HC Deb 03 July 1979 vol 969 cc1100-1
16. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimates he has made of future numbers of overseas students at institutes of higher education in the United Kingdom, in the light of the recent increases in fees.

Dr. Boyson

The current estimates of future numbers of overseas students at institutions of higher education have not been revised as a result of the recent increase in fees.

Mr. Price

Is the Minister aware that the massive increase in fees will almost inevitably mean more empty places in polytechnics and other institutes of higher education? Is he aware that students from the Third world will go to other European countries, where no fees are charged, instead of coming to Britain? Does he accept that the increase will result in higher education facilities in the United Kingdom being used less efficiently? What will the Minister do about it?

Dr. Boyson

I disagree with the hon. Member. In 1977–78, when the Labour Government increased fees by between 40 per cent. and 100 per cent., the number of foreign students coming to this country for higher education did not decrease. That increase in fees stabilised the numbers. The number of foreign students attending higher education establishments increased from 24,000 in 1970–71 to 57,000 today. All foreign students attending our universities are subsidised by at least 60 per cent. by the British taxpayer.

Mr. Kershaw

Is it not unfair to make the increase retrospective or even immediate? Will my hon. Friend consider the hardship that the increase will cause?

Dr. Boyson

There is a hardship fund which will be used in the universities. Similar provision will be made through the rate support grant for the polytechnics. This will assist those students for whom my hon. Friend expressed anxiety.