Grants to Universities and Colleges (Estimates Committee's Reports)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th January 1966.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Sir Edward Boyle Sir Edward Boyle , Birmingham Handsworth 12:00 am, 26th January 1966

I should like first to support what the right hon. Gentleman has just said about Sir John Wolfenden. Any of us who have had first-hand contact with Sir John Wolfenden will feel very strongly what an enormous service he gives. I particularly agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that there can be very few people in public life who not merely bear a bigger load, but actually work quite so hard as Sir John persistently does.

I also very much agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said in his congratulations to the Sub-Committee and my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid). I think I have read not only the Report, but all the evidence in the Report. It is one of the most valuable Estimates Committee Reports which we have had in very many years and my hon. Friend and his colleagues are to be greatly congratulated.

As I go along, I shall be taking up some of the points which the right hon. Gentleman made in his speech. I think that my hon. Friend will feel that it was worth while to put out that slightly tart comment on 8th December when on a number of subjects this afternoon the Secretary of State has been rather more forthcoming than was his Department in its Departmental Observations. However, there is one point which the right hon. Gentleman made in his initial remarks which l should like to take up straight away.

He used this occasion for making a reference to the binary system, as it is sometimes called; I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman were making his Woolwich speech again he would probably express some parts of it a little differently, and I am not so sure that I would go quite so far as the right hon. Gentleman went this afternoon in ruling out institutional links, almost on principle, between the universities and other higher education institutions. For example, I have said before that there was a strong case on purely geographical and historical grounds for continuing the link between Birmingham C.A.T. and the College of Commerce. Even so, I repeat what I said in the debate which we had last March—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue strongly to resist the proposition that only a university degree confers educational and social status. I was very glad to hear him point out this afternoon, contrary to what is widely believed, that the Robbins Report did not propose an entirely unitary system of higher education. Although people in higher education all too often seek to denigrate the Council for National Academic Awards, to do so is absolutely not in accordance with the Robbins Report. The right hon. Gentleman was quite correct in his Woolwich speech to point out that the establishment of a separate degree system under the Council for National Academic Awards was exactly what was proposed in Robbins.

I make two further comments. It was remarkable that in one very lengthy speech delivered in another place on this subject, colleges of education were discussed for two full columns of HANSARD without one mention of children. Let us always remember the object for which these institutions exist and what the Newsom Report, for example, said about the success which college-trained teachers had had in teaching the Newsom sector. It was even more remarkable last week that in three or four full pages of the New Statesman we had a blast on this subject without a single reference to part-time higher education—part-time Higher National Certificates and Diplomas. The great difficulty about the Lanchester and many other projects is precisely that in the regional colleges—in nearly all of them—and in a number of area colleges there is degree level work and part-time advanced level work going on side by side; I cannot see that it would be sensible to adopt a pattern of organisation which devalued part-time advanced level work, and split thriving existing institutions.