Agreement in principle has been reached between the B.B.C. and the Open University Planning Committee on arrangements for television and radio programmes up to 1975. Senior academic staff have been appointed who will plan the courses in partnership with the B.B.C. It is expected that from next spring regional directors of the university will be appointed, who will organise the provision of study facilities in their region.
Will my right hon. Friend ensure that an adequate proportion of the courses is orientated towards science and technology? Will any arrangements be made to obtain facilities in scientific laboratories, for computer usage and things of that type, which are essential to such courses?
The distinction and qualifications of the Vice-Chancellor-elect and of the Planning Committee should reassure my hon. Friend that scientific and technical interests will be fully guarded. There is a certain controversy about how much laboratory space is necessary on some scientific courses, but a combined operation is being carried out by many authorities, covering many universities, and provision will be made for laboratory as well as non-laboratory study.
Enrolment of students will begin in 1970 and courses are expected to start in January, 1971. It is not feasible to estimate the numbers now, but the university will provide an advisory and information service to potential students through its regional offices.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that one of the great difficulties in universities and advanced colleges at present is a lack of pure career places in courses, and that it is essential, if the university is to succeed in obtaining and keeping sufficient students, that the courses should be vocational? Will she consider having a careers advisory service coupled with the new university?
There is a great deal of old-fashioned and out-moded thought on what is vocational and what is non-vocational. I hope that a university geared to the future will be able to cope with this kind of problem adequately. My hon. Friend will find that great care is being taken to establish a students' advisory service, which will either advise them to seek their higher education through full-time courses or some form of sandwich block-release courses at existing universities or technical colleges or advise them to take a preparatory course if they are not yet ready for the degree work of the Open University. In other words, the question is very fully covered.
This is one of those cases where one does not know what will happen until it begins to happen [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members opposite know that that is a straightforward statement of fact, and that in making provision for a course of this kind it is realised that there will, of course, be drop-outs. The advisory service will tell students who are not ready for this standard of education where they can improve their basic education. We are satisfied that the scheme is not only essential but very much overdue. I hope that those who have any doubts abut it will appreciate that the riots in Paris and Rome and the little local troubles show that we now have a problem of numbers which we must meet. I do not know any other way that we can meet it.