§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, when the story of university education in this country comes to be written, I have no doubt that the implementation of the recommendations of the Robbins Report will be regarded as one of the most remarkable achievements of our age. We may well be proud of it, but its very rapidity has its dangers. Perhaps one of the chief glories of British university life in the past has been the small ratio of students to teachers. This has resulted in two enormous advantages. First, there has been the interplay of mature minds on immature. For this I believe there is no substitute, if only because it tends to produce in the student a 717 certain sense of awe at the vastness of the field of learning opened up before him which he glimpses through the minds of his teachers and the privilege which is his of being in on this venture of learning. This intimate interplay of mind upon mind can only take place when the ratio of student to teacher is small. It is lost when the numbers are such—as indeed they are in certain academic institutions in some parts of the world—that the student is little more than a name on a list down which the don casts a hasty eye. I understand that the average British ratio is about 1 to 10. At the Sorbonne it is 1 to 98. At the Free University of Berlin, it is 1 to 50, reaching 1 to 300 in some popular subjects.
The second advantage of this small ratio is the formation of close friendships between older and younger men and women, friendships which make for trust and understanding—the older beginning to understand the stresses, hopes and fears, ideals and visions of the younger; the younger beginning to see the responsibilities of the older, and perhaps even to see that some of these responsibilities are better left to them for a few years longer.
In Britain alone it seems likely that the number of people in higher education may double between now and 1980. My plea is that those in Government and academic circles who are responsible for the development of university and college strategy should see to it that nothing whatsoever is allowed to upset this delicate balance. It were better, even, to slow down the implementation of the Robbins Report recommendations than, by overspeeding them, to imperil the interplay of mind on mind and that forming of deep friendships between old and young of which I have just spoken. What shall it profit a university or college if it gain a very long list of high salary-earning young men and women in a very short time, and lose this, the soul of university life? I would go further and ask whether it really can be called "university life" when a student is unknown to his teacher, and when the percentage is small of those who have the benefit of at least some period of residence in a university hall.
The ideal towards which we must steadily work is the evolution of a system 718 of education in which teachers and students become, and are seen to be, partners in a common enterprise. The desire to share creatively—this has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and other noble Lords—in the conduct of university affairs can be, and often is, a natural and healthy manifestation of maturity. The staff/student consultation, as distinct from any attempt at dictation by students to staff, is rightly being accepted increasingly in our universities. But such participation in the conduct of university affairs can only go hand in hand with an acceptance of personal and corporate discipline which is not always forthcoming. Discipline is an unpopular word, and it is hard for the student to see that the absence of it leads to personal and social chaos.
The matter of ratio is of first importance. But I believe that the issues before us go deeper than just a matter of figures. Any general condemnation of our student population or of youth in general is obviously the height of folly. There are abundant signs on all hands of excellence, of initiative, of compassion in vast numbers of our young people to-clay—signs which, I believe, were nothing like so visible a few decades ago when most of your Lordships, myself includes, were undergraduates. That there is an underground of youth which is very sick needs no proving. When the wife of a Member of Parliament is knocked down and kicked in the setting of a Northern university, clearly all is not well. Those who know more than I do about these things would do well to search to see whether the more unpleasant manifestations of student anarchy are being fomented from without by forces which must b e kept down by law. High spirits and protracted adolescence may account for a good deal and may be taken in good part. But when the work of a great institution is interrupted or even disrupted and, worse still, when there is physical violence, then the sooner it is made clear that our society will not stand for that kind of thing the better for us all.
But apart from these actual outbreaks of violence—and as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, has indicated they have been very few so far in this country—which all of us condemn, who is responsible for the unrest which is so obvious and so widespread?—the students themselves 719 no doubt in part, but I think by no means wholly. There are certain issues which the young men and women of our day see with a clarity which seems denied to many of us older folk, whose vision for moral values has grown pretty dim. Who is to blame our young people if they protest, noisily and insistently, against an order of society which spends a high proportion of its wealth on research into, and manufacture of, weapons of destruction, and which does a flourishing trade in exporting those arms to the newly emerging nations? Who is to blame them if they protest against the appalling inequalities which cry out in this world of the second half of the 20th century—the luxury of the Western democracies glaringly contrasting with starvation and illiteracy in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. Should we not rather thank them for trying to be gadflies in the consciences of us older folk?
We are not always, let us face it, very helpful to them. Some of us are giving them no moral absolutes by which to steer their ship of conduct. There are some who are creating a permissive society in which anything "goes". I use the word "permissive", for it is a kindlier word than "immoral", so we substitute the former for the latter. Others, by encouraging the omission of Christianity from the education of our young people, give the impression, perhaps unmeaningly, that Christianity does not matter, and then expect them to produce the fruits of ethical Christian conduct from an education which has failed to examine the roots of Christianity whence those fruits derive.
The name of Sir Walter Moberley is an honoured name in the sphere of university education. He has given his life to this cause, and he has just crowned a very distinguished career by producing a great book on the ethics of punishment. But as long ago as 1949 he wrote another book, known to many of your Lordships. I doubt not, called The Crisis in the University. There he pointed out that the real work of a university is not finished when it has taught the students how to make a bomb or a cathedral or a healthy body. It must go on to ask further questions: for example, why you want such things at all. When you do that, you are at 720 the heart of a series of deeper questions still; questions which impinge on the nature of man, the idea of God, the meaning of life.
Is our generation perhaps to blame for much of what is alarming us in the young, precisely because at this point we have drawn back and shied like a frightened horse?It is a fallacy to suppose"—and I quote Sir Walter Moberley here—that by omitting a subject you teach nothing about it. On the contrary, you teach that it is to be omitted, and that it is therefore a matter of secondary importance… If in your organisations, your curriculum and your communal customs and ways of life you leave God out, you teach with tremendous force that, for most people at most times, He does not count.I believe that Moberley was essentially right. Some of us have sown the wind and seem surprised that we are seeing the beginning of a reaping of the whirlwind. The easiest thing for us in that position to do is to blame the young! I repeat, there are certain moral issues which they see with a clarity of vision denied to some of us. They are vividly aware of Vietnam—your Lordships will have noticed the recurrence of that with a kind of death knell monotony—and they are vividly aware of Biafra and of racial discrimination. These things are brought into their homes and common-rooms every day by radio and television. It is an ill day when all we older folk can do is to murder their passionate caring by the slow death of a thousand qualifications and prevarications and equivocations.
Should we see some significance in the fact that the only vacant places in many British universities to-day are in the departments of the physical sciences? Is it because many students (though perhaps they could scarcely express this) are frightened of the potentiality for harm of many recent discoveries, and see that modern man is often like a little child with a naked razor blade in his hand—a danger to himself and a menace to his fellows? An abundance of knowledge not matched by an equal abundance of wisdom; a great deal of technical expertise with much defaulting when it comes to the job of grappling with moral and ethical issues—these things, I believe, build up an atmosphere of uncertainty against which young people can hardly 721 be blamed if they protest, even when the form of their protestation may annoy or even alarm us. We of an older generation find ourselves in a position of considerable difficulty. I believe that our young people look to us for a lead in these things and despise us if we do not give it. If they will not necessarily follow that lead, they will at least give heed to it, provided that it is not simply a verbal one but a lead wrought out and illustrated by our own example.
I was very interested in a letter in The Times this month, written by a recent graduate at a certain university. I should like to quote part of what that recent graduate wrote. He said:We need men who know what they believe and are prepared to say it, stand by it, and see it through. Because we are better educated and more informed we are not the less looking for the moral and spiritual leadership that has made this country great. But when we look, there is no one, nothing. Shall we go on looking and listening in vain?How right that writer is. "Listen to what I say, but do not do what I do" will receive the scorn that it deserves. So with an authoritarianism—I distinguish this sharply from authority—which seeks to impose itself, as it were, from above, and which is impatient and unwilling to give its reasons—and well thought out reasons at that.
Somewhere on this knife-edge we may find our answer—somewhere between a lack of authority which simply leaves our young people to flounder, and an authoritarianism which is unreasoning and unreasonable. Maybe they long for direction, the while they are impatient of too many directions. Maybe they want a measure of authority, but will only take it from those who are clearly themselves men under authority—and proud and glad to be so.
This is, in part, a problem of communication between the generations. The young, I believe, want to be able to talk their problems out, without incurring the judgment or condemnation of those older than themselves. But is it not true to say that very often there is a lack of communication, and not least in the universities, between the generations—a lack of communication more complete than that which exists between an English graduate and a Chinese peasant? This problem needs and demands some hard, continuous and sensitive work on our 722 part if we are to get anywhere near a solution.
My Lords, I have spoken overlong but I have touched on some basic matters which to my mind lie behind the noisy manifestations of unrest which are showing themselves in our universities just at this time. I do not believe that we shall go far at all towards the resolution of these difficulties unless and until we are ready to examine, at depth and in detail, not only the organisational problems, which are very real, but the deeper ethical and moral problems, on some of which I have ventured to speak to-day.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD O'HAGAN
My Lords, I should declare an interest: I am a university student. However, I must make it plain that I do not speak on behalf of any group of students. My Lords, at Oxford, where I am an undergraduate, there appear to be three groups of protesters—apart from full-time rabble-rousers from outside, those whom Professor Beloff has called "the stage army of the Left".
I will call the first group the agitators. They are a motley band, with affiliations to various theories of thinkers on the Left. They are divided among themselves. The second group is the bureaucrats, many of whom seem to be connected with the undergraduate Liberal Party. They think that enough committees will solve student problems. They perhaps have something in common with those who believe that a thorough overhaul of the machinery of government and administration would be more effective than a change in decisions and the decision makers. Some of their vigour derives from a desire to climb on to the student-protest bandwagon. The third group is the taggers-on, anxious to be progessive and ready for free excitement. They are quite numerous.
I should like to return to the first group —the agitators. These people wish to emulate the news coverage of the Continental students. I would heartily support the picture of the noble Lord, Lord Byers, of this type of student. They are unlike the Continental brand in that they do not have so much to complain of. The British grant system, for example, is without rival. They are like them in having no coherent programme. But nearly all this group, both at Oxford and, would say, elsewhere, disapprove of the activities of the Communist bloc. Some at Oxford, 723 for example, consider the Viet Cong's activities as Stalinist and therefore bad. They do not wish to be the intellectual shock troops of Communist régimes, most of which they think are as reactionary as their Western counterparts. They approve of Communist theoreticians, but I am pretty sure it is wrong to think of them as sympathisers with Communist Governments.
It may well be said that Communist organisations wish to influence these students, or to take advantage of the present unrest. However, it now seems common Communist practice not to upset things unless there is a real chance of success. The Communists in France are remarkably de Gaullist. The agitators are the noisy and violent ones, my Lords, but they are more like anarchists or syndicalists than any recognisable Communist denomination. All that they really have in common with Communists is a basic egalitarianism. The bureaucrats are lumped in with them in the eyes of the public, and so the numbers of the hard-core agitators appear to grow. The taggers-on swell the ranks.
My Lords, the vast majority of students are much more interested in degrees than in protests. If organised discussions can take place with the various bureaucratic groups, as I call them, about areas in which student participation is feasible, they will keep quiet and contribute. The taggers-on will probably lose interest. The agitators will continue to agitate, but they represent a very small minority; and to call them or the other groups Communist does harm. It disquiets ordinary citizens and the local authorities who give grants. It annoys the bureaucrats and the taggers-on because it is blatantly untrue. It stimulates the agitators to further action because the authorities label them with a taboo word which is not properly applicable: they can genuinely say, "We are misunderstood".
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, in his maiden speech. I understand that he finished his degree examinations yesterday, and although I know that in this House we are very much opposed to any sort of democratic interference with examinations, perhaps a little aristocratic 724 interference would be tolerated now and we at any rate, might award him a First-Class, whatever the verdict of the examiners, which I am sure will be very favourable. I am only sorry that so wise a young man should be leaving New College, where my own son—rather younger, and possibly more vulnerable—is being educated. I am not sure which group the noble Lord belongs to himself, but in any case I think he would have exerted, and continue to exert, a very wise influence over my own son. I hope we shall often hear the noble Lord again.
Looking around this House, I think that there are not perhaps many noble Lords who would agree with me—though the noble Lord might—when I say that the education at Eton and New College is the best education which can be offered in this country. I do not hear any loud applause in reply to that sentiment. I only hope that the noble Lord will not be discouraged when he sees what has happened to some of the earlier products of that form of training, because there is always a chance for the new generation. But I would make one comment, respectfully enough, in regard to the speakers who are to follow—and who, between them, represent a collossal combination of academic knowledge. I do not see any recognised trade unionists in the list. While I can understand that trade unionists may feel that, as they were not educated at these universities, they had better listen to those who were, I think it is in many ways rather a pity, because the trade unions have played such a large part in making such education possible for our young people that I should have liked to hear more from them than we are going to hear to-day.
My Lords, it is natural to concentrate attention this afternoon on the very important statements that have been made by the National Union of Students and by the Vice-Chancellors, to at least one of whom we shall be listening this afternoon, Lord James of Rusholme. Indeed, we shall be listening also, I believe, to Lord Annan later on. I will not cover that ground in any detail, although I think this particular exchange, if one can call it that, between the National Union of Students and the Vice-Chancellors is perhaps the most fruitful event in the 725 whole history of staff/student relationships in this country, and I think it represents an untold promise for the future.
Noble Lords no doubt prepare themselves for such a debate as this in their own way, but in preparing myself I have visited half-a-dozen universities and one college of art (which was student-occupied territory when I went there) in the last month or so, and I should like to report a few of my conclusions, or to throw them into the common pool. I have also been in close touch with the National Union of Students, to whom such well-deserved tributes have been paid this afternoon, in which I heartily concur. I leave out three topics, all closely related to the one we are discussing this afternoon, on which wise things have been said already to-day by various speakers. I mean the influence of the world-wide movement of student unrest, the disgruntlement with politicians of all Parties and the lack of communication, to use another aspect of it, to which the most reverend Primate referred. I also will not say anything about the dons—although one could write a whole book about the different kinds of dons which now exist in universities. I venture, with great respect, to differ from those, including the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, who have suggested that in some ways the standards of the dons had fallen. I think that would be a dangerous generalisation. I am not sure whether the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor stated that in terms; but he suggested that the idea had been put forward. I would hesitate to accept it.
I come to the main topic, student unrest. It is impossible to deny, surely, that there is a lot of student unrest. Certainly, anyone who has read the newspapers in the last few weeks must have discovered that all sorts of extraordinary things have been happening—the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor touched on them briefly—which had they happened not only in our time (whenever that may have been; people talk about it as though it were about a century ago) but even in the active teaching career of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, would have taken everyone's breath away. Of course it is natural to ask: Who is behind all this? 726 I give careful thought to what the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, said but I must offer my own tenative analysis, and I lead into this subject through what might be called the disciplinary aspect which I may seem to dwell on for I while It is not the most fundamental topic in this discussion but it is merely a symptom of something that lies underneath.
We are told, not so much this afternoon, but repeatedly in the Press that all this unrest is being stirred up by a small number of revolutionaries. I think in a sense that that is true. There is a limited sense in which that is true and the National Union of Students in their statement imply it. In one university I was told—and the same kind of message reached me from the others—that there might be said to be 50 revolutionaries; and that some would be graduates. Let us, for the sake of focusing our thoughts—there cannot be precise figures—assume that there are these 50 revolutionaries in each university, some of them associated with the Radical Students' Alliance, no doubt, and some of them with the new revolutionary body which was started—if I may say so in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Robbins—at the London School of Economics last Saturday. I am not implying that he had any connection with it—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
No, my Lords, but it started there. I meant that as a geographical fact, not as a spiritual fact.
What do these revolutionaries stand for? I am not going to run over all the names, the Maoists, the Anarchists and all the rest; but certainly we cannot tie them down to a single philosophy or programme. The official Communists, as has been said by one or two speakers including the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, may be a bit stronger in the universities other than Oxford; but they do not appear to weigh very heavily, though, as usual, they are looking for any trouble that is going. The most fashionable prophet is said to be Dr. Marcus Marcuse. I will give way to anyone in the House who will get up and tell me that he has read the works of Dr. Ma reuse. I notice that nobody cares to take advantage of that invitation. It is 727 not easy to obtain his works. I tried at—I shall not say where—a particular university bookshop to obtain them, but the run is so great that they have had to be reprinted, so it is not very easy to obtain the works of Dr. Marcus Marcuse.
But we have all read the other prophet, the more considerable one, Karl Marx. Just in case anybody—take the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who opened so well and who studied these matters with me before the war—imagines that he has disposed of Marx, I may say that he and I between us got Marx "taped" in 1930. But this is rather a different Marx; this is the younger Marx. We started at about the time of the Communist Manifesto, but that is "old hat" to-day. The revolutionary students study the early Marx of 1843 and 1844 when he was not much older than a lot of these young revolutionary leaders are to-day.
The keyword is "alienation". If anybody does not know what "alienation" is I suggest that he should bring himself up to date quickly; but if anybody wants a short definition he will find it in an admirable article written by a very sound and interesting young man, Mr. Colin Crouch, President of the Students' Union of the London School of Economics, who has recently appeared on television. He is anything but revolutionary; he is a very statesmanlike young man—I hope I am not doing him any harm in the next election. But he says this about "alienation":Nearly every aspect of existing society"—he is quoting what is meant by the word—is engaged in distorting, crushing and oppressing the human spirit which is, as a result, in a state of complete alienation from its true, free nature.That is his explanation of "alienation" which is the key word unifying people in different countries all over the world in the students' cause. And if noble Lords, who I am sure do not descend to this, want any words that might be called "in" words, then I offer "fragmentation" and "mystification". But I shall not begin to define those in detail.
My Lords, what I am concerned with is not so much the philosophy, let alone the programme, for reforming society, which is not easy to discover; but I want to bring home the point that now, in 728 these latter days, the revolutionary attitude has been turned inwards against the university itself. Here may I add that the desire to reform the university, to bring about a radical transformation, is not confined to the revolutionaries; it is much more widely spread among people as sensible as Mr. Crouch. In the good old days before the War, in the 1930s, some of us Left-Wing Socialist dons—of course, I was also a Right-wing don, but that was earlier still—used to collaborate to our heart's content with students and workers and every class of person in public demonstrations. We were joined on occasions by Communists as well as, at the time of the Munich by-election, by such great Liberals as the noble Baroness, Lady Asquith, and even by Conservatives like the noble Lord, Lord Byers, and by such Conservatives as Mr. Harold Macmillan and Lord Boothby. So everyone in those days joined in the party. There was not thought to be anything outrageous in intellectuals, if that is what we called ourselves as an omnibus term, the workers, the students, the lot, all protesting against everybody—against Mr. Chamberlain, against Herr Hitler, Franco, anyone who came to mind. That was the atmosphere in pre-war demonstrations. Nothing was thought to be remotely improper about it.
But now it is different. In those days we were not trying to overturn the whole university; the idea of storming the proctors' building which, I gather, occurred the other day would have made the most drastic of us flinch and shiver. There was nothing of that sort in those days. So I feel that we have now entered a new phase. The authorities are confronted to-day with a new problem. Where do they draw the line? What do they permit, or not permit, in the way of demonstrations? I am not talking about intimate relationships, which is a different and more painful subject, but dealing with demonstrations: where do they draw the line? It is not easy to distinguish the end from the means. One leading undergraduate was reported in The Times the other day as saying that he was quite ready for unconstitutional action to upset the whole university, or at any rate to transform it.
It may be felt that these people should not be accepted, but I do not think that anyone would send anybody down to-day 729 because of a mere expression of views. But suppose they actually do something, what are the authorities supposed to do in return? I suppose they wait until the revolutionaries, if we can call them that, make a move. The revolutionaries may deprecate violence and say that they are entirely opposed to violence, but in fact they interfere—and I may perhaps mention one university, Essex; though it is not the only case—with freedom of speech. Whether or not they were seeking violence, violence, in the sense of interference with ordinary human rights occurred. Then you try to discipline them, and at once you get a whole load of trouble on your hands. As one Vice-Chancellor remarked to me (and I think his remark expressed the sentiments of several others to whom I have spoken) this is not a very happy period in which to be a Vice-Chancellor. I told him that on the whole I believed that this was the darkest hour before the dawn. But it is easier to offer that consolation to a Vice-Chancellor than to believe it, if you happen to fill the office.
My Lords, I am sure that there are some noble Lords—not many in these advanced days—who will by this time be suffering from some sort of state of apoplexy. To them, the answer, will be only too clear. You have a small group of subservients—well then, any Vice-Chancellor with any guts would send them down. We have not heard that note struck this afternoon—perhaps it will be before the end of the debate—but I am sure that quite a few noble Lords must he thinking that. I remember that when the noble and gallant Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein (I am afraid that I have not had a chance of warning him that I proposed to voice this reminiscence) was Chief of the Imperial General Staff and I was the Under-Secretary of State for War, he once said to me, "The British working man is a good chap: he is all right, I could lead him anywhere. But 5 per cent. are stinkers. You tell your Clem Atlee, you tell your Labour Government, that you should have a showdown with the stinkers, and you will be in power for a thousand years." If we had followed that advice, I do not know what would have happened. At any rate, there was a time, when some of us were young, when a slightly more refined version of that tactic was open 730 to Vice-Chancellors. But that time is clearly long since past.
The Vice-Chancellor to-day is only too well aware that university authority (I do not think I am giving away any secrets here) is vulnerable and delicate, and depends on consensus—or, if you like, bluff. Its bluff has been called already in quite a number of cases. Its possible punishments vary between rustication and ruining a young man's life—which is a kind of unusable H-bomb—and a fine which, in the case of a political offence, is promptly paid by all those involved in the movement. It is extremely difficult for Vice-Chancellors to know what punishment to apply.
My impression—which must be the impression of everybody, taking the universities as a whole (I will not say that it applies to every single university; for I have not of course been to mere than a handful)—is that it is the disciplinary point that is in dispute between the authorities and the revolutionaries to-day, even though there are only a handful of them. Most students, even when they do not agree with the revolutionaries, will side with their own generation. This is where the question of discipline uncovers a deeper issue. Certainly the great mass of the students are not behind the revolutionaries. They are not interested in Mao Tse-tung, and they may or may not have heard of him or Manx; but they are coming overwhelmingly to believe that large reforms in the organisation of universities, particularly in the staff student relationship, is long overdue.
This point of view seems to have been accepted in one way or another by all speakers this afternoon, from the noble Lord, Lord Byers, onwards. It was not the students who set up the Latey Committee whose Report received such general approval from all of us and, incidentally, from the students. We did all that. The older ones have officially told the students that they are much more mature than we were at their age, and they are much more developed and much more to be trusted in all sorts of affairs. We have told them that they must grow up faster. This idea did not start with them; it came from us. We have now sold it to them with considerable effect. Who is to blame, then, if the students draw the logical conclusion, and insist 731 on being treated in the universities as adults and no longer as children?
My Lords, there can be no happy outcome unless and until the authorities can reach a consensus with the great mass of the students on the right kind of disciplinary arrangements and the right kind of student participation in the light of conditions and attitudes to-day. That, I understood, was in a sense the theme of the approach of Lord Byers and others. This alone will enable the universities not only to claim, but to obtain, the allegiance of the vast majority. Certainly things are happening in all sorts of ways. Recently The Times, at the end of its extremely valuable series, pointed to the steady increase of student representation on the academic bodies all over the country. Since then the pace has quickened, and I respectfully salute those Vice-Chancellors for the tone of their reply to the National Union of Students. As I said earlier, I expect great things to follow. All sorts of discussions are going forward in all the universities—or all the ones I know about—between staff and students. The students accept (at least, I hope they do; and I think they do) that if they are to be worthy of these new rights which are clearly coming their way they must accept new duties, new obligations and new responsibilities.
There is one further point which, as an old university tutor, I should like to make before I close. None of us who loves universities, whether or not we had the privilege of being educated at one or taught in them, will see this question wholly or mainly in terms of university politics. We ask ourselves unceasingly the question: what will be the effect on studies, on learning, on education in the widest sense? The students of to-day demand more dialogue with their teachers. Those of us who have studied and taught in universities have always regarded this one-to-one relationship between tutor and pupil as the most precious element of all, and the right reverend Primate put that in his own way. Somehow we public men, so far as we can affect the issue, must find a way, not of abandoning this concept but of spreading it far more widely. And somewhere, finally, the line must be drawn between those matters where the student can have a large say in the arrangements and those where this is hardly possible if only because they 732 spend so short a time in the university, which is such a small part of their life—a fact makes exact comparison to the democratic community somewhat impertinent.
In matters of welfare and discipline, for example, the students are already playing a large part in some of the universities —indeed, in many—and it is quite clear that their part is going to grow ever greater and more considerable. But there are matters, touched on in some cases by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, where one cannot imagine them playing a valuable part, at any rate in any future that we can foresee. There is the appointment and promotion of the dons; the selection of the undergraduates; the setting of examination papers. One must keep these matters, one would think, in professional hands. But there is no reason why, even in the academic sphere, in what would be called the sphere of purely academic matters, the student voice should not be listened to much more than in the past. Suppose, for example, the undergraduates at Oxford decided they all wanted to have the Cambridge system of Tripos, not one Final Examination but examinations in two Parts, surely that is a matter on which the student voice—though the students must not dictate to the dons—could be listened to very much more carefully than in the past.
If we take the curriculum, supposing that students decide that Anglo-Saxon is unduly stressed in the English course, or that Chinese would be much more valuable for those thinking of the Foreign Service, is their voice to be completely ignored? I think that most of the enlightened dons to-day would agree that students have to be listened to on these matters more than they were in the past; and while, again, they cannot dictate the answer, they have much more of a contribution to make than used to be supposed, certainly in my time. These matters will be threshed out, some of them now and some of them over a longer period; and no doubt different universities will arrive at varying answers. But I think it is clear that there are a number of antiquated positions which the university authorities must abandon—and in fairness I would say that it seems they are moving towards their abandonment—antiquated positions once taken for granted but now clearly inconsistent 733 with the kind of liberal participating communities about which the most reverend Primate spoke so well.
In conclusion, I would say that all of us, whether we have had the good fortune to go to a university or not, who care profoundly for universities can draw a great deal of encouragement and hope from all these developments, in spite of the occasional follies, which must clearly be condemned. I think that we can look forward in the confidence that nothing that really matters is going to be lost, and that many unfulfilled aspirations will be realised: in short, my Lords, that the best is yet to be.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD COLERAINE
My Lords, when I looked this afternoon at the list of speakers, I wondered at my temerity in venturing to address your Lordships on this subject. I do not have the immediate experience of the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and I should like to add my most sincere congratulations to those of the noble Earl. I do not think I have ever heard a maiden speech, or indeed any speech on a subject of this kind, which was distinguished by so much close observation, so much balance and so much reason. In time the noble Lord's experience will naturally widen, and it he brings to that the same qualities he has shown this afternoon this House will be even more greatly in his debt. Nor have I the experience of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I should like to say that if I had had the brains and intellectual capacity to be a don at Oxford in the '30s, I should have been a Left Wing don, because I was rather more Left then than I am to-day. But certainly I would have joined the noble Earl in his protests at the time of Munich.
If I speak this afternoon, it is not because once I was Minister of Education. That was a long time ago, nearly a quarter of a century, and it was only, to quote one of the immortal phrases of the Prime Minister, "a matter of weeks rather than months." If I speak to-day, it is because I have encumbered this planet for something approaching the Psalmist's "mortal span" and I have seen in that period, on the one hand, a great increase in material prosperity, a great increase in wellbeing, a great increase in economic security—I am speaking of the Western world—and, on 734 the other hand, I have seen a gradual disintegration of the foundations of human society and a great increase in violence and unreason. And I think that what we have seen to-day in the student world is a reflection of the world outside.
In the world outside, man has enormously increased his control over physical nature, but in the process he seems to have lost control over himself. He seems to have lost self-control. And this dualism is reflected in the student world. In the student world, compared to my day, there is a great increase in the amenities of life and a great increase in the interests of student lite—more variety, more travel, more fun. On the other hand, it seems to me that there is a lack of control, a lack of discipline, a lack of understanding of what a university is about.
Of course, I realise perfectly well that this manifestation we are discussing to-day is only a minority manifestation, but minorities can he dangerous things. I remember one authority who talking of political action, said:The history of success is the history of minorities".I think that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, would respect that authority—he was Lord Morley. I think that in this student trouble there is clearly to he detected the operation of a kind of Gresham's Law; by a kind of auction of violence the moderate students are gradually being driven to taking up a more intransigent position. I think I am right in saying —and I stand to be corrected on this—that the other day the National Union of Students put forward some matters which they proposed to discuss with the university chancellors, with the proviso that if their demands were not met they would have to consider direct action. That is the kind of thing that happens when there is an active minority and a passive majority.
We have heard a great deal this afternoon of student grievances, but when we come to analyse them I think that they boil down to two, and there is nothing new in them. The first is: "If we had made the world, we would have made it on a very different pattern to the world that exists to-day". That is what all young people think and have always thought, 735 thank heavens! The other grievance is that students are not given as much responsibility and as much influence as they feel they should have—what my noble friend Lord Sandford referred to as the growing desire of young people to take a more responsible position in society. The young people have always wanted to take a more responsible position in society. They have always wanted their views to be heard and to be decisive.
The noble Lord, Lord Byers, spoke of the lack of communication between the generations, and he put that forward as one factor in the present unrest. But, surely, that is quite unreal. Surely, there is more communication between generations now than there has ever been before. Certainly in my day at the university, and I would say in the noble Earl's day, the communication between one generation and another was very much a one-way traffic, and far more so than it is to-day.
I believe that the causes of this student unrest are three. I think that one of them—and I say this with all respect to my noble friend Lord Robbins—is that there are too many universities. I think the fears which were expressed in the debate in this House nearly five years ago, at the time of the Robbins Report, have to some extent been substantiated. I do not believe that the universities have been able to recruit adequate staff—adequate, I mean, in terms of intellect, personality, emotional maturity and so on—and I do not believe that all those who have the intellectual attainments to qualify by examination to go to a university are able to benefit from that education. I think we have been going too far, too fast; and that I believe to be one of the causes of our troubles to-day.
The second cause I believe to be this. I think that all those who have had to do with the education of young people would agree with me when I say that a serious problem has been presented by the fact that the age of puberty has been advanced since the war by anything from one to two years by advances in nutritional science, and, unfortunately, there have been no similar advances in the science of moral or emotional education. The fact is that you have these young 736 people with an excessively prolonged period of adolescence and unsettlement, and they find it difficult, with the physical attributes of men and women and the emotional and mental maturity of teenagers, and sometimes of children, to conduct their lives in a sensible way.
The third point I want to submit as one of the causes for this trouble is lack of tradition in universities. I am not now just thinking of new universities, but of the older universities, too. When you have an enormous new influx of undergraduate population, who have never experienced university life and have no idea of what it means, they inevitably find themselves at sea. When I went to university, I was one of a relatively small entry coming into a small society, but one in which I was still greatly outnumbered, and I was naturally influenced, for what it was worth (I may say that my university career was by no means glorious) by the traditions into which I came and which, in a sense, I inherited.
It seems to me that, in conditions as I have described them, it is really essential to have more discipline rather than less. I am not a Vice-Chancellor, and cannot say what that discipline should be. And I am not thinking solely, or even mainly, of discipline in universities, but of discipline in society at large. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York touched on that in his speech. He said that society outside the universities was largely responsible for these disorders within the universities. But I think he overstressed one aspect of this, in that he overstressed things like Vietnam, racialism and so on. People can have views about those things without themselves becoming almost wild animals. Besides, I am not sure that the attitude of students in these great causes is entirely disinterested. I was interested to see today in The Times a small comment about the three charming young people who have just come back from Moscow. Certainly they have given a new and refreshing twist to student unrest. But when they were outside the airport, one of them said to his friend: "It has been going like a dream, then, has it? Are we on the front page?" I think there is a great deal more of that in the student idealism than we are prepared to admit.
When I say it is the fault of society, I am thinking more of what the most reverend Primate said earlier about the 737 permissive society. It seems to me that, at a time when everything is in a state of flux, when everybody is lost, at sea, we have gone out of our way to tear down the familiar restraints and the fabric which holds society together. When it is a question of the death penalty, homosexual relations, abortion or whatever it may be, the leaders of society have done what they can to contribute to the moral confusion which clearly envelops these unhappy young people to-day. I cannot help feeling that one of the most important things we can do now for the students is to take a grip on ourselves, to reflect as to whether we are not going too far, and whether it is not time once again to assert some kind of discipline, not in the universities, but in society. Of one thing I am certain, and that is that if this process goes on, the process of creating the permissive society, one day there will be a reaction, and the longer we put off trying to check this process the more violent and the more unpleasant that reaction will be.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD BOWDEN
My Lords, I should like, if I may, to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for giving us an opportunity of discussing this extremely important topic this afternoon. I find from the printed list of speakers that 20 of your Lordships have indicated your intention of speaking after I sit down. Therefore, in the interests of the possibility of sleep to-night, I will be fairly brief. There are one or two points, nevertheless, that I should like to raise, and the first of them—and it would be, I think, unreasonable of me to omit it—is to add mine to the congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for the maiden speech he made and for the description he gave to us of society in Oxford to-day.
This leads me very simply into the first point that I wish to make. Anyone who gets his understanding of universities by reading the Press and looking at television would conclude that the universities are in a state of almost total chaos. In fact, my Lords, they are not. I myself went yesterday to a meeting of the student union council of my institute. It was as orderly an assembly as this House today. In places, its deliberations were as tedious as anything we either have heard or shall hear this evening; other parts were as interesting and as inspiring as 738 anything we shall hear this evening. I felt as I have often thought on such occasions: that they were responsible, they were sensible, and they had a maturity and an understanding which I do not remember myself to have possessed at their age.
The responsibilities which the students and their presidents and their councils discharge are extremely important in the effective organising and running of university affairs. It is often true, I think, that the students repudiate the very officers whom they have elected; it may be done almost in fun, but it is done in a manner which makes their task alarmingly difficult. I believe it to be true to say that the task of the president of a university union is often more exacting, mare difficult and more emotionally charged than the task of his Vice-Chancellor or Principal.
We have been told, and I think truthfully, that there is a sort of travelling circus of people who have gone around trying to disrupt universities. I have little doubt that this is true, and little doubt that their nuisance value is wildly in excess of any estimate one might make simply from their numbers. But, after all, universities exist to allow of rational discussion, and it is the greatest of all the liberal dilemmas that they must be prepared to allow free speech to people whose avowed objective it is to destroy the society in which free speed is possible. This has been the dilemma of liberal societies since time began, and now is not the time to begin by denying opportunities for free speech to people with whose opinions one very gravely disagrees.
It is, and has been, the success of the student body itself that it has discredited and destroyed the influence of the revolutionaries and the hot-heads who have gone about from place to place. I feel that the students are warmly to be congratulated and, furthermore, that their very proper requests for reforms are perfectly sensible and the inevitable consequences of the changes in the organisation of universities which have come about from their very rapid growth, from the greater maturity of the students and from the change in the nature of the educational process which has taken place in the last decade.
739 I have spent many hours, talking to my students about the problems with which they are concerned, some of which have been enumerated by the National Union of Students. We all agree that our own institution, like all human institutions, is in many ways imperfect. We have spent hours trying to reform it; and if we keep ahead of problems as they arise we feel that we are doing about as well as we can expect to do.
One particular problem which has emerged—and, of all the problems I know. I think it is likely to be the most difficult to resolve—is this question of students' participation and the staffs' participation in the formulation of academic policy. I think in fact that many staff and many students feel themselves to be excluded by the hierarchical structure of universities from their proper place in what should be a deliberative process. They feel, I think, almost as cut off from the processes in which they would like to participate as do, for example, the Back Benchers in the House of Commons. I think that their grievances are as great as those of Members of Parliament, and that they have been rather more successful in making representations to do something about them. One does not say that because a problem is difficult it is necessarily insoluble, but one concludes always that these problems will arise, have arisen and will continue to arise. And if the administration of a university can keep pace with them, and not feel that it is losing ground, it is doing about as well as it can reasonably expect to do in modern times.
There is bound to be a change in universities if only, for example, because more and more students are staying on to a greater age to undertake research. There used to be a time when most students left as soon as they had taken their first degree at twenty-one. A growing proportion are staying on to the age of twenty-four. If we combine this with the reduction in the age of puberty, we obviously have a very different type of person from the type of person that the Oxford and Cambridge of the nineteenth century expected to handle. These are problems which will be with us for years. There is, nevertheless, one particular point which I should like just to men- 740 tion, since, as I have said, I wish to be brief. That is the remarkable way in which the university traditions of the whole world are now suddenly interacting the one with the other. This is an extraordinary story, and if I may be forgiven for taking up just a few moments. I should like to go very briefly into the history of European universities.
Nine hundred years ago there were two. There was a Law School in Bologna, and there was the great Theological School in Paris. These two institutions were both professional schools, one producing lawyers and the other clergy. But they differed in one very fundamental respect. The Law School of Bologna was organised by the students, who hired and disciplined the Faculty. They ran it and they ruthlessly insisted, for example, that if Faculty members wished to leave Bologna they must obtain the permission of the student body before they left; if they wished to get married they must obtain the permission of the student body before they did so; and if they wanted to travel abroad they had to deposit a bond guaranteeing their return. This tradition was the Italian tradition and was contemporaneous with the Parisian tradition, in which the staff were, in effect, the masters in a guild who admitted students to their membership, and beat them if they did not obey their orders.
There were, 900 years ago, those two quite separate systems of university government. We have taken our own traditions from Paris, as have most countries of Northern Europe. But the contemporary idea of Bologna, which spread to all Italy, went from there to Spain, and from there to South America. The oldest universities in South America, which are 150 years older than Harvard, were founded by the Kings of Spain in imitation of the universities of Spain, particularly of Salamanca, which derived directly from the tradition of Bologna. The South American tradition has always assumed that the students would play a dominant part in the organisation of the university.
To this day student participation in university government is universal. To this day, the election of a professor in a South American university is an extraordinary operation in which the students participate equally with the staff. Very often the student voice is much the more 741 responsible. They insist that staff appointed shall know something of their subject; most of the Faculty are concerned only with political services and family connections, and a man having been appointed to a Chair feels he has a sinecure for which he owes no further obligation than did a 19th century Anglican bishop—in other words he has an opportunity for a regular salary with no discernible functions to perform in exchange. This tradition is still lively in the greater part of South America.
Furthermore, this particular tradition assumes both student dominance and, secondly, an almost total inactivity and a neglect of duty on the part of senior staff. As it so happened, it may fairly be said that in the University of California some professors ceased to have a proper regard for their students; they started to concern themselves almost wholly with Government contracts. A full-time professor was said to be a man who was wholly in Washington, and about this time a large number of students from the Argentine went to Berkeley and imported into Berkeley the South American tradition, the Spanish tradition and the tradition of ancient Italy. There they found a fruitful ground for agitation, and they tried to introduce into the universities of North America the traditions under which they had been brought up. So, by an extraordinary process, an historic survival almost wholly forgotten in Europe was preserved in South America, went to North America and is now on the way across the Atlantic, to plague us all again in a revival of a controversy thought to be settled in the 11th century. It is this which has given students all over the world a concept of student power and of student participation in major-academic pursuits. It is a policy which I am sure the universities of this country must resist at almost any cost, because it has made it wholly impossible for any academic distinction whatsoever to be achieved in the universities where student power is dominant.
For instance, I have heard of cases where students have vetoed the appointment of a senior professor in the Argentine because he was held to be a man of such high standing academically that he would set difficult examination papers which the students would all fail. I have also heard it said that students have a 742 right to a degree and must be given it, the student view being that otherwise they have been wasting their time. It is an appalling risk, and any such policy must be resisted. It has been evident in India. The University of Calcutta proposed, as a memorial to King George VI, that in the year of his death the standards of examination passes should be reduced so much that everyone would get through as a monument to a great King. This is a type of student power which must be resisted here at any cost.
On the other hand, I believe it to be equally true to say that much of the agitation of the students for participation in university government is a proper one: it is a recognition of the achievements they have already to their credit, of the work they can do, and seine of it is due in my view, to the timidity on the part of some universities which have not allowed students what I regard as their proper opportunities for intervention in university affairs.
I repeat, there is much wrong with the universities of this country, but they are not in the same state as universities elsewhere, although many people are unaware of the difference in traditions and merely assume that, because university domination by students has worked elsewhere, it can work here. It is a tradition wholly alien to us; but it does exist and it has survived for 900 years. Nevertheless, I am sure that the opportunities for us to allow students to participate in university government are very real, and we must seize them. My own students, all of whom are engineers and scientists, men who have come to university to learn how to design suspension bridges, chemical plants, and so on, often find it irritating that other people, the social scientists in particular, are apt to regard the organisation of a riot as a bit of practical work, an opportunity to gain material for a thesis on, "How I organised the disturbances in my university", in order that they might graduate with a Master's degree.
Time is short. I should like again to thank the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for introducing this subject and for remarking that our universities have few of the problems which beset other countries. We do not have the authoritarian traditions of the Germans, or the appalling over-crowding of the French. We do not find, 743 as in America, that a perfectly sensible system of sponsoring research has now led to the situation in which many universities obtain 90 per cent. of their research funds from the Pentagon, and fear the consequences. My Lords, we have it in our power to take our students with us, to enlist their co-operation, and I think that the future is indeed bright.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD TEDDER
My Lords, it is with extreme diffidence that I address your Lordships for the first time. If I may, I should like to explain my reasons, for they are not ungermane to the Motion before your Lordships. When my noble father died I had to decide whether or not to renounce his title. My own inclinations as an academic scientist were to do so, but I came across a copy of my father's letter to the Prime Minister at the end of the war, and in that it was clear that he regarded his election to the Peerage as an honour, not to himself but Lo the Royal Air Force and to the men and women who served with him. Therefore, it seemed to me that it would not be right for me to renounce the title. In this I consulted my father's war-time colleague and chief, the noble Viscount, Lord Portal of Hungerford, and he strongly confirmed my feelings in this respect. However, it is my view that the acceptance of a title, hereditary or otherwise, carries with it responsibilities, and to remain "Lord Tedder" and yet take no part in the activities of this House would be failing in my duty.
Having consulted my father's chief, I then consulted my own former chief and leader of my profession, the noble Lord, Lord Todd. It was his view, and the view of many of my scientific colleagues, that I should come and speak in your Lordships' House as a scientist. I come as a Professor of Chemistry in a small university. If the noble Lord, Lord Todd, in Cambridge can be regarded as commanding an aircraft carrier, and the noble Lord, Lord Wynne-Jones, in Newcastle can be regarded as commanding a cruiser, then my command in Dundee is roughly that of a frigate.
I believe that one of the most serious difficulties in Britain to-day is the lack of men and women with scientific train- 744 ing in all branches of government. I cannot represent anyone but myself; however, I will try to express the views of a practising scientist, which views I believe to be widely held among my scientific colleagues in the universities. Many of your Lordships are much more distinguished scholars than I, and some of your Lordships hold more senior posts in university affairs, but only a few of you have the daily contact of a teacher with students that I am privileged to enjoy. So it is as a practising university teacher that I crave your Lordships' attention.
There is unrest in British universities, and this is in very large measure the desirable unrest of intelligent youth questioning the norms and standards of their elders, and let us thank God for it! Without such unrest Britain would be on the decline indeed. This student unrest has become much more noticeable during this spring and summer, due in no small measure to sensational reporting in the Press, and to a lesser extent to really quite unrelated happenings on the Continent of Europe. It has now become the "in" thing—I beg your Lordships' pardon, the term "in thing" is no longer in, but I am not sufficiently up-to-date and perhaps I may go on using the term. It is the "in" thing to have a sit in strike at universities, and like many other in things when it is no more the fashion it will be forgotten and give way to some new outlet, just as "rock 'n roll" gave way to the Mersey beat.
The sensational reporting of student unrest has created a most unfortunate and inaccurate picture of our student community. Students are repeatedly referred to as a privileged class—and in some very limited ways they are, but in some other ways they are a grossly unprivileged class. Most unfortunate of all is the suggestion in the Press that they are idle. I was completely amazed by one student—I would be inclined to put "student" in inverted commas—on the B.B.C. television programme Students in Revolt saying that students have more time to think about things than the rest of the community. This is certainly not the case with any of the science students with whom I come in contact. The average student, after working a nine to five day of formal instruction, lectures, tutorials, problem classes and laboratory 745 work, will have to spend two to three hours most evenings just completing the set work suggested by his tutors, quite apart from any additional reading so necessary for a good degree. The strain on modern students is fantastic.
In my own subject I would liken the knowledge of a student reading chemistry when he comes to the university with a very good "A" level to that of a language student who knows the letters of the alphabet. By the time the chemist completes his degree he knows enough chemistry to be likened to the language student who can recognise a few words and perhaps make out the odd sentence. It is only after a further three years as a research student that the very best chemistry student can read fluently in chemistry. This, incidentally, indicates why I and many of my scientific colleagues find the idea of students planning their own curriculæ as rather grotesque. The point I am trying to make is that the modern science student has to work far harder than his non-student contemporary, and the strain, physical and intellectual, imposed on him or her is enormous. These are problems of our age, some of which can be eased by discussion between students and teaching staff, but none of which can be helped by legislation.
I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a particular aspect of our educational system which is the cause of much unhappiness and distress among our student population, and which could be remedied by Parliament. In Scotland —and it is very similar in England and Wales—the student allowance according to the 1962 regulations at present in force consists at maximum of the fees payable for the course of study together with a standard maintenance allowance. The actual award to the student—I repeat, the actual award to the student —is this maximum allowance reduced by a parental contribution assessed on a prescribed scale. In other words, the student's income is taxed on the basis of his father's income or, if you prefer to look at it as a parent, the father is taxed for his son's or daughter's intelligence. On neither view can this tax, and tax it is, be justified.
The present system grew out of a limited scheme to provide scholarships for a few when the majority were paid 746 for by students who could well afford to pay. To-day we accept the idea that every boy or girl with the necessary aptitude for university should go there. In Scotland, in 1966–67, just over 33,000 students were given allowances to attend universities, colleges of education and other further education establishments. Of that number 7,800 received the maximum award, but the remaining 25,000 that is to say, the vast majority, had their grants cut. The majority of parents of those students are not wealthy. They probably did not go to university themselves, and they see their neighbour's son, the same age as their own, bringing in a wage or salary while they for the very first time are being asked to make a major contribution to complete their son's or daughter's education.
From the students' point of view the situation is even worse. Some of his or her school friends started earning when they were 15 or 16; almost all the rest are earning when they are 18. Yet this is the very age when the student is having to go to his parents and ask for money on a scale which the parent will in most cases never have had to pay before. Many parents, on hearing that their son or daughter has received a county award, do not at first realise that they will have to contribute. Students do not often talk in public abut the difficulties they have with their parents because they regard this as a private family affair. That twenty year old men and women should be humiliated by being asked to depend on their partents through the actions of a State which boasts that university education is available to all who are worthy of it seems to be indefensible. It is, in my view, this forced dependence of twenty year old men and women on their parents which is in no small measure responsible for the tendency of students to revolt against all other forms of authority. The student is undergoing training because the State wants him or her trained. He has earned his place in open competition with his contemporaries. His meagre grant should be his, payable to him in toto, regardless of his parents' circumstances.
I should like to see students' representatives discuss social masters and matters of discipline with the university administration in the same way as a 747 trade union or staff association discuss matters with their employers. On academic matters the students cannot, with the best will in the world, make a useful contribution, anyway in most scientific subjects. This is not to say that their views about the merits of different methods of teaching and different methods of examination should not be sought. Of course they should, and are in any of the five universities with which I have been associated. But any student who believes that his comments on curriculæ are going to have more than a marginal value lacks the humility which is the first essential of a scholar.
To sum up, there is unrest in British universities. The major portion of it is the healthy unrest of youth. There is at the present time universal dissatisfaction with the handling of our affairs, which is more strongly felt among the intellectual youth than any other section of the community. There is in addition a very small minority of troublemakers at one or two universities, whose present notoriety, provided we keep our heads, will wane even more rapidly than the popularity of "pop" stars. All this is well recognised. My point is that there is, in addition, a deep-seated cause of unhappiness and discontent among our student population which can be remedied by Parliament, and it is to this problem that I would direct your Lordships' attention. To abolish this tax on student grants would require, of course, money, and it is not for me to suggest where the Chancellor of the Exchequer should find it, although several obvious sources spring to mind. This country of ours lacks great mineral wealth, but we still have the treasure for which Britain is most famous, her sons and daughters. If Britain is to survive, we must truly give them the opportunity they deserve.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be given the chance to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, on a maiden speech of great sincerity, interest and ability. He is the son of a father who served not only his country but also one of the greatest universities in the world, Cambridge, as its Chancellor. He has pro- 748 fessional knowledge and professional interest, which is not, if I may say so, over-represented in your Lordships' House, and I know that all your Lordships will agree with me in hoping that we shall hear from him again.
We are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for initiating this debate; and this is, of course, particularly true of those of us who work in universities. I personally am less grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, and to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, for their speeches, because between the two of them they covered pretty well every point that I wish to make, only they said it a great deal better. But perhaps some of these things will hear saying again, because this is a subject of exceptional difficulty.
It is difficult in the first place to get the matter in proportion and to remember—this cannot be said too often; it has been said several times, but let us say it again—that the majority of students are ordinary, hard-working and often well-mannered young adults. It is difficult for those of us who grew up in a tradition when it seemed such a glorious privilege to have won one's way to a university, that although rules might be broken, they were never really questioned. It is difficult for us to understand at all the anarchic and almost pathological rejection of authority that characterises some students to-day. Because they are in such a minority it is easy to dismiss the situation as unimportant—as, for example, Mr. Callaghan did the other day.
I feel that some of the Press, and particularly television, give far too great a prominence to student unrest, and I think that over the last few weeks television, in particular, has behaved with what I can only describe as irresponsibility. Nevertheless, we now have in this country a quite serious situation which has developed with extreme rapidity over the past few years. We are still, clearly, quite far from the state of many Continental universities because, as Lord Bowden has pointed out, our universities are organised on totally different lines. What happens in Germany or in France has little to do with what happens in this country. Nevertheless, we have a group of students, albeit a small one, 749 that can make it an occasion for violence if a speaker with whose views they disagree is invited; can at worse disrupt the work of an institution altogether, and at best create a general atmosphere of tension.
Perhaps one of the worst results of all this has still to show itself, for I am sure that it will become increasingly difficult to induce men of distinction to become Vice-Chancellors or administrators, or to leave institutions concentrating on research for a life of university teaching. That, I believe, is a danger that we have to face in the years to come.
Our response is made even more difficult by the fact that those who represent the students represent, and that often quite precariously, only a fairly small minority. The majority of students, rightly or wrongly, are simply not interested enough in the running of a university to be present even at the meetings of their representative bodies. They wish simply to pursue their work, their careers, their games or societies, or their love affairs.
Our difficulties are increased by the marked tendency of students, like many of us, to want things both ways. They may reject altogether a phrase like "pastoral care". They may point out quite rightly that they are adults and must be left to run their own lives as if they were young workers, although at the same time they are often reluctant to accept rules which they would find enforced in any boarding house or hotel, and still more in a club. To think, for example, of playing a transistor in the Athenaeum after 2 o'clock at night is something that fills me with alarm and despondency. Yet at the same time these young people do complain, and in my view sometimes, indeed often, with justice, if they feel they have insufficient contact with the teaching staff; if they cannot find enough shoulders to weep on, or far more free psychological support than the Health Service provides.
Faced with these contradictions, of which there are many, authority can be forgiven if at times peevishness breaks through a desirable and, indeed, essential tolerance. I say "essential tolerance", for I believe that if we are to recreate a stable and civilised atmosphere in our universities we must make a great effort 750 to diagnose the causes of our present troubles and make what efforts we can to remedy them. I should like us to ask ourselves for a few moments what those causes are. The first is of negligible importance. It is one that is often Drought up. It is sheer hooliganism that the young tend to show when they are rather tight or in a mob. It has always been with us, whether in its aristocratic forms or otherwise. It was, after all, Evelyn Waugh who referred to the Bullingdon Club as makingthe sound of the upper classes baying for broken glass".Whether in the Bullingdon Club, or in the young tough on the terraces at Everton, it is there. It has little to do with our present discontents, though it may exacerbate them.
Secondly, it is true that our student body tends to be more heterogenous than it was. Obviously, a greater number come from homes without the same traditions of education and stability that a great number had in previous generations, though I think it is easy to overstate this element in the situation. I, myself, do not believe that we have gone too fast or too far. Nevertheless, it is true that before the present wider opportunities to enter a university, a greater proportion of the scholars had to win their way there from a home which, though it might be financially limited, was one where industry and ambition, not only of a material kind, went hand in hand with a strong moral drive.
I think that much more significant than any change in the social composition of our universities is a greater uncertainty in homes of all kinds and in society itself, and, above all, an ignorance on the part of the young as to what they are in a university for. So many of them find themselves there almost as though they had got there on a conveyor belt. That is our fault, for we must tell them. This diversity among the students is one reason why authority in a university has to try to be as flexible as possible and, in fairness to university teachers and administrators, it is often the students who are most anxious that the rules of discipline and appeal should be more clearly codified and made more rigid. These are demands to which one has to accede, even though it is often the students who suffer, because one can understand their 751 anxiety to avoid the injustices that sometimes follow an exercise of personal authority.
The third strand in the canvas is much more important. It is political, not in the sense that it is closely connected with great issues of national or international politics, but in that it rests on a demand on the part of students to take a much greater share in the government of the university at every level. We hear about that. The students who want this are not those who reject the whole idea of authority or the existence of a bureaucracy; they embrace them. Their demand is to be part of them. The preoccupation of universities with autonomy has led in some of them to a proliferation of committees so luxuriant that one is reminded of a tropical jungle. The idea that a Vice-Chancellor or anyone else has supreme authority could not be more completely misguided. It is upon those committees that students wish to be "represented".
Three problems at once present themselves. First, do they really grasp the difference between representatives and delegates? Secondly, while it is reasonable that they should wish to be concerned with such matters as catering, of obvious concern to students, what qualifications have transitory and inexperienced individuals, merely because they are students, to sit on the governing bodies of institutions whose turnover may be several millions a year and whose proceedings may be often highly confidential? Thirdly, and this stamps me as a sort of old reactionary, one has to express a doubt whether going to sit on committees is really what a person of 18 goes to university for. He will have enough of that, surely, in later life.
Our university career is surely the last time in our lives when we can be irresponsible, in the best sense of that word: that is to say, to have no obligation to do anything but read books we presumably want to read, or why come; of hearing scholars talk, sometimes badly, sometimes brilliantly, about their subjects; or playing games or making music; or acting in plays or simply talking, without the routine of the office or the responsibilities of a family or an institution on our shoulders. And yet these precious years they wish to dissipate in what everyone of experience knows to be the dullest 752 part of administration; not personal contacts, not being part of a major body to produce some significant report, but the routine committee on which their presence is too shortlived to exert any effect whatever, even if they possessed the background knowledge and the experience to accomplish changes of policy.
There are thus, in my view, weighty arguments for thinking that students are wasting their time in seeking for a premature and inappropriate authority. Yet the fact remains that they want it, and even if they are misguided I think we must go to the limit of what our consciences will allow in giving it to them. I refer to our consciences, for we must have some proper regard for such values as efficiency, for confidentiality and, most important of all, for not creating systems in which students have a say in making decisions from which some academic staff are excluded, which I should regard as intolerable.
The point at which the students' demand for participation becomes most questionable, is where it touches subjects such a curricula, examinations and even appointment of staff. It is, I believe, legitimate and even valuable that student opinion should be heard on such matters as content of courses or methods of teaching, but it is very doubtful whether formal student representation on committees is the best way of dealing with this, for the ablest sudents are often unwilling to be concerned with administration and prefer to educate themselves. We are in danger of a movement towards facile generalisations about "social relevance"; a movement towards soft options—" We shall not study medieval history because it has apparently nothing to do with conditions in East London to-day". In fact, in this, as in so much else, the most valuable interchange is between teacher and taught at a personal level, which presupposes something like a tutorial system and a university that is not so large that decisions are too remote from the student/ teacher situation.
The fourth element in student protest that I wish to mention is the most worthy. It is the reaction of a genuine, thoughtful and informed idealism towards what the students consider the evils and injustices of the world, whether they be Vietnam or racial prejudice. It is a reaction confined neither to students —they seem to think it is sometimes, but 753 it is not—nor to this generation. I saw it at its best when I was privileged to visit South Africa last year at the invitation of the students of the English-speaking university at Witwatersrand. There, as in Capetown, faced with a denial of reason and humanity, a great body of students made and are making a brave and continuing protest, the more impressive because it is completely orderly, attractive to the most gifted students, having the full support of the majority of academic staff, and carrying on side by side with its protests constructive work of personal service towards those whom it seeks to help. If our young people did not feel like this, did not feel deeply enough about such great moral issues to express their views on them, then one might indeed despair. It is this kind of protest, however, informed, moral and, above all, based on rational argument that universities partly exist to create.
Lastly, we come to the core, the other element, the heart of so much of the violent student movement as we see it. It is the most difficult for the universities to meet because it is irrational, and universities ought to be homes of rationality. It is the most difficult to analyse because it is ideologically incoherent. It can be confused with the hooligan, the student politician, or the genuine idealist, for it borrows their watchwords and their techniques. In so far as it has a philosophy it is anarchist, although I quite agree that its adherents quote Mao or Marcuse. To put Lord Longford's mind at rest, I may say that I have at least done some work and I have a volume of Marcuse which now lies at home at rest—open.
Whether, as some believe, the whole "extreme" student movement is infiltrated by some small Communist groups who hope to take power from a state of disorder it is difficult to know in the absence of hard evidence, and I have not had it yet. The general atmosphere of this fourth element, however, is a vaguely based desire to destroy authority because all authority is corrupt, and that means that it is a direct negation of the idea of a university, because universities recognise, and must recognise, the authority of knowledge. Although a minority movement, it claims to represent the many in revolt against the power élite. Partly such an attitude arises from the general 754 libertarianism of our time, but it is poles apart from what we should call the classic figures of that libertarian movement. The old rules are discarded; there are none to take their place. This is a non-conformist revolution which destroys all previous authorities and proclaims no successor.
The intellectual and moral situation is made more confused by the new material environment in which we live.I am a stranger and afraidIn a world I never made".expresses the feelings of many—bad lines from a bad poem.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
Well, I am sorry; from a not very good poet. It expresses very well the views of those who are temperamentally unstable, or not strongly moved by the subjects they are nominally studying, and for many of them one can have a certain sympathy. It is a world at once too complex to understand and too impersonal to control. It is symbolised in many countries far more than in Britain by universities that have become so large that they appear to be vast factories, and by mass methods of teaching which are the reverse of that discussion in small groups which is at the heart of true education, as the most reverend Primate so truly said. In that connection all I would do is to remind your Lordships that if you want that method of education, you must be prepared to pay for it.
Faced with these frustrations, the young respond in their various ways. In a good university where they are conscious that their seniors care about teaching them, and even educating and helping them, and where they realise that even "the establishment" cares about some of the causes that disturb them, the majority concern themselves with the task of preparing themselves for a life which, one hopes, may involve changing the world, but which will base action on knowledge. But we know that to an increasing minority all this is too sluggish a response. Towards politics they adopt the facile cynicism of the T.V. interviewer, or complete indifference, or violent distrust, since what to them seems an impotent democracy has become a cover for the machinations of "they"
755 Alternatively, they can try to withdraw from a wider social life and its responsibilities altogether through drugs, or a bogus mysticism, or through an intense cultivation of personal, usually sexual, relationships. They can, and often do, end in mental breakdown. Or they may demonstrate, often violently, against any or all authority, either because they themselves want power—and some of them do—or because they believe that authority has created a world that contains so much pain and corruption, forgetting that many of those in authority have devoted, and sometimes risked, their lives to fight the same evils.
To many of us all these manifestations are profoundly depressing, particularly in universities, not because we are illiberal, but precisely because all our presuppositions are liberal ones. Because we have believed, with Mill, that freedom of discussion among educated people will ultimately move towards truth, that the best approach to general wellbeing is through humane legislation and administrative action, we are discouraged and alarmed by much that we see and hear. We have held and, I hope, still hold, that some experiences are more valuable than others, and have fought for an education that shall enable ever more people to enjoy them, and we are in danger of being disillusioned by the growth of a movement which denies a whole set of attitudes, attitudes of which universities should be the highest expression.
We can admit, and indeed proclaim, that it is one of the supreme tasks of higher education to encourage a critical attitude in those we teach. Should we then resent it if that relentless questioning of presuppositions is directed towards ourselves or our own institutions? Of course we must not. But in adopting this civilised approach to education we must not lose our nerve or betray our principles. We must continue to maintain that criticism is justified provided, and only provided, that it is directed towards subjects important enough for an educated man's attention; that it is expressed in rational ways, that is to say in argument worthy of intelligent people and not in words daubed on walls.
My Lords, I used the phrase "keep our nerve", but by this I do not mean adopt- 756 ing attitudes of unyielding opposition or recalcitrant authoritarianism; I mean something quite different. As I have said, we must continue to explore every way in which legitimate student participation in every aspect of university life can be encouraged—and I doubt whether some of our critics who have spoken even to-day realise how far that process has gone. But I mean much more than that. It is true that many of our institutions, our curricula, and our practices are in need of re-examination and our ideals in need of restatement—though there again, to be fair, I should add that those processes are going on far more vigorously than many of our critics would have us believe. We have to devise and encourage methods of organisation and teaching such that even in large institutions no charge of impersonality or inhumanity can be brought against us. But these processes must not only go on, they must be seen by the students to go on—and here, I think, we may have fallen down—in order that the hard, small core of those who are unwilling to accept rational argument or clear evidence shall be recognised and discredited for what they are.
Thus, though willing to change, to experiment, to discuss, we must not be coerced or frightened into adopting practices or attitudes which we believe to be wrong or irrational, or sacrificing standards of learning to meet superficial interpretations of "relevance". Even the old have a right to principles. And the principles of free discussion, of grappling with the principles and original ideas, of reverence for the liberal intelligence, of affirming that the unexamined life is not worth living, are those for which at their best the universities must stand and must refuse to allow them to be distorted or destroyed. Because if we do, we shall be betraying the students themselves by debasing the very things that we exist to give them.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ LORD HUNT
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for giving us a chance to discuss this very important subject, and for being so good as to invite me to take part, I owe him and your Lordships an apology. I have an engagement which I must fulfil shortly after having spoken, and I shall not be able to attend the remainder of the 757 debate. I am very sorry indeed about this.
As we have listened to or spoken in this debate I had half expected the galleries of your Lordships' House to be filled with youthful watchers, muted by our rules, but avid with interest, exacerbated or flattered by our strictures or our praises of themselves or their peers. I should have known better. They have other things to do. In saying that, I mean no disrespect whatever to your Lordships who have spoken, and those who will speak. I mean merely that, if I have understood correctly what Lord Byers had in mind in introducing this Motion, his purpose was mainly that we, the older generations, should be looking at ourselves and at our place in the causes of student discontent.
I consider my own qualifications for speaking on this subject, quite briefly, are fairly slim. I can claim some little knowledge from having been Rector of Aberdeen University between 1963 and 1966, from having served on the University Court at Reading before that and, possibly more closely, because, like many of your Lordships, I have one graduate and one student daughter. I do not know whether to be pleased or sorry that neither the one in her time nor the other at present has so far evinced sufficient indications of symptoms of unrest to illuminate your Lordships' debate.
As has been done by several noble Lords, I think it is necessary to dissect this subject for diagnosis, and it is possible to do this in a number of ways. I had proposed to do so in the same manner as the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, namely, to make a distinction between, on the one hand, the demands for greater participation and for changes in university administration and academic teaching policies—what one would call the subject of internal unrest—and, on the other, the student protest movements bearing on social and political affairs in the world outside the academy. That, of course, is quite evidently external unrest. As has been pointed out, in both respects it is only a minority who make demands and express their discontent. It is this minority which by its actions and attitudes attracts the publicity which is, in part at least, our concern to-day. For this reason alone, as other noble Lords have pointed out, 758 too much should not be made of it. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, made that point, as did the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, whose maiden speech I heard with such admiration. Most students are far too concerned to succeed in their courses to jeopardise their chances by internal or external activities of this kind.
But having said that, I think it is worth remembering that in every sphere of activity it is always a minority, and usually a quite small one, which acts to get things done and to bring about change. It includes the enterprising idealists who are prepared to make personal sacrifices in order to achieve great ends. According to Chekhov, they were to be found in the universities of Moscow and St. Petersburg before the Revolution. If I may be permitted a personal recollection, they were to be seen and found in the University of Calcutta and in the district colleges in the provinces of Bengal in the 'thirties, preparing themselves for, and in many cases plotting, the independence of their country when I was a police officer in the Intelligence Branch of the Indian Police in Bengal.
I believe profoundly that we must take note of the few; and I echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, whose speech I also admired so much. Thank God for them, I say, precisely because they are of the calibre to lead the way to necessary change. I am far from saying that we, the elders, should abdicate to youth. We do not want Red Guards in Britain. But what we should be asking ourselves quite critically—and here I would differ respectfully from what I understood the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine, to say—is whether we associate enough with them to hear their frank opinions, and, no less important, equally frankly to enable them to hear our own. Let nobody underestimate the value of the contribution, in the context of the university, that these highly intelligent, highly articulate, cogent and logically young people can make, always assuming that we can encourage the best leadership to emerge—and I shall have a word to say about that very shortly.
Turning first to university administration, I believe that the very evident need is to open direct channels, where these do not exist at present, for student views at every level, including the level of the Senate and the Court. It is not always 759 appropriate, as the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, said with his much greater knowledge, that students should sit on those bodies at any level and have voting rights. We should remember the very transient contribution that any one student can make during a three or four-year course. There is an inevitable lack of continuity. The first-year men and women are too new to be useful, and the last year is pre-occupied with the Finals. So, normally, it is only in the second year that anyone is likely to make a useful contribution and have the time to do it.
The Scottish universities have in this, and I believe also in other aspects of education, been much in advance of some of our seats of learning in the South. Speaking only for Aberdeen (though I think the same system obtains in the other universities in the North) there is by Charter—and I repeat, by Charter—a Students' Representative Council. I know that some, but I believe by no means all, the English and Welsh universities have a students' council, but I think there is no statutory obligation for that. Consultation with the Students' Representative Council takes place on any and all relevant matters of administration and teaching. All our departments at Aberdeen have consultative committees. A library users' committee advises on the management of the library, and other committees help in the management of the halls of residence and so on. In many other activities—all those covered by the Union, social and recreational—there is very little interference with student management. Then we have the "regent" system. A member of the staff, usually a junior member, has a particular responsibility for about 10 students, in no way in a dictatorial capacity but to make friends with, to get to know and maybe to give advice to, the students in his care.
Finally, as your Lordships will know, there is the post of Lord Rector, which is of ancient origin, and its application and meaning in Scotland are, I believe, unique. The function of the Rector today is to voice the views and advance the causes of students on the University Court. Just occasionally, as noble Lords will remember, the Rector is asked to undertake some odd and embarrassing assignments which not every Rector is 760 entirely happy to fulfil. That system works well enough, depending on whom the students choose, because he is elected by them as their Rector; but in my observation relatively few Rectors are able to keep in close enough touch with their affairs to do this very important job adequately. Just to give one instance, one Rector of a Scottish university languished in a South African gaol throughout the whole of his term of office. I cannot pretend that I did the job particularly well, but then I was extremely fortunate in my two successive assessors on the University Court.
Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I am delighted that the Vice-Chancellors are now ready to discuss proposals from the student bodies. But I am sorry that this had to come under pressure from the National Union of Students. It would have been so much better if the initiative had come unpressed from the Vice-Chancellors themselves. There is a great deal that remains to be done to improve communications and to give students a greater sense of participation. Among these matters I would mention the need, for those who are public-spirited enough to take on the onerous job of, for instance, president of the Students' Representative Council and, probably, the Union, to be given a sabbatical year with an adequate grant to do their job.
So, to repeat, I believe that direct representation, by Charter, of students is the crux of the matter, so far as internal unrest in the university is concerned. I am sure that that would help to elicit the good student leadership on which so much depends. Wherever there has been trouble, in whatever university and college, and however it has been exploited afterwards for ulterior motives, it has revealed a situation in which the authorities have simply failed to grasp and implement this need.
If I may turn to another point, I am sure, with the right reverend Prelate, that the size of a university, and to some extent its geographical layout, have quite a lot to do with the successful development of good faculty/student relationships. It is obvious that a small establishment on a compact campus is far more conducive to good communication and effective partnership than the vast and amorphous bodies whose various departments and 761 colleges are scattered in a large city. For this reason I am concerned about the rapid growth in size of our universities in the wake of the Robbins Report. I should have liked to see—and here, again, I differ respectfully from the noble Lord, Lord Coleraine—many more smaller universities, although I must admit that the academic and economic arguments against this are formidable.
I now turn to the other aspect of student discontent, which I call the postures of political protest, where we are on much more difficult ground. My own guess is that to some extent the trouble can be traced to the denial from those who desire to make use of it of a constitutional means of political expression. For this reason, I urge the Government to follow up their earlier good intentions, as expressed in the Labour Party Youth Commission chaired by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, and grant the vote at 18. I asked in the Youth Debate on February 21 that this should be done, and I very much hope that this may happen. By many, I suppose, the vote will not be used; but I believe that the responsibility of having it and of knowing that it is there will remove the sense of frustration and modify the attitude of protest.
Having said that, I should like to declare, with the right reverend Prelate, my sympathy with some of the reasons for unrest among students in regard to the society which they are just about to enter. Any student may be forgiven for registering disapproval and horror at much that he or she sees and hears in the outside world, and for experiencing some understandable anxiety about the bearing of these things on themselves. Any young men or women who decline to conform to adult attitudes, adult hypocrisy, adult institutions and adult policies, which they see as root causes of the ills of society, are to be commended for initiative in demanding change. My Lords, I say that with one proviso: provided always that they are clear what they want to put in their place.
I could not fail to be impressed by the assured and balanced demeanour of the student from Jugoslavia, a girl, and the student from Czechoslovakia who took part in that B.B.C. programme the other day with Cohn-Bendit and Tariq 762 Ali, and others from the United States, from Japan and from Western Europe. In marked contrast with their comrades from the West, they did not seem to want to overthrow anything, but only to improve—to "liberalise", although I do not think they like that word—their own existing socialist systems. I draw no particular conclusion from that, but I thought it was a very interesting contrast.
One thing, my Lords, I am quite certain must not be condoned, even in such a permissive society, or because of it, and that is violence and incitement to violence as a means to whatever end. Violence is habit-making, and if we condone it we are merely encouraging the idea that this is the way to behave. I think it must be dealt with by strong and summary measures, because I believe that people seeking to indulge in it are a real menace to society. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that I should prefer to risk making martyrs of the Tariq Alis of this world—there are very few of them; but those of his ilk—who openly preach violence and who have such an influence on other young people, than to risk the seeping poison of their doctrine; and I was delighted to hear of the firm line which the Vice-Chancellors and Principals propose to take in this matter.
But having said that, my Lords, one is still left with the problem of what to do with the built-in aggressions, to say nothing of the idealisms, which predominate in youth. Twice in the past fifty years, at the interval of about a generation on each occasion, this problem has been solved, willy-nilly, by wars which have been the making of the older generations, and on each such occasion youth has been the sufferer. Now, another generation on, a more widely educated, more sophisticated, more independent youth is not prepared to accept the battleground of its elders. But we know that it is choosing its own battlegrounds in the streets of our cities. Acceptable outlets to aggression and adventure have got to be found. I do not fully know what they should be, but I do say that we have still to find, in peace, an alternative outlet or outlets—a moral equivalent to war.
I was one of those who regretted the abolition of National Service. I believe that before it was terminated [...]t could have been transformed, expanded, beyond the profession of arms, to embrace a 763 wider range of opportunities to undertake tasks of importance to the nation. There are plenty of examples in other countries of the success of this kind of national obligation. Unlike the noble Earl, Lord Arran, in his speech on February 21, I doubt whether there would be public acceptance for reintroducing a system like this now. But I believe that we should be doing more than is being done, with the co-operation of the trade unions—and this is a quite basically important point—and through our universities, to draw attention to the vast areas of need, and to the things that need to be done in the world; to appeal to the sense of service, as well as to the compassion, in young people; to make a clarion call for voluntary help, and to organise the undoubted response on a national scale. We shall not get the jobs to be done unless we can get a greater agreement from the trade unions about certain areas of work which could be done by voluntary effort. The need, I believe, is legion, and we are only touching on the fringe of the potential response.
My Lords, I have nearly finished. I am left at the end of my speech with a sense of something lacking still. Could it be the fervour of a spiritual faith? I will not answer this question. I believe that the most reverend Primate has already given us the answer.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY
My Lords, I should like first of all to congratulate the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches to-day upon their performances. The noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, it seemed to me, spoke with great percipience of the situation in universities; and, as to the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, the whole of your Lordships' House must be extremely grateful that he did not obey his first thoughts and renounce his peerage, but has come to your Lordships' House to give us the benefit of his experience and his wisdom.
My qualifications for intervening in a debate so full of experts on the universities is that I have for the last two years had to deal most of the time with the Young Liberal Movement. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, suggested that the Liberal Party set an example 764 as to how old and young could get on in a political Party. I seemed to detect a note of sarcasm in his voice as he said it, but I must confess that I take it straight. Perhaps the noble Lord and other noble Lords may be unaccustomed, in their Parties, to a youth movement which is given real power and responsibility and yet is not suppressed every two years. During the two years that I have been talking and listening—and that is the important thing—to the Young Liberals, I think I have come to see a certain amount of what is at the back of the more general or the external movement which we are talking about to-day. Also, as the noble Lord, Lord James, will admit, I have the qualification of being an ex-president of the Bullingdon Club, and therefore of knowing a certain amount about students and violence.
But in this speech I wish to call the attention of your Lordships, not to the individual methods of dealing with student unrest, which have been dealt with so well by the noble Lord, Lord James, and others, but to the basic feelings about society in a lot of these people. I wish to make it clear, as have other noble Lords, that what I am about to say does not apply to that fairly small minority of youth who wish for a perpetual revolution. Nor am I dealing with the great mass of students who are apathetic about politics and, indeed, about student conditions. Between these two groups, however, there is a large group of young people, mainly Leftist in their politics, who are not content to be told by their elders what is best for them or to spend all their time at their books, although they spend a very great deal. On the whole, they are people who have taken in the lessons which have been preached to them by their elders about participation and about democracy, and who see no reason why it should be denied to them just because they are students. As an article in The Times so percipiently pointed out:So often what this generation is doing is taking the older generation at its words and carrying their ideas to their logical conclusions.These people talk a great deal, and, like most people who talk a great deal, including politicians, they talk a large amount of nonsense. But it is important to disentangle the nonsense from the 765 sense and to discover what, underneath it, they are saying. Here I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to a point which I do not think has been brought out in this debate so far. The difference between the fundamental approach of most of your Lordships and that of this particular youth movement is that we see civilisation as capable in its present form of curing its ills, but youth is very doubtful whether it can, because it sees civilisation destroying itself.
They see to-day's reforms—the kind of things we are struggling to bring about by constitutional methods, not only in the universities but particularly in society and politics—as being too little and too late. They see disaster coming from a proliferation of arms—and we may be very glad to-day that we have had a piece of really good news on this subject. They see the countries of the world gripped in this vice of deterrents and balance of power and expenditure on armaments. They see a world which appears to be unable to cope with a hunger which they, with some justification, can foresee sweeping the under-developed countries in the not very distant future. They see racial prejudice not getting better, but possibly getting worse.
In all cases they see these things as evil and they do not believe, or have yet to be convinced, that our society is capable of dealing with them. I must admit to times when I, too, wonder. They do not have faith in Governments of any complexion; they do not have faith in the Houses of Parliament, and they do not have faith in the mechanism by which our society is governed. They recognise these problems and they want to do something about them themselves. They wish to be active democrats, participating in society themselves. They do not want this to amount purely—although I agree that voting at 18 will be a help—to having to choose between Mr. Wilson and Mr. Heath as Prime Minister. It may be they do not regard this as an adequate choice. It is certain they want the choice of a great many other things at the same time. That is why they campaign on so many things merely for participation, democracy and equality. That is why they campaign about Vietnam and Rhodesia.
766 But it is also why they campaign about what goes on in their own universities and colleges. They refuse to accept that their elders are necessarily much wiser than themselves. They may be wrong; they may be naive. The machinery they wish to try, the movements they wish to found, may be, and probably will be, even less effective for achieving what they are meant to achieve than our slow, cumbersome constitutional methods. What we must have at the back of our minds is the knowledge that, although their answers may be wrong, our answers are certainly as yet inadequate.
Unless we are prepared to face up to this and to do something about it, we shall continue to have unrest which will sometimes go too far and wh.ch may explode in violence. Both in national and in university affairs the answer lies in quick reform. Where reform is needed it must be seen to be granted as a matter of justice and common sense and in advance of pressure; otherwise you get a position as idiotic as the one we saw recently at Oxford. I heard a high-minded gentleman on television the other day say how silly were the undergraduate demonstrations against censorship by the Proctors against political leaders because this matter is already being dealt with by consultation; reform would have come anyway. I am informed that that matter had already been in consultation for a number of months. No doubt reform would come; but it had not come—and a few hours' demonstration by a few undergraduates had brought that reform immediately. This is why it is important that reforms should be carried out before the pressure comes. I am not pleading any kind of anarchy in universities. I am certainly not pleading the extremist case for the dons and the students all to learn together on an equal basis. I think this is nonsense. I think there must be a hierarchical relationship between the teachers and the taught. But there must be a dual attitude of acknowledgment of the responsibility of the student; of today, of the putting into practice of the democracy which their elders talk about and of genuine participation.
In addition to this, we must tackle the basic problems of our society, because it is at both levels that youth is inpatient. I believe that this unrest should inspire us to renewed attempts for the reform 767 of this country's affairs. The only answer to this kind of unrest is to show that the constitutional machinery can be made to work. That is a very different thing from merely saying that it works. Indeed, the main question is not, "Does it work?", which is what the upholders of the status quo usually say; but, "How well does it work; and in comparison to what?". We must show that the normal methods of communication and constitutional methods of change can work and can work better than they do now, or than those that the extremists would like to bring in. Only in this way will we harness this great idealistic youth movement to the service of society.
I would close with a quotation from the late Senator Kennedy, not chosen just because it is the "in" thing to quote from Mr. Kennedy, but because when I was preparing for this debate I happened to come across this quotation in the pages of the New Christian which I thought was extremely apposite. Mr. Kennedy said:Every generation has its central concern, whether to end war, erase racial injustice or improve the condition of the working man. To-day's young people appear to have chosen for their concern the dignity of the individual human being. They demand a limitation upon excessive power; they demand a political system that preserves a sense of community among men. They demand that Government that speaks directly and honestly to its citizens.We can win their commitment only by demonstrating that these goals are possible through personal effort. The possibilities are too great, the stakes too high, to bequeath to the coming generation only the prophetical lament of Tennyson:'What shall I be at fifty,should Nature keep me alive,'If I find the world so bitterwhen I am but twenty-five.'
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MONCKTON OF BRENCHLEY
My Lords, I have to apologise for not being able to stay on until the end of the debate since I am to-night doing what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor could also be doing because by an accident of birth—I am going to a Harrow Dinner. My only reason and right for intervening in this debate is that I was for four years at university; I have visited 10 universities in the last year in this country, every university in Israel and a great many in America and Canada. I do not want to cover ground that has already been 768 covered, but I want to say that I approve of and congratulate those three young students who saw fit to demonstrate in Moscow. I think this was a pleasant and catholic change from the perpetual demonstrations on Vietnam. I long to see other demonstrations on equally applicable subjects—against Hanoi and China for the nightly shelling of Saigon.
Above all at this moment, I believe that if anyone ought to be demonstrating, he should be demonstrating on Nigeria. I am sure that I wish the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, to-night every good wish in his attempt to help in this ghastly situation. I find myself at one with the noble Lord, Lord Brockway, on this subject. It is not for us to take sides in Nigeria; but it is surely for us to try to stop the ghastly deaths by starvation and the killings of the Ibo race which is now going on.
The situation in France has not really been touched on in this debate, and it is not entirely relevant to this country; but I find it extremely interesting that the students who have been demonstrating have, as it were, been turned down, by the Communist trade unions, in particular. I think the reason for this is that there has been a certain arrangement between General de Gaulle and Moscow, political and military; that the students realise this, and the Communist trade unions realise it. This separation of the students and the Communist trade unions is, I think, peculiar to France; because the students there see this link between their own Government, which they dislike, and Moscow; and they see the Communists as much a bureaucracy as they consider their own country to be.
Here I find the subject much more difficult. In all the colleges which I have been to, and the universities which I have visited, there is an enormous variety of protest and feeling. One thing that it is not, is, once more, Communist. I have met very little and heard very little Communist agitation among students of any of the universities. Certainly there is plenty of genuine anarchy among the feeling of students. Some noble Lords opposite will remember that I entertained here the previous leader of the London School of Economics Students' Union, Mr. David Adelstein. He, I think, is almost a classic example of that: himself, with his father, a refugee from South Africa who has been over here only eleven 769 years—Manchester Grammar School, London School of Economics—charming, able, brilliant, yet an anarchist who really wants to pull down everything. I am not even quite certain yet if he wants to rebuild. This is a common factor, I think; this desire first of all to pull down.
I have also found friends here who have had difficulty in sitting for their examinations. I am not quite sure how true this is, but I have been told that they were advised not to take their finals in philosophy on the grounds that the body of students thought philosophy should not be examined in writing but only viva, or orally. If this is so, this man has not taken any notice and he sat his finals, but it is rather indicative of the time, and I think that some of the philosophers would turn in their graves if they heard it. It may be that the system of examination is wrong, but surely this can be changed in other ways than by refusing to sit for the examinations and—this above all—by threatening others who want to sit for their finals.
One of the real dangers of this phase of student unrest—and it is only a small phase, as has been mentioned—is that it breeds reaction itself. I cannot help thinking of myself as an example. I was a member of an extreme Left political Party at Cambridge, and I swung to an extreme Right political Party at Cambridge. I started off in your Lordships' House rather left of centre on the Benches opposite, and I recently found myself on these Benches. I believe that these troubles do cause reaction. I know that in the particular college in London of which I am thinking there is now a strong Fascist party among the undergraduates caused by reaction to the new Left.
I speak with great respect when I see a Cross-Bench which, a few minutes ago, at any rate, contained a Vice-Chancellor, an undergraduate and a university don—surely rather an unusual occurrence in your Lordships' House. But I believe, as an ex-soldier whose former commander is about to become the Principal of King's College, London, that half the trouble is caused by a lack of communication—something which soldiers are used to dealing with and ensuring that it works at all levels, up, down and sideways. It is a lack of communication which causes some of the trouble, and I 770 hope that this can be put right before any permanent damage is done to our university system. It is a catching disease, as we have seen. I cannot but think of that last B.B.C. programme, which I was delighted was put on. I admire the ability of the foreign speakers to speak English, and realise the difficulty of communicating when they speak in a foreign language. But I could not but think of Cardinal New-man's ideal product who knew how to be serious with effect. I thought there was so little effect in that programme. It was all pulling down and destroying with no ideas or no bigger view of what could be built in the future.
I am one of those old fashioned chaps, my Lords, who believe that the object of education is death: not from the entirely religious point of view, but largely so, in that to be educated for death one has to give, and live a whole and full life in order to reach death, and never slop being educated. The day one stops learning is the day one starts to learn again in the next world. If you do not live a happy life, it does not matter what degrees you have after your name. This is where I found Mr. David Adelstein so interesting. He was really saying that the degree system is irrelevant; that it does not matter if you happen to get a Third in agriculture—as I did—and he was going on to get a First in economics or sociology. What difference did t make? It is irrelevant in the modern age. This view I found rather interesting and in some ways, as one who only just got his degree at Cambridge, rather attractive. But I believe that students are able to learn and get their degrees. They have some fascinating ideas, but I do not think they are happy; and that is what I hope they will be in the future.
I have yet to learn, and I should like to hear, the arguments against d e policy, adopted in some universities and countries overseas, of students paying something later towards higher education from the date that the overall national education stops. In other words, when someone is going to get something which not all "get", what is wrong with asking him to pay later for some of it? I am not proposing this, but I should like to hear what are the real argument; against it. I have seen it working in some countries. When they are earning, the students pay back a minimum sum which can be 771 argued and agreed. They pay back before tax, so that it is not very hard on the individual when he is first earning, and I should like to know what are the arguments against that. There must be many, but it would be interesting to hear them in your Lordships' House.
There is one other point, my Lords, about which I feel strongly. By the good sense of my father, before I went to university I was sent off to work with my hands. I went for eight months to work as a farm labourer, because I was going to read agriculture. I do not think that I could have read agriculture sensibly had I not worked with my hands. I was paid the same wage as other labourers; I lived in the same house and I lived equally far from the public-house—four miles; and at that age I was very keen on drinking. But I think I learned a lot in those eight months by working with my hands, and I rather resent the arguments of students who are now telling the world how to behave when they have never earned their living, and are not likely to do so, with their hands. Certainly they have brains, but would it not be possible, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that after grammar school and before university there should be a period when one did use one's hands for the good of one's fellow beings, in the profession which one wants to adopt after university, if that be a case of using one's hands? I cannot think that this would be a great hardship to anyone. My Lords, I have spoken long enough. I am being rude by having to leave immediately after speaking and I crave your Lordships' indulgence for doing so.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, we have had many remarkable speeches to-clay from people who know a great deal more about university life than I do; and, if I may say so, we have had two very remarkable maiden speeches which will be remembered a long time by all of us. I shall therefore be very brief. I could not help being reminded when the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, was speaking that I started my adult life in his father's chambers, and that his father advised me to leave the Bar as quickly as possible. It was one of the best pieces of advice that I was ever given. It was only then 772 that I decided to go into politics, and shortly afterwards I found myself lunching at Monte Carlo with the arms magnate, Sir Basil Zaharoff. He said to me, "If you are going into politics begin on the extreme Left, move gradually to the Centre, and end up on the extreme Right. If you do that, success can hardly elude you". When I heard the noble Viscount speaking I could not help reflecting that that is exactly what he has done.
I am very glad that this debate has not, as I feared it might do, developed into an attack either upon Vice-Chancellors or upon students; and I am even more glad that no attempt has been made to compare what has been going on recently in French universities with what could happen in this country. It simply cannot. The students in France have something to rebel about; our students have not much. Some years ago a number of Vice-Chancellors, headed by the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford, wrote to The Times that at least some of the universities in this country should be in the world class, and that if expansion could take place only by sacrificing the quality of those universities with a world-wide reputation the long-term results could be disastrous. What they were really saying was that tradition still counted. With all due deference to the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, the only criticism that I would venture to make of his famous, and rightly famous, Report is that it did to some extent "put paid" to that. As I said at the time, parochialism and proliferation became for quite a long time the order of the day. We are beginning to see the results.
That some new universities are required in this country is not for a moment to be denied, and I would certainly include the University of York in that category; but I think there has been a danger that instead of concentrating on carefully planned expansion of what we already have, with massive support comparable to that given to the great American universities, we are in danger—I would not put it higher than that—of developing a number of second-class universities, out of the world class at any rate, with a subsequent danger to research, and an increase in the brain drain. I venture to put forward rather tentatively that we have done enough 773 for the time being in the way of new universities—I shall come back to the particular case of Scotland before I sit down. But I should like to say that in my public life I have always stood for union and tolerance and against parochialism and rabid nationalism, which I sincerely believe to be the greatest danger in the world to-day. I am also well aware that a tidal wave has been sweeping against these ideas throughout the world during the last few years.But such a tide as moving seems asleep,Too full for sound and foam,When that which drew from out the boundless deepTurns again home.The young, whom I do not think we always understand completely—and I am not talking about anarchists, rebels or hooligans—arc genuinely horrified by what is going on in the world to-day. The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of York and one or two other speakers have called our attention to Vietnam, and I am glad that they did. I think that the young are also horrified at what is going on and what is being done in the Government's name to Biafra, to which far too little allusion has been made in the Press. I think they hate the idea of racialism, which also leads to ugly hate in many quarters of the globe; and I think that they are appalled by the abject poverty in Asia and Africa as against the increasing affluence of the West. I do not say that the whole of the West is affluent; but in comparison it is well off. I think that the young feel these things deeply and that their elders and betters—in other words, ourselves—are not doing as much as should be done, and this accounts for the threat which we have, not perhaps of unrest but of "malaise", which is certainly hitting the young generation in this country to-day, not only students and undergraduates but also others who have not had the privilege of going to a university.
Is this to some extent because there is perhaps an element of smugness about the authorities at our universities? Is it perhaps because of the puritan tradition? I remember quoting in my rectoral address at St. Andrews University a passage from John Buchan in a reference to Montrose, in which he said: 774The Puritan became, by his severe abstraction, a dangerous element in society and the State, since human institutions are built upon compromises. He was pre-eminently a destructive force, for he was without historical sense, and sought less to erect and unite thin to pull down and separate.I believe that is perfectly true, and we in this country have been doing quite a bit of pulling down and separating in university life, which has reached climax of absurdity in my own native country of Scotland. To have two separate universities in Glasgow and Stirling is to my mind a piece of absolute nonsense. They are within a stone's throw of each other, and Airthrey Castle should have been turned into a college of Glasgow University.
The position of Dundee and St. Andrews is even more absurd. It is almost a tragedy, because here we had a university of world class in the making. They are separated by only 15 miles and with a rail bridge, and now a road bridge, joining them together. Students cannot carry on any clinical research at St. Andrews because there are not enough bodies to research upon. There was in Queens College, Dundee, a Id St. Andrews a Papal foundation of 1411, with close affiliations, which are still kept up, with the University of Padua, one of the great universities of the world, the fame of whose name, as Sir James Matthew Barrie said in his rectoral address, has spread to the ultimate seas; and until recently students of Dundee could obtain a St. Andrews degree which stood them in good stead wherever they went.
In 1964—I do not want to boast in any way—I was given the great honour, which had only one precedent, of being invited by the students of St. Andrews t) stand for a second term as Rector. I refused, with great regret and sadness, because, I said, it was quite unfair to ask a Rector, who in Scotland is chairman of tile university court, which is the governing body, to preside over the preparations for a step which he regarded as disastrous. So I refused a second term. I was then told
Sir John Wolfenden that there was only one golden rule in life, and that was never to go back. That consoled me a little.
Before I sit down I should like to throw out one suggestion. It is that our English universities should give serious consideration to the possibility, as a start of improved communication between the 775 university authorities and the students, to the Scottish system of having a Rector of a university. The Rector is elected by the students. He is chairman of the university court. He takes precedence over the Principal and Vice-Chancellor. He has an assessor who also sits on the court, appointed by himself. It is his job, as I saw it and still see it, to keep in close touch with the students' representative councils all the time and continuously to represent their views to the authorities of the university and take the views of the university authorities back to the students. It is an important job; and I found that on the whole it worked very well. And we do not hear anything of this wave of unrest in Scottish universities to-day. I believe that this is a good scheme. I am not saying it is the complete answer, but it could be a start in getting this inter-communication, continuous and perpetual, between the university authorities and the students which is so sadly lacking, as every speaker to-day has admitted.
In conclusion, I would mention one topic which, to my surprise, has not been mentioned in this debate at all—that is, the question of examinations. I feel that a great many students have a grudge against the examination system. It seems to me that when a man's whole life and career is dependent on two or three days of sometimes agonising strain and anxiety, it is getting a bit too much. I am inclined to think that examinations should be spread over a longer period, with regular reports, monthly or three-monthly, from tutors on a student's progress; and there should be much more viva-voce examination and not so complete a reliance on the written word. I believe that that would go a long way to satisfying the prevailing discontent.
I saw some students in Oxford the other day coming out of their final examinations. They looked ghastly. They are compelled to dress up in these white ties and all the rest, and the atmosphere of strain and tension could be felt even in the street. I suggest that this is a matte' which might receive consideration from the university authorities. I do not say that it is the whole answer; but I feel that this is a grudge which a great many responsible and reasonable students have.
776 In the course of my life I have had the privilege of knowing a number of distinguished and highly successful writers. There is not one of them who has not told me that there are certain days, especially when they have been subjected to any strain or anxiety, when they find it impossible to put pen to paper or justify themselves in any way. We expect students to build up over two or three years to a tremendous climax of two days, when the strain and tension is at the maximum, and then to do justice to themselves in a matter which is vital to their whole lives. Some of them can do it; some of them cannot.
§ 7.0 p.m.
My Lords, much student unrest is, I submit, merely a lot of froth, but beneath it there are a number of unresolved problems, both here and abroad. These problems must be closely identified and, once that is done, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said in his usual effective manner, they can only be tackled by the universities themselves. Most British universities are doing this successfully; but some universities seem not to be aware of all the problems, nor have they found the solution in time. These are the institutions that are picked on for demonstrations.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, has said, demonstrations are catching. It is a disease of youth, like measles, and many quiescent students in one university who hear of demonstrations in another start a demonstration themselves. The activists say: "Why should we not have one?", and they turn out in their hundreds. This has escalated, helped on by the Press, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, and the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, in his interesting maiden speech.
The Press often grossly exaggerate student unrest. I myself was a witness at an Oxford student demonstration during Whitsun, and heard the French radio report an hour later of the student demonstrations there. French students demonstrations are a very different thing. They took on a very revolutionary turn; they occupied the Sorbonne, and they had battles with the police. But what, in fact, happened at Oxford? About fifty miserable students were standing in the rain outside the University Chest building, and they had one banner marked, "Proctors 777 go now." This demonstration was completely peaceful. But, nevertheless, the British Press took it up. I do not think it is a help to the students that the Press should exaggerate so much.
So the first need, my Lords, is to blow away the froth. Most student demonstrators are in fact students. Some have once been students, either in the same university or in another university, or abroad, and they are qualified to speak. Some, of course, never have been students; they are, as the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, said in his remarkable maiden speech, professional rebels; and they are of all different kinds—Communists and anarchists, or merely, "Agin the Establishment". Some of these rebels are in favour of direct action, of rioting, occupying university premises, damaging university property and insulting visiting speakers. Many student followers do not really realise what they are doing when they join these demonstrations, because some are very lightheaded and willing to join in any kind of a caper. They are sorry later and send letters of apology, but I suggest that they damage their own cause.
The trouble is that many students distrust their elders on principle; and they start with their own parents. There is a slogan "Never trust anyone over thirty". This explains, perhaps, in part, their bizarre costumes, and their long hair, as against the older generations with staid costumes and short hair. Personally, I am rather amused by these costumes; I like a little eccentricity. The dress may be Edwardian, or it may go even further back and be Shakespearian.
But distrust of elders extends to political matters and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said, when one looks at the world to-day, one can hardly blame the younger generation. The trouble is that the younger generation do not know what problems our generations had to face in the Second World War, and even in the First World War. They have all been born since World War II, and to them Hitler, the blitz, the Battle of Britain and Dunkirk are ancient history. They are concerned with quite other problems, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said. They are concerned with racialism, nuclear disarmament, germ warfare and the war in Vietnam; and some feel very deeply. But 778 I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that it is better to feel deeply than not to feel at all; and if the younger generation accepted with docility what their elders do, we should criticise them ever more. Many of the older generations are incensed that these rebellious students should be on State grants and, instead of being grateful, they go on strike. That censorious attitude can also apply to opposition M.P.s of any Party: they receive a Parliamentary salary, and then vote against the Government. What ingratitude!
Part of the student unrest is due to a sudden expansion of the student body—new universities with so far no great traditions. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has said that not all stiff are experienced yet in dealing with student problems. The older universities are often overcrowded; the facilities just cannot cope.
This problem applies not only in Britain, but also to universities abroad. The university where I teach in Jerusalem had only 1,000 students in 1948, and it now has 12,000. Cafeterias are jammed, and students queue up for coffee. They have only a 15 minute break, and many go hungry; and a hungry student can easily become art angry student. Many British students are hungry, too. I do not really understand how most of them manage to live on their grants. One attractive woman undergraduate in Oxford told me that she depended for her lunch and dinner on young men who would invite her out, and that when she had no invitations she had no lunch or dinner. Every university now is re-examining, or should be re-examining, their own facilities for feeding, housing, library space, and even to ensure that there are enough copies of the required books, because many students cannot afford to buy them.
Then there is the whole question of examinations. It is not enough for us to say: "We had to take examinations: why shouldn't you?" One or two generations have passed since then, and there are all kinds of new methods. I have taught for about 15 years in four different universities in three different countries, and I think that even lecturing is now out of date. It dates from the period before printing and before books. 779 But if you still want the personal impact of a lecturer, you can get him nowadays on T.V. tapes, and "run him off" in your own room on your own television set. My own university does not yet have television tapes, and we still lecture. But in my own seminar for second and third year undergraduates I have no examinations: I require written monographs, and cross-examine my students orally to make sure that they have written them themselves.
Another student argument is against the disciplinary regulations. They are much stricter here than in France. To generalise, one can say that in France they have physical freedom but intellectual regimentation in Britain we have intellectual freedom but physical regimentation. At Oxford, for example, one cannot do this, one cannot do that, without the permission of the college or the proctors. One must be in at certain hours, and students are naturally restive. Many challenge the view that the college is in loco parentis, and as Lord Byers has pointed out, they fight the college in the same way as they fight their own parents. In the Victorian era parents would not allow their daughters out without chaperones, but most modern parents do. Somerville girls get keys to come in at any hour of the night, but other colleges do not yet allow it. The newer residential colleges at Oxford and Cambridge are without walls, and there is no need to climb over the wall in order to get in—which I think is a pity, because it was fun to outwit the college.
There are many other restrictions: restrictions on drinking, restrictions on parking cars at night in Oxford, on distributing pamphlets, on picketing. Articles in university magazines are censored. But many students at these colleges do not realise the delicate relations between town and gown. Those relations in the Middle Ages led to bloody riots, and hence there are triple safeguards. There are college deans, there are university proctors and there are City police; and the University tries very hard to keep the police out by policing itself. That is really the justification for proctors.
When I was at Oxford recently I went to see Professor Hart, who is the chairman of a committee on the University/ 780 student relationship. Here I must pay a tribute to my noble friend Lord Longford, who was also doing his homework, because when I came in by the front door he was leaving at the back. I am sure that committees of this kind, investigations of this kind, will result in solutions being found for all these problems of discipline. One need, for example, is clear: the need for an appeal against proctors' decisions. But Oxford and Cambridge are not typical of most British universities. They are residential. They have a collegiate system, whereas most universities do not—and here other universities are at a disadvantage, because in a collegiate system, with small groups of students, residential, with tutors, the tutors are in much closer contact with students who can be organised in small groups through their junior common rooms.
In the great universities, for example, like the Sorbonne, which has 125,000 students, that kind of relationship is impossible. Even Berkeley, in California, has 27,000 students in one institution. The British ratio of students to teachers is ten to one. At the Sorbonne it is 100 to one. The noble Lord, Lord Byers, mentioned a figure of eighty to one, but I think that that may be in France as a whole. No wonder students are in rebellion with such enormous masses! Students want some say in academic matters, and that is generally agreed. But, as Lord James has pointed out, the question is: How? I personally am not very much in favour of having student representatives on governing boards, chiefly because students are such transient members. In any case, I am not very much in favour of syndicalism.
It was pointed out to me that students find it extremely boring to serve on Faculty Boards and the question comes up: how would you select them? My own suggestion, of course, is that the right way is to have consultative committees that meet periodically to review the situation, and hold emergency meetings if necessary. And what kind of subjects (here I come to the end of my remarks in this connection) would be referred to such consultative committees? An example is the content of courses. As Lord Byers has pointed out, these need constant review. They must have some relation with the jobs likely to be 781 available to students after graduation. I do not think it is necessary, as the noble Lord, Lord Tedder, pointed out, that students should be invited to give comments on academic subjects, the curricula of academic courses. But they should be allowed to express their views on degree requirements, and changes should not be announced suddenly so that students are taken by surprise. In other words, we require what the noble Lords, Lord Tedder and Lord Hunt, have suggested. It is really applying to university life the Whitley Council system, which has been such a success in the public service in preventing strikes and in providing a channel for suggestions.
Now we have the delicate question of the teaching staff and student criticism. Lord Byers has pointed out that some teachers are great scholars but poor lecturers. They do not know how to use the latest techniques, and some of them do not bring their lecture notes up to date. In the United States student guides are brought out each year giving very frank advice to new students on which lecturers are bores and which lecturers are brilliant but unsound. I think that in the United Kingdom this kind of matter should not be left to students to publish (it was this that led to a crisis in one of the university magazines), but it should be done through the consultative committee. In several British universities these committees exist, and obviously it is time now that they became standard practice.
But who should compose these representative committees? It cannot be left solely to the activists. They must include representatives of the main body of university undergraduate opinion and must represent all the different Faculties in the different colleges. With all due deference, I think they should represent first, second and third year students and, above all, recent graduates, of whom we have such a brilliant example in the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. They are the best fitted of all. They have completed their studies; they can look at the whole of their three years in retrospect and give excellent advice.
I think we can trust the universities in Britain to find the right solutions. Students have stated their case by a variety of methods, some proper, some improper. The universities now have the 782 summer vacation ahead, which gives time to work out solutions and to implement them. Meanwhile, I suggest that we of the older generations should keep some sense of proportion. We, too, were young once and did some very wild things that I think we should now find hard to justify. We should not be too critical of the new generation if they indulge occasionally in a little effervescence.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ LORD JACKSON OF BURNLEY
My Lords, I feel that I must begin by echoing what has been said by several previous speakers, that much as I deplore the recent behaviour in some places of small sections of our university student body, I deplore much more the way in which this behaviour has been publicised and portrayed by some parts of our daily Press. The presumably older representatives of this Press who have done the reporting should be aware that publicity is just what these young people want, and thrive on. To the best of my observation these representatives of the Press have not thought it necessary, nor desirable, nor even fair, to give corresponding publicity to the highly co-operative situations which exist in other places, and to the highly responsible behaviour of the vast majority of our university students.
My long and close contact with university students has led me to have considerable admiration for this majority. I admire—indeed I envy—their good health and their vitality; their self-confidence, inquisitiveness and initiative; their unwillingness to accept traditionally established situations without question and statements without discussion, and their social consciousness and responsibility, not least towards the developing countries.
Perhaps I may be allowed to give one example. Five second-year electrical engineering students at Imperial College will shortly be leaving for Sierra Leone to conduct, in collaboration with a small group of students from the local engineering college, a study of the electrical power situation and the needs of sierra Leone in this respect in the years a lead. These boys have been studying the country's economy in their spare time during the past session, and they have been largely responsible for collecting the £1,000 which they consider to be necessary for the conduct of the project. The interest which this project has 783 aroused among our first-year students is such that five similar projects are now being contemplated for next summer, though whether it will prove possible to finance them is as yet a matter of uncertainty. I should mention that these five young men could earn, if they chose to stay in this country, a minimum of £15 a week, and a good deal more if they chose to take advantage of the opportunity to go to North America.
But within the universities, as we have heard this afternoon, there are some for whom I have no admiration at all: young men who feel a sense of entitlement, who feel no gratitude and no sense of obligation; whose lack of courtesy is an affront to what they consider to be the "squares" of my generation, who seem to respect neither persons nor institutions, and to whom rights seem to be more important than duties. Yet when I am confronted by one of these young men, either in person or on the television screen, I find myself wondering who is really to blame for these characteristics. Are they not characteristics displayed by many older members of the community in which they have grown up? May they not be, indeed, the characteristics of the people with whom they have grown up? I do not want to embark on a critique of our present day society, but much of the daily Press, of the so-called "literature" which swamps our station bookstalls, and not a little of our television programmes, seem to me to present this society in a light which makes it surprising, not that some of our young people behave in what to me are highly undesirable ways but that those who do so behave constitute such a small proportion of the whole.
In my experience, it is extremely difficult for members of my generation, in particular, to communicate with this small minority. As we have heard this afternoon, there is a conflict and not a little animosity. Therefore it is absolutely crucial that my generation should establish good communications with the majority, and particularly with their chosen representatives. In my opinion, as the noble Lord, Lord James, has said, this process of communication does not necessitate, and will not be best served, by student representation on University Councils, Senates, governing bodies and boards of studies. It is much more important, and I believe it will be 784 much more effective, for them to be involved at an earlier stage and at the grass roots of the consideration in appropriate committees, although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord James, that it is much more valuable for them to be involved, through staff /student contact, in discussions on some of the problems of interest and concern to the student body. If this is assured, there is good reason to believe that this majority will devise means of dealing with the less responsible minority. And I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who said that this is what they themselves would wish to be left to do.
Perhaps I may now comment on the university situation. During the past decade the universities have passed through a phase of unprecedented expansion in student numbers, and rightly the representation has been drawn from a widening spectrum of the community. Although the staff numbers have increased more or less commensurately with the increasing student numbers, many members of the staff have been occupied with the planning, construction and equipping of new buildings or the adaptation of old ones, and others (I say this with regret, although I have spent a lot of my life in doing research), have regarded the pursuit of research as of higher priority than their undergraduate teaching work, for the reasons given so clearly by the noble Lord, Lord Byers.
In consequence, I think there can be no doubt that in some places the fostering of adequately close staff/student relations has received less attention than has been needed by the increasing number, and changing character, of the undergraduate student body. I am by no means recommending the feather-bedding of students—indeed, this is the last thing that the more responsible students would wish to happen. But these are the very students who are responsibly critical of rigid adherence to what they regard as traditional teaching, examination and administrative procedures, and who nowadays want, and feel entitled, to express their opinions on these matters. In my experience, these students can be talked with, and indeed must be talked with if the minority, who are much more inaccessible and potentially much more troublesome, are to be dealt with; and, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford said, the 785 support of this majority is essential if the exercise of disciplinary measures on the minority, where necessary, is to be effective.
May I now, in conclusion, say that, much as I deplore the attitudes and behaviour of some of our young people, I think we older ones are handing over to their generation an extremely difficult assignment. We have so far failed to give them a clear enough sense of national purpose. Our national objectives are ill-defined, and I suspect that these young people find them uninspiring. If I may now speak as a scientist and technologist, we may have produced a state of much improved material wellbeing, but in doing so we have created a state of uncertainty and of hazard which raises ethical and moral issues which we show little evidence of being able to resolve.
I am afraid that, generally speaking, it is all too evident that our ability to solve scientific and technological problems is not being matched by an ability to resolve the sociological problems to which scientific and technological progress inevitably gives rise, and these young people are in the midst of this complex situation. Moreover, I do not think we are setting them a particularly good example in our own behaviour, as revealed, for example, in the conflicts which arise in the resolution of some of our industrial problems, and regrettably this is in circumstances where these procedures are being displayed with minimum delay through our improved channels of communication, where all too often news is regarded as exciting only if it reveals a disturbed situation, and where there is not corresponding emphasis on the presentation of good example.
Notwithstanding what I have said about a small section of our young people I have tremendous faith in the majority of them. They want to become involved, and, immature though they may be in some respects, we shall be wise to get them involved in the consideration, and hopefully in the resolution, of some of the problems with which they are going to have to deal in their maturity. I think their problems are of great difficulty, and we must sympathise with them if they do not know how to tackle some of them.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ LORD HIRSHFIELD
My Lords, since my introduction to this House possibly I have spoken on as many occasions in such a short time as anyone else. I am getting quite used to the habit by now, I must say, of speaking during the dinner interval or at midnight, but never mind. I can tell your Lordships that the Leader of the House kindly sought my permission to leave a few moments ago, and if the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack would like to go and have a quick meal before he winds up the debate that will not matter either. At least as long as the Clerk and Hansard remain I shall be able to read to-morrow what I have been saying to you to-night.
I have been asked what on earth I have to do with education. I am told that I went to 14 schools. I can remember eight of them; I certainly car not remember the rest. And I remember at one of those eight I was poisoned, and I first came to this great City with typhus as a result of that poisoning. Another school I ran away from; that was called Wilson's Grammar School. And in later life, and for a very short time, I happened to be connected with a mail order firm supplying language records, cultural records and so forth, and it seems that one of the record series they were supplying was something called "A Course in Elocution for V.I.P.s"; and I could not stand it any longer when I learned that one day that course was sent by mistake to an address which belonged to the present Prime Minister before he moved to No. 10, and a few weeks later he was asked to start paying the instalments. I might add that, apart from those eight schools that I can think of, I managed to move around three universities here and abroad, and managed to read for a law degree course. In my later professional life I suppose it is true to say that I have been a teacher of something like 500 to 600 pup Is who have passed through my class, so to speak, and I am delighted that a number of them were in the Honours Lists, one in fact first in all England.
I think it would be most serious if in any way we gave the impression to-day that we dismiss the force and significance of the student rebellions that have 787 occurred this year. In fact, they have spanned almost every Continent in the world; and the fact that the demand for university reform has been only one part, and frequently a rather small part, of a much wider demand for social and political reform, demands that we view this whole issue not simply as traditional and unimportant student agitation, but as a movement (at least overseas) with far-reaching social and economic and political implications.
The springs of the movement are not easy to analyse, particularly when we are so near to the events. But there have been three broad characteristics of this movement wherever it has taken place in the world, and these provide us with a starting point. The first has been a severe criticism of the authoritarian tendencies of Government and Administration in both the capitalist and the Communist countries. In both France and Czechoslovakia the students have expressed a profound sense of alienation from the institutions of government. In West Germany the all-Party coalition has begun to arouse the same feelings. In America the same sense of exclusion from Government, as the struggle in Vietnam has followed its bloody course, has engendered the same sense of alienation.
Almost wherever there has been a student rebellion this year, criticism of the administrative structures of both Government and industry has gone side by side with demands for a much greater degree of participation. General de Gaulle showed his political flair again recently when he chose "participation" as the theme of his election campaign. For beyond the obvious economic demands for higher wages and improved social benefits, there can be no doubt that it was the demand for more involvement in the decision-making processes in Government, industry and other major social institutions which characterised the French Revolution of 1968, and to a lesser extent the upheavals which have occurred elsewhere.
The second equally important characteristic of the "1968 Revolution" has been the concern not simply with what is seen as the anti-democratic institutional structures of modern societies, but with the whole direction which societies East and West of the Iron Curtain have taken since 1945. The Vietnam war has, at 788 least in the Western World, served to crystallise this development. Revulsion against this war has fed on twenty years of political and social developments which have led steadily to the present desperate disillusionment with politics which students in many parts have now expressed so suddenly and so vividly.
What was proclaimed with pride in the 1950s as the age when ideological politics ended, was really an age which has steadily seen the relegation of moral principles to a far lower place in our politics than they occupied before the war. And this process has had a devastating effect on the social democracies of the world. It has brought about the development of a code of political amorality in defence and overseas policy as well as domestic affairs, the moral content of which is barely discernible. The result—and it is the only result we could expect—is a deep sense of disillusionment with politics, and particularly the politics of the social democracies whose moral values are claimed as the basis for their existence.
In these rebellions and revolutions we have been confronted with the challenge of a new generation of people in the world—a generation to whom the passions, the ideologies and the victories of the Second World War are mere history. It is a generation whose only political experience has been that of the postwar world and who sense deeply, and I believe rightly, that the ideals for which we fought—freedom, social justice and democracy—have been lost. Our concern, therefore, must be to ask why this has happened. What has happened in the post-war world to the ideals of social democracy?
This is a profoundly difficult subject, and I would make no claims to be in a position to give an adequate answer. But what I wish to say, based on my own personal reflections over the past twenty years, does, I believe, have some value in this context. For I believe that the cause of the present malaise of social democracy lies in the major political and social changes which have taken place and which we have hardly considered for more than a moment in our political debates in recent years. In the first place, there has been a tremendous growth in the power and influence of economic and political institutions in our society at the expense of the individual. Larger and 789 larger units of production, an ever-increasing scale of Government activity, an ever-increasing growth in the structure and spread of our agencies providing for participation in the political process—I refer to our mass political Parties—these have been a major characteristic of the societies of the post-war social democracies.
In their turn, these institutions have had a number of profound effects on the character of our own country and of those abroad. They have produced a new managerial élite—a new class in society with new codes of conduct and new approaches to politics and social values—to manage these institutions. And they have imposed new values on our traditional social institutions, particularly our educational system. It is no accident that, increasingly in recent years, the traditional liberal approach to education has lost ground steadily under the force of these institutions' demands for more industrial and scientific personnel. As each year passes, they provide more finance for education; and, like the piper of old, they can call the tune.
In the second place, the immense social implications of the development of the Welfare State have still to be really considered in depth. I campaigned for many years to help bring about a social welfare system in which the many and varied social needs of individuals in the community could be fully met, and I should be the last person to wish to end it. But I am well aware of its defects and the central problem which it has served to accentuate in our society; namely, bureaucracy and the deep and growing sense among people that their lives in the present political structure are to a dangerous extent subject to the management and will of others. The structures we have developed in our social services, like the administrative structures which characterise industry, allow no place for the individual to participate in the decision-making processes, and it is their problem which we must recognise and tackle.
In the third place—and this, I believe, is the most important characteristic of post-war societies which must be distinguished—is their conduct in international affairs. The divisions in the cold war—now, fortunately, in the all too slow process of thawing—have left us in a 790 parlous state, with a continually growing burden of armaments production, competition on ever more frightening scales in nuclear warfare and, most serious of all, a highly developed dual morality in our dealings in the international community. Post-war politics is crowded on the one hand with declarations of peace, of tolerance and desires for a peaceful extension of democracy; and, on the other hand, with an increasing intolerance. We have only to look at the record of post-war developed societies on the subject of overseas aid to see that it is an increasing indifference mixed with aggressiveness which has characterised their attitude to the underdeveloped world.
My Lords, we are living in an atmosphere in which it is not immorality but amorality which is increasingly the driving force of the social democracies in their domestic and their international policies. And to return to a point which I made earlier, I would relate this to the ethos in our society which has been created by the emergence of new automatic institutional structures in Government and industry. Big business, with its central concern for expanding markets and higher production, views social development not in the confines of a political approach in which social values have some part, but in the context of production and profits.
Of course, profit and the present quest for ever-higher levels of production have always been the characteristic of industry, and we have no right in this sense to expect or require other values. But what we must grasp, and what we have so far failed to grasp, is that the post-war growth in the scale of industry has now given a small number of large institutions with these amoral object yes an unprecedented degree of power over resources in the community and over people's lives. And the result is that increasingly, industry, aided by the paler copies of the industrial bureaucratic structures which have emerged in Government, are coming to determine the whole character of society.
This whole process in its turn has involved a deep personal loss, and one which I believe firmly is motivating the student rebellions. It is a sense of alienation and a sense that personal and political freedom is steadily diminishing. 791 We are contending, therefore, with a profound sense of alienation by people throughout the world, but particularly in the advanced social democracies. It is a sense of alienation from the conduct and character of all the major economic and social institutions which govern their lives and a sense that, since the end of the Second World War, societies, both East and West of the Iron Curtain, have moved far—too far—from those ideals which the architects of the Second World War proclaimed. It is these problems which are, I believe, the true cause of the revolutions of 1968. Like those which occurred in Western Europe in the 1830s, they symbolise a revulsion against an authority whose values and conduct are no longer respected.
It is, of course, far easier in this situation to analyse the causes than to provide solutions to what I believe is the product of more than twenty years' politics. None the less, our task as politicians is, if possible, to find solutions. We must search for new paths, and I believe, despite the formidable obstacles we face, it can be done. We must first of all recognise that if we are to meet fully the problems and find some solutions we must accept that a new kind of politics is required. It is not merely the issues and concerns of social democratic politics which must change, but, equally important, its whole mode. I believe that in this new politics which we must seek to formulate, our first concern must be with how we can adapt our democratic processes of Government to challenge the character, the deeply anti-democratic characteristics, of modern social democracies.
We must, I believe, in the first phase face up to the existence of large concentrations of economic and social power which now exist in modern society. We must search for ways both of making these centres of power more accountable to society for the immensely important decisions which they take, and of involving ordinary people to a far greater degree than the institutional structures of our society allow at present to participate in the processes by which decisions are reached which have such far-reaching effects on their lives.
In both Government and industry, in private as well as public corporations, in 792 the administration of the social services, we must face up to the problem of achieving a radical reorganisation with these concerns in mind. Over the next few months a series of reports will provide us with the opportunity to begin this work. Soon the Fulton Committee on the Civil Service will be reporting. Shortly, we shall be considering the Donovan Report, and it will not be long before the Maud Commission's Report on the Reform of Local Government is before us. Already there has been some debate on these issues. But what is needed urgently in our present political context, and what has been lacking so far, is a central concern with the broader issues which I believe must guide our recommendations on the reconstruction of these institutions; namely, the principles of accountability and participation. It is not simply the development of more efficient institutions which we must aim at; it is institutional reform which provides for processes through which managers are obliged to account to the community at large in some broad terms for the initial decisions they create, and it is institutional reform which provides for ways in which ordinary individuals—be they workers, consumers or any other group—can share to some extent in the decisions affecting them. That is the first requirement of the new politics.
The second requirement, which I believe deserves much more consideration than it receives at present, is for a fresh attack on the gross and persistent inequalities in our society which are a major aspect of the present maldistribution of political and economic power in our society. There are obvious economic inequalities arising from the gross maldistribution of private wealth. There are also, however, a variety of others—social inequalities of all kinds which are particularly blatant in our educational system. We cannot as a social democracy proclaim equality and allow this situation to persist year after year. The new political situation of 1968 demands a new response, a new effort, to overcome these problems.
My Lords, the fundamental point which I hope I have been able to convey to your Lordships to-day is the profound sense of alienation which people in social democracies and elsewhere now feel from the major economic and social 793 institutions and the societies in which they live. It has arisen, I am convinced, because of the amorality of the codes of conduct which these increasingly powerful institutions have generated. At home we have already witnessed, through the 1950's, the way in which this amorality—and the indiscriminate use of resources to which it led—created societies in which private affluence on an ever-increasing scale thrived in the midst of public squalor. We have seen that evil, but we still have to recognise the full and increasingly dangerous implications of our faith in abundance and material values irrespective of their price in terms of the quality of our environment.
In the international field the need for a reappraisal is even more urgent. The increasing dominance of the amoral institutional code has led us not only to accept the illogicalities of the nuclear arms race but to ignore the simple but basic truth of the post-war world—namely, the plight of the millions of grossly underprivileged peoples of the world. Our total refusal to create the political will to provide overseas aid on anything like the scale required over the past twenty years has had appalling results—not only for the poor in the world, but in the broader terms of the increasingly tense, bitter and fragile character of international relations. It is this which we must face up to in the new politics.
My Lords, I began by stating my profound conviction that what we have been witnessing in the 1968 student rebellions is something felt by many more people than the students alone. It is a new concern and a new spirit for the direction and values of our societies. It is a spirit which we must meet with new politics.
A university is not merely a teaching institution. It has three functions: the function of maintaining standards of truth—to store and guard knowledge built up through ages; secondly, a research function—to promote new knowledge by scientific inquiry; thirdly, a teaching function—to pass on to others knowledge acquired. A university is not a factory that produces students. If there are too many students in relation to resources of buildings, equipment and staff, then teaching will suffer. Large numbers of students present a problem of administration, com- 794 munication and discipline. Universities are communities dedicated to the pursuit of truth and excellence, not the pursuit of democracy. Freedom of speech it the most vital feature of university life, since without this freedom the truth of a proposition can never be tested. Violence can never establish truth, it can only establish who has most power. Demonstrations, threats of violence and actual physical intimidation are an attack on everything a university stands for.
Students are selected on the basis of their intellectual ability. They dc not therefore, just because they exist, have a right to a university education. University staffs are appointed on the basis of their ability to advance their subject, not because they enjoy personal popularity. They should also be good teachers; they should be trained to teach well. But a university should always appoint an Einstein, even if he is a bad teacher, over a mediocre mind which might be good at conveying information generated by others. This is the difference between a scholar and a journalist.
My Lords, the present-day problems of British universities, in my submission, arise from rapid expansion; the gr3wth of the permissive society; affluence which makes students jealous, resentful and anxious to obtain a degree so as to secure a greater share of what society is producing; reluctance of university staff; to jeopardise traditional values; the need for change; for greater managerial efficiency; a need for more efficient use of buildings, for long terms, longer teaching days—which of course will put greater pressure on staff and students, and promote more conflict. Mass university teaching is cheaper per student, but it is more expensive in conflict terms. Society must accept this or cease demanding that universities get bigger and bigger.
Although there are general problems, they are being exploited by a militant minority that desires to destroy existing institutions. And the evidence so far is that they have no positive proposals to offer. British universities are moving rapidly towards integrating students more efficiently into decision-making committees, hut there are limits to this process. Young people who are learners do not have either experience or accumulated knowledge and wisdom to decide on major questions of university policies—questions such as staff appointments, new 795 academic developments, the distribution of expenditures between staff, administration, libraries, buildings, and so forth.
Examinations are criticised by the militants, but there must be some test of standards. Without this it would be impossible to maintain standards. Students are a privileged group, since the personal rate of return to a student, in terms of the higher income he will receive (less the cost to him of not working until 21), is far greater than if he went to work at 18. It is also greater than the social return made by graduates as a whole. Therefore, society is subsidising students for their personal benefit.
I would conclude, my Lords, by expressing the clear view, in my own mind, which has been echoed here by many of you, that Continental students have a far stronger case for reform than British students. I have taken up your Lordships' time much more, I realise, than is normally expected, but I am grateful for your patience and indulgence. Indeed, although attendance in your Lordships' House to-day is much reduced after the interest centred on events here yesterday, we are nevertheless debating a situation of tremendous importance at this time, and I like to think, as I have taken more than the usual time, that the four noble Lords and the one noble Baroness who withdrew from the list did so to provide me with more time.
§ 8.0 p.m.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, I speak with some disappointment. I had hoped to speak before my two Balliol tutors the noble Lord, Lord Morris, formerly of Leeds University, and the noble Lord, Lord Fulton, of Sussex University. Neither is here today—perhaps on purpose. I also should like to speak on behalf of the Bullingdon Club so cruelly traduced by the noble Lord. Lord James of Rusholme, of which, as he recalled, Mr. Evelyn Waugh was so keen to become a member.
I speak to you also—and this is more serious—in great bewilderment. I find it difficult, as other noble Lords seem to find it difficult, to understand what all this is about. There seems no pattern, no real complaint in the student disturbances. The main complaint seems to be that they have no complaint. All we get in this country (and this applies 796 largely to other countries, too) are sporadic, aimless little doses of chaos—chaos without cause, chaos seemingly without cure. It is easier to deal with a situation when the pattern of dissatisfaction is clearly visible, when young people have a real cause for grievance. What to me is so alarming, and at the same time so ridiculous, is that no one really knows what he or she really wants. We are in a position nowadays when different groups march in different directions, shouting different slogans. Sometimes they meet, and then all Hell breaks out. But it is no longer a case of ism versus ism. There is no central thread, so far as I can detect: it is everyone against everyone. This has its advantages in that it is not nation against nation, or ideology against ideology, such as could lead to war. All these things lead to are fire hoses, upturned motor cars, a night in the cells and a fine of £15.
Occasionally in the student riots on the other side of the Channel heads get broken, and there is a nasty element of viciousness and violence. But we in Britain tend to keep to over-ripe tomatoes and rotten eggs—and a politician who has never had a tomato or an egg thrown at him can hardly be said to have made his mark in the political world. I personally have had neither, partly because (and this is the real justification for my speech), although over the past year and a half I have either lectured or debated at twenty-two different British universities, I am no one in particular. I know that I am also not much of a politician, but one would have thought that if things were really as bad as they are made out to be, I should have been shown something less than the courtesy which has always come my way.
It is true that the subjects on which I have spoken have been mostly non-controversial or semi-controversial subjects, like sexual law reform, or your Lordships' House. Here, in parenthesis, may I bring a blush to your Lordships' cheeks by saying—and here I am reporting factually as a journalist—that in universities these days this House is very much respected. Indeed, although I do not regard it as a particularly healthy sign, at London University recently on a motion, "That the country would be 797 better governed by the House of Lords than by the House of Commons", the Lords won by three to one. But students, of course, are very capricious. Seriously, the point is that so far as this country is concerned, I believe that the riotings, the "stop-ins", the flag-wavings, the strike committees are trivial and socially insignificant. I may be wrong. It may be that there is some deep, organised plot which aims at subverting the youth of this country. But I personally see no sign of it. Quite honestly, it looks to me like a lot of adolescents having a bit of fun. I am prepared to bet that within one year this whole thing will have vanished.
May I elaborate my argument? After all, what have these young people to get worked up about? They have virtually no orders to obey; no laws to prevent them from expressing themselves as they think fit; no rules to prevent them from dressing up in any colour of the rainbow they prefer, and complete sexual freedom. It is true that they may not like the curriculum, but. I do not think that is a major motive force in their cavortings.
It has been suggested by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York, and others, that one of the root causes of the troubles is a lack of communication between tutors and lecturers, on the one hand, and students, on the other; and perhaps there is something in this point.
When I was a young man at Oxford we mingled freely with the dons. We asked them to our parties and they asked us to theirs. There was a complete freemasonry between us, and I learnt more from my private conversations with these brilliant young dons than I ever did from my tutorials. We spoke as friends and as equals. Admittedly we were lucky, since we had among us such men as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, Sir Maurice Bowra, Lord David Cecil, Sir Roy Harrod and many others. I am afraid that, rather naughtily, we used at times to invite them together to dinner in order to witness a contest between these intellectual giants.
But we have been told that in the modern universities there is much less social intercourse between Faculty and students than there used to be in my 798 time, and from what we have learnt this afternoon that applies particularly in what are odiously known as the red-bricks". The reason partly is that nowadays young men—and that includes tutors and lecturers—will insist on getting married at ridiculously early ages. A former Prime Minister, whose judgment I respect, once said to me about Oxford, "When a don marries young and goes to live in North Oxford, he is no more use to the college." There is some truth in what he said. It may well be a fact that this lack of communication exists and that tutors and students, instead of being friends and, as it were, on equal terms, are now remote and unapproachable. Perhaps—ghastly thought !—they may even call the lecturer, "Sir".
For all this I would blame the lecturers or the tutors themselves. Ft has always seemed to me that one of the most important functions of a tutor or fellow of a university is not merely to teach his pupils but to get to know them personally. That way leads not only to First-Class degrees, but to more important things too. But, try as I may, I cannot take these manifestations, at any rate so far as this country is concerned, too seriously; I cannot think in terms of what someone has called "a deep malaise" such as I think the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, was afraid of. I think they will pass. If it pleases Hornsey College of Art to have a "sit-in", then by all means let them have one. It is not particularly amusing; it is not particularly interesting. It is quite simply boring. If they wish to ruin their cha ices by adolescent posturings, let them get on with it.
Reluctantly (because one should not foul one's own nest) I must, as it were, turn on my own side and agree with the noble Lord, Lord Jackson, that much of the blame for these gerfuffles rests with the Press, T.V., and the radio. I believe that the mass media of communication, through sheer lack of something to write about, tend to build up something where nothing really exists. I shall not boast that we Press men invented the "mods and rockers"—they were there already. I shall not say that we invented the "hippies"—they were, and still are, there. But I insist that this glamour, this over-emphasising of what is fundamentally footling and feeble, is largely 799 our fault and is simply playing into the hands of these silly exhibitionists who like cavorting around and getting their names in the papers. We, the Press, built up the "Teddy boys", and then when we got bored we killed them. We had to kill the "mods and rockers" by not writing about them. We have more or less killed the "hippies"; and when we get bored or something new crops up we shall kill the student riots, too.
I refuse, for the moment at least, to take seriously, or to worry about, these so-called youthful frustrations, for of frustrations they have none. But if by chance I am wrong, which is very likely, and this indiscipline should continue, then I can only revert to what I have recommended to this House before, and that is the reintroduction of some sort of nationwide service for social purposes. If the young people have to let off steam, let them let it off in a socially productive manner; not by putting marbles under horses' hooves or bashing policemen's helmets.
I believe that among the crowds who mill uselessly around there is, apart from a sprinkling of professional agitators, a core of sincere, decent, dedicated young people all dressed up, as it were, and with nowhere to go. Give these earnest and, perhaps, rather humanist young men and women the opportunity to do something which they themselves regard as socially useful, like tearing down slums or building hospitals, and I think you will get a great response. It is surely a question of steering and canalising the good which lies in the young English men and women of to-day. If before going to university they had to give a year of service, I believe you would find much less indiscipline among them when they reached the universities.
Incidentally, your Lordships may like to know that the Scottish Churches Council are already engaged on consultations on the possible reintroduction of National Service. They will hold a full assembly on this subject in the autumn. I must say that everywhere I go I find enthusiasm for such a scheme though, of course, there are many differences of opinion as to what form it should take. Meanwhile, I beg your Lordships' House not to make too heavy weather of this 800 business. With respect to my noble friend Lord Byers, do we really do a service by devoting seven or eight hours to these little pipsqueaks and pipsqueakeries? Let us preserve a sense of proportion and a sense of humour. Let us have faith in our own youth.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, I had thought that my qualification to speak in this debate would be that I was closer in generation to the people about whom we are talking than anybody else in your Lordships' House, but I have to concede that palm, very gladly, to the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan. But although he expressed himself in the most spendid fashion, I hope I am not maligning him if I say that he sounded rather a contented student and I hope that will afford me some qualification to speak for the discontented students, in sympathy with whom I feel myself very deeply. If I try to describe to your Lordships the reasons for their discontent, it is not because I am asking your Lordships to agree with those reasons but to understand that they are there and are very passionately held.
I find myself also siding very much with that minority about whom so much has been said. The noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in terms of such blackness which I found hard to square with my experience of young radicals, talked of them as the "hard core"; my noble friend Lord Longford, rather optimistically I thought, talked of them as revolutionaries; and the noble Lord. Lord Byers, started off by talking of them as anarchists but then, I thought very properly, corrected himself and talked of them as activists. And what is wrong with that?—for that is what they are? The noble Lord, Lord Byers, is an activist for his Liberal causes. He is part of a small minority who put forward ideas for the acceptance of the majority and who hope that the majority will accept them. The Labour movement was started by activists who put forward their ideas and often implemented them by means which were then thought to be thoroughly violent, and who were no doubt reviled in such terms as the minority has been reviled to-day. But yet their ideas claimed acceptance, and now have the acceptance of a large body of opinion in the country.
801 Of course, the large majority of students are hard-working people not interested in politics. But we are not discussing the fact that a few people have ideas which some of us may consider to be extreme. There have been extremists or so-called extremists in universities ever since they began. What we are discussing is that in France those activists have won support, and very genuine support, among a huge number of not only students but workers and ordinary people as well; that in America the movement, started maybe by activists, is a huge and powerful movement which could well change the face of America; and that there is a movement which has changed, or is certainly helping to change, the face of Czechoslovakia. What we are considering to-day is surely whether there is anything deficient in our own society which may make the student movement of unrest—at the moment, very small in our own country—as powerful and cause such far-reaching changes as it has caused in those countries.
It has been said by many noble Lords to-day, and said very powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, that unrest among students, and unrest even against their own universities, is inseparable from the views they hold about the state of the world in general. I think I could have made the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, substituting "we" for "they". If your Lordships do not realise—I do not think the noble Earl, Lord Arran, realised it—that the very fact of being in a privileged position intensifies the anguish and the guilt which people feel most deeply about the brutalities and the hunger which still persist in the world, then you are not beginning to understand the causes of student unrest in this country.
We see that for the last fifty years—and we admire it—the knowledge available to the world has increased tenfold and is increasing all the time. But, on the other hand, we see that in large measure that knowledge has been put not to feeding the poor but to bolstering the rich, and, above all, to piling up ever more powerful weapons of war. My noble and learned friend on the Woolsack was quite right when he said that students look at Vietnam and are horri- 802 fied, but I go further than that. We look at Vietnam, and at what the Americans are doing in Vietnam, and we are horrified, because, rightly or wrongly—[...] believe rightly—we believe what they are doing to be an evil thing, and we believe that our Government's acceptance of what they are doing is a condonation of it.
If we look into the future, we do not see very much ray of hope. We see, and we are told by everyone who studies the problem, that the rich are growing richer and the poor are growing poorer. As for the development of weapons, if in twenty years we have already built up napalm, nuclear warheads and are developing the most sinister and horrible weapons of chemical warfare, then what, in heaven's name, are the next fifty years going to produce? I speak with passion. We may not know the answers and may be intolerant of what has been done by the older generations, but in view of what we see and the little effort that we see by our leaders to right the situation, it is small wonder that we cry out in protest.
Many noble Lords have spoken of the protests made by students against their own universities, but it is to me quite astonishing—and the point was made very well by the series of articles in The Times three weeks ago—the number of occasions on which the protest of against the university has been started because of some form of repression or some form of immorality perpetrated by the university against a particular form of political expression. We saw that in Berkeley in 1964 the flashpoint, at any rate, of the disturbance was a ban on political fund-raising; in Berlin in 1965 the flash point was the banning of a pro-Communist journalist; the flashpoint of the L.S.E. in 1967 was the banning of a protest meeting against the appointment of Dr. Adams; and one might mention Oxford in 1968, the banning of political meetings. All these activities which were banned are perfectly lawful political activities which adults in normal political circumstances can carry on, but too often, and particularly abroad, the university authorities have reacted illiberally and have turned the discontent of the students against that university. First of all, many more students are brought in when they see this kind of injustice perpetrated; 803 and, secondly, many of the students begin to see that the university itself is reflecting those values which they find so horrible in society.
I say quite openly that in England the university authorities have on the whole acted extremely wisely, have used their arbitrary powers with restraint, and have not abused them on very many occasions. This is quite clearly the reason why grievous student unrest has not really occurred here at all. When one looks at the reports in the Press one sees that the incidents are not of a very terrifying character, and very often have much justice behind them. Of course, in Germany, Italy and France, where, as I think the noble Lord, Lord James, pointed out, the university systems are of a totally different order, the authorities have reacted illiberally and have called in the police, who have acted in an extremely brutal way, and so the movement has escalated until, as we saw in France, the whole fabric of society is threatened. In passing, I should like to express (if this word is permitted in your Lordships' House) my solidarity with and my admiration for the courage of French students, who had to endure some very nasty bashing from the French police forces. I should also like to express my admiration for the courage of American students, particularly, in organising their resistance to the draft and in organising such a powerful protest against what their Government are perpetrating.
My Lords, I come now to a point which has been raised by very many speakers, and that concerns the aims of this minority. It has been criticised, I think—very strongly criticised—for not being able to express what it wants to put in place of the order which it seeks to change. I find this a slightly cheap criticism, because I am quite sure that if there was a coherent ideological programme drawn up in manifesto form according to the teachings of Gevara or Mao or Macuse which these dissident students sought to foist upon their comrades, then I think talk of an international conspiracy or an international ideology being imposed by intolerant Leftists upon students would have some justification. I was very impressed when those students on television, when asked what they were after, said: "We all have our views. We cannot really say what 804 we are after, because what we are after has to be threshed out in discussion with our comrades".
Look what happens when you have a "sit-in", or the Sorbonne or a college is taken over. What do they do? They talk. Far from their having a so-called militance, certainly they each of them have their own ideas of the sort of society they want to create, but they do not impose their views on the rest of their fellows. They get together in great numbers and talk, sometimes all day and all night, until some kind of consensus is arrived at as to where they go from there. It is a quite extraordinary thing, this talking that goes on among students in this kind of situation; and I think it is very healthy, because, in a way, it is the most perfect form of democracy when 1,000 people in a university of 1,300, the University of Essex, get together. I do not know how long, but they talked, and anyone who wanted to had their say.
They are, quite frankly and admittedly, unclear about their aims; but they are united—and I am united with them—by a horror of the way the world is going and by a quite sure belief that the established values, if not totally inadequate in the way they are going, are inadequate to make the change we need. This is something on which, of course, if we were in a complete minority, no-one would listen to us, and we should be quite irrelevant. It is because people are listening and are agreeing—if the passion with which I have spoken has convinced anybody, they agree for good and proper reason—that the old ways will not do.
My Lords, I think that perhaps I ought to touch also, very briefly, on the methods used. There has been some talk, though not as much as I had feared, about the immaturity of students. I find this movement, on the contrary, a sign of adulthood, as has been said—adulthood meaning that they have reached a stage when they wish to fight for their rights. If you are members of a political Party or of a society which wants to change something, then of course you have the right to vote out the people who control you. If you are employed in industry—and, Heaven knows!, those rights were fought for pretty tenaciously—you have the right to withdraw your labour if the conditions under which you work are intolerable. It is this kind of seeking after rights and a proper and 805 democratic expression of them, though it may still be tentative, which is being furthered in this movement, and I think furthered in a thoroughly responsible and moderate way. For instance, I do not find a "sit-in" an irresponsible thing, and I think it is quite symptomatic of the way in which students, even when protesting, behave. The Principal of the Croydon College of Art, when the "sitin" was over, praised the students for the way they had run the cleaning services and kept the place orderly during their occupation.
My Lords, I end by saying very sincerely to my noble friends on the Front Bench and in Government: if there comes a serious student upheaval in this country, it will not be because of the illiberality of the universities and it will not be because of the agitation of vicious students: it will be primarily, in my opinion, because of a failure of leadership and a failure of idealism—indeed, the Home Secretary made this very point in a broadcast on Sunday. I believe that this country is not so much condemned by young people for the repressiveness that it operates but for its failure to stand for anything more positive. The world is crying out for a country which can extricate itself from, for instance, the labyrinth of cold war and violences which we feel are irrelevant to the needs of the world to-day; a country which will have no truck with dictatorship, not only in Salisbury, but in Athens, Pretoria, Lisbon; a country which will speak up for the people who are hungry and oppressed, and particularly when they are oppressed by the actions of an alien power—I say Vietnam, I say Mozambique and others; a country which will harness its resources not to the weapons of war but to the means of life.
I do not have any confidence whatsoever that we shall see a thread of that kind of idealism from the Party opposite, particularly after the insults it cast at the United Nations yesterday. I believe that the Party of which I am a member can still enthuse, as at present candidate McCarthy has enthused the young men in America, young people and students today. At the moment it is sorely failing to do. It has not much time, and I appeal to it to respond to the aspirations, the noble aspirations, which are being voiced by students not only in this country but all over the world.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, as a member of the Vice-Chancellor's Committee, I daresay I ought to begin by declaring an interest, although I must make it clear that I do not speak for anybody but myself and certainly not for my colleagues in the University of London. I am speaking only for myself. Any Vice-Chancellor or Principal has, of course, an all too personal interest in this matter, since some of them have recently been subjected to the kind of treatment which hardened Members of another place, of course, regard as part of a day's work. But Vice-Chancellors are very delicate plants; and they are not quite used to the kind of thing which a good trade unionist can take in his stride.
Here I think I must say that I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, spoke as he did and gave an account of the student movement of the extreme kind which we have seen operating in the universities. I think his account of the ideals which inspired them was admirable. Perhaps they were more relevant than the account of the noble Earl, Lord Arran, of the palmy and golden days at Oxford. But I do not think there should be any doubt about what happens when these ideals are being expressed in terms of demonstrations. Let there be no mistake about the nature of the demonstrations and of the methods that some of the small groups of extremists use.
In every university there are channels of communication for students to make their needs and grievances known to the Vice-Chancellor and his staff. It has been suggested sometimes this afternoon that these channels do not exist. They exist in every place. They could be better—and I shall come to that—but they certainly exist. The first thing that the extremists do is to sieze on some grievance and then refuse to use these channels. The next thing they do is to break up and intimidate meetings of the Council and Senate which have met to discuss the disturbances or "sit-ins", and then to insult and howl down the Vice-Chancellor and any other officials who are trying to pour cold water on the flames.
The extremists are swift to cry "Victimisation", and even swifter to create martyrs. Their objective is to whip up 807 mass emotion, and indeed hysteria, which one has seen on all campuses, and to conduct filibusters at any meeting of students with staff, especially those which show signs of coming to agreement. They know just when to threaten and when to coo like doves, and their operation orders for taking over a building, some of which have been found, are detailed and extremely competent exercises in battle tactics.
I think we should be clear on one point immediately. There has been critcism that Vice-Chancellors and Senates have given in to violent demonstrations. But the extremists have learnt a great deal from the tactics of unofficial strikers—and trade unionists in your Lordships' House will already have recognised the techniques. If factory employees strike and occupy a plant, there is not much that management can do about it. The police are reluctant to be brought in unless there is violence. The only thing to do is to sweat it out, to try to get the lines of communication open again, and get both sides round a table. So it is in universities. We are dealing here with something resembling industrial action which is organised by people who treat universities as factories or as an institution which can be used for political action, regardless of the purposes of that institution. This is political action.
Of course, it is perfectly understandable, if you are interested in that kind of political action, not to take much account of the institution of itself. It should be recognised that the extremist groups rarely number more than fifty in any university; but once a demonstration starts they are usually able to get another 200 adherents for a few days, some of whom, of course, have come "for the ride", some of whom are genuinely persuaded that there is some injustice against which they ought to protest—and, what is more, with their excellent organisation, they get other groups to come from neighbouring universities and colleges. And sometimes, of course, some of the incidents which occur are created by those outside the university who are trespassers and who have very little to fear.
Vice-Chancellors have also not been helped by the fact that the extremists very often have an even smaller number of academic staff to join them. Now 808 dons have an absolute right to criticise Vice-Chancellors, and I would die in the last ditch for that right. They have a right to criticise their colleagues. Personally, I think it is wiser and better for the good name of institutions that this criticism should take place in committees rather than in a public meeting. But if it must be public, then it must be! But what I think is despicable is if a member of staff distorts and misrepresents what a Vice-Chancellor is saying and depicts him as an untrustworthy crook at a time when emotions run high. I do not think that is a very helpful thing to do.
What is more this, again, tiny minority of academic staff break every convention of confidentiality in the university, and they retail, in detail, the deliberations of their colleagues—which is a very skilful way of undermining confidence. Now this has happened at several universities. It raises most difficult issues of freedom of expression and of contractual obligations. For if a student is to be suspended or expelled for gross breach of university rules, what is to happen when a member of the academic staff was doing precisely the same as he? I will not go into the aims of the extremists as they have been admirably dealt with; but what I should like again to emphasise is that in the pursuit of their political aims they are rejecting the university as a place of education, of learning and research, as these terms have been understood for hundreds of years.
They insist, for example, on student control of every area of university policy, and they usually call for the abolition of examinations. This is a very great pity, because examinations are the one safeguard to the career open to talent. Without examinations jobs would go by patronage, as they did before the great reform of 1871 which made the Civil Service open, through competitive examinations. Whenever the Establishment is in trouble it always insists that the trouble makers are a minority. Now is it true that these are a minority? I think it is. When it comes to a vote in the students' union on a really important issue, the extremists are voted down. For instance, at Sussex the motion to strike was voted down by 1,100 to 30 votes; at Leicester, a motion put by the Vice-Chancellor and 809 the President of the Union was carried by 800 to 41 votes; at Essex, a motion to censure the Vice-Chancellor could not find a seconder. In fact, the mass of students show no signs whatever of going along with the extremists; and here one can say also that the extremists themselves very often in time change their minds. What has happened to that remarkable student Mr. Savio who created the disturbances in Berkeley, California, in 1964? Well, my Lords, Mr. Savio is working extremely hard, so I am informed, as a post-graduate research student at the University of Oxford, where he resembles a nun who has taken the veil after the excesses of a somewhat gilded youth. So they can change their spots very easily.
Why, then, do we see deans or proctors apparently giving in to student demands at a show of force when only a few days previously they had apparently been unwilling to grant what the students wanted? There is an explanation for this. It is not entirely a very happy explanation for universities, because I think that in these matters universities resemble elephants in gestation. They are dignified and, I think, benevolent institutions, but they move terribly slowly and they do so because, of course, they are not industrial firms; they are communities of scholars who expect to be consulted in making decisions. They have been slow to recognise what are topics on which there could be legitimate exchanges of views. They have been slow to take action when views have been exchanged. They move far too slowly.
Here I remember again that when I was Provost of King's College, Cambridge, in 1964 I think it was, a student representative council was formed. It was a body of students who claimed to represent student opinion, each elected in his college, and they tried to get recognition from the University. With two exceptions, the heads of houses were adamantly opposed to this, and so it went on. It was only this year, under the good offices of the present Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Sir Eric Ashby, that in fact this perfectly reasonable demand for student representation was—I will not say accorded, but the beginnings of agreement on this matter seemed to be being reached.
810 My Lords, the Vice-Chancellors tried to give a lead when last week-end they issued a statement to the Press in which they said they were asking universities to reconsider student representation swiftly, and they have also said that they would be only too ready to discus this matter at national level with the National Union of Students. The officials of the National Union of Students are at present very much more typical of the kind of student with whom Vice-Chancellors have been used to dealing in the past as the president or officials of their own student unions.
What are these students like—that is to say, these students who really represent the majorities in the votes which I detailed a moment ago? My Lords they are shrewd, irreverent, skilful negotiators, fundamentally determined, as are the dons, to work the present university system for all it is worth. But the presidents of unions are up against a problem similar to that which trade union officials know only too well; that is to say, the mass of the membership of a students' union in a university is often largely totally uninterested in day-to-day participation in university events. They do not want to run the university; they want to study and to enjoy themselves as students always have, and they leave the negotiations of students' demands and grievances to the officials of their union. If, however, the bulk of the students are either apathetic or, for some reason, get disgruntled, then it is all too easy for extremists to get control of the union; and even if they do not get control, it is easy for them to seize on grievances and outflank the student officers of the union.
Almost overnight, a change has come about in general student opinion, and certainly among the responsible officers of the students' unions. This change is a demand for representation; and here I am not at all sure that quite follow the noble Lord, Lord James of Rusholme, in the business of students sitting on committees. I thoroughly agree that it is a student's job to study rather than to sit on committees. I also agree that the mass of students have no interest whatsoever in sitting on committees. But those who represent the students in the union have almost a duty to do so, and cannot represent the students unless they sit on committees.
§ LORD JAMES OF RUSHOLME
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, will remember that I said I am sorry they want to, but if they want to—and they do—then we must absolutely go as far as our consciences will allow us to do in encouraging them to sit on committees.
§ LORD ANNAN
—and, this is one of the things of which universities have to take account. Why do they want to? We cannot forget that it was only five years ago that the Robbins Report was published. Since that time the Press, all mass media of communication and the universities themselves have pulsated with reports and debates about the nature and purpose and working of universities. Is it really very surprising that some of this rubs off on to the students? After all, if dons spend their time arguing in public about these matters, it is bound to happen. As a result, students themselves have become genuinely interested in the running of universities, and of course this affects them. That is why they want a greater degree of representation in university affairs. By representation I simply mean the addition of a small number of students on certain policy-forming committees, and the setting up of consultative committees on which they sit with equal numbers of staff. I favour such representation because it is the one practical alternative to confrontation.
I favour it in the same way as I favour parent/teacher associations in schools, where of course the parents represent the interests of their children and have a right to be heard. The consumer can very often bring home to those who teach some dissatisfaction of which the teachers may be genuinely unaware. For instance, only last week our College met with a protest from the Department of Philosophy, which contains a number of students of radical opinions, against the system of awarding the B.A. degree on only one examination, consisting of a dozen or more papers, at the end of the third year. A series of meetings of staff and students took place to hammer out 812 recommendations, set up machinery for the future and make changes. There was no riot, no "sit-in", and consequently no report in the Press. This is going on continually in all universities, and the universities never get much credit for it.
I believe that universities need to decide what subjects, what topics and at what levels it is absolutely reasonable for students to make their voice heard by sitting on committees as full participating members; and the university must make up their minds what areas are inviolable and must be the sole concern of the academic staff. We have already heard in the debate, and I will not go into it again, of the areas which many of us think are inviolable. There are, equally, other areas, such as, for example, the discussion of library facilities, on which students surely have a claim for their voice to be heard; and on this again universities ought to identify which are inviolable areas and which are not.
There is also something which the Government can do. I am not asking for higher grants for students or even better facilities for them; in the present financial crisis we all know that that is impossible. But everyone knows that students, particularly in London, have great difficulty in finding adequate lodgings. A group of students at London University, entirely on their own initiative and with considerable competence, have been working out a scheme to set up a housing association. Certain enabling legislation would be necessary for students to run such a scheme, and I was able to arrange a meeting between students and the Minister of State in the Department of Education and Science. When that scheme is fully prepared, may I entreat the Government to give, not money, but just a little Parliamentary time; because by so doing they would give real encouragement to the student who is trying, as it were, to work the university machine of consultation to the best advantage.
My Lords, I have been far too parochial, but other speakers have dealt with those great, broad and deep issues which are, no doubt, the cause of student concern and has led them often to an intense feeling that they must protest and demonstrate in order to show how strongly they feel. They doubt the permanence of the political state in which 813 we live and the ability to produce a higher standard of living. But none of us did not at some time feel these doubts. I well remember that I felt them when I was a student at the time of Munich.
To-day there is a lack of any organisation which catches their sympathies, as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament did a few years ago and the Popular Front did before the war, and as a result they have turned in upon the institutions in which they are studying. This could bring much good, but it also could bring a danger, the danger that the real purposes of the university and the administrative procedures which safeguard those purposes—namely, the acquisition of wisdom and the discovery of knowledge—could suffer irreparable damage. Here I dissent from the noble Earl, Lord Arran, who thought that this would pass without damage being done. I hope that it will, but damage could be done, because wisdom and knowledge come through intellectual discipline, and mere self-expression is not enough. Self-expression has to be subjected to critical scrutiny, and such scrutiny must come through teachers, who perhaps have had time to learn a little more than the students.
It is true that a gap has opened out between the generations—there is no doubt at all about it—and in the interests of the universities everyone who works in them must try to close that gap. It can be done only through affection, care and devotion to the students who are in the universities and who depend ultimately upon their teachers for the skills and the wisdom which will stand them in good stead throughout life. May I close by thanking first of all the two maiden speakers and, secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, who introduced this debate, for speeches of singular charm and felicity.
§ LORD GIFFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord talked at great length about what he called extremists. Was he saying that when a large majority agree with the extremists they had been duped by the extremists, or does he think that the extremists might have a representative case?
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I was not saying that they were duped at all. The figures I gave were a sign that when it 814 came to the crunch very often the majority did not follow the extremists.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIS
My Lords, entering the debate at this time of night, I feel rather like a park-keeper who goes round with a long steel spike, picking up pieces of the debate here and there. The general impression I have had in listening to the greater part of the debate is the excellence of most of it. But I suspect that in some of the speeches there has been a certain amount of complacency about the situation and the reasons behind the student unrest. Perhaps this was inevitable.
I do not think it helps in this situation to refer to some of these people as "foreign agitators", as "the lunatic fringe" or as "extremist minorities", and to use other emotive and loaded phrases, because the fact is that the revolt is here; it is happening. It may be perfectly true (though there seems to me to be some doubt about this) that the agitation has been started by only 5 per cent. of the students, but the reaction and the results have been absolutely fantastic. For the first time in years—I think, for the first time ever—the Vice-Chancellors have recognised the National Union of Students and agreed to meet and talk. That seems to be an extraordinary result, if it has been achieved by only a tiny minority of students.
I do not think that that kind of approach helps, any more than that other approach to young people and students—the well-meaning, breast-beating attitude that was represented, so far as I am concerned, by an interview on television some months ago with a young gentleman called Mick Jagger. In the programme three or four educated and learned gentlemen were whisked off somewhere to a certain rendezvous in the country and sat at the feet of the young master and asked him all kinds of questions about the meaning of life and the future of the world. What turned out was a dialogue about as cold and uninteresting as a slab of yesterday's Yorkshire pudding; and just about as illuminating. That kind of approach is insulting to young people and does not help at all.
Finally, there is the kind of approach which I think is, if your Lordships will pardon the word, stupid and which we 815 have heard occasionally this afternoon. It is said that the students' demands are incoherent and immature. My Lords, to blame a young man for being immature is like blaming an old gentleman because his arteries are hard. It is part of our natural existence and we must expect it. As for incoherence, this is only the opposite side of the same coin. Of course young people are immature and incoherent. In a manifesto issued by the students of the Hornsey College of Art, I read the following:The linear structure of present courses militates against versatility and against the emergence of the bridge personality who can make vital connections between apparently disparate disciplines.If your Lordships would like to think about that for twelve hours you would see that there is some point in it. Clearly, these students could do with a course in plain English. I have also no doubt that they could make similar remarks if they were to pick up a few copies of our OFFICIAL REPORT and read the speeches of some noble Lords.
Nothing is gained by using any of that kind of language and by trying to pin labels on these young people. What we have to do is to look beyond the labels, beyond the incoherence, beyond our own prejudices; because something new and important has happened and is happening, and it is our responsibility to find out why. Some of us may not like it. Some of us may think it is ugly or irresponsible, or just a nuisance. Equally, we must not take the students' demands at their face value. In other words, we have a responsibility to find out. My view is that the present student unrest is a reflection, not always a direct reflection, of two basic problems, both of which have been touched on this afternoon and dealt with, in some cases, quite adequately.
The first problem is the relation between teacher and student in universities and colleges of higher education. I have a feeling that to-day we have heard a little too much of the dons' side of the case and that we have been rather led to believe that they are all sweet reason and are all prepared to get round the table and talk to the students. That may be true of many of them. I am sure that the events of the past few weeks have brought a few of them down from 816 their ivory towers. But do not let us have any illusions about them. We have been told that students are arrogant, but I am bound to say that the most arrogant of the students looks like a blushing violet in comparison with the high table arrogance of some of our educational bigwigs, who absolutely refuse to learn.
I have never been to a university. I have never been educated in that sense, so I speak as a layman and outside observer. But it seems to me that there must be something in the atmosphere of our colleges—or maybe something in the Madeira or the sherry—that turns men into oysters. They seem to have forgotten what it is all about. For some reason they firmly believe that the college exists for them, and not for the students. There was a report in one of last Sunday's newspapers about the head of a college in one of our older universities who said he was seriously considering, if the students got out of hand, send-them all down, dismissing the entire student body. Perhaps that was a sign of desperation, but the kick was in the tail, because he then added: "Then the dons could really get on with their work."
A senior staff man at another college told students, only two weeks ago: "You are guests here, and as such you have no rights. You interfere with research. You are a necessary evil because your fees keep the college running." Is it any wonder that intelligent young men and women resent such attitudes? Some of your Lordships may have heard of the "59 nights" rule which exists in colleges in Cambridge, whereby in the course of a certain term a student has to spend 59 nights sleeping in college or recognised lodgings. Some days ago an undergraduate in Cambridge went to his tutor. He had slept 56 nights in college. He said: "Please can I leave and go to Hull? I have a very good reason because my father has just died." He was instructed to come back after the funeral and spend three more nights in college. When he protested that the term would be over, and nobody else would be there, the tutor said: "I will be here. What is more, you will park your car where I can see it from my window, so that I know you are spending your three nights in college." I can bring witnesses and 817 evidence for that particular incident, which happened only a few days ago. That young man, incidentally, is 22 years of age.
Another student was appointed officially by the University to go on a visit to Durham. He went to his tutor to get formal leave. He could not find him, so he left a note. On his return from Durham, he found that he was being fined £1 for going without permission.
I am sure there are hundreds of other examples of bureaucratic idiocy to be found elsewhere. There are also many examples of wise, humane and adult handling of students by those in authority. But it seems to me that when students say that there is little or no communication between them and the university authorities, there is some justice on their side. I believe that many of the suggestions made by people much more expert than I am must be carried into effect urgently, and, above all, must be carried out as between two adults and not as between one superior and one junior.
I believe that we have seen only the tip of the revolt. If we are hoping that a long summer break will dissipate it, then we are living in a dream world. I would suggest to the Government that they may have a rest in the universities, but they should look seriously to the technical colleges and teachers' training colleges, where, if anything, the régime is more narrow and authoritarian than in some of our worst colleges. There will be a revolt there, without any doubt, unless something is done to knock some sense into the heads of some of the administrators of those places.
On a second and perhaps deeper level, I agree very much with what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said, and also with what the noble Lord, Lord Hirshfield, had to say, particularly in the first part of his speech, about the student revolt being a protest against the nature of modern society. It is not so much a revolt as a revulsion. They do not like the look of the world which their fathers have made and which they are expected to join. They see their time as students as their last chance to dream. They have no deep responsibilities, no families. 818 They are afraid that once they enter our world they will become, like us, ideologically impotent compromisers all.
This young generation, my Loris, has been accused of immorality. I believe this to be profoundly untrue. I believe that behind this surging unrest there lies a deep hunger for a society which is motivated by moral principles and not expediency. We, for our part, would be fooling ourselves if we failed to realise, particularly on these Benches, that the high hopes that came with the Election of a Labour Government in 1964, and even more in 1966, have not been realised, and to many students the, have turned to dust and ashes in the mouth. In too many cases and on too many issues the fine indignation of yesterday's hustings has degenerated into the platitudes of to-day's policy. I say that with a sad and sorry heart.
Of course, I believe, with the Government, that we must get the economy right before we can move really far ahead; of course it is true that this must be priority No. 1. But is this all? Neither the students nor the public at large are interested in a shadow contest between the two major Parties as to which of them can best manage the economy and put it on its feet. If it is a test of managerial competence between the two major Parties, who is interested? I am not. I want a Party—and I believe this is what the students want—that will achieve radical reform. I believe that our Party has done a great deal, which it has not made half enough of, since it was elected to power. But there are many other issues on which I think they have saddened their supporters, as they have saddened me.
I talked the other day with a group of students (the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned that he had a list of the issues) and in quick succession the students raised the Vietnam war, Biafra, and the sale of arms to the Federal Government, Polaris, the appointment by the Labour Government of a super-arms salesman, the existence of Porton Down and prescription charges. I am not going over all the arguments about these things at this time of night. I will just ask one thing, because I cannot find the answer, search as I may, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack can. What possible 819 justification can he give me or our Party for the sale of arms to the Nigerian Federal Government for the slaughter of so many Biafrans? If we are told this means that we still have influence with the Nigerian Government, I ask, "What kind of influence?" It is not shown on the Biafran front. This is the kind of moral issue which I think is so important, and against which the Government could have come out boldly and said, "We don't care if every other country in the world sells arms to you; we are not going to do it. We are not going to do anything to provoke and prolong the war".
It is too easy, I think, to brush all this aside as the outbursts of idealists, and to say that it is not really practical politics. Maybe it is, and maybe it is not. I only know that a number of very bright-eyed idealists who got elected to positions of authority in the Labour Government somehow seem to change when they get into office, and that, somehow, something seems to go from them when they come up against the so-called practical politics. And I personally mourn the loss of it. But is there anyone particularly in the Labour Party, who can deny in his heart of hearts that there is some truth in the student demand for more morality and less expediency in international and home affairs? Is there any one of us who can assert dogmatically that their way could not perhaps be better than ours? Can we, any of us, really point to any particular conspicuous success either in running the country or in running the world?
It is this background of political frustration, this feeling that they are helpless to change the political situation by any conventional means, that leads to violence—a violence which I personally deplore, as most of us do, because this is the most dangerous aspect of the revolt. Violence in the long term can be self-defeating; it can achieve short-term break-throughs, but it can also provoke a reactionary opposition and lead to a situation in which dialogue, debate and, eventually, democracy are destroyed. We can see the beginnings of this happening in West Germany, where a great Right reaction has been provoked and a new kind of grey-flannel Fascism is steadily growing in strength. And the same applies, I believe, in France.
820 But if the student unrest has done nothing else, surely it has forced us to think deeply about many of these matters. It seems to me, however (and this is why I feel that this issue is so urgent), that we have very little time. We have to do much more. We have to do much more than think: we have to act. And somehow in the older established movements, like the Labour Party, we have to find a new reserve of idealism and courage to break away from this routine of Cabinet meetings and ordinary government and the great mass of legislation that keeps flowing through—to break away from that, to have a look at where we are going and see how far we are really living up to the ideals and the programme on which we were first based. Because I believe that if we do this we can once again, as the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, said, and as other speakers have indicated, win back the positive idealism of young people.
The Government have done a great deal to modernise and re-tool our industries, and their record in this field is impressive. I wish they would turn their attention now with some boldness and imagination to the modernisation and retooling of our democracy. We need desperately to create, at all levels, a situation in which it is possible for people to influence events, in which they feel part of society and not the victims of it. Unless we do this, and do it with some drive and energy, we are creating the situation in which violence can flourish. And it is no good our then turning round and saying that the students, or any other section of the population, are violent. Deny them the outlets and the opportunities and you leave them only one choice. If they can see that the only way to achieve reform and change is through violence, then, idealists that they are, they will go to violence.
I hope that we may not leave it too late, my Lords, although I am very fearful (perhaps this is a sign that I am past the 50 mark) and pessimistic that, as in the past, that is exactly what we shall do: that to-morrow will dawn and the same stream of legislation will come through; the same Cabinet decisions will have to be taken; the same Party conferences will have to be held, and nobody will have the courage to stand back and say, "On this issue we have been 821 wrong. On this issue we must make a moral judgment, and in this situation we must make a new and fresh start".
My Lords, there is just one final point that I want to make. It seems to me that it does not matter—and this is important in a student debate—whether a man is 18 or 22, 62 or 82, when he expresses an opinion; it does not matter a damn. It does not matter whether his hair is long or short, brown or grey; whether his clothes come from Carnaby Street or from Savile Row; whether he has been in politics or business for fifty years or in college for five minutes. He is, quite simply, entitled to be heard, without condescension, prejudice, exaggerated respect or mockery. He is entitled, in short, to be treated as we ourselves would wish to be treated—as a human being with whom we should have a dialogue.
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the number eleven batsman is not normally expected to stay very long, but there are times when his side needs a few runs and he is expected to contribute something so that he can win the match for his team. I do not propose to take up an attitude of either pro-student or pro-don, or pro anybody else. For one thing, like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I did not go to the university, because of the war. During the time when I should have been at university, I did my National Service instead. But I have debated with the Union of at least one of our major universities in the North of England (which also happens to be one or the loveliest, the University of Durham), and I have spoken to political and other groups at other universities.
I am also concerned in certain activities concerning the new University of Surrey at Guildford, near my home, and one thing that worries me regarding the new university is that some people are holding back financial contributions towards the building of it because of the behaviour of certain students. This is an attitude of mind which one can understand if the person concerned has a teenage son or daughter who is fighting for a place at the university, and some of his or her counterparts are making a confounded nuisance of themselves, but it seems most unfair on the vast 822 majority of students who are be having responsibly.
During the course of this debate we have had two excellent maiden speeches from the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and from the noble Lord, Lord Tedder—speeches of thoughtfulness, speeches from youth, whose voice I always believe deserves to be heard. We have heard a great deal of this to-day, particularly from the last few speakers, and I entirely agree that the voice of the student should be heard. The voice of any young person, whether he is a student or a labourer in a dockyard, should be heard, provided always he is prepared to listen to the other side. I believe that the reason for some of this student unrest, at least with some of the militarists, is that they have not always been prepared to listen to the other side.
Certain political leaders, notably Mr. Healey, Mr. Powell and others, have been invited by the students to speak at universities. They may or may not have been provocative at times, and I believe it is traditional in some debating unions to have a certain amount of heckling. This is right, but in my view it is absolutely wrong that any form of violence, whether it be the overturning of cars or the throwing of missiles, should take place during the speech. This is so whether the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition is speaking at a university or whether it is Mr. Tariq Ali, should he be asked to speak to the Institute of Directors. They deserve a hearing, and a fair hearing, when they are speaking. If at question time questions are deliberately side-tracked or facetious answers are given, there may well be some justification for metaphorical fireworks.
A good deal has been said about communications, and since I am professionally concerned in the field of commercial communications I have given this matter some study. I believe that the fundamental aspect of the terms of this Motion (for which we are greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Byers) begins at the schools, particularly in the sixth form in the schools, and I wonder whether in private and in State schools, and in grammar schools, sufficient consideration is given, particularly to senior pupils who may be going to university, or indeed who are planning to go to university provided they pass the necessary examinations. I believe this is a matter which 823 should be looked into by the Government. In my view, the real problem behind this Motion is that it is a difficult question for any Government to answer positively, because either a Government have to break down the student unrest to some extent, or they have to let it go on some reasonably full rein; and in a democracy, provided violence is not used extensively, the latter would have to be the case. But it is often too late when a student enters a university, if he or she is a person who is prone to being an individualist, to expect him to conform. It seems to me that more university dons or presidents of students' unions could perhaps go to the top forms, particularly, of some of the schools and talk about the universities; and I am thinking not only of our major universities but the smaller ones such as the University of Stirling, the University of East Anglia and so on. I think this would be of very great help.
I am also president of the debating society of a co-educational school which is connected with the City of London, and this school has had a great many entrants to various universities. The standards of debate at the school in both the junior and the senior forms is very high, and debating is encouraged. I think this is vital, because if it is encouraged at school, particularly on the kind of subjects which are of interest to young people, when they get to university they will learn tolerance and the ability to express their own views, and necessarily of understanding the other side. That is a facet of this particular Motion which is very important.
When I went recently to the University of Durham the motion on the Order Paper, so to speak, concerned whether the permissive society was a moral society. The general standard of the speeches from the floor of the house was extremely high. There was no sign of any hooliganism. The students themselves were a thoughtful lot, and when it came to the vote the figures were extremely interesting, because at least one third of the house rejected the motion, although, as might be expected at a university, the motion was carried; I think something would have been wrong if it had not been. But the standard of the speeches was extremely high. It leads one to ask whether there is the kind of loose permissiveness in our uni- 824 versities that some of our more popular organs of communication would have us believe. I do not think there is. Of course, there is some immorality at our universities, as there is in every department of public life.
I will take up the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and others regarding Press and television. I watched this programme, "Students in Revolt" and, having watched it, I am of the view that it was probably a good thing that this young German student and others came and gave their views. One or two of the students were very coherent and expressed sound, sincere views. Others were completely negative. When it came to this mysterious thing known as "student power", they were not able to give any idea how they would use it if, by any chance, it came their way. I think it would be unfair to condemn television and the Press for always projecting an irresponsible view on this subject. There have been occasions, particularly on television, where they have presented universities in a much more responsible light; for example, debates in student unions have been televised, and I hope that the television companies, particularly the regional ones, can be prevailed upon to do this more often, because by doing so they will present the other side of the picture.
We are not here, as I see it, to have a kind of officers versus other ranks battle, of students versus dons, or students versus professors. Recently, I was in Finland on a Parliamentary delegation. We visited two new universities, and on one of our tours we were accompanied by the president of the student union, who was smartly dressed in the traditional uniform of the technical university of Helsinki. There, there seemed to be a great deal of student/staff consultation. They have had certain minor troubles. This Motion extends to foreign universities as well, and I believe we can learn quite a lot from other countries, as well as they from us. There are a number of British students in Finland.
So it seems to me that what we have to do to try to get this problem in its correct perspective is to get communications going properly between the two sides. We cannot conceivably tolerate the sort of behaviour that we had recently at Essex University, when cars were 825 turned over and so on. Equally, we cannot tolerate the kind of cases which the noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioned just now. It must be remembered that the proctors, the professors and others have the responsibility of running the university and of teaching students. I am not going into the question of grants, loans and so on, but if one is going to have any slight leaning to one side one must remember that those who teach should, if anything, be given the greatest consideration when it comes to administration. At the same time, if students are going out into the world to do a mature job, they must be allowed freedom of expression so long as they see also the point of view of the other side. As I see it, this is really what this debate is all about.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if I may have leave to speak again, this has been a long but very interesting debate and, I think your Lordships will agree, one which has maintained a very high standard. It is really something of a tribute to your Lordships' staying powers after the efforts of the last two days. With noble Lords like Lord James of Rusholme, Lord Samuel, Lord Jackson of Burnley, and Lord Annan speaking, it would be an impertinence on my part to comment on their speeches: because, of course, they know.
It is very nice—and very exceptional—to have a debate like this in which, from start to finish, nobody has said, "It is the Government's fault"; nobody has said, "The Government ought to have done this"; and nobody has said, "The Government have omitted to do something they ought to have done". Nobody, that is, except my noble friend Lord Willis, who referred first of all to colleges of further education (for which local authorities, and not the Government, are responsible) and then to certain wider matters, to which I will come but which are not, I think, directly relevant to this particular debate.
My Lords, I must, of course, congratulate the two maiden speakers, the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, and the noble Lord, Lord Tedder. Lord O'Hagan's speech, if I may say so, was modest and informative, and we all enjoyed his description of the different classes of 826 students in revolt. The noble Lord, Lord Tedder, said that the students were underprivileged. And this is true. It is a point which is sometimes overlooked that of course they are much leis well off financially than the 90 per cent. of the population who leave school at school-leaving age and who have, by the time others get to university age, been supporting themselves, standing on their own feet, living away from home, and with much more money in their pockets than the university students. It is true that the university students, by doing what they do, acquire a qualification which will enable them to earn more in due course. But there is an appendant to that; namely, that, as a whole, the 10 per cent. who remain in further education are very much less worldly wise than the 90 per cent. who go to work when they leave school and many of whom, by this time, as I have said, are married and know much more about the world than university students who, when not at the university, live at home and have not had the same experiences.
The noble Lord, Lord Tedder, also referred to science vacancies. This situation may be due to the extent to which young people are put off science by the uses to which science is put, particularly in the nuclear and biological fields. I congratulate both the noble Lords, and if we do not actually abolish the House of Lords I hope very much that a place may be found for both of them in whatever form of reform we enjoy.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked me whether the Government were going to have votes at eighteen. The position, as your Lordships know, is that the Government have decided to reduce the age of majority from twenty-one to eighteen, but votes at eighteen is one of quite a large number of subject matters contained in the Report of the Speaker's Conference which Parliament has not yet considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, as many, raised the question of Vietnam, which undoubtedly has had such an effect on all young people—less here, for reasons one can understand, than abroad. But of course, it is striking that so many students are involved—and the pictures are always the same: police with their batons drawn, with fire hoses, or C.S. 827 gas; and you have to look underneath before you know whether it is Washington, Berlin or Tokyo. Apart from Grosvenor Square, we have so far been more restrained. The noble Lord also asked why students do not always have a Rector, as he has been. I do not know. None of the Vice-Chancellors actually commented on that suggestion. I should have thought there might be something to be said for it, so long as you do not have an eccentric like Mr. Muggeridge.
§ LORD ANNAN
May I reply to the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack? It is simply that, whereas in Scotland it apparently is necessary for a man of very mature years to represent students, in England we prefer that the students should represent themselves. We believe in England that only students can speak for students. That is why all our relations are directly with the President of the Union and their Council.
§ LORD BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I say that we in Scotland think that a mature man is much better suited to represent the students with authority in the university than a student himself.
§ LORD BANNERMAN OF KILDONAN
My Lords, may I also come in on this discussion to suggest that in Scotland we have less trouble with students than you have in England, or indeed than they have in other parts of the world. I think that is due to the fact that they have good representation by their Lord Rectors, such as the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, or myself, or the noble Lord, Lord Hunt.
§ LORD ANNAN
My Lords, I bow very much to the wisdom of the Lord Rectors in this matter, though I would just observe that some of the first trouble began in Scotland.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, before we start the whole debate all over again, I think that the House now has those different points of view. Obviously one of the sources of the difficulties has been the rate of increase in the universities. I do not know whether any of your Lordships saw a film on television about a university in Wisconsin, where they had 4,000 or 5,000 students, and then within two or three years the number had reached 40,000. 828 They were all registered on computers, and there were 107 subjects to choose from. At the end of the first week the professor was saying: "This is the end of the first week, and from next week you will be on the machines." In this film you saw them on the machines, with their own television, with tapes, and all the other operations. One could play the tapes as often as one liked; one could play them fast or slow. Practically everything else they learned was also on tape and on the television screens. The principal was saying, "America needs these skills and this knowledge among this large number of people. There is no other way we can do it. We have not got the teachers." I am not at all clear what happens to staff/student relationships when there is virtually no staff.
We then had an interesting contrast of views from the noble Earl, Lord Arran, and the noble Lord, Lord Gifford, one of whom took the view that there was nothing wrong. With respect, I should have thought that the sort of examples of disciplinary action given by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, were in themselves some cause for complaint. I cannot think that bans at universities are any good. I do not think they were any good in my time. I remember that the great conflict then was over contraception, with sermons from most pulpits on Sundays. Everybody got worked up, and Keynes said, "This is going to be the big political question in the next generation." Dr. Marie Stopes came down to give a talk at the town hall, and at the very last moment, which I thought very unfair, the Vice-Chancellor banned the meeting. Then Ruskin College, which did not believe in contraception but believed in free speech, threw their hall open to her. I went along as President of the Union to sit on the platform to show solidarity. So I do not think that bans ever do any good. As between the two, my own views are more in line with Lord Gifford's, but I had better not say to what extent.
The noble Lord, Lord Willis, made a speech which I was very glad to hear him make, and one which I hope he will make often. I hope a good many other people will, too.
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble and learned Lord, is he not saying what I said—that 829 there was a great fuss and trouble about Dr. Marie Slopes and contraception in the days when he was at university, and that we had equal troubles, but that, in effect, this was "much ado about nothing"?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I do not think "about nothing". I just meant that you cannot nowadays treat university students as children, and that they have a complaint in so far as they are treated as children. I think, too, that they have a complaint against a world in which the big Powers spend the proportion of the world's resources which they do on armaments and space travel, and so little on the relief of poverty. That is why, I think, students are so interested in the racial question. When they see the one in five whites spending 90 per cent. of the world's income, and the four in five blacks having to do—
THE EARL OF ARRAN
My Lords, with great respect, we had the question of unemployment, too, which was even more agonising because it was an internal problem at that time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I think I must not reopen any subjects, not even, I suspect, Biafra, particularly as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary dealt with it at some length only 48 hours ago. I suppose that at this moment he would add tonight, if what somebody told me is right (I hope I shall be corrected if I am wrong) that my noble friend Lord Shepherd is to-night in Lagos, and that that probably would not have happened if the Government had not taken the attitude which they had. May I close by repeating the Government's gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for putting down the Motion, and for giving us the opportunity to have such an interesting debate.
§ 9.41 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has 830 summed up this debate extremely well, and relieved me of the task of doing so. It only remains for me to say how grateful I am to all noble Lords who have contributed to it. I think we all agree with the noble and learned Lord that this has been a debate of the highest possible standard in which some very important speeches have been made—speeches which will be referred to, I am quite sure, outside this House in the future.
I should like also to add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers for their extremely helpful contributions. Now that we have the noble Lord, Lord O'Hagan, in the House we cannot be accused of being without student representation and student participation in this forum. I am also extremely grateful for the well-informed speech which we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Tedder. I am not going to mention other speeches except to say that I believe my noble friend Lord Arran is absolutely wrong, both in his optimism and in his non-analysis. At times he is quite a "crazy mixed-up kid", and I hope that I shall not be held in loco parentis. I cannot accept any responsibility for this revolt that goes on from time to time.
§ LORD BYERS
I am about the right age, I suppose. But seriously, I do not think we can be complacent in this country. There is a great movement taking place, motivated by the sort of things which so many noble Lords have so well identified to-day. I believe that time devoted to this subject by your Lordships' House is extremely valuable, and that this debate should in some way help to clarify the issues. It certainly clarified them in many ways in my own mind, and I express my gratitude to the House. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.