HC Deb 20 November 1979 vol 974 cc193-5
7. Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many representations he has received about the proposed increases in overseas student fees.

Dr. Boyson

My right hon. and learned Friend has received about 140 such representations since Government policy in this matter was first announced on 1 November.

Mr. Price

Will the Minister expand on the remarks he made the other day when he gave the revolution in Iran as the principal reason why the Government were following this policy? Is he saying that the vice-chancellors are lying when they say that the policy will destroy technology courses for home students—or is he saying that "Big Brother knows best"?

Dr. Boyson

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) for drawing my attention to the speech I made this past weekend. I said that in two out of three countries from which we had taken most foreign students in the past 10 years—that is, Iran and Nigeria—it did not appear that great political ill will had been built up. I am sure that all Members agree that in the cases of Iran and Nigeria the argument about the investment in political good will was not the best that could be made.

Mr. Chapman

Notwithstanding what my hon. Friend said, will he look sympathetically at the plight of some Iranian students whose ability to continue with their courses here is threatened by their inability to draw funds from Iran due to the recent political upheavals? Will he look into the possibility of a temporary bridging loan for them or some other financial help?

Dr. Boyson

I appreciate that there are problems of Iranian students here. We are prepared to look at the matter and discuss it with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and university vice-chancellors.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will the Minister say by how much fees will be increased for students already at universities and colleges in this country? Will he give an undertaking that no student already in this country will fail to complete his course because there are insufficient funds available to meet the increases, and say how the Government intend to carry out that undertaking?

Dr. Boyson

Concerning the first point, in my answer to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) I made it clear that the increase in the level of economic fees will apply only to students enrolled from next September. We have said that any increase to students already on courses will be made to match inflation, so I can give an assurance on the hon. Member's first point. As for writing a blank cheque covering every student from anywhere in the world, whatever the problems are, no Government can do that.