HC Deb 14 March 1962 vol 655 cc164-6W
Sir H. Kerr

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will make a statement about university salaries and recurrent grants for the next five university years.

Mr. Brooke

The University Grants Committee have made their recommendations to the Government for the recurrent grants for the five-year period covering the university years 1962–63 to 1966–67, and for substantial increases in the salaries of university teaching staffs.

The Government have considered these recommendations with the determination to bring about the most rapid possible development of higher education that is consistent both with the other claims upon the nation's prospective economic resources in the next five years and with the Government's policy for incomes set out in the recent White Paper. These considerations of national economic policy, which are of course right outside the scope of the Committee's responsibility, have made it necessary to depart from the Committee's recommendations. This in no way alters the Government's confidence in the Committee's judgment in the whole field of university matters on which they are responsible for giving advice.

I have accordingly informed the Committee that, subject to annual approval of the Estimates by Parliament in the normal way, they should plan on the basis of the following recurrent grants for the five university years beginning on 1st August next:

University Year £ million
1962–63 56
1963–64 60½
1964–65 65½
1965–66 70½
1966–67 76½
Total 329

The grant for the current university year is £49½ million, so we are contemplating a grant five years hence which will be nearly 55 per cent. higher. The figures exclude provision for rates, which will be financed by special grants outside the quinquennial settlement. The cost for the universities of the Government's recent request for an increase in the intake of medical students has yet to be finally settled, and will also be additional to the figures I have given.

In addition, despite economic difficulties I can reaffirm the undertakings given by my right hon. Friend a year ago on the rapidly increasing provision for non-recurrent grants. The awards to university students from public funds, central and local, are also growing in total all the time. In sum, the aggregate cost of the universities to public funds has increased from £50 million to £104 million in the last five years, and may increase by a further £50 million or more in the course of the next five years.

University Numbers. The universities' estimates, including those of the seven new universities authorised during the present quinquennium, have indicated that they will be prepared, given adequate financial support, to work to an expansion of the total student population from the present level of about 111,000 in 1961–62 to about 150,000 in 1966–67, the peak year for the universities of the post-war "bulge" in the birth-rate. I have asked the Committee to inform the universities that, although it has not been possible in present economic circumstances to accept in full the Committee's financial recommendations, it is the Government's wish that the additional funds should be applied as far as possible to achieving the figure of 150,000. This would bring about an increase in numbers of 35 per cent. in five years, and if achieved would ensure university places for as great a proportion of the larger age-groups from which university students will then be selected as are available for the corresponding smaller age-groups now. The Government's aim is to continue the expansion beyond 150,000 to about 170,000 places by 1973–74.

Salaries. The recurrent grant figures above are based upon the present rates of academic salaries, which came into effect in January, 1960. Strong arguments have been advanced by the University Grants Committee for a substantial increase in these salaries. The Government have taken these carefully into account, along with the need to expand the teaching staff in relation to the increase in student numbers. But in line with the policy for the next stage set out in the White Paper on Incomes Policy, they do not feel able to authorise an increase of more than 3 per cent. in the bill for academic salaries. Scales based on an aggregate increase of this order will be authorised from 1st April, 1962, and will cost approximately £1 million extra in the first full year. These scales will be reviewed afresh next year.

Provision for university expansion is only part of the resources which the Government are devoting, on an increasing scale, to higher education. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education announced the week before last the further development of the Colleges of Advanced Technology. In the light of the report of the Committee on Higher Education under Lord Robbins' chairmanship, all these programmes may require to be re-examined in two or three years' time.

Expenditure in 1962–63. The Government's proposals for the first year of the new quinquennium and for the increase in salaries will necessitate a Supplementary Estimate of some £4½ million for 1962–63, which will be laid before the House in due course.