HC Deb 21 February 1952 vol 496 cc51-3W
Mr. Hollis

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the amount of the annual grant which he proposes to make to the universities for the next quinquennium 1952–57.

Mr. R. A. Butler

It is the normal practice to settle for five years at a time the amount of annual grant to be made available to the universities. The present settlement expires next July at the end of the academic year, and I have been considering recommendations made to me by the University Grants Committee for the grants to be made in the ensuing quinquennium.

The quinquennium now ending has been a period of rapid expansion. Student numbers are 70 per cent. above the pre-war figure and the academic staffs have been doubled. It will be some time before the financial effects of this expansion have worked themselves out and in the next few years commitments already incurred will involve expenditure on a rising scale even if no further expansion is undertaken. Rising prices and wages have also affected every branch of university expenditure, so that the total recurrent grant for the present year, the last of the old quinquennium £16,600,000, would not be enough next year to pay for present activities. Further, non-recurrent grants will not in future be made for new furniture and equipment for accommodation already in use, and allowance has therefore to be made for the cost of necessary purchases in assessing the total of recurrent grant.

Taking all these factors into account, I propose to provide recurrent grant as follows for the five next academic years:

1952–53 20,000,000
1953–54 21,000,000
1954–55 22,250,000
1955–56 23,500,000
1956–57 25,000,000
The first year's provision is the least sum with which the universities can maintain their present activity; it makes no allowance for fresh expansion. Part of the increases in the later years will be needed to meet the rising expenditure to which the universities are already committed, but they should also enable some development to be undertaken, particularly towards the end of the quinquennium. In making some provision for development, I have in mind particularly the need for scientific and technological progress, and I am sure that the University Grants Committee will keep this in mind in distributing the grant.

I realise that it would be helpful to the universities to have some assurances as to the scale of non-recurrent grants for capital expenditure which will be available to them over the quinquennium. This is, however, not a matter of financial provision only. The demand for building work for purposes of major importance to the economy so far exceeds at present what can be done by the building industry, that it is necessary to control the distribution of building work through the investment programme and the licensing system.

So long as this situation continues it is not possible to give long-term assurances as to the amount of building work which the universities can undertake, and provision will be made annually in accordance with general investment policy, as in the later part of the present quinquennium. I shall, however, consider whether I can, at a rather later stage, give any useful guidance to the universities as to the scale on which they should frame their long-term plans.

A White Paper on university development in 1947–51 is now available in the Vote Office.