asked the Minister of Education what steps he is taking to alleviate the position of students at colleges of art who have been taking the preliminary course for the new Diploma in Art and Design, but for more than 50 per cent. of whom no places for the diploma course will be available.
There are at present about 2,900 students taking pre-diploma courses whose age and educational quali- fications make them eligible for a course leading to the new Diploma in Art and Design. It is not yet known how many will complete the pre-diploma course successfully. Diploma courses approved by the National Council for Diplomas in Art and Design will provide approximately 1,400 places next autumn. Arrangements were announced last January for shortened courses leading to the existing Intermediate examination and National Diploma in Design to provide for those students who are unable to obtain places in the new diploma course.
In the first place, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there has been a most deplorable lack of forethought in this matter, and that it was most undesirable that so many students should have been allowed to enter a pre-diploma course although there is not the slightest chance whatever that they can obtain places in diploma courses, leading to the most severe disappointment and frustration for those concerned?
Secondly, what consideration has been given to the very serious anomalies which have arisen in this interim period, about which I have had lengthy correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary and about which I hoped to get a reply this afternoon?
I am sorry. If the hon. Lady would like to come and speak to me about the details she has raised, which I think raise issues that are not easy to discuss at Question Time, I should be very pleased to see her, and indeed see a deputation of two or three hon. Members if there is concern about this.
With regard to the first part of the hon. Lady's supplementary question, I have looked into this matter carefully. It was essential at the inauguration of a new course of first degree standing that stringent standards should be applied, and we have done our best through, for example, special arrangements for 1964, to mitigate the immediate difficulties.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we fully appreciate the difficulties of the present situation, but we have to pay regard to two things in particular: One is the calibre of the students who are attracted to these courses, and we ought to avoid being unfair to them if we can possibly do so. Secondly, there is the geographical effect of the implementation of these recommendations.
In view of these two consequences, will the right hon. Gentleman not so much discuss this with us, but see that there are immediate discussions to discover what steps can be taken effectively to alleviate this problem?
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. If a student wishes to extend his pre-diploma course for a year in the hope of obtaining in 1964 a place on a course which will lead to the Diploma in Art and Design, his local education authority can at its discretion pay a grant for the whole period of the pre-diploma course, and I think that this will be of help to some students.
As a result of re-applications, it may well be that more courses can be approved to begin in 1964 both at colleges and schools which have been granted some approval, and even perhaps at others which failed to gain any approval for courses to start this year, but I am open to consider any proposals which hon. Members on either side of the House may like to put on this.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many people who generally support the idea of diplomas and even accept the Summerson recommendations feel that he has made an unholy mess of the transitional arrangements and that the steps he has so far announced are inadequate to deal with the very many problems which have arisen? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the whole matter?
The hon. Gentleman asks me to reconsider this. We have the report of the Council and I am sure that we cannot go back on the decisions here about stringent standards; but as for the consequences of this and the implications for students, I am ready to discuss and reconsider any concrete ideas that are put forward.