustment, but I am disturbed that the general trend is for the percentage of cost borne by parents to increase. In 1962 it was just over 17 per cent. and in 1969 24 per cent.; this year it may well be above 30 per cent. I therefore view with only qualified satisfaction the review which the Department of Education and Science and the National Union of Students are jointly undertaking into the cost of abolishing this obsolete piece of "Scroogery". Basically, however, my objection is to the general scale of awards. I believe that students have been treated very unjustly and I congratulate Mr. Jacks and the National Union of Students on the case they have put forward. Prejudice against students, stemming from well-publicised acts of folly or misbehaviour, should not lead to denying them reasonably effective safeguards against inflation. That would be even more regrettable than the rent strikes which some students have organised, the effect of which can only be to damage their university and themselves. In terms of natural justice students have, in my view, an unanswerable case for a higher level of grants, and if we deny it to them—and this is where I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth—we should not be surprised if there are those who seek to exploit the sense of injustice which we have helped to create, and for which we share at least part of the responsibility.

I have said that the rate is inadequate. It is inadequate because the Government have dragged their feet, and because in any event, having accelerated the rise in the cost of living, the Government can no longer expect to get away with triennial reviews. To restore the value recommended by the Brown Committee, to which the noble Viscount referred, the home rate in 1972 should have been £415, not £355; the elsewhere rate £510 and not £445, and the London, Oxford and Cambridge rate, £560 and not £480. The N.U.S. calculate, moreover, that increases in the retail price index between September and December last year mean that the index will rise by 7½ per cent. in the current academic year. That would mean that for September, 1973, the home rate should be £440 instead of £370 as proposed by the Department; the elsewhere rate £550 instead of £465, and the London, Oxford and Cambridge rate £600 instead of £500. Their view is shared, in part at least, by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. In July, after writing in strong terms to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (not for the first time), they issued a statement saying that the triennial award had not restored the 1968 purchasing power, but fell short of it by £50. They added that the £15 increase authorised for 1972–73 represented only 3½ per cent., well below the current rate of inflation. They called—unsuccessfully, I fear—for urgency in dealing with what I believe is a crisis for both the students and their institutions.

In October the Vice-Chancellors wrote to the Department again, saying that the grant was then seriously below the real need. Indeed, in the first ten months from September, 1971, the cost of those items of student expenditure in the grant, other than board and lodging, had risen by over 5 per cent. as compared with a 3½ per cent. increase in the grant. One is tempted to ask whether the Government's behaviour is dictated by a wish, not actually to direct students to live at home, but to make it more difficult for them to do otherwise. On February 2 the Vice-Chancellors again expressed alarm and called for an immediate rise of £1 a week. The Times commented: They are concerned about the Government's refusal to consider raising the level of student grants. They think that an immediate rise of £1 a week is needed. After a meeting of the committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in London yesterday Professor Hugh Robson, the Chairman, the Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University, said the Committee reiterated its view that the level of student grants was inadequate. Student grants were one of the few areas of public spending that had not been compensated for the severe rate of inflation, and the Vice-Chancellors were convinced that the students had a good case. I suggest that perhaps the most outrageous, unjust and intolerable aspect of the grant sysem is the treatment of married women students. It is in my view quite monstrous that if a girl student is married, or gets married, and lives with her husband, her grant this year will be only £275—as it was last year and the year before—no increase whatsoever in her grant, although other grants have gone up by at least a small amount each year. The Government are in fact encouraging—almost suborning—girl students to live in sin. They penalise them for getting married at all and if the course on which the wife is engaged qualifies for only a discretionary grant, the penalisation becomes almost lethal. I hope that your Lordships will have noticed in the Evening Standard of February 13 the article about Ann Taylor, a 21-year old married student who is studying for a diploma at Maidstone Art College. If she was unmarried she would receive a grant of £326, but because she has a husband, she receives only £58.50 a year. The Evening Standard commented: Official thinking on cases like hers is that because she started her course when she was less than 21, her parents can help the couple out financially. To me it amounts to an almost unbelievable piece of discrimination against women, and the suggestion apparently made to Mrs. Thatcher recently by a deputation of Conservative students, that a married women student should be means-tested on her husband's income, in my view is no better.

There are clearly four things which need to be done: first, the triennial review must be replaced by an annual review; secondly, the harassment and victimisation of married women students must cease; thirdly, discretionary grants must be raised to the level of mandatory grants; and, lastly, the grant level in all cases must be raised to keep pace with the cost of living. That is especially important in the case of mature students.

What we do not need is loans, in spite of the advocacy of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, and the support for them in The Times. The only argument in support of loans which I found even slightly attractive was the argument which the noble Lord advanced about its being easier to proceed in that way durin a freeze than by increasing the grant. But that slight attraction does not outweigh for me the disadvantages of a loan system. It seems to me to be yet another manifestation of the current trend of attacking anything which is free—museums and art galleries, the National Health Service, and now, apparently, higher education. But even in isolation the proposal seems to me to be objectionable. As inflation races ahead the machinery for collecting the loans would probably cost more than the eventual revenue. In any event, enforcement would be very difficult and wide-scale evasion would be inevitable. The brain-drain would be given a new impetus unless we were prepared to do as the Soviet Union does and require would-be emigrants to pay for their education before being allowed to go abroad.

But quite apart from the practical difficulties, the principle itself is, to me at least, repugnant. To substitute loans for grants would strengthen the ties between wealth and higher education at a time when we should be moving further away from an educational system which has tended to be class-ridden in the past. The end result of student loans would almost certainly be more and more fee paying and less and less in the way of grants, or even loans. I hate the idea of young graduates, or young men and women recently qualified in teaching or nursing, having to start their careers with a millstone of debt around their necks. It would be a particularly heavy millstone if both parties to a marriage had to repay a debt, and the young woman would enter marriage with an anti-dowry, a negative dowry, for her husband. I am sure that the Labour Party's Green Paper was right when the Working Party said: Students who had to finance their education through loans would, in all probability, seek to reduce their debt burden by finding paid employment, not only during holidays as at present, but probably also during term time, again placing them at a considerable disadvantage compared with privately financed students and possibly necessitating an extension of the customary three-year undergraduate course. There is no doubt, moreover, that very many people, especially with working-class and Nonconformist backgrounds, regard any degree of indebtedness as wholly unacceptable, and I believe that there would be many parents whose prudence or Puritanism—call it what you will—would make them counsel their children against giving such a grave hostage to fortune as the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, is asking for.

Therefore, my Lords, I take my stand firmly behind the Association of Education Committees which, at its last annual meeting in Bournemouth in June, declared that, it would be wrong for student grants to be replaced completely or partially by loans. I ask your Lordships to note the words "completely or partially", and I hope that to-night Her Majesty's Ministers will state quite firmly that they are opposed to loans but are embarking upon their forthcoming talks with the N.U.S. in a determined and genuine effort to treat the position of students with sympathy and generosity and to remove what is not just a real injustice to-day but is also a ground for bitter discontent to-morrow.

7.56 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I shall be very brief, especially as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has stolen a great deal of my thunder. With him, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for the opportunity that this debate gives us. I, like the previous speaker, regret that the question of loans has been entangled with the question of student grants at the present time. It could be that there is a case for loans that should be discussed. I am not convinced by it. But it is a subject which has aroused much interest and which should at some time be gone into. But it should not, in my view, be raised at the present time when we should be focusing on what is indeed approaching an emergency situation in student affairs.

Perhaps I should have said that I have something of a bias in this matter having been employed for 25 years in an institution not unfamiliar with student disturbance, though we have survived it. And let me say, so far as one dare forecast or comment on the present situation, that the student disturbance to which the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, referred, seems to be very much in abeyance, if not, in many quarters, a slightly old-fashioned activity. But perhaps I am giving a hostage to fortune in putting it like that. I should like to emphasise the seriousness of the present situation.

As the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has said—and I will not repeat in detail the points that he made—the simple fact of the matter is that the triennial review negotiated in 1970, the implementation of which was delayed for a year in the first place without any cost-of-living or escalative clause being negotiated into it in anticipation of inflation, is now in purchasing power way behind the figure, the standard, that was negotiated in 1970. Students are shamefully behind almost all other sections in the community. That standard, before 1970, was already very low. Those of us who very pleasantly, at an increasingly long distance, remember the standard of living in the Oxford and Cambridge colleges in the inter-war years, perhaps have a picture of student living which is woefully wide of the mark at the present time. Not so very long ago I visited a girl student of mine who was living in one of the most insalubrious parts of London; sharing two rooms with a fellow girl student and spending a lamentably high proportion of her grant on a deplorable standard of living. If to the level of London lodging you add the cost of transport in getting around London, the residue left for ordinary living purposes is quite below what is tolerable for people who are attempting, and ought to be attempting, to do a hard day's, week's, year's work. In considering student finance, we sometimes forget that we in this country have only a three-year undergraduate period, unlike many other countries.

I personally deplore the idea that students should be supplementing their grants by earning. I agree that experience of work for short periods of time may be beneficial. We are still selective of the students who come into our universities, far more so than in European and American universities. If students who are selected for concentrated periods of study are worried about making both ends meet and are unable to spend money on those things which are necessary in order to be effective and efficient as a student, and are trying to supplement the grant by earnings during term time as well as during vacations, then the amount of reading, the amount of private study that they should be doing suffers very seriously. I know there are people who would regard this as an old-fashioned point of view, but with the concentrated courses of our universities the amount of time that students ought to be spending on supplementing their grant is very small indeed, and correspondingly the amount of money that they are in a position to earn is very small indeed.

I should like to make particular reference to problems arising in connection with hostels. It is absolutely true that at the moment the university college hostels cannot be run at their present prices because of the rise in costs, and yet, with student grants as they are, if the charges are put up to meet the rising costs the position becomes really intolerable for the students. The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, referred to student unrest, and, as I have suggested, to a considerable extent this is much less of a problem than it used to be. There has been quite useful most valuable rapprochement inside the universities, and I think both sides have learned a good deal about the needs and problems of the other. It seems deplorable that a question such as the charges in hostels should be exacerbating a situation which was on the way to very considerable improvement, and for this reason alone I hope that the Government will regard this as a matter of very real urgency.

In addition to the general question, I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, on the question of the parental contribution. If one cannot immediately get rid of it—and it might be difficult for the Government to do this, although I very much hope this is what they will consider doing—could not the Government at least look at the surely anachronistic requirement that the parental contribution is required up to the age of 25 for students coming into the universities? Many people, very properly, spend a little time on voluntary service overseas or something of that kind, between school and university, and there are many people who believe that this adds to the value of what they get out of the university. This means that after a year of active and responsible work they come hack to this country, aged perhaps 22 or 23, and then find that in order to get into the university, in order to finance themselves, they have to turn to their parents, with whom they have not been living for some time. This is discouraging to some of the very people who can benefit the most, and, incidentally, contribute most to the life of the university.

I would add, too, that the parental contribution hears especially on the girls of the family. Your Lordships will surely be aware that it is still a very common practice, if there are several children in a family, with the level of income at which parental contribution is required, to take for granted that somehow or other the money will be found for the sons but not for the daughters. Only a couple of weeks ago the Deans of several medical colleges were giving evidence at the Anti-discrimination Select Committee of this House, and they were saying that they were worried at the shortage of girls coming forward for medical school. I do not think that anybody need be surprised at this so long as the parental contribution lasts, for with the length of medical training being what it is, the parents with sons and a daughter are hardly to be expected to encourage the daughter to go in for a medical course. Yet surely it cannot be the intention of the authorities in this country, and Her Majesty's Government, to discourage suitable girls from coming forward for medical training.

Finally, may I reiterate the plea that something should be done about the grants for the married women students. I am aware that I have raised this matter previously in your Lordships' House, but I make no apology at all for raising it again. As the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, has said, no increase has been made to this category of students even in comparison with the meagre increases which have been given to other students. The assumption seems to be that these are a different class of students for whom support is not really necessary because they have husbands. These are the very people we most need to encourage—I am thinking particularly of the older married woman—those who did not take the opportunities, or perhaps, for a variety of reasons, the opportunities were not available when they left school but are now wishing to qualify for responsible posts. As I think is now well known, it is on these older women that we are going to rely primarily for the female labour force in this country in the professions and elsewhere. They are an extremely valuable source of potential teachers and social workers, on the one hand, but also of qualified workers in a wide range of occupations as more new occupations open up to women.

They are women coming back after a period at home, with 20, 25, 30 years' work ahead of them. Only women of very considerable determination qualify themselves, apply and get accepted for courses at this stage in their lives. Therefore, they are a self-selected group of a high order. And yet this very valuable group of people whom we are going to need very badly indeed are severely discouraged, for surely if a woman knows that the taking of a course on her part is going to be a real strain on family finances, only if she has the most exceptionally progressive husband is she going to proceed with the scheme of getting trained. To our very great loss, a great many of those women inevitably never come forward, and many fall by the wayside. So I would specially urge, first, that we should look at the question of parental contribution; and, secondly, that the Government should this time take really seriously the question of grants to the married woman student. At this late hour, I will say no more, but merely reiterate that the relationships in universities are a great deal better, despite isolated unfortunate incidents. It is surely the very greatest pity that cheese-paring at this stage should make more difficult the continuation of the improvement that is well under way.

8.8. p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has persisted in asking his Question, and, of course, it comes at a most opportune moment, because I understand that it is to-morrow that the National Union of Students will be meeting a representative of the Department of Education and Science to discuss the claim which they put in last October. It was in December that the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was on the Record as saying that the Secretary of State for Education and Science does not consider it necessary to introduce a system of Government loans to supplement the present grant system."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12/12/72, col. 470.] I hope very much that he will repeat that sentiment to-night. But, of course, simply leaving the matter at that is far from adequate.

I should like to pay tribute to the National Union of Students—of which some years back now I had the honour of being a Vice-President—for the way in which they have worked out their case on behalf of their members in the documents and the work that has gone into them. In the light of remarks by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, on student unrest, I wish to congratulate them on the way in which they organised their demonstrations in support of their claim last week. Precise estimates of people marching in support of claims are very difficult to come by, but I think that a conservative estimate would be that some 50,000 students were in London and in the major university cities in the Provinces last week, and they were perfectly controlled, with not one single untoward incident, let alone any evidence of violence. That in itself surely undermines completely the argument of the noble Viscount about student unrest. I was particularly glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, emphasised that, although there had been a difficult period some years ago—and one has had the isolated incident here and there since—on the whole, relationships between the administration in the universities and the student body have improved.


My Lords, I did not think that I had made an argument about student unrest. My main point was—and other speakers have said this—that we should not allow something like inadequate grants to cause unrest again. I do not think that I made any argument which was exceptionable in any way, or in any way blamed students. I made a further point that we should not, in any case, give students a bad name. That was one of the reasons why I discussed the matter.


My Lords, I am sorry if I misunderstood the noble Viscount, but I am anxious that the impression should not get abroad that we were linking this question of previous student unrest with the question of the justifiable grievances about grants.

I do not wish to go over the arguments that have already been put forward with great force by previous speakers in this debate, but I think that one should emphasise some of the genuine grievances under which students are at the present time labouring. There is the absolutely crucial and major grievance that student grants have not kept pace with inflation and with costs. This implies not only that the students are in difficulties, but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, emphasised, the university authorities themselves are in difficulties because their costs have gone up. I believe that in one or two instances there are empty rooms because students cannot pay the costs that universities are now obliged to charge. I know that the noble Lord is in something of a difficulty to-night because negotiations are pending, but I hope that the Government will take very seriously the proposition of a student cost index, or whatever one chooses to call it, whereby there will be annual reviews instead of triennial reviews. The triennial reviews do not work satisfactorily in a period of inflation such as we are at present experiencing. It seems to me entirely justifiable that the students should ask for a procedure of this kind to be adopted. I hope that the Government will look upon this, or something like it, with favour.

The question of married women students has been raised by one noble Lord and the noble Baroness, and I will satisfy myself by saying that this really is one of the grossest forms of discrimination. The married women students, as I understand it, have had no increase in their grant since 1965. When one thinks of what has happened to the value of money since 1965, this is something that any Government, whatever their ideology, should regard as unsatisfactory. I hope that this particular group of students will not be discriminated against in the future, as it has been quite grossly in the past.

I am also concerned with the matter of discretionary grants. It was only last week that I signed a cheque for a modest sum of something just over £300 out of a small family educational trust for adult students in one of the residential colleges, to help to top up the very meagre grants that some of them receive from certain education authorities. There is the most fantastic discrepancy in the amounts given to students in comparable circumstances between one authority and another. There is no justice in it. This is a situation that we ought not to allow to continue. I do not know how the Government propose to tackle it because there is a very wide range of discretionary grants. What is the justice if one says that a Higher National Diploma is of university degree equivalent, when one is on a mandatory grant and the other is not?

May I come to the particular problem of loans, which presumably was one of the main reasons for putting down this Question. I hope that the Government will stand very firm on this. My noble friend Lord Greenwood has referred to the Green Paper issued by the Study Group of the Labour Party on Higher and Further Education just a few weeks ago. There is quite specific reference to this matter. The name of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones and my own name appear on this Report. I think that he was rather more active in the deliberations of the Committee than I was. I am entirely in support of our section on the question of student finance, in which we point out that, given the escalating costs of the education budget, there will obviously be consideration of various methods of increasing resources by limiting the growth of public expenditure, and in this atmosphere proposals for a system of student loans or taxes will again be heard. Because we thought that this matter was likely to be raised in the financial situation in which the Government find themselves, we looked into the matter with care. We tried to examine the proposition objectively, and we also looked at a possible variance of it. Instead of straightforward repayments, for example, we thought that it could be possible to work out some system of special taxes for those who had the benefit of an advanced course of education, which would be related to the post-graduation income rather than the amount of the loan they had received, and would therefore be less unjust both to low wage earners and, as my noble friend Lord Greenwood pointed out, possibly to married women, who would be burdened with a negative dowry.

Having examined this and various other aspects of a possible loan system, and having looked at what happens in other countries—for example, in Sweden—we came to the conclusion that it would be a completely unsatisfactory way of dealing with it. The injustices at all levels would be intolerable, and it could also lead to distortions which none of us would regard as desirable. For example, if one extended this notion of a loan system to persons engaged in training for occupations which are nationally necessary (teaching, medicine, dentistry, and so forth), and the Government found that if there was a substantial loan element in the financing of such courses sufficient candidates were not coming forward, it seems to me that they would inevitably have to change the basis. They would say that we must have more teachers and more dentists; they will not come forward on this loan basis; therefore we shall have to go back to paying the entire cost of the course.

Then we might be reverting to the old discarded system of pledging yourself to teach, or whatever it might be, in return for outright payments instead of loans and so forth. We might also have a different sort of distortion. If we were to have, as is suggested in the White Paper, A Framework for Expansion, a new two-year diploma of higher education, and if one could get this more cheaply and therefore repay one's loans more easily, we might very well have people taking up a two-year course when they really ought to be taking up a three-year course, simply because they would then have a lesser loan burden to repay in future years. All kinds of possible distortions within the system could result, if people felt that in order to obtain their education they would have to burden themselves with loans in the future. There is a great deal more that one could say, particularly about the parental contribution and the way in which that, as a proportion of student maintenance costs, has increased over the past decade, so that per capita the proportion paid out of public funds has diminished. I am not speaking of the total amount, because the number of students has increased, but per student the calculations that I have seen indicate that trend. Therefore, for so many reasons, I believe that any suggestion of undertaking a loans supplement, just because at the present time we are in a somewhat difficult financial position nationally, would be ill advised and I hope very much will receive no support.

8.22 p.m.


My Lords, I suppose I have been an academic for something like 53 years. I went to the university as a young person of 16. I went in Wales to the college which, fortunately, was in the town where I lived. It was only because there was a university in the town where I lived—which was Aberystwyth—that I was able to go to the university, because my mother had been widowed, there was not much money and it was only by living at home that I could go there. There, thanks to the way in which my mother was prepared to sacrifice, I was able to get a university training. An uncle who had regarded himself as being, in effect, an adviser to my mother, said when I was 14 years old that it was time I left school and went to earn some money. In those days it was only with difficulty that one got a grant for going to the university. However, there was one way in which you could get a grant and that was by committing yourself to be a teacher. You could say, "Yes, I promise to be a teacher" and you were given a grant. You signed on the dotted line that when you left your university you would teach for two years or three years and that you would repay the money. Some of those who were a bit more astute—and, after all, the young who go to universities are not noticeably unintelligent—noticed that they were minors when they signed that undertaking and that, consequently, it was unenforceable, so they just ignored the condition under which they were given a grant, but the others obeyed it.

Over my period of life in the universities, until this system was abolished, I noticed the devastating effect that it had upon education. It was deplorable in every way. It was deplorable morally, because it meant that the astute, the unscrupulous let us say, "got away with it", whereas the ones who were prepared to abide by the apparent rules, which were not legally enforceable, were trapped by them. I remember that at the University of Reading, where I taught for a period of ten years, our students had first to take a general degree, which was a three-year course, before they took an Honours degree. The ones who did well and who happened to have this grant were faced with a choice: they either went into the Education Department at the end of the three years, or they paid for an extra year in order to get an Honours degree.

Are we really concerned with dispensing our education in this meagre, stingy way? It meant that those who could not afford it, or who were too scrupulous, did not get what they ought to have got, what all their ability, all their training, all their effort entitled them to get. Thank Heavens! we have abolished that system. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has asked this Question with the most admirable motives, but I assure him that if we go back to a system in which people have to borrow money to get education, we shall be going back fifty years in the whole educational training of this country. It would be a disastrous move. So although I can understand why he has put this suggestion forward, I believe it is something which should never be considered by a responsible Government.

When we look at what education is about, we find two different aspects. On the one hand, sitting in a Legislature, we ask ourselves: what is the benefit to the country in having an educational system, and a higher educational system? No one can deny that to-day we could not run the industry of this country, we could not run the whole of our commercial services and we could not run the whole of our Civil Service, without an advanced higher educational system. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, who is sitting with us to-night, put this extremely clearly in that Report which changed the whole attitude of this country towards higher education. It set a new pattern for it, a pattern that we should regard higher education as something that is vital to our continuance as a country of civilisation and of industrial and commercial significance.

These are things which we can accept to-day. We regard this as being normal. In other words, this is not something which we talk about and discuss any longer. We know perfectly well that a first-class higher education system—and by that I do not mean simply what was regarded as the old university system, but am including the whole polytechnic system, the whole range of higher and further education—is vital if this country is going to continue as a country of any significance in the modern world. Because do not let us forget for one moment that in Russia they are streets ahead of us in the volume of their higher education; that in America they are miles ahead of us in the volume (I do not say the standard, but in the volume) of their higher education and that if you look all over the world you will see that every country is concerned with this problem of having a sufficient quantity of higher education. If we do anything which interferes with higher education we are doing something which is cutting absolutely at the roots of our whole standard of living, of our whole civilisation in this country.

My Lords, this is the national outlook and, of course, in the Legislature we are concerned with the national outlook. But there is also something which is of concern to anyone who has been immersed in higher education, as I have been for what your Lordships may feel is too long, and that is the question of the individual in higher education. It is the question of the student, of the person who goes into higher education. I suppose I was not unusual. Most of us went into higher education with a glow and a feeling in our hearts that we were starting on something which was going to lead us to worlds which we could only vaguely conceive. We were going far beyond ourselves; we were going out into the unknown. My Lords, when young people do this, do not be surprised if they do all sorts of things of which we do not approve. Because that is the whole purpose of higher education. I do not expect any student who has worked under me to believe what I told him. I only hope that he may have got from me a little of the feeling and the enthusiasm for wanting to go out into the unknown and do something entirely new; and if, in his laboratory, he does something which is dangerous, as I have done and as a social scientist does in his laboratory, which is not the same as my laboratory, am I to be surprised? Am I to be shocked? Far from it. One should rather say that this is the purpose of our higher education: to open the mind, to let the person go ahead and do something which he feels or sees that he must do.

If we are going to do this we must surely say that we must give them a reasonable living grant. They do not ask for an enormous amount of money. They are not asking to be millionaires. My late wife was chairman of the committee in the city of Newcastle which dealt with grants, and she was constantly considering cases which came up. She met a number of working-class people there whom she knew very well, and they would come to her and say, "What about my son? He is doing quite well in school. Do you advise that he should go on to the university?" My wife would say, "Yes, of course", and would try to urge them. But the answer would be, "But if he goes to the university he will get a grant of only" (I think it was in those days)" £350 a year, whereas if he goes to work he can earn twice that amount. He is going to lose all that during the period that he is in the university". When one talks about students living well, it is nonsense. When one talks about the prospects for the future, of course they have prospects for the future, but then so does anyone who is prepared to study and work—and we should be prepared to give them the opportunity. But in this country at the present time, despite our system of grants and despite the fact that anyone can get a grant, on average the working-class children do not go to university. They do not go, not because they are incapable of passing the qualifications to get in but because they will be sacrificing too much over too long a time in order to profit by it. That is why they do not go.

My Lords, this is a very dangerous thing—extremely dangerous. Other countries have been progressing slowly towards our system. Do not let us turn back and look at America. Do not let us look anywhere else in the world. Let us look at our own past. Let us look to see what we have done well and to see that we can do it better. I would urge on the Government that this is a matter of absolute necessity. This is not a matter to quibble about. It has nothing to do with the freeze; it has nothing to do with any question of standards of that sort. It is an absolute necessity that the grant for students is brought up to the value that it had twelve years ago and which it does not have to-day. If the Government are not prepared to do that, the Government are shirking their responsibilities in higher education. I throw that challenge out to them. Do not let them for a moment imagine that they will get away with it. All the time—yes, all the time—it has been absolutely necessary for any Government to carry with them the educated opinion of the young people of the country; and if they do not do that they go down the drain.

8.38 p.m.


My Lords, like everyone else who has spoken, I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for giving us the opportunity to debate this matter to-night. And like every noble Lord and noble Baroness who has spoken, except the noble Viscount, I am in favour of increasing the grants but not in favour of doing it by allowance. There was an extremely interesting article in New Society of January 11 of this year, by a Mr. Ernest Rudd, which gave comparisons between the real value of the grant when the present system originated about ten years ago and its value to-day. That showed, roughly, that the value of the grant had gone up from between 38 per cent. and 48 per cent. during a period when the index of retail prices had gone up by 66 per cent.—and since then, of course, prices have risen very fast indeed. He gave other calculations, with which I will not weary your Lordships, making the point which the noble Baroness, Lady White, has already mentioned: that at the same time as the value of the grant was being eroded, the relative value of the parental contributions was rising. So the total cost as distributed between the individuals and their parents, on the one hand, and the local education authority, on the other, has tipped very much. It is clear that during this period students have been worse off and parents have been worse off.

What is the object of our present system? As I conceive it, it is to move in two directions: first, in the direction of equality of opportunity; and, secondly, in the direction of making the best use of our human resources. Whatever we think about equality, a difficult conception, I think that equality of opportunity is a concept to which almost every one will subscribe. We are still very far from it. The children who come from well-to-do homes and educated homes clearly have much greater opportunities than those who do not. We ought to move much further in the direction indicated in the Plowden Report. But, as children move up the educational ladder, if they survive as far as that, the system does, or did, become much more equal. On reaching university age, the original system was intended to put everybody on at least a reasonable living scale. It was a system which I think we can be justly proud of; a system that we could defend, not, as the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, said, so far as quantity was concerned, but so far as quality was concerned. We could be proud of it against all countries except possibly the Communist countries.

The effect of the changes that we have experienced over the last ten years is that we are gradually tipping the system back away from what I think was the admirable concept of putting all on an equal footing. If the grant is too small and the parental contributions have been increased, then we are again benefiting the children of the better off and damaging the children of the worse off.

Similar arguments apply to what I consider the second purpose of the system, to make the best use of our human resources. Clearly, the bigger the catchment area from which you are drawing for higher education, the more likely you are to get in all the best people. Again, it seems to me that it is a retrograde development, although, with Governments economically-minded, not perhaps a very conscious one; but the fact is that the grants have not kept up with the cost of living and at the same time the real burden on the parents has increased. Therefore, I agree strongly with the speakers who hope that the Government are going to look at this question again. I think that there are really strong general arguments for going back to the system as it was originally intended to operate.

My Lords, the second part of Lord Hanworth's argument was about loans. At this late hour I will not repeat the arguments which have already been put forward against a loans system. It would be extremely difficult to operate; we should get very little money out of it and, more important, the concept behind it (which seems to imply that the purpose of education is to benefit the student or his family) is quite wrong. The purpose of the system is to make the best use of our resources. If you require the student to pay something back then you are returning to the pre-1939 system when those with enough money got a university education and those without (unless they were scholars) did not. After repaying a small loan they might say that they were "quits"—when what I think should be stressed should be their duty to the community in return for what they have been given.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, thought loans would have an advantage in that they would not breach the pay code. As I am very much in favour of the present Government's anti-inflation policy I was rather shaken by this; and thought that loans were better than nothing. But I have looked hastily through the document we have had this afternoon and I do not think there is anything there about grants. Therefore, if the Government want to do so, they could assimilate them with social security payments. But paragraph 83 reminds us that the pay limit is £1 per week per head plus 4 per cent. of the average pay bill. I can say that if you made a special case of the students, then everybody else who had a special case—and there are a good many of them—would come up Four per cent. is not much good to the student but £1 a head would be quite a lot. In fact, the wise provision that it should be slanted towards the least well paid could make quite a large contribution in this case; so if you were worried about presentation you could say you were keeping to the code.

My final point is that I should like very much to support the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, that the Government should look again at the whole question of parental contribution—in relation not only to the arguments already put forward but to the whole system of parental contributions, which to my mind is an anomalous one. Parents are taxed according to their income. Part of the purpose of that tax is to pay for the educational system. There is a sort of double burden on those who have little money and who are unfortunate enough to have a child at university. It is not like primary and secondary education or the National Health Service. In those cases if you want to pay, you can do so; but you have an option of not paying. When it comes to the university, you do not have that option. As has been said already, the Government are looking at this is the moment; but I hope very much that they will look at the points mentioned to-night at the way the scheme was originally supposed to work, how it has been eroded, and the desirability on all possible grounds of getting back to the original concept and not slowly sliding from that towards the bad system where your education was dependent on your parent's money.

8.49 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord who raised the Question has done his best to make it appear disarming. He has shown a good deal of sympathy with the hard-pressed student. Nevertheless, I believe that the principle he advances is bad and dangerous—bad because it is stirring up trouble for the future. I am told that when the mandatory system of grants was introduced in 1962, the maximum hall-related grant at redbrick universities was £380. Now, ten inflationary years later, it is £445 and the National Union of Students calculate that the shortfall is about £80. Suppose the principle of pegging the grant rate had been adopted in 1962 and the rest was to be had on loan, the poorest first-year student to-day would be incurring a debt of £145 a year; and, allowing for a little further inflation during his remaining years at the university, he would accumulate a total debt of something like £500. So the question we have to ask to-day is what would be the position of the student in 1983 if the noble Lord's proposal was accepted? Because once the loan principle is accepted, I am sure that the grants will never be raised again. Students in fact would be eligible for a form of supplementary benefit but a benefit all of which would be repayable. That is why I think it is bad in principle.

I also said that the principle is dangerous. It is dangerous because this is merely the most modest of proposals for making people from poorer families contribute to the cost of their student years. I am sure that if we went along with it to-day it would stimulate even harsher demands. This idea of making loans to students instead of grants has been around for ten years or more. I have been fighting against it in several newspaper offices over those years. It has attracted Conservatives because it would be a cut in public expenditure; and even some people in my own Party have flirted with the idea because it can be stretched to fit some kind of idea of equality. They say that young people who receive a superior education will certainly enjoy higher earnings than those who do not do so and they ask, "Is it not fair that out of their earnings they should pay retrospectively some of the cost of their higher education?". It is a rather spurious argument. For one thing, the moment graduates start earning, like the rest of us they pay a substantial sum in tax. The moment a graduate leaves the university he pays a fair share of the cost of education and contributes to other public expenditure and will do so for the rest of his working life. Over the early years, many graduate jobs are ill-paid. The average male industrial earnings to-day amount to something like £35 a week. A graduate schoolteacher, unless he is lucky and gets some form of promotion, does not reach that average until he starts his sixth year of teaching. There are other professions, such as law and accountancy, where it takes some years to attain the standard of living of the prosperous factory worker.

My Lords, I view with horror the idea of young people starting out in life with a debt, the whole or a great deal of which was put upon them in the form of a loan, amounting to £1,000 or more. I am appalled at the idea of introducing into the educational system a system of "Learn now—pay later". A system like this would certainly reduce our educational expenditure, but largely because many young people would prefer not to go to a university if it meant that they had to start life in debt. I know that from personal experience. What was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, applied exactly to me. I could have gone to university with a training grant, if I had been willing, at the age of 17 or 18, to decide that I was going to be a teacher. But as I understood it in those days, the condition of the grant was that if I did not become a teacher I should be liable to repay the grant to the local authority. I was unable to face what at that age seemed to me to be the grisly alternative of either becoming a teacher or paying back the money. So I am the only non-graduate taking part in this debate, and indeed I may say that all the other graduates are graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, though the last two speakers I think went there in "Phase 2" of their education, if I may use that phrase.

As has been pointed out, the situation of the debt-ridden graduate will be even worse if he or she marries another debt-ridden graduate. My noble friend spoke of a negative dowry. I see it in another way. The graduate bride going to the altar will have not merely a veil on her head; she will have a price on her head, too. How the young graduate couple loaded with a debt are ever going to acquire a house at current or future prices and start a family, God only knows! So when is the debt to be collected? Only perhaps when the children are grown up and are building up debts for themselves at university.

There is another thing to remember. It is that the boys and girls from the poorest homes will require the largest loans and so will incur the largest debts. Very often many of these people feel that they have another debt to repay, that is, to their parents. Whatever the loan or grant even in to-day's conditions, no student from a poor home can go to university without there being some parental sacrifice; and the decent instinct of many young people when they start earning is to try to pay back a part of this debt. Indeed, these filial obligations may last for many years. I believe that this proposal, which sounds so benevolent, is a rather horrid thing for society to do to its young people. It is said that it is done in Socialist Sweden. If that is true it is a blot on the Swedish Welfare State which we ought not to make on ours.

The cost of maintaining so many undergraduates is, of course, high. But, surely, as one or two noble Lords have said, we did not embark on university expansion simply because we wanted to give young people an opportunity of being educated up to their intellectual and academic abilities. That beautiful motive was in our minds, of course, but it was not the only one, the compelling one. Surely, the compelling one was that in a country which depends for its standard of living on its investment, its technological, commercial and banking skills, we must have a sufficient number of people trained and educated to exercise those skills. It puts a heavy burden on society, but it enables society to bear that burden, and indeed to profit from the additional wealth that the educated members of the community are able to create. The question is not whether we can afford to keep up the expansion; it is whether we can afford a contraction, and that, I am sure, is what a loan scheme would bring about.

Students are not always lovable to-day, but we do not deny justice to people simply because they are unlovable. There are quite a few old-age pensioners who sometimes come on deputations who are not exactly charming. But whatever we may blame students for—and we may blame them for all kinds of things, for inadequate dress, untidy speech, or rather too fierce demonstrations—there is one thing for which we cannot blame them, even the most militant Marxist or Maoist; that is, we cannot blame them for the inflation. They did not cause it; they are suffering from it and I think it is up to the Government to see that they do not suffer for too long.

9.0 p.m.


My Lords, I must declare an interest. Although I am expressing solely my own views, I am this year Vice-Chairman of the Vice-Chancellors' Committee, and, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, has kindly pointed out, three times since July the Vice-Chancellors have petitioned the Government to do something about students' grants and three times the Government have refused even to consider the matter. In so doing, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberthall, pointed out, they have totally breached the Anderson principle on which is based the whole system of student support and, what is rather embarrassing for the university authorities, on which is based the whole system of charges to students.

Students' grants are the only part of university finance which is unprotected against inflation. The dons are protected by pay reviews. So are the technicians and the supporting staff; and when their wages are raised the universities get increased supplementary grants. Only the students are defenceless. What is more, again as the noble Lord, Lord Robert-hall, emphasised, the Exchequer has gained substantially from the effect of inflation upon the means test. That test starting at £1,100, there must be very few parents left who are not liable to pay something; and I regret to say that there are a considerable number who refuse to pay what they should pay, with the result that students are hit twice over.

What can be done? The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, has suggested a scheme this evening which I am afraid has not met with much support, certainly not from me. I do not think that loans are the answer, and if they are to be introduced, in part or wholly, instead of grants, it needs to be done as part of a considered policy and not smuggled in as an emergency measure. I do not want to go over the admirable arguments against loans which have been made tonight, because the points have already been made. I will just add one more cynical point which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may care also to consider: it is that one of the disadvantages of introducing loans is that if the Secretary of State were to introduce such a measure she would not reap the harvest that she had sown; it would be reaped by her successor in seven years' time. That is the person who would gather in the receipts. Perhaps as a result, the Government's White Paper on education was conspicuous for what it did not say as well as for what it said. It made the point that various things should be done in higher education, but it remained silent as the grave on the question of loans. I should like to congratulate the Secretary of State on her decision on this issue. Because it is clear from the White Paper that loans are not to be introduced and I ask her to stick to that.

My Lords, it does not look as if the Government are going to be moved by the appeals that have been made continuously, and have been made this evening in your Lordships' House. If they restored the full value of the grant, I calculate that this would cost them £36 million. Again, I saw my friend the Vice-Chancellor of Newcastle in The Times on Saturday urging the Government that if they were prepared to allow all workers a pay increase of £1 a week, plus 4 per cent., they surely would be willing to institute that additional rise for students. I calculate that that would cost about £26 million. I think the universities must be realistic in this matter. We are not going to get what we think is right and proper, because the Government are in a situation where they are having to institute cuts in expenditure in view of devaluation, and they have before them a long list of special cases. Although I think this special case is a particularly good one, I have to recognise, as a Vice Chancellor, that we are probably unlikely to get away with it.

Another factor is that the Secretary of State had her White Paper expenditure approved by the Cabinet last autumn, and now others among her colleagues in the Cabinet are determined to get her feet out of the trough and their feet into it when it comes to expenditure. When in negotiation, if you cannot get the bigger deal, is it not worth while seeing if you can get a smaller one? It may be inequitable, it may be derisory, but is not something better than nothing? So I ask the Government to-night whether we can persuade them to pay out a much smaller sum. One way to approach this matter would be to do exactly what Mr. Crosland did when he increased the overseas students' fees. Your Lordships remember that he then had to deal with an attack which was based on cases of hardship. What he did was to set up an eleemosynary fund for cases of hardship. I must admit that the administration of that scheme in universities was a nightmare; but I am sure I speak for my colleagues when I say that we should be willing to work such a hardship scheme, even if it had the disadvantage of imposing yet another means test. At any rate, it would have the benefits that it would be equitable, in the sense that one would try to find out which were the hardest hit students and do something about them.


My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that the Government are incapable of responding to argument?


My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, that Governments cannot always respond to the case for maximum support which is put to them. Very good cases for support are argued all the time by every conceivable pressure group which is concerned with public expenditure and increasing the public expenditure in their sector. All I am trying to do is to find some way in which we can get some money allocated to support for students; and that, I should have thought, was certainly one of our objects this evening.


My Lords, what the noble Lord is saying is most important because of his position, and perhaps I might ask him this. Is he giving a sticking point at the £26 million? Is it only the difference between the £26 million and the £36 million that might conceivably be met in certain instances by his eleemosynary fund? I think it is important to know where the noble Lord sticks.


My Lords, may I try to enlighten the noble Baroness? I am going far further than that. I want to make it plain to the noble Baroness, and to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that I stand behind every other speaker in this House in asking that the full amount of £36 million be paid for student grants. I do not want any misrepresentation of my views on this matter. It is extremely important that it should be understood that this is the stand that the Vice Chancellors' Committee have taken, although, as I say, I am speaking solely for myself. I should not wish there to be any delusion on this matter. What I am now saying is that if you cannot get a Government to move on a claim of this sort, is it not worth while trying to get them to move for some smaller amount? Therefore I suggested the possibility of setting up an eleemosynary fund.

My Lords, I now go on to a second suggestion, which from my point of view is less palatable but for which I believe that there may be some hope. I noticed on Sunday, for instance, that that well-informed lady, Miss Nora Beloff, referred to subsidies on halls of residence and refectories. I am bound to say I think this would be a very inequitable scheme to put forward—very inequitable. There are many students who live in lodgings and they would benefit comparatively little from such a scheme—perhaps by no more than £5 out of the £65—whereas those who lived in halls of residence and ate their meals there would benefit much more. But again, something, however inadequate and inequitable, may perhaps be better than nothing. Therefore, I would ask the Government to explore the possibility of these halls of residence and refectories in universities being brought into line with other institutions in the public sector such as hostels, and being permitted to set against their corporate funds such items as heat, light, the replace ment of equipment and indeed a proportion of direct labour costs.

I do not know whether all your Lordships recognise that the financial regulations which govern refectories and residential blocks in universities are based fundamentally on the reasoning of the Royal Commission of 1923 dealing with Oxford and Cambridge. In those days the Commissioners were determined to see that the revenues of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges were devoted to education, religion, learning and research and not to enabling the dons to eat oysters at high table every night. As a result, very stringent and strict regulations governing the expenditure in these fields were laid down. It is these regulations which govern universities in these matters. We are forced to set all sorts of items of expenditure against the income which universities derive from direct charges to students instead of setting them against corporate revenue, as other institutions can. Therefore, I should like to ask the Government whether they would not give universities a subsidy of, say, between £5 million and £10 million to bring them into line with the system of charging for accommodation and refectory service in other comparable institutions. As I said, this is a very inequitable solution. Students in lodgings would benefit only to the tune of about £5, but they could benefit more if they ate their meals regularly in refectories. Those in university accommodation would benefit very considerably.

Of course, I recognise that the Secretary of State might demand a quid pro quo in that such a subsidy would be made available by the U.G.C. only in universities where no rent strikes were operated. Only twenty-three (under half) of our university institutions are affected by strikes and it may well be that a Vice-Chancellor would be required to certify that a normal situation prevails as regards the payment due in respect of refectories and accommodation before the subsidy could be granted. But this would enable the individual student unions to judge whether or not they wanted the subsidy and the relief it would afford. It would be up to them to choose, and if they decided to reject it the choice would be theirs, and they would be absolutely free agents in this matter. I think it is very important that they should be given this opportunity, if any scheme of this kind should be put into operation.

I have tried this evening to do something more than just put the formal strong case which has been made from all quarters of your Lordships' House for the full amount of the grants to be paid. I recognise that in so doing I am giving hostages to fortune, but I would rather give a hostage to fortune and have some chance of success than have no chance of success whatsoever. Therefore, I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, to consider the suggestions and ask his right honourable friend the Secretary of State also to consider them. May I ask him, further, whether he could give an assurance that if the Government are willing to consider any of these suggestions they would give the Vice-Chancellors' Committee the opportunity of being consulted on the matter, together with the National Union of Students? Finalily, my Lords, I should like to emphasise that what the Vice-Chancellors want is no interim solution of these matters. What they want is what they view as the only right and equitable solution, not merely from the point of view of individual students but from that of the whole system of higher education itself; namely, the payment of the full grant.

9.14 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships' House for not having put my name down on the list of speakers, but I have returned from a journey abroad only in the past 12 hours. May I also be excused if, in the few remarks that I make, I do not follow the noble Lord, Lord Annan, in his severely practical proposals, but descend once more into the realms of high principle on which your Lordships have been discoursing during the greater part of this very interesting debate. There have been a number of propositions put forward with which I find myself in complete agreement. I find myself in complete agreement with the proposition that the real value of student grants has diminished because the money grant has not kept pace with inflation. That seems an absolutely incontestable proposition. How matters should be met, whether they should be met in full, or by partial solutions of the kind the noble Lord, Lord Annan, hinted at, is a matter that I do not wish to discuss.

The proposition has been put forward that the discretionary grant system gives rise to grave anomalies. I agree. I see very little justification for the retention of that element in the system—whether or not this is the moment to abolish it is another question. For a very long time I have felt that the parental means test was a relic of the past which might well be dropped when it was found to be financially possible and expedient. As for the treatment of married women, I agree with every word that has been said by those who have denounced the present practice, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, said, is in a sense an indirect subsidy to living in sin. On all these matters I find myself in agreement with the consensus of opinion which has been expressed in various speeches this evening. But when the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was criticised for the second part of his proposition, I thought there was released in your Lordships' House such a crowd of red herrings as I have not seen for a very long time—a complete misapprehension of the implication of the new pair of trousers that the noble Lord was asking the Government to step into.

If I may, I should like to take up three or four moments in elucidating a little of what I have in mind. May I start from the proposition which was advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. The noble Baroness based part of her case against loans—and I ask your Lordships to notice that I am not defending loans at this juncture—on the comparison between the free entry (which many of us have striven to defend) to museums and galleries, and free higher education. This is surely a complete non sequitur. The National Gallery is open to all in the land; the universities and polytechnics are selective.


My Lords, if I may interrupt, I think the noble Lord has muddled my remarks. I never mentioned museums, and I did not discuss loans.


My Lords, I beg the noble Baroness's pardon; I thought she mentioned the controversy with regard to charges, and represented the proposal of the noble Viscount as an encroachment on the principle of freedom. Perhaps I injected into her argument my own apprehensions about the imposition of charges on galleries. Certainly there is no analogy there. The educational system is highly selective; the people who are selected for the benefits of higher education are a minority of the population and, during the period of their education, capital is invested in them which is not placed for the benefit of other members of the population.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on that point? Would he agree that the capital that is invested bears very little relation to the grant that is given? The capital invested is about £1,500 per annum.


I am coming to that point in a moment, my Lords. I said that I was not defending loans in the sense in which they have been denounced by successive speakers, from the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, onwards. I know all the arguments, if your Lordships will forgive me for saying so, against loans in the old-fashioned sense—indeed, I fancy that I invented the term, "negative dowry". Of course I would agree with the proposition which has been put forward that loans in that sense burden the young with indebtedness which they will endeavour in various devious ways to evade, and that this burden of indebtedness is extremely unfair on people who go into occupations which are less well paid—or less well paid at an early stage—than other occupations that they might enter.

All this is so jugé, I suggest, among those who have examined these matters at all carefully. But what the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was suggesting was surely something quite other, and, if I do not misunderstand him (and I have had no opportunity for conversation with him on this subject in recent months), what he is suggesting is in fact a system of repayable advances suggested by Professor Prest, who is certainly one of the greatest authorities on public finance in the country, the repayment to depend essentially upon the achievement of a higher income level than the average level, which presumably therefore can be regarded in some degree as a return on the investment which has been made.

The Prest system would let out the woman who wished to be a wife and a mother rather than to go into a profession; she would not have a negative dowry hanging round her neck under the Prest system. The Prest system would exempt the talented man who chose to become a clergyman rather than a barrister. The Prest system would not bear hardly on the poverty-stricken young lawyer struggling to become a successful barrister. The Prest system, and the system which is implicit certainly in the words of the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, would simply require some repayment from those who have been privileged at the expense of others and whose incomes are thereby made higher than those of others; and, for the life of me, although I am not suggesting that this should be introduced at this moment—I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Annan, that if you were to introduce that sort of thing it should be part of a considered scheme—yet it seems to me, with the greatest respect in the world to the preceding speakers, that for the most part they have been barking completely up the wrong tree in this connection. I earnestly recommend those in your Lordships' House who are interested in the finance of higher education to pay a little attention not only to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, but also to Professor Prest.

9.24 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, for asking this Question because it raises two important issues which it may be convenient to separate, as I think most of us have done: first, should the level of student support be raised to take account of recent inflation, and second, should any such increase be implemented by means of a supplementary loan rather than an increase in grant? In saying that, it does not mean that I have not listened with the greatest care to—and I hope profited by—what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has also just said. May I first take the question of the level of the grant. Grants are reviewed every three years, as we all know, and the current triennium, as we also know, covers the academic years 1971–74. In all, the Government provided the figure which the noble Viscount mentioned—£76 million—for improvements in the grants structure, and most of this, but not all, went into improvements in the basic grant rates. For instance, the level of grant for students living away from home to attend universities other than Oxford, Cambridge and London was raised by 13.1 per cent. in the first year and 22.3 per cent. for the whole of the three-year period.

If I understood the noble Viscount correctly he criticised both the allocation of the global sum and also its subsequent subdivisions. In answer to that, may I just remind the House that stage one of the arrangements for this three-year period was a purely fact-finding operation in which the students were involved for the first time; that stage two was a Government decision, after discussion with the local authorities, to allocate the £76 million, a decision taken with the knowledge which had been discovered in stage one; and that finally, by negotiation and discussion between the Government, the local authorities, the Vice-Chancellors and Principals, and the student bodies, ways and means were decided for allocating the total sum. I am not going to affirm that this is the only method for reaching a triennial grants settlement, but may I ask your Lordships, in fairness, to compare this process with arrangements for previous triennial reviews, when an independent advisory panel would be set up which would make recommendations in the way indicated by the noble Viscount. And then what would happen? At every review the Government would arbitrarily reduce the rate of improvements which had been recommended.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, said that students had been treated very unjustly. The fact of the matter is that the language of education is the language of priorities as all Governments know, and in 1970 the process was self-evidently as fair to all the parties concerned as it was then possible to arrange. In saying that, may I express my appreciation, none the less, for the way in which your Lordships, many of whom have great experience of higher education, have spoken in this debate? I believe that from all sides of the House it has been a constructive debate, and I, at least, have very much appreciated that. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, put two points, one about a special fund and the other that the universities should be brought into line with the public sector in respect of lodgings and refectory services. I do not think that the noble Lord would expect me to give an answer in a moment's time, but I shall give him two assurances. One which he asked for, is that the Vice-Chancellors and Principals will be properly consulted in forthcoming negotiations. My Lords I certainly and gladly give that assurance to the noble Lord; and the second is that I will personally draw the attention of my right honourable friend to the remarks of the noble Lord, not only in his main speech but also in the exchanges which occurred subsequently.

Since the review, it is true that there have been general rises in student costs. These will be taken into account in the next triennial settlement which will apply to the period 1974 to 1977. In spite of these rises, for reasons which I shall try to advance now, I do not believe that the level of grant is insufficient to enable students to undertake their chosen course of study. But what I should like to say to the House is that my right honourable friend is keeping a careful watch on the position and is listening carefully to the views which are being put forward. For that reason, I hope that the noble Viscount will not think that although he has had to wait for a time for this postponed debate to take place it has been in any sense a waste of time.

May I refer to two particular problems? The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, mentioned students who are living in university halls of residence which are charging higher than average fees and who have a particular difficulty. It is a difficulty which I concede and with which I sympathise. The University Grants Committee have recently conducted a survey of hall costs and the results are now being evaluated. When that has been completed, which should be quite shortly now, we shall be in a position to see what the facts are and whether any special action ought to be taken. Meanwhile I am sure that universities will examine their position very carefully to see how costs can be kept down, and I say that in the context that standards of halls of residence vary quite considerably.

Another difficulty arises when students do not receive the fully assessed parental contribution. Several noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, mentioned that. I appreciate and fully sympathise with the problems of a student in that situation. It is sometimes urged that all students should be treated as independent and that parents should no longer be required to make any contribution at all. I have my doubts whether that is desirable in principle. I know, in saying that, that your Lordships may not agree with what I say. But in any case abolition of the parental contribution really would throw a pretty substantial additional burden on public funds. Various figures have been thrown about in past months, but what we know is that it was probably about £35 million in 1971 and it would be considerably more now. I am sure taxpayers and ratepayers would not wish to see sums of that order added to the bill they already have to meet, if it could be helped. If such sums could be made available, there are other items in the educational field which would have to be considered in competition. These are some of the problems.

Might I remind the House of what the Government have tried to do to meet some of the problems? First there was the £76 million settlement on the general improvement of the grant structure, and for all universities this meant a quite considerable rise. I gave the percentage —22.3 per cent. for the provincial universities. And, of course, the steepest part of the rise came in the first year and was meant to be as I hope it was, helpful. As I have described, the rates were decided only after we had a joint working group of my right honourable friend's Department, the Scottish Education Department and the student bodies, who carried out a fact-finding study on price levels since the previous review, and this fact-finding study related to costs for students. So, in a sense, if I might answer the noble Baroness, Lady White, the students' cost-of-living index entered into the calculations on that occasion.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, the point is that things do not stand still in the present circumstances during the triennium, and therefore it becomes out-of-date and correspondingly irrelevant. That is the whole burden of the argument.


My Lords, I do not deny that, but the noble Baroness, if she will forgive my saying so, spoke as though a cost-of-living index was needed and had not in fact existed at all. If I am misrepresenting the noble Baroness, I apologise.


I could not have made myself clear, my Lords. My emphasis was that unless you have, not a static examination once every three years, but a continuous examination at least once a year, you cannot keep pace with the changes in the value of money, and therefore your grant system is based on inadequate facts.


My Lords, might I try to reformulate that in more general terms? Would the noble Lord not agree that in earlier years we all thought that rolling triennia, systems of that sort, were superior to year-to-year grants, with all the disadvantages the noble Lord has mentioned? But the fundamental fact is that that enlightened system is defeated all along the line by inflation. That is the fundamental point.


My Lords, I first of all apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady White, who has now made herself entirely clear. The only difficulty is that if the noble Baroness's own Party had made itself clear on this subject, life would be easier now. I do not make a political point out of this. There was a difficulty, as I said before the noble Lord, Lord Hoy, came in, which both Governments have had to face— that the language of education is the language of priorities.

In addition to the fact-finding study which was undertaken, there was also a review of charges at halls of residence. This was undertaken independently by the students themselves. The noble Viscount in his opening speech mentioned that halls of residence charges were held down in the early part of the 1968–71 triennium as a result of the prices and incomes freeze at that time. It was in fact precisely because these charges were artificially low in 1970 when the review was undertaken that an additional £15 was added to the figure recommended for the provincial rate. The recommendations of that Working Party were accepted. I concede immediately, before the noble Lord, Lord Annan, tells me, that all parties to the agreement would very much have liked more. Nevertheless, that agreement of 1970 was accepted by the Vice-Chancellors, the local education authorities, the student bodies and the Government.


My Lords, I must interrupt on that. It is perfectly true that we agreed to it, but immediately the settlement was made the Vice-Chancellor's Committee said it was inadequate.


My Lords, the noble Lord has made himself clear on that. All I am saying is that it was accepted at the time, and it had been arrived at through a series of three stages, which were in all respects superior to the sort of machinery which had gone before. I see that the noble Lord is nodding. On that occasion, I think it can be said that it was as reasonably fair a settlement as could possibly have been reached on that occasion. The difficulty is the one which the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has put to me and to the noble Baroness, Lady White.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, spoke of the parental cost of the total grant increases. I would not for one minute contradict what the noble Lord said, and I think that the noble Baroness, Lady White, mentioned this too. This is due considerably to the increase in wages and salaries in an inflationary situation, but the scale will certainly be looked at at the next review. I will also see that the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, are noted. I was a little surprised that she mentioned the inequities of the parental scale continuing until a man is of the age of 25. It is different for a woman student. The age which pertains for a woman student is 21, which is perhaps discrimination in another direction, and one more acceptable to the noble Baroness.

At the review, the position of parental contributions was improved. The threshold went up from £900 to £1,100; the contributions are reduced until the parents residual income reaches £1,700, when the contribution continues at the previous rate. I concede that difficulty can be caused if a parent will not pay the contribution required, but the 1971 review brought help to where it was most needed; to those on lower incomes. Finally, the review improved allowances for a student's dependants and, with the amendment put in by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, the package was accepted.

Your Lordships may have in mind cases of hardship which you do not believe fall within the circumstances I have mentioned to the House. There is, in addition, in the general grant structure a power for local education authorities to make additional vacation grants for hardship up to £6.55 per week. There is also the situation which the House has debated recently where students take on extra responsibilities, such as marrying and having children while still on their course. This situation is being dealt with by the small Education Bill which has been debated in this House and is now in another place.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood of Rossendale, mentioned the matter of discretionary grants, and gave it as his opinion that they should be mandatory. He was calling for a system in England and Wales broadly similar to that in Scotland, where for non-advanced courses local education authorities have discretion about the making of awards, and once that decision has been taken the award has to be in accordance with the regulations laid down by the Scottish Education Department. One further point I was not sure about was whether the noble Lord was asking for complete parity of rates between discretionary and mandatory, or parity of certain elements such as board and lodging, which I think is what happens in the Scottish situation.

Recently the Expenditure Committee on Further and Higher Education in the House of Commons said: In view of the enormous number of courses available, we are sure that some exercise of discretion will always prove necessary. Despite all that the noble Lord said, I do not think that he would dissent fundamentally from that. The Committee then said: The problem, in our view, lies in the anomalies as between one authority and another. May I remind the House that in Circular 571 my right honourable friend has laid down guidelines for the use of their discretion by local education authorities. In particular, he gave us the reminder—which point was also touched on by the noble Lord—that the cost of a student's maintenance is related to the place where he is living, not to the level of the course he is taking. But the courses we are talking about vary from G.C.E., "O" or "A" levels, to H.N.D. courses, and, although I know that my right honourable friend is always prepared to listen to representations, the consequences of adopting a system of mandatory rates, where the making of the award is discretionary, could have results which I do not think have beeen made entirely clear during the debate this evening.

The noble Lord, Lord Greenwood, the noble Baronesses, Lady Seear and Lady White, and other noble Lords all spoke about married women students. The rates of grants for married women students on full-time courses are the same as the rates for other students, except in the case of a woman living at home with her husband, when he is neither a full-time student nor incapacitated and dependent upon her. For the single category of married woman at home, it is perfectly true that the rate is £275 and has remained so since 1965. I think it is undeniable—and I listened carefully to what noble Lords, not least the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, said—that this particular grant has come low on the priority list and remained unchanged in 1968 and again in 1970. In practice, the argument is that a husband's earnings are there to keep his wife and family, as they should be for families, and this is why widowed, divorced or separated women students are treated differently, and received increases in grants for this triennium, but when a married woman must live away from home for study she receives the same rate as any other student. But I have listened carefully to what your Lordships, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, have said about the effect of the married women's grant on older women. In another place, my honourable friend Mr. St. John-Stevas has said that we shall be looking at this matter, and at this juncture there is nothing further that I wish to add.

May I turn quickly to loans? It is very much open to question whether there is need to supplement the present grants by means of loans. The issues are complicated and require a good deal more study by anybody who supports this sug- gestion. But, in essence, I think the main considerations are these. The British system of three-year degree courses is shorter than comparable courses elsewhere, and the system of guaranteed support in the form of grants is unique. I must say—and I say this purely on personal grounds; there is no question of policy in what I say—that I was a little sad that such a hail of criticism descended upon the noble Viscount's head. He obviously has a point and has thought about it very carefully indeed, and if my researches are correct there is a loan element in student support in such countries as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Holland, West Germany, Canada, Japan and the United States of America. So one feels there might be a point in what the noble Viscount was putting forward.


My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that in those countries which have some loan element in their higher educational system, they have progressed from a point where no student grants were given at all? That was certainly true in Denmark when I worked there fifty years ago.


My Lords, I shall certainly take that from the noble Lord, but the point is that their systems are not the same as our system. All I am saying is that, on personal grounds, I was a little surprised at the hail of criticism which descended upon the noble Viscount's suggestions. If I may make the Government's present position clear, the Department has been looking into the question of loans for post-graduate students in substitution for part of grants. A scheme for undergraduates would, however, raise entirely separate issues.

My Lords, in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has said, which has gone far wider and deeper than I am capable of going, I really do not think I would wish to add anything more on the question of loans except just one point, and that is this. I understand and appreciate the ordinary, administrative, mechanical difficulties which some noble Lords queried, one after another, in what they held to be or thought to be the noble Viscount's suggestions. If I may pick out one only, because it was mentioned only once, I think, as I listened to the noble Viscount and then heard the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, talking about being trapped by the loan system. I was not sure of the effect on an undergraduate who progressed on to postgraduate work. If he raised a loan at both levels of study, his financial burden, it seemed to me as I listened to the noble Lords, Lord Wynne-Jones and Lord Ardwick, might very well become considerable; and even if he did not do so, the period before he would be in a position to start making repayments if he had then gone to the postgraduate level would be considerably delayed.

My Lords, I echo only that one reservation but there are many other reservations before the House and they have all to be taken into account. They lead the Government to feel unable to accept the terms of the noble Viscount's Question this evening, but this does not mean that my right honourable friend will not share the interest of the House in the general argument which has been put forward by the noble Viscount. For there is, finally, the suggestion which he has made that more and more young people enter higher education without a sense of purpose, and that the introduction of a loan scheme might encourage them to think more sharply about their reasons for going to a university or a college. I think it is likely that, if such a scheme were to be introduced, some people would be faced with having to think more seriously about their future than is perhaps now the case. I am not altogether certain, however, that this would be a significant proportion, or that those who decided not to proceed with higher education because of the financial obligations to which they would be bound would necessarily be taking the right decision in their own or the country's best interests. It is certainly true that not all sixth-formers entering a university or a college can say at the time, with confidence, why they want to do so.

Perhaps I may end by reminding your Lordships of what my right honourable friend said on the subject in her recent White Paper, Education: A framework for Expansion. The White Paper said: The motives that impel sixth-formers to seek higher education are many, various and seldom clear-cut. A minority wish to continue for its own sake the study in depth of a specialised subject to the top of their bent. It is crucial for the world of scholarship, research and invention that their needs should be met. This has always been a leading function of the universities and must remain so. Some students have a specific career in mind. A larger number are anxious to develop over a wider field what the Robbins Committee called 'the general powers of the mind', but not without questioning whether a specialised honours degree course is the best way of achieving it. Some ask for no more than a stimulating opportunity to come to terms with themselves, and to discover where their real interests and abilities lie. Others have no better reason than involuntarily to fall in with the advice of their teachers and the example of their contemporaries. But not far from the surface of most candidates' minds is the tacit belief that higher education will go far to guarantee them a better job. All expect it to prepare them to cope more successfully with the problems that will confront them in their personal, social and working lives". My Lords, for many this is the blueprint of the plan for their own careers; and, in mentioning a blueprint, I do not think that the noble Viscount was quite fair to himself or to a speech which he made on universities just over a year ago. I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, will find in the passage I have just quoted an echo of what he himself said in this House a year ago. For him, if I remember rightly, the aims of higher education were, broadly, three-fold: to train future academics and research workers; to give students training that will be useful in their work afterwards and of direct benefit to the nation; and to develop intellectual ability and to make, students happier and better potential citizens. I think it must be the aim of all our higher education institutions to make their distinctive contributions to these objectives.