DES Circular 7/73 (1973)

This circular advised local authorities about how they could meet the government's targets for non-university higher education up to 1981.

The text of DES Circular 7/73 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 30 September 2017.

Circular 7/73 (1973)
Development of higher education in the non-university sector

Department of Education and Science
London: 1973
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

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Circular 7/73
26 March 1973



1. Sections 16 to 18 of the White Paper, "Education: A Framework for Expansion" (Cmnd 5174), set out the Government's plans for the expansion of higher education in the non-university sector in the period up to 1981. Discussions with the local authority associations about the improvements of arrangements for coordination and provision of higher education in this sector have been renewed but it is important that if the target numbers of students proposed for 1981 are to be attained individual local authorities should lose no time in considering possible developments within their own areas. The purpose of this Circular is to initiate such consideration.


2. The Government's plans require provision for some 335,000 full-time and sandwich higher education students in England and Wales by 1981. This compares with 204,000 students in 1971/72 and implies a net expansion of some 130,000. The major part of this expansion will be provided by the polytechnics whose development plans suggest that they should be able to accommodate 180,000 students by 1981. This would leave provision to be made for 155,000 students in other colleges of further education and the colleges of education, which at present together accommodate some 138,000 students on advanced courses, and would require provision for a further 17,000 students.

3. During the same period, however, it is expected that the number of full-time students in initial teacher training will be reduced from some 114,000 to 60-70,000. Although the colleges of education will in addition have to provide for a teaching load of the equivalent of about 15,000 full-time students in connection with the induction year and the expansion of in-service training, most of the teachers concerned will not be counted as in full-time higher education. The number of full-time students following teacher training courses, both initial and in-service training, will therefore fall by some 40-50,000 and corresponding higher education provision will have to be made for this number of students by diversifying the role of colleges of education or by providing new places elsewhere in addition to those needed for the 17,000 full-time students referred to in the preceding paragraph. How many new places will

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need to be provided will depend not only on the extent of part-time in-service training in colleges but also on the number of places lost to the public sector by colleges being integrated with universities, how far existing polytechnic development plans may be affected by mergers with colleges of education, to what extent college courses include work at non-advanced level and how many places may be lost by closure of colleges.

4. What is called for therefore is not merely the planning of a marginal expansion of higher education, additional to that already under way, in the polytechnics and certain other institutions, but rather a major reconsideration of the future role of colleges of education both in and outside teacher training, their relation with universities, polytechnics and other institutions of further education offering advanced courses and the selection of appropriate institutions which, either singly or in association with others, will provide the additional numbers required outside the polytechnics in the period up to 1981 and a basis for further expansion thereafter.


5. Most of the institutions whose future will need to be considered are maintained by local education authorities and the first step in planning will be for these authorities to consider in consultation with the governing bodies and academic boards of their existing institutions how they might appropriately be developed; they will also need to consider whether in the longer term some new institutions may be called for. Authorities are asked, however, to consult also with the voluntary colleges of education in their area and to take into account their potential contribution both to teacher education and higher education more generally.

6. Existing local education authorities will re rain full responsibility for the education service in their areas, including the planning of higher education described in this Circular, during the period between the 1973 elections for the new Councils and 1 April 1974. The new authorities will be responsible for the planning and execution of the programme thereafter. It is therefore very important, particularly in areas where the reorganisation of local government involves substantial changes, that authorities should make their plans after consultation not only with their existing neighbouring authorities but also with their successors. They will also wish to discuss their proposals within Regional Advisory Councils and, as far as teacher education is concerned, within Area Training Organisations. The concentration of colleges in the Greater London area poses problems which, as noted in paragraph 162 of the White Paper, will require special consideration and the Department welcomes the initiative taken by the Inner London Education Authority to convene a meeting of Chief Education Officers in the area to discuss how coordination of plans might best be arranged.

7. It will be for local education authorities to consider in the light of local circumstances in what detail their plans should be prepared. The Department hopes, however, that plans will include a general outline of the proposed developments and their relation to those proposed by neighbouring

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authorities; more detailed proposals for the development of individual institutions and their inter-relationship; the number of students, types of courses and validation arrangements proposed; and a first estimate of capital expenditure required and its probable phasing together with information about availability of sites for expansion.

8. The time-table for this process presents serious difficulties. The major reconsideration of the future role of institutions required by paragraph 4 above and the extensive consultations proposed in paragraph 5 would even in favourable circumstances confront some local authorities with a formidable task. The fact that this must be undertaken in a year when they are pre-occupied with all the problems arising from local government reorganisation adds to the difficulties. As against this, it is essential that if the student target numbers postulated in the White Paper are to be attained planning should proceed rapidly and that there should be a steady flow of building projects for inclusion in successive capital programmes. The Department agrees with the view of the local authority associations that final plans should be submitted by the new authorities and hopes that they will be able to do this as soon as possible after 1 April 1974. Existing authorities are, however, asked to make interim reports on their plans by November 1973. I n some areas it may be possible to determine the future of selected institutions without serious prejudice to later more comprehensive plans and where this can be done the Department will be ready to approve individual proposals in advance of the interim reports or the full plans.


9. Paragraphs 145-147 of the White Paper drew attention to three sets of considerations to which the Government attach importance in relation to the planning of further higher education developments. These are:-

(a) The need for institutions to achieve a minimum size to obtain full economies of scale;
(b) the need to avoid further concentrations of very large numbers of students on a scale which would present acute problems of residence and transport, and
(c) the need wherever possible to make provision within reach of their homes for both full and part-time students.
10. The Government's policy of concentrating advanced further education mainly in the polytechnics has been based partly on the need to secure economies of scale. This consideration will continue to be important but experience so far suggests that institutions specialising primarily in the Arts and Social Sciences can be considerably smaller than the average size contemplated for the polytechnics. It should be possible to offer a reasonable range of advanced courses in this area in institutions with 1,000-2,000 full-time and sandwich students. Moreover, where a college is selected to expand, diversify its

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provision, or merge with another college, it should not be regarded as inappropriate that the institution in its new guise should continue to provide, if they already exist, or initiate, if they do not, courses in the same subjects below the advanced level.

11. It should therefore be possible in planning to take greater account of the last two criteria and to relate the distribution of higher education more closely to population. The table below sets out the distribution by regions of students in higher education in 1971 compared with school population:-

Region (1)School Pop.
HE Students
(incl univs.)
HE Students
per 1,000
school pop.
East Midlands592.625.743.4
East Anglia263.016.060.8
Greater London1,115.587.178.1
Other South East1,576.266.742.3
West Midlands896.737.141.4
North West1,169.054.446.5
Total E & W8,165.5404.9 (2)49.5

12. The table illustrates the great concentration of higher education in the London area and the relatively smaller provision in certain other regions. No doubt London should and will continue to be a national centre for higher education attracting students from all parts of the country and abroad but it is desirable nevertheless that the rapid rate of increase of students in London should be moderated and that there should be a relatively greater increase in higher education facilities in regions which are at present less well provided. A similar problem of over-concentration exists within individual regions themselves and it should be an objective of regional planning to expand provision in areas where it is at present minimal and reduce the rate of growth in areas which are generously provided. In the long-term every major conurbation or other catchment area with a population of more than perhaps a quarter of a million might expect to have an institution offering higher education courses, including teacher education. As, however, the bulk of the

(1) Standard statistical regions; see Annex for definition.
(2) Figure comparable to the figure of 402,000 in Table 1 page 35 of White Paper but including also teachers on full-time in-service courses in colleges of education and students at art teacher training centres.

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expansion during the next decade will of necessity be in the existing universities and polytechnics it will be possible only to make a start in the process of improving the distribution of higher education facilities. The greatest element of flexibility will derive from the change in the teacher training role of the colleges of education and the possibilities which this will offer for deploying their resources in other directions, either singly or in mergers with other institutions. This is considered further below.

13. While colleges of education are not by modern standards large institutions and do not of themselves create undue concentration of students, many of them are located close to universities, polytechnics or other colleges and therefore contribute to problems of residence and transport. In relation to teacher training there are two additional reasons for aiming at a better distribution of facilities. In the past the pressure on schools to provide teaching practice places for students has in some areas been extreme and students have had to travel far afield for teaching experience with the result that their supervision in schools and the relation of teaching practice to other elements of the college course has suffered. A decline in student numbers will help to remedy this situation, particularly if it is planned so as to improve distribution of teacher training places. The great expansion of in-service training proposed in the White Paper will also call for adequate professional centres most of them linked with, if not in, colleges of education, within easy reach of schools and it will be an important objective in planning the future of colleges of education to ensure that there is a proper infrastructure of professional centres in existence in time for the introduction of the new induction arrangements proposed in the White Paper and before the major expansion of in-service training gathers momentum.

14. The Department will in due course be consulting the local authority associations and the other parties concerned about more detailed projections of the numbers and categories of students and teachers required to meet the White Paper policy on teacher supply. The projections will, of course, in any case need to be revised periodically in the light of experience and demographic trends. Guidance, based on these more detailed projections, about the reduction of intakes to individual colleges in 1974 will be given this summer before the recruitment season starts. It is hoped that authorities will be able to take into account such information as it becomes available in formulating their plans but in the meantime it is suggested that these should be based on the assumption that some 65,000 places will be required in 1981 for initial training and a further 15,000 for in-service training. The table below shows a hypothetical allocation of these places between regions in proportion to school population.

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RegionSchool Popn
East Midlands592.68.15.8
East Anglia263.01.6*2.6
Greater London1,115.519.410.9
Other South East1,576.218.815.4
South West613.88.26.0
West Midlands896.712.18.8
North West1,169.018.511.5
Totals E & W8,165.5115.080.0

*There are a further 1,500 students in institutions just outside the border of the region.

15. While for the reasons given in paragraph 14 above it is important that there should be a better distribution of teacher training facilities in relation to schools it will, of course, be necessary to take into account other factors besides present school population. Where, for instance, important urban developments are planned, these will significantly affect school population by 1981 and provision will have to be made accordingly. The boundaries of the regions on which the statistics are based are in any case arbitrary and where the effects are significant, eg in relation to East Anglia or between Greater London and the rest of the South-East, adjustments between neighbouring regions may be appropriate particularly where travel facilities are good.

16. Paragraph 154 of the White Paper referred to the possibility of some colleges of education being integrated with the university sector. In such cases it will be for the maintaining authorities or providing bodies of colleges to discuss the possibilities with the universities concerned. Voluntary colleges should ensure however that their local education authority is kept fully informed of the progress of the discussions so that their implications may be taken into account in planning the future of other institutions in the area.

17. While it will be a major aim of planning to consider how places in colleges of education not required for teacher training can best be used for other higher education purposes, it would not be reasonable to suppose that all colleges of education should have a diversified role. In the Government's view there will continue to be a place for some institutions devoted solely to teacher education and some of these may develop a national role in respect of particular aspects of professional training. But the number of such monotechnics cannot be large if proper provision is to be made for the uncommitted student and if institutions are not to be unduly at risk from future variations

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in teacher supply requirements. Some small colleges may need to be retained, perhaps on a reduced scale, as professional centres while others not so needed or badly located for such a purpose may have to close. The potentialities of many may best be realised by incorporation in a polytechnic or by merger with other institutions. Finally, the policy outlined in paragraph 10 that advanced courses may co-exist in the same college with courses below that level should be regarded as applying to colleges of education also.


18. It is hoped that in formulating their proposals in accordance with this Circular local authorities will feel free to call on the expertise and advice of HM Inspectors where they think it would be helpful. Appropriate members of the Inspectorate will no doubt also be associated with the subsequent discussions in Regional Advisory Councils and Area Training Organisations. The Department itself will be ready to discuss authorities' proposals with them at official level while they are in a formative stage where that would be helpful and will consider with the voluntary providing bodies the impact of proposed local plans on their national commitments. The Department will be consulting further with the local authority associations about the handling of authorities' individual plans when they are formally submitted and will later consider in the light of the replies to this Circular what further planning steps may be necessary to ensure that the objectives set in the White Paper for 1981 are achieved.

WD Pile

To Local Education Authorities

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The definitions of the regions in the tables agree, so far as is practicable, with definitions standardised for use in all government statistics.

The regions include the following counties and the county boroughs situated within those counties:-

North: Cumberland, Durham, Northumberland, Westmorland, Yorkshire (North Riding).

Yorkshire and Humberside: Yorkshire (East and West Ridings), City of York, Lincolnshire (Lindsey).

East Midlands: Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire (Holland, Kesteven and Lincoln CB). Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland.

East Anglia: Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely, Huntingdon and Peterborough, Norfolk, Suffolk (East and West).

Greater London: Greater London Council area.

Other South East: Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Isle of Wight, Kent, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex (East and West).

South West: Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Isles of Scilly, Somerset, Wiltshire.

West Midlands: Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire.

North West: Cheshire, Lancashire.

Wales: Includes Monmouthshire.