The inclusive nature of the British class structure ensures that all new status situations with potential elite positions are quickly absorbed into the system. In the past, this has usually meant a modification of the educational channels of access to the ruling class, which has been justified by egalitarian principles. However, educational equality achieved in this way has been formal rather than substantial; it has followed and reinforced changes in the class structure rather than led the way to social liberalization. Today, the class structure again needs
The Robbins report is concerned with the expansion of higher education in the next two decades. The arguments for this expansion are demographic (more children are being born), technocratic (the economy needs more scientists and technicians) and pragmatic (children are reaching a higher educational level and staying at school later). Thus in 1962 7 per cent of the age group were in full time education at 19, compared with 3 per cent in 1938. This trend reflects both a shift in middle class mores and, more importantly, a change in mobility avenues within the class structure. Yet the Robbins target of 560,000 in higher education by 1980 is below the Bow Group’s estimate of 630,000 and the Labour Party’s figure of 700,000 by 1983. The committee admit this by stressing that their projections are based on maintaining the 1963 position (which compares unfavourably, as a percentage of the available age group, with the 1955 intake) and that the proposed expansion ‘would not involve a rate of growth as high as during the last 17 years’.
Nor will this expansion reduce the class bias in higher education. The Robbins investigation of the educational histories of a sample of children born in 1941 reiterates the statistics of the built-in class bias of British education familiar from other studies. 45 per cent of the children of fathers in the higher professional groups enter higher education compared with 4 per cent of the children of skilled manual workers and 2 per cent of the semiand unskilled workers. The same inferences can be made from other indices. In 1961 only 39 per cent of Oxford and 25 per cent of Cambridge undergraduates were from local authority schools. The proportion in other British universities was 70 per cent. Yet Robbins does not even have the courage to suggest that Oxbridge should join the clearing house system.
Moreover, Robbins ignores the purpose and content of education in favour of organizational proposals that are clearly designed to ensure that all educational innovations will be enmeshed with the existing hierarchy of universities. The new universities that have been founded since 1958 are not discussed, but he new Colleges of Advanced Technology (cats) do cause the committee trouble. They have to be ‘established’ and just to emphasize that technology too should have an Oxbridge structure, the committee recommend that there should be supercats, called sisters (Special Institutions for Scientific and Technological Education and Research). The emphasis on technology
In contrast, Robbins’s proposals for the future supply of teachers are almost deflationary. The committee recommends no further increase in entry to the training colleges after 1974, despite the fact that ‘there will in 1975 be 15,000 teachers less than the number needed to eliminate classes above the statutory maxima. But by 1980 there should be enough teachers to ensure the elimination of all oversized classes, and to provide some margin for other reforms.’ This implies that they do not want to raise the school leaving age to 16 until 1980, in contrast to the Newsom demand that this be accomplished by 1969.
The total structure of university education in 1980 envisaged by the report starkly reveals its reactionary nature. Robbins proposes the following change in the distribution of students between 1962 and 1980:
The downgrading of medicine is justified by saying that it is only the proportion and not the absolute numbers that will decline, but as Professors Jewkes and Hill have pointed out in letters to The Times (November 18th and 20th) the absolute increase in medicine and allied subjects will only be 4,600. This minute increase cannot relieve the chronic shortage of doctors. For example, the Platt report stated that 51 per cent of hospital doctors in the North were from overseas. As they were mainly from under-developed countries and were doing postgraduate work in Britain because sufficient facilities do not exist in their own countries, this supply can be expected to shrink as conditions abroad offer more facilities for advanced studies. The Robbins decision is reinforced by simple penny-pinching—the report states that it takes £568 p.a. to train an Arts graduate, £774 an applied scientist, £902 a pure scientist and £1,064 a medical graduate. Yet cost is forgotten when the committee calls for two post-graduate management schools, although it is admitted that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to teach anything sensible about business administration. Incidentally, one of these establishments will be at the lse, where the trade union course, by a process of academic murder, is to become the embryo of a management school! Perhaps this is not surprising, as its policy for years has been to turn trade unionists into personnel officers.