§ 9.36 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I beg to move,That an humble Address by presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will withhold Her Assent from University Court Ordinance No. 350 (Universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh No. 12) (Regulations for Research Students and Appointment of Research Fellows), a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th May, 1960.We should like to be assured before coming to a decision on this matter that the universities in Scotland are doing all they can in the revival and stimulation of industrial activity and in extending Scotland's participation in the scientific life and progress of the nation.
Scotland's population is approximately 10 per cent. of that of Great Britain as a whole. The population of students with a first degree in science in Scotland is 17 per cent., and that at first sight seems satisfactory. In the case of first degrees in science and technology the figure is 11 per cent., but research students in science and technology amount to only 8 per cent. of the student population who have attained that standard in Great Britain.
The reason for this seems to be that the Scots have more ordinary degrees and fewer of the higher degrees. In Scotland, 49 per cent. of the students took ordinary degrees whereas, in Great Britain as a whole 27 per cent. took only 1782 ordinary degrees. The chance of the final year science honours student holding the D.S.I.R. research scholarship in Scotland is, fortunately, approximately equal to that of the similar student in Great Britain. There are about 14.2 per cent. in Scotland as against 14.6 per cent. in Great Britain.
The position of research scholarships is fairly satisfactory, but when we come to advanced course students in Scotland, in 1958–59 there were only 14 applications and 11 awards, only 4 being taken up. In 1960 the position has fortunately improved. There were 25 applications, 17 awards and 10 were taken up. In the United Kingdom however, there were 539 applications, 344 awards and 251 were taken up. Therefore, Scotland in the matter of D.S.I.R. awards taken up had only 4 per cent.
It may be that the Master of Science degree in Scotland will help in this direction, but we require some explanation why in our universities there should be such a small percentage of applications for post-graduate courses compared with the percentage in Great Britain as a whole. In the past, these courses have been largely concentrated in London and Birmingham. Is this due to any difficulty in Scottish universities and should they be doing more to promote post-graduate courses? Will the Ordinance, which seems to bend in that direction, make any considerable contribution to the improvement of Scotland's scientific contribution?
The D.S.I.R. has given grants in support of special researches at Scottish universities for years to the extent of £267,000. This is very good in its way, but it is only 7 per cent. of the Great Britain total. It seems less than we might have expected when we depend so much on education as an economic factor in Scotland. I am told that this is due to the small number of applications and proposals for research and not due to the D.S.I.R. putting on any restriction. It seems entirely fair in granting these research scholarships.
Can the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland give any explanation why Scotland is so defective in keeping up with the rest of the country in this respect? Can he give us an assurance that there is a close enough co-operation between the D.S.I.R. organisation in 1783 Scotland and the universities? My information is that there is a considerable amount of what one must call jealousy. I know that some of the scientists in the D.S.I.R. who ought to have been asked to tackle a certain problem were carefully excluded because the universities wanted to tackle it on their own. It was a very important problem from the point of view of Scottish and international shipbuilding.
One would have thought that, when the D.S.I.R. has established a big organisation in Scotland, the universities, instead of keeping aloof, would have kept in constant touch and would have combined their efforts. It is difficult enough to get scientists to come to Scotland in the first place, because there is always a tendency for them to hang around London and not to go further away than Oxford from where their wives can easily reach the shops in London and they can easily get away to the clubs for an odd "blather" at night.
I have been making some inquiries into the reason why Scotland lacks in this respect. I am not at liberty to give the name of the authority from whom I shall quote, but he is a person with outstanding qualifications to judge. Probably there is no one who is better qualified to do so in Scotland. He says:Frankly, I do not think that either Scottish industry or the Scottish Universities have quite come to terms with this age of science and technology. Things have improved enormously, one must admit, during the last ten years, but there is still some way to go. I suspect that not enough graduates are employed in Scottish industry; certainly one rarely sees an advertisement, in the Sunday papers, for skilled technologists, from a Scottish firm.Then take again the welcome incursion of the light industries into Scotland to mop up the pockets of unemployment. Here the Scottish asset is skilled labour, the ideas and know-how in most cases come from England and the U.S.A. This can be changed if more research of all kinds is done in Scotland. We do not want our really good people to be obliged to go elsewhere for the right conditions and atmosphere. They should have a choice.This is a very serious matter from the point of view of Scotland and its future, and it is very closely linked with the debate we had the other day about the future of Scottish industry.
The last survey showed that of all research and development in private industry in this country Scotland had 1784 2.7 per cent. while London and the South-East had 28.8 per cent. and the Midlands 13.1 per cent. It is a dreadful state of affairs that Scotland should have only that small proportion. This research is called private enterprise research, but most of it is on Government account, and, therefore, the Government can play some part in directing or guiding industry. Directly or indirectly, most of the research is paid for by the Government.
Forty-nine per cent, of the research is in the aircraft industry. Some of that comes to Scotland, I agree, but not very much. I also agree that we are not likely to have aircraft industries in Scotland, and in the light of the present trade trend I am not sure that we now want them. However, there are industries developing out of aircraft which are equally important, and some of this research should certainly be guided in our direction.
A more serious matter is that 10.7 per cent. of the research is done in shipbuilding and engineering. Eighty-one per cent. of the research in shipbuilding and engineering is done by D.S.I.R. I do not know whether the Joint Under-Secretary could give us any idea offhand how much of that comes to Scotland, but obviously it must be a relatively very small amount. Yet Scotland is the main centre of shipbuilding, not only in this country but in the world. I should like to know how much of the shipbuilding research is done in Scotland and whether a great deal is done South of the Border and, if so, why at least some of it should not be attached to the industry in Scotland. The amount in respect of metal manufacture is 3.4 per cent., and, therefore, it is not so important.
Our students are leaving Scotland in great numbers. I received some facts in this respect from the Secretary of State some time ago. I propose to deal with the faculties in which we are interested. For instance, about 58 per cent. of the students in engineering at Glasgow University leave Scotland, having to go elsewhere to find work. This is one of Scotland's main industries. It is tragic that when half our students on the scientific side of engineering enter the university they are at the same time buying a ticket to go abroad. In other words, 1785 they go into the university as the gateway out of Scotland. That is a tragedy for Scotland.
In the case of Edinburgh the proportion is even worse. About 69 per cent. of the students in engineering at Edinburgh have to go elsewhere to find work. In chemistry the figure is 67 per cent. That rather surprises me because chemistry is one of the subjects for which we have outlets in our medical chemistry in Scotland for a great number of scientists. There is almost exactly the same proportion in respect of physics and mathematics in Edinburgh; 65 per cent. of the students have to go out of the country to find work.
Much the same thing happens at Aberdeen, where 64 per cent. of the students in engineering have to go outside the country, as well as 52 per cent. of the science students. The only students we keep are those studying the arts, law and divinity. We keep our morals all right, whatever we do with our engineering.
We are looking at this from the point of view of the effect that this new development will have on Scotland's industry and Scotland's future. I was interested to read the report of a speech by Mr. Alan Beaton who was, if my recollection is correct, Conservative candidate for Leith. He is now a management consultant. His comment was interesting and important. The report said that Mr. Beaton stated thatScots would not halt emigration"—I agree that we would not want to keep everyone at home—achieve real prosperity or banish unemployment unless they started backing their faith in their own country. Our costs were too high, our designs too traditional, our selling efforts lacking in drive. There were too many dead end jobs in Scotland, too little investment, and lack of opportunity in research work.Of the major post-war industrial undertakings in Scotland, Mr. Beaton claimed that no less than 66 per cent, were English, 23 per cent. American, 4 per cent. Canadian, and 3 per cent. Dutch.'We Scots have been responsible', Mr. Beaton said, 'for less than 1 per cent. of the new undertakings in our own country—scarcely more than that invested by the Swiss and Italians.'Scotland's only major disadvantage was distance from the main consumer markets in the south. But even that could be eliminated by a 10 per cent. increase in productivity 1786 which could be achieved almost overnight, given a combination of faith, determination worker.There should also be stimulation from the Government. This Ordinance, if accepted, will take us some way to success and we welcome that and would not propose to reject it today. The idea of bringing people in to do research in Scottish Universities seems a very small but welcome step towards the solution of the terrible problem which faces us not only educationally but industrially.
Tonight we must finish perhaps the last debate in this Session on Scottish affairs by renewing our plea to the Government to get down to the problem of thinking about Scotland as a whole. One of the basic factors in Scotland's future is provision for research and development, and opportunity for people coming out of universities. The universities assure me that one of their great disadvantages is that there is no opportunity to encourage people in Scotland to find jobs there.
The Government are the main financiers of research, whether it be private or public. They have great power in directing it. No one can tell me that a man thinks better in the smoke of London than in the fresh air of Scotland. If he could get out to East Kilbride and play a game of golf in the evening, his research would be all the better next day than if he had the soot and smog of London about him. The Government should get people and research out of London and into Scotland. There people can think, feel and live freely. Research itself would improve. This is linked up closely with the use of research in industry, and it is tragic that we must depend so much for our ideas on America, England and other parts of the world for the development of our industries.
I know that it is difficult to ask people to invest in something which does not show great promise. Perhaps we are a nation which does not like to take risks and in the long run it may be the Government who will have to take the risks. But the Government will have to have a policy and I am sure that if they give a lead and a stimulus to industry and even, if necessary, some guarantees, there will be some chance of getting not only industry, but the universities in Scotland to provide the 1787 kind of education and scientific and technological training which will keep Scotland abreast of the rest of the nation.
I would have liked to have said something about medical research, because the universities may not be doing as much as one would expect from a country with our tradition in medicine, but I have said enough on the main subject to show that, while we appreciate what the universities intend to do by this Ordinance in giving research fellowships and bringing people into the universities and encouraging them to undertake new research, it may be that that move is too limited and that further steps in that direction will have to be taken.
We do not propose to divide the House on this issue, and I am happy to relieve anybody who is somewhat apprehensive on that score. We have raised this matter because it is of such importance. I think that we are doing the universities some little service in calling attention to the fact that they are taking this step forward. Our only wish is that it should be a greater step. We are entitled to ask that the universities should play their part in the life of the nation, but they are entitled to ask that the Government should do their share in making that possible.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir (Aberdeen, South)
I have been asked by all four Scottish universities to speak in support of this Ordinance. We are indebted to the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) for raising the rather wider issues of research which are involved. There are many aspects which we as Scottish Members would like to debate in closer detail, but which might not be in order now.
However, we would be greatly helped if we had more information about how the money for research is spent. For example, how is it divided between teaching and research and between manpower and materials? It is true that we have the reports of the University Grants Committee and the annual reports of all the Scottish universities presented in one form or another. Anyone happy enough to have a university in his con- 1788 stituency knows that, if one inquires, the universities always willingly give as much information as they can. However, a more specific inquiry on how the money is spent would be welcome, because with that information we would be better able to discuss the wider issue of the use of research in industry.
For instance, to take the example of my own University of Aberdeen, in 1954–55 there were 77 full-time and 22 part-time post-graduate research students, while in 1959–60 the numbers had risen to 91 full-time and 24 part-time. It is expected that that number will increase. Research fellows are very few. For instance, only two junior and one senior research fellows are paid out of general funds, while nine research or senior fellows are paid out of moneys from other sources. In the University of Aberdeen expenditure on salaries from general funds in 1959–60 totalled £3,500 while that from outside funds totalled £26,828.
Out of a total of 276 teaching staff, salaries and superannuation together total £½ million, and it is written into the contract of every member of the teaching profession that he shall engage in original study and research. That being so, we would like to know in greater detail how this affects all the universities and also what are their plans after this Ordinance is passed. I am sure that everyone is glad that there is not to be a Division on this matter tonight.
If one asks how many more students it is hoped to have by the new Ordinance, universities say that it is impossible to give a firm reply because of the difficulties and differences in accommodation in the four universities, and also because of the differences in the various departments. That being so, they feel that by this Ordinance they will be able to do what they want to do, which is to encourage as many research workers as possible by making use of every available resource open to them.
If I might turn to the specific Ordinances, we should remember that the last Ordinance which now has force was passed in 1895, and came about at a time when the facilities for research were far inferior to what they are today. What the universities are asking of this new Ordinance No. 12 is that the Scottish universities shall have the 1789 same facilities as are now enjoyed by English universities to attract research workers. As everyone knows, this Ordinance is approved by the Senatus and General Councils of all four universities.
The universities feel that an Ordinance which was passed sixty-five years ago, while very much more detailed and comprehensive than the present one, has some rather needless and, in many ways, undesirable restrictions. This falls under two main headings. First, they feel that the pattern and structure of research today is far more varied and complicated than it was sixty-five years ago. As all hon. Members know, the universities obtain their funds from two main sources: first, Treasury grants; and, secondly, the more widely used grants given in increasing numbers from industry in various forms. The universities feel that it is necessary to try to encourage research at all levels, particularly in the science and medical departments, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
Paragraph II of the 1895 Ordinance went into great detail, but it laid down that all persons who were allowed to carry on original studies in research must be research students under supervision. These rules, while perhaps suitable for research students for higher degrees, are, in the universities' view, too rigid to cover research workers who are badly needed at all levels, and it is this point they wish to stress. For example, research posts can be filled by persons of seniority who already hold Ph.D. degrees and have several years' experience behind them. It is, therefore, felt that it is unreasonable to say that their research should be done under close supervision. Section II of Ordinance No. 12 provides a far more flexible arrangement.
The second provision in Ordinance No. 61 which the Scottish universities find particularly hampering in paragraph VIII. This restricts the choice of research Fellows to those who are, or have recently been, research students. Therefore, in law it is not competent for a Scottish university to appoint to a research fellowship a candidate who has taken a higher degree elsewhere, or who has not been a research student in the university in which he now wishes to become a 1790 research fellow. It is maintained that this is a serious handicap to Scottish universities, because valuable research fellowships are being offered to Scottish as well as to English universities, mainly from industry. It therefore makes it impossible invariably to appoint a candidate who had been a research student in that particular university.
On the merit of this Ordinance, we should congratulate the universities on having reached agreement on what is not a very easy subject. They feel convinced that they can give greater facilities for research. I hope that the Government will try to obtain more information as to the way in which this research is broken up between the various Departments and the universities themselves. I hope that the House will approve the Ordinance.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) has emphasised the need for Parliament and Scotland to have a good deal more information about the universities of Scotland and, in particular, about the research work that they are doing. I am sure that the House is grateful to her for the amount of information she provided as to the need for this new Ordinance. and I hope that I shall not seem ungallant if I tell her that although we are grateful to her for this information it does not seem to be quite the proper way of doing things that the House should have to receive information about the case for this new university Ordinance from a back bencher.
In presenting this Ordinance to the House the universities might have adopted the practice that we use, of providing an explanatory memorandum, so that we know exactly what the Ordinance is about.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
As I understand, the universities circulated not only copies of Ordinance No. 61, but also of Ordinance No. 12 short explanatory memoranda. I said that I hoped that we would have further information, on top of that.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am obliged to the hon. Lady for that information, but the circular from the universities was sent 1791 to us only as a result of my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself tabling this Prayer. If there had been no Prayer this Ordinance, so important to Scotland, would have gone through without anybody knowing precisely the reasons for it—and I concede that the reasons are good ones.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
Not only that; they reached hon. Members only yesterday. This does not seem a very courteous way of dealing with a matter in which hon. Members are greatly interested.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I am sorry to interrupt my hon. Friend, but I would like to tell the House that I received a letter from the Secretary of the University of Aberdeen informing me that information had been sent to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), but not to me. That supports the argument that my hon. Friend is presenting.
§ Mr. Thomson
I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for reinforcing the point I want to make, which will be the main emphasis of my speech. My right hon. Friend has ably dealt with the wider question of academic research in Scotland, and I want to deal with the narrower point of the universities' relationship with Parliament and the people of Scotland and, in particular, with the responsibility of the universities to provide us with a much bigger flow of information at an earlier date than they have been accustomed to doing up to now.
When one tries to discover all the available information in the House about the operations of Scottish universities one goes to two main sources. We find that there are, first, the returns of the University Grants Committee, to which, no doubt, the Minister will refer us in due course. In these annual returns the Scottish universities are very much lumped together with other universities in the country. Therefore, it is difficult to get any real details about the operation of the very large sums of money which become available to the universities each year.
Then, one pursues one's researches a little further—and even a humble Member of Parliament is allowed to be a 1792 research student in a modest way—and one discovers in the Library of the House of Commons that there is a bundle, tied somewhat flimsily with string, and called "unprinted papers." These unprinted papers are the annual accounts of the Scottish universities, together with various other statistical data about the universities. It is a somewhat haphazard arrangement, and not very satisfying for one who is trying to find out what is happening. I may also add that they are considerably out of date. The latest accounts of the Scottish universities available in the Library are for the year 1957–58, and I should have thought that they could be a little more expeditious than that.
When we are looking at the available information, meagre as it is, for specific facts about the expenditure on research and the number of research students at Scottish universities, as the hon. Lady so very rightly said, there is a very great dearth of that kind of information. We have had no indication as to whether the existing regulations, which, admittedly, are very out of date, may, in fact, have been one of the reasons for the decline in the number of research students, and we do not know how this affects them.
I am sure that in the long run the number of research students that we have at Scottish universities is bound to depend on the number of entrants coming into the universities. We get complaints from our constituents from time to time that there are not enough places at the Scottish universities for those who are qualified to obtain entrance. Though the hon. Lady told us she had no difficulty in getting information from the universities about this matter, I must confess that I have not had her experience, because it has not been possible for me to get adequate information if I ask how many people have been turned away by Scottish universities, or how inadequate the places may be in other faculties.
Then there is the question of the qualifications of the people going into the universities themselves. There were alterations in these qualifications recently which might very well affect the number of people who will come in under these regulations. These alterations, which 1793 were carried out by the Scottish Universities Entrance Board, were of a controversial nature and were raised on the Floor of the House. When we wrote from this House to the Scottish Universities Entrance Board asking it to provide us with information as to the reasons for this change, we are told politely, but firmly, in academic language, that it is none of our business. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House that the entrance regulations to the Scottish universities are very much the business of the people of Scotland and of their representatives, and that we ought to have a more helpful and more courteous response from the universities to that kind of request.
I sometimes wonder whether some of the difficulties difficulties we have about the inadequacy of research activities in Scottish universities, which my right hon. Friend has described, are in part due to the out-of-date pattern of the professorships in the universities. I sometimes feel, on looking over the structure of our universities, that they have failed rather badly to keep pace with the swiftly changing needs of modern communities. I find, for instance, that in my own University of St. Andrew's, which has been notably progressive in recent years, in the divinity faculty, there is one professor for every eight students.
When we turn to the sciences, both pure and applied, the ratio becomes 1 to 27. The Scottish universities have failed to a much greater extent than many English universities to set up chairs in the more modern sciences, particularly the social sciences, and perhaps that might help a good deal in extending the research facilities in Scotland.
Then there is the question whether the regulations which we are removing by this Ordinance have been the sort to persuade industry to give adequate help to the universities. I notice in the annual returns that the payment for research received at Scottish universities is much lower than for universities in England and Wales. Considering the fact that Scotland has one-sixth of the university student population of the United Kingdom one discovers that the payments for research are half of what they ought to be in relation to the student population. When one looks at the figure of income from local authori- 1794 ties one discovers—I do not know the reason—that Scottish local authorities contribute to the universities again about half of what English local authorities contribute to universities in England and Wales. Clearly, there is room for a big improvement in that direction.
Of course, the success of these regulations in promoting research in Scottish universities will depend to a considerable extent on the adequacy of the finances that the Scottish universities receive. In passing, I may say that there has been more than one occasion when the Public Accounts Committee of this House has commented on the inadequacy of the public scrutiny of university expenditure of the very large sums of public money which they receive. Last year, they received about £46 million and there is no other single institution which gets public help on this scale with so little public accountability.
I wish to say a word about that in a moment, but I am wondering, in particular, whether we can be satisfied with the way in which research in Scottish universities is financed. So far as I have been able to find out—I must tell the House that these figures are necessarily very imprecise—about half the funds for research in the universities come from three sources: from the Government, from the big educational foundations, and from industry. The proportion between these three is about seven parts from the Government, two from the educational foundations, and five from industry.
I understand that one of the reasons for the universities feeling sensitive about matters like this being discussed in the House of Commons is their proper caution about any suggestion of political interference with their work and of political pressure on their academic freedom. I suggest that a look at these figures would indicate another danger about which we might get a little more public discussion. The research money comes mainly from the Government and industry and these parts of the money come particularly in relation to defence contracts and, in the case of industry, as the result of research work which is necessarily closely related to the kind of work of the industry making the grant.
1795 The smallest source of money is from the educational foundations, which one would have thought freer from external consideration. There is, therefore, concern that there might be a danger of non-academic influence being brought to bear on the kind of research done by the universities. Perhaps some attention might be paid to that and we might get more information on which to conduct a public discussion.
Although, so far as I can make out, about one student in twelve in the Scottish universities is a post-graduate student, there is remarkably little provision for dealing with the tuition and training of the post-graduate student. I am not here dealing with the future research fellows under these new regulations, the people who come back to the universities with a distinguished record of service. I am referring to the normal student who takes his degree and goes on to post-graduate work. Our universities are different in this matter from the American universities and there might be some discussion about whether we ought to have post-graduate school on the American model. It is something that does not receive adequate consideration.
Another question which interests me a great deal, and which I am sure will interest my hon. Friend, is whether the new regulations which will be drafted under this new Ordinance we are passing tonight will make it easy enough for someone who has acquired a technological qualification which is not necessarily a formal university qualification to qualify for post-graduate research facilities. I am thinking, for instance, of people who will take the new Diploma in Technology, or those who will take the Higher National Certificate, or some of the associateships in one of the mechanical or electrical sciences. I hope that the universities will make sure that there are proper facilities for taking them in the post-graduate stage without forcing them to go through some of the more formal and academic hoops.
I hope that I have said enough to underline the need for a much greater flow of information between the universities and Parliament and the interested public at large. I fully admit that there is need for a very careful distinction between what might be called 1796 proper matters of academic concern and questions of public policy, although, of course, it is not always easy to see where to draw the borderline between them. I certainly do not want, and I am sure my hon. and right hon. Friends do not want, any sort of political interference with the academic work of universities. No one is suggesting that we should have the right to put down Parliamentary Questions about these subjects.
No one wants a State university, although I sometimes think that the arguments advanced against having a State university concentrate too much on quoting the example of some of the obscurer universities in America, and forget the large number of State universities throughout the world where academic questions are not called into question. One can think of some distinguished examples in the United States, of the Sorbonne and of the historic Vienna University, all of which are State universities. We have our own traditions and the University Grants Committee is working them out very well. But there is the question of adapting these conditions and making sure that the universities remain thoroughly responsible to the community they are serving. I think that the universities, if, by mistake, they have fallen into what seems a rather superior attitude, will now try to get away from it. I believe that they have a responsibility to the community which they themselves will recognise. In any case, although they may feel they do not like Parliamentary interference, in practice they have to keep coming to Parliament. They have to come to Parliament for their money and for the legislation which gives them their being.
My first experience of participating in debates in this House was in connection with the new legislation to set up and organise the University of St. Andrew's. I am glad of the progress made in that university since that time. I should have thought that these Ordinances, one of which we are discussing, are mainly matters of academic concern and not, in genereal, proper matters for us to discuss in this House. I think that this one is the exception rather than a rule, but so long as they are the only means we have of obtaining information about the universities, we are bound to go on 1797 using them. I hope that the universities will draw as a moral from this debate that they should cease to be what sometimes seems an esoteric secret society and should provide freely the information we would all like to see made available, so that those of us who are proud of our ancient universities and wish them well may have the means to take part in informed public discussion of their problems.
§ 10.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Forbes Hendry (Aberdeenshire, West)
I have the greatest confidence in commending this Ordinance to the House. I do so with greater confidence because of the arguments adduced by the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) who said that the Scottish universities have to some extent failed to produce the number of research scholars that Scotland ought to produce. I think that was due to a large extent to the Ordinance which it is proposed to repeal and to replace by this Ordinance.
When we think about a university, we are apt to forget that a university has two functions, not only the function to teach students but the function of research and adding to the sum of human knowledge. It seems to me that the old Ordinance was designed entirely to facilitate teaching and to do little or nothing for the research which is so necessary when academic subjects, particularly scientific subjects, are progressing as rapidly as they are today. By giving the universities elasticity, this new Ordinance will go a very long way in helping to do precisely what the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious should be done.
I have been extremely interested by the arguments which have come from the benches opposite about a greater flow of ideas between this House and the universities. This is the second Ordinance to 1798 come under discussion in this Chamber within a fortnight. That, I think, is proof in itself that there is a certain lack of liaison between the universities and the House of Commons.
I recommend to my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State that he should take this matter up with his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his consideration of electoral reform. After all, it was right hon. and hon. Members opposite who did away with the very close liaison between the universities and this House which lasted for many years through the University Members. [Interruption.] Hon. Members will have noted that my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) was appointed ad hoc to put the case of the universities tonight. Various hon. Members from both sides have tried hard recently to make sure that the universities are properly represented and that the academic point of view is understood in the House.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Will the hon. Gentleman explain what he means by saying that his noble Friend was appointed ad hoc to present the case to the House? Are we not all equally Scottish Members of Parliament?
§ Mr. Hendry
I ask the hon. Gentleman to cast his mind back to my noble Friend's speech when she said that she had been asked by the four Scottish universities to present the case for this Ordinance. That should not be. For many years, the universities were directly represented in the House, and it was the party opposite which did away with that. I ask my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to take a message from the House to the Prime Minister, asking that consideration be given to restoring the University Members to the House of Commons.
§ 10.27 p.m.
§ Sir Myer Galpern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
I have learned more about Parliamentary procedure as a result of the debate so far than I have learned of university practice and habits. It seems strange to me that one should be able skilfully to weave round this very simple Prayer asking Her Majesty to withhold her assent a general discussion of the widest possible nature on university activities. I say quite frankly that, had one expected that that would be permitted under this sort of heading, one would probably have come better armed with factual information. However, from the limited knowledge I have gained as a result of my practical experience as a member of a university court and as a governor of the Royal College of Science and Technology, I wish to make one or two points to dispel some of the erroneous views which are, unfortunately, held by some of my hon. Friends.
First, what is the set-up in a university? There is, of course, the senate, which is composed entirely of the professorial staff, senior lecturers and a few others. There is the university court, which is the overriding body and which receives reports from the senate. Then there is a very valuable watch-dog body known as the general council, which is representative of all the graduates of the university. The general council publishes admirable reports. As for the completeness of them, I can speak only from the point of view of Glasgow University. Anyone who cares to study the Quarterly Report of the University of Glasgow General Council will find a great deal of the information which hon. Members have sought so anxiously this evening. I know that a similar practice is followed by the other three universities in Scotland.
I am certain of the opinion that there should be the fullest possible information. Glasgow University celebrated its quincentenary a few years ago. St. Andrew's is even older. For 500 to 600 years these ancient universities have suffered no interference, but there is the ever-present danger that, after the short step of inquiring about the financial arrangements, will come pressures and exertions such as we know existed and led to undesirable situations in other countries. I am sure that no hon. Member would welcome such a state of affairs in this country.
1800 Unlike my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan and East Stirling-shire (Mr. Woodburn), I Think that we Should be proud of our achieve rent in Scotland. I want to refer to, the Royal College of Science and Technology which is recognised us the finest technological institute in this country. Lt attracts people from all over the world. It carries out the very research work to which my right hon. Friend referred, namely in shipbuilding, engineering, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering. Research into these subjects is carried out to an extent which I do not think is surpassed in any other technological institute in this country. We are rightly proud of it.
At Glasgow University a department of virology will be opened next year. It will carry out research into virus diseases in competition with only two other similar institutions in the whole world. We in Scotland do not lag behind the rest of the world in our research development.
All the things which my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) are anxious to achieve are likely to be achieved by the simplification and flexibility of this Ordinance, which we shall obviously agree to. Its purpose is the abolition of the petty restrictions which were applicable and relevant in 1895. They are no longer necessary. The Ordinance will ensure the attraction of more research students to the Scottish universities.
There is a limit to the amount of research work which can be undertaken by a university with a student population well below that in English universities. This is because our numbers are much more restricted. We turn out a far higher calibre of research student than any other university in the country. The fact that the students may be unable to find employment in Scotland after they have completed their research work is something over which the universities have very little control.
A book is published by the University of Glasgow which records the amount of research done and the number of publications as a result of that research from 1952 to 1955. It contains literally 1801 hundreds of reports on the research work carried on at Glasgow University alone.
The information that we all seek as to the financial arrangements of the universities, the U.G.C., and so on, should be available to hon. Members, but if hon. Members were to do some research on their own account they would find much of the information in the reports of the U.G.C. They would find information about the establishment of chairs, and whether chairs are being brought up to date and keeping abreast of the needs of modern university development. All these things are regulated by the amount of money made available by the U.G.C. I have been a member of the university court which made representations for the establishment of chairs, but had to abandon that idea because we recognised that the U.G.C. had available only a limited amount of money to promote the new chains that we were so anxious to establish.
I think that the criticism levelled against the inadequacy of the information, especially on the financial side, can be remedied easily, and perhaps a great deal more information that this House should rightly receive and discuss could be obtained if, instead of a committee being set up to inquire into the workings of the university, the practice of the English universities was followed of publishing an annual report on the work of the university. That would make available to hon. Members each year the information for which they have asked and would satisfy their just inquisitiveness.
If, therefore, it could go forth from this House as a unanimous suggestion to the four university courts that such annual reports should be prepared, I am quite sure that those institutions would pay heed to it and we, in turn, would get that general information on their workings to which we are entitled.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Mr. Niall Macpherson.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I understand that the debate on a Prayer can go on until 11.30 p.m. This is a matter of very great interest, 1802 not only to hon. Members but also to Scotland, and I suggest that the Minister ought to wait, in order to reply to the whole debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Lady is quite correct in saying that the debate on the Prayer can continue until 11.30, but if the Minister rises and catches the eye of the Chair, the Chair will call the Minister. Mr. Niall Macpherson.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May we take it that what the Minister has to say will not conclude the debate? There are others of us who wish to be heard on this subject.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. and learned Member knows perfectly well that the Minister's speech does not necessarily conclude the debate. If other hon. Members rise, they will have every opportunity to be called. Mr. Niall Macpherson.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
This is a Prayer for the annulment of a university Ordinance—it is not a Prayer for the annulment of regulations made by any Minister—but I think that it might be convenient if I were to intervene now, if only to emphasise that I am in no way winding up the debate but merely intervening to indicate the Government's attitude.
This is the second occasion this month on which a Prayer has been moved against a Scottish university Ordinance, the Prayer on 13th July in connection with the Glasgow University LL.B. Ordinance being the first of its kind, so far as can be traced, since the universities obtained the power to make Ordinances under the University of Scotland Acts. 1859 and 1889.
The Glasgow University Ordinance was to some extent a special case in that what the universities do about law degrees and law degree courses must have a direct effect on the training and qualifications of members of the legal profession.
§ Miss Herbison
The Minister could not wait to hear hon. Members speak from this side of the House, but surely he might wait till the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady 1803 Tweedsmuir) returns to the Chamber. She was appointed ad hoc to speak for the four Scottish universities. She is not now in her place.
§ Mr. Macpherson
I am sorry, but I cannot control the movements of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir). I was not aware that she was not in her place, but she is free to come and go and, of course, to see my name on the tape. She can come into the Chamber if she likes to do so.
I think that it is important that one should draw this distinction between this Prayer and the Prayer that was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry) against an Ordinance which had a direct effect outside the universities as well. In that case, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West indicated, there was some difference of opinion on the merits of the proposed changes. I have listened to the debate so far, and I think I am right in saying that there are no differences of opinion about the merits of this Ordinance. It is an amending Ordinance replacing one which, as my noble Friend said, dates back to 1895.
It is not, in any event, for me to express anything in the nature of a Government view on the question of merits. Nor is it for me to answer a debate as if it were a Prayer against a Government Regulation or as if it were an occasion to debate Scottish affairs. In the view of the Government, this is a matter for the universities alone, and it is for the House to judge whether or not to approve this Ordinance.
The right hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) will, therefore, forgive me if I do not follow him in the exceedingly interesting speech that he made, but we will most certainly look carefully at all that he has said. I think he made a most valuable contribution to our debate tonight.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
The Minister has made a very interesting point on a matter that is new to the House—namely, the procedure that we are adopting on these university Ordinances. He says that this is not in any way a matter for the Government but a matter which lies directly between the universities of Scotland and 1804 the House of Commons. Can he give an assurance that on a future occasion when an Ordinance may be more controversial than this one there will be a free vote on the Government side?
§ Mr. Macpherson
One is often asked for assurances about the future, but one cannot look into the future, and it is always better to let the future take care of itself. I should not be prepared to give any such assurance, because it is always conceivable that a university might make an Ordinance—I do not say that it would or could, but it might—on which the Government might have a very strong point of view to express either for or against. It is always conceivable that it would then be a question of the point of view of the Government vis-à-vis the independent universities. I want to make that position quite clear.
It is not for me to express anything in the nature of a view on the part of the Government on the question of merits. As the House is aware, it has been the policy of successive Governments to preserve the autonomy of the universities and not to infringe on their independence on matters of academic policy, and I would suggest that it would be impossible for me to be suspect in the box and not at the Box, so far as this debate is concerned.
This is a matter, as the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) put it very aptly, between the universities and the House at the moment. Therefore, for these reasons, I feel that I must resist any temptation to influence the House one way or another on the substance of the Ordinance. Nor would it be appropriate for me, on the basis of the present Prayer, to be drawn into discussion of the wider questions concerning research facilities which have been raised tonight, although I recognise their great importance and the intrinsic interest of every hon. Member in them.
In the earlier debate on the Glasgow University Ordinance I described at some length the procedural steps relating to university Ordinances. I do not intend to repeat them in detail, because they will be fresh in the memory of the House from a very recent debate, except to remind the House that any Ordinance prepared by a university court must be first submitted to the Senatus Academicus 1805 and the General Council. After those consultations it is submitted to the Privy Council, but before that body considers it, it has to be laid before Parliament.
In this case it is my duty to inform the House that the procedure has been followed in each of the Scottish universities—because the Ordinance is common to them all. No representations have been made against it to the Privy Council within the statutory time limit, which has now expired, and it has been approved by each of the university courts. Therefore, the Ordinance comes to the House in order, and I would not suggest to the House that it should reject it on the ground that it is not in order.
Hon. Members have raised on this and also on other recent occasions, including Question Time, the extent to which the Scottish universites publish information about their activities. As I said on a previous occasion, I have no doubt that the universities will take careful note of what has been said tonight, including some valuable suggestions from both sides of the House. As for the information which has to be laid before Parliament by the Secretary of State in the terms of Section 30 of the 1899 Act, my right hon. Friend has indicated in reply to the hon. Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Dr. A. Thompson) that he will consider carefully the suggestions he then made. I shall certainly bring to my right hon. Friend's attention the additional points that have been made tonight.
But one cannot stress too often that the universities are independent self-governing bodies. In matters concerning the financial needs and the development of the universities as a whole the Government are advised by the University Grants Committee, to which the task of allocating grants to particular universities is entrusted. I believe that I am right in saying that the grants are allocated en bloc and are generally not earmarked for particular purposes, so that it is still more difficult for anyone standing at the Dispatch Box here to account for the way in which that money is spent.
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Edinburgh, Leith)
Is it not a fact that when universities make application to the University 1806 Grants Committee for certain capital expenditure, and so on, they are considered for specific projects?
§ Mr. Macpherson
I stand corrected. The hon. Member and I have together looked into these matters at the Committee of Public Accounts in days gone by. There are two different kinds of university expenditure. There is recurrent expenditure and capital expenditure. The capital expenditure is gone into very carefully, but I was talking about recurrent expenditure. I take it that most of the expenditure arising out of this Ordinance would be mainly concerned with recurrent expenditure.
§ Mr. Hoy
It ought to be made perfectly clear. I think that even the hon. Gentleman will admit that, contrary to what my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) said, the Committee of Public Accounts has only at long last made some little inroad into finding how the money has been spent. That is what has worried the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Macpherson
This is a more general matter which leads me to the next point with which I intended to deal. I shall certainly report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State the feeling that hon. Members have expressed, particularly my noble Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South and the hon. Member for Dundee, East. My right hon. Friend will no doubt wish to discuss this matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who in turn will discuss it, no doubt, with the Chairman of the University Grants Committee, which is at present the recognised channel not only for the disbursement of the money but for the collection of information from the universities.
A great deal of information about the universities is available already in "Returns from Universities and University Colleges", which are published annually. It is a University Grants Committee publication annually presented to Parliament.
§ Mr. Macpherson
It publishes the annual returns and a detailed quinquennial review.
I return to the question which is before the House tonight, namely, whether the 1807 Ordinance made in 1895 should now be replaced by a new one which will, among other things, give research Fellows a status entirely separate from that of research students. The purpose of laying the Ordinance before the House is to give hon. Members an opportunity to object to the terms or the effect of the Ordinance and to ask for it to be annulled. It will be for the House to consider whether any valid objections have been raised such as to warrant the Prayer for the annulment.
No doubt the debate will have served a very useful purpose in other respects, because it is not often that the House gets an opportunity collectively of expressing opinions to the universities. But in accordance with the doctrine of non-interference in the internal affairs of the universities, I would say again, in order to make it quite clear, that it is not for me as a member of the Government to attempt to influence hon. Members either way. I hope that I have done what I conceive to be my duty, which is to try to report to the House the position of the Government in this matter.
§ 10.53 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
We did not expect any more from the Joint Under-Secretary than he has been able to give. We realise the difficulty in which he is placed. However, I am very glad indeed that he agreed that the Prayer has served a very useful purpose. I am also very glad that he has made it clear that his right hon. Friend and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take note of the points which have already been made.
I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. Hendry). He seemed to think that we should not need such a Prayer, that all our problems in regard to the universities and their relationship with Parliament would be solved if the Government were to return to university representation. I do not think the hon. Member would have made that suggestion had he been in the House from 1945 when we decided to do away with university representation because those who represented the universities just did not do the job that the hon. Member suggested that they did. Indeed, the university seat was in many instances a mere refuge for 1808 discarded politicians—Tory politicians, of course.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I appreciate that the subject was raised by an hon. Member on one side of the House and, therefore, the hon. Lady is perfectly entitled to refer to it, but she is not entitled to go into it in detail on this Prayer.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
When the hon. Lady says that all Members representing Scottish universities did not do their job, I must come to the defence of one of them in particular, the right hon. Gentleman who—
§ Miss Herbison
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think that I have made the point.
I was more amazed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), for whom I have the greatest respect and regard. He took a line very different from that taken by the Minister. The Minister felt that the debate had served a very useful purpose, but my hon. Friend seemed to think that because the universities had continued for 500 or 600 years without any matter such as this being raised in the House of Commons, it was not fitting that we should talk about it tonight.
He suggested that there might creep in the great danger of political interference in the universities. It is incumbent upon me to emphasise what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member far Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), who made it perfectly clear that they had no intention of interfering with what one could term the academic freedom of the universities. We have no interest at all in interfering with them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston said that Members could get the information which they were seeking in the report of the general council. I am a member of the general council of Glasgow University and I get a quarterly 1809 report, but many of the facts which my hon. Friends felt ought to be given are just not to be found in that report, good as it is. My hon. Friend said that we could find information on financial matters in the Report of the University Grants Committee, but the detailed expenditure about which my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East was asking is not shown in that Report. We should make it perfectly clear that, without any desire Ito interfere with the academic freedom of our universities, we think that we have a right to the sort of information for which my hon. Friends have been asking.
Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston said that we might be giving the impression that in research we were lagging behind the rest of the world. I do not know the facts about the rest of the world, but I know some of the facts about Great Britain and about Scotland vis-à-vis the rest of the United Kingdom and… Facts are chiels that winna ding".There is no doubt that we are lagging behind many of the universities in England, although not all. For instance, only a small proportion of the advanced course studentships are held in Scotland and if the Ordinance helps more of them to be taken up in Scotland, it will be an excellent thing. However, it is a fact that only a small proportion of the advanced course studentships given by the D.S.I.R. is held in Scotland and that the concentration of post-graduate courses is in the Universities of London and Birmingham.
In 1959, 59 per cent. of the Great Britain advance course scholarships were held at the Universities of London and Birmingham. It is not that we do not have a great number of university graduates—our proportion of the United Kingdom total in 1959 was 17 per cent. in science and technology, 11 per cent. having obtained first-class honours degrees, so that we had more than our share, even among those with first-class honours degrees.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Shettleston about the valuable contributions made by our universities, but they do not make sufficient use of the advanced course scheme. If this Ordinance makes us use it more, it will be a very good thing indeed. In 1810 1959, London, Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities all had a greater proportion of these advanced scholarships than Glasgow University and the Royal College of Science and Technology together.
During the past four years grants for special research at Scottish universities amounted to £267,000, or 7 per cent. of the amount spent in Great Britain. Our universities use a lower proportion of the D.S.I.R. grants than they ought to use when one considers our high proportion of university students. That must surely reflect the small number of proposals for research which have been made by the Scottish universities.
During the last six months of 1959, there were 292 applications from the United Kingdom for grants. Of that figure, only 21, or 7.2 per cent., came from Scotland. Our figure is much lower than pit ought to be. In 1959–60, there were 25 applications from Scottish universities. We have no complaint about the D.S.I.R. which is willing to give us all the help we can take. Out of 17 awards made, only 10 were taken up. Of the 25 applications to which I referred, 13, or more than half, came from the Royal College of Science and Technology in Glasgow. In other words, the one college which is not a university, although it is very closely associated with Glasgow University, accounted for more than 50 per cent. of the applications from Scotland.
It is not to be wondered at that we on this side of the House felt that this was an opportunity to show very clearly that we are perturbed about this matter, and that we want our Scottish universities to put forward more projects for research work. We want our students to take up more of these advanced scholarships. We are not complaining tonight. We are not going cap-in-hand asking for anything; it is there for the taking.
Aberdeen University felt that it was incumbent upon itself to approach one back bench Member on the Government side. If it had approached hon. Members on both sides of the House, it would have found that our desire in putting down this Prayer was to help our universities in Scotland to get their share of this research work. If we continue to neglect these matters, not only the 1811 academic future of our universities but the industrial future and well-being of our country will be marred.
I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will ensure that the points which have been made in the friendliest spirit from this side of the House are brought to the notice of everybody concerned. I hope that the four Scottish universities will do as well as the Royal College of Science and Technology, of which we in the West of Scotland are very rightly proud.
§ 11.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
It has been made abundantly clear in this debate that hon. Members on this side of the House do not oppose the Ordinance on its merits; indeed, the Minister has certain misgivings as to the way in which the Ordinance had been handled. Several times he repeated that the universities are independent bodies, and that neither he nor the Government are responsible for them. I do not intend to address my remarks to the merits of the matter, which have been adequately dealt with. I want to say that it is a pity that the great universities of Scotland should have lent themselves to presenting this Ordinance to the House in a party political way. It is quite obvious from what has been said in the debate and from what I shall adduce shortly that the universities did that. The dates show that.
The remarks that fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir), who spoke comprehensively and presented her case very well, showed that she was approached before any hon. Member on this side of the House.
§ Mr. N. Macpherson
It would be a great mistake if an impression were given that this debate was in any way political. I would point out to the hon. and learned Member—and I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) will bear me out in this—that in the previous debate the hon. Member for Shettleston was the spokesman for the university, and merely because it happens that on this occasion the spokesman for the university came from this side of the House I hope that the hon. and learned Member will not say that this is a political debate.
§ Mr. Hughes
The Minister was a little too previous in saying that. I will refer the House to a letter I received from the Secretary of the University of Aberdeen dealing with this Ordinance. He said:At the request of Mr. Angus who is at present out of Aberdeen, I am writing to draw your attention to a Prayer against the above Ordinance which I understand is to be heard in the House of Commons on Wednesday next, 27th July, 1960. The University of St. Andrews on behalf of all four Scottish Universities, will be circulating to all M.P.s an explanatory memorandum … We should be greatly obliged, therefore, if you would lend your support to the Universities' case, the main speaker for' which is to be Lady Tweedsmuir, your colleague from South Aberdeen.Does not that show that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South was privy to this; that she had been consulted before anyone on this side of the House was consulted, and that we were left in the dark about it? Does not that in itself justify the Prayer?
Worse than that; this letter is dated 22nd July. In common with my colleagues, I had no communication from the University of St. Andrews at that time. I subsequently received a communication from that university dated 23rd July, 1960. It is quite obvious from these dates that hon. Members opposite were privy to this before any hon. Member on this side got any inkling of it. In those circumstances, we on this side of the House were perfectly justified in putting down the Prayer.
I close as I began, by saying that the dates show, notwithstanding the disclaimer of the Minister, that the universities treated this matter in a party political way which is quite unworthy of the great traditions of the universities of Scotland.
§ Lady Tweedsmuir
The hon. and learned Gentleman is not at all fair to the universities. It is perfectly open to the universities to approach anyone to speak in support of an Ordinance when they hear that there is to be a Prayer for its rejection in the House of Commons. Hon. and right hon. Members have received copies of both Ordinances and of the explanatory memorandum. To be fair to the universities, when they hear that there is a Prayer put down and that that is the way the matter is to be taken, it is only sensible that they should approach someone whom they think may be likely to support them.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am sorry that the noble Lady has said that because she is unfair to the universities and she is unfair to herself in lending herself to a transaction of this kind.
The universities of Scotland have a great tradition, a great reputation and a great history. It is wrong that they should be party political in their approach and engage in a transaction of this kind on a party political basis which leaves hon. Members on this side no alternative but to put down a Prayer so that the matter can be explained adequately. I said at the beginning of my speech that we do not oppose the Ordinance on the merits. We approve of it, but to get an explanation it was necessary to put down the Prayer.
§ 11.12 p.m.
§ Dr. Alan Thompson (Dunfermline Burghs)
My hon. and right hon. Friends who put down this Prayer tonight deserve to be congratulated. As I see it, their case rests on two propositions, both of which are sound. First, they say, the original Ordinance, Ordinance No. 61 dated 1895, is inadequate. I accept that. Secondly, they say that the new Ordinance should be the subject of Parliamentary debate so that we may discuss how the flexibility provided for in it can be used to give us the research which Scotland and the United Kingdom need and deserve today.
I take, first, the proposition that the original Ordinance was a bad one. It imposed restrictions which may have been suitable in the nineteenth century but which are not suitable today. Its restrictions supervising students in great detail in the conduct of their research may have been useful for young students in 1895, but senior people, at the postdoctoral level, let us say, coming to a university now would not accept research grants in the restricted conditions applied by the old Ordinance of 1895.
For example, the University of Edinburgh has been more or less ignoring Ordinance No. 61 for a long time. Out of 687 research students last year, only three were admitted under the terms of Ordinance No. 61, and 684 were accepted under different Ordinances which related to specific degrees such as Ph.D., M.Sc., and so on. In other words, a device has been found to admit the other 684 under different Ordinances—that is, those relat- 1814 ing to specific degrees. Ordinance No. 61 is, in fact, moribund and it should, obviously, be repealed.
The second proposition is that this House should discuss whether the kind of research we can really look forward to is the right kind. We cannot be completely satisfied with research as it is now. My right hon. and hon. Friends have dealt in detail with this matter, and I wish merely to add one or two points. I say at once that an essential function of the universities is the pursuit of knowledge not controlled or dominated by any private or corporate interests.
Without this academic freedom, learning will suffer irreparable harm, but the State, which endows research to such a large extent, should I think, guide the lines of broad policy. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) has said, it is that line of demarcation which causes us so much concern. The universities must administer, but the State must decide on the broad lines of policy.
We all have differing views about research, and which forms should have priority; and everyone has his own views as to which should come first. I remember an irate professor telling me that he had just been asked to sanction a research project into the sociological significance of the British Christmas card. Another research project I remember was an attempt to determine the correlation between the social class of families by the length of the bookshelves, which was supposed to give a quantitative index to reading habits in particularly selected homes. The proposition, I remember, was that the higher the social class, the more bookshelves there would be and therefore the wider reading habits, but I do not know if the £1,000 spent on that was justified. However, I think that we have to leave it to the universities to decide on the research which is undertaken, whether in sociology or another science. My only point is that although most research projects are sound, there are sometimes "fringe" projects by junior people which can be banal, and even worthless. The danger is perhaps greater is sociology than, say, medicine or science.
We know, of course, that research workers may have their quirks. I have never understood, for instance, why an archaelogist, in order to prove that he 1815 is good, feels forced to demonstrate that his predecessor was bad. We have only to think of the archaeologists who write for the Sunday newspapers, and the mutual accusations of fraud over the most trivial issues.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
Where so much money—public money—is involved, surely we should be able to criticise fairly forcibly this apparent waste of public money?
§ Dr. Thompson
That may be so, but I was trying to put my criticisms as ingeniously as I could while still at the same time upholding the autonomy of the universities.
An essential function of the universities is, as I have said, the pursuit of knowledge, not controlled or dominated by any private or corporate interest; but the reputation of a university is often founded on the efficiency of its research rather than on its standing as a teaching establishment. Research enters fundamentally into the life of a university, and some students, if a vital and vigorous climate of research prevails in their university, become imbued at a relatively early stage of their careers with the idea of becoming research workers themselves. Such a vigorous attitude to research can, therefore, have an impact on a university much wider than the benefits which accrue to the individual subject itself.
Admittedly, research and teaching go hand in hand, but it may be necessary sometimes to separate the functions. It may be necessary in certain subjects to establish research readerships or professorships with only nominal teaching duties attaching. I do not think that the status of research is sufficiently appreciated in this country, and it would help to make research, and especially research within the university, a real profession. It is the teaching jobs which are permanent and the hope of gaining a teaching job is often the goal of the research worker. But some very good researchers are, I think, shockingly bad teachers and it would help all concerned to keep them away from students. It would enable the research worker to dedicate himself to his subject, and it would protect the young from inefficient and careless instruction.
Research staffs are usually on limited, fixed, grants and do not sit on 1816 the faculties or on the bodies which give them a voice in university government, and there is the tendency to treat them as the poor relations of the university teachers. I suggest that it is our job to see that good research workers, however, are given the status of university teachers. Where a trained research worker is also a good teacher, so much the better of course, but this does not always happen.
Research is an exacting occupation, and it must be pursued in suitable conditions. Universities do not always give research workers the same conditions of service as they give to teachers. There must also be adequate funds for expenses. It is not enough to provide maintenance for research workers. There must be an endowment of the work itself. Research workers must be re-imbursed for the expenses that they incur. I put in a plea to the Inland Revenue in this respect. It is difficult for anyone on a research scholarship ever to claim from the Inland Revenue expenses incurred in travel or whatever he does in pursuit of research.
If university researchers are to keep fresh minds, they must have freedom of choice and conduct. If the research worker's interests do not lie in the field of work favoured by the professor, he should not be coerced, directly or indirectly, into taking up any line of work against his will. A good professor realises this. He does not force a research worker into a field dominated or dictated by himself. Bad professors sometimes do. They coerce research workers into things which interest the professors rather than things which interest the research workers. This often results in poor work, and a good deal of mutual irritation and frustration.
The Association of University Teachers has made the very good suggestion that every university should have a research endowment fund, administered centrally by a fairly large committee, from which all departments and individuals could draw money. In other words, the suggestion is that people endowing the university should put the money into a central fund, and it would be up to the Committee administering the central fund to allocate money, rather than allowing the sponsoring bodies to dictate too closely the nature and conditions of the work.
1817 Universities cannot be closed institutions in the matter of research. My hon. Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) made this point very well. There should be a much greater working with and co-operation with the technical colleges. There should be much greater facilities for exchange of staff between universities and other research institutions.
Student research is a slightly different problem. The first consideration for students, as distinct from post-graduates, is the need for mental training. It is not so much that they widen the area of knowledge of a subject in the way that senior researchers do, but that they receive training in the use of the mind. I do not think that very many undergraduates advance the frontiers of knowledge very much. They get mental training, although occasionally they stumble upon an idea. There must be very few professors and lecturers who have not occasionally filched an idea from a student which they have later claimed as their own. We are all only human.
We have had the opportunity tonight to ventilate a few points which are important. This opportunity has been provided by the movers of the Prayer, who have allowed Parliament to discuss it. For that reason, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have reason to be grateful.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.