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.

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Photo of Mrs Judith Hart Mrs Judith Hart , Lanark 12:00 am, 26th January 1966

I think that my hon. Friend is anticipating discussions in Standing Committee on a Bill now before the House. I cannot comment on that at this moment.

Thirdly, on matters affecting the conduct of individual students within the university, leaving out of account conduct which may involve an offence against the law, the university, again acting within the framework of its own constitution, whether that constitution is under the 1889 Act or under our new Bill, to which I think my hon. Friend was referring, or under a charter, is wholly responsible. It is not, and cannot be, accountable to the Secretary of State for its own discipline. But it is of some relevance that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has been in correspondence recently with the National Association of Students about provisions in the interests of students in draft charters, and in a letter to the President of the National Union of Students, which was published in the Press on 19th January, my right hon. Friend said, among other things, that the Privy Council is putting to the sponsors of charters the desirability of making certain provisions in their charters. One of these is relevant. I quote from my right hon. Friend's letter: Provision should be made whereby a procedure will be laid down for a right on the part of a student suspended or expelled to be formally heard by the Senate, or a body appointed by the Senate, before a decision becomes final. I mention that to indicate that the rights of students in matters of this kind are very much in the minds of the Privy Council.

I think that I have answered all my hon. Friend's questions. He will recognise that I cannot possibly comment on the merits of the points made in the anonymous booklet of which he and I have copies and which has provided the basis for a great deal of the discussion of this matter. I must, however, agree with him in one thing, that the behaviour of the students responsible for the vexatious telephone calls, for the letters, for the advertisements and particularly for the obscenities involved was clearly disgraceful. I must say how warmly I welcome the announcement made on Monday by the Principal of Glasgow University, Sir Charles Wilson, that the Senate is soon to review the problems of discipline, including questions of procedure and method, for it is clear that the whole affair has provoked a great deal of concern within the university and among the public.

I hope that the university will very soon be in a position to regard this distressing business as past history. Some strong words have been spoken on the subject in this debate. I would say to the House and to my hon. Friend, as I know he recognises, that the University of Glasgow has a most distinguished past and it has a proud future. It has, moreover, a distinguished Principal with a very long record of very considerable public service, and I am sure that it will be the concern of both him and the university to put this business in the past as soon as possible.