24 DECEMBER 1948, Page 15



Sin,—In criticising the numbers in the report of the working party on university awards, "Cambridge Tutor " is being unfair. The working party stressed that its forecast of numbers was bound to be " tentative and speculative." As the Minister of Education pointed out in the House of Commons last Friday, the figures were based on a forecast of the University Grants Committee, and it was not the business of the working party to recommend a cutting down of the numbers, even if it had wanted to do so. The report contained no suggestion that the universities should be forced to accept any specific number of students.

I was intrigued by the Cambridge Tutor's statement that " relatively few candidates worthy of awards go without them." At the moment, over 30 per cent. of students do not receive awards of any kind. Yet many students who have gained awards are unable to take them up because of lack of room in the universities. If the 30 per cent, without awards are worthy of them, why have they not got them? If they are unworthy, why are they occupying places at a time when university education is in " short supply " ?

The important feature of the working party report is not the numbers, but the suggestion that all students recommended by, a university should be able to obtain adequate financial assistance. The universities will continue to be responsible for the selection of new entrants, and the numbers they select will depend on the teaching staff, the accommodation available, and on the quality of the candidates. With an adequate number of awards available, selection will be possible solely on merit, and not on financial means.

The University Grants Committee has suggested that, when the 1944 Education Act comes fully into operation, there will be a substantial increase in the supply of potential undergraduates. In view of this, and of the nation's urgent need for more technicians, teachers, doctors and members of other professions, all possible assistance should be given to the universities to enable them to speed up their present programmes for the erection of new buildings and the alleviation of overcrowding.—

President, The National Union of Students. 3 Endsleigh Street, W.C. r.