§ Lord Denham
My Lords, before the debate is resumed, I think that I should inform your Lordships that the debate in the name of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of. Haringey, is now due to end at 9 p.m.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, in the opening pages of the government White Paper the authors state that the higher education system in this country is one of the "best in the world". One is therefore tempted to comment: "If it is not broken, don't mend it!". Why meddle so much with a system which is said to be one of the best in the world? That is not of course to say that there is no room for change and development; quite plainly there is.
I very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that change and development is the order of the day. However, along with that change and development it is surely of the highest importance to maintain that quality which is said to be of the best in the world. Because of the short time allowed, and for that reason only, I shall concentrate on the higher education system. Others of my colleagues will be speaking on other aspects of post-school education. I should like to make it quite clear that I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that the whole field of post-school education needs to be examined thoroughly and with a willingness to make quite radical changes.
We say that because we have to recognise that the future is to the highly educated countries. Any country which hopes to hold its place economically, politically and socially in the world of the future must have a far higher level of education than it has had in the past. We in this country are nowhere near the level at which we need to be. A quantum leap is required throughout the whole education system, not just a slight improvement here and an adjustment there.
When it comes to higher education I find myself in many respects, though not in all, very much in line with much that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Blake. The changes that we need in higher education are surely of two kinds: an increase in the numbers involved, a development and maintenance, and where possible an improvement, in the quality. As regards the numbers of people entering higher education, it is a good thing that the Government have accepted in the White Paper the higher level projection for the future and not the lower level which it was feared at one time they would consider was adequate.
Although that is certainly a step in the right direction, there is also reason for disappointment in that, although the Government agree that there will be an increase in the number of people entering higher education up to 1990, they accept that because of falling school rolls there will be a decrease in the number between 1990 and 1996.
In the same White Paper the Government stress the importance of mature students entering higher education. Surely the fall in school rolls gives us a first-class opportunity, not probably to be found again for decades, to make a real onslaught on the entry into higher education of mature students. Why should we not keep up the numbers, and indeed expand them, and see to it that because there are falling school rolls we can attract into the university system many of those now mature people who for one reason or another did not have the opportunities to go or did not take them 150 earlier on? If we are to do that we need to be prepared to keep the upward flow in the numbers, but we also need now—and I say now—to start preparing ways in which those mature students will be ready for the places that should be there for them in 1990.
There are many different categories among those mature students. I wish to mention particularly the very many women who have been under-represented in the higher education system in the past and who undoubtedly have ability, many of whom would now like the opportunity to enter into higher education of that kind. I say this as a challenge to the Minister who will reply. Can we not between now and 1990 study and quickly put into action a plan to make it possible for far more of those people to be ready to take higher education schemes in the years 1990 to 1996?
Some specific things need to be done as regards women. It needs to be made very much easier for them to attend courses by virtue of better child care provision. Let us get that one out of the way first because it is an important element. There must also be adequate financing. At present it is often very difficult for women to take courses, let alone access courses. Women need preparatory access courses if they are going to move on to higher education, but it is difficult for them to take those courses because of the regulations which state that people cannot take a course of that kind unless they are unemployed—and a married woman is not unemployed, is she? Therefore, she is not eligible.
Let us look at the whole question of the financing of women who have good potential for higher education. With that is linked the whole question of part-time students. If we mean business by mature students we must provide facilities for part-time higher education. If that is the Government's intention, I can only say that their behaviour over Birkbeck College, which is the prototype of part-time higher education, does not bode well for the future. Let them think again about that. This is an opportunity certainly not to be missed.
On the matter of quantity there are among men as well as among women people who should be coming forward. We need something like the FET courses which were made available to people who came out of the services at the end of the war. I had the privilege of teaching some of those people—I am going back such a long way—and anyone who taught in the universities at that time would confirm my view that they were some of the best students that we ever had and they were people who had never thought of going to university before they became involved in the war. However, they seized the opportunity of the FETs and it has been of great benefit to the nation that they did so.
On the matter of maintaining and improving the quality of our higher education, the Government must not allow the continuing flight from this country of some of the ablest people in the universities. I know that there has been a return brain-drain as well as a brain-drain, but the distinguished list of names of people who are leaving this country is a matter for real alarm and the Government should be deeply concerned about it. They should find ways of reversing the trend. It is not only a matter of money. The penny-pinching over university salaries has obviously not helped, but it is also a matter of providing resources 151 and opportunities and the sense of being able to do a really first-class job.
Part of the raising of quality, and part of the way of giving high-level academics a feeling of doing a really first-class job, is to make sure that there are good graduate courses in our universities. With the extension of knowledge, and with the fact that in the future we need people who are both broadly based and have a high level of specialist knowledge, the graduate course in the universities will be of the very greatest importance. The fourth year, the graduate-taught higher degree, is something which gives encouragement and scope to good academics and which produces the kind of people who in all fields—in industry, in education, in the Civil Service—can give the leadership which we need and which at the present time we are not getting; and yet we are very under-provided so far as graduate courses are concerned. Will the Minister tell us what thoughts the Government have about this? It is inadequately covered in the White Paper.
Along with that I should like to say that I think it is not a good policy to suggest—and it will certainly not be encouraging to good academics—that there should be universities which undertake research and universities which only teach and do not undertake research. Of course it is sensible to have a certain amount of rationalisation. I do not for one moment defend the small department which keeps going because it wants to keep going with a very small number of students and a very small staff and which cannot possibly support good research. On the other hand, I believe it is a contradiction in terms to talk about a university as a university if it is not doing research. The interplay between research and teaching—I know it has been said many times, but that does not make it wrong—is of the essence and I strongly oppose the proposal that there should be some so-called universities which do not undertake research.
In looking at the White Paper, I find reason for considerable concern about the proposed control of the universities to maintain and improve quality as they see it. As regards this new body which is being set up, this Universities Funding Council, there is nothing wrong with that in itself but, as the noble Lord, Lord Blake, asked: what is the nature of the contract that we are hearing about? A contract implies that the body will lay down conditions presumably which the university has to accept. There is running through all this part of the White Paper a tendency towards central control and bureaucratic interference which is the very contrary of what is needed in a university.
For example, the White Paper says:The Government should provide guidelines at appropriate intervals to set the framework for the planning process which the UFC and the universities should conduct".Again:Arrangements for the flow of management information and for accountability from the universities to the UFC and onwards to Government should be much improved".And, most sinister of all,The Government will, in particular, be concerned to see that the UFC's arrangements for making funds available to universities 152 properly reward success in developing co-operation with and meeting the needs of industry and commerce':.I have always been strongly in favour of the close working together of industry and the universities. When I was teaching I did a very great deal of this and in fact I got money out of them, which will surely give me credit on the Front Benches. But that is not what a university is about. That is not what a university is for. At the risk of being corny, I remind your Lordships that what a university is for—of course it makes its contribution to wealth creation and to industry—is the discovery, dissemination and safeguarding of truth. If that is not compatible with its other duties, then those other duties will have to go.
That aspect is not developed by direction from on high. Why do the Secretary of State and his advisers think that they are the people who will be able to create the creativity inside the universities? Creativity does not come in that way. The imaginative leap of research does not come in that way by instructions from on high. The wind bloweth where it listeth. But that sort of wind will not come from the nostrils of the Secretary of State and his civil servants.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord Adrian
My Lords, this afternoon we are debating post school education. I think we are all agreed that it is a subject of major importance. I think we are mostly agreed that post-school education is in some disarray. We are probably disagreed on the reasons for that state of affairs. But in the relatively short time that I have I shall, like the noble Lord, Lord Blake, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and for fairly obvious reasons, confine myself to universities. If I echo what has been said already, I hope that the Government will recognise this as some little force to what has been said.
The reason I speak on universities is that I have some direct experience of them and for a brief span some responsibility as Vice-Chancellor at Cambridge. That is an interest that I think I have to declare in this debate. Perhaps I may say at this point how very much I am looking forward to the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone.
I do not believe your Lordships will need telling that morale at universities is low. It is hardly surprising that it should be. Seven lean years and, much more depressing than that, years of rebuke and criticism, not all of it justified—some of it has been—not all of it well informed and culminating in the Green Paper of 18 months ago, have reduced our confidence to a low ebb. Therein lies the danger that your universities may become so demoralised that they will uncritically accept whatever is suggested by Whitehall, especially if it is presented with a friendly smile and a little praise.
A government who have reduced their universities to merely licking the hand that feeds them may have saved themselves some immediate trouble, but I do not believe they will have done much for our children's future. Universities which simply do what they are told to do by government will eventually cease to be universities, because independent and adventurous minds will no longer wish to work in them. They will go elsewhere. Indeed, they are already going elsewhere. 153 So we must look very carefully at the White Paper Higher Education: Meeting the Challenge to see how it charts the future of universities. As has been done already, we can welcome the Government's explicit commitment to increased access and to their new projection of student members. Now that the Department of Education and Science has at last agreed with universities, the Association of University Teachers, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Royal Society and the Confederation of British Industry, that student numbers in tertiary education are unlikely to fall below present levels in the period to the end of the century, we have at least now a common framework.
The important task is to develop our institutions and change our universities so that they meet the needs, as they change in the coming years, of those coming to the universities from school, and the wider needs of society and the economy into which those students will graduate. I include in those wider needs both the provision of qualified graduates and the advancement of knowledge and technology.
I have great faith that with dialogue, encouragement and support the universities will respond to these needs. After all, Cambridge responded quite early on in the provision of scientific education in the nineteenth century, when it was much more independent of government than it is now, and it was in the very forefront of computer development and molecular biology in the middle of this one. What we need is confidence and some room to take risks. We have not had much of either in the last few years. Universities produce, as was said so eloquently by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, ideas and knowledge as well as graduates equipped to build the economy. We must never lose sight of either of these vital functions.
In contrast to the White Paper's positive and encouraging stance on student numbers, its other proposals seem to me to endanger some of the few good features of the present system. Like the noble Lord, Lord Blake, I am concerned that the newly proposed universities funding council seems to be deprived of one of the most important functions of the University Grants Committee—the provision of advice to government. Section 4.40 says—in a way that is all too characteristic of the many rather imprecise details in this White Paper—that the Government will have to give further consideration to the terms of reference of the universities funding council. I hope that they will do so. But there is no suggestion in the White Paper that the universities funding council will be asked to provide public evidence or advice to government to aid them in making the decisions they very properly claim to be theirs.
Of course I welcome a wide representation on the universities funding council and I hope that it will go considerably wider than just the universities and manufacturing industry, as has been suggested in some quarters. But to get the benefit of that wider representation and membership surely its voice must be heard. If we are to be successful in remoulding our universities there must be public debate. Published advice from the universities funding council must surely be part of that dialogue.
154 There is a further major area to which the Government will surely have to give more consideration, and that concerns university and indeed polytechnic funding. The noble Lord, Lord Blake, has already noticed the new phrase that has appeared in the White Paper. Grants are to be replaced by a system of contracting. It is insufficiently clear just what that implies. Until we know more, at this stage we can only speculate. Are we to bid in competition with other universities for contracts? Can we seek contracts from the universities funding council to finance new projects? Contracts may even have attractions: both parties to contracts are bound by them. The noble Lord, Lord Blake, suggested that we could not plausibly seek a contract to produce, for example, two Nobel prizes a decade. However, perhaps we could do better, in view of the Treasury's well-known view that Nobel prizes are an expensive luxury, and contract to produce no more than two Nobel prizes in a decade.
More seriously, if contracting means that all funds are earmarked, universities will lose what little control they now have over their own affairs. We must reserve judgment until we know much more about the contracting system. But we can wonder about section 4.41, which says inter alia that financial relationships between the universities funding council and universities should be governed by financial memoranda. Having recently experienced the imposition of financial memoranda on two major grant-aided institutions I am left wondering how these may be reconciled with the notion of contracts between two independent bodies.
I remain profoundly sceptical that the White Paper sets the right course as regards funding our universities. If we want diversity and development of the kind suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Blake, rather than uniformity, which has, one must admit, developed in the years of Robbins and thereafter, the universities must regain some degree of independence of action and innovation. Much of the White Paper, though printed in glorious technicolour, is still too green for me.
§ 4.53 p.m.
My Lords, I must first of all declare an interest in the subject brought forward for debate by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey. In the autumn I become the Master of Birkbeck College, where 92 per cent. of the students are part-time. I hope very much that the difficult financial situation which faces the college can be resolved. If not, I fear that both providers and potential students elsewhere will be discouraged and will draw their own conclusions about the value attached to part-time studies in our system of post-school education. Birkbeck has a special symbolic importance as an institution which for over 150 years has helped people who work in the day to study at night. I know that many Members of your Lordships' House have supported Birkbeck in recent months and how much this has been appreciated. I also appreciate the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, on this matter.
Access to post-school education should be readily available to all social groups in our society. Unfortunately some groups have for many years been 155 under-represented, especially in what has traditionally been known as higher education in the universities and polytechnics. These include women, young people from working-class backgrounds and the black and ethnic minority community. Moreover too much of our post-school education has been concentrated on the years immediately after leaving school at the expense of older people, many of whom could greatly benefit from returning to education with the advantage of more experience and maturity.
When I was visiting Canada recently I was told at the University of Toronto of a student who is 96. She is slowly working towards obtaining a first degree on a part-time basis. She now has 10 credits out of the necessary 15. Everyone at the university is very much hoping she will live long enough to get her degree. Recently, when the press were seeking to interview her, it was discovered that she was travelling around Europe on her own. She is currently so fit and energetic that the auspices are good. I am not suggesting that it is necessary to wait until the age of 96 to become a truly successful undergraduate, but I am claiming that we should get away from the absurd idea that education should be largely confined to those aged between five and 22.
One way of broadening access is to make it easier for older students to get back into education. Let me illustrate with the example of women. When I went to univerisity in the early 'sixties about a quarter of undergraduates were women. Today the figure is 44 per cent.—a big improvement, although it ought to be 50 per cent. I contend that many of those women caught in the gap between the 25 per cent. then and the 44 per cent. now who missed out earlier could benefit from returning to study in their thirties or even later.
There are two ways in which we should make it easier for them and similar groups. The first is to relax the entry requirements in higher education for older students on a much greater scale than at present. I believe that to expect older people to go through a two-year A-level course is unreasonable, and will put off many prospective students. Instead encouragement should be given to local education authorities to provide a network of short access or return to study courses along the lines of those successfully established by the Inner London Education Authority.
I also take the view that to ask for A-levels is unnecessary. Recent research at Brighton Polytechnic funded by the Council for National Academic Awards, based on a large sample of students in both universities and polytechnics, demonstrates that. The degree results of those accepted on the basis of entry qualifications other than A-levels were slightly higher than for those accepted on the basis of A-levels. The non-A-level group did, however, include people with other recognised qualifications for higher education such as Higher National Certificates. When these are excluded, those in the non-standard entry categories still fared no worse on average than other students. The research also found that degree performance improves with age up to the age of 40. So providing opportunities for increasing numbers of mature students and relaxing entry requirements for them will not affect quality adversely. If anything it will improve it.
156 The second way to help older students return to education is to have more part-time places. Many potential students over the age of 25 will have jobs which in these days of high unemployment they will be reluctant to give up; many others will have dependants and the associated financial commitments which mean that they cannot afford to become full-time students; some will simply prefer to combine work and study. In the United States, Canada, Australia and a number of European countries a high proportion of students are taking courses and holding down jobs at the same time. In the UK, in spite of the excellent work done by the Open University, the proportion is much lower, partly I suspect because of the way the system discriminates against part-time students.
It is a strange anomaly that full-time students automatically have their fees paid by their local authorities, however well off they or their parents are. Part-time students automatically have to pay their own fees, however poor they may be. Part-time students cannot set these fees against tax as happens in some other countries. It seems extraodinarily inequitable that students who are taxpayers and work much harder than most other people, combining a job and a degree, should be treated in that way. Moreover, their cost to the Exchequer is much less than full-time students because they are not eligible for maintenance grants. They do not even receive small grants towards the extra costs of studying, such as purchasing books and travel. Surely those hard-working and highly motivated people, committed to self improvement, deserve better treatment than that.
In the Government's White Paper on higher education there is a welcome reference to the need to extend access to a wider range of students and to encourage more mature students. Positive action must now be taken to make that happen, along the lines that I have suggested. Central and local government, the UGC and NAB (or their replacements), the universities, polytechnics, colleges and, last but not least, employers will need to work together to achieve the necessary change. Employers can play a big role by encouraging their employees to obtain further education and training, by giving them some time off to ease the burden of part-time study and full-time work and by providing some financial support.
Improving access to post-school education, especially to more part-time students, would do two things: it would enrich the lives of people deprived of the benefits of education that many of us have had, and it would also be in the country's longer term interest. Noble Lords in all parts of the House will agree that investment in our human resources has not matched that of many of our industrial competitors.
We cannot afford to waste talent. There are thousands of people all over our country with undiscovered or unrecognised talents who have not had the chances to have them developed that they so richly deserve. We ignore them at our peril if this nation is to flourish. As the numbers of 18 year-olds decline in the next decade there can be no better time to increase the number of older students. I hope that the means will be found as a matter of the greatest urgency to make that happen.
§ 5.2 p.m.157
§ Lord Butterworth
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will agree with me when I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on an excellent and confident maiden speech. Those of us, and I know that there are many, who regard adult and continuing education as of vital importance at present will have found what the noble Baroness had to say imaginative and moving. The noble Baroness has the widest experience not only now of Birkbeck College, but, going back through the ILEA, of some excellent reports from the think tank. We look forward with the greatest pleasure to her future contributions.
I should have liked to follow her on this important subject of education for the mature, but I must recall that I was deputy chairman of the committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Croham, on the future of the UGC, and so I think that like a cobbler I had better stick to my last this afternoon.
The Croham Committee has, I think, cause to congratulate itself on the fact that so many (not all) of its recommendations have been so speedily accepted. The new universities funding council (the UFC as it is to be called) has in some sense become the precedent for the PCFC (the Polytechnic and Colleges Funding Council). When the polytechnics become independent, there will be a dual structure with the UFC on one hand and the PCFC on the other.
There was one sentence from the White Paper quoted by my noble friend Lord Blake which has attracted considerable comment. I shall quote it again. It states: "It"—that is to say, the Governmentwishes to emphasise, however, that the UFC's essential responsibilities should relate to the allocation of funding between universities, rather than the overall amount, which is a matter for the Government to decide after considering all the evidence".That sentence is unexceptionable as it stands, unless of course one sees in it evidence of the Treasury and other organisations creeping cat-like through the White Paper.
It would be a pity, as has been said, if there is cut out from the duties of the UFC the duty of advising government on a whole range of university issues, including the financial provision which should be made for them. The Croham Committee recommended that the terms of reference should include the duty and the power to give that advice.
The present UGC has four complementary functions in its relationship with universities. First, it is to give advice to government; secondly, to distribute to individual universities the resources made available by government; thirdly, the collection and publication of information about universities; and, fourthly, to maintain systems of financial control and accountability for resources which the UGC allocates to universities. The Croham Committee considered that the role of advising government and the executive role of distributing resources to universities are not in practice wholly separable. It said:An advisory body which did not have to deal with the consequences of its own advice would be less credible and might be less responsible".If I may put forward a personal view, as the NAB had the duty to publish its advice it was commonly agreed that the advice of the UFC and the PCFC should also be published. The difficulty about 158 published advice is that the advisers tend to become more firmly attached to it by virtue of the very act of publication, and may find themselves slipping into arguing or lobbying on behalf of the universities and therefore carrying out the function which is more appropriately served by the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals. The UGC and therefore the UFC is not outside the machinery of government. To be successful, it must be an integral part of it.
Much has been said this afternoon about the problem of contracts. The Croham Committee foresaw the advantages of something akin to a contractual relationship being developed between the council and the universities, a relationship which would entail a continuous review by the council of the academic plan of each university, assisted by performance indicators and the like. Indeed, the Croham Committee wanted the staff of the universities funding council to be strengthened to enable these duties to be carried out. So far, so good, my Lords. If, however, the contract with the university became too detailed, so that the block grant was converted into a series of earmarked grants each to be contractually enforced, the autonomy of universities as presently understood would be greatly impaired.
As has been said this afternoon, one of the most valuable consequences of that autonomy has been the initiative which universities have continually taken to meet new demands and new needs. No council can foresee everything that will be needed nationally from the universities. So often the function of the UGC, and therefore of the universities funding council, will be to respond to the initiatives of the universities and to reconcile their separate strategies with perceived national need.
I should like to speak briefly about medical education and to consider the difficulty of applying the contractual concept to medical education. Medical and dental schools account for about one-fifth of the UGC's total recurrent grant, although dental and medical students amount to only one-tenth of the total undergraduate population. That, however, is only part of the financial story. Training in medicine and dentistry relies not only on the resources of the UGC. An equally substantial contribution comes from the NHS, especially in the teaching hospitals, and the time of NHS staff. Capital is dealt with by what is known as the Pater formula. An important aspect of this formula is that recurrent costs incurred by NHS staff are not strictly accounted for but are considered to be parallel to the contribution made by the UGC-funded staff to the health services, on the basis of mutual uncosted assistance, as it is called. It is the famous knock for knock principle. To put it more bluntly, it means that no one knows or works out the costs of these mutual contributions.
It was graphically explained to us in this way. Let us take a professor of surgery doing his rounds, accompanied by a group of his students. As he leans over a patient it is impossible to say whether the professor is devoting his time to teaching, research or patient care. Hence we have the knock for knock principle. The relative contributions of the UGC and the NHS vary from institution to institution and indeed among specialisms.
159 Let us take one example. The UGC contributions to medical schools historically have always been higher in the provinces than in London. Therefore when the UGC moved from historical funding and based itself on the actual cost of a student in different disciplines the application of that principle to medicine resulted in additional resources being moved into London just at the time when the national policy, as expressed by RAWP, tended to withdraw NHS resources from the London teaching schools.
How shall we apply a contractual machinery to this situation? Who are to be the contracting parties? Is the NHS to be a contracting party? How would performance indicators and the like be adjusted to measure the respective contributions funded by the NHS and by the UGC? I submit that the organisation and funding of medical schools might first be the subject of a special inquiry. That inquiry should consider the problem of enabling universities to pay to clinical teachers the salary award made by the medical profession because the universities have just given notice that they may have to break the link between the pay of clinical teachers-and hospital doctors and dentists since they are not in possession of the funds to carry out their undertaking.
The Croham Committee pointed out that the mechanisms for joint policy development between the DES, the health departments and the UGC are weak. Recently a joint note between the DES and the health departments has been produced, which is one step in the right direction. At least it recognises the existence of the problem. However, the content of that note is bland. It is clear that these bodies have a long way to go before any solution is found.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Lord Glenamara
My Lords, I should first like to add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, to my noble friend Lady Blackstone on her excellent maiden speech. I hope that she will not mind my saying that I saw her work at close quarters when she was a member of the central policy review staff—if that is what it was then called; it has had many changes of name. I was delighted when she became a Member of your Lordships' House. I hope that we shall hear much more from her in the years ahead.
I intend to confine my remarks entirely to higher education. In the Green Paper published in November 1986 the Government put forward a thoroughly depressing view of the future of higher education. However, this present White Paper has an expansionist tone. The tone at least is, by contrast with the Green Paper, very welcome.
The question for the House is whether we can trust this Government to provide the resources to turn their expansionist plans—produced on the eve of a general election—into reality if they are returned at the election. If the record over the past eight years is anything to go by—and that is the only guide we have—we certainly cannot trust them to do so.
The number of students in higher education is crucial to the whole debate. The Green Paper in November 1986 put forward two projections. The first was called projection P. It assumed that a constant 160 percentage of sixth formers and other groups—mature students, women and so on—would go into higher education. I hope that that projection has been abandoned and that we shall never again hear anything about it. If we as a nation are not to go into economic decline in the two or three decades immediately ahead, we must achieve in full the numbers in projection Q; that is, numbers based upon an increasing percentage of sixth formers, women, mature students and so on going into higher education—but especially an increased percentage of sixth formers. The sheer arithmetic of demographic change demands this.
The position is quite simple. Between now and 1996—which is not very far ahead—the number of teenagers will drop by a third but industry and commerce will not need a third fewer recruits. Indeed, with their growing sophistication and dependence on technology especially electronics, they will need more, not fewer, recruits. The percentage last year of sixth formers going into higher education was 14.2. That percentage will be quite inadequate in the late 1990s.
In the White Paper projection Q estimates that the number of sixth formers going into higher education in the year 2000 will be 18.5 per cent. That is after a considerable and dangerous drop in the middle 1990s. It also estimates that the number of sixth formers qualified to go into higher education in the year 2000 will be 20 per cent., which it is already, I may say, in Scotland; therefore, 20 per cent. qualified in the year 2000 and 18.5 per cent. going into higher education.
At a number of points in the White Paper the Government make the claim that they are so improving our schools and the education in them that this target will be achieved. That is rich coming from a Government who have presided over the greatest and most devastating demoralisation in the education service in my lifetime. If English and Welsh schools reach the 20 per cent. target in the year 2000 it will be in spite of the Government and not because of them.
There is a considerable reservoir of ability in this country which is not being tapped as it should be. If it were tapped it would enable us to reach that target in the year 2000 and, indeed, to surpass it. The vice-chancellor of Durham University made a speech to the Institute of Bankers in March of this year. He said that,the untapped reservoir is mainly within the working class; it is in our large, inner-city comprehensives that need, urgently, to get a good supply of maths, physics, chemistry and language teachers, with first-class equipment".How right he was—the large inner-city comprehensives, where a considerable proportion of our secondary school population is taught and where they under-achieve in old, very often much demoralised schools.
I can only assume that the Secretary of State has also reached this conclusion, but the remedy he has put forward is the wrong one. It will make matters worse. His remedy is to establish city technology colleges. Have the Government really considered the effect that these city technology colleges, if they get off the ground, will have on existing comprehensive schools in our inner cities by denuding them of their keenest and most able students? Anybody who understands schoolmastering will know what effect that will have on the schools in which the vast majority of our 161 secondary school pupils will continue to be taught. I believe such colleges will make the position worse, not better.
The answer surely is that there should be more generous provision of resources with more and better—indeed, the best—qualified teachers, especially in science, mathematics and languages. With that approach I believe the 20 per cent. target can be assured and indeed exceeded. However, it is needed now because this autumn's intake into the secondary schools could be the newly qualified graduates in the year 2000.
If the Government's White Paper—an expansionist White Paper—is to be more than a pre-election bauble, adequate resources must also be provided in higher education for student support and for teaching support. The colleges, polytechnics and universities have proved in the past eight years that they can make bricks without straw, but they at least need clay. We are rather afraid that the clay will not be forthcoming. In the past eight years the Government have eroded the unit of resource to such an extent that universities and polytechnics are now teaching the country's best brains with second best equipment.
Of course the Government call all this an increase in productivity. I find this constant reference to productivity—which I do not equate with getting value for money and which is altogether different—in a White Paper on education to be nauseating. Look at what has happened. Unit costs from 1980 to 1986 are down by 5 per cent. in the universities, by 15 per cent. in the polytechnics and by 20 per cent. in the voluntary and other grant-aided colleges. The Government call that higher productivity. I say that it is an appalling under-funding of institutions which are absolutely vital to our national well-being. What has been achieved in the universities and polytechnics during the 1980s reflects no credit whatever on the Government but it reflects a great deal of credit on the dedicated people who are working in the universities, polytechnics and colleges.
Many noble Lords can speak with much more knowledge that I about funding but I should like to make two points. First, the White Paper rejects the Croham proposal that funds should be set in cash terms for three years. The noble Lord, Lord Blake, referred to this. The so-called rolling programme of the annual public expenditure planning process is no substitute for that; and, like the noble Lord, Lord Blake, I have never known quite what it means. It is no substitute for the certainty of a three-year horizon which allows the universities and the polytechnics—it will apply to them—to plan ahead. When I was Secretary of State there were quinquennial reviews and now they are denied even a triennial review.
Everyone accepts—the universities and everyone else—as did the Croham Committee, that in a national emergency planned allocations might have to be altered. We understand that. However, short of that—and I hope the noble Baroness will answer this—why on earth do the Government reject this sensible proposal for a three-year horizon?
Secondly, in paragraph 4.41 the White Paper states:The Government should provide guidelines at appropriate intervals to set the framework for the planning process which the UFC and the universities should conduct".162 This is clearly essential and also endorses the recommendations made by the Croham Committee. However, the White Paper omits an accompanying Croham recommendation for two-way communication and consultation, including advice from the UFC to the Government on the views, aspirations and funding requirements of the university system. The rejection of these two Croham proposals is extremely disappointing and I invite the Government to reconsider them.
In conclusion, there is one aspect of the White Paper which I greatly welcome. I refer to the proposal to remove the polytechnics from the sphere of local government. I do not welcome it for the reasons given in the White Paper. I am sure that the Government are doing that because of their non-stop vendetta against local government. The polytechnics, which were formed by the Labour Government in the 1960s, are the real success story of education in Britain over the past two decades. However, the Labour Government never intended that local authorities should dominate the polytechnics indefinitely. Indeed, I remember expending a considerable amount of time and effort to ensure that their articles of association did not allow them to do so as far as their governing bodies were concerned.
Legally of course they are owned by the local authorities and their staff are local authority employees. The articles of association cannot change that. The local authorities have nurtured those bodies from designation to maturity with, on the whole, a commendable sense of responsibility and sensitivity and with considerable pride. However, like all our offspring, they have outgrown the context in which they grew to maturity. It is now almost like the tail wagging the dog, with some large polytechnics of 15, 000 students owned by and governed by a relatively small local authority, and that is not satisfactory. The provision for capital expenditure having to come through the local authority has reached the point where it is positively harmful to the polytechnics. Therefore, I think this proposal is very much to be welcomed.
At the same time I hope very much that the polytechnics will retain links with the local authorities. I have here a letter from a director of a very large poloytechnic. He says this:My line is to draw an analogy with a teenage son becoming of age and leaving the family home and standing on his own feet—and without any 'topping-up' pocket money. This then allows the son and his parent to have a much better relationship as two relatively equal adults, rather than an adult-child relationship.I thus see the more independent Polytechnic having an improved relationship with its local authority—and with other neighbouring local authorities, as we are regional, not local, institutions.I personally undertake to ensure that Newcastle Polytechnic develops even closer links with [the] … Local Authority".I hope other directors will take the same view.
Finally, as one who was present and assisted at their birth—I designated most of the present polytechnics —I wish them success in their new independent status. I know they will make an increasingly valuable contribution to the well-being of our country in the years ahead.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I was technically outside the Chamber when the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, made her maiden speech, but I heard it well and clear because I was standing behind the Woolsack. I should like to endorse what both my noble colleagues said before me that she performed in a most impressive manner, managing not merely to be non-controversial but to utter one or two sentiments which were quite welcome on this side of the House as well. I hope that we hear from her often, though I do not suppose that she will be as uncontroversial in the weeks to come.
The debate is about a crucial aspect of education. I am sure your Lordships are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for directing your Lordships' attention to it. I hope that the Secretary of State for Education, advised by my noble friend, will himself take note of its content. The advantage of a timed debate is that it means one has to cut out the trimmings and get straight to the facts. That makes the task of looking at the debate easier.
The fact which I find most immediately interesting is that the debate is concerned with the superstructure of the ship for which the Secretary of State is responsible and not for its hull. Even if the design, maintenance, crewing and general arrangements of the superstructure are perfect, if the hull is rotten the ship will sink. The hull is the school education system, since all but a handful of both staff and students in it come from the primary and secondary schools. There can therefore be no doubt that the quality and product of our post-school system depend upon the quality and product of our school system. That makes one part of our post-school system of paramount importance: it is the part that trains our teachers.
The Government have taken recent and welcome steps to ensure that this sector accepts only applicants with the right qualifications and, I emphasise, the right characteristics for the job. They have also established minimum criteria for the content of the courses that these students will follow and have established the Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education to apply them. The CATE will be joined in the fullness of time by the PCFC announced by the White Paper. I hope that neither body will overlook the need for practical as well as academic training in these courses. I raise this simply because I know that at least one course of admirable intellectual content some years ago entirely neglected to provide a single session upon how to mark the register or how to keep order in the classroom. You cannot capture the imagination of a child if you cannot first capture his attention. It seems to me that in this debate we should remember the practicalities of the training of teachers and the situation into which they find themselves catapulted as soon as they qualify, and should teach them how to deal with those matters as well as with the intellectual management of the material they have to transmit to their students.
On the subject of the White Paper, incidentally, it would not be out of place to mention how very different this document looks from the White Papers we have been accustomed to see in the past. I think for a Secretary of State for Education to produce a White Paper that is readable and challenging deserves a good 164 mark for achievement and, noble Lords opposite should accept, for effort at least.
Another new and welcome departure by my right honourable friend has been to recognise the urgent need to recruit more teachers to shortage subjects: those subjects from whose short supply industry and commerce are already suffering, as the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, reminded your Lordships a moment ago. This year, in spite of the well advertised discontent of existing teachers with their present pay and condition arrangements, I was delighted to see that applications to all initial teacher training courses are up by 14 per cent. and applications for courses covered by the bursary scheme have risen still more sharply: for maths postgraduate certificate courses by 44 per cent.; for physics postgraduate courses by 82 per cent; and for craft, design and trade courses by 88 per cent. That seems to be an early answer to the prayer which the noble Lord quoted a moment ago.
It is all of 15 years since I taught in a college of education and a great deal has changed since then, but I believe the priorities remain the same. Of these, the first must be the overriding duty of all concerned in teacher training to serve the interests of the pupils whom the students will teach. Neither the interests of the lecturing staff, the aspirations of the students, the reputation of their institute or department nor the intentions of government should override the primacy of the welfare of the children who are to be taught and who will make up the education system, indeed the government, in years to come. That therefore means that the graduates the system produces must be both profesionally and morally competent to have the care of the children and to lead them to and equip them for their adult lives. That in turn means that it is of great importance to staff departments and institutes of education with men and women of ability and experience.
Coming down again to practicalities, the first thing I ask the Secretary of State to do in a practical sense is to consider the relationship between the salaries of senior teachers—teachers with authority as well as experience—and the salaries which they may receive if they join the staff of teacher training colleges. A few such people are invaluable in every college, not only because what they say carries great weight with the students but also because it carries great weight with the staffs of the schools in which those students will have their teaching practice.
If one had to single out a sole aspect of teacher training, one would select classroom practice before qualification as being that part of the students' education which gave most value for the time it took: in fact I believe it is indispensable. We must therefore do what we can to make it as effective as possible. I think this process carries on after qualification in the probationary year—I believe it is now called the introductory year.
Secondly I ask the Secretary of State to consider the difference in the arrangements made—in the allocation of time and resources given by different local education authorities to this process in their schools. Presumably the local education authorities will still be involved after the changes foreshadowed in the White Paper. I accept that it is expensive because what is needed is not merely to take the newly 165 qualified probationary teacher out of the classroom but also to take a senior teacher from somewhere to give the benefit of his advice and counsel.
Teaching is a profession where you have to live with your mistakes as long as you are in the institution in which you first committed them. How often we have seen very able people commit disasters in the first week of their first term and have to wait for the witnesses of those disasters to grow right through the school, take their final exams and leave, and then for the rumours and tradition left behind to evaporate as well before the difficulty is overcome.
The first weeks in a teaching career are of crucial importance beyond that of almost any other. I think that the Secretary of State should concentrate on that. Indeed, there would be something to be said for establishing and monitoring net minimal criteria for it.
I shall take only a moment longer. On the matter of in-service teaching, I notice that the Secretary of State is proposing—and I for one welcome it—to give greater autonomy to the heads of individual schools. In preparation for this he will no doubt be considering giving suitable training to the head teachers, and perhaps the deputy head teachers, of these schools. I have a moment of anxiety about this. It has always seemed to me one of the central anomalies of our educational system that people are promoted for teaching well, and the further they get promoted the less often they teach. When a headmaster or headmistress is responsible for an autonomous school it would be a great pity if important resources were devoted finally to extinguishing his or her teaching load. Adding extra expenditure to make sure that they carried out new duties for their abilities for which they had not been promoted and about which nobody necessarily knew anything until they were promoted—then it may not have been a pleasant surprise—would be a pity too.
I hope that my right honourable friend will think a little about the Bursars who still persist in the private sector or, if that is not a popular model, some other way in which the purely administrative and managerial functions of a headmaster, where they do not affect his pastoral functions, could be devolved to some other stream within the profession which might well take into it those unfortunates who come into the profession longing to teach and find that they do not have the greatest gift for it but who are very good at organising timetables and doing other things without which a school cannot function.
In conclusion, I repeat that I believe that the salvation of this country rests in the hands of the teachers of the future and that they will succeed if teaching is a profession and a vocation rather than a trade. I believe that the great majority are such people. I have great confidence in them—more confidence, may I say, than I have in their leadership. I believe that they will come through their present difficulties and I hope that they will do so swiftly and that the Secretary of State's Green Paper will allow them to do so.
The children who are now 12 to 15 and deciding what a teacher is are looking at the teachers of today. The teachers of today are therefore determining to some extent who will be the teachers of tomorrow. That is why it is important to get out of our present 166 difficulties quickly. I believe that teachers of the next generation deserve the confidence of this country provided they see that the trust which they have is for the generation beyond theirs; our grandchildren.
§ 5.43 p.m.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, my first concern in this debate is not only to add my warm congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on a memorable maiden speech but to support her argument that the part-time facilities offered at Birkbeck College to women as well as to men are a most important encouragement to obtaining qualifications which would otherwise remain out of reach. "Flexi-time" is vital to many women whose careers have been interrupted by domestic responsibilities, particularly a career in science or technology which almost inevitably will require updating or extra qualifications appropriate to a more senior position. So to withhold grants or to reduce facilities, as has been proposed at Birkbeck, is surely counterproductive, wasteful and to be deplored.
Meanwhile a record of women returners who are qualified and who wish to take up scientific research, either academic or in industry, is now being compiled by Professor Daphne Jackson at the University of Surrey, that place to which vice-chancellors go, or not, as the case may be, to be trained in business management, where special courses are arranged for them. Towards this task Professor Jackson has received the rather less than munificent sum of £2, 000 from the Department of Trade and Industry. But she has collected many thousands of pounds from non-governmental sources in order to provide updating fellowships for women who are concerned with a career in science or technology. Twenty such women have already been supported. There is a waiting list of 90, so I am reliably informed. I am sure that someone from the serried ranks of British industry who are listening so attentively to this debate on education will be able to provide some of the resources that are required for this admirable enterprise!
Even more flexibly perhaps the Open University has been meeting the needs of women students and has proved its worth despite having been under a cloud of official disapprobation only a few years ago. A number of noble Lords have no doubt received a short video presentation recently produced by the Open University and circulated, I understand, to Members of both Houses of Parliament who are likely to be interested. The most telling moments in this presentation are surely the juxtaposition of two graphs, one showing the apparent increase in Government support for the Open University over the past few years, and the next one showing the persistent decline in those resources if calculated in real terms.
Right at the end of the second of the Open University graphs there is a tiny upturn, in real terms, due to the official mind having at last grasped the fact that the Open University provides a most helpful way to combat the very dangerous decline in maths and physics teachers, for which extra funds have now been made available to it. This is to be greatly welcomed, as at a different level is the work of the Open College; but the facilities in both these organisations depend for full 167 use on the student having at least the necessary basic scholastic attainment. Not everyone has this.
Anyone familiar with adult education, as opposed to continuing education in the more professional sense, knows that some otherwise intelligent adults in their last years at school simply drop out, mentally if not physically. Often this is due to psychological problems—the break-up of a family, the loss of a parent or sibling and so on. It is for such people in particular that the very few residential adult education colleges which we possess can be so very important.
We have one in Wales at Coleg Harlech, funded directly by the Welsh Office, called familiarly "the College of the Second Chance". It is well known to the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, and to other noble Lords with Welsh connections. About 90 per cent. of its students go on to university or polytechnic degree courses which they could not possibly have achieved without the intensive preparation which such a residential college provides. Like village schools, such colleges have their special significance; but like so much else in our post-school system these colleges are finding their funding, again in real terms, diminishing at quite an alarming rate. The discrepancy between the academically-related inflation index—the so-called Tress-Brown index—used by the CVCP and the deflator and forward assumptions still in use at the DES makes a significant difference.
In referring to Harlech, perhaps I may say in parenthesis that this is the only reference I propose to make today to post-school education in Wales despite the very obscure references to the Principality on page 36 of the White Paper. High level discussions are in progress which preclude current comment. At the University of Wales the Institute of Science and Technology with which I am myself connected is competently managed. We had adopted the acceptable parts of Jarratt long before that report appeared.
All Welsh colleges are in serious difficulties. One major difficulty is that the majority at least have no substantial industrial hinterland on which they can depend for support either in cash or in kind. So far we feel that the University Grants Committee has not adequately appreciated this difficulty in the Principality. These institutions, like the others that I have mentioned and other universities in England and Scotland, are also aware of the discrepancy between academic spending and the spending in domestic life—the retail price index and so on—which seems still to be used by Her Majesty's Government even in situations that are not appropriate to it. The relationship between supposition and reality is crucially important in the area which causes perhaps the greatest concern of all, the funding of university science and technology and the science base, on which so much of our future depends.
I am not a scientist, but I can turn to those who speak with authority in this field. Last week I received a letter from a correspondent. I am not at liberty to name him because I have not asked his consent. Suffice it to say that he is a Fellow of the Royal Society and professor of inorganic chemistry at a large provincial university. He wrote to me as follows: 168I can presume to speak only for chemistry. But here the problem"—that is to say, of the funding of scientific work—can be stated quite simply. Our community has responded enthusiastically to the challenges of new and more multi-disciplinary research initiatives but once we actually try to start a new direction we find there is too little money available. It is the classic underfunding of research. To remain internationally competitive today is quite an expensive business. In January 1986 the SERC Science Board (on behalf of chemistry, biology, mathematics and low cost physics, that is to say, excluding nuclear physics and astronomy) put forward a request for some £100 million over five years to build up our major instrumentation in these areas to a respectable international level. No money has been made available for this.One of our new initiatives is Molecular Recognition".He goes on to explain in lay terms what that means and continues:This initiative was designed to compete with similar projects in the United States. A reasonable effort could be achieved for a total cost of some £18 million over a five-year period. We have been given £4.7 million and only for three years. Three-quarters of the problem will therefore remain untouched. Further, although the Research Councils were recently given money to compensate for the new salary awards to university staffs, this is guaranteed for one year only. The consequence is that we again have diminished resources for the future and we cannot offer sufficient moneys to our other initiatives, for example, the very important and timely "synthesis of 21st century materials", to say nothing of our real blue skies research, which most people would argue is our prime role to support.To be of real use to industry academic science research is a longterm effort and must therefore have long-term funding. Instead funding is becoming capricious. We are trying to get started the few "new blood" people we have in the system. Within a cash limits situation, if we fund the young we will not be able to fund older, established groups. Almost the worst aspect of the present mess in which university science finds itself is that now that the "new blood" scheme is finished there is no real way forward to recruit young people with new entrepreneurial ideas into our now seriously ageing profession. Please let me know if there are any points I can clarify further".That is a very serious letter from a highly experienced academic. It is against this depressing background that the universities have to seek industrial support in areas where it is appropriate or to struggle on where it is not. Some noble Lords may be going on tonight to the Royal Society to discuss these problems yet again.
In many areas there are of course very encouraging success stories, but it is hard to persuade industrialists that unless their munificence fully covers overheads the relevant departments may turn to using other departmental funds which should be used to teach and train the next generation rather than to solve the immediate problems of industry. There is all too little in the White Paper to sustain the hopes of those who realise that ends without means are an illusion.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, I can think of few whose appearance in your Lordships' House has been more eagerly awaited than that of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, and after her maiden speech it is quite clear why. I congratulate her warmly on it. I agree wholeheartedly with her that continuing education is not only a wonderful therapy for a lady of 96 but also a matter of retraining people in their thirties and forties.
Everyone knows that the last six years have been grim years for those in higher education, and morale is 169 very low. The dons feel that they are in the dog-house. Their pay has been reduced in real terms, many have been forced to retire and many others prefer to emigrate to America; they are doing so in quite large numbers. They feel despised by government.
But these grim years have been made much worse because the Government have failed to tell the institutions of higher education what their policy is. Can the Government not take a leaf out of Field Marshall Montgomery's book? You cannot get people to change their ways and do disagreeable things unless you explain to them why it is necessary and how it is to be done. The equivalent for a don of landing on the beaches in Normandy is to be told that he must move his department to another university, and has got to be convinced that it will be the death of his subject and of university education as a whole, unless savings in costs can be made.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, may well say to me, "Have you not read our White Paper?". The noble Baroness will remember that I said some rather disobliging things about the civil servants who drafted the Green Paper. I want to congratulate her and them on the White Paper, which is in a totally different class. It is full of good sense. However, if I may say so, it is a document more for vice-chancellors, principals and directors to read than for those who teach and research in higher education. It is all about productivity, planning, access and efficiency. Those in higher education want something more which, I suspect, it is impossible to give them until after the general election. They want to be told what is going to happen to their individual institution and to their own department.
The White Paper is full of information about polytechnics, but is much less full of information about universities. One cannot tell people in universities that unless one has answered a question which I hear the Secretary of State shortly after appointment put to the University Grants Committee. He asked:Where should universities be in 10 years' time?I do not quite know whether he received an answer, but should it not perhaps have run something like this? Quite recently the UCG set up a peer review of the work in each university. Every department was subjected to a review of professors in that field. Of course when the results came out there were loud gnashings of teeth. My information is, though few dons say so in public, that there is general agreement among academics that the review got it right.
What did the review show? It showed that seven to eight multi-faculty institutions are in a class by themselves in research. It showed also that about 10 institutions are below average, and some really very poor. Most of these are small campuses of 3, 000 students or fewer, often in Scotland or Wales. If we are to save the reputation for research in those top seven universities, if they are going to keep the reputation of our country in the world as great institutions of teaching and research, with all that that implies for industry and business, there will have to be fewer resources for the bottom ten.
The bottom ten will have to change their character. Some places will no longer be able to do science. They will have no graduate students, just like many 170 first-class colleges in America such as Swarthmore. Others will have to obtain their research money mainly from business and industry, like Salford. Science will have to become concentrated in fewer institutions—that is expensive fundamental science—just as engineering and medicine are concentrated at present.
It does not mean that those institutions, which are not great research places, gaining large sums of money from the UGC or the research councils, will not be able to do research. But they will have to get it funded from another source, and that will direct them, as in Salford, to get their research money from, and to direct their research towards, industry.
The first thing that the Government should explain is that they are trying to do what Lord Robbins advocated for years. They are trying to arrange for more students to be taught by fewer staff. That is why there have been the so-called cuts. This is not unreasonable. Even now, after the economies of the last few years, the staff student overall ratio is something like one to 11 or one to 12. That is far more favourable than in any other country. Of course this ratio enables British institutions of higher education to have a low drop-out rate. Those who are admitted get their degrees. But I think the ratio could lengthen gradually without ruin. Ask the greatest of the American universities how they do it. It is of course done by a different system of teaching.
The second thing that the Government should explain is that they are trying to rationalise resources. Should not this go a good deal further than it has at present? The University Grants Committee has the remedy in its own hands. It has a formula for financing. Why not apply it with financial sanctions and say, "No university will get a grant for any major subject in a department with fewer than 16 staff and 250 students"? Small subjects would then be concentrated in a few universities. There really is not much future for scientific departments, or even departments such as economics, much smaller than this.
The alternative of course is for the University Grants Committee itself to arrange shotgun marriages. I am afraid that it will be shotgun because persuasion does not work. The rationalisation of small subjects, like Russian, has been fought with terrible intensity. For example, in London the merger of colleges is still largely a paper exercise. There will never be major savings until sites are vacated and small campuses closed.
Why on earth, you may ask, is this necessary? My Lords, we set up 25 years ago a system of higher education which no country—not even America—could afford. We doubled the number of university institutions. We funded them all on the same scale. In America staff at Oxford, Mississippi, are not paid the same as staff at Cambridge, Massachusetts. But let me not be thought to apply that comparison to such named institutions in this country.
We next founded 32 polytechnics. They were given parity of esteem (and indeed almost parity of salaries) with the universities. They were to teach three-year degree courses. We upgraded further education colleges. We founded business schools, the Open 171 University, two new research councils, four new medical schools. We created student services for health, sport, careers, and lavished funds on the student unions, and all students of course got grants. That is why the White Paper demands the better use of resources. I think the White Paper spells out admirably, and in far greater detail, the Government's plans for the public sector of higher education. The polytechnic and college funding council will be set up and will make contracts with each polytechnic.
There is one vital set of institutions which will fall under it, and that is the colleges which provide teacher training. I hope that the Secretary of State will at once detail part of the inspectorate to monitor the work in those places where teachers are trained, because many of us think that some of the worst instances of bad teaching in the schools spring from the wrong kind of training in these colleges. The low expectation of achievement in some of our schools is due to inadequate instruction as to how to teach a given subject, and this monitoring exercise need not wait upon government legislation.
It is a matter for regret, I think, that the White Paper admits that it will be several years before these new arrangements can come into being. It may well be that no executive decisions can be taken in regard to the polytechnics as a whole, but surely discussion between the new PCFC and individual institutions could begin at an early date so as to give those in each polytechnic a clear idea of what the Government require of them so that they can begin discussing how to achieve that end.
I do not want to labour the point that I have made in the past that the universities and polytechnics have in part brought their troubles upon themselves by alienating Westminster and Whitehall in refusing to vary the model that was set up in the 1960s. From Mrs. Shirley Williams's 13 points, government initiatives to reduce expenditure were so often rejected. Then in 1981 push came to shove, but the Government respected the autonomy of the universities and did not dictate how they were to meet the cuts which were imposed upon them.
I shall say no more about how they responded to meet them except to say that they allowed so many of their best staff to go, and made no attempt really to get rid of the dead wood among staff recruited during the crash programme of the 1960s which is causing the log-jam in promotion.
I think that the Government need to build a new structure, but they cannot do so without the help of the dons, and they will not get that help from academic staff unless they tell them what they want and where they hope to see each institution go. I should like to lay symbolically at the door of the Department of Education and Science a carrot. That is why we need to set up the new universities funding council and the polytechnic and college funding council as quickly as possible.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, my noble friend Lord McIntosh may well feel gratified at having set on foot this most interesting and, if I may say so, widely 172 informed debate, and a debate that has been greatly embellished by the fine maiden speech contributed by my noble friend Lady Blackstone. I trust that we shall hear her on many future occasions.
I want to devote my ration of time to a field of post-school education which for those of us who sit in Westminster is under our noses. I refer to the network of classes and courses of instruction that are provided partly directly by ILEA through its evening institutes, partly by co-operation between ILEA and the Workers' Educational Association and partly by co-operation between the Workers' Educational Association and the University of London.
If we look at these all together we find that they provide for the needs of all ages, from those who have just left school to grandparents and they provide every kind of course, from those regarded as the most strictly utilitarian that will help you to put up the wallpaper in your house, to those which some people will regard as a sheer waste of the ratepayers' money like trying to help people to understand great pictures or great writing.
This is not new, but I believe that it is of special importance now because London has become a city which for the first time has begun to suffer seriously from unemployment. The great depressions of the past never struck London as hard as it is being struck now. Also London has become, as never before, a multi-lingual and multi-cultural city. The problems of getting people of different races and languages to live together are of exceptional importance.
This kind of structure of adult education is not peculiar to London. Other great cities have something similar but none has developed it to anything like the same extent. That is partly due to the sheer size of inner London. If one wants to set up a wide range of courses within reach of the people who want to attend them, one must have a large population living fairly close together. The proportion of the population who will want to learn Russian is rather limited at any time. It will not be possible to provide adequate facilities unless there is a fairly large population in a fairly small area. That is one of the justifications for the continued existence of the Inner London Education Authority.
It was rather disquieting that in the discussions we had on the government of London so many noble Lords spoke of ILEA as though it did not have that kind of educational provision and as though the schools were the sum total of ILEA's work. I should like to look at the relationship of those courses of instruction to the problem of unemployment. One of the reasons for unemployment, though only one, is that in some cases jobs are waiting to be done but there are insufficient people with the necessary skills to do them. The vocational courses provided at many evening institutes are one remedy. I believe that a considerable proportion of those who pursue the professions of accountancy and banking began to equip themselves for them in an ILEA evening institute. There are many other examples of useful vocational education, the value of which nobody disputes.
There are also classes in the teaching of the English language. Many of those who came here from other countries to make their homes found that the evening 173 institute was not only a place to learn the English language but a place where they could make friends and begin to belong to the community. It is rather remarkable that at the time when it became apparent that we would have a considerable immigrant population there was not much of a concerted national effort to help integrate those people into the society in which they were to live. In its modest way the ILEA education service was achieving that through its language classes and through the social activities that grow up round an evening institute.
There were also classes dealing with sociological and, if one dare use the word, political matters. One could pursue a course of study on how local government was supposed to work. I do not know whether it is still true, but in the past many people became London borough councillors partly as a result of the courses of study they pursued either at evening institutes or through the workers' educational associations. It is true that they did not follow the tenets of the party opposite to the extent that that party would have liked, but they made good borough councillors nonetheless.
Some courses of instruction have been of a purely vocational character, but I think none the worse for that. If one is suffering from unemployment it is useful to be competent about the house; to be able in your enforced leisure to do things in the house which you had not previously been able to do and which you might not originally have had the skill to do. When one visits an evening institute and finds people learning how to put up wallpaper, one realises that this is at all times a useful thing to learn. It may be particularly useful for a man who is unemployed to acquire a skill of that kind.
As I suggested, there will be courses of a purely cultural character. In this connection one sees letters in the local paper asking why the ratepayers should pay for someone who wishes to study Greek drama and why he cannot pay for it from his own pocket.
One rather solemn reflection occurs to me. If we study the statistics of crime it is painfully apparent that we now live in a more violent and, I am afraid, less civilised community than that in which we lived 10 or 15 years ago. I believe that we are living in a more greedy and acquisitive society. Therefore it is important that there should be some element in the state which helps to promote the nobler aspects of human nature. If anyone has the idea that ratepayers are being reduced to poverty and that businessmen are being driven into neighbouring boroughs because of excessive expenditure on cultural classes at evening institutes, he has not studied his figures correctly.
What ought governments to do about this problem? First, they should refrain from penny-pinching. When governments have been short of money it has always been a temptation to push up the fees charged to students at evening classes. We might remember that most of those who attend classes do not have a great deal of money in the first place; and they are people who know the value of money, spend it carefully and do not waste it. I hope that in future governments will try to avoid pushing up the cost to the individual of the evening institute and workers' educational association study. 174 The second point as regards London is that government must leave alone the Inner London Education Authority. It is its existence that makes the important contribution to adult education possible. If the area covered by the Inner London Education Authority was divided up into the dozen different constituent boroughs and each borough was told to run its own education, they would not find it too easy to achieve that as regards schools and they would find it absolutely impossible to provide adult education facilities on this scale. We may be told that they could group together and form a joint committee to achieve it; that is to say, the excuse for cutting the thing to pieces is that one can, with trouble and care, sew it together again.
I stress that point because it seems to me that at the moment we have the misfortune to have a Secretary of State who dislikes teachers and dislikes London. At the present time those are particularly unfortunate characteristics for a Secretary of State to possess. I hope that he will reconsider matters and possibly entertain the idea that some of the difficulties he has may be partly due to an excessive hastiness in his approach to the matter.
The network of adult education which I have described is paid for by the joint contributions of the individuals who benefit from it and from public funds. In effect, it is a civic achievement. It is something of which any great city or local authority may be proud. I trust that London will always continue to be proud of this extremely valuable, if modest, and straightforward contribution to civilisation.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Baroness Faithfull
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in his introduction to this debate, for which we are very grateful, invited us to speak on our own sectors of interest. I shall seek to speak today on the training and education of social workers.
When I enrolled at Birmingham University to train as a social worker, I was somewhat taken aback when at the first lecture we were told that throughout our social work career we should learn to work for our own extinction. Our role, we were told, should be to work alongside the vulnerable in society in such a way that ultimately, wherever possible and practicable, the vulnerable should be enabled to grow towards a belief in themselves, to acquire skills and to be independent so as to lead their own lives in their own families and in their communities. To this end, we were told during our training to show sensitivity to the needs—physical, emotional and material—of each individual with whom we worked alongside, to learn to make a commitment to their needs and to acquire a knowledge of the tools by which we could help.
The fields of social workers are wide: mental health, law, public health and the social structure of our society. While good work is being done, often unsung and unrecognised, by many social workers, nevertheless their reputation has received some hard knocks of late. This morning we read in our papers of the dreadful death of a child. We read in the Clough Report of the plight of old people in homes in Camden.
175 I contend that all political parties must be responsible for these very sad occurrences. The training of social workers has been inadequate, and I pay tribute here to Her Majesty's Government who are now seeking to review the situation. The Council for Training and Education of Social Work was set up 15 years ago. The council was given an impossible task. Prior to 1970 there were two councils. One carried out training for work with the elderly, the disabled, the mentally-handicapped and the mentally ill; and the second council carried out training in childcare and in working with families.
Each council provided a two-year course, followed up by refresher courses and post-qualifying courses. For instance, my authority allowed three members of staff each year to go to the Tavistock Clinic twice a week. In 1970, with the setting up of the social service departments, the Council for Training and Education of Social Work was started. However, the two councils were merged and there was then one course only for the two sets of social workers from both councils. The course was telescoped from two separate two-year courses into one two-year course. Furthermore, courses mushroomed throughout the country to meet the needs, often with tutors who were inexperienced in the subjects they had to teach.
Again, since 1970 there have been changes in legislation, changes in social needs and changes in responsibilities and in the expectations of society. I would refer particularly at this moment to the change from institutional to community care. I have to tell your Lordships that for community care to be carried out sensitively, adequately and well takes training, experience and money.
I would make three pleas to Her Majesty's Government. The first is that social work training should be extended to three years. To train for two years only means that we do not train the social workers adequately, and we do not give them the tools to do their work. In fact it is not cost-effective because if they do not learn properly how to do their job we have wasted that period of two years' training.
Secondly, I would ask that we take on mature students for training in social work. Here I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for her splendid speech; and I should like to support her in respect of the training of mature students as well as students from the ethnic groups.
I believe various speakers have already mentioned mature students, and I would include not only women but men. In my own area we started a course at the Oxford Polytechnic for mature students, and we took on a number of men between 45 and 50 who in fact had been in the services and had retired at that age. The mature men and women were absolutely invaluable in the field of social work. However, I also have to say that serious consideration must be given to mandatory grants. I recall that the first amendment I ever won in your Lordships' House was one that concerned mandatory grants. I won that amendment with a considerable majority but, alas, it fell in the other place
Thirdly, I suggest that local authorities must pay heed to the provision of good and well-supervised 176 practical work. Without the combination of practical training in the field with academic training in the polytechnic, the college of further education or the university, you do not get a balanced qualification.
I should also like to say that I think post-graduate courses should be included in the training of social workers: there should also be refresher courses. I believe that social work should be acknowledged and should live up to the reputation of being a profession. Sadly, in our profession of social work and—dare I say it in your Lordships' House?—in education, party politics so often overlay the performance of professional skills. To use the vulnerable for party political motives instead of providing professional service is to diminish those who so badly need help. It is humiliating to use them in this way.
I pay tribute to the newly constituted Council for Training and Education in Social Work and to Professor Saul, the vice-chancellor of York University, who is the president of that council. I should also like to pay tribute to the new director, Mr. Tony Hall.
I make this plea to Her Majesty's Government to support the extra year's training for social workers; and to the social work profession and those who train social workers to provide a professional social work service to the country, whereby knowledge and skills are translated into accountable professional practice.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Baroness Lockwood
My Lords, I must apologise to the House, and in particular to my noble friend Lord McIntosh, for not being in my place at the opening of the debate. I was fulfilling a long-standing educational engagement downstairs, which had a threefold purpose. The first was to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for her 15 years' service as president of Hillcroft College. The second purpose was to celebrate the diamond jubilee of that college and the third purpose was to launch an appeal for funds. I think those are all very relevant to the debate today; so I hope I may be forgiven.
Hillcroft College is the only adult residential college catering solely for women. For 60 years it has been offering "second chance" education to women who, for a variety of reasons, stalled at the barriers to higher education in their youth. It is now adapting to the changing circumstances of the times. As well as offering full-time residential education, it is also offering part-time access education. But, like the majority of educational institutions, no matter how relevant they are to the country's needs—and I think the education of women is very relevant to the country's needs—it is suffering from a lack of finance; hence today's appeal.
I want to concentrate the remainder of my remarks this evening on some of the barriers in higher education, and to draw on experience from three of the universities with which I am associated.
The White Paper Higher Education: Meeting the Challenge is based on the need to widen access for both young people and mature students. Paragraph 2.15 of the White Paper states:Not only will entry requirements and procedures have to be changed; institutions of higher education will have to adapt their teaching methods and the design of their courses to accommodate new types of student".177 That is absolutely true. We are not just talking about numbers; we are talking about a new approach to higher education of which the universities, perhaps with the exception of Birkbeck College, have so far had little experience. How, then, will they adapt and respond to the new approach outlined in the White Paper? We might also ask what incentives there will be for them to modify their present procedures and courses.
About a year ago most of the universities in the country were discussing their response to the Jarratt Report, which among other things was concerned with efficiency and performance indicators. The two premier indicators revered by universities in the past, not only because of their intrinsic merits but also because of the financial advantage placed on them by the UGC, have been A-level scores and research grants. In the 1981 cuts a number of universities, among which was Bradford, suffered on the grounds of A-level scores, and in the recent changes which the UGC has introduced on selective funding for research Leeds University has not come out very well on that score.
I have to say that unless there are other criteria—I am not knocking A-levels and research grants, but I am saying that unless there are other additional criteria—which are given equal weight in the future, paragraph 2.15 will remain merely a paragraph in a White Paper. Bradford University is planning to take its first clutch of TVEI students in the next academic year. Those students will not necessarily possess the same A-level qualifications as would normally be expected from 18 year olds, but they will have performed well on their TVEI options, and the university feels that the TVEI courses will have given them a wider experience than that of the average youngster.
Bradford University has some experience of what adaptations will be necessary based on its experience with B. Tech. students and it is now hoping there will be a 20 per cent. intake of those on some of its degree courses. Experience has indicated that adjustments to presentation and pace have to be made. In some cases special teaching has to be provided, and more counselling is required. But once the hurdle of the first year has been passed students have performed extremely well. They possess a maturity which other students tend to lack and which benefits all on the course. You might say that that is very commendable and a valuable input into the university, but it brings no bonus points to the university because, unlike A-level scores, the UGC attaches no financial implications to it.
Leeds University is very closely associated with industry, which is one of the areas on which the White Paper has placed some emphasis, but the university feels that its close contact with industry for research purposes brings it no increased ratings from the UGC. Indeed, it feels that it suffers financially as a consequence. In a letter which I have had from the Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University he indicates that while the reearch might be important to the national economy of the country it has disadvantages to the university for two reasons. Incidentally, in 1986 Leeds University was rated by the ABRC as coming third 178 only after Oxford and Cambridge for its industrial research contracts.
The vice-chancellor says:First, for Research Council Contracts the UGC provides full compensating 'overheads' as an additional grant to the universities gaining them. For Industrial Contracts it does not, and overheads that we obtained from industry may be either inadequate or restrictive.Second, and more important, this industrial research may be quite unknown to the UGC or those who advise on selectivity of UGC funding. The value judgements made in selective funding will thus reinforce universities whose main source of research income is the Research Council and deprive those whose main source of research income is industry".So there is not much incentive there for the university.
My third area concerns part-time education, which has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady White, and which was mentioned by my noble friend Lady Blackstone, whose speech I was lucky enough to hear from behind the Bar. I look forward to working with her not only in the House in the future but also when she takes up her appointment as Master of Birkbeck.
Your Lordships have concerned yourselves with the problems of Birkbeck College on a number of occasions in recent months. You are familiar with the fact that undergraduates are solely part time in Birkbeck College and that the new UGC funding formula has worked against the financial interests of Birkbeck. A number of factors in relation to Birkbeck must be taken into account. One of them was mentioned by my noble friend. The cost of a degree from Birkbeck is much lower than that of a degree from any other university. Secondly, the cost to individuals is quite considerable. Part-time students do not qualify for a mandatory grant. Therefore the majority of Birkbeck students have to pay their own fees out of already taxed income. Thirdly, because students are mainly self-financing, student fees are cut to the very minimum by the college. In that way the college is squeezed at both ends.
It may be felt that Birkbeck students fit exactly into the criteria of the White Paper—namely, access, maturity, updating and continuing education, as well as encouraging self-help—yet the college is penalised and is now facing a very real financial crisis. With the help of your Lordships, among others, the crisis was stayed during the current year but the college is now advised that the special factor assistance that was given to it during the current year will not be available in the coming year. That is despite the fact that the college has again sought to help itself, and there has been a review of the college carried out under the chairmanship of Sir Barney Hayhoe.
Recommendations have been made for restructuring and rationalisation with a view to economies. There have also been recommendations for a link with the ILEA in order to widen access even further, particularly among women and ethnic groups. Again, one should have thought that such an example of self-help would be rewarded by at least a continuation of the special factor funding, but that was not so.
Therefore we must ask: what are these institutions to do when they find that far from their being rewarded for their efforts, the system penalises them? I suggest that in the case of Birkbeck there are two essential steps for the Government to take. One is to extend the 179 mandatory grants to equivalent part-time students. That would immediately relieve the position of many students and at the same time enable the college to be more realistic in setting the level of fees. The other measure for the Government to take is for them to do with part-time students what has been done with continuing education through the pick-up scheme; namely, to provide an earmarked sum for the UGC to use both for the introduction, of adult and part-time education and for the continuation of activities such as those in which Birkbeck is involved.
The whole thrust of my remarks has been toward illustrating that however welcome in emphasis the White Paper may be, there will be no real changes unless both the Government and the UGC are prepared to put funding behind the principles.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord Allen of Abbeydale
My Lords, I have not previously ventured to take part in a debate on education and I rise with considerable diffidence to make a modest contribution as an amateur among so many professionals. The terms of the Motion have permitted an important and very wide-ranging debate to take place and we are fortunate to have had it illuminated by such a distinguished maiden speech. For my part I propose to speak only about universities.
I cannot help being concerned when the president of my Cambridge college, the college of Erasmus, tells me that we must look for damaging changes that are likely to affect adversely the future life of the college and when the university itself—if my noble friend Lord Adrian will forgive me for saying so—seems to have lost some of its former glory. However, on the wider issues I want to make only one point, to underline a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Blake, earlier in the debate.
I find it disappointing that in paragraph 4.42 the White Paper rejects a key recommendation in the Croham Report, following a similar recommendation in the Jarratt Report, for a longer funding horizon for universities and prefers instead that there should be a rolling programme and that the Universities Funding Council should give universities planning parameters for the medium and long term. Leaving aside the fact that it is deplorable that the word "parameters" should be so utterly misused in a document purporting to deal with higher education, I find it rather sad that, while telling everyone else what changes to make, the Government themselves refuse to act on a matter within their competence to which successive independent reviews have drawn attention.
For the rest, I shall limit myself to the experience of one of the constituent colleges of London University simply as a practical illustration of how present policies impinge on one of the perhaps less glamorous university institutions. The college of which I am speaking is Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.
A few years ago I joined the councils of Royal Holloway College and Bedford College which were then separate institutions. The university already had well advanced plans for concentrating and reducing the number of science sites in the university and for 180 cutting down on the total of multifaculty schools by a process of merger. One of the mergers then in prospect was that of the two colleges that I had joined.
A declaration of intention to merge was made in July 1982 and it is a quite remarkable achievement that the new college was able to come into existence on 1st August 1985. By that date an Act of Parliament had been passed and millions of pounds had been committed to new buildings. Bedford College had given up its site in Regent's Park and moved out to what the Post Office, with its somewhat uncertain geographic touch, regards as Egham but which is actually Englefield Green, where just a century earlier the astonished inhabitants had seen the Chateau de Chambord rise up in the green fields of their village. I expect that a number of noble Lords have gazed at the building with some fascination as they have driven past it on the A.30. It is now accompanied by many others and on that perfectly splendid site there exists a well equipped college for nearly 3, 000 students. What is more, there has been a proved saving of some £1 million a year compared with the annual costs of the two separate colleges.
I am sorry that my noble friend Lord Annan is not in his place because I can assure him that that did not seem like a paper exercise. However, a price had to be paid for achieving the merger in such a short time, and I do not mean simply that for some months everyone had to walk around the site in a sea of mud. Student examination results did not suffer but research undoubtedly did. For example, low temperature physics experienced a complete hiatus between the closing down of the old laboratories and the coming into being of the new. So when the UGC formula for grant allocation was applied, with the weight given in it to research, the new college did not fare all that well.
By the end of the first year, the council of the new college was faced with the fact that the savings that had been achieved, along with such special help as had been received for the merger, had been swallowed up by the continuous real reduction in grant, and despite all the improvements in management which had won a ministerial encomium from the DES, no less, a substantial deficit seemed inevitable for 1986–87, with even worse prospects to follow. So we again buckled to and commissioned an efficiency study, with professional help from outside, to examine every activity in the college and assess whether it was essential and, if so, what was the minimum level of staffing required. It does great credit to the staff, academic and non-academic, that they accepted the need for this unpalatable exercise and accepted the conclusions, even though they meant abandoning some activities and reducing the staff bill by some 10 to 12 per cent. over 18 months.
Once those reductions had been made the outcome in the council's view would be to leave the college with the minimum of staff and activities needed to ensure that it remained a viable academic body. But now, after all this, we have had an indication of grant levels for the coming two years which paint a financial picture even worse than anything we had ever envisaged. So, far from being able to put all our efforts into attracting more mature students and students from overseas, making sure that all our graduates are numerate, exploiting our location in the Thames 181 valley to develop still more our links with industry and commerce, and all the rest of our plans, we are instead thrown back on a new round of introspection and self-examination with, at the end, no very obvious way of finding a solution which will not render nugatory all the investment of time and money in creating the new college. We are doing our best to raise funds from sources other than government, but we feel that we are teetering on the very edge of viability.
I am not saying all this to make a special plea this evening for more money for the college. I am saying it to illustrate the kind of problems that one college faces, given the present resources allocated to the university system. Nor incidentally am I suggesting that London University should step in and solve our problems, although I must say a rather more generous allocation would certainly be welcome, for we are only too conscious of the fact that the university itself is struggling with inadequate resources to meet its manifold commitments.
Against that background, when the college is finding all it has hoped to do put at risk, how can we keep up the feeling of mission and commitment among the staff? How can we plan for our research projects, and attract and retain the necessary high quality people? How can we fully develop the great attractions of our site and make our contribution to carrying out the fine words of the White Paper?
Just the other day the Prime Minister was speaking of the booming optimism of industry and the new found pride of the British people in their country. I fear that optimism and pride are in somewhat short supply among the members of the Council of the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, I feel privileged to enter this debate this evening. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone on what we in Lancashire would say was a gradely speech. For the benefit of the noble Lords who do not understand that, it means that the noble Baroness did a very good job indeed and we are very proud of her. Long may she continue to do so in this House.
I do not wish to mention my sorrow at the findings at Lancaster and my connections with the university there over the past 23 years. Neither do I wish to dwell on the difficulties that we are facing at the Lancashire polytechnic based in Preston. I wish to go down a different road entirely and recall my experience in education over a number of years.
In my early days as a member of the education committee, I remember being privileged to serve as a governor on what was named the People's College. The People's College in Blackburn was a tripartite college with the extra-mural department of Manchester University, the Workers' Educational Association and the local authority joining together. That was a first-class institution where people could go and do all the things that my noble friend Lord Stewart of Fulham mentioned earlier. I acknowledge that we could not do all the things that the ILEA were doing, but nevertheless we had a shot at trying to help people to lead a fuller life. That is what further education is about: to lead a fuller life and to enjoy life to the full.
182 We also used to run what we used to call night schools in those days. I am sure that that is just a different way of saying evening classes. We used to encourage people to go to night school to improve their opportunities at work. Many of our boys in Lancashire were able to take their higher national certificates and to benefit a great deal from the work that they did at night school and at technical college.
I also remember encouraging a study in politics during my time as a member of the governing body at the People's College. I regretted that a few years afterwards because a number of people who attended that college and took that particular subject started opposing us and they became members of the Liberal Party. After a time I was a little worried as to whether we had done the right thing in starting that course because for many years, until the course started, there had been no Liberals at the college. Their education certainly was expanded and they benefited from that course.
We then progressed to another item which gave a great deal of encouragement to people; that was the extension of our schools to make them institutions as well, because we realised that no manufacturer would invest a considerable amount of money in his school and only use that school for 190 to 195 days per year from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Therefore, we encouraged our schools to become community schools and for the facilities in them to be used for the benefit of the people who lived in those districts. That was a good opportunity again for people to use their leisure. We realised—it is certainly coming to pass now—that people were starting to receive more leisure time than ever before and they wanted to use it wisely and get the benefit of all the advantages that they could from education. We felt that it was incumbent on the local authority to start courses in those community schools.
I have learned a lot during my lifetime in education. It has been a privilege to serve in education. One of the things that I have learned is that one is not always right. When my local authority decided to introduce comprehensive education, it did not rush into it but took a long time over it. We consulted other authorities which had had a lot of experience. We consulted teachers. We consulted universities. We consulted parents. What is more, we worked together with the political parties in our area. Therefore our reorganisation never became a political difficulty. We went step by step together.
We decided that every secondary school would go from 11 to 18, because we did not believe that a school would be a good school without its sixth form, or as I prefer to call it a school with a top to it. We thought it right and proper that we should do that. We realised that it would be expensive, because it would be difficult to provide courses for every youngster who wanted to take the 27 options for GCE A-level in this way. Nevertheless, we tried to do it and we introduced all kinds of systems, such as making certain teachers peripatetic where there were small classes, and even in some cases moving students from one school to another for the lesser known subjects. But it worked.
Then came the years when the falling roll started. By that time I had left the local authority. The local authority was then reorganised and the new county took over the role of the county borough. What 183 happened in the county borough was that the new authority decided that there had to be a tertiary college built in, because it fitted in with their plans. I strongly objected to that tertiary college, but I now acknowledge publicly that I made a mistake.
The tertiary college became very successful indeed and we are now producing from that college young people who are more articulate and more inquisitive than any generation before them. They are people who do not want to go on to higher education in the form of colleges or universities, but they want to get more out of education. Therefore there are more young people going into technical colleges and into higher education of that type than ever before.
That is a remarkable achievement due to the tertiary college, because at 18 they were fed up with the 11 to 18 school. They liked their life in the tertiary college which made education more enjoyable. Therefore I acknowledge that tertiary colleges are a stepping stone to a better and fuller educational life.
I want to spend the last two moments at my disposal on the training of teachers, because that is one of the things that I feel has gone wrong during my period in education. Some of the finest teachers that we ever employed in Blackburn were the people who came out of the forces and had had two years' training. Those teachers proved to be excellent and gradually quite a number of them became head teachers. I used to think that those schools were very well-run indeed.
There were very few problems from those schools. I think that was because those people had a wider vision of the world and greater experience than some of the teachers that we now find in the schools, though that does not mean to say that all the teachers are of the type that I shall tell your Lordships about. But I find that there are too many teachers who go from school to college, from college to university and then back into teaching, and who know so little about what is going on in the world that after a period of time they start acting like the children whom they are teaching. That presents all kinds of problems and I am sure that we ought to look more closely at this aspect.
I hope that the Government will take a leaf out of my book and from time to time admit that they, too, make mistakes. I am glad to see that yesterday the Secretary of State made the U-turn that he did in withdrawing his circular about closing smaller schools. I hope he will do that a little more often and realise when he has made a mistake.
§ 7.5 p.m.
My Lords, I am very glad to have a chance to speak in this important debate on education. I should like to say something about agricultural education, which is a specialist sector of post-school education. But before I do so I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, on her maiden speech. As someone who made his own maiden speech at 9.15 last evening, I think that I can fairly claim to be the most recent authority on the matter.
I should like to congratulate her most sincerely on the lucidity and clarity with which she advanced her arguments and, like all your Lordships, I am looking 184 forward very much indeed to hearing her speak in the future on education and on the other areas of interest which I know she has. The noble Baroness spoke as a provider of further education. I speak as a consumer through agricultural college and the night schools to which my noble friend Lord Taylor referred.
Before I turn to agricultural education, I should like to pick up and reinforce a point made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, at the start of this debate when he referred to education throughout life and to the importance of the mature student. I had the rare experience of going to Oxford at the age of 40—a mere stripling compared to the 96 year-old Canadian lady referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone—to read for a second degree without having a first degree. This was through a research fellowship that was funded by the Ministry of Agriculture. Sadly, I believe that such fellowships are no longer available.
But I have to say that a two-year mid-career sabbatical is of immense value. I would argue that mature students are highly motivated and add considerably to the life of the educational establishments which they attend. The White Paper emphasises the need to increase the access of mature students and we welcome this. I was interested to see a statistic that nearly 40 per cent. of entrants to full-time degree courses without the normal minimum qualifications went on to gain first-class or upper-second degrees.
Turning to agricultural education, this is a specialist sector of further education. To use an agricultural analogy, it is almost in a ring fence. There is an excellent relationship between the agricultural education sector and the agricultural industry—both the farmers and the ancillary industries. There really is a sense of partnership.
I should first like to make the plea that this sense of partnership must not be lost in the reorganisation which is envisaged in the White Paper. There is indeed a need for expansion in agricultural education and for new disciplines in rural land use, in diversification in the countryside and in forestry. There is another and wider role. I repeat a statistic which I gave last evening in the agricultural debate. It has been estimated that world food supplies must eventually be trebled if the world is to be properly fed and there must be expansion in the order of 75 per cent. by the year 2000. In that whole area there is an important role for all our universities and colleges as regards research, development and training.
I shall deal first with the university departments of agriculture. I was interested to read figures which were given by the conference of agricultural professors indicating the number of graduates who in 1985 found jobs at the end of their degree courses. The figures showed that 93 per cent. of the graduates in agriculture, 91 per cent. of the graduates in agricultural science, and 97 per cent. of the graduates in agricultural economics found jobs. Despite that considerable success story I must report to your Lordships—and I am sure that you know this—that morale is very, very low. There is a constant battle for funds. I was told by one professor that he reckoned he spent up to 10 per cent. of his time in the last two years just defending his department. Every year he was asked to give up 185 subscriptions to learned journals and there was rarely the chance to take on new ones.
There are three direct grant colleges in the agricultural sector and there are many county colleges with strong local links. The three direct grant colleges—namely, Seale-Hayne, Harper Adams and Shuttleworth—are listed in Annex E of the White Paper to be transferred to the new PFC. There is one county college, at Writtle in Essex (and I must declare an interest because it is the college which I attended) which is listed in Annex D as having a choice whether to go to the PCFC or to stay with the local authority. The question that I should like to ask the noble Baroness concerns how the choice is to be implemented. Is it to be a choice for the local authority or for the institution alone? The White Paper does not make clear how that is to be done.
Another point which concerns me is that the four colleges will represent a small sector within the PCFC and I fear that there is perhaps a danger of their being swamped. I wonder whether there is a case for an industry sub-committee structure in the PCFC to ensure that the interests of various industries are represented. Obviously agriculture would be a natural candidate for such an arrangement. Direct grant colleges offer some non-advanced level courses, and I should like to know how they will be organised and funded under the new structure.
The county colleges, which used to be called farm institutes, are extremely important at county level. Their local links are very strong and they provide a large number of part-time courses and have links with the YTS. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows that eight of those colleges already offer HND courses—advanced-level work. How are they to be organised and funded under the new organisation?
Turning to more general points, the White Paper refers to the need to attract private funding to support research and development. Again, I am not entirely clear how that is to be done in the agricultural sector. There are not that many farming businesses which are large enough to support the direction of funds. I should be very concerned if the multinationals become very involved in this area because, for example, a chemical and fertiliser company might not exactly encourage work on crops which need less nitrogen.
The development of new courses is extremely important. I understand that the NAB has kept a very tight rein on this matter. For example, a county college is to start an HND course in September this year which it applied for in November 1983, which was four years ago. Another example is a county college which devised a new HND course in landscape contract management with widespread support from industry, the local authority, the DES and others but was told that such a course would be incompatible with the number of places approved for the county, which was Surrey. The only way in which the course could be mounted was if there were a college in the county that was prepared to give up some further education places to provide places for the new course. Industry wanted the course and jobs were available at the end of it. What will be the organisation for the development of new courses under the new arrangements?
186 As regards the transfer of assets, the White Paper says that there will be no compensation to the LEAs for transfer of physical assets, and I understand the reasons for that. However, the agricultural colleges have substantial assets; namely, farmland, working capital and houses which technically are council houses. I should like to know how they will be transferred.
I have raised a number of specific points which I hope will be answered at the end of the debate. I should like to conclude by repeating that the agricultural education sector has a first-class relationship with the agricultural industry in its widest sense and it is vitally important that that relationship is maintained, and indeed improved, in the new arrangements which are now proposed.
§ 7.16 p.m.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, you will not expect me to follow the interesting account that we have been given about agricultural education. I can only sympathise with my noble friend on the Front Bench at having to get up in an hour's time to deal with yet a new area of expertise. I do not propose to burden her with any questions.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for introducing such an interesting debate. It has supplemented the discussions that we had on the Croham report and it has taken us to some broader issues such as those illuminated in the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. I reveal to the House in her absence that I gave her some advice about being a maiden speaker. I said that she could not go wrong it she talked about Birkbeck—like apple pie and motherhood, everyone would be in favour of it. However, she has done more than that.
We are faced with a particularly difficult set of issues which it is tempting to put down either, as many noble Lords have done, to lack of funding—for example, if the Government were more generous these problems would be solved—or to institutional deficiencies in the ways in which we spend or allocate the money that is available. As the noble Lord, Lord Annan, pointed out—not for the first time in your Lordships' House—we have, at least in the higher education sector an extremely elaborate and expensive system by comparison with other countries and it is difficult without grave upsets to adapt that to a quite different set of demands. What worries me from time to time is the feeling that one reason why we do not adequately fund higher education and further education—or, if one prefers, post-school education in general—is that it is an area which at the moment is not as close to the heart of the British people as it was a generation or two ago. I should say that the great drive towards expansion out of a very limited area of higher education—three universities for the whole country—took place in Victorian times. There are many things that we now look to with admiration: night schools, to which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Blackburn, referred; Birkbeck; the whole apparatus of university extension; and the Workers' Educational Association.
187 All these represented not a government saying, "It would be good for you to have more education. We should defeat our competitors. We should have a more integrated society". They came out of a drive from below. Unless that is rekindled, I do not think that any government, whatever their complexion, are likely to put in the money those of us in this House—noble Lords who have given their lives largely to this area—would regard as acceptable.
It is difficult again because we do not know whether the comparisons that are so frequently made, especially with our European competitors, are valid. They are usually made in terms of the numbers of a particular age group with access to higher or further education. I have not seen them made with regard to the total expenditure per head of population in those countries. I suspect that providing for more people more cheaply may mean that the pressure there, though differently directed, is not all that different from this country.
After all, whatever noble Lords may say about maldistribution, it remains a fact that the average income per head in this country, as in all Western industrial countries, has increased substantially over the past few decades. People now have motor cars, television sets and videos—all the apparatus of modern life. They are all widely distributed. People may say that they are not yet widely enough distributed, but they are widely distributed, so people are prepared to spend. Are they in fact prepared to spend, either through national taxation, local taxation or direct expenditure, upon the higher or further education of their families? There is something here which needs to be looked at.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I know that it is not the tradition to interrupt in this House. I was listening to him with some attention. Would he say that the continuing demand for courses at the Open University, for example, which was not only high at the beginning, but has continued throughout its life, would have been anticipated? Would he say that a knowledge of what is available is a significant factor in assessing future demand, and that the expectation that the thrust will always come from the bottom is not always true?
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, no, I would not suggest that it is always true. The example of the Open University is a good one. Clearly, until we had it, we could not measure the demand. The noble Lord will be as aware as I am that the demand did not in fact come altogether from the quarters whence it was first thought it would come. It has in fact recruited a student body which is rather different socially from what was envisaged in the literature of the early period.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. It is true that in terms of the 188 social occupation of the students it is not what was expected. If we look at the social background of the students and the occupations of their parents, the Open University has heavily penetrated those from poorer backgrounds and the more manual occupations as well, of course, as vastly increasing the numbers of women degree students.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, that is of course the case. As the noble Lord has raised the question of the Open University, I shall refer to one point that he made in his speech which I think is rather important when we are discussing wider access. I yield to no one in my detestation of the "A" level criterion for university admission. It is not a good predictor. But there is something other than prediction in relation to previous studies at a school or pre-higher education level, and that is the degree to which one has something upon which to build.
The noble Lord, who is so interested in the Open University, will remember that originally it was said that it would take people of promise and allow them to read any of the courses on offer. It was discovered—I am pretty certain of my memory here, but I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Perry, is not with us today—that with mathematics that just was not possible. One could not start a university-designed course in mathematics, not necessarily because one did not have "A" level mathematics but because one had had no preliminary mathematical training. There are problems if we widen access, as I am sure we should.
With regard to what so many noble Lords, and most recently the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, have dwelt upon, I can say only say what I said to this House previously—and I shall repeat myself—that there is no solution to the universities' problem if they are dependent for their primary income upon annual grants from the Exchequer. The only thing which gives them, and can give them, confidence and enable them to plan is to have an endowment. They must have some source of income on which to build which is independent of the fluctuations in government finance.
That is, after all, the lesson of the great universities in the United States. It is a lesson which I think has come home to people here in the light of the experiences we have had, because it is not possible to run 45 universities through a central funding system and not to make errors of judgment and even errors of financial management. It is appalling that the University of Hull, which is a good university, should be in the position which has been described to us by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. It is appalling that the University College of Cardiff should be what in any other institution we should describe as a state of bankruptcy. That is not a good mark for the system that we have.
I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, said in a public speech a little while ago that he thought that the Treasury should buy out Cambridge and should give it the capital equivalent of its annual grant and let it decide how to spend it. Cambridge would be expensive, but there may be universities which would be happy to be the object of such an experiment. There does not seem to me to be any way to solve the 189 problem however we improve the organisation of the UGC, perhaps by putting on it more businessmen and fewer academics. There is something important about institutions being able to look after their own future. It is important from the point of view of morale, and the damage to university morale has been stressed by one speaker after another.
I do not want to end on that melancholy, prophetic note. I should like to make one more cheerful point. The Sunday Telegraph published on two successive Sundays two articles by its industrial correspondent about Cambridge, England and Cambridge, Massachusetts—the University of Harvard. Cambridge was depicted, as I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Adrian depicted it today, as sorely tried and with low morale. Harvard was shown as a glowing campus with well-paid academics constantly taking the plane to Washington, where their advice was being taken and heeded—perhaps not in respect of Nicaragua altogether, but generally speaking.
This set me thinking about Harvard and Cambridge. I cannot speak for their contributions to medicine, engineering or the natural sciences but in the areas about which I know a little professionally I would say that the University of Cambridge has nothing to be ashamed of in its contributions to scholarship compared even with Harvard over the past two decades.
The proof of that is that we speak about the brain drain—I have referred to this in previous debates—and the way in which our scholars are attracted across the Atlantic by higher salaries and greater facilities. What interests me is that, with the whole of the population of the United States to appeal to, universities in the United States still come to the British market to buy these characters. That seems to be a point of optimism.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, the noble Lord will forgive me if I do not follow him down his extremely individual path. He taught me one thing—at least, he re-taught me social history. I always thought that as far as the WEA was concerned it was Tawney who came to Rochdale rather than Rochdale sending for Tawney. I may be wrong and no doubt the noble Lord can tell me afterwards if I am.
My first duty is to congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone on her maiden speech, which was fully in accord with the high expectations that we had of it. As I listened to her my mind went back to the fact that when she was in her cradle enjoying her first sips of Lord Woolton's orange juice I became an occasional student at Birkbeck, which was then very near to Fleet Street. I was 32 years of age and I learnt a great deal in the two years I was there. I did not have the stamina of my noble friend Lady Jeger, who took a good degree there while working full time in the Civil Service.
My subject today is a little remote from the main theme yet it is appropriate. I am concerned about university libraries in general and the University of London library at Senate House in particular. The university library is one of the important implements 190 of its students and the mature scholars engaged in research. It is cramped by a lack of funds at a time when books grow dearer day by day and students find their grants, and university teachers their salaries, failing to keep pace with the cost of lving.
The University Grants Committee got out its pruning knife in the 1950s—not without justification. I was taking a holiday from journalism and working for the Nuffield Foundation and I was put in charge of an inquiry—a kind of Beeching inquiry—on behalf of the UGC into the use of university libraries. Faced with the foundation of a number of new universities the UGC wanted to know whether there was need in the new universities for the pretty lavish provision that had been made for the redbrick universities.
At that time the research libraries throughout the world were doubling in extent every 16 years. In most universities a professor could order any book and it was almost impossble for anyone to say no. It was only too easy to add to a library, but was very difficult to subtract from one. It required a whole faculty to consent to the discarding of a book and to its relegation to what was known in the trade as a place of secondary access. In any case, to discatalogue a book cost even more than to catalogue it. My report pointed out that universities in adjacent cities could share their collections for senior members of the universities, though not of course the limited libraries they needed for undergraduates.
Those were the innocent days of university libraries. There was not a computer in sight and not even a copying machine. Scientific studies on the use of libraries and library co-operation were in their infancy and largely confined to America. Many librarians regarded their libraries as absolute sovereign territory. But that was long ago and today university libraries recognise that they must co-operate with others in the region and that they must be complementary rather than competitive.
As regards London University, from the inquiries I have made it seems to me that it is well down the road of rationalisation. It has reduced its staffing level by 18 per cent. during the past seven years. It has done so in spite of an increasing workload through a greater demand on its services. The recommendations on regular staff appraisal and cost-effectiveness in the Jarratt Report are being carried out. However, how far can universities go? The inflation rate for books and periodicals is well ahead of the general rate of inflation and has been so for many years. Academic libraries feel that they are harder hit than some other departments.
The University of London library has a special role. It is a federal university and has an important responsibility to the college libraries which it supports for undergraduate purposes and which it complements for research purposes. The colleges are obliged to reduce their library provision and the student grant gets relatively smaller as textbooks get relatively more expensive. Therefore, the role of the central university library becomes more and more important. It is the only library in the university available to all staff and students and it underpins the unique London external degree scheme. It is used by scholars from all parts of England and, indeed, from all parts of the world.
191 However, the future of this distinguished library is grim. The intention of the UGC is to reduce the grant for what it defines as the central activities. It intends to reduce the grant by 1990 to 50 per cent. of what it has been—that is, in three years' time. I believe that that presents a wicked threat. The existence of the University of London library in anything like its present form is threatened. All we can do is pray that the body which replaces the UGC sees the light and that the new government who we expect soon to have will be more sympathetic than the present Government have been to learning, culture and scholarship.
§ 7.38 p.m.
My Lords, it gives me particular pleasure as the last of the Back-Bench speakers to congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone on her excellent maiden speech. She and I were colleagues at the London School of Economics some years ago. We went our separate ways. I went on to found the economics department at Queen Mary College and my noble friend took a more circuitous route, ending up as Master of Birkbeck. Perhaps more significantly, like so many good academics, our paths converge again and we now appear together in your Lordships' House.
I begin by speaking a little about higher education and particularly about its economic aspects. It seems to me that the White Paper and the Green Paper that preceded it have bought what one might call the standard economics package; that is, that higher education is and can be made productive in the sense of making our economy richer than would otherwise be the case. Indeed, they buy that package in one of its cruder forms; namely, that increasing the science and engineering ratio within that package is even more productive.
The Green Paper states:The Government believe it is vital for our higher education to contribute more effectively to the improvement of the economy".The White Paper refers to meeting the needs of the economy. It also refers to taking a broad view of the nation's requirements for highly qualified manpower.
I am in the higher education business. I am also in the economics business. I therefore do not wish to undervalue that point of view and ruin my own product. However, I hope that the officials advising the Minister have told her that after 25 years of research, no matter how plausible these hypotheses are, we seem to have found it impossible to substantiate them empirically. I should like to believe that the hypotheses are true but I am not sure that one can accept that position with as much confidence as we find in the White Paper.
As another of my former colleagues, the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, the connection between higher education, economy and society is a rather subtle one. I hope that the Secretary of State can be persuaded not to blunder into this area in the rather crude fashion that he appears to wish to do in the rest of the education system.
Let me now turn to the productivity of higher education institutions. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, that one should view some of 192 the calculations from economists, including myself, with scepticism and suspicion. However, that is the way that productivity is typically measured in the economy. It is the way that the productivity of industry is measured. It is not uninteresting therefore to know that in both the universities and polytechnics, productivity, if measured conventionally, has risen very drastically indeed, despite the criticisms that one might make of such measurement. If one then follows the tenets of classical microeconomics, if a sector is shown to be relatively more productive—both through time and in terms of international comparisons—then the comparative advantage that is thus demonstrated ought to lead to a far more rapid expansion of that sector compared with the rest of the system.
I find it puzzling that on the one hand the White Paper acknowledges the productivity of higher education institutions but it does not follow through the logic of what has been said. I would go further. The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry told us that in his view the future of our country lies in the area of the provision of services. If there is one area where we have demonstrated how efficient we are at providing services it is that of higher education. Far from that being in any way held back it ought to be encouraged forward at a much more rapid rate. In higher education we ought to be much freer to earn overseas income than we are at present. Although I appreciate that there may be a notion that we ought to be operating a cartel and therefore cannot be entirely free to set our own fees, on the whole I believe that our educational institutions ought to be free to set their own fees and to take account of marginal rather than average costs.
In a system of this kind it also makes good sense not merely to respond to what one might call the more optimistic of the projections in terms of demand for places, but I believe that we ought to go back to the days when we were actively encouraging people to pursue education at all levels and certainly at the higher levels. I note in the White Paper certain cryptic remarks about student grants. I do not believe that the demand for places can be regarded as independent of other assistance to students. I hope that we may have a debate on that subject. As one or two of my noble friends are aware, I regret to say that I have rather idiosyncratic views on student finance, but I shall save those for another occasion.
I have one rather acerbic remark to make on universities. Given the advance in productivity in higher education I think that the Jarratt experiment was exactly the wrong way round. What we require is for British manufacturing and other industry to come to higher education to see how well we are doing so that they can learn lessons from us, rather than telling us to learn lessons from industry—which on the whole is not that successful in world terms.
I turn to the issue of the polytechnics and the proposals there. I agree with what is in the White Paper and what was said again by my noble friend Lord Glenamara. We spend too much of our time denigrating education in this country. It is a great mistake to do so. However, if we have one achievement that stands out it is that of the polytechnics. That was arrived at by the efforts of the local authorities and by the enormous efforts of the CNAA. Perhaps I ought 193 to record an interest. I was a member of the CNAA and the first chairman of its economics committee. That body did a tremendous job, as did the local education authorities, but, quite rightly, the time has now come for the polytechnics to go their own way. They can now stand on their own feet.
The White Paper is a little blurred on this issue. It seems to me that the time has come for most polytechnics to become independent of the CNAA or to move in that direction. The White Paper goes almost as far as the Lindop Committee suggests and then stops. I should like to hear from the Minister whether she believes that no polytechnic is yet ready to stand separate from the CNAA; I certainly believe that they are.
I shall not use my remaining few moments to ride the higher education/university hobby-horse or to say how excellent a place Queen Mary College is and how we too need vastly more resources, as we do. I should like to turn to non-advanced further education. The consequence of the LEAs moving out of the polytechnic sphere is to give them much greater significance and a chance to achieve new successes in the non-advanced FE area. My noble friend Lord McIntosh has emphasised the scale of the non-advanced FE field. That is entirely right; it is enormously important. Indeed, in some ways one might regard the emphasis in this debate on higher education as somewhat misplaced compared with the enormous importance of non-advanced further education. I would also emphasise its diversity.
If I may refer again to classical microeconomics, if it is diversity and innovation that one wants and responsiveness to consumer demands, then for the most part a decentralised system is the best way to achieve that. That again serves to emphasise why the local education authorities at this time are the relevant bodies to do precisely this kind of work.
I hope that as the system advances we do not lose sight of its diversity. I hope that we do not interpret the non-advanced FE system as simply a place where one prepares yet again for A-level and that it will be judged in only one way: by how many of these people are saved for higher education. Sometimes what the system achieves is of a remedial character; sometimes it stimulates an interest in education for the first time. Certainly one hopes that it tempts adults back into education. All those aspects are enormously important. I have to emphasise—one may not like it but it is important—that courses in non-advanced further education will still provide the students at all levels and ages with some kind of credential. I know that it is horrible to have to say that one must have a piece of paper to show what one has achieved, but that is the kind of world in which we live.
In that connection I am having great difficulty keeping up with the many new bodies that are being introduced, but the one that strikes me as being of enormous significance is something called the National Council for Vocational Training, which I hope will have a connection with non-advanced FE. I hope it will have a role in establishing the credentials of people who work in that area.
I have one last point on that matter before I come to my final points. Anybody looking at this field, and 194 several noble Lords have mentioned this, cannot but be aware of the enormous anomalies we have right across this area in student support and in fees. I might add to that the way that the social security system works in this area. We ought to be able to clarify this and have some kind of consistent system so that decisions will not be taken to go on a particular course or to stay on at a particular institution on an irrational basis.
My last two comments before I sit down are, first, to revert back to the polytechnics. The polytechnics were diverse institutions. They have made great progress. I wish to see them stand on their own feet, but I hope that in doing that they do not follow the worst examples of the universities. I hope they do not give up their non-advanced work and I certainly hope they do not say that the only way they can have a status is to become completely full-time. That would be a terrible mistake.
The second remark I should like to make is raised in a very important way in the White Paper. We are seeing in the secondary schools a broadening of the secondary curriculum. It is vital that the universities—which have a powerful influence here, although they always say that they are not guilty when it comes to A-levels—do not sabotage the broadening and improvement of the curriculum by demanding still very narrow criteria for entry.
I am not certain, as I am still a comparatively new boy, whether I may congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone twice in the same speech, but one reason I found her speech particularly significant was that it had an uplifting quality about it which derived from the fact that it was actually about education. Ultimately whatever one says about economics, economy and resources the purpose of a debate such as this is to emphasise the value of education overall and to reiterate the belief, which some cynics say does not apply today but which I think does, that education is a very good thing for everyone.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Lord Kilmarnock
My Lords, we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, for introducing this debate, even though we have not all followed the lead that he gave us by changing the title to "post-school". I am afraid that I shall not be as helpful to him as I ought to be. I want briefly to try first to appraise the Government's approach to higher education as outlined in the White Paper and then to touch on some specific concerns.
Despite the genuflections in several parts of the paper to the advancement of learning, the Robbins principle and, by implication, to the discovery of truth referred to by my noble friend Lady Seear, it is clear to me that what we are being offered is an exercise in manpower planning on a very ambitious scale. This, dovetailed with the emerging plans for the schools if implemented as proposed, would give us a centralised education system with the overriding object of satisfying the needs of the economy. The accent is therefore very much on manpower planning rather than on higher education, and this is confirmed by paragraphs 2.10 to 2.13 of the White Paper, by the 195 dual system of control which is proposed and to which I shall refer.
On the manpower planning side there is a serious question. For a party which does not believe in big government we are looking at a very dirigiste policy. I see from the DES paper on Changes in Structure and National Planning for Polytechnics and Colleges, a subsidiary paper to the White Paper, that it is planned to have 11 industrialists, which is by far the largest single named constituency on the polytechnic boards of 20 to 25 members. That is fine. It enhances the industrial commitment to the institutions but one has to remember that industrialists have not always been notably good at giving clear signals to the education system of what they want out of it. We need to be a little careful there.
I turn to some more specific areas of concern. On student numbers there is obviously a sense in which the White Paper represents a considerable advance on the much criticised Green Paper in that it adopts the Projection Q of demand for higher education places, which is much more likely to reflect the real pressure on those places than the Projection P which generally speaking assumes a constant demand from a shrinking number of qualified young people of the relevant age group. Now the Government recognise in paragraph 2.12 that:There is no reason to suppose that employers' requirements for graduates and diplomates will fall in parallel with the one-third fall in the size of the 18–19 year old age group by 1996".That is a welcome recognition. The noble Lord, Lord Blake, also called it a deathbed repentance. But even so we are looking at a net decrease from 726, 000 in 1990 to 691, 000 by 1996—years which were referred to by my noble friend Lady Seear, years which will clearly be crucial years during which the CBI has stated a likely growth of demand from industry at 4 per cent. per annum, which would indicate a figure much nearer 850, 000 by 1995. The Government envisage a heady 20 per cent. of school-leavers with two or more A-levels knocking on the door of higher education and they are flexing themselves to meet that demand by planning for an age participation rate in the region of 18 per cent. rather than the dismal 14 to 15 per cent. planned under Projection P.
Our view is that the age participation rate of traditional entry students should be increased to 20 per cent. and that there should be an increase in the total number of students of 30 per cent. by 1995. That is what we should be setting our sights on for, as my noble friend said, the future is for a highly educated country. This means that we have to aim for a quantum leap.
On access I should have said a number of things, but time does not permit. The Government recognise the pressing need to widen access from mature nontraditional entrants who had missed out the first time round. This is recognised in paragraph 2.20, and that is welcome too though nothing is said about the financial stimulus to that end. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, pointed out, part-time students in higher education will still have to pay their own fees even if they have never had a crack at higher education at an earlier stage in their lives. 196 Here I should like to slip in my congratulations to the noble Baroness. It is in order to congratulate her just once, not twice, on a very impressive maiden speech. The noble Baroness and the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood will both be glad to know of the Alliance commitment that part-time higher education should be free to those undertaking first qualifications. All this funding will come by way of fees to give maximum incentives to institutions to initiate part-time courses. Both noble Baronesses will agree that we are on the side of the angels in that sphere.
When I came to continuing education in the White Paper I smiled a wry smile. The White Paper says solemnly at paragraph 2.26:The importance of adult continuing education is now widely—albeit belatedly—accepted"."Belatedly" is the word, but to whom does it apply if not the Government? I can barely remember the date of the Russell Report. It is so far back in the mists of time—was it 10 or 15 years ago? The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, will probably remember. No action followed other than disbandment of that small but useful quango the Advisory Council on Adult and Continuing Education, presumably as a mark of commitment to the whole of that idea. Well, my Lords, better a late conversion than a continuation in error, I suppose, but we are being told very little about the resources.
On the question of quality, efficiency and funds, our attention is directed in paragraph 3.3 of the White Paper to a fall in unit costs in the past seven years by 5 per cent. in the universities, 15 per cent. in the polytechnics and local authority colleges and 5 per cent. in the central institutions in Scotland. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, referred also to the dramatic improvement in productivity in the higher education field. Then we come to the Government's central funding message in paragraph 3.4 in which they say that they are,committed to achieving further gains in value for money that will be needed particularly if access to higher education is to be widened in the future".The whole of the expansion, so far as I can see, is posited on further gains in productivity and efficiency.
I am all for exercises such as Jarratt and indeed the NAB's management board report, which I hope will not just be put on the shelf because that body is due to go into demise. There is no way according to the principal of the University of London, that the higher projection envisaged in paragraph 2.13 of the White Paper can be delivered without loss of quality on a declining funding basis, but that is what is proposed. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, referred to an increase of perhaps £3 million in the coming year. The university refers to a declining amount of £126 million between 1986–87 and 1989–1990. I think that probably covers the whole of both the further and higher education fields and that accounts for the discrepancy between the figures of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and mine.
However, the fact remains that this is the kind of flat funding or declining funding that is proposed while on the White Paper's own evidence student numbers are expected to grow from 693, 000 in 1985 to 726, 000 in 1990. Can the noble Baroness explain to me how that growth is to be achieved on that declining or flat budget?
197 The noble Lord, Lord Blake, mentioned funding. One of the key recommendations of both the Jarratt and Croham reports was for a stable planning horizon. The Croham proposal was for triennial funding which is to coincide with the period now covered by the annual expenditure White Paper, subject of course to the inflation rate not rising above 5 per cent. But even this modest amount of stability is turned down. The Government say:It will be undesirable to insulate university management from the need to plan for changing circumstances".They propose a rolling programme rather than a fixed triennial funding. This seems to me to be a recipe for a further period of uncertainty and short-termism. I wonder whether the Government would like to reconsider that recommendation which came from two distinguished committees.
I come now briefly to the mechanisms proposed in the White Paper. These are, for the universities, the Universities Funding Council to replace the UGC, and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council to replace the NAB—what I think the noble Lord, Lord Butterworth, called the dual system. Both operate through contracts rather than grants; that is to say, the institutions on both sides of the binary line would be obliged to enter into a contract with their appropriate funding body to provide certain services. It is not quite clear what those services are meant to be.
On the university side, this immediately raises important questions. To date, contracting has been largely confined to measurable things such as courses designed for special purposes and research contracts. There has been no general purpose contract, and how on earth do you measure the advancement of learning or the enhancement of civilisation? Do you add 20 per cent. for that, or 50 per cent., or do you add zero if you think such things are unimportant? Can the noble Baroness tell us how the Government see this contract working in the university context? I think the noble Lord, Lord Blake, called this a belated bright idea. Perhaps she can cast further light on it.
It also appears from paragraph 4.41 of the White Paper, if I have not misunderstood it, that the UFC will have power to require that funding is or is not spent for a particular purpose. Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State is to have reserve powers to issue directions to the council, how far does that take us down the road of government direction of university disciplines and subjects? I do not mean only the kind of rationalisation which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, about whether a faculty would be of a viable size. The question has another type of importance because it could have sinister implications for the political control of higher education, a point referred to by my noble friend who I think also used the word "sinister". The Government are anxious to weaken political control in other areas, quite rightly I believe. Are they living up to their own precepts here? I should certainly welcome the noble Baroness's comments on that.
The changes proposed for the polytechnics are more far reaching than those for the universities because they are due to move to a new type of corporate status. This is to be welcomed. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, welcomed it. The Committee of Directors of 198 Polytechnics favours direct funding from central government. Although there is an alternative model which might be called the ILEA model I assume that the Government will stick to their version. If they do there are quite serious grounds for alarm over the possible erosion of polytechnic local links—and here I declare an interest as a member of the independent committee on this topic under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Pilkington, a matter which I have already brought to the attention of the noble Baroness. On that occasion she was good enough to assure me that our report would be studied—and I hope responded to—when it comes out.
I have a specific point which I told the noble Baroness I would raise with her. It concerns Goldsmiths' College. I declare an interest here too as a member of the delegacy of that college. I see from Annex E that Goldsmiths' is listed under other grant-aided colleges as due to come within the ambit of the PCFC, but there is an asterisked footnote with the words:unless London University accepts Goldsmiths' as a school of the university".I hope the noble Baroness will be able to tell me that nothing will be done to inhibit and everything possible will be done to encourage the current negotiations between the college and the university, which if successful would give the university a valuable extension south of the river.
In conclusion, there is no doubt in my mind that the Government's proposals bring us much nearer to a national, centrally directed, higher education service aimed at strategic manpower planning under central control which will be supported at the lower level by a more centrally directed school system. Some people may argue that this is the only way to confront the modern world, but it carries considerable dangers in that it opens the system to central control by Whitehall and it could become a potent instrument in the hands of an extremist government of whatever complexion. There is also the concern that it is not easy to get manpower planning objectives right in a fast moving world even if you believe that that is the be all and end all of higher education, which we do not.
The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, said—and I noted his words—that universities will cease to be universities if they simply do what the Government tell them, and independent and creative minds will go elsewhere. Those are wise words to which we need to pay attention. If the Government are by any chance reelected and a Bill is introduced along these lines it will be the duty of this House—and we shall certainly participate—to give it prolonged and searching scrutiny.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Lord Irving of Dartford
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lady Blackstone on an impressive maiden speech. I congratulate her too on her new appointment and offer her our best wishes on the difficult task that she has ahead. I hope that we shall hear her in the House frequently. 199 During the 1983 general election a leading political figure in this country said of the universities:The period of contraction is now nearing the end. The universities can look forward to a thoroughly healthy future".For those who may not recall that speech, let me tell noble Lords that that was the parliamentary candidate for Finchley speaking on 9th June 1983. I think that all Members of the House will accept that she was a person better placed than any other to guarantee the promises that she was making at that time. What followed was a nightmare for many people in universities. The two years up to 1983 paled into insignificance against the harsh attack that followed the election of Mrs. Thatcher's second government.
Expenditure today is 11 per cent. less than it was in 1979. Student numbers have fallen from 250, 000 to 241, 000. Cuts have fallen unevenly and unfairly on the technological universities. Salford was cut by as much as 28 per cent., Bradford by 19 per cent. and Aston by 18 per cent. Academic posts have fallen by 4, 500 and non-academic posts by nearly 3, 000.
The Comptroller and Auditor General has condemned the government policy forthe damage, disorder and diseconomy inflicted on the universities".The 12, 000 to 15, 000 young people who qualified to enter our universities have been unable to do so. A much smaller proportion of the relevant age group has qualifications at first degree level than in the United States, where it is 22 per cent., and Japan where it is 24 per cent. The number of science, technology and engineering graduates has been falling since 1983. Polytechnics too have been cut. The expenditure on polytechnics and colleges has been reduced by one-fifth in the years since 1981. Annual investment on each student in the polytechnics has been reduced by 15 per cent.
Happily, the Government have been forced to rethink their attitude to higher education, as we have seen in the White Paper, but their response is still far from adequate. Despite the impression that Mr. Baker gives that he is fighting for excellence and chastising the less good, few realise that every university has lost money in recent years as part of government policy.
The proposal in the White Paper to increase student numbers is not to be accompanied by extra funding for those places. Instead they are to be funded out of greater productivity. In this context The Times Educational Supplement of 12th April said that these are:weasel-words that mean lower standards and serious diseconomy as well as genuine productivity gains".The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has given expression to major reservations to the White Paper. It shares the view of the Council for Industry and Higher Education thatraising the proportion of 18 year olds entering higher education from the present 14.2 per cent. to 18.5 per cent. is too unambitious".Information from employers suggests that there will be a demand for between 2 per cent. and 5 per cent. more graduates each year. The government plan will 200 produce about 8 per cent. overall by the end of the century. The highest of four recent Government statistical projections now suggest that the student population at the end of the century could be little more than 4 per cent. higher than it is today. In the event that industry should grow at no more than 2 per cent. per annum—we want it to grow much faster than that—the student population would have to grow eight times faster than its present supply of qualified manpower.
It is not only the universities and the polytechnics that have been disabled. The Social and Economic Research Council recently reported that 59 per cent. of its highest rated projects which had been funded five years ago are not being funded today. They will be squeezed even more because the Government have so far failed to provide extra cash to maintain the level of projects now that increases for all academics have been agreed. Report after report of the Advisory Body for Research Councils says that in some universities the well-founded laboratory no longer exists.
Labour agrees with the Council for Industry and Higher Education—and I congratulate the group of industrialists on an excellent report, with which we agree—which saidthe United Kingdom prosperity, vitality and international standing depend on its becoming a more highly educated nation which recognises skilled brain power and applied ingenuity as its distinctive assets … The officially projected 4 per cent. increase in student numbers by the year 2000 is at odds with the United Kingdom's ambitions for a new growth".Labour will set up not two councils but one higher education council to focus on higher education as a whole and provide similar funding for similar work. It will also establish a Ministry of Science and Technology to oversee the whole business of research and development.
It will provide the security of funding which higher education so badly needs, and extra reserves to widen access and to make it possible to admit a greater proportion of 18 year-olds to enter into higher education, at least a 20 per cent. participation by 1995 and a 25 per cent. participation by the end of the century.
It will allow for more second chance opportunities and a wider range of qualifications—a question raised by a number of Members. It will increase continued education and provide money for research. It will extend the opportunities for older students by designating courses for award purposes; for example, national diplomas and certificates, professional courses and access courses for those preparing for entry to higher education.
If we are to survive as an advanced nation, we have to move towards providing all our citizens with opportunities for education and training throughout their lives. Access to education at 18 has been confined to a small minority, but it does not make economic or social sense to confine resources in this way. As has been said all adults can and should benefit by education throughout their lives.
In America and Germany more than eight out of 10 young people aged 16 to 18 are still being educated or trained, yet in Britain industrial apprenticeships have gone down by two-thirds since 1979. Sixteen out of the 28 industrial training boards have been abolished. It 201 may cost a lot of money to invest seriously in education, but the price of not doing so will be ruinous to our standing as an industrial nation.
The partnership in education has been broken. Labour rejects Tory centralism because it is less accountable and less efficient. In place of this centralism, Labour would propose a new partnership between central and local government to widen educational opportunities, revise educational standards, ensure proper resourcing of education and increase parental involvement.
At the heart of the new approach would be a new Education Act which will re-define objectives and functions to meet modern needs and aspirations and, like the 1944 Act, provide a new basis for consensus. As part of its commitment to education and training for all, Labour will establish an adult Skillplan. An incoming government would undertake early discussions with both sides of industry to give statutory backing to paid educational leave, and Labour will seek to develop a new educational entitlement.
My noble friend Lord Peston made the point that it is important for people to have pieces of paper to collect in some kind of portfolio achievement which they can keep for the rest of their lives.
The entitlement would be phased in over a number of years. In the first instance Labour would give priority to the unemployed and to adults in further and higher education. We would establish a foundation programme. In the first two years Labour will establish 75, 000 places on this foundation programme for young people to assess the needs of 16- to 17-year olds. It would also establish an extended training and education programme for 18- to 19-year olds who currently graduate from YTS schemes.
It has been said more than once this evening that proper education maintenance allowances will encourage more 16-year olds. Student financial support is the key to progress in all these fields. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, made the point effectively. Education must be seen as an investment. As the National Council for Industry and Higher Education say:an investment on which part of the return is measured in competitiveness, efficiency and confidence in new ideas.Within two years of coming into office Labour will aim to achieve the following targets as part of its strategy. It will provide a statutory training framework and have it in place, and all large establishments will have set up joint workplace training teams and prepare their workplace training plans. It will establish a national training fund and this will be fully operational, and training levels in manufacturing industry should by that time have doubled.
It would introduce paid educational leave for workers throughout industry. The National Council for Courses and Assessment—which will be a new body—and the Education and Training Inspectorate and the new Research and Intelligence Institute on Education and Training will also have been established. The 75, 000 16-year olds already mentioned will enter the first year of the foundation programme, and the 75, 000 18- and 19-year olds whom I have also mentioned will enter an extended 202 training scheme of continuing education, training and work experience.
Education maintenance allowances will encourage thousands more 16-year olds to remain in full-time study. A further 75, 000 unemployed adults will enter adult traineeship leading to recognised qualifications over a period from six months to three years. A hundred thousand unemployed adults will enter project-based training places linked to agreed training plans. Public service traineeships will be available for the unemployed, offering them both a skill guarantee and priority for public sector jobs.
The job-training scheme will be replaced by a scheme providing quality training and a reasonable training allowance. Unemployed people will be given unrestricted access to education and training courses suitable to their needs.
When the economic miracle happens in this country, as I believe it will, the thing that will hamper it will be the loss of skills over the past 10 years. We must not allow that to happen.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, just slightly adapting the opening words of the recent White Paper, Higher Education: Meeting the Challenge, I should like to start by making quite clear the Government's conviction that:education has a crucial role to play in helping the nation meet the economic and social challenges of the final decade of this century and beyond".I think it is fair to say that this thought has underpinned all the speeches we have heard in this afternoon's broad-ranging debate which has, if I may say so, maintained the high standards and perception of your Lordships' consideration of education matters. In thanking all noble Lords for their contributions, perhaps I may add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, to the many which have been so justifiably passed to her.
Post-school education provides us with a very broad canvas, as the speeches have proved. In the time available I fear that I shall not be able to do justice to all the varied and interesting points and suggestions that have been made. These are, however, all on the record, which I shall study closely—and perhaps in particular the revelations made by the noble Lord, Lord Irving—and will be drawn to the attention of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State.
We have been dealing with an almost bewildering range of provision in terms of level of work, length and type of course, and type of institution. At one end of the range are short courses of evening classes in liberal adult education. At the other there is full-time postgraduate study and research at universities and specialist institutions to the highest international level. In between there is provision of many non-vocational and vocational courses at both non-advanced and advanced levels.
I emphasise this range deliberately both in response to the point expressly made by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, in opening the debate and because it does not seem to me that it was always borne in mind during the debate. Most speakers dwelt upon higher 203 education and in particular the universities. Far less attention was paid to non-advanced further education, as the noble Lord, Lord Peston, remarked, despite the fact that there are now over 1.7 million students on non-advanced courses in England. These students will form a crucial part of the skilled workforce of the future, and the importance of the sector should not be forgotten.
All sectors of post-school education are important, and I want to make it quite clear that the Government do not value one element any more highly than another. Nor do they value one element any less. I would endorse the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Stewart, about the value of adult education, which is sometimes seen as something of a Cinderella. What matters generally is that each course is well designed and efficiently provided in order to give proper benefit to those taking it and, through them, to the nation as a whole.
In referring to all this as a broad canvas, I must also say that it is a very expensive one. In the current year the expenditure on post-school education throughout the United Kingdom is planned to exceed £5.2 billion, and since the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and indeed others, alleged under-funding I should add that this £5.2 billion is planned to rise in cash terms to more than £5.5 billion by 1989–90. In real terms this means that the Government are maintaining their spending on post-school education at about its present level. This is just about the same level in real terms as in 1979, and not in fact less as the noble Lord, Lord Irving, suggested. We believe that these resources are now being used much more efficiently.
I am always wary of international comparisons of higher education participation rates, mainly for the reasons given by my noble friend Lord Beloff. But, since the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, raised the subject, I have to say that in terms of proportion of relevant age groups gaining degrees and diplomas, on the best like-for-like comparison available, Britain is on a par with achievements in France and ahead of the rest of the European Community, though a little behind the achievements of Japan and the United States.
Time will clearly not permit me to deal with every initiative the Government have taken, but I should like to give your Lordships some illustrative examples, particularly as some of these touch on areas not covered by contributors to the debate. We have, for example, introduced the Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education. This is available both in non-advanced further education and in schools. It filled a longstanding gap for those 16 year-olds—especially those with modest qualifications—who were not yet set on a career path and who wanted to stay on in full-time education for another year if they could find something worth doing. Introduced in 1985, there are now some 35, 000 students on this scheme.
Then there is the Youth Training Scheme. There are now around a third of a million trainees on YTS programmes. Some 65 per cent. of schemes include college-based education and training. A priority for the two-year YTS is that it should provide participants with the opportunity to gain recognised qualifications, 204 or credits towards qualifications. This is a major new area of work for colleges, requiring close co-operation with employers and managing agents so as to provide a positive solution to the twin problems of youth unemployment and an under-skilled workforce.
There has also been the introduction of the MSC's work-related non-advanced further education development schemes. The planning that these have brought about is not only a good discipline but also helps to gear local provision more closely to local needs, particularly for trained manpower. I think we can see a highly productive partnership emerging between local education authorities, colleges and the MSC. It is that kind of co-operation which has been called for by many of your Lordships during the course of this debate.
Another important initiative is the programme known as PICKUP (Professional, Industrial and Commercial Updating). Further and higher education has an important role to play in keeping industry and commerce competitive by providing training to meet the updating needs of firms. The PICKUP programme is encouraging the growth of such training by colleges and universities and has ensured that the volume of updating training is now growing by more than 10 per cent. per year. In some institutions, growth has been in the region of 30 to 40 per cent. The PICKUP programme aims to achieve a five-fold increase over the coming years and to ensure that PICKUP work becomes one of the mainstream activities for all institutions.
Moving with PICKUP into higher education, in spite of some suggestions made this afternoon, opportunities for young people to enter universities, polytechnics and colleges of higher education have never been better. There are more students in higher education now than ever before. Gains in efficiency have secured better value for money and have allowed institutions to provide 160, 000 more places than they provided seven years ago while maintaining the quality and high standards of which the nation is rightly proud.
My noble friend Lord Elton referred to the action which the Government have taken to improve initial teacher training courses and to relieve teacher shortages in particular subjects—with some success on the basis of the latest figures which he quoted. We have also introduced a new specific grants scheme to ensure much better targeted in-service training. I can assure my noble friend that my right honourable friend's criteria for initial teacher training emphasises that they should all contain substantial teaching practice and pay due attention to class management and control, and that in no case should qualified teacher status be awarded to a student whose classroom work is unsatisfactory.
The Government welcome and have done much to promote the major growth in recent years between universities and industry. Between 1982 and 1985 universities' direct earnings from industry rose from £23 million to £48 million, much of which was in the field of research. Earnings from industry, however, amount to only 2 per cent. of total university income and we would wish to encourage the further development of collaborative links. Not only do these 205 links bring financial benefits to the universities, they have to do with establishing greater mutual understanding of each other's needs and of the ways in which each operates. That can only be for the good. In this context, I commend to your Lordships the excellent report Towards Partnership, which was published recently by the Council for Industry and Higher Education and to which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred.
We can be justly proud of the high quality of academic research in our institutions of higher education and of the outstanding record of our scientists. The Government are committed to maintaining and enhancing the strength and quality of the science base. Since 1979, the science budget has been increased by 14 per cent. in real terms. However, because of the increasing costs of undertaking world-class research, there is a greater need for selectivity in the funding of research. We welcome the moves made in this direction by the UGC and the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, and we would wish to see this process taken further. This meets one of the suggestions put forward by my noble friend Lord Blake.
I hope that it has been helpful to the House to illustrate what has already been achieved. However, there is always room for improvement. One of these areas in non-advanced further education where we are looking for progress and which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, and others is in rationalising the structure of professional qualifications. The present structure is often described as a jungle. It will never be wholly straightforward because of the need for a range of options. But it does not have to be as confusing as it is now. The National Council for Vocational Qualifications was set up in September 1986 to classify existing vocational qualifications into a progressive series of levels and it will aim to ensure that all such qualifications require a combination of vocational education and relevant training with particular emphasis on the application of skills and knowledge.
As far as higher education is concerned, the Government's plans are set out in the White Paper. I am glad to observe that this continues to enjoy a generally warm welcome from your Lordships.
The Government's commitment is to the widening of access to higher education and to increasing the efficiency, quality and accountability of universities, polytechnics and colleges. There are three main strands in their proposals. The first concerns student numbers and access to higher education, to which there have been several references during our debate. I stress first that there are more students in higher education than ever before. Overall numbers have increased by 160, 000 in the past seven years; nearly half the increase has been in part-time numbers. There is a higher proportion of women students. Mature student numbers have risen by 25 per cent. The Government's policy is that there should be further increases. As the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, noted, we are working on the basis of projection Q; that means 50, 000 more students by 1990 and one in five of our young people participating by the end of the century compared with one in five now.
206 Much emphasis has been put on broadening the base of higher education entry. We want to encourage more students with the non-traditional academic background referred to by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, gave an interesting example of what can be achieved. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, I look forward to the day when there is an equal proportion of men and women in the system. However, I must emphasise that already since 1979 we have moved from 40 per cent. to 44 per cent. We want further increases in mature student numbers-and we want to see more part-time students. We welcome the contribution made by many institutions to the needs of these students. My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State's review of student support is looking particularly at the question of support for part-time students of all types.
As regards the specific question of Birkbeck College, which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, and others noted, has been raised before in your Lordships' House, I hope that the outcome of various current initiatives will enable the relevant authorities—the UGC, the University of London and the college itself—to reach fair decisions about its long-term organisation, role and funding. In the meantime, I hope that noble Lords are clear that the UGC allocation is to London University as a whole, which has received a proportionately greater share of the increased funds available for 1987–88. The university decides on the distribution to its constituent colleges.
Finally on this subject, I stress the Government's view that there is no evidence that wider access should be at the expense of quality. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and other noble Lords, that successfully increasing access requires a collective effort on the part of all involved.
The second strand to the Government's White Paper proposals is building on the success of the polytechnic and college sector, which has grown enormously in recent years and done excellent work. Legislation will be introduced to reward these mature institutions by a greater degree of independence. Polytechnics and other mainly higher education colleges in England will be removed from local authority control, thereby increasing their entrepreneurial spirit and facilitating greater links with industry and commerce. I believe it was my noble friend Lord Blake who particularly welcomed this recognition of polytechnics as national institutions. Funding will be provided through a new polytechnics and colleges funding council, and also to be brought under these new arrangements will be the valuable provision made by the voluntary and grant-aided colleges for the training of teachers and other degree work.
Thirdly, the White Paper accepted the broad thrust of the recommendations of the Croham Report to replace the University Grants Committee with the smaller yet more effective universities funding council. That will include a strong element of people from outside the academic world.
My noble friends Lord Blake and Lord Butterworth, together with the noble Lord, Lord Adrian, I believe, referred particularly to paragraph 4.40 of the White 207 Paper. I believe it was my noble friend Lord Butterworth who noted that it was unexceptionable as it stood. To help allay their fears, let me say that of course there will be provision for the UFC to advise the Government, although the decisions on levels of public funding must be for the Government alone.
Perhaps I may also answer the specific points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, concerning Goldsmiths' College by confirming that the proposals in the White Paper create no obstacles to the current discussions about Goldsmiths' College becoming a fully-fledged school of London University. Depending on the outcome of those discussions, Goldsmiths' will be funded via either the new UFC or the PCFC:
The noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, asked the Government to reconsider their decision on triennial funding. While I accept that there are arguments both ways for the reasons set out in paragraph 4.42 of the White Paper, the balance seems clearly to come down in favour of the rolling triennium that we have adopted.
The detail of the proposals of the two new funding councils is further explored in consultative papers to be issued by the Department of Education and Science, in connection with which your Lordships' comments today will be welcomed. One of these consultative papers has already been issued covering the polytechnics and colleges. Two more, on the UFC and on the contracts, are in the pipeline. I believe these papers will help to answer many of the questions raised by your Lordships in the course of this debate.
Concerning particularly the nature of contracts, let me say that the Government fully recognise that the sharper planning and accountability requirements that would be set up by the new contract-based arrangements must accommodate and respect the essential nature and purpose of our higher education institutions. The consultative document on the PCFC, which was published at the end of last month, will help to answer the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Carter, and I will arrange for a copy to be sent to him. In particular it makes clear that it will be for the maintaining local education authority to decide whether the Writtle Agricultural College shall come under the PCFC arrangements.
At the outset the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, argued that we should forge a new structure for the organisation of post-school education. I would argue that there is a general coherence in the Government's policies which overcomes the apparent fragmentation, and it may be that as things develop we shall find further ways of reducing that apparent fragmentation.
I have not had time to deal with all the specific points that have been raised. Perhaps I should refer particularly to the points raised by my noble friends Lady Faithfull and Lord Butterworth on social work and training and medical and dental education respectively. Nor indeed have I been able to deal with the points put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, on university libraries. I am sure there are other points too, but, as I said at the outset, I shall study the record and follow up as appropriate.
In conclusion, I feel that I should end on an optimistic note. Thanks to the hard work and 208 increasing co-operation of all those involved, there is much that is good in our post-school education. We aim to make it even better. The Government are confident that institutions will tackle the challenges they face vigorously and successfully. A wider section of the population can therefore expect to benefit from improved post-school education, to their own and the nation's advantage.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether she can very kindly clear up one point. In her reference to the projections P and Q I think she told us that the participation rate at the end of the century would be one in five. I rather think she said that the base from which the advance would be made was also one in five. I think in fact it is one in seven but I should be grateful if she would kindly confirm that for the record.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she really not tell us anything more about the nature of contract? After all, she has been pressed on this point from all round the House and it is of the greatest possible importance. She has really said nothing about it at all.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I referred to the fact that the consultative document on contracts was in the pipeline. I think I can reassure the noble Baroness by saying that it is likely to be published within the very near future. As I said, that should meet the queries that have been raised.
§ 8.47 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I have taken part in too many late night debates not to be well aware that nobody is more unpopular than the mover of a Motion of this sort who actually speaks at length at the end of the debate. All that I am required to do—which I do with a great deal of pleasure—is to thank all speakers who have taken part in the debate and to express my regret that so few of the excellent speeches have been on subjects other than higher education and in particular on the universities.
I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend for her first-class contribution to the debate. I know that she will be encouraged by the response she has had to speak on many other occasions. I should also like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for responding to many of the points which were implicit in the Motion but not taken up in the debate in a conscientious and clear way.
I repeat my conviction that out policy for post-school education should he that of Napoleon's Grande Armee, that every foot soldier should have a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. We are a long way from that. There are many more things in the organisation of our educational institutions, as well as in government policy and in social policy, to be tackled before we achieve that objective. But with that, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.