Robbins (1963)

1963 Robbins Report (text)

Extras (two press cuttings and an article)

The Robbins Report (1963)
Higher Education
Report of the Committee appointed by the Prime Minister under the Chairmanship of Lord Robbins

London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1963
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.

Background notes

Historical context

A Treasury Minute of 8 February 1961 stated that Conservative prime minister Harold MacMillan intended to appoint a committee chaired by Lord Robbins:

to review the pattern of full-time higher education in Great Britain and in the light of national needs and resources to advise Her Majesty's Government on what principles its long-term development should be based. In particular, to advise, in the light of these principles, whether there should be any changes in that pattern, whether any new types of institution are desirable and whether any modifications should be made in the present arrangements for planning and co-ordinating the development of the various types of institution (quoted on p. iii of the report).
Lionel (Lord) Robbins (1898-1984) was head of the economics department at the London School of Economics, where a building named after him was opened in 1978. He was an advocate of government support for the arts, as well as for universities.

The twelve members of his committee held 111 meetings and received over 400 written submissions of evidence from people or organisations. They visited universities and colleges in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland and made longer visits to the United States and the Soviet Union. Their report was published in October 1963.

Summary of the report's main recommendations

Chapter XIX of the report sets out the committee's conclusions, provides a summary of the report, and lists 178 recommendations, of which the following is a brief summary:

  • schools, local authorities and universities need to cooperate to ensure much wider access to higher education;
  • first degree courses in England should be reviewed to avoid overloading and should offer a broader education;
  • postgraduate work should normally include an element of systematic teaching;
  • the three-year course for trainee teachers should continue, but four-year courses leading to a BEd degree should be provided for suitable students;
  • teacher training colleges should be renamed Colleges of Education;
  • the volume of postgraduate work in science and technology should be considerably increased;
  • Colleges of Advanced Technology should be designated as technological universities, with power to award both first and higher degrees;
  • the National Council for Technological Awards should be replaced by a Council for National Academic Awards, covering the whole of Great Britain;
  • in future, detailed planning for higher education should be made for a period extending ten years ahead;
  • university places should provide about 350,000 of the total of 560,000 places needed in 1980/1;
  • six new universities should be established at once, at least one of them in Scotland;
  • adult education should be encouraged;
  • student/staff ratios in higher education as a whole should not be allowed to deteriorate;
  • conditions of service for teachers in higher education should be such as to attract recruits of the necessary calibre, and any disparity between the incomes and prospects of teachers doing similar work in different universities should be removed;
  • teaching and research are complementary, so research should not be removed from universities and concentrated in research institutes;
  • teaching methods and arrangements should be reviewed;
  • residential accommodation should be provided for two thirds of the additional students coming into all sectors of higher education;
  • the introduction of loans to students instead of grants would not be appropriate, at least for the immediate future;
  • membership of the governing bodies of higher education institutions should be reviewed;
  • problems relating to the federal structure of the Universities of Wales and London, and to the collegiate structure of Oxford and Cambridge, should be resolved;
  • there should be a Minister of Arts and Science responsible for a single Grants Commission, which would advise the government on the needs of all autonomous institutions of higher education in Great Britain and distribute grants to them;
  • responsibility for the other institutions of higher education in England and Wales should remain with the Minister of Education and, in the main, with the local education authorities;
  • to deal with the immediate emergency, the government should provide sufficient resources to enable the universities to offer in 1966/1 about ten per cent more places than are currently planned;
  • the universities' capital building programme for 1964 and succeeding years should be substantially increased.

The report online

The full text of the report is presented in a single web page.

The five Appendices are not online. They were published separately: Appendices 1, 3 and 4 at the same time as the Report, Appendices 2 and 5 later. Details of their subject matter can be found in the Contents list in the Preliminary pages of the report.

I have corrected a couple of printing errors and added explanations of one or two archaic words. Anything added to the text is shown [in square brackets]. (However, please note that the report itself uses square brackets twice in the Annex.)

The tables are presented as images, embedded in the text where they appeared in the original.


Inside my second-hand copy of the Robbins Report I found two press cuttings from The Times (25 and 26 April 1966) and an article from The Economist (5 April 1969), which may be of interest to readers: they are reproduced on the Extras page.

Other reports on higher education include:

Oakes (1978) The Management of Higher Education in the Maintained Sector
Dearing (1997) Higher Education in the learning society
Browne (2010) Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education

The above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 1 March 2011; they were revised on 18 November 2012.