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Oral Answers to Questions — University Grants (Government Proposals)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th February 1945.

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The following Questions stood upon the Order Paper:56. "Mr. SALT,—To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the provision to be made to meet the post-war requirements of the universities.65. "Sir ERNEST GRAHAM-LITTLE,—To ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the provision to be made to meet the post-war requirements of the universities.

At the end of Questions

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I will, with permission, make a statement in answer to Questions 56 and 65 with regard to the provision to be made for meeting the post-war requirements of the universities.

I have carefully considered a report made to me by the University Grants Committee on the probable financial needs of the universities in Great Britain during the first decade after the war, and I have also had the advantage of hearing the views of a deputation of representatives of the universities and university colleges. It is clear that if the universities are to play the part which they should in the reconstruction of our national life after the war, they will have to incur expenditure on a very much higher scale than before the war. It is also clear that if the future financial needs of the universities are to be met, a large share of this new expenditure will have to be met by the Exchequer.

As regards recurrent expenditure, it is not easy to forecast with any accuracy what will be the actual expenditure of the universities during the transitional period between war and peace. Both the University Grants Committee and the universities themselves have emphasised the importance of not sacrificing quality to quantity, and it follows that in the immediate future the supply of adequately qualified staff will be a limiting factor on development. The increased expenditure to be incurred by the universities will not therefore be spread equally over the ten years period of the Committee's review. It will be heavier during the later than the earlier years of the decade, and the Government recognise that the grant to universities during those later years will need to be further and substantially increased above the level now proposed for the next two years. The University Grants Committee have recommended that the present annual vote for the universities of £2,149,000 should be increased, for each of the next two financial years, by the addition of £2,000,000 for general university purposes, £1,000,000 for developments in the medical schools arising out of the recommendations of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Medical Schools and £500,000 for grants for teaching hospitals as recommended by that Committee. The Government have decided to accept the recommendations of the University Grants Committee for the two years in question. The question of the grant for future years will need to be reviewed at the end of the two years.

As regards expenditure for capital purposes, the needs of the universities have in the past been met for the most part by private benefactions. I am advised by the University Grants Committee and the universities that this source of support cannot be expected to meet the needs of the universities for capital developments in the years following the war, and that if the building programmes of the universities are to be carried out, a large share of the cost will have to be met from the Exchequer. The University Grants Committee have estimated that the universities will need to expend about £18,750,000 calculated at pre-war prices on capital developments during the decade and the Inter-Departmental Committee on Medical Schools estimate that an additional sum of £10,000,000 (also at pre-war prices) will be required for developments in the medical schools. The Government accept these estimates as indications of the probable scale of necessary capital developments, and they recognise that a very substantial proportion of the money will have to be provided from the Exchequer.

In view of the restrictions on building which are likely to operate during the years immediately following the war, it seems unlikely that the universities will have opportunities for any considerable capital expenditure during the next year or two. In the circumstances it seems to me that it will be sufficient to include in the Estimates for the coming year a token sum of £250,000 for distribution by the University Grants Committee, without prejudice to what may be necessary in later years.

Accordingly, I am including in the 1945 Estimates £5,900,000 as a grant in aid of universities, colleges, medical schools, and teaching hospitals (Great Britain). It should not be assumed, however, that this amount will need to be distributed in grant within the financial year. This matter will be within the discretion of the University Grants Committee who will review the position from time to time in the light of developments and may elect to retain part of the provision in the deposit account into which the grant in aid will, as usual, be paid. Any amount so retained will not in any case be liable to surrender to the Exchequer at the end of the year, but will remain available for distribution in the future.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lindsay Mr Kenneth Lindsay , Kilmarnock

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, in spite of the vital importance of the freedom of the universities, some pressure may be necessary as there is likely to be a greatly increased demand for university training immediately after the war; and that the promises made by the Minister of Labour to ex-Service men cannot be implemented unless concrete plans are quickly prepared, even for improvised accommodation, as Leeds and Manchester have already done? Could my right hon. Friend ensure that if the £250,000 is not sufficient a further sum will be available?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I know, having been in personal touch with the vice-chancellors, that the universities are giving serious consideration to the demands likely to be made upon them. In the event of the £250,000 to which I have referred, and which is really not much more than a token sum, proving insufficient, the possibility of its being increased within the financial year will certainly not be ruled out.

Photo of Mr Edward Salt Mr Edward Salt , Birmingham, Yardley

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the increased grant will enable British universities to provide the greatly increased number of science and technology graduates, who are essential to ensure the efficiency and prosperity of the country in the post-war world, and, if so, is he aware that his answer will give great satisfaction to the members of the Parliamentary Scientific Committee?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

The development of scientific teaching has been very much in the minds of the University Grants Committee in making their recommendations.

Photo of Sir Joseph Lamb Sir Joseph Lamb , Stone

Do the medical schools to which my right hon. Friend referred include veterinary colleges?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I would like notice of that question.

Photo of Mr John Dugdale Mr John Dugdale , West Bromwich

If the universities have to purchase any land for their extensions will they be able to acquire it at 1939 prices, or will they have to pay much inflated prices?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

That question does not arise out of my statement.

Photo of Mr Quintin Hogg Mr Quintin Hogg , Oxford

Is the grant of £2,000,000 for general university purposes considered to include any allowance for the subsistence or tutorial fees of students who may have had their university courses broken by the war, or will there be a separate grant for that purpose?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

This is a grant towards expenses falling on the universities. It has nothing at all to do with any assistance that may be provided to students.

Photo of Mr Thomas Harvey Mr Thomas Harvey , Combined English Universities

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for his reply, which will give great satisfaction in the universities, may I ask whether his Estimates for the forthcoming year will permit of increased scales of salaries to the existing staffs, many of whom are seriously underpaid?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

That question also, to my knowledge, has been taken into account.

Photo of Dr Edith Summerskill Dr Edith Summerskill , Fulham West

What period of grace does the right hon. Gentleman propose to give those medical schools which now admit only men, to allow them to make arrangements for the admission of women before he withholds grants in those cases where they refuse to do that?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I am glad to say that that particular question has not so far come within my jurisdiction.

Photo of Mr Malcolm Macmillan Mr Malcolm Macmillan , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

In the distribution of the money, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the much higher proportion of university students in relation to population in Scotland?

Photo of Sir John Anderson Sir John Anderson , Combined Scottish Universities

I am always alive to the interests of Scotland.