HL Deb 21 May 1985 vol 464 cc171-83

3.42 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the development of higher education into the 1990s which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Statement is as follows:

"I wish to make a Statement about the Green Paper published today on the future development of higher education. Copies of the Green Paper are available in the Vote Office. The Green Paper covers the United Kingdom as a whole and I am therefore speaking with the agreement of my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

"The purposes of the Green Paper are to present the Government's thinking on future development of higher education, to set the scene for the next decade, and to invite the views both of those involved in higher education and of the taxpayers and ratepayers who finance so much of the cost.

"The paper has been prepared in the light of advice on future strategy from the University Grants Committee and from the National Advisory Body for Public Sector Higher Education in England, published last September. In Scotland a review of strategy and of planning and funding arrangements for higher education is being undertaken by the Scottish Tertiary Education Advisory Council. The application in Scotland of the policies addressed in the paper will be considered in the light of the council's advice, which will be available later this year.

"As well as reaffirming the view of the aims and purposes of higher education defined in the Robbins Report in 1963, the Government believe that it is vital for our higher education to contribute more effectively to the improvement of the performance of the economy. This is not because the Government place a low value on the general cultural benefits of education and research or on study of the humanities. The reason is simply that, unless the country's economic performance improves, we shall be even less able than now to afford many of the things we value most—including education for pleasure and general culture and the financing of scholarship and research as an end in itself. The Green Paper therefore emphasises the need for higher education to become more responsive to changing industrial and commercial circumstances, and the importance of close links between higher education on the one hand and business, the professions and the public services on the other.

"Since 1963 successive governments have endorsed the so-called 'Robbins principle' that 'courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so'. The UGC and the NAB have advised that qualification for higher education should be interpreted broadly and that the test should not be paper qualifications but 'ability to benefit'. So long as the taxpayer continues to bear most of the cost of higher education, however, the benefit has to be sufficient to justify the cost. Subject to that, the Government accept that the criteria for entry to higher education—which will, as at present, remain under the control of institutions themselves—should place more emphasis on intellectual competence, motivation and maturity, and less on formal qualifications. These criteria should be applied as rigorously to those with paper qualifications as to those without. The Government do not expect this change of emphasis significantly to affect the numbers of students for whom higher education should be provided. A consultative paper on student support arrangements will be published shortly, as part of the review of such arrangements which I announced on 5th December last.

"As with their policies for schools, in higher education too the Government are committed to raising standards and the pursuit of value for money. In both these areas important reports have recently been published, and are under active consideration.

"The report of the Committee of Inquiry into Academic Validation in Public Sector Higher Education, chaired by Sir Norman Lindop and published in April, deals with the approval, and monitoring of standards, of degree level courses in polytechnics and colleges. It recommends substantial changes in the arrangements of universities which validate public sector courses and of the Council for National Academic Awards. One proposal is that some institutions in the public sector should in future take full responsibility for their own academic standards and award their own degrees. The Government have invited comments on the report and will consider these before coming to decisions.

"The report of a Steering Committee chaired by Sir Alex Jarratt, based on efficiency studies undertaken in six universities, has proposed significant changes in universities' planning and management structures. The present arrangements were developed in a period of increasing resources. Now that resources are no longer expanding, changes are needed if universities are to be able to spend to best advantage the public funding likely to be available. The Jarratt Report will also be relevant to the rest of higher education where other efficiency studies are in hand.

"In research, the Government wish to ensure that the available resources are used to the greatest possible advantage, which requires more selectivity and planning. The University Grants Committee is developing and promoting new selective allocation and planning arrangements. It is also important that commerce, industry and the public services should take full advantage of what higher education has to offer through research, technology transfer, business start-up facilities and consultancy services. The Green Paper stresses the need for higher education to pay more attention to the development of such services.

"The Green Paper recognises that continuing education should be a growth area in higher education, whether for vocational or non-vocational purposes. The Government and local authorities have an important role in stimulating such provision and the Government contribute directly to the development of in-career vocational education through the Professional, Industrial and Commercial Updating Programme. But the cost should not fall principally on the tax- and ratepayer. Employers are urged to recognise more fully their need, in their own interests, to encourage and to pay for the development and updating of their staff, while adults in work can be expected to contribute substantially to the cost of courses that they take for career advancement or for personal satisfaction.

"The Jarratt Report recommends a review of the role, structure and staffing of the University Grants Committee. The Government have accepted this recommendation, and I shall announce the terms of reference and form of the review as soon as possible.

"The Government's Expenditure Plans published last January indicate the sums that the Government plan to make available for higher education up to the end of the present planning period. Beyond this there are the same difficulties about providing projections of future funding for higher education as there are for other public expenditure programmes. The Government accept that they must give the best indications of longer-term policies for higher education that they can, but planning also requires institutions to manage their commitments and the funds available to them so as to be able to pursue their objectives effectively in circumstances of change and uncertainty. Present projections of student demand suggest that there will be a substantial fall in student numbers in the 1990s and planning for the changes that will be necessary must begin shortly.

"The Government will review their policies for higher education in the light of the responses to the Green Paper, and hope to be able to make a further statement of intentions in the course of 1986."

My Lords, that concludes my right honourable friend's Statement.

Baroness David

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for repeating that Statement, which was extremely long but did not really have in it anything very exciting or new to make up for its length. In fact, we find the Statement disappointing, unsatisfying and unsatisfactory. It tells us very little. It may be that the Green Paper, when there is time to read it, will tell us a little more, but the picture we get is depressing. It is a picture of a contracting system of higher education, with the possibility of expansion only if industry or the individual can pay for it. Many of us had hoped that the decline in the number in the 18-plus age group in the 1990s would provide the opportunity for the greater involvement of women, mature students and those who had missed out on a first chance to be involved in higher education. But the Statement, while paying lip service to continuing education and saying that it should be a growth area, also says (and I quote): But the cost should not fall principally on the tax- and ratepayer. Employers are urged to recognise more fully their need, in their own interests, to encourage and to pay for the development and updating of their staff, while adults in work can be expected to contribute substantially to the cost of courses that they take for career advancement or for personal satisfaction". There is nothing about those who are out of work and who might perhaps need the stimulus of further and higher education.

Moreover, all this is at a time when every report we get from industry or from Select Committees of this House and elsewhere urges a great interest in and need for graduates with skills in science and technology for the nation's good. Instead, we know from the UGC letter to the heads of universities sent out last week that that committee has decided (and I quote): on a working hypothesis of an average annual decline in the recurrent grant for each institution of 2 per cent. in real terms". An increase in the number of places in science and technology depends on the production of extra resources, as the UGC says; yet the Government are expecting them to be supplied within existing resources. This is totally unreal if the Government are seriously encouraging the international competitiveness of industry.

I have one comment on the Jarratt Report. That report did make some helpful and sensible suggestions, but it did not indicate that any very substantial savings could be made, as the UGC said in its letter last week. Yet the Government seem to be relying on Jarratt to provide the additional funding, which really is the Government's business if they want industry to be revitalised. We agree with the Jarratt recommendation that there should be a review of the role, structure and staffing of the UGC. If it is to cope with the task which it set itself in its letter to the universities last week, it certainly will need very substantial extra manpower.

We are glad that the Government are re-affirming the view of the aims and purpose of higher education defined in the Robbins Report, and we welcome the Government's acceptance of the recommmendation of the UGC and the national advisory body that ability to benefit should be a qualification for entry to higher education. We welcome the Government's acceptance that the criteria for entry into higher education should place more emphasis on intellectual competence, motivation and maturity, and less on formal qualifications. These criteria, it says, should be applied as rigorously to those with paper qualifications as to those without. I hope that perhaps the noble Baroness will be able to give a little clarification about that.

Finally, we do not understand why this Green Paper, expected about six months ago, has been delayed all this time. We were told it was because of the need to discuss student support systems further, but there is nothing on student support here: just the promise of a consultative paper on the subject later. May I ask when we might expect that?

Lord Rochester

My Lords, from these Benches I should like to join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, for having repeated this Statement—not, as the noble Baroness, Lady David, has already said, that it tells us very much. We are happy to endorse the emphasis placed in the Green Paper on the need for higher education to become more responsive to changing industrial and commercial circumstances and on the importance of close links between higher education and business.

The Government appear to think that the Robbins principle should be interpreted broadly to mean that the test for entry into higher education should be the ability to benefit from it, provided that the benefit is sufficient to justify the cost. The question I should like to ask is: what cost? More precisely, have the Government closed their minds altogether to the advice given earlier by the University Grants Committee that universities should receive level funding, or is any increase in the grant for the rest of this decade to be below the rate of inflation?

The Statement refers to changes recommended in the Jarratt Report on universities' planning and management structure, For my part, I welcome this, and indeed I know from my own experience that, to that end, committee structures are already being examined in universities. The UGC are said in the Statement to be developing and promoting new selective allocation and planning arrangements for available resources. Again I have to ask: what does this mean? Are the Government willing to give due consideration, at any rate, to the advice of your Lordships' Committee on education and training for new technologies, that in bringing about the desired shift from the arts to science and engineering in the number of higher education places to be made available because science and technology places cost more, this will require new resources as well as the reallocation of existing ones?

Finally, the Green Paper urges employers to recognise more fully their need for continuing education and indeed to help to pay for it. May I ask whether the Government, for their part, have given any thought to the possibility of offering some form of tax remission to those employers who demonstrate their willingness to contribute to the national interest in this way?

3.57 p.m.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, for their comments and constructive contributions in response to this Statement. The noble Baroness said that she was very disappointed that it seemed to be such a negative Statement, with very little in the way of positive policy proposals or encouragement. May I just emphasise that I think the Green Paper is positive in many respects? It is important to remember that the Government are currently investing some £3.8 billion in higher education and research, that there are now 65,000 more students in higher education than there were in 1979 and that the age participation index has increased over those years.

However, as was made clear, the Government's policies, as set out in the Green Paper, are designed to make sure that more effective use is made of the inevitably limited resources available for higher education. In doing so, the Government are keen to ensure that standards and quality are maintained and, where possible, enhanced and that higher education is better managed, more flexible and more attuned to the needs of industry and commerce. The Green Paper sets out to establish the framework in which sensible planning for the challenges ahead can proceed and in which those objectives can be maintained.

The noble Baroness also raised the question of students who are unemployed. The Green Paper does not ignore the needs of students who are out of work. For example, in paragraph 4.4 there is particular reference to students seeking new or strengthened knowledge and skills who themselves might he unemployed. The Statement makes a point of saying that the unemployed deserve and receive special attention. Fees are often waived or abated. The Open University, for example, has funds to assist enrolment by the unemployed and some other groups and the MSC also offers support to many other students under adult training schemes.

The noble Baroness also asked about the growth or otherwise of the numbers of students in science and engineering. I should like to point out that there has been a significant growth of home students on full-time courses in science and engineering in recent years from 125,200 students in universities to 132,300 now, and in the public sector there has been an enormous growth from 54,200 in 1979–80 to 84,000 now, Projections for the future anticipate a growth in those subject areas.

On the question of the alternative interpretation—if one may so call it—of the Robbins principle with regard to the right of entry to higher education, we are delighted that the noble Baroness agrees that there is a case for broadening the interpretation of "qualifications" for higher education beyond formal qualifications, as has been the case, of a minimum of two advance levels, and that the new interpretation rightly includes other aspects, such as ability to benefit, motivation and maturity. I think everyone would agree that that would be very beneficial in encouraging students into higher education who will be both motivated to benefit from it and able to make maximum use of the opportunities that it provides. Perhaps if there remain any other questions which the noble Baroness raised, I may deal with them later.

I now wish to move to the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. He asked whether or not the Robbins principle would allow interpretation of admissions policy commensurate with funding and with the interpretation of cost. As I have already indicated, the Government are committed, through their advance planning on the public expenditure programme on higher education, to maintain the level of funding for the proposed limits with regard to the numbers of students who are currently receiving higher education, and are committed to allowing for demand as worked out in the principle entitled Variant Y of Report on Education 100 dealing with gauging expected student demand.

So far as the question of selectivity is concerned, with regard to the university sector the UGC has always had to be selective. It is of course up to the UGC itself to decide the criteria on which it ascertains its priorities for selectivity in line with the existing constraints that are conditioning the resources available.

I think that there was some concern about the balance between science and engineering and other subjects and about whether the Robbins principle can ensure that there is adequate provision for students of arts and humanities as well as of science. The Green Paper is adamant that the Government value the study of humanities and arts as well as of the sciences, though they recognise that with a growth in science and engineering places competition for arts places will inevitably be a little more difficult. But there is and always has been in recent years sufficient places in higher education for all students who have applied. If there is to be any concern in the future about non-availability of places for students qualified and wishing to enter higher education, I would point out that the Government have commissioned a survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys to monitor the situation with regard to matching demand and supply and ascertaining whether or not there will be students who might be qualified according to the Robbins principle in its reformulated version, and whether there will be places available for those students who wish to embark on courses in higher education.

With regard to the final question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, on tax incentives, I am afraid that I cannot comment on it. It is not dealt with specifically in the Green Paper. But I wish to remind your Lordships that this is a consultative document, and clearly those people who might feel that they could make a helpful contribution would be in a position to make their views known.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, I should not like it to be thought that the very grudging response of the noble Baroness, Lady David, represents the totality of reactions to this interesting and important Statement. On the contrary, I think the Statement gives us some reasonable hope that the long decline in the capacity of this country adequately to organise and finance higher education may be coming to an end. It is, after all, an extraordinary anomaly that we go along with the University Grants Committee system set up on 1919 in a totally different world.

The question I should like to ask the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, in consequence is this. Will the committee of inquiry, which I regard as the pillar of the whole new system, be entitled to look not merely at the staffing and membership of the University Grants Committee, but also at its general remit? Will it be able to look at other and more complex forms of finance? In particular, will it have the facilities to profit by the experience of other countries, and most notably of the United States of America?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Beloff for his welcome of the Green Paper and the very helpful comments he has made. So far as the terms of reference of the UGC inquiry are concerned, they are still under review. But it will certainly be an external inquiry: it will have an external chairman; and it will not be an elected representative body. However, its terms of reference, as I understand it, are still very much to be determined.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, I find it extremely difficult to believe that the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and I have been listening to the same Statement. I listened to every word of the Statement and I could not discern a single strand of new thinking anywhere in the replies of the noble Baroness. The one thing that emerges loud and clear from the whole Statement is that there will be a considerable contraction of higher education by the middle 1990s. For a country which must sell its goods and services overseas in the face of increasingly sophisticated competition from Japan, America, West Germany and other countries this will be sheer idiocy. It amounts almost to national suicide. It is the most idiotic thing that this idiotic Government have done in their term of office.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, perhaps I may put the noble Lord right. There is not a major contraction anticipated which is out of line with, for example, falling student numbers. When one considers the projected planning for the expenditure on higher education until the 1990s, one sees that there is also a projected fall, demographically determined through the falling birth rate, of students going through. I should like to emphasise that the demand for full-time courses is likely to stay fairly constant, and will then fall by about 14 per cent, but provision for higher education for students is intended to meet such demand as will take place. There is also intended, and provided for, other categories of students, such as part-time students and mature students of whom full account is taken, and they often receive very real benefit from involvement in higher education.

As for comparisons with other countries, international comparisons always present a very great difficulty. However, from the point of view of our age participation rate—and the proportions of our people on a cohort basis going into education—I should like to point out to the noble Lord that the United Kingdom compares favourably with many other countries in Western Europe in particular. We have entrants rates which compare very favourably with, for example, West Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, though Japan and the United States have higher rates. But we hope that the encouragement of more students into science and engineering courses will go some way towards meeting the need of the economy for more graduates and for technologically qualified personnel.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, as one of the Ministers departmentally responsible 22 years ago for acceptance of the Robbins Report, I should like to congratulate my noble friend on the fact that the Government are now having a look at the structure which resulted from that ambitious and enterprising report. Is my noble friend aware that that report was accepted, despite its very heavy financial implications, against the background of very different economic circumstances from today and against the background of a steadily expanding economy? To ask her a specific question arising from that, is it the fact, as has been suggested in certain elements of the press, that the Government are contemplating the closure of certain university departments which are thought to duplicate the work of other and more efficient ones at other universities?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, perhaps I may first thank my noble friend for his encouraging remarks with regard to the implementation of the Robbins principle, in spite of the financial situation. To try to answer the question with regard to potential closure, the situation at the moment is that the Government have asked the various bodies concerned with the university sector and the public sector to consider the position with regard to rationalisation and the more effective use of resources. The UGC will be undertaking such a study so far as the universities are concerned; the National Advisory Board will be undertaking such a study with regard to the public sector. At the moment there is no question whatever in the Government's mind of any candidates for closure as such, but should that be deemed necessary in due course, legislation may be required. But that is not at the moment in the thinking of the Government and it would be wrong to pre-empt the findings and the deliberations of those bodies.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, after listening to the Statement which the Minister has made, may I say that this is a very sad day indeed for higher education in this country? Many of us who have worked so hard feel very sad after listening to that Statement. The question that I should like to put to the noble Baroness is: does this confirm something that many of us have been thinking for some time—that the UGC is now an instrument of Government rather than an independent body?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I see no grounds whatever for the assumption underlying the noble Lord's question. The UGC is the determining body with regard to the allocation of the university funds that are made available to it. It has been suggested in the Jarratt Report that there might be a review of the UGC, and the Government are considering that review. But at the moment the UGC functions as it always has done. I am sad that the noble Lord feels so dismayed, because the record in regard to the increase in provision for higher education over recent years has been highly commendable and, I should have thought, cause for a certain amount of satisfaction. Perhaps I may remind the noble Lord that the total number of students in higher education, to whom we all feel a deep commitment, has increased from 454,000 in 1979–80 to 519,500 in 1983–84, and that there is a projected increase beyond that up to 1989–90. So I think that there are no grounds for the dismay which the noble Lord expressed.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness—and I do so as one who was for many years the treasurer of a university—whether the universities are to get more financial help from the Government in future, rather than less, taking into account the increased cost of living?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, the future expenditure plans, as they are at present outlined, are for a modest increase in cash terms. But, of course, that increase must be seen in the light of other general factors, such as inflation, and it is impossible to determine exactly what will be the relationship between the actual increase and the net increase.

Lord Leatherland

Then, my Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether it is a fact that universities will get less financial help from the Government in future than they have done in the past?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, it is impossible to ascertain in a hypothetical way the relationship in the future between an increase in actual terms and an increase in real terms, because it is impossible to make allowance in the future for other factors such as inflation. But perhaps I may point out that the Government are making some specific grants in addition to current levels of expenditure to the universities, and particularly on the research side, to encourage research which is of such importance for our performance in the whole area of industry and technology.

For example, the Government are making available specific grants for universities to update their equipment. There is to be a fund of £4 million for 1985–86 and £7 million for each of the financial years 1986–87 to universities to help them, as I said, to bring their equipment up to first-class standards. There are various other initiatives which have been made available to encourage the growth of students and the opportunities for them, particularly in these areas of science, technology and engineering. So there is new money going in over and above the general level of expenditure.

Lord Leatherland

My Lords—

Noble Lords

Baroness White.

Lord Leatherland

That is right. Protect her.

Baroness White

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that, in spite of the slight ameliorations which she has touched on, the universities have been told that they are to expect indefinitely a 2 per cent. reduction in their grant? Does she also agree that if they have to sustain more or less present student numbers by adding other categories to the people in the 18 year-old entry group, they cannot do this adequately and also sustain the higher cost courses which the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, mentioned, if there is the switch to technology and scientific work for which the noble Baroness takes credit? The two things simply do not match. It is extremely depressing to feel that, unless one qualifies for some of these selective research grants, one has very little hope of being able to make progress in the near future.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I should like to point out that the Green Paper is concerned with higher education as a whole and not just with the university sector. It is very important that one considers the totality of higher education, and the Government's present expenditure plans—if I may emphasise this point—should provide sufficient resources for higher education for the current planning period to allow demand to be met at the level which is currently projected for that time.

Lord Parry

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept from me that the hope of higher education for their children remains possibly the main hope of many parents throughout this country? It is the one hope that encourages them to believe that their children can rise above the difficulties of the shrinking economic face of Britain and the difficulties that this nation has to face. Will the noble Baroness, in that case, reassure this House now—because the divisions that have been opened by this Statement cut across party lines; the reaction to them is, of course, predictable—that we can have a debate on this subject? The frustrations of asking questions, trying to observe that we do not tread across the protocol, are so great that we really need a debate. I ask that question as a classroom teacher of 32 years' service.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I am happy to agree with the noble Lord opposite—I am sure we all do—that access to higher education is of immense importance. The Government are committed to ensuring that there should be places available for pupils and students who are qualified in terms of formal qualifications, and/or in terms of the other criteria which have been elaborated in the Green Paper. The policy is such that there is a commitment to ensuring that courses of higher education should be available to all those who can benefit from them, in either a university or the public sector. As regards the question of a debate, the noble Lord is well aware of the normal channels through which to proceed should such a debate be requested.

Lord Parry

My Lords, I accept—

Lord Kaldor

My Lords, what is the maximum rate of inflation which is consistent with the universities not getting a smaller allocation in real terms in the future than they are getting now? I ask that question because at one point the noble Baroness said that whether there is a real expansion, and how much, will depend on future inflation.

Baroness Cox

My Lords, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord that, of course, everyone recognises that the development of higher education is taking place in the context of financial constraint, and I have never sought to indicate anything other than that. But higher education is, I think, expected to respond to that positively in terms of increasing efficiency and cost-effectiveness. One of the ways in which that has been accomplished, and may continue to be enhanced, is through a change in staff-student ratios in a way which would not diminish the quality of teaching but might bring about certain economies. Staff-student ratios have been altered slightly in both the university sector and the public sector, but in ways which I think are still very generous compared with other international ratings of other comparable countries.

Lord Parry

My Lords, if the House will allow me to return—

Noble Lords

Lord Annan!

Lord Annan

My Lords, may a Cross-Bencher be allowed to intervene? Is the thrust of the Government's intentions in this Green Paper to maintain numbers in higher education and even possibly to increase them despite demographic trends, and at the same time to try to lower the cost of institutions in higher education? Does the noble Baroness agree that one of the mistakes possibly in the Robbins expansion was that the institutions which were created were too high in their costs? If we want to keep numbers up in higher education we have to reduce the cost of the institutions.

Perhaps I may ask a further question about the humanities. I understood the noble Baroness to say that there must be some attenuation in the cost and in the numbers of those reading humanities. Will the Government go back to the Robbins Report and remember Lord Robbins' plea that there should be fewer single subject honours degrees not merely in universities of course but also in other institutions such as the polytechnics? If we are to have young people well trained for industry and business, do they not need some of the skills in the humanities such as the ability to write persuasive English? Could there not be more joint courses which bring such skills into courses designed primarily for technology and science?

Baroness Cox

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Annan, for his contribution. There is an intention that there should be an increase in participation commensurate to some extent with the demographic changes which will take place over the next 15 years or so. There is very much a commitment to greater cost-effectiveness and to a certain amount of rationalisation in higher education in both sectors, the university sector and the public sector, perhaps with some of that being brought about by a greater concentration of research in those universities which have a record of excellence in that subject and perhaps by a removal of some of the research which is spread rather thinly across other institutions.

In regard to the noble Lord's concern about arts and the humanities, perhaps I may reassure him that the Green Paper has a very strong commitment to this matter and emphasises that the Government are convinced of the importance of providing adequately for the arts. It also refers to the study of humanities and non-vocational social studies for the sake of scholarship and to give students with true potential to benefit from such study the opportunity to do so and to acquire the associated intellectual skills. There is some discussion here of the possibilities of developing different kinds of courses—degree courses and other kinds—which would allow for that greater flexibility of subject mix which I think the noble Lord prefers.

Perhaps I may make a final point in this respect. It is hoped that some of the recommendations developed in the recent White Paper entitled, Better Schools, which will enable pupils moving on to university to have a rather more broadly based education with which to embark upon their higher education, may also facilitate that greater flexibility of study in higher education.