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 Mr Reginald Prentice Mr Reginald Prentice , East Ham North 12:00 am, 26th January 1966

The university programme is the first of the many important programmes that were deferred on which the Government have been able to announce the terms on which the programme will be restored. We have announced the restoration in terms which mean that within two years, nearly all the deferments will have been recovered.

When hon. Members speak, as some of them have done, about a cut of £15 million, there never was a cut of £15 million. The postponement was a postponement of improvements for six months. It might have been feared at the time that it would prove necessary to retain a six months' postponement, so that in January there would be a commencement of projects which would have begun in July and so we would have gone on with everything delayed six months.

We are now saying that on top of the programmes already announced for 1966–67 and 1967–68, there is to be a recovery during that period of nearly everything that was postponed during that period of six months. This is affording a high degree of priority to the universities in this situation. Certainly, we have no need to be apologetic. Those who are prepared to take an objective view should agree that we have done rather well by the universities in this situation.

As to the effect on the numbers of students, we can take great pleasure from the figures announced in the U.C.C.A. Report. It was expected a few months ago in the questions asked by the U.C.C.A. of the universities that there would be an intake of 49,000 students last October. In the field covered by U.C.C.A., which is most, but not quite all, of the university sector, the figures now show a total of something like 49,500. Taking the total returns from the universities, including courses outside the U.C.C.A. field, the figure announced by my right hon. Friend is approximately 52,000. There is an increase of over 17 per cent. in students generally and an increase of over 24 per cent in science students. This is very good progress. There is no reason to feel pessimistic about the prospect of meeting the objective of the Robbins Committee of 197,000 students in two years' time.