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Science Teaching (Technical Colleges And Universities)

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 16 May 1961

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38.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what consultations he has had with representative bodies concerning the need to expand science teaching in technical colleges and universities.

The Committee on Scientific Manpower of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy has a general responsibility for reviewing the need to expand teaching resources in science in relation to other demands for scientific manpower. Consultation with representative bodies on the need in technical colleges is a matter for the Minister of Education, and in universities for the University Grants Committee. Both are represented on the Manpower Committee.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some hon. Members believe that the recent Report was very complacent in this respect? In view of the disturbing shortage of scientific personnel at all levels, will the Parliamentary Secretary himself initiate some of these consultations? In particular, when the consultations take place will he have discussed the matter of raising in Britain a project of launching new syllabuses and text books, as has been done in the United States by the Physical Sciences Sub-Committee?

The actual curricula are not matters for which my noble Friend is responsible. With regard to consultations with representative bodies, naturally one fully supports that, but it should be kept to the constitutional channel, which in this case, is the Manpower Committee.

This is probably the whole key to our scientific effort. In view of the dreadful answer the Parliamentary Secretary gave to a previous supplementary question about public expenditure, may I ask whether he realises that we want much more public expenditure on education of this type?

The hon. Gentleman is getting more money spent on education of this type. The output of qualified manpower was 10,000 in 1955 and it is now 16,500. It will be 20,000 by 1965 and it might conceivably be 30,000 by 1973. This is a substantial increase.

Does the Parliamentary Secretary know that Japan is producing 130,000 technicians a year, and will he do something more to increase the number produced in this country?

I think that the hon. Gentleman should be careful when talking about technicians, because I am talking about qualified manpower, in the sense of the Manpower Committee's report. It is so easy to campare unlike with unlike.

What does the Parliamentary Secretary mean by "qualified manpower"? It is accepted that in Britain we are short of qualified engineers and that we are lagging behind almost every country in Western Europe, and the United States. I urge the Parliamentary Secretary to be less complacent.

I was not being complacent. I fully agree that we need more engineers and that anything we can do to encourage people to choose engineering when they go to university or technical colleges is effort well spent. On the other hand, even though we may not have the number we want, it is a little ungracious to suggest that we have not done very well.